Are Women the Better Hunters?

Or why men can’t find anything

Ever since I was a baby feminist, I’ve questioned the divisions in labor between men and women and why it is that women’s roles were never seen as glamorously as men’s. Take the terms “hunters” and “gatherers.” The men were the hunters, strong and powerful, invigorated by the chase, the “true” providers. Women toiled away on the simple tasks of gathering roots and berries, bent over small tools digging in the dirt all day.

I wonder, though, how men got the role of hunter. Sure they are physically a bit stronger and faster, but ask any married woman how good her husband is at hunting and you’ll hear stories like this:

My husband opens the refrigerator door and just stands there. Eventually, he yells, “Honey, are we out of salsa?” I sidle up to him, move the pickle jar and, voila.

My man steps into our walk-in closet and almost immediately bellows, “Honey, where’s my blue dress shirt?” I walk in and grab it off the hanger that is six inches from his nose.

The other night, my own husband was stomping around the family room like an angry elephant shouting, “Where’s the remote? I can’t find the remote.”

“Take care of that, will you?” I said to my daughter. “Your father is being a man again.”

She rolled her eyes, and up the stairs she went. She surveyed the ottoman, where the remote is usually lying, lifted a jacket, and pointed to the missing device that lay beneath it. “Thank you,” my husband said.

Because in order to find something, if anything needs to be moved, shuffled, turned over, or picked up, a man will never find it.

How it Really Happened

We’ve all seen the pictures and movie clips of the triumphant male hunting party returning to camp to shouts of glee and pats on the back and a party to celebrate. And the women show up to offer their praise and then go back to the real work of running the camp, cooking, cleaning, sewing, breastfeeding, etc.

In reality, though, as often as not, this is probably how that scene played out:

A group of women was out gathering food, pushing aside every branch to find the tiniest ripe berry, when one of them spotted a lone mammoth over by the lake.

“Honey, go tell your father,” she said to her young daughter, who trotted back to camp and interrupted the men as they sat in a circle poking sticks in the fire and sharing their favorite saber tooth rib recipes.

“Dad, there’s a mammoth.”


“I’ll show you.”

The men would gather their spears with sportsmanlike swats on the butt and jokes about the size of each man’s spear tip, and follow the girl up the trail.

“There it is.”

“Where? I don’t see it.”

“Right there, by the lake.”

“That lake.”

“Yes, that lake. It’s the thing that looks like a big rock, but it’s moving.”

“Oh, yeah! Come on, men, let’s get him.”

“Um, dad, don’t go that way. The path is blocked by a downed tree. Take the trail over there.”

“But I’ve never been that way.”

“That’s okay, if you need directions, just ask Elder Woman. She’s gathering berries in that area.”

“Nah, that won’t be necessary. I’m sure we’ll find it.”

And off they went, seeking glory and exploits worthy of wall paintings.

But truth be told, if it’s a kid’s missing shoe you are looking for or a misplaced e-mail or an unusual item in the grocery store, it’s not a man you should send on the hunt, it’s a woman.

Teresa Funke is an author/speaker/writer’s coach. She’s written six works of fiction, including Dancing in Combat Boots: and Other Stories of American Women in World War II. She’s also been happily married for 25 years, although that may change if her husband sees this post.

I post weekly on my blog Bursts of Brilliance for a Creative Life. Or sign up for my newsletter here.