Feminism and Gender

What is the image that goes through your mind, when thinking about evolution? Is it the picture above, “the evolution of man” or do you see a woman? What did women look like evolving? With sexual dimorphism it would be much different than what people have in mind. Why isn’t this taken to mind when learning about evolution?

Early Anthropology has been dominated by white males. Many female anthropologists have challenged traditional notions of sexuality and gender, for example, Margaret Mead (or Sherry Ortner (lol)). Female anthropologist were typically relegated to lower posts than their male counterparts, or earned a lower rate of pay; they introduced and influenced a great body of work that contributes a great deal to what anthropology is today.

Female anthropologists have developed a lively discussion in feminism and feminist anthropology. Many work to understand gender and power from a cultural perspective. Women almost everywhere face various kinds of oppression. Not every experience in oppression or empowerment is the same each time.

Sally Slocum, Woman the Gatherer: Male Bias in Anthropology

Sally Slocum charged that women’s roles in human evolution had been ignored because scholars focused on hunting rather than gathering. She and others focuses on gender inequality, research on women and gender by feminist archaeologist and physical anthropologist called the “man the hunter” version of human evolution. Slocum argues that evidence indicates foraging; not hunting was the principle economic strategy throughout most of human evolution. Is this “woman the gatherer” approach something that is studied in detail, or extensively like “man the hunter”

David Valentine, I Went to Bed with My Own Kind Once: The Erasure of Desire in the Name of Identity

Valentine a cultural and linguistic anthropologist with interests in gender and sexuality examined how the emergence of this term enabled activists and others to imagine a new calibration of gender and sexuality vis a vis one another in order to work toward a more just world for gender variant individuals. As mention in his essay, Valentine describes how there is a category for people with a different sexual identities, such as heterosexual/homosexual and others who do not fit those are under transgender. Valentine argues against these identities that label people in the western concepts of gender and sexuality. How does society view and study sexual orientation? (http://anthropology.umn.edu/people/facultyprofile.php?UID=valen076)

Eleanor Leacock, Interpreting the Origins of Gender Inequality: Conceptual and Historical Problems

In Eleanor Leacock’s essay, she mentions how early anthropologist view women’s domestic work a gift to their husband. On the contrary it is the domestic work of women that men are able to work and profit. Leacock argues however that before Western or European contact, aboriginal societies did not have the unequaled gender roles that the Western society has brought.  In egalitarian societies with barter economics, gender relations are equal only when rank societies came along did it becomes unequal. Who does the domestic work in your house?

Activity: http://www.albany.edu/ssw/efc/pdf/Module%205_1_Privilege%20Walk%20Activity.pdf

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Comments

  • jesteenburns  On April 8, 2012 at 3:53 pm

    Gender and anthropology was, like most issues involving the issue of gender and sex, an interesting take on the topic. The particular article I am focusing on is that from Sally Slocum, and her evolutionary take on the importance of understanding the female’s role in the evolution of the homo species. I personally found the article quite interesting. In many different articles I have read (not just in the field of anthropology) which have a feminist motive behind it usually just seem to shift the focus of a male bias to a female bias, however in Slocum’s article I do not think this is the case. She does largely discredit the male hunting habit as the driving force of evolutionary development, however I do not feel that it was completely overdone, and more importantly there was no final conclusion that it was females and not males that were responsible for this (which I was actually expecting).
    The major difference between this article and the other two that are presented to represent this school of thought is that Slocums article focuses more on sex while the others focus more on gender. Because it focused on human development I found it quite interesting and focused on it, however I think the other article’s approaches are a bit more useful in actually applying anthropological theory to research.
    This article, along with many that focus on sex relation, is that it is very hard for many women (me included) to read them without thinking ‘’well, of course!’’, our hind sight and cultural emersion of this generation in feminist thought makes things like accepting that women could provide for themselves second nature. But I think that as women (and men) we still need to examine the facts and question the driving force behind many cultural practices and development.

  • Martha T.  On April 8, 2012 at 6:09 pm

    Slocum brings up another interesting point about schema (discussed last week). She states that male bias has greatly influenced our perspective on our gender roles of other (and earlier) cultures. She argues that our current traditional gender roles have bent the lens through which we examine others. For this reason, “Man the Hunter” has emerged as the accepted role of early man. Already, early in our family tree, “Man the Hunter” goes out to bring home the bacon to his kept woman waiting at home caring for the children. Is this really what happened? Or are these the assumptions we make based on our own cultural gender norms.

