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Gender. the body is "simultaneously a physical and symbolic artifact, both naturally and culturally produced, anchored in a particular historical moment" (Scheper-Hughes & Lock) Sex, sexuality, & gender Not the same thing. Sex, Sexuality, Gender. Sex. differences in biology

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

Sex, sexuality, & gender

Not the same thing

Sex, Sexuality, Gender
  • differences in biology
  • Is this a man or woman?
    • How do you know?
sex the social order
Sex & the Social Order
  • Tells us part of the story, but not all of the story
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

Sexuality (reproduction)
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 refers to the ways members of the two sexes are perceived, evaluated and expected to behave

gender boundaries
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
boundary markers




Hair style


Language use

Boundary Markers
boundary markers inter personal interaction
Boundary Markers & Inter-personal Interaction
  • How do we react when someone seems to have traits of each category?
  • social intercourse requires that the interacting parties know to which gender category `the other' belongs

Felicita Vestvali1824 - 1880

New York opera star who specialized in singing contralto "trouser roles."


Women cross dress all the time.

The difference is perception.

Acceptance or Rejection by society

blurring the boundaries
persistence of dualisms in ideologies of gender

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

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

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

Blurring the Boundaries
third gender
“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 gender1
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

In some societies 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
the hijras as third gender
Hijra means hermaphrodite in Urdu but most Hijras are homosexual transvestites, some of whom have gone through a crude sex-change operation (transexual)

Cultural descendants of the court eunuchs of the Mughal Empire (1526-1858)

Perceived neither as men nor women but as a third gender

The Hijras as “Third Gender”
hijras and social roles
Hijras and Social Roles
  • Hijras now earn their living as beggars, prostitutes. and by dancing at carnivals, weddings and births.
  • both feared and pitied in Pakistan
    • feared for their supposed ability to place curses
    • pitied for being outcast children of Allah
    • Believed to hold great power because of their close relationship with the Mother Goddess - Mata Bahuchara
  • getting dressed for a job entertaining at a Pakistani wedding
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.

Third Gender Cross-Culturally
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

social stratification gender
Gender is an important dimension of social inequality

Gender stratification frequently takes the form of patriarchy whereby men dominate women

Do women in our society have a second class status relative to men? If so How?

Social Stratification & Gender
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

universals versus particulars
persistence of dualisms in ideologies of gender
a particular view of men and women as opposite kinds of creatures both biologically and culturally




persistence of dualisms in ideologies of gender
production reproduction social roles
Production roles – making a living

Reproduction 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, Reproduction & Social Roles
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

a long running controversy in anthropology


All the day long,Whether rain or shine,She's a part of the assembly line.She's making history,Working for victory,Rosie the Riveter.Keeps a sharp lookout for sabatoge,Sitting up there on the fuselage.That little girl will do more than a male will do.Rosie's got a boyfriend, Charlie.Charlie, he's a Marine.Rosie is protecting Charlie,Working overtime on the riveting machine.When they gave her a production "E,"She was as proud as she could be.There's something true about,Red, white, and blue about,Rosie the Riveter.

Gender Roles

Redd Evans and John Jacob Loeb,"Rosie the Riveter," (New York: Paramount Music Corp., 1942


In the 1940s, women were encouraged to help the war effort by getting a job outside the home. But it was family and country rather than money, status, or power that they were encouraged to toil for .

Coke 1942

“For whether she rears a family or mans a rangefinder, a woman needs the physical support of a good foundation." and "Amongst other munitions of war, Berlei are still making foundations.". 

November 1942


1950s - mass consumption in high gear, TV ads idealized the woman as the wife and homemaker, and the man as the bread winner.

But also the sex kitten


Cascade Dishwashing Detergent

1958 issue of Lady's Home Journal. 

The man in this advertisement is envious of his hostess' spotless drinking glasses. 

Rather than giving him advice on how to get his glasses just as clear, she advises him to tell his wife to use Cascade.  

The designers of this ad assume that washing dishes is a woman's chore. 

The roles are strictly defined; it never crosses the woman's mind that Jean's husband might have something to do with dishwashing in his household. 


1990s 2000s

She is a "multifaceted success machine”.

She is a nurturer and a seducer.

She is the twenty-four hour a day woman, and she never sleeps.


This ad is striking because it shows a man in what is typically thought of as a woman’s role.

What does the fact that he can open the pail “without passing out” say about men?

Men are domesticated. Sex objects

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
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 sphere
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
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

M. Rosaldo and the Ilongot of the Philippines
mobility public domestic private and gender stratification
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

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

Labor Force Participation for U.S. Women and Men, aged 25-55


  • Women’s increased participation in paid work is a central change in gender relations over the last 50 years.
  • Labor force participation is often seen as the prime indicator (and cause) of changes in women’s status.
  • Social theory often focuses on women’s employment because employment determines their access to resources and their ability to make independent decisions.

What is the thinnest book in the world?What men know about women!What do you call a man with an I.Q. of 50? ----- Gifted!

Why are blonde jokes so short?So men can remember them.

What is the difference between men and government bonds?Bonds mature!How many men does it take to change a roll of toilet paper?We don't know - it's never happened. How many honest, intelligent, caring men in the world does it take to do the dishes? ------- Both of them.

Why are married women heavier than single women?Single women come home, see what's in the fridge and go to bed.Married women come home, see what's in bed and go to the fridge.


A woman walked into the kitchen to find her husband stalking around with a fly swatter.she: "What are you doing?" he: "Hunting Flies" she: "Oh. Killing any?“

he: "Yep, 3 males, 2 Females,"

she: Intrigued, "How can you tell them apart?"he: "3 were on a beer can, 2 were on the phone."


Biologically men are physically stronger than women

  • therefore this results in a sexual division of labour with men doing the harder work
  • In other words biology influences behaviour
  • implies that the relationship between biology and social life is one of cause and effect.

If biology explains the political and economic dominance of men then surely one must simply accept that fact


So much for that theory --- in many societies women are the real labourers

biological differences cannot provide a universal basis for social definitions of `man' and `woman'


But so what

  • it is true, generally men are physically stronger than women
    • this may account for some of the division of labour
  • But nothing in the biological differences between the sexes can account for women’s secondary status
  • Gender stratification is not inherent in biological differences between the sexes
  • what is really important is the different values that are placed on being a man or a woman or on the work that is done
  • An alternative explanation for the secondary status of women must be found

there must be some cultural or sociological regularities that must account for male dominance.

  • the inequalities are due to the fact that societies place different values on biological sex
  • and apparently universally value female sex lower than male sex

Which card is ranked higher?

anthropological theories of gender inequality
political power that results from the ability to give & receive goods in exchange (redistribution)

allows for sexual stratification in non-class societies

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

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

Anthropological Theories of Gender Inequality
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