“Origins of Male Domination May Lie in Food”

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The Story

“Origins of Male Domination May Lie in Food”
by Angus Chen
Scientific American, May 1, 2017

The Pitch

I have another pitch for you, which I am hoping is still good. It’s based on a PNAS study coming out next week.

Some researchers have been hypothesizing that male patriarchy and gender inequality began with agriculture. It’s thought that agriculture exaggerated male and female gender roles, and a premium was placed on primarily male roles like war or heavy labor. Evidence however has been thin, but this new study in PNAS offers some invigorating new evidence for the theory.

Researchers working in China searched for the origin of inequality in ancient Chinese civilization and found that distinct biochemical and archaeological markers arose around the time the civilization began farming and extensively using grains and cereals like barely and wheat. And these researchers were able to tie grains and cereals to a lower societal status for women by doing a biochemical analysis on skeletal remains. It showed that women began becoming more malnourished compared to men and had a C4 carbon isotope signature that suggested they were being “weaned onto cereal gruel.” Researchers also report other signs of gender inequality emerging at this time, including unequal burial treasures.

This is part of a growing line of evidence that agriculture began and ingrained gender inequality and a bias towards men in civilizations. Other analysis shows that societies that began agriculture earlier have more deeply embedded notions of gender inequality, with the thought that these ideas could become more entrenched over longer periods of time.

Let me know what you think? I’d love to write this story! The study comes off embargo on Monday, I believe. I’d propose around 1000 words for it to try and get at some of the nuance around the story, and I’d like to be able to file next week -probably mid week at the earliest.

Thanks for considering and hope all is well!!


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