women's and men's archetypes

Women's and men's archetypes are derived from progenitor and mutant attributes of sex.

Charles Darwin (1809-1882) said the final cause of sex is it keeps the amount of variation within certain limits. Sex brings together the sexual elements of organisms exposed to different environments and these are more vigorous.

[m]atters changed in the 1960s, when, as the synthesis matured and was extended, certain anomalies became apparent. Some of these anomalies arose within the developing paradigm, others from outside it. These anomalies ... consisted of (1) the paradox of recombination, (2) the paradox of meiosis, and (3) the paradox of variability. These anomalies seem paradoxical because from the point of view of certain versions of evolutionary theory, recombination, sex and a high level of genetic variability ought not to occur. But evidently they do, and this caused a crisis such that the theories in question have had to be replaced or at least modified in some important respect. [Michael Ghiselin (1988:10.11)]

The mythosociological tradition indicates that sex commenced as the recombination of progenitor and mutant biota. Asexual organisms threw up mutants in DNA replication. Mutants recombined with their progenitors to achieve an advantage over replication by combining mutant and progenitor attributes.

Women the origin men the anomaly of human culture, one predisposed to convention the other to invention, recorded in Aboriginal creation mythology with dual themes. In one, the women own the world then the men come along.

a widespread mythical theme, especially in central and northern Australia, contends that in the creative era women owned and controlled all or some of the most secret-sacred songs, rites, myths and objects, to the exclusion or partial exclusion of men, but that men reversed this situation through trickery, theft, or persuasion. [Catherine Berndt (1981:196)]

In the other, the men own the world then the women come along.

[women] were not necessary for original creation throughout most of the Western and Central Desert areas, though later they made some alterations in the landscape and reproduced the species first created by the ancestral heroes. [White (1975:128)]

Creation themes form a foundation for the celebration of pregenitor and mutant archetypes.

With the Yir Yoront, traditional owners of land at the mouth of the Coleman River on the west coast of Cape York Peninsula in far north Queensland:

[t]he ideal conception of the axe, the knowledge of how to produce it (apart from the purely muscular habits used in its production) are part of the Yir Yoront adult masculine role, just as ideas regarding its technical use are included in the feminine role. [Lauriston Sharp (1952:693)]

With the Walbiri desert-dwellers of Central Australia: "Men stress their creative power, women their role as nurturers, but each is united in their common purposes - the maintenance of their society in accordance with the Dreamtime Law". [Diane Bell (1983:182-183)]

With the Tiwi of Bathurst Island off the northern coast of Australia: "Men typically fish and hunt birds; women collect wild foods, shellfish, and hunt land animals with the aid of dogs. (The largest, strongest and most-difficult-to obtain land animals, however, are usually hunted by men.)" [Eaton, Shostak and Konner (1990:140)]

The consumption of large game is an anomaly because humans are predisposed to a vegetarian diet and lack the powerful claws, sharp teeth and acid-intensive digestive tract of carnivores. Control of fire for cooking made meat easier to eat which launched a protein boost that formed the modern human brain.

In nature male mammals are larger on average than females in unconfined ecologies. In crowded ecologies male spiders dwarf by their female partners, while male pipe fish birth offspring and flightless emu and rhea males hatch eggs. Female ants maintain colonies, males fly off with a queen to start new colonies.

The male of the parasitic twisted-wing insect strepsipteran is one of the most active in the insect world, the female little more than an inactive sack of eggs. (Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol 2, 1994:316)

Progenitors maintain the viability of convention, mutants the viability of invention. Women's and men's archetypes are consistent across all human cultures.

The next article looks at the influence of women's and men's archetypes on cycles of social culture.



Berndt, Catherine H. (1981) 'Interpretations and "Facts" in Aboriginal Australia'. In, Frances Dahlberg (ed) Woman the Gatherer. USA: Yale University Press: 153-203.

White, Isobel (1975) 'Sexual conquest and submission in the myths of Central Australia'. In, L.R. Hiatt (ed) Australian Aboriginal Mythology. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies: 123-142.


Ghiselin, Michael T. (1988) 'The Evolution of Sex: A History of Competing Points of View'. In, R.E. Michod and B.R. Levin (eds) The Evolution of Sex: An Examination of Current Ideas. Massachusetts: Sinauer Associates Inc: 7-23.

Sharp, Laurinston (1952) 'Steel Axes for Stone Age Australians'. In, E.H. Spicer (ed) Human Problems in Technological Change. New York: Basic Books: 690-699.

Women and Men:

Eaton, Boyd S.; Shostak, Marjorie; and Konner, Melvin (1990) 'Woman the Gatherer'. In, Elvio Angelino (ed) Anthropology 90/91. Connecticut: Dushkin.

last updated march, 2010