    Can we truly put aside our biases and observe objectively? Or does the lack of evidence and our gaps in knowledge force us to make too many assumptions and inferences? Slocum writes “We are human beings studying other human beings, and we cannot leave ourselves out of the equation.” Slocum states anthropology has been a field pioneered by white men, and just recently are minorities being encouraged into the field, shaping our preferred theories in anthropology. How has women’s lack of participation in anthropology affected how we see the “human animal”?

  • Dale H  On April 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    There are a bewildering number of sexual identities discussed by David Valentine and yet, even though most are “suppose” to fit in the ever increasing labels as required for western cultural notions of understanding, accomplishing a “true definition” of an identity is impossible. I agree with that. Some things just can’t be defined. How can any classifications be made? Just like last week (or two weeks ago), we have people trying to assign culture or genetics. But I think genetics generally plays a much more significant role. Anyway, Valentine even goes so far to say that, the deeper one studies into the issues of classification or variation, it doesn’t get clearer, it gets more confusing. The editor considers this to be a good example of “one of the most unmanageable dilemmas of the post modern thought.” There are some however, that will never accept any definition other than “boy” or “girl”. They say everything else is culture. They have probably never considered how genetics has fashioned half boy half girl (and all the other fractional possibilities), girl on the inside boy on the outside and vice versa, and all the other variations that “nature” has created. With that in mind, what about “the mind”? Why would “IT” be any different? It seems absolutely logical that, with all the possible genetically produced physical variations, there would have to be a myriad of possibilities for genetically produced mental variations. Then, mix those ideas together and try and “classify” and “define” the sexuality of the resulting people and I see how you get “one of the most unmanageable dilemmas of the post modern thought.”

  • CorrinaC  On April 10, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Historically, females have been seen to be second class compared to men almost unimportant. I instantly have flashbacks to the reading by Sherry Ortner, and find that the same built constructions of women and men overtime can also be applied here. There is a lot of emphasis on hunting in general, which so happens to be a traditional habit of men, but it also implies that hunting is what instigated any kind of evolving in the human species. I think that a lot of material evidence can be attributed by men, but what women have to contribute to evolution is more in a cultural aspect, but also affects that biological evolving process too.

    Men, first being biologically larger and stronger than women have often taken up in activities that involve endangerment like hunting and warfare that often measure the value of that man. The more dangerous the game, the more prestige is awarded to the victor. It seems to me men are given prestige in a constructed output because of their social activities. Nothing they do is remarkably biologically noting, but woman carry offspring and are creating a new life naturally subjecting their bodies to pain and alteration. Their worth value should be seen to be higher than assumed, but they are only viewed prestigious from a biologically standpoint. As the gatherers and “carriers” of life, it seemed that not much is accredited to them throughout human evolution leaving all the evolving to men which is just bogus. I do find it interesting that the beginning of art, language and tools were accredited to men when however, among one of the earliest pieces of art ever found, the Venus of Willendorf is crafted in the image of a woman, not a man. Even the famous cave art in France where imprints of hands were discovered for years thought to be the work of men, but scientists have determined that women actually had a larger role it the art creation more so than men did. Even Lucy, the famous Australopithecus, greatly contributed to species evolution is a female.

    Perhaps, materialistically, much can be accredited towards men, but society and culture evolves through people and people have to be taken care of by someone. That someone is usually the mother who ultimately is the one who trains their infants the value of kinship bonds, food sharing, social organizations, and skills needed to first adapt to life. The child’s life depends on the mother while the “great hunter” is busy bringing home the bacon. I’m not a mom, but I heard the role is tough, a lot of planning, communications, complex organizing, and development is needed in child raising, while having to have sufficient knowledge in food gathering (food economics). That sounds like a whole a lot of potential for cultural evolution there.

  • EarlP  On April 10, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Like some of my classmates I enjoyed Slocum’s article. I like her take on the male generated evolution of mankind. After reading her article and the notes on the bottom of the pages, I liked how they point out the bias that anthropology has toward the evolution of women. The social science that is supposed to be objective is a little hypocritical. But, like the old saying “the winners write the history.” I think that’s how it goes, but my point is that obviously men wrote the history books and they had to place themselves at the top and in front of change and development. I also find it interesting that anthropology is dominated by men, since I have been in school every anthro class has been dominated by females. Men have always been the minority in every anthro class I have taken look at our own class 104. Slocum threw me off when she started talking about differences between humans, lesser primates, and brain sizes. The brain size creates more complex “nonsymbolic communication,” (401) such has attitude, emotions, and moods. These brain activities create a type of attitude or thought towards other members of a social group. After reading that it made me think about how that might work in our society now. Because, I feel as a lot of modern sexism is a learned trait. Possibly a type of social constraint put on little boys while they are growing up and throughout life.

