Gender and Sex
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Gender and Sex

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Defines gender,examines male dominance and looks at factors in gender status, and discusses the gender division of labor

Defines gender,examines male dominance and looks at factors in gender status, and discusses the gender division of labor

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Gender and Sex Gender and Sex Presentation Transcript

  • Gender, Sex, and Culture The Importance of Gender Roles
  • Defining Gender
    • As already detailed, sex is about the physical attributes of women and men.
    • Gender is about the cultural attributes derived from the biological differences between the sexes.
    • The second sociological constant of kinship is male dominance.
    • Once considered widespread, the assumption of male dominance, recent research suggest, is problematic and is more statistical than absolute.
    • After looking at the male dominance question, we examine the gender division of labor and its explanations.
  • The Question of Male Dominance
    • In a project on matrilineal descent, David Schneider and Kathleen Gough with others used male dominance as a working assumption: How can societies that trace their descent through females accommodate males in whom authority over the group is vested.
    • They sought, and in some cases found, ways whereby men have an interest in their sisters’ reproduction although incest tabus prevent them from mating with them.
    • Recent research suggests that in many societies, women played greater roles of authority than previously thought.
    • Do or did we have matriarchal societies; evidence is lacking for arriving to that conclusion, but nevertheless women do have much influence in many cultures.
  • The Question of Gender Status: A Short History
    • In the nineteenth century, evolutionists such as Lewis Henry Morgan postulated a four-stage model of society:
    • The first stage was sexual promiscuity
    • The second stage was matriarchy; it was evident who the mothers were but not the fathers
    • The third stage was patriarchy: by Roman times the father owned the wife and the children as property.
    • The fourth stage was the nuclear family of Victorian England and the “modern” U.S., the hallmark of civilization.
    • Recently, Evelyn Reed has documented the case for this phase of human history in her Women’s Evolution from Matriarchal Clan to Patriarchal Family . That issue remains dormant, but the case of Juchit á n, Mexico, may revive it.
  • Cases of Male Dominance: The Masai of Kenya
    • The Masai are a pastoral society, exclusively herdsmen.
    • Men own the cattle, and also the women they procreate and marry as chattel property.
    • Women do all the work around cattle—milk them, draw their blood, use their dung for construction material, and a host of other jobs. (upper photo)
    • Theirs is a polygynous society (one male, two or more females), and the women move to the men’s residence at marriage.
    • They own no property; cattle pass from father to son.
    • The Masai are traditional warriors; warfare emphasizes male cooperation.
    • Many other pastoralist societies have similar patterns
  • Cases of Female Influence: The !Kung of Namibia and the Iroquois
    • Women elsewhere have much more say in their society.
    • These !Kung gatherers contribute around 80% of their bands subsistence; because of their knowledge about plants, their input in decisions where to move to next is considerable.
    • Where women own property, they tend to dominate the local households
    • Iroquois women were cultivators, owned land and longhouses (interior depicted in the lower picture), and so had much influence in tribal affairs
    • They voted for council members, could force removal of a member they didn’t like, but did not sit on the council themselves.
  • The Question of Matriarchy: The Zapotec Women of Juchitán
    • Another case study are the matrilineal Zapotec of Juchitán, a Mexican village on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec (top)
    • The women control the financial affairs of the household; a household under the financial control of men is a household headed for ruin.
    • Again they do not participate in council affairs. The reason; the women say they have better things to do than to argue about issues that could be resolved in five minutes
    • Yet they reject the idea that they are matriarchal; they see themselves as administrators.
    • Women also contribute most of their household income through marketing (bottom photo).
    • It is worth noting that homosexuals, both female and male, are accepted locally.
  • Division of Labor: Background
    • In nonindustrial communities, almost all households are involved in the primary sector: agriculture, herding, foraging.
    • The main divisions of labor are based on gender, age, and part-time crafts.
    • What defines most gender roles is the division of labor
  • Gender Division of Labor: Definitions
    • The gender division of labor may be defined as an arrangement whereby men perform some tasks and women others.
    • Three basic questions are related to this division:
    • Does every society have different work for males and females? The answer is generally yes.
    • Do the women and men divide work in similar ways? It depends on the society, its environment, and its technology.
    • What explains these differences? Several answers have been proposed, none entirely satisfactory
  • Gender Division of Labor: Gender-Exclusive Tasks
    • Men generally handle heavier tasks that are often dangerous.
    • They generally engage in warfare and usually exercise political leadership
    • Women generally h andle domestic duties and rear children.
    • Often the tasks they handle are compatible with child care.
  • Gender Division of Labor: Shared Tasks
    • Either or both genders perform handicrafts: weaving, leatherworks, pottery, basketry, and others
    • Both genders tend and milk cattle and other herd animals, plant the fields, tend them during the growing season, and harvest the crops
    • They handle other sundry tasks, such as smoke or otherwise preserve meat or fish
  • Gender Division of Labor: Explanations
    • There have been three main categories of explanations to predict how labor is allocated cross-culturally
    • Strength explanations attribute heavier tasks to the males’ relative superior strength.
    • Compatibility-with-child-care explanations have women handle tasks that can be interrupted
    • Male expendability explanations: a group can better survive men’s than women’s deaths.
    • All explanations do not apply to all places
  • Strength Explanations
    • Men are said to be able to mobilize strength in quick bursts of energy
    • Matches most tasks done by males, including hunting, clearing land (upper left), and heavy construction.
    • However, women handle tasks involving heavy labor (!Kung), fishing (Yahgan of the Tierra del Fuego at the tip of South America), herd large animals (Masai), clear land (the Iroquois), and even carry heavy loads while cultivating (as these Nepalese women are doing. )
  • Compatibility-with-Child Care Explanations
    • Women handle tasks compatible with child care (especially at breast-feeding)
    • Tasks are interruptible to tend to child (such as cultivating local fields); tasks do not take them away for long
    • Tasks do not place children in danger.
    • However, most of the marketers are women, who spend a long time away from home (such as these Guatemalan natives).
    • Women often exchange child care with other women.
  • Male Expenditure Explanations
    • Men usually engage in dangerous work (or warfare)
    • Loss of men is less disadvantageous to society’s survival than loss of women, who have reproductive power
    • Shortcomings: Women also take on dangerous tasks
    • Atga (Philippines): Women hunt (lower left)
    • Yahgan: fish in rough seas and own their own boats
  • Gender Division of Labor: Evaluation of Explanations
    • We have seen in this series that most, if not all explanations, account for all cases.
    • This applies to all generalizations in the social sciences.
    • We are dealing with volitional beings, and the job of anthropologists is to develop further hypotheses to explain the exceptions—or come with new hypotheses to better explain the facts.
    • This is the implication for explaining why some women engage in dangerous tasks such as hunting or fishing or in heavy tasks, such as carrying firewood or other heavy loads.
  • Conclusion
    • Sex is the first organizer of human society
    • This is filtered culturally through gender
    • Gender labor and status depends on cultural factors
    • Explanations for these differences is a continuing process.