From The Flintstones to Focus on the Family, the stereotype has long been that men hunt and provide, while women just stir the pot. Thankfully, today many women—and men—reject both that biological essentialism and the resulting division of labor. But what can science tell us about the role our earliest female ancestors played in providing food for themselves and their communities? Meanwhile, given the fact that women have been confined to the kitchen for much of recent Western history, how have they used food as a tool of power and protest, escape, and resistance? Just in time for the holiday season, this episode we dive into two books that take on the science and history of women’s relationship with food. First, science journalist Angela Saini helps us upend conventional wisdom on “women’s work” and biological differences between the sexes; then food historian Laura Shapiro reveals an entirely new side to six well-known women through their culinary biographies. Join us this episode as we hunt, gather, and cook with women throughout history, from feral pigs to shrimp wiggle.
The idea that men and women are fundamentally different—that women are physically weaker, less rational, and equipped with smaller brains—was accepted as fact by scientists and enforced by culture for centuries. Charles Darwin himself claimed that women were at a lower stage of evolution. One widely believed argument for male superiority was that early men were the hunters—and that, through hunting, they not only provided food for their families, they also invented the first tools and the earliest forms of language, and thus, by extrapolation, everything that made humans distinctively human. In her new book, Inferior: How Science Got Women Wrong—and the New Research That’s Rewriting the Story, Saini exposes the flaws in that hypothesis to offer an inspiring revision of gender equality among early humans.