  • Fiona  On April 10, 2012 at 10:34 pm

    So this is the second time I’m posting a comment, because apparently this blog is ridiculous. Hopefully I’ll be able to remember all the amazingly insightful thoughts of my original comment.

    Anyway. I’m going to start off by saying that while I believe in equal rights between the sexes, I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a feminist. That may sound a bit oxymoronic because that’s virtually the definition of a feminist, but I also think that there are many people who consider themselves feminists who read far too much into certain situations. Of course, I think that about a lot of things.

    As such, I think that Slocum’s essay on the “man the hunter” situation may be reading a bit too much into things. While it is entirely possible that the reason the focus of our evolution has been on hunters is because said research was conducted by men. In fact, it is likely that that had a role to play. However, I also think that it may be possible that there are other reasons for it. Maybe it’s easier to find evidence of hunting than of gathering? I’m not trying to diminish the importance of gathering, of course, because we all know that it is the food gathered that keeps a population alive and not that which is brought in by hunting. I just think that maybe there are other things at play than the biases of male researchers in the history of anthropology.

  • Elizabeth  On April 10, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    I really enjoyed reading Sally Slocum’s article on the “Woman the Gatherer: Male Bias in Anthropology”. I found it very interesting when Slocum inserted a quote from Jane Kephart stating, “Since only males hunt, and the psychology of the species was set by hunting, we are forced to conclude that females are scarcely human, that is, do not have built in the basic psychology of the species to kill and hunt and ultimately to kill others of the same species….the argument implies built in aggression in human males, as well as the assumed passivity of human females and their exclusion from the mainstream of human development.” (1970:5). I was very intrigued by Kephart’s statement of the male species’ aggression and where it was originated. It seems logical that this is why the two genders are so different in the way, generally speaking, the two may be perceived

  • Bryan Swarts  On April 11, 2012 at 10:24 am

    I enjoyed Valentines article. To me, I would rather have the individual label themselves rather than have society do it for them. However, I do think that is one of the pastimes of western culture: to label people. From there we focus on a very specific understanding (quite often a misunderstanding), and then we develop a fear or comfort of it and exaggerate those thoughts and feelings we hold. For example, I live in the USA and I have been told that we are a great country. This could eventually lead to calling it the “greatest country on earth.” Is it the greatest? Probably not, but that’s not for me to decide. Another example could be that someone hearing LGBT people are different, which may lead to “LGBT is an abomination!” Is it? Of course not. But my point is that it is these misunderstandings that lead to labeling. Think about how many times you have labeled someone in your life or have heard labels and have developed preconceived feeling before even meeting the person. Jocks, geeks, lawyers, religionists, LGBT people, boy/girl scouts, hippies, teachers, fraternity/sorority people, overachievers, white people, black people, fat people, scientists, drug dealers, soldiers, etc. Ah! And lets through two more in there: men and women. We often see both sides labeling each other in order to get an understanding of the other without talking with them. I feel like we make these assumptions and labels out of where we feel passionate about on the spectrum of gender. If you have been treated fairly well or terribly wrong by the other, then we might play off of those initial feeling rather than try to remain unbiased. We often say “every [insert] is like this” even when meeting one person who “represents” that image. I guess it’s also because of our research methodology as well. If we think that the other gender is confusing or inferior, do you think you are asking the right questions? My girlfriend and I were talking about “gas lighting” a couple months ago and she typed into the computer: “women affected by gas lighting.” And guess what, she found articles about women being gas lighted (how flabbergasting!). So then I typed in “men affected by gas lighting,” and guess what, I found articles on men being gas lighted (equally flabbergasting!). Were we really unbiased in our search topics? Can the actions and practices of a few define an entire culture/people/belief? If there was a victim and an oppressor in the past, can we be justified in rewarding or punishing those in the present? Is it justified to use fixed labels? Is it justified to comment/criticize on something that we were/are not a part of? Can we really say that someone is superior or inferior? Can we really attribute anything to anyone?

