Depending on how you look at it, the women of the Sanumá tribe in Venezuela are either really fortunate or particularly unlucky. The female members of the hunter-gatherer rainforest community have – for as long as anyone’s ever known – called the shots. In Sanumán society it’s the ladies who organise functions. It’s the women who arrange marriages. It’s even the women who labour in the fields, distribute crops and carry tools back and forth through the jungle.
Why are they unlucky? Because their male counterparts haven’t kept up their end of the bargain. While the ladies are running things, the men have relinquished all responsibilities apart from those relating to mystical rituals. And it just so happens that Sanumán mystic rituals revolve around the hammering of naturally occurring psychotropic drugs like DMT. Picture it: the women – broad-shouldered, capable, full of beans; the men – withered, giggling, stoned and useless, like your wasteman nephew after a weekend spent with nothing for company but FIFA and Pringles.
The Sanumá situation is extreme, but it could provide a microcosmic illustration of the way things are heading. Physically, men have been on a downward spiral for some time. Our aboriginal ancestors, judging by their skeletons and footprints, would have been able to run as fast as Usain Bolt. Rowers in Ancient Greece could perform feats that can’t be duplicated by modern athletes. The arm bones of elite tennis players are still less thick than an average man from previous millennia. And it’s not just our arms and feet getting weaker. Thanks to changing genetic priorities, our faces are, too. Recent research has discovered that modern women are attracted to men with less masculine features. Softer faces, so the theory goes, are subconsciously associated with traits that actually matter in the 21st century: stability and caring. As a result, the planet’s Robert Huths and Jon Hamms are being eliminated from the gene pool. In 50 years’ time, blokes with square jaws and powerful brows could be endangered, galumphing across the horizon, hunky features set in chiselled grimaces as they come to terms with imminent extinction.
Men then, are atrophying. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. How many women do you know whose idea of a good time consists of sitting on a couch for 49 hours playing Black Ops? It won’t be long until we’re a forlorn, lesser-strain of weak-chinned peons, brittle spines bowed from hours spent in front of computers, libidos depleted due to PornHub addiction. Women, meanwhile, have been making up for lost time. The gentler sex has never been more awesome. Olympic swimmer Ye Shiwen frequently clocks times faster than those achieved by men. The success of South African runner Caster Semenya resulted in her having to prove to the world (by DNA testing) that she wasn’t a man. And – as you well know – Serena Williams could beat the piss out of 99% of us without breaking a sweat.
It goes without saying that women are smarter than men. Exam results at all age groups show that girls do better than boys. Hedge funds managed by women do three times as well as those that aren’t. And companies with female CEOs, on average, outperform those with male CEOs by 50%.
Women are coming to the fore in all sorts of areas traditionally thought of as the sole and rightful domain of men. Since the notorious writer Christopher Hitchens declared that ‘women are not funny’ in 2007, a plethora of female performers and writers have put paid to the lie that girls – if they are going to try their hand at comedy – need to stick to jokes about diets, sanitary towels and silly boyfriends. Tina Fey, Amy Schumer and Amy Poehler create popular TV and film every bit as quality as Curb Your Enthusiasm and I’m Alan Partridge. Clearly the funny bone is not located in the penis.
Dating apps like Tinder have helped shift the paradigm, too. Guys have always liked to believe they had the monopoly on the dating game, strings free or otherwise. These days, a girl doesn’t have to wait for some slack-jawed clown to amble his way across a pub to ask her out. She can pick and choose whoever she damn well wants, plucked from a never-ending catalogue of eager men, often topless, sometimes posing with wild animals.
The good news is that this state of affairs is something to be celebrated, not feared. For previous generations of men, the accepted supremacy of their gender came with the burden of tremendous responsibility. Most of our dads and grandads were, by and large, expected to single-handedly support their families financially. Now men aren’t the sole breadwinners. The last few years has seen an 80% rise in the number of families in which the mother is the biggest earner.
The standard dynamic, whereby women stay at home to raise children while men earn a living, is being eroded. Currently in Britain, only 40% of dads have taken paternity leave, but the numbers are on the increase. In Sweden, the government gives every family a gender-neutral parental leave allowance that pays 90% of the household income for 180 days per child. The parents are free to divvy up those days between them.
It’s a brave new world. And it would be a massive shame if we bottled it like the Sanumán caners, sat on our arses, dumbly waiting for the day women evolve to the point they are able to procreate without us. We’re lucky to live in an age in which men and women approach the gnarly bastard that is adult life as absolute equals. Let’s not let the ladies down.