Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 60.djvu/344

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336

POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

ENVIRONMENT IN RELATION TO SEX IN HUMAN CULTURE.
By OTIS T. MASON,

U. S. NATIONAL MUSEUM.

THERE is a sense in which human environments may be viewed in their relation to sex.

The greater part of the earth's surface was sterile to all primitive peoples, anterior to the times when the harnessing of physical forces, little by little, brought all lands and all waters under human dominion. The seas, the mountains, the frozen regions and the deserts were never traversed by savage man. In other areas the soil was so rich that dense forests and impenetrable pampas, with their dreadful solitudes and venomous animals and plants, served as a prohibitory wall against human occupation until the good offices of fire subdued them.

The remaining areas, of which we are now speaking, may be divided into the bisexual, the feminal and the virile. These natural homes of humanity have been characterized as culture areas, areas of characterization, ethnic provinces, oikoumenoi, and so on, either by reason of their having produced marked varieties of the genus homo, or because special forms of activities have been demanded and fostered in them. Each of them has been studied respecting its salubrity, its food supply, its materials for elevating industries, its distance from the highways of progress, its scenery and resources of every kind affecting the welfare of our species; but here it is designed to interrogate them regarding their treatment of men and women.

The term 'progress' means the perfecting of mental attributes and bodily skill of the individual and enlarging the number of persons cooperating in the same activity over longer time and greater space simultaneously.

The exigencies of maternity always differentiated the activities, the artistic creations, the language, the social life, the knowledge and the religious conceptions of women. Over and above all actions in common with men, they were spinners, dyers, weavers, nest-builders and purveyors. For them the fireside was literally the focus of innumerable cares.

In any mode of primitive life, on the other hand, men went to war with the elements and with things. In their hands was the apparatus of capture, of incarceration, of slaughter. They exploited the boundaries of the unknown in every direction.