August 24, 2010

Hunters and Gatherers

Robin Hanson asks "Why No Gather-Sport?"
Now sports let us show off many kinds of physically-expressed abilities. But it seems to me that most sports emphasize hunting skills, such as chasing, evading, throwing, and hitting, far more than gathering skills, such as visual search and fine finger control. Now it makes sense for men to prefer hunting sports, but oddly females also seem to prefer them; pretty much all sports emphasize hunting more than gathering skills. Why don’t women prefer sports designed to show off the skills for which female bodies were designed?

Women have a gathering-derived sport, a huge one. It's called "shopping."

For example, in western Michigan, many men take off from work the first week of deer-hunting season each year. Many of their wives have, in turn, made it traditional to stay in hotels that week on Chicago's Magnificent Mile and hit the department stores and Oak Street boutiques.

Hunting and gathering doesn't change, it just gets more expensive.

39 comments:

Anonymous said...

An Easter Egg "Hunt" is, in fact, a gathering activity, and is beloved by children everywhere, and in a typically secularized modern environment, of all denominations. Scavenger hunts are fun and popular as well. The game of "Battleship" is essentially a kind of intelligent least-effort gathering. "Where's Waldo" is also fun and is a mental activity akin to looking for truffles.

So, we have plenty of gathering games - they're just not "sports".

RandyB said...

Another is "courtship."

Both are won when you friends are jealous.

minarchyblog said...

That he missed shopping is astonishing. its been grist for the mill of 1000 comics--most famously jerry seinfelds riff on ho wmen and women shop differently

gordon-bennett said...

Have a look at GeoCaching.

See:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geocaching

Jokah Macpherson said...

For the men who wouldn't have made the cut as hunters, there's always gathering items in an MMORPG.

OneSTDV said...

I like the implicit "paleo/caveman" assumption inherent to this argument.

Anonymous said...

Women love to shop!!!!

I know that to be ture because stnad-up comics told me so

and, you too

Anonymous said...

"Why don’t women prefer sports designed to show off the skills for which female bodies were designed?"

If you pay extra, you can get those channels!

Anonymous said...

"Another is 'courtship'"
Both are won when you friends are jealous."

As a woman, I deem this comment "priceless."

And Stevie's "shopping" as a gathering sport ain't too bad either.

Anonymous said...

I will add that gathering information and then disseminating it, in just the proper way and to just the right people, is a sport.

We women call it "gossiping."

Anonymous said...

How about cooking and storing food - canning, freezing, etc.? Some people still do that. Also craft activities- a form of gathering and creating 'stuff' for your group/family

A Nonymous said...

Hunting is an inherently competitive activity (man versus animal). Gathering can be competitive if resources are scarce but it's not inherently competitive (woman versus plant?). So sports, which are inherently competitive, are by their very nature always going to be more like hunting than gathering.

But "gathering" isn't the sum total of what women did thousands of years ago or do today. It's not what most interests women today, and it's probably not what most interested them (or played the greatest role in their survival and the survival of their offspring) thousands of years ago.

There's a reason reality television, which focus on social competition, building relationships, creating alliances and breaking competing alliances, etc., is popular with women. My thoroughly non-scientific non-statistically-relevant impression, based on perusing a few message boards, is that passionate fans of reality television are overwhelmingly female. I think there's a reason for that that is the flip-side of why passionate football fans are overwhelmingly male.

Anonymous said...

If you pay extra, you can get those channels!

Steve is so cheap he won't even pay for HBO.

Anonymous said...

This seems an odd query because the quintessential "gathering" activity - the various "collecting" hobbies - seems a nearly exclusively male pursuit. Sure, you occasionally hear about women collecting garden gnomes or Barbies, but I don't get the sense there are nearly as many women who do such things as there are men who obsess over baseball cards, stamps, comic books, coins, rare books, wine, modern art, watches, etc. Even collectors of feminine things like orchids or faberge eggs seem to be pretty heavily skewed male.

eumaios said...

Knitting.

Couchscientist said...

There used to be a show called Supermarket Sweep, which was a competitive shopping show. The ladies answered trivia about supermarket items and then the final part of each show was when the ladies raced around the store trying to load the most expensive cart. Like one of the commenters said, gathering is not as much about competition as hunting and so the show wasn't a big deal.

Women seem to be more into competitive nesting. There are shows that rate how well money was spent on remodels and that type of thing.

Anonymous said...

Saving money.

Hoarding money.

Scrooge was a gatherer.

Eric K. said...

Baseball is, in a certain sense, a gatherer sport. The symbolism behind baseball is that your "home" is under siege. Your enemy tries to break down your walls by hurling rocks (baseballs) at it. If you can deflect the rocks/baseballs, you can leave "home" to gather food. Since the enemy is still looking for you, you have to hide behind trees (bases). Every time you return "home" with food that you've gathered, your team benefits/scores.

Grizzlie Antagonist said...

Video games require visual search and fine finger control, but I assume that those are male-dominated as well.

Anonymous said...

Sports are about men demonstrating how good they are at endurance, fighting and hunting , not about their skill at being able to pick fruits and roots (hint: that´s woman stuff, and women don´t have to prove themselves to men much beyond looking pretty).

