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Gender and Social Stratification. Gender and Anthropology. interest in hierarchical relations between men and women has been a feature of anthropology since its earliest days 19th century evolutionists and their explanations for the rise of culture

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Gender and Social Stratification

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Gender and social stratification

Gender and Social Stratification

Gender and anthropology

Gender and Anthropology

  • interest in hierarchical relations between men and women has been a feature of anthropology since its earliest days

  • 19th century evolutionists and their explanations for the rise of culture

  • promiscuous horde gives way to socially organized marriage and kinship, for example

Gender and anthropology1

Gender and Anthropology

  • anthropology of gender has been key in establishing that sexual inequality is not a biological fact but instead and cultural and historical one

Development of the study of sex sexuality and gender in anthropology

development of the study of sex, sexuality and gender in anthropology

  • Anthropology of Women early 1970's attention to the lack of women in standard ethnographies

  • Anthropology of Gender challenged the basis for understanding social roles of male and female

  • Feminist Anthropology challenged the biological basis of sex and sexuality

    • and the foundations of anthropology as it had been done

Sex sexuality gender


  • not the same thing

  • all societies distinguish between males and females

  • a very few societies recognize a third, sexually intermediate category

Gender and social stratification


  • differences in biology

  • Socially & culturally marked

  • the body is "simultaneously a physical and symbolic artifact, both naturally and culturally produced, anchored in a particular historical moment" (Scheper-Hughes & Lock)

The four bodies

The “Four Bodies”

  • Individual body

  • The social body

  • The body politic

  • The mindful body

The individual body

The Individual Body

  • lived experience of the body-self, body, mind, matter, psyche, soul

The social body

The Social Body

  • representational uses of the body as a natural symbol with which to think about nature, society, culture

The body politic

The Body Politic

  • regulation, surveillance, & control of bodies (individual & collective) in reproduction & sexuality, in work & leisure, in sickness & other forms of deviance

The mindful body

The Mindful Body

  • the most immediate, the proximate terrain where social truths and social contradictions are played out

  • a locus of personal and social resistance, creativity, and struggle

  • emotions form the mediatrix between the individual, social and political body, unified through the concept of the 'mindful body.'

Sexuality reproduction

SEXUALITY (reproduction)

  • all societies regulate sexuality

    • lots of variation cross-culturally

  • degree of restrictiveness not always consistent through life span

    • adolescence vs. adulthood

  • Varieties of “normative” sexual orientation

    • Heterosexual, homosexual, transexual

  • Sexuality in societies change over time



  • GENDER - the cultural construction of male & female characteristics

    • vs. the biological nature of men & women

  • SEX differences are biological - GENDER differences are cultural

  • behavioral & attitudinal differences from social & cultural rather than biological point of view

Gender roles stereotypes stratification


  • gender roles - tasks & activities that a culture assigns to sexes

  • gender stereotypes - oversimplified strongly held ideas about the characteristics of men & women & third sex-third gender

  • gender stratification - unequal distribution of rewards (socially valued resources, power, prestige, personal freedom) between men & women reflecting their position in the social hierarchy

Universals versus particulars

universals versus particulars

  • universal subordination of women is often cited as one of the true cross-cultural universals, a pan-cultural fact

    • Engels called it the “world historical defeat of women”

  • even so the particulars of women’s roles, statuses, power, and value differ tremendously by culture

Friedl and leacock argument

Friedl and Leacock argument

  • variation among foragers

  • male dominance is based on exchange, public exchange

  • versus that exchanged privately by women

  • Exchange of scarce resources in egalitarian societies, gender stratification, and universal subordination of women

Domestic public dichotomy m rosaldo


  • opposition between domestic (reproduction) & public (production) provides the basis of a framework necessary to identify and explore the place of male & female in psycho, cultural, social and economic aspects of life

  • degree to which the contrast between public domestic (private) sphere is drawn promotes gender stratification-rewards, prestige, power

Domestic sphere

domestic sphere

  • clearly drawn in societies where division of labor encompasses more than age & sex differentiation (complex societies)

  • inequality in material rewards for labor

  • less clearly drawn in societies where division of labor beyond age & sex is minimal (egalitarian)

  • rewards are highly valued social roles with prestige rather than material goods

Domestic public spheres

Domestic : Public Spheres

  • mobility & gender

  • Domestic : public dichotomy not only distinguishes activities, but culturally encodes space

M rosaldo and the ilongot of the philippines

M. Rosaldo and the Ilongot of the Philippines

  • positive cultural value placed adventure, travel, knowledge of & experience with the outside world

