Why Men and Women Are the Way They Are

Human beings are the way they are because of natural selection. Those characteristics which allow more children to survive and reproduce will push out or select against characteristics are less […]
Published on March 3, 2022

Human beings are the way they are because of natural selection. Those characteristics which allow more children to survive and reproduce will push out or select against characteristics are less helpful in having children that will survive and reproduce. We can see this in the evolutionary history of genus Homo (although the early record is incomplete and the lines of descent uncertain).

For example, when four million years ago the Australopithecus (or earlier) ancestors of human beings started to become bipedal, walking on their legs with their hands free, they were able to use their hands to make and use tools and weapons, which gave those individuals an advantage over those who could not, or could not as effectively, which gave their children a greater chance of surviving and living to reproduce. Over time, the descendants of effectively bipedal Australopithecines would replace those weaker in mobility and in making and using tools and weapons. Bipedalism was also an advantage as they moved out of the forest into the savanna and desert during the cooling climate.

The evolutionary expansion of the brain and increase in intelligence is another major step in natural selection. During the four million years between the Australopithecus and Homo sapiens, brain size increased three-fold, from 500 cc to 1500 cc. This increase of brain size presented a serious engineering problem, because it had to be housed in a much larger cranium. There were two possible solutions: women’s hips could be much, much larger, say five feet wide, in order to accommodate the larger skull, or parturition would have to take place long before the infant’s skull was very large, that is, while the child was very undeveloped. Each of these solutions presented great problems: very large hips would make mobility very difficult, and birth to a very immature child would mean many years of nurturing and protection. It was the latter solution that prevailed, and the long period of child dependency is the cost of our large brain and comparatively greater intelligence than our early ancestors or ape cousins.

There are multiple theories about the increase of human intelligence. What did increasing intelligence deliver that resulted in its favored selection; how did it contribute to “fitness,” a greater number of surviving offspring to go on the reproduce themselves? One line of thought is that greater intelligence in some individuals provided more success in hunting and gathering, especially in a changing climate. Another is that greater intelligence and related curiosity about other people’s thoughts and motives, and the potential for empathy, allowed more success in raising highly dependent children over the long term, as well as in building social networks and groups. Some argue that greater intelligence allowed for effective aggression against outsiders, while others argue that it allowed for the constraining of aggression.

What we know for certain is that natural selection selected different traits for male and female Homo sapiens. This was a result of the different roles of males and females in the hunting and gathering life that Homo sapiens lived for two hundred thousand years until ten thousand years ago. Generally, men hunted animals and women gathered plants and nurtured children. We know this directly from archeological evidence of remains from our distant ancestors. But we also have rich, detailed accounts of recent and contemporary hunters and gatherers, many studied by anthropologists directly, through ethnographic field research. For example, one of the most studied peoples in the world are the hunters of the Kalahari Desert in southern Africa, a people known to us earlier as the !Kung Bushmen, but more recently as the Ju/’hoansi. When living traditionally, men would leave the camp for long trips of several days hunting wild game, big and small. Women gathered in the vicinity of the camp, particularly the nourishing mongongo nuts, and nurtured the children.

The pattern of activity was slightly different in extreme environments, such among the Inuit in the Arctic. In winter, men would go off hunting caribou, seals, whales, and other big game, while in summer season fishing was a major source of food. Women stayed in camp, nurturing the vulnerable young, and were responsible for preparing the clothing that allowed living in the Arctic. But women did not gather, as there were no plants to gather.

Hunters and gatherers did not only live in deserts and the Arctic. Many in ancient times and some in more recent times have lived where natural species were plentiful, reducing the necessity for long trips and nomadism. For example, the peoples of the Northwest Coast of North America enjoyed the bounty of the sea, both shallow and deep as well as rivers that received migrating runs of salmon, and the rich plant life of the land and its variations across the different altitude ecozones.

Natural selection enhanced the qualities that made men good hunters and those that made women good gatherers and nurturers. Those successful at these tasks were able to leave more offspring than those less successful, and so the qualities needed for success were passed on and slowly replaced less functional qualities carried by fewer offspring.

