Category Archives: 11 – Feminism & Gender

Anthropology and Gender:


Slocom Summary
making empire respectable: the politics of race and sexual morality in 20th-century colonial cultures A. Stoler)

1.  What advantages does Slocum think “Women the Gatherer” theory has over “Man the Hunter” theory?

2. How does the feminist critique and other components of critical theory work to reduce bias?


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? (

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?


Anthropology and Gender: The Feminist Critique; Slocum, Leacock, and Stoler.

Like all fields of Academia, Anthropology was a bastion for “good ol’ boys” ( as a certain professor  states in his oft-repeated caveat, “pardon my genitalia”). Even in the days of Margaret Mead and Ruth Benedict, women “were marginalized, pigeonholed, and excluded from important aspects of the discipline.” It was not until the fifties that discussions of women were found in more than the “introductory textbook chapters on marriage, family and kinship.”


You have to check out Hannah Arendt’s work, particularly with regard to labor.

The following is from:

i. Labor: Humanity as Animal Laborans
Labor is that activity which corresponds to the biological processes and necessities of human existence, the practices which are necessary for the maintenance of life itself. Labor is distinguished by its never-ending character; it creates nothing of permanence, its efforts are quickly consumed, and must therefore be perpetually renewed so as to sustain life. In this aspect of its existence humanity is closest to the animals and so, in a significant sense, the least human (“What men [sic] share with all other forms of animal life was not considered to be human”). Indeed, Arendt refers to humanity in this mode as animal laborans. Because the activity of labor is commanded by necessity, the human being as laborer is the equivalent of the slave; labor is characterized by unfreedom. Arendt argues that it is precisely the recognition of labor as contrary to freedom, and thus to what is distinctively human, which underlay the institution of slavery amongst the ancient Greeks; it was the attempt to exclude labor from the conditions of human life. In view of this characterization of labor, it is unsurprising that Arendt is highly critical of Marx’s elevation of animal laborans to a position of primacy in his vision of the highest ends of human existence. Drawing on the Aristotelian distinction of the oikos (the private realm of the household) from the polis (the public realm of the political community), Arendt argues that matters of labor, economy and the like properly belong to the former, not the latter. The emergence of necessary labor , the private concerns of the oikos, into the public sphere (what Arendt calls “the rise of the social”) has for her the effect of destroying the properly political by subordinating the public realm of human freedom to the concerns mere animal necessity. The prioritization of the economic which has attended the rise of capitalism has for Arendt all but eclipsed the possibilities of meaningful political agency and the pursuit of higher ends which should be the proper concern of public life.

The Feminist Critique

Is Feminism postmodern?gramsci3
Who in Antonio Gramnci?

Any comments on some classics in this area:
Anthropology and Gender: The Feminist Critique
-Sally Slocum, Woman the Gatherer: Male Bias in Anthropology (1975)
-Eleanor Leacock, Interpreting the Origins of Gender Inequality: Conceptual and Historical Problems (1983)
-Ann L. Stoler, Making Empire Respectable: the Politics of Race and Sexual Morality in 20th-Century Colonial Cultures (1989)