  • Ilongot men as headhunters visited distant places, amassed experiences & returned to express their knowledge-receive acclaim

  • Ilongot women - these activities not available to them

Mobility public domestic private and gender straitification

Mobility, Public : Domestic (Private), and Gender Straitification

  • mobility not just through geographic space but social space (forms of association)

  • veiling & Islamic women

  • factory women in Malaysia

  • US & Canada - WW2 & factory women for war effort

  • 1960s, 70s, 80s - changing gender composition of economy

Persistence of dualisms in ideologies of gender

persistence of dualisms in ideologies of gender

  • a particular view of men and women as opposite kinds of creatures both biologically and culturally

  • nature/culture

  • domestic/public

  • reproduction/production

Reproduction and social roles

Reproduction and Social Roles

  • roles - those minimal institutions and modes of activity that are organized immediately around one or more mothers and their children

  • women everywhere lactate & give birth to children

  • likely to be associated with child rearing & responsibilities of the home

Production and social roles

Production and Social Roles

  • roles - activities, institutions, and forms of association that link, rank, organize, or subsume particular mother-child groups

A long running controversy in anthropology

a long running controversy in anthropology

  • Sherry Ortner’s famous article “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture”

  • argument is that across cultures, women are more often associated with nature and the natural and are therefore denigrated

  • Ortner - in reality women are no further nor closer to nature than men - cultural valuations make women appear closer to nature than men

The third gender

The “Third Gender”

  • essentialism of western ideas of sexual dimorphism - dichotomized into natural & then moral entities of male & female that are given to all persons, one or the other

  • committed western view of sex and gender as dichotomous, ascribed, unchanging

  • other categories - every society including our own is at some time or other faced with people who do not fit into its sex & gender categories

The third gender1

The “Third Gender”

  • a significant number of people are born with genitalia that is neither clearly male or female

    • Hermaphrodites

  • persons who change their biological sex

  • persons who exhibit behavior deemed appropriate for the opposite sex

  • persons who take on other gender roles other than those indicated by their genitals

Third gender western bias

Third Gender: Western Bias

  • multiple cultural & historical worlds in which people of divergent gender & sexual desire exist

    • margins or borders of society

  • may pass as normal to remain hidden in the official ideology & everyday commerce of social life

  • when discovered - iconic matter out of place - "monsters of the cultural imagination“

  • third gender as sexual deviance a common theme in US

    • evolution & religious doctrine

    • heterosexuality the highest form, the most moral way of life, its natural

Third gender cross culturally

Third Gender Cross-Culturally

  • provokes us to reexamine our own assumptions regarding our gender system

  • emphasizes gender role alternatives as adaptations to economic and political conditions rather than as "deviant" and idiosyncratic behavior

  • rigid dichotomozation of genders is a means of perpetuating the domination of females by males and patriarchal institutions.

Theories of gender inequality


F engels

F. Engels

  • theory of the origin of female subordination

  • tied to the male control of wealth

  • built on 19th cent. assumption of communal societies as matrilineal

  • men overthrew matrilineality & formed patriarchal family leading to monogamous family

  • differential ownership of wealth led to inequality within the family & thus between the sexes

  • gender differences arose from technological developments that led to changes in relations of production

E leacock expands on engels

E. Leacock - (expands on Engels)

  • subjugation of women due to breakdown of communal ownership of property & isolation of individual family as economic unit

  • transformation of relations of production

    • Association of female labor with domestic unit or private sphere

  • male production directed towards distribution outside the domestic group (public sphere)

  • occurs with development of private property & class society

K sacks

K. Sacks

  • political power that results from the ability to give & receive goods in exchange (redistribution)

  • allows for sexual stratification in non-class societies

Sanday reeves

Sanday Reeves

  • female status dependent on degree to which men & women participate in activities of reproduction, warfare, subsistence

Friedl and leacock

Friedl and Leacock

  • not rights & control over production but rights of distribution & control over channels of distribution critical for gender stratification

Rethinking subordination


  • Ardener - muted models that underlie male discourse

  • diversity of one life or many lives

  • gender roles, stereotypes, stratification

    • changes over time

    • changes with position in lifecycle

    • status of men & women i.e. in male dominant societies

      • decision making roles belong to men but as women reach menopause; change with marriage status, virgins, wives, widows (and men)

Rethinking subordination1


  • women, like men, are social actors who work in structured ways to achieve desired ends

  • formal authority structure of a society may declare that women are impotent & irrelevant

  • but attention to women's strategies & motives, sorts of choices, relationships established, ends achieved indicates women have good deal of power

  • strategies appear deviant & disruptive

    • actual components of how social life proceeds

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