We know from the study of contemporary hunter-gatherers, that successful hunters who provide meat for their band are rewarded by sexual access to the females of the band, and were thus likely to leave more offspring than unsuccessful hunters. This is one way that traits that led to success were selected for and spread throughout the population. Mothers who were diligent and effective gatherers, and who were able to establish good relations with supportive child carers (alloparents), were more likely to see their children to maturity and reproduction. Female diligence and sociability would then be spread through the genes of children and grandchildren.

What are characteristics of Homo sapiens males and females, and how do the sexes differ? While there is great diversity within each category, on average males and females differ significantly on a range of qualities. We know this from extensive research and evidence in biology and psychology, synthesized by Charles Murray in Human Diversity, and reviewed in three parts by this author here, here, and here.

As I have summed up elsewhere: Genetically, males have XY and females have XX chromosomes. Physically, post-adolescence males are typically taller, heavier, stronger, and faster than women, thanks to the male’s low fat-muscle ratio, heavier skeleton, and larger heart and lungs. In reproduction, men make a brief contribution of providing seed, while women carry the child during gestation, give birth, and provide nutrition through breast feeding. Neurologically, male brains tend to prioritize one hemisphere at a time, while female brains tend to function using both hemispheres together. Psychologically, males are stronger in estimating and negotiating spatial-temporal relations, while females are stronger in verbal capabilities. Males are more oriented to the physical world, while females are more oriented to the social world. Males are more task oriented, while females are more family oriented. In some activities, such as mathematics, males are more prominent at the extreme ends of the distribution, the capable and incapable tails.

It is easy to see how these differences have resulted from natural and sexual selection during hundreds of thousands of years during which Homo sapiens and earlier ancestors were hunters and gatherers, with males venturing away far from camp to track and kill wild animals for the protein-rich meat that they provide. Being able to judge space and location, time and place is not just an asset but a necessity for a hunter on foot with simple weapons. Natural selection would have been severe for those who misjudged space and time with nothing to fall back on. It is no wonder that males today, only a few thousand years away from hunting, have strong spatial-temporal skills.

Females, responsible for feeding and nurturing the young during their many years of dependency, while skilled at gathering natural species in the vicinity of camps, above all required commitment to filling the needs of children, and developed the social skills, empathy, and verbal lubrication to enlist other girls and women and boys and men in support of her children and all children in the camp. The strong family orientation of women today reflects the legacy of hunting and gathering times when only a laser focus on children would give them any chance of survival. Women’s verbal skills were inherited from earlier women who depended on verbal skill to build a support network among other girls and women to aid them and their children. The emotional correlate of verbal skill was emotional orientation, such as an empathy for others, a trait also the legacy of earlier ways of life.

It is delusionary to claim that male and female human beings are really no different, just about the same in all important respects. Whatever the motives for such claims, they are counterproductive because they deny the reality of hard-wired differences between males and females. This delusion is clear in demands for “equity,” the statistical equivalence between males and females in all jobs, organizations, activities, and characteristics. Nothing could be more inappropriate, and inhumane, than demanding that men and women be the same when they are different, prefer to be different, and favor different ways of living.

Speaking generally and on average, men are more work- and profession-oriented, and women are more family-oriented. This is reflected in time of work, with men working more hours, days, weeks, and years than women. There is a good reason for that, and it is not “sexist discrimination” or “misogyny,” which are the “go-to” answers by gender activists for any and all statistical disparities between males and females. The reason is not that men are smarter or more capable, which is an outdated “sexist” idea. Rather, women on average want more of a balance between work outside the home and life with their families, and thus want less time at work outside the home than men do.

Similarly, while men in general like working with in animate objects, women prefer people and working with people. University fields of study such as the social sciences, humanities, social work, education, and law are statistically overwhelmingly female in enrolment and graduates. Is this because there is discrimination against males? Of course not. On the other hand, men are drawn to engineering, hard science, computer programing, and mathematics in larger number than females. This statistical sex disparity has caused university administrators to launch programs to attract females to these fields, and even to block males. The reality is that females on average prefer other fields, even when they are highly competent in, for example, mathematics. The go-to claim of “sexist discrimination” by “diversity” advocates is false. In the feminist dominated country of Sweden, few females go into STEM fields and many who enter drop out.

