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Lecture 11 - Sex and Gender

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  • 1. Sex and Gender: A Cross-Cultural Perspective
  • 2. The BIG Questions
    • To what extent does biology influence maleness and femaleness?
    • Are males dominant over females in all societies?
    • How similar are gender roles throughout the world?
    • Do women and men in the same culture communicate differently?
    • How can extreme gender ideology lead to the exploitation of women?
  • 3. Anthropology and Feminism
    • early anthropology mainly the domain of middle/upper class Euro-American men
      • as the discipline grew, more women became involved
    • the influence of feminism
      • changed the very culture of much of the West
        • gave women more opportunities
        • switched focus to androcentrism, re-studying areas from a new perspective
  • 4. Anthropology and Feminism
    • feminism can be broken up into 3 waves
      • 1 st wave: late 19th, early 20 th century
        • women's suffrage, property rights in the UK and US
      • 2 nd wave: late 20 th century
        • equality and ending discrimination
      • 3 rd wave: late 20th, early 21 st century
        • challenged concepts of the feminine
        • switched focus to gender and identity
        • critiqued the lack of attention paid to working class women and women from different ethnic backgrounds in 2 nd wave feminism
  • 5. Anthropology and Feminism
    • we can see how each wave not only affected Western culture, but how it affected anthropology as well
      • some anthropologists use gender as a lens through which to study a given culture
      • anthropologists that don't focus solely on gender, still note the important role it plays in all forms of human social organization
    • the main focus of our discussion is 4-fold
      • the cultural construction of gender
      • the concept of multiple genders
      • the sexual division of labor
      • gender stratification
  • 6. Gender, Culture, and Identity
    • gender, like other subcultural markers, affect how one perceives themselves and how they are perceived by others
      • this is referred to as one's self-identity and one's social identity
    • both are shaped by a person's culture
      • how they are supposed to think and behave is contingent upon that culture's ideas about gender and the roles, rights, and responsibilities inherent within
    • identity often serves as the basis for the formation of social groups, as well as the origins of social stratification and inequality
  • 7. Sex versus Gender
    • sex refers to the biological differences between males and females based on physiological factors, including:
      • sex chromosomes, reproductive organs, hormones, secondary characteristics
    • gender refers to the way a society perceives, evaluates, and expects males and females to behave
    • all societies have gender categories but the traits assigned to each differ from culture to culture
  • 8. Sex versus Gender
    • there are two main biological differences that are useful in a comparative study of sex and gender cross-culturally
      • sexual dimorphism
        • physical differences based on genetic differences between males and females
        • ex: differences in size and strength
      • reproductive physiology
        • women's ability to become pregnant, carry and birth children, and produce milk to nurse them
        • men's contribution of sperm
    • both areas are interpreted differently depending on the culture
  • 9. The Cultural Construction of Gender
    • similar to the concept of “race as a cultural construction,” the construction of gender refers to how cultures take the framework set up by biology and add meaning and value to it
    • they do this in many ways
      • what is manhood, or womanhood?
      • masculinity and femininity?
      • what roles are appropriate for each?
        • careers, members of a household, members of society
      • what kinds of symbols are equated with each?
      • what rights and obligations do each have?
      • how distinct are the differences between each biological sex?
  • 10. The Cultural Construction of Gender
    • how do different cultures “construct” gender?
    • North American constructions
      • A man and his son were in a car accident. The man died on the way to the hospital, but the boy was rushed into surgery. The surgeon said “I can't operate, for that's my son!” How is this possible?