About the MMORPG (I.e. World of Warcraft, etc.) comments, MMORPG:s are also mostly hunter-gatherer simulators, with pretend hunting (killing stuff) being the main focus, but gathering (herbs, ores, etc.) also makes an appearance.

The reason that MMORPGS are attractive to losers is not that they emphasize gathering over hunting (they do not, they are mostly hunting/warfare simulators), but rather that they allow you to escape reality in a pretty comprehensive way (which is extra nice if you are a loser).

, AnonFabi

Shlomo Silvergolddiamondstein said...

Hunting, gathering, meh. Let's not forget kvetching, the all-important skill at which You Know Whos of both sexes excel.

Anonymous said...

Ha! What a great insight!

Isabel said...

"visual search and fine finger control"

I love how anything that has anything to do with women is ridiculously simplified...

Gathering isn't something one just randomly walks around and does every day.

It involves all kinds of memory, information retention, reasoning, future probability calculation, you name it. And tons of cooperation and negotiation, such as when certain families get to harvest certain trees over the generations or when burning hillsides to harvest seeds and keep down trees.

YOU trying being at the right place at the right time to harvest enough wild plants to live off of. It aint gonna happen by visual search and fine finger control 'skills' alone.

And once again, there is not a shred of evidence that women are better at "visual search" or "fine finger control."

robert61 said...

@Erik K: Cool take on baseball as resource-gathering under siege. It fits well with the tone of George Carlin's baseball v. football bit.

eh said...

Scavenger Hunt

Le Sigh... said...

Steve, next time you're in Manhattan, I can show you just how demanding and far from trivial shopping can be. You may come to enjoy this improvised hunter-gathering activity more than you realize. ;-)

Mr. Simply Fabulous said...

Gathering competition:

* Antique Roadshow
* Iron Chef
* Design Competitions (clothes, interior decorating, remodel)

Mens' seem to out perform women at the highest levels (albeit many of them are male-female hybrids).

Anonymous said...

If you want a glimpse of Woman the Gatherer, in a circle digging up yams or whatever, just look at a women's sewing circle. Highly atavistic.

David Collard

Dahinda said...

I live near Galesburg, IL and it is the same here. Husbands hunting and wives gathering on Michigan Avenue in Chicago!

Candy said...

Orienteering?

Anonymous said...

"So, we have plenty of gathering games - they're just not 'sports'."

A lawsuit filed against ESPN could fix this.

Anonymous said...

"Hunting, gathering, meh. Let's not forget kvetching, the all-important skill at which You Know Whos of both sexes excel."

Following the loical boasts common here, me must excel at the extreme end of kvetching, as at everything else (math, dress designing), not strictly anatomically gender-specific. You can't have a decent soccer game if somebody isn't kvetching to himself about who else has ball. I think warfare follows a similar principle.

Anonymous said...

Shopping is an fact reparations for gathering. While the men folk where off, happy as hell, chasing a giraffe the women squated in the dirt and dug for roots. Hardly fair.

Ancient pre-history women nursed a grudge. Modern shopping is payback, long delayed but savored all the more for the wait.

Albertosaurus

nsam said...

isn't the pawnshop show on the History channel a gathering show.. but one that probably appeals more to men?? given the topics (guns, antique cars etc) covered

Anonymous said...

"Sports are about men demonstrating how good they are at endurance, fighting and hunting"


Sigh. Not any more. Sports are about the fine finger control of of men turned sofa slugs... stuffing more chips and salsa into their already bulging-over-their-belt, pressing their remote control buttons at lightning speed.

Most young boys know nothing of hunting and fishing, of carpentry and cars, don't know a flat head screwdriver from a Phillips, nor do their dads. Of course, many don't know their dads...but that's another subject.

Anonymous said...

The Inupiat Eskimos have a cool sport: the muskrat-skinning contest. Each contestant gets a pile of (dead) muskrats and an ulu knife. Whoever skins the most muskrats in 3 minutes wins. Women nearly always win big contests.

Severn said...

men do seem more keen to show off than women, who seem more keen to observe and evaluate.


An alarm bell should have gone off in Hanson's mind as he wrote than sentence. Really? Men are more keen to show off than are women? Women prefer observing to being observed?

Curvaceous Carbon-based Life Form said...

"Mens' seem to out perform women at the highest levels (albeit many of them are male-female hybrids)."

Chimerism is fascinating. Is it known whether the rate of homosexuality is higher among in-vitro fertilized kids?

dsfadfdfaf said...

Bowling is like hunting AND gathering. The pins are gathered and then hunted down. Again and again.

Baseball is like gathering too in a way. If the object of soccer or football is to penetrate the opponent's territory and score over on his side, hitters in baseball go around the diamond and return to the home plate. It's like they went off to gather stuff to bring it back home. Points are scored by gathering yourself back home than by invading the opponent's territory.
This may explain why women would rather play softball(a variant of baseball)more than basketball or football.

And golf is gathering-ish too, in some ways. After you first hit the ball far out onto the course, you have to gather it into a hole.

And synchronized swimming is gathering-ish. It's like a bunch of girls diving under water to find oysters and other stuff to eat.

And gymnastics is scored in a gathering-ish way. Each person goes out and does her routine and then the scores are gathered for the total.