Sex disparities in other fields do not result in calls for gender parity. Females made up about seven percent of truck drivers who provide an essential service in the supply chain. And although the U.S. has some 80,000 drivers short, women are still not keen. Truck driving is dangerous work, as are many other male dominated occupations such as construction, mining, law enforcement, electrical line work, and fishing. In 2019 there were ten times as many male industrial deaths as there were female industrial deaths in the U.S. Females tend to avoid dirty and dangerous jobs, leaving them to more willing male workers, while they prefer cleaner and safer clerical jobs. It appears that males are more adventurous and willing to take risks, while women are more conservative and self-protecting. Is this a violation of “equity,” or a reflection of the choices of free people, even when the pattern varies between sexes?

These proven scientific facts about Homo sapiens males and females and the differences between them are currently out of fashion in the West. Spurred in part by the wider acceptance of a range of sexual preferences which were in the past repressed or suppressed, some people are imagining that the biological facts about sex and sexes are not real. Rather, they promote the idea that sex is a continuum rather than a binary, and that a person can choose to be any sex that he/she/zee/ja wants.

We have now institutionalized, validated, and legally endorsed the imaginary “transition” from one sex to the other, although the result of hormone treatments and plastic cosmetic surgery is no better than a partial replica. At the same time that we validate sex change, we falsely claim that sex is not binary. But we now go farther, validating a claim of sex identity, no matter if no “transition” has occurred, so that biologically compete and functioning males can pass as females, and biologically complete and functioning females can pass as males. All of this has the force of law, for trans-persons have the full protection of the state, and anyone who does not recognise a trans-person for whatever they claim to be has committed a hate crime punishable by law.

This is not to mention the lucrative medical “trans industry” that rushes individuals with psychological discomfort, or who have been convinced that they have psychological discomfort, into risky, life affecting hormone treatments and disfiguring surgery, with the rationalization of “affirmation.” What they are in fact affirming is the tens of thousands of dollars flowing into their bank accounts. These charlatans should be struck off the list of medical practitioners. And this is even before considering their irresponsible treatment of young children, which is truly child abuse. Not just struck off but given jail time.

Let us not neglect the university faculties of education, the teachers’ unions, and the teachers who have make it is central part of their vocation to encourage and facilitate “transition.” Students in all grades are now targeted with pro-trans propaganda, and their confidence in their natural identity is undermined by the insidious trans agenda of “social justice” teachers. School policies and teachers systematically hide children’s induced confusion and the encouragement to transition from parents. It is long past time that parents sue teachers, schools, and teachers’ unions, and that teachers, schools, and teachers’ unions be held accountable for corruption of minors. It would be exemplary for some of these corrupters to be given jail sentences.

The result of all this is that sex status is erased. There are no more women, just “menstruating persons” and “birth persons.” Now there are no more women’s sports, which Title IX in the US was supposed to protect. Instead, toxic males claiming to be females are destroying women’s sports by overpowering female athletes. Male rapists in dresses have intruded on female spaces: school bathrooms, women’s shelters, and women’s prisons, because we now accept people’s imaginary and unsubstantiated claims to sexual identity over biological facts, and we enforce them in law and all of our institutions.

These above-mentioned offenses on the part of persons in authority and those who bully others do not negate the right of people to live as they would, as long as they do not harm others (leaving aside the hurt sensibilities of some). Men who choose to live as women and women who choose to live as men have a right to do so. These choices would fall under John Stuart Mill’s recommendation that people be allowed to live their lives as they see fit, as long as they do not interfere with other people’s right to do the same. The same lesson applies to men and women, who should understand and appreciate the differences between them, rather than claim exclusive virtue for their sex. Men should value women for their particular talents and preferences, and women should value men for their particular talents and preferences. Vive la différence!


Philip Carl Salzman is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at McGill University, where he taught from 1968 to 2018; Senior Fellow at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy, Fellow at the Middle East Forum, and President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East. He is the author of Culture and Conflict in the Middle East; the founding chair of the Commission on Nomadic Peoples of the International Union of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences; the founding editor of Nomadic Peoples; and the author of Black Tents of Baluchistan; Pastoralism: Equality, Hierarchy, and the State; Thinking Anthropologically, Culture and Conflict in the Middle East; and Understanding Culture.

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