  • 11. The Cultural Construction of Gender
    • North American constructions (continued)
      • personality traits
        • females as caring, emotional, social, physically fragile, and family oriented
        • males as rational, physically strong, selfish, rational/non-emotional, individualistic
      • careers
        • teacher, waitress, nurse, homemaker, secretary, receptionist, nanny, representative
        • professor, chef, doctor, CEO, construction worker, truck driver, President, oil field worker, coach
  • 12. The Cultural Construction of Gender
    • Margaret Mead in New Guinea, different cultural groups
      • the Arapesh – everyone was cooperative, nonaggressive, and responsive to the needs of others
      • the Mundugumor – both men and women were expected to be fierce, ruthless, and aggressive
      • the Tchambuli – females were dominant, impersonal, aggressive, and food providers; males were emotionally dependent, preoccupied with art, gossip, and appearance
    • are these "normal"?; what do they suggest to you about the concepts of masculinity and femininity?
  • 13. Gender Identities
    • in the US, and much of the West, we conceive of gender as following the dichotomy of male and female
      • in other cultures there may be more than two genders
      • early social science studying the cultural construction of gender took an ethnocentric/etic approach and used Western categories and values to identify people outside of this dichotomy as acting or playing the role of the other gender
      • modern social science suggests that other categories of gender exist in other cultures and are just as “real” as our own
  • 14. Gender Identities
    • sometimes people do not conform to the genders and gender roles already in place in a given culture
      • oftentimes these people choose to adopt behavior, dress, values, and mannerisms considered to be outside of their own gender
        • “ gender crossing”
      • occasionally this will be so prevalent that these alternatives are institutionalized
        • they become a part of that society's conceptions of gender
        • little to no stigma against them; not seen as deviants or degenerates
        • ex: tomboys, metrosexuals
  • 15. Multiple Gender Identities
    • some cultures recognize more than two gender identities
      • they do this by constructing multiple gender identities
      • sometimes seen as women-men, men-women, notwomen-notmen, etc.
        • that is, they go beyond how the West would define males, females, homosexuals, transvestites, or transgendered people
      • most commonly found in Native American groups, but also present in India and other parts of Asia
  • 16. Native American Two-Spirits
    • Two Spirits is derived from the Sioux term for people with both male and female spirits
      • early anthropological emphasis on sexual orientation instead of other aspects
      • used more generally to refer a Native American conception of an alternative gender other than male or female
      • can include what we would categorize as men who act like women or vice versa
        • when using category man or woman we need to make sure we understand it from perspective of people using it
        • we cannot use our own conceptions of femininity and masculinity to say whether a person in a given culture is fulfilling one or the other role
  • 17. Native American Two-Spirits
    • instead of focusing only on 1 dimension, anthropologists suggest we look at alternative genders as multidimensional, just like we do with the two gender we are most familiar with
    • 4 of Nanda's widespread themes w/in gender variants, good analytic tools:
      • occupation or work roles
      • tranvestism
      • spirituality
      • relationships
  • 18. Occupation and Work Roles
    • what kind of work does a given culture find appropriate for alternative genders?
      • often characterized by adopting the work of the opposite sex from which one was born
      • sometimes emerged early in childhood; thought to be the sign of a potential Two Spirit person
      • examples:
        • a Navajo nadleehi who is particularly good at weaving blankets (generally female task)
        • Sioux Two Spirit/winke who excel at quill and beadwork
        • a Zuni lhamana who stayed at home with their birth family instead of starting their own and doing double the work considered to be women's work due to lack of child birth
  • 19. Transvestism
    • is/was common to wear clothing of the opposite sex in some tribes, especially of the Great Plains
    • not found in all cultures though
      • often a fluidity of identity
        • wearing clothing of same or opposite sex depending on situation
        • Woman Chief of the crow maintained female dress, but took on other aspect of male role
    • once contact was made with the West, transvestism decreased
      • outward manifestation of two-spirit nature
  • 20. Spirituality
    • two-spirited peoples were often seen as highly connected to spiritual realm
      • thought to have special powers
      • played the role of shamans, healers, medicine persons, or other spiritual leaders
