Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective

8 August 2016

In this book the focus is on how gender is constructed around the world. The book demonstrated many different areas in which women either ruled or ruled together with man. It leaves people with hope that the world is capable of an equalitarianism society. Many topics in the field of anthropology of gender are covered. The authors feature not only information from classic sources but also include recent literature from around the world. This book gives readers an awareness and understanding of the sociology of women and gender. In this critique the focus will be on the goals the authors hoped to achieve.

Including brief descriptions of how and if they reached those goals for readers. Gender Studies from an Anthropological Perspective The authors present an article by Margaret EhrenbergEhrenberg-“The Real Women in Human Evolution”. In her article Ehrenberg explores how roles in gather and hunting for food have changed and evolved throughout time. She discusses how anthropologist have revealed that in early primate societies that the only difference in this area was that women were often hindered by child rearing and therefore did less hunting to remain close.

Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective Essay Example

She discusses how over time the roles of men and women began to be more defined as sex roles. Ehrenberg states that crucial changes in the development of humans were predominately inspired by women. This article in particular goes a long way to support the authors goal of showing how roles have changed from prehistory to today and how anthropological studies have contributed to these findings. The authors also share an article by Louise Lamphere- ” The Domestic Sphere of Women and the Public World of Men: The Strengths and Limitations of an Anthropological Dichotomy”.

Lamphere exposes how occupations performed by men throughout history have been considered more important simply because they are held by men. In this article there is evidence that men and women have performed the same duties; they have only been given more attention when performed by man. Lamphere quotes Michelle Rosaldo whose argument shows a universal asymmetry between the sexes. “But what is perhaps most striking and surprising is the fact that male, as opposed to female, activities are always recognized predominantly important, and cultural systems give authority and value to the roles and activities of men” (Rosaldo).

Lamphere also shares evidence from other authors that indicate what Rosaldo found to be true. Lamphere argues and provides some evidence that it is not the fact that women have always held roles lesser than man but the fact that our societies have reported them this way in studies. So basically she is saying that it is the misinterpretation of history that has lead to some of the gender roles society has implemented over the years. The authors wanted to include writings that included a look at sexuality. In her article “Is there a Muslim Sexuality?

Changing Constructions of Sexuality in Egyptian Bedouin Weddings” Lila Abu-Lughod explores the thought of Muslim Sexuality. In her introduction she states ” What these various discourse on Arab Muslim Sexuality, by outsiders and insiders, defenders and critics, share is the presumption that there is such a thing as a “Muslim Sexuality”. Abu-Lughod then goes on to say that as an anthropologist she would have to question this assumption because of the tremendous variety of communities and in the muslim world. She does however explore in great detail sexuality and culture.

In her study of a community of Arab Muslim herders it is clear how culture affects sexuality therefore helping to form gender identity. The marriage traditions of this group includes the defloration of the bride by her husband not in private but with other women to help hold her if needed while the man uses his finger. A drop of blood must be collected and shared with the wedding guest to demonstrate that the bride in fact was a virgin. The women are actually so scared to be alone with a man that this tradition is not questioned.

This tradition is considered the most important event in a girls life, if there is blood on the cloth it will no longer matter what anyone may say about the girl. It is also important because the girls virginity is inseparable from her family’s honor. This tradition also speaks to the honor of the man’s family. If the man acts quickly and unafraid he will be praised. The author states” Given this group investment in the bride’s virginity, the central rite of the wedding becomes a drama of suspense and relief that must powerfully shape people’s experiences of sexuality as something that belongs to the many, and especially to one’s family”.

This article clearly shows how culture can shape sexuality which in turns shapes gender identity. It is evident that the man’s virginity was not of any concern, demonstrating a double standard. Men are given more liberties in this community. However with such stake riding on their own virginity women are in a since forced to comply. It is clear by the above articles alone that the authors of the book have explored and included a wide range of information exploring gender studies from many perspectives including an anthropological one. Cross-Culturally Comparing Gender Issues

Brittell and Sargent set out to explore gender issues cross-culturally to allow readers to compare how gender issues are similar and different in many cultures. Many articles in the book could do just that. Let’s take a look at a few. First let’s look at a paper the authors included in their book by Anne Murcott, ” It’s a Pleasure to Cook for Him: Food, Mealtimes, and Gender in Some South Wales Households. ” Murcott is exploring the culture of “home cooked” meals in families in South Wales. Many of the women interviewed said that they enjoyed cooking for their husbands and families.

Others implied it was just what they did. Many even went as far as to question what kind of wife would not have a home cooked meal ready for her husband when he arrived. When Murcott asked the few men she had the opportunity to interview about meals in the home, they too implied that women cook the “home cooked” meals. You see in South Wells there is distinction between what constitutes a home cooked meal. Things like eggs and fried potatoes are not home cooked meals but rather a snack or breakfast food. There seems to be a lot of weight put on cooking a home cooked meal for your family.

It should according to the families of South Wells, happen 2-4 times minimal a week and always on Sundays. One thing that is interesting in these families is that the men will help prepare the meal, help with children, and often wash dishes. However they rarely cook an entire “home cooked” meal. Murcott does a wonderful job of exploring how culturally in these families gender roles have been defined. One interesting fact was that no one questioned really could explain why it was the woman’s job to provide “home cooked” meals just that it was always how it has been done.

Most of the women interviewed did not appear to be disgruntled about this gender role. Many even said it was their pleasure, they enjoyed it. Another interesting fact is that these meals only happen when the husband or family is home. A woman or man who is alone will typically not cook like this. They will have a snack or go to a close relatives to eat a “home cooked” meal. As Murcott points out this is only emphasