Humanity's first union:
The Neolithic Village Women's Collective

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright Oct 2013

"You're a slut. Go away!" ...What high school girl hasn't worried about hearing this even more than worrying about discovering her new boyfriend is a vampire... sparkly or not?

What we have here is an example of female peer pressure, and it's also an example of collectivist thinking that dates back into prehistory. This is collectivist thinking because the village young females are setting up work/living rules and coercing adherence to them.

In this case, the work rules are about how young females should act around males in romantic situations. As has been demonstrated in numerous stories, real and fictional, this sex-related version of coercion has been strong throughout the ages, and is still strong even in modern times. How many young women who are engaging in courtship for the first time worry about appearing "too easy" to their peers?

So here is the interesting question: Interest in this has been going on a long time, what is the benefit to the community? How does this collectivist thinking pay off for the community? Why is this "girls meddling in the affairs of other girls" valuable?

(Note: This thought was inspired by yet another article about a teenage girl being scarred by an accusation of her peers that she was "easy", in this case the 24 Oct 13 WSJ editorial Leonard Sax: Blame Parents, Not Kids, for Sexting in which the author proposes a high tech solution to a related modern day family values problem. And this 27 Oct 13 Live Science article, Mean Girls: Women Evolved to Be Catty? by Tia Ghose, is also on this topic.)

The Root of the Meddling: Assisted Childbirth

More than most other mammal species humans rely on the help of many other humans for child raising. The men help by bringing home the bacon, but the women help in many more intimate ways. They will midwife, tend, and offer helpful advice. All of these help mothers of all ages, but they are especially important for a young first time or second time mother -- they are vital. Keep in mind that in Neolithic Village conditions mothering routinely starts in teenage years. This business of waiting until late twenties or later for a first child is a style that becomes common only in late Industrial Age lifestyles. In the US, western Europe and Japan this trend didn't happen until late in the 20th century.

This means our instinctive thinking is designed to work well for a woman who's belly has begun swelling for the first time in mid- to late teenagehood. This woman can use a lot of help and advice. So her thinking, and the thinking of her peers, and the rest of the community, is geared to offering and accepting that help and advice.

This means that a woman is a Bride Age Thinker (my term) while she is young, and she ages into a Matron Age Thinker as she grows and gains experience. This is a very real and dramatic transformation. It is the root of much comedy about family relations, and the transformation in thinking is at the heart of many romance novels.

A dark side of this benefit of support is well stated in the proverb "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." A woman who has been paying her collectivist dues can call upon her friends to support her when a relation goes sour, and that support can include passing around ugly, untrue rumors. The results can be fearsome.

Fast Forward to Modern Conditions

In modern lifestyle conditions we have a whole lot of tools available that change our child raising possibilities. We can raise children in many different ways and most of these new ways were not possible in Neolithic Village conditions. Think about it... cars, phones and TV's all change how we raise children. We can now raise our children in ways much better than Neolithic Village people could even dream of.

What hasn't changed is our instinctive thinking: community members are still ready, willing and able to give lots of help and advice, and mothers are still ready, willing and able to worry about if they are doing the right things for their children.

The modern emotional crises center around three things that have changed about the thinking circumstances: sex is no longer tightly linked to pregnancy, teenagers are not having children, and new mothers are now mostly Matron Thinkers not bride thinkers.

These three changes are what are bringing lots more emotional heat to these child raising and sex issues than would seem rational. These are areas where instinctive thinking is deeply out of whack with modern harsh reality. As a result the solutions being agreed upon are whacky too.

We Live in Prosperous Times

We live in prosperous times. This means we have a lot of discretion in where we choose to spend our time and attention. This is great... but it means that we can spend a lot of our time and attention foolishly and not threaten our lifestyles -- our living conditions will not get even better as fast as they could, but we won't starve because of our silly choices.

Because of its high emotional content (instinctive thinking content) child raising is vulnerable to lots of silly choices -- silly meaning they feel good to the adults around the child but they are not really helping the child develop into a well-adapted adult. One of the common worries of this nature is that if a child sees a specific something or experiences a specific something a magical demon will enter it and ruin its life everafter. This kind of worry is supported by a lot of anecdotal evidence (story telling).

And back to the main topic: Collectivism and the offering of peer advice to female teenagers. This is emotional thinking. Historically it has been very important. But times have changed. It is now as vulnerable to silliness as child raising is. We must be aware of the change, and help our teenage children be aware as well. They are still going to collectivize, but they need to become more tolerant and more analytical in the advice they are offering their peers. The advice should make good sense in modern conditions, not Neolithic Village conditions.

"From the heart" advice works in movies, but in real life in modern circumstances it is as likely to be damaging as it is constructive. There is one piece of old advice that still applies real well in modern times...

"Engage brain before opening mouth."


--The End--