Gender and anthropology
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Gender and Anthropology. interest in social relations between human sexual differences (men and women?) has been a feature of anthropology since its earliest days 19th century evolutionists and their explanations for the rise of society & culture

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Gender and anthropology
Gender and Anthropology

  • interest in social relations between human sexual differences (men and women?) has been a feature of anthropology since its earliest days

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

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

    • Mother right

Gender and anthropology

Margaret Mead & 20th cent. Cultural/Social Anthropology

  • Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935)

  • Male and Female (1949).

  • temperamental differences between the sexes were culturally determined rather than innate biological

  • different patterns of male and female behavior in each of the cultures she studied

Gender and anthropology

The gentle mountain-dwelling Arapesh

  • Arapesh child-rearing responsibilities evenly divided among men and women

The fierce cannibalistic Mundugumor

  • a natural hostility exists between all members of the same sex”. Mundugumor fathers and sons, and mothers and daughters were adversaries.

The graceful headhunters of Tchambuli

  • While men were preoccupied with art the women had the real power, controlling fishing and manufacturing

Divisions of labor society
Divisions of Labor & Society

  • Social differentiation (sex based differences) & social integration = society

  • Anthropology

    • Sex differences not only a biological fact

    • A universal social fact

    • At the same time -- culturally specific and historical anchored

      • Universal & particulars/the general & the specific

Development of the study of gender in anthropology
development of the study of gender in anthropology

  • Anthropology of Women

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

  • Anthropology of Gender

    • more thorough examinations of gender in social structure

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

  • Feminist Anthropology challenged the biological basis of sex and sexuality

    • Patriarchy; universal subordination of women

    • and the foundations of anthropology as it had been done

Society culture

  • Culture – meaningful (action)

  • Society – bundle of institutions

  • Institution -- institutions in society work together to produce social order

    • behavior patterns important to a society

    • structures and mechanisms of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals

    • transcending individual human lives and intentions

  • Culture presupposes society -- something shared & supra-individual

  • Society presupposes persons -- assemblage of individuals

Social structure
Social structure

  • Social relationships – ongoing network of social relations

  • Relationships among and between definite entities or groups to each other

  • enduring patterns of behaviour by participants in a social system in relation to each other

  • institutionalised norms or cognitive frameworks that structure the actions in the social system

  • systems of relationships, organization, forms of associations - standardized modes of behavior

Social stratification
Social stratification

  • inequality in society

  • the unequal distribution of goods and services, rights and obligations, power and prestige

  • all attributes of positions in society, not attributes of individuals

  • Stratified society is:

    • when a society exhibits stratification it means that there are significant breaks in the distribution of goods services, rights obligations power prestige

  • as a result of which are formed collectivities or groups we call strata

Status social difference
Status & Social Difference

  • status - ascribed & achieved

  • ascribed status - social positions that people hold by virtue of birth

    • sex, age, family relationships, birth into class or caste

  • achieved status - social positions attained as a result of individual action

  • shift from homogeneous kin based societies (mechanic) to heterogeneous societies of associations (organic) involves growth in importance of achieved

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

Gender and anthropology

Gender Stratification

  • unequal distribution of wealth, power and privilege between men and women

  • unequal distribution of wealth, power and privilege between any embodied orientation

  • cultures everywhere give man, as a category opposed to women, higher social value and moral worth.

  • Is the secondary status of women one of the true cultural universals?

Gender and anthropology

How does one measure gender stratification?

  • economic power

  • prestige

  • Autonomy

  • ideology

  • Legal rights

  • Freedom to choose marriage partner, profession, and conception. Etc.

  • look at the roles played by women and the value society places on those roles

Structure agency
Structure & Agency

  • Agency = action

  • Agency as praxis/practice

    • Praxis – activity/action oriented towards a historically relevant change

    • Practice -- Practical sense (practice) -- adjustment (anticipatory) to demands of structure

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-sexuality – fixed and fluid identities

    • Embodiments of history – human bodily experience

    • Corporeal experience and social structure/organization


  • GENDER - the cultural construction of male & female characteristics

    • vs. the biological nature of men & women

  • SEX differences are biological - GENDER differences are cultural/historical

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

Gender and anthropology

Sex Versus Gender

  • Sex refers to biological differences

  • Gender refers to the ways members of the two sexes are perceived, evaluated and expected to behave.

  • The cultural construction of male and female characteristics.

  • what different cultures make of sex.

Gender and anthropology

  • 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)

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

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.'

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

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

Production reproduction and social roles
Production, 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

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

Gender and anthropology

  • We (North Americans in general) demand that the categories of male and female be discrete

  • since gender is culturally constructed the boundaries are conceptual rather than physical

  • Boundaries require markers to indicate gender

  • the boundaries are dynamic, eg. now it is acceptable for men to wear earrings.

Gender Boundaries

Is this a man or a woman?

How do you know?

  • Voice

  • Physique

  • Dress

  • Behaviour

  • Hair style

  • Kinetics

  • Language use

The third gender
The “Third Gender of male and female be discrete”

  • 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 of male and female be discrete”

  • 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

Gender and anthropology

Third Genders of male and female be discrete

  • transsexual – gender/ sex incongruent, “trapped in wrong body” but with the gender identity of their organs/sex change operation

  • transvestite – dressing as other gender, biological sex (cross-dresser)

  • homosexual

  • bisexual

  • eunuch – castrated male

  • hermaphrodite – both sets of biological organs

  • Virgin?

  • Boy/Girl?

Third gender western bias
Third Gender: Western Bias of male and female be discrete

  • 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 of male and female be discrete

  • 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
THEORIES OF GENDER INEQUALITY of male and female be discrete

F engels
F. Engels of male and female be discrete

  • 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) of male and female be discrete

  • 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 of male and female be discrete

  • 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 of male and female be discrete

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

Friedl and leacock
Friedl and Leacock of male and female be discrete

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

Rethinking subordination
RETHINKING SUBORDINATION of male and female be discrete

  • 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
RETHINKING SUBORDINATION of male and female be discrete

  • 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