Male and Female

All higher forms of life have one thing in common; their teeming populations are split in two, one half male, the other half female. But just how similar and how different is the opposite sex?
            We are familiar with the idea of contrasting males and females that we tend to take this arrangement for granted, but with some lower forms of life every individual is both male and female. When two of them mate, they inseminate one another and both become pregnant. However, with higher forms of life it is usually quite clear which individual is masculine and which is feminine. Not only do they have different reproductive systems, they also differ in a number of other ways. There is division of labour between the sexes, the male becoming specialized in one direction,  the female in another. And this is just as true of the human animal as it is of other species.
            To understand how human masculinity and femininity evolved, it would help if we could turn the clock back to observe our prehistoric ancestors. Sadly, we cannot do that. The best we can do is to take a look at a group of modern people who are still living the same sort of tribal, tropical existence today. This is not easy, because most such societies have been contaminated by modern cultures. Feather headdresses are accompanied by T-shirts; the bone worn in the nose is proudly replaced  with a biro. But there are still a few tribes where the primeval way of life has somehow managed to survive such intrusions, which can give us some valuable clues about the relations between the sexes as it probably existed in ancient times.
            In some regions, the pygmies of West Africa are still living as hunter-gathers, even today. They survive much as their ancestors did, hundreds of thousands of years ago when our species was young. The role of the males is to hunt, to dismember the carcasses of the animals they kill and to design and construct  their hunting weapons. The role of the females is to gather fruit, nuts, berries and fungi and to build the simple round huts whenever they move to a new camp site. Although the bulk of the food eaten comes from the women’s activities, the meat provided by the men is of a much higher nutritional value. Allowing for this difference, it is true to say that the contribution of males and females to tribal nutrition is roughly equal. This equality of importance is feeding is reflected in an equality of importance in tribal matters generally. Decisions on male concerns are made by the men; decisions on female concerns are made by the women.
            It is almost certain that, throughout our long evolutionary past, the human animal has thrived on this natural balance of power between the sexes, rather than on the domination of one sex by the other. ‘Equal but different’ could have been our human slogan. The questions is, how different and how is this reflected in our lives today?

Male Muscle

As men and women increasingly specialized in their respective tasks as hunters and gathers, the most obvious difference was in muscular strength. To succeed at the hunt, the human male had to become bigger, stronger and more athletic. This primeval gender difference can be measured in a number of ways.
            It beings at birth. The male baby is, on average, heavier and longer than the female baby. It also exhibits a higher basal metabolism something it will have throughout its life a feature that is suited to a more strenuous, active lifestyle. Newborn males show more vigorous limb movements, as if impatient to get started with their athletic pursuits. Also, their visual acuity is greater, heralding the time when, as adult hunters, they must  survey the landscape for telltale signs of prey. Another difference is their interest in manipulating objects: male infants are more prone to bang and hammer toys, whereas females  are more subdued in their play. Young boys are more interested in running, jumping, pushing and pulling; little girls tend to sit down and play with the objects in front of them. Infant boys are also more interested in investigating any new toy that is offered.
            These differences all occur long before there can have been any adult influences or ‘gender role’ bias. They are clearly inborn and set the tiny boys and girls off on slightly different paths, which they will follow all their lives. The power-playing of the male infants is a clear precursor of their later muscular exploits. And their greater interest in novel objects which might just be dangerous is destined to mature into the greater adult risk-taking of the adult human male. All these features support the idea of deep division of labour between the sexes in our species.
            At adulthood, the body of the human male is, on average, 30 per cent stronger than that of the human female, with nearly twice the weight of muscular tissue. (The average male has 26 kg over 57lb of muscle compared with 15kg or 33 lb for the female.)  A typical female can only carry half her weight, whereas a typical male can carry twice his weight. Supporting this male muscle power, masculine bones, heart and lungs are bigger there is more hemoglobin in the blood. The female hand is only two-thirds as strong as that of the male.
            The adult male body is also slightly larger than that of the female, the bigger skeleton providing a more powerful base for the increased muscle  power. On average, the human male is 10 percent heavier and 7 percent taller than the human female. This means that, even when he does  not deserve it., the human male will always have to be looked up to by the human female! For modern women seeking social equality this is one of the more irritating remnants of our ancient past, especially when we now live in a world where, thanks to modern technology, the brute strength required for hunting is of little importance to most people in ordinary day-to-day living.
            Only on the sports field does superior male strength show itself in a significant way today. All over the world there are physical displays of male strength that help to emphasize the masculine advantage in this particular aspect of human biology. A dramatic example is to be seen each year in the traditional Highland Games  in Scotland, where huge men compete in such bizarre events  as tossing the caber. In this, a massive tree trunk from a fit or pine or 5m (17ft) long is tossed into the air. The competitor holds the trunk vertically, with the narrower end pressed against his chest, and then heaves it into the air so that it turns, end over end, falling to the ground with the narrower section pointing away from the thrower. Only the most powerful of men can achiever this feat, a feat which is beyond any woman.
            Similar conspicuous demonstrations of masculine physical strength are found in many countries. Even on the notoriously relaxed islands of south Pacific there is an annual fruit carrying competition that tests the power of the local men in much the same way. In this display, heavy pole laden with bunches of fruit weighing 45 kg (100 lb) has to be carried on one shoulder over a grueling mile-long race, at the end of which the competitors collapse in agony as they cross the finishing line. The essence of such contests is that they should push the males concerned to the very limit of masculine strength, not only to discover which man is the strongest, but also to reaffirm the general superiority of male over female muscle.
            Another physical difference between men and women also related to the hunting specialization of the human male is the shape of the face. Females have smaller noses. Chins and jaws and thinner eyebrows than males, who are equipped with more prominent jaws, bigger noses and more powerful brows. This is because, when they set off on the hunt, males were in great physical danger. The heavier jaws and stronger brow ridge acted as protection when grappling with prey, while the large nose improved the breathing efficiency of the male’s larger lungs; lungs that had to assist his athletic pursuit of prey animals.
            Proof of this facial divide between male and female is to be found in the E-Fit identification system used today by modern police forces. Their computerized system has two sets of features, one for each sex.

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