Some anthropologists argue that men dominate all human societies, but Karen Lampell Endicott describes gender equality among the Batek and some other nomadic hunter/gather societies in an article she wrote in 1981. It has been scanned and added as a PDF to the Archive of this website this week.
One anthropologist maintained that sexual asymmetry predominates in hunter/gatherer societies because meat is the most favored food and men are the hunters. Endicott refutes the argument based on her research work with the Batek and the literature about other peoples. She describes the Batek nuclear family as a willing agreement of a man and woman to live together. Once they are married, the couple normally makes all decisions jointly, though one or the other may be the more vocal. Either partner can simply walk away from the marriage at any time.
Endicott describes the Batek camp as an aggregation of autonomous families in which the only leader, if there is one, may be a person whom the group respects for good sense, wisdom, persuasiveness and experience. This de facto leader may be a woman or a man. The people will turn to anyone who has the expertise they need at the moment.
She argues that the Batek do not always prefer meat. During the season when fruit is plentiful, they prefer it above everything else, including meat. Endicott concludes that men dominate women in societies due to their having established authority structures of domination. Furthermore, male domination is not universal, hunting is not necessarily a pre-eminent role, and meat is not necessarily the most highly prized food in foraging societies.