Yay! Feminist Anthropology time!
Alongside drawings of bison and horses, the first painters left clues to their identity on the stone walls of caves, blowing red-brown paint through rough tubes and stenciling outlines of their palms. New analysis of ancient handprints in France and Spain suggests that most of those early artists were women.
This is a surprise, since most archaeologists have assumed it was men who had been making the cave art. One interpretation is that early humans painted animals to influence the presence and fate of real animals that they’d find on their hunt, and it’s widely accepted that it was the men who found and killed dinner.
But a new study indicates that the majority of handprints found near cave art were made by women, based on their overall size and relative lengths of their fingers.
"The assumption that most people made was it had something to do with hunting magic," Penn State archaeologist Dean Snow, who has been scrutinizing hand prints for a decade, told NBC News. The new work challenges the theory that it was mostly men, who hunted, that made those first creative marks.
Another reason we thought it was men all along? Male archeologists from modern society where gender roles are rigid and well-defined — they found the art. "[M]ale archaeologists were doing the work," Snow said, and it’s possible that ”had something to do with it.”
I added the emphasis in bold, but the “that” was already italicized in the article, and it’s probably my favorite part. I love this article, although I’m not a huge fan of the fact that it’s considered so incredibly shocking and radical to imagine that women possibly participated in society 40,000 years ago.
In other awesome feminist anthropology news: it is now somewhat accepted that the venus sculptures, rather than being depictions of female beauty by male artists, were self-portraits by women looking down at their own bodies. The paleolithic figurines lose their distorted proportions and acquire representational realism if we understand that they are self-portraits created by women looking down at their own bodies.
See also: This quote by Sandy Toksvig
When I was a student at Cambridge I remember an anthropology professor holding up a picture of a bone with 28 incisions carved in it. ‘This is often considered to be man’s first attempt at a calendar’ she explained. She paused as we dutifully wrote this down. ‘My question to you is this – what man needs to mark 28 days? I would suggest to you that this is woman’s first attempt at a calendar.’
It was a moment that changed my life. In that second I stopped to question almost everything I had been taught about the past. How often had I overlooked women’s contributions? How often had I sped past them as I learned of male achievement and men’s place in the history books? Then I read Rosalind Miles’s book The Women’s History of the World (recently republished as Who Cooked the Last Supper?) and I knew I needed to look again. History is full of fabulous females who have been systematically ignored, forgotten or simply written out of the records. They’re not all saints, they’re not all geniuses, but they do deserve remembering.
the willendorf sculpture and others like her were /the first selfies/ and its amazing
The paleolithic figurines lose their distorted proportions and acquire representational realism if we understand that they are self-portraits created by women looking down at their own bodies.
I really, really love this sentence.
A guy at a princess store in Disneyland was asking me if I related to Merida in any way and I was like
“I don’t know man. I’m more of an Elinor.”
And he busted out laughing.
What I love most about this movie is that shows that being a princess is not wearing a beautiful dress, marrying a prince and live happily ever after, but a job, a hard job with duties and responsibilities were a lot of people depend on you
being the Lady of a medieval estate was SUCH AN IMPORTANT FUCKING JOB AND SO FUCKING FULL OF HARD WORK WHICH MEDIEVAL MEN ACKNOWLEDGED TBH
(one problem with perception of medieval gender roles is that most of the people who were writing, especially those who were writing HISTORY, were CLERGYMEN who had never been married and lived in a weird situation cut off from the way the rest of the world worked and had like no actual life experience with the real world - and then popular culture’s idea of it has been heavily informed by VICTORIAN choices of who and what to translate and popularize)
upper class medieval women were expected to run and manage the entire estate that they got from their husband (or that they already had in their own right through inheritance or as their marriage portion), a job which was acknowledged as being way difficult and requiring a wife with strength and fortitude and business sense if you wanted to be a successful person
they were the HR managers of households that might have over a hundred people in, and tho a duchess or a queen would certainly not go to the store to do the household shopping, and she probably had a steward to assist her, it was ultimately her responsibility to know what things were needed for that household, to make sure that the appropriate people obtained those things, to oversee the use of the household materials, to make sure that EVERYTHING got done so that ALL those people could live and work smoothly. they wrote letters and managed the business of the estate and networked with other members of the nobility for both important game-of-thrones political reasons and for smaller more personal reasons like ‘that guy has a really nice deer chase, so if i send him some marmalade from our garden, he might send some venison back as a return gift”
even in lower class households mom managed everything and women were basically considered to be shrewder and have better heads for that particularly kind of business than men and choosing a wise wife was the best thing you could do for yourself as a man who intended to be successful
they were like hands-on CEOs and shit yo and don’t get me wrong society was sexist as fuck and they were limited as hell in what they could do and everything was classist beyond belief but no way was being a noblewoman just a matter of sitting up a tower looking pretty & the contributions that they made are so important
also, the ladies of castles were responsible for defense when their husband was away at war (which happened a lot), so while personally participating in battle was unusual (though not entirely unheard-of) they did often find themselves in strategic command. and in wartime they frequently functioned as a sort of de facto logistics officer.
oh, and has anyone mentioned diplomacy. because an arranged marriage is only the START of a princess’s diplomatic career. the alliance she forges with her marriage is one she’s responsible for maintaining her entire life. unless she decides to go ahead and take over the country; that’s been an option too from time to time. :D
suddenly i really want to see a disney movie about a princess AFTER the wedding — forging a political bond with her new husband, defending the castle, sending troops and supplies to make sure he comes home from the war, reading secret reports from her spies in the enemy’s court… *swoon*
And I’ve tried to touch on this with Merida, because ALL OF THIS? THIS is why Merida has absolutely ZERO desire to get married or (eventually) become Queen. Because it means her life - every second of her free time - going down the drain as she becomes more and more tangled up in running the castle AND the kingdom.
(This is also why Elinor’s such a freaking BAMF, she’s got this shit down, man.)