      • examples:
        • fortune tellers – Winnebago and Lakota
        • matchmaking – Cheyenne, Omaha, Lakota
        • special ceremonial functions, Sun Dance – Crow, Hidatsa, Lakota
  • 21. Relationships
    • information on sexual orientation often unreliable due to ethnocentric perspective of colonists
    • orientation, of course, varied from culture to culture and from person to person
      • some refrained from sexual relations altogether
      • others engaged in “homosexual” relationships
        • not considered homosexual by the group because the two-spirit person was considered a member of the opposite sex
      • others had fluid sexual orientations, changing throughout life
  • 22. The Gendered Division of Labor
    • the patterned ways productive and other economic tasks are allocated to men and women
      • one aspect of a culture's gender roles
        • the rights and duties individuals have because of their perceived gender identity
    • some have argued that gender roles and the division of labor are connected
      • highly similar division of labor based on gender (or is it sex?) cross-culturally
        • ex: males hunt large animals, conduct warfare, work wood, stone, and metal; women care for children, collect water, gather and prepare foods, and make clothes
  • 23. Patterns in the Division of Labor
    • mostly males:
      • metalworking
      • fishing
      • clearing land, preparing soil
      • tending large animals
      • house building
      • making rope, cordage, nets
    • mostly females:
      • gathering shellfish and wild plant foods
      • caring for small animals
      • gathering fuel
      • fetching water
      • processing and preparing plant foods
      • making clothing
      • mat making, loom weaving and making pottery
  • 24. Patterns in the Division of Labor
    • both males and females:
      • gathering small animals
      • planting tending and harvesting crops
      • milking animals
      • preparing skins
      • making leather products
  • 25. Theories for Division of Labor
    • multiple theories have been set forth, many adding to a more comprehensive explanation, but none ever fully explaining this phenomena on their own
      • men have greater body mass and strength and thus are better equipped at engaging in highly physical activities such as hunting and clearing land
      • counterpoints:
        • East African women who routinely carry enormous loads of firewood on their backs for long distances
        • the Agta of the Philippines; hunting is both a male and female activity
  • 26. Theories
    • another theory to explain the division of labor involves the role of women in childbirth
      • suggests that women do certain tasks because they are compatible with pregnancy, breast-feeding, and childcare; women's tasks do not require them to leave the area near their homes
      • counterpoint:
        • although pregnancy and childcare limit work roles, sometimes women's economic obligations take precedence
        • in these situations, women rely on others for childcare needs
        • ex: in preindustrial societies, women leave children with older siblings or other family members; in the West, we often leave children at daycares or schools and use formula instead of breast-feeding
  • 27. Other Considerations
    • fertility maintenance
      • heavy, prolonged physical exercise by women results in lowered body fat and hormonal changes that reduce female fertility
      • most strenuous tasks are done by males
      • counterpoints:
        • many female tasks quite strenuous
        • “ male” tasks like hunting less strenuous than portrayed
    • reproductive roles
      • few males are needed to sustain population size
      • societies protect their females by assigning hazardous tasks to males
      • counterpoints:
        • only when all else is equal, such as lack of warfare or external threats
  • 28. The Answer!
    • it is important to note that none of these theories completely explain the gendered division of labor, but they also do account for some of it
    • like many things in anthropology and the world in general, the best explanation is a mixture of multiple theories and ideas
    • we also need to note how things change, in the US for example, the traditional American family isn't very common anymore, with both parents working, single parent homes, or stay at home dads, among other things
  • 29. Gender Stratification
    • the degree to which males and females are unequal in dimensions such as:
      • status, power, or influence
      • access to valued resources
      • eligibility for social positions
      • ability to make decisions about their own lives
    • like anything else in reality, gender stratification is multidimensional
      • not simply based on one factor and not uniform cross-culturally
        • power relations in different facets of life
        • status changing over time
        • other identity markers that play a role in determining status (class, ethnicity, religion)
  • 30. Components of Gender Stratification
    • what determines the degree of stratification?
