… regarding women’s participation in the workforce, many have argued that women are better suited to being homemakers because the division of labor between the sexes is “natural”, meaning that it hails from ‘primitive’ times when men were hunters and women were gatherers. Jobs are the modern day equivalent of hunting, and staying at home is akin to minding the cave and the little cave-toddlers, the only difference being that women now do their gathering at supermarkets. First of all, the hunter/gatherer sexed division of labor isn’t actually a scientific fact, there are some scientists who contest it. Second, even if we were to take this narrative of human history as given, it’s not really clear to me why we can accept changes like the development of economic systems or medicine as human ingenuity, and yet when it comes to eliminating discrimination and sexism we seem to be tied up by “nature” and our primate ancestors.
When Darwin coined the phrase “survival of the fittest” he wasn’t referring to whether or not you should only date women who look like Lolo Jones. What he meant by ‘fit’ was ‘better suited’ to an environment, not physically fit or attractive, which is the modern sense of the term. It’s tempting to think of the strongest and fastest as the ones who are best adapted. If you think of lions or tigers, this might seem to make sense, but all survival of the fittest means is that an organism has adapted to live well in its environment. The dung beetle in the savanna is as fit as the lion. One of the ways organisms “adapt” is through natural selection, which involves certain traits being “selected” over time because the organisms that carry them survive and reproduce and make the trait more common, so much so that the population changes to fit its environment. Many biology textbooks use the peppered moth to explain natural selection. Originally, peppered moths were light in color which allowed them to camouflage well on light trees and lichens in the region where they lived. The industrial revolution and the pollution it produced, however, caused many of the lichens to die out and the tree trunks to darken with soot. Lighter moths then stood out and died off because of predation. Meanwhile dark colored moths flourished because they then were the ones that could camouflage easily.