Why Don 't More Men Make Their Own Sandwiches?

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Why don 't more men make their own sandwiches?
An evolutionary perspective on the sexual division of labour and the feminization of domestic labour

Alice Miao

Sexual division of labour refers to the different tasks delegated to men and women in a society. It has persisted in throughout human history, and one of the modern manifestations is the cross-cultural observation that women do the lion’s share of domestic labour. How can our evolutionary past help us understand the roles of the men and women in the home today?

Division of labour by society

Steve Kuhn suggests that a flexible division of labour evolved in the Upper Paleolithic.2 There was a tendency towards “man the hunter” and “woman the gatherer”,
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It was thought that the “public sphere” (including political leadership and participation) belonged to men, the breadwinners, whereas the “domestic sphere” belonged to women, the homemakers. There was little flexibility in the corresponding socialization that prepared children to take on their predetermined roles in society.

Fig. 1. A man returns to a home in shambles after his wife decides that women should be able to vote

Fig. 2. A caveman uses sexual division of labour to help him identify which restroom to use.

Are there evolutionary advantages?
There are numerous hypotheses that, although not mutually exclusive, provide different perspectives on the answer.

Specialization/Cooperation Hypothesis
This is one of the most common explanations for the evolution of division of labour. It states that when men and women split their tasks, they are able to achieve a higher overall provisioning rate for their family, increasing offspring survival. Steve Kuhn suggests that this increased efficiency in accessing food sources in hunter-gatherer societies allowed H. sapiens to outcompete Neanderthals.1 Hunter-gatherer societies with division of labour were also thought to eat a more well-balanced diet, also increasing offspring survival.4

Conflict Hypothesis
Another explanation has been suggested based on sexual conflict in
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