      • the social roles men and women play in a society
      • cultural value attached to the contributions of men and women to both their families and society as a whole
      • access to positions of power and influence
      • general ideas and beliefs (sometimes religiously motivated) about the sexes
    • many social scientists suggest the almost universal existence of sexual asymmetry
      • tendency of women to be in a subordinate position in their social relationships with men
      • we can then frame this discussion in terms of how much power women have in a society
  • 31. Sexual Asymmetry
    • why would we think that sexual asymmetry is universal?
      • no “matriarchal” societies in existence
        • but how does one define matriarchy?
        • Sanday (2002) suggests that if we define matriarchy as the opposite of patriarchy, then of course they do not exist, but that does not mean that there are not cultures where women hold high status positions of power (ex: Minangkabau)
      • according to who though?
        • if we look at the ethnographic record, we run into some issues
        • who wrote these early ethnographies?
        • problem of essentialization; using non-native categories, values to categorize and value people, societies
  • 32. Sexual Asymmetry and Language
    • one way to look at the degree of sexual asymmetry is to analyze the language a group of people use
    • most obvious = pronouns
      • using he in most circumstances when we could be talking about either a male or female
        • The student is required to turn in his homework by the beginning of class.
    • "mankind"
    • policeman, fireman, chairman, caveman, congressman, manpower
  • 33. Genderlects
    • refers to the gender differences in language that are culturally determined
    • how different genders use different forms of the same language
    • anthropologist Deborah Tannen looked at the different ways men and women in America communicate
      • male versus female
      • report talk versus rapport talk
      • more competitive, individualistic, and controlling versus cooperative and engaging others in the conversation
      • reflect the gender roles and expectations of males and females in the US
  • 34. Sexual Asymmetry, Politics, and Change
    • we can see how women's statuses can change over time, even within one cultural group
    • example: purdah
      • rules involving domestic seclusion and veiling for women in small towns in parts of the Middle East
        • in Afghanistan, for example, before Taliban takeover, society was fairly egalitarian, with women making up over 70% of teachers in the capital of Kabul
        • post-Taliban takeover, literacy rates in women fell drastically due to the ban on education for all women and girls
  • 35. Gender Equality
    • in contrast to many of the examples of gender inequality, there are also examples of more egalitarian societies
      • the Mbuti of Central Africa do not differentiate between gender in parents
        • parents considered elders and are accorded that respect
        • men and women see themselves as equals in just about every way except that women have the important power of giving birth
        • reflected in the naming of the forest (that provides all resources) "mother," as well as in Mbuti women's ability to choose mates and maintain social power
      • among the Minangkabau of west Sumatra, decision making among wives and husbands is relatively equal and cooperative
  • 36. Equality?
    • despite examples of gender equality, there is a general tendency toward universal male dominance (sexual asymmetry)
    • one suggestion for why this is so is that men tend to control resources of all types, whether it be physical goods like money or food, or social and political capital, or control over education and employment
    • again, the way this manifests itself in a culture varies
      • one way to see equality, or the lack thereof, is through the gender empowerment measure
        • based on political participation and decision making, economic participation and decision making, and power over economic resources
  • 37.  
  • 38.  
