Hunters, Gatherers, and Generalizations

This past weekend, Forbes Performing Arts Center hosted a rather interesting guest. My mother knows that my sister and I are both feminists, and she thought it would be particularly interesting for us to go to this event – a long comedy sketch, really – because of the strong opinions that my sister and I are both rather prone to. This short Broadway play was called “Defending the Caveman”.

A smash Broadway play...
A smash Broadway play…

Kevin Burke, the star of the play, started off the play as a defense of men…but that defense very quickly moved into a pretty heavy outline of the way that men and women are different (and why that means men aren’t all “assholes”). I found myself laughing throughout the play, despite the fact that the entire show was absolutely full of generalizations. It was pretty funny, because there were some things that I know I do as a female…but there were also plenty of things that I don’t do. In fact, according to Burke, I apparently have some downright “manly” tendencies.

Apparently men and women have their own languages and their own way of doing things, which is why we end up misunderstanding each other so often. The entire play was based off of the gender roles that we prescribed to when we were cavemen and cavewomen – hunters and gatherers. I’m sure you can figure out who was who…and according to Burke, everything that we do now stems from those very roles we followed thousands of years ago.

Burke logic: because women are gatherers, we have to notice everything in order to alert the hunters to danger. Therefore, we can multitask and focus on multiple things at a time (like talking and cleaning), we clean without being asked because we “notice” that there is shit to clean, we love shopping because it’s a gathering activity, and we have a cooperative mentality.

On the other hand, men are hunters. Because of this, men notice and focus on only one thing or task at a time (that’s why they “don’t hear” their wives talking to them when they are watching TV), they don’t notice their own dirty laundry on the ground so they don’t pick it up, they hate shopping because they aren’t gatherers and “get their energy from focusing on one thing at a time and women get their energy from shopping”, and they have a negotiating mentality.


Burke even went so far as to say that we are even hunters and gatherers in the way our bodies are shaped – sex organs are shaped like “spears” and “baskets”. Haha, funny, and true…but it doesn’t prove your point.

I found myself thinking about these things in regard to my own life…and I don’t think they are true! I hate shopping unless it’s for groceries because I love food – who doesn’t. I AM a negotiator…the example that Burke described outlined a situation in which a bunch of guys are sitting around a chip bowl and the chips are running out. All of the guys sit around and argue with each other about who is going to get more chips – “I bought the chips” “Well I drove us to get the chips” “Well it’s my fucking bowl”…you get the picture. I absolutely do this with my friends, male and female, because I’m lazy and I like chips. Apparently when all female friends are gathered around a bowl of chips, they all get up and go to get more chips together, because that is cooperation and women are cooperative. Nuh uh, not in my case, dude.

While the show was funny, and definitely worth the couple of hours I spent in the theater, I really hope people don’t take Burke’s words to heart. I don’t think that men and women are completely different creatures, and I don’t think that all of Burke’s generalizations were true – by a long shot. I think that people are people, male or female, and they can’t be generalized in such a manner. Comedy is lighthearted, and it’s fine to make light of one man’s laziness or one woman’s tendency to buy a lot of shit…but once these generalizations turn into excuses and cop outs we have a pretty big problem – a problem called patriarchy.

Let me know what you think!

2 thoughts on “Hunters, Gatherers, and Generalizations

  1. Great post! Really funny and insightful! As a feminist we always get told that we don’t have a sense of humor and that’s not true, some things just aren’t funny. Even still there are other things that may be funny, but that doesn’t mean we can’t think critically about what we’re laughing about and I think you do a good job of doing both! I also find it funny that technically as hunters they actually worked together in groups to provide the largest amount of food possible for the community as a whole, so that non-cooperative is just bs.


    1. I agree. I poked holes in essentially everything that this guy said. I get tired of people telling make me a sandwich jokes, and then being confused because I’m really pissed off. There are women in Saudi Arabia who are being arrested for driving cars. I think that the time for jokes has kind of passed.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s