I read here an excellent article by Peggy Sastre, published in December 2017 on Slate. Her equally excellent expression “the steak patriarchy” remaining in copyleft, I will respectfully and happily use it for the purpose of this article.
In a nutshell, for a number of months, the thesis according to which women are smaller than men due to the fact that men deprived the former from protein for millennia has been gaining momentum.
This thesis was first developed by Priscille Touraille, a researcher in evolutionary anthropology, and gained media visibility with the airing of Véronique Kleiner’s “Why are women shorter than men?” documentary on the German-French TV channel Arte in 2014.
To paraphrase Françoise Héritier, anthropologist, ethnologist and supervisor of Priscille Touraille’s thesis: the entire conscious evolution of humanity aimed at diminishing the female body compared to the male. Since pre-historical times, men have picked out the protein, the meat and the fat, namely the ingredients needed to develop strong bones, for themselves, whereas women received the carbohydrates and the mash that creates curves.
This nutritional discrepancy, which is still observable in most of humanity, contributed, over millennia, to reduce the size of women while that of men increased. Another difference which is considered natural, when it is really culturally acquired.
The patriarchy of steak erected as a violence towards women?
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
For the purpose of her article, Peggy Sastre made sure to contact a number of researchers and scientists from various backgrounds and asked them their opinion about Priscille Touraille’s thesis.
Be it cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, evolutionary biology researcher Charlotte Faurie, or director of research at the NCSR and responsible for the human evolutionary biology team of the Evolutionary Sciences Institute of the University of Montpellier Michel Raymond, their opinions are similar: Touraille’s thesis has no solid foundations. Indeed, sexual dimorphism – the morphological differences between male and female – rules our species (and not just ours, at that).
The origin of these differences can be explained by sexual selection, sexual conflict and parental investment (in short, all reasons linked to survival and the perpetuation of our species).
According to Robert Trivers, an American biologist, socio-biologist and professor of anthropology of great renown, Touraille’s hypothesis is total nonsense, from beginning to end. He states that sexual dimorphism didn’t start with our species at the Paleolithic age – males are bigger than females in all our cousin species, be they the two chimp species, gorillas or orangutans.
He concludes that this is the result of 17 million years of history, with a sexual dimorphism produced by sexual selection, adding that in the great ape family only gibbons have a weak sexual dimorphism and even then, it goes in the same direction and they are known for their monogamous tendencies.
According to Heather Heying, evolutionary biology professor, though the intensity of sexual dimorphism varies according to cultures, its direction never changes. If human sexual dimorphism were just a social construct, we would see societies in which women are taller or bigger than men on average.
This doesn’t exist, which leads her to conclude that the direction of sexual dimorphism direction doesn’t vary in primate, therefore making it unscientific to suggest a new, independent process specific to humans.
So, ladies, you may eat whatever you please, it won’t make you victims of the steak patriarchy 😉
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