  • 39. Areas of Gender Disparity
    • similar to the gender empowerment measure, we can also look at some dimensions of gender inequality in terms of how much access women have to:
      • education
      • employment
      • reproductive health
  • 40. Education
    • 2/3s of all the illiterate people in the world are women
    • in many countries women are not allowed to be educated
    • in the US however, there has been a trend towards more women in higher education
  • 41. Employment
    • women are generally found in the lowest paid positions and jobs
      • sweatshops
      • more likely to be part time than full time
      • have less seniority and have little upward mobility
      • members of informal economies, like prostitution
      • according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women in the US make 82.8% of what men do as of 2010
  • 42. Feminization of Poverty
    • the inequality in education and thus employment has led to what is known as the feminization of poverty
    • refers to the high proportion of female-headed families below the poverty line
      • which may result from the high proportion of women found in occupations with low prestige and income
  • 43. Reproductive Health
    • in the developed world, women generally are able to control the amount of children they have and prevent disease
    • however, in much of the world, women do not have access to reproductive health services
      • this not only includes contraception but also cancer, STD, and AIDs screenings, as well as pre and post natal care
      • in Africa, this is particularly problematic and in Zambia in particular, three quarters of women as of 2001 did not feel that they were able to refuse sex to their husbands, even if he has been unfaithful and may be infected with HIV
  • 44. Influences on Gender Stratification
    • we have an idea of how asymmetry occurs, especially on a more material/tangible level:
      • the greater the contributions women make to the welfare of a group, the higher their status
      • ownership of resources and the control women have over the distribution of products of labor influences their status
    • but what are the more philosophical and/or intangible reasons?:
      • women have higher status in matrilineal and/or matrilocal societies
      • gender ideologies
  • 45. Gender Ideology
    • thoughts and values that legitimize gender roles, statuses, and customary behavior
      • this is how roles are created and maintained
      • it is what decides how men and women are expected to behave, as well as their obligations and responsibilities to each other and society as a whole
      • often times stems from fundamental religious, social, or world views
  • 46. Gender Ideology Cross-Culturally
    • creation myths from many cultures put emphasis on one gender over another
      • Judeo-Christian mythology has a male-termed God and blames Eve for sin
      • the Hopi creation myth has both a male and female aspect, but emphasizes the female's creative powers which is reflected in their matrilineal society
      • in Bangladesh, men are associated with the right side and women with the left side, a dichotomy that also denotes purity–pollution, good–bad, and authority– submission
  • 47. Gender Ideology
    • how strong are these gender ideologies? that is, how much do they actually play a role in day to day life?
      • do people of a given culture unequivocally accept the ideological justifications for gender roles?
    • roles are often contingent on the situation at hand, for instance, in the Yoruba of Kenya, female subordination is also contextual
      • in many situations women show deference to their husbands, male family elders, and public officials
      • in other instances, like that of the marketplace, they wield great power, confidence, and control due to the contributions they make to their family and society by making money in the markets
  • 48. Gender Ideology
    • some cultures show marked gender ideologies that can physically manifest and cause harm
      • gender bias in children and infanticide
        • preference found in some societies for one gender, sometimes to the point of killing infants and small children
        • most often preference for sons rather than daughters
        • ex: female infanticide in China and India
      • nutritional deprivation
        • form of child abuse involving withholding food; can retard learning, physical development, or social adjustment
  • 49. Gender Ideology
    • honor killings
      • a euphemism referring to a practice found in various Middle Eastern cultures whereby women are put to death at the hands of their own family members because they are thought to have dishonored the family
    • dowry death
      • the killing of a wife by her in-laws if the wife’s parents fail to pay additional dowry
      • often occurs in rural India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
  • 50. Gender Ideology and Stratification in the U.S.
    • the cases discussed are horrific and we in the US often think of them as something that our culture would never be okay with, but domestic abuse in the U.S. is also an issue
      • according to a study from 2000, 1 in four women have suffered from domestic abuse
      • women account for approximately 85% of intimate partner violence, but men also suffer from this kind of abuse
      • more than three women and one man are murdered by their intimate partners in this country every day according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics in 2003
  • 51. Gender Ideology and Stratification in the U.S.
    • gender stratification affects everyone, we have focused a lot on how it affects women, but there are also negative consequences for men
      • in the United States, for example, men have a higher mortality rate than women for the leading causes of death
      • professions that are predominantly considered male are often more dangerous (construction, mining)
      • it is less socially acceptable for men to admit they suffer from stress, depression, and other emotional issues
  • 52. Key Themes
    • feminism has influenced social science's perspective on how to study gender and identity
    • sex and gender are different categories
      • they interact with each other and differ in meaning cross-culturally
      • some cultures have more than two categories
    • different cultures also determine who works what jobs differently
    • gender stratification is how cultures rank different genders
      • involve both material and ideological factors