  • Kayla Myers  On April 11, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    I have to agree with what Corrina said in her last paragraph. I find it kind of funny because the term is “hunter gatherer” last time I checked, not just hunter. The role of the woman is just as important if not more than what the men were doing. As we discussed in class the hunters were not making these huge kills everyday so the gathering portion of this would definitely be important in this sitation so my question is what were they doing when they weren’t making kills/hunting? For those who have kids it is mostly the mother who teaches the young the cultural ways of life at least daat the times of their lives thats most important. Yeah every now and then you have the occasional father who will stay at home and take care of the kids big whoop, they dont go through process of birthing a child. I would love to think that we live in a world where everyone is equal but truth is we’re not all treated equal sadly, and I’m not sure we ever all will be.

  • Arlyne Boyer  On April 11, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    These essays have made me feel very thankful and grateful for all my forward-thinking sisters of the 60s who pushed for our collective voices to be heard far into the future.

    Dare we imagine where we might be if there was no feminist movement? Try to picture it. I find it baffling to think it was nearly fifty years ago. Did time go by in dog years? It seems like only yesterday the cool college girls in my hometown were burning their bras and the next thing I knew – I was able to wear pants to school for the first time ever! It was no longer against the law! WooHoo!!!! Those were the good-time-instant-rewards of the feminist movement in my small world.

    Getting back to the essays, I like where the anthropologists have taken the feminist movement with regard to the writing styles and trends. I like the idea of doing “auto-ethnography” as it seems to be the perfect blend of anthropological analysis mixed with autobiographical information in an ethnographic setting.

    Having said that, I will state that I am not a huge advocate of the whole “gender” thing within anthropology. I dont want to waste my time getting all wriled up about some past injustices that I cannot change. Instead I will move forward focusing on equal representation of the roles of both men and women – a neutral role.

    Much of Sally Slocum’s essay “Woman the Gatherer” feels like man-bashing to me. I don’t interpret the anthropological term “man” to mean men specifically. It means “human” to me. It means all of us. Slocum uses terms like “drags on the species” (439) to describe her interpretation of how “Man the Hunter” thought about the role of women in his society. This is a fetch, at best. A test to incite ill-rest… and I don’t want to play that game.

  • rosalva  On April 12, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    Slocum mentions “That Anthropology is a reflection of male bias in the discipline.” (407) I agree that most of history was written by men and what was learned was through their lenses. But as my peers have mention that women have also had a feminist bias and that would should be looking towards a neutral balance and not one side always getting attack. The development of the human species was a product of both men and women they both influence and had a part in our survival.

  • Stephen Sanchez  On April 13, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    The deprivation of women’s equality as suggested in the article by Leacock, demonstrates that women are adversely affected by the economic exploitation of capatalistic nations. The indigenous populations of virtually every continent, before the creation of centralized states, displayed levels of egalitarian societies and shared work between males and females with no notion of decreased social status pertaining to a certain job. It wash’t until the colonization by nations looking to exploit the wealth and resources of the lands, that we see societies perception towards women change. This was most likely the result of the increased warfare between cultures and trading by encountering populations.

    Looking at the field of Anthropology for the past 100 years, most of the work being conducted was by male-biased Anthropologists. This, like I previously stated in the above paragraph, was the result of economic-social factors during the time of the Anthropologists conducting the fieldwork. Thus, if the society breeding the Anthropologists leans toward more of a male-dominatent society than the Anthropology will be that of male perspective coming from a dominate position.

    Thus, my conclusion leads to another question; Do women in turn point the finger and blame the males of these societies and cultures as the result for the downfall of egalatarian society? What if women wrote the course of history, would society have remained in an egalitarian state or would it have change? What would have been the direction of this change?

  • CB  On May 12, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    Obviously the two pictures show the type of constraints men and women have in our culture. We are put into boxes on how we are supposed to me. Men= tough, strong. Women= care taker, someone to look at. Women are left out a lot. Just like “man the hunter,” as said, no one says “woman the gatherer.” What we know is what we are told but what we are told leaves out an entire different sex, which shows that women are not acknowledged as much in todays society.

    My question is, how is this universal all around that men are superior to women? The main food supply consisted of gathered food, not a kill of some sort. How did, through evolution, men become superior than women? And how men get paid more than women? Or that women (some men, don’t get me wrong) are subjected to domestic abuse?

    On another note, this divide is extremely present in todays world. A man still has his types of jobs and a woman has her. Women still don’t get paid the same as men, and even if they are paid the same, a lot of the time it takes them longer than men to be promoted. Our society has a fixed idea on what a man and women should do and should be. Just like the book from Anth 111, parents have jobs to support their family, yet the woman still works more than the man. The type of “double shift” emerged after more women started to work. Women will work all day and then come home to work till they go to bed. Yes, our society is much better than others but it is still terrible for some who are not white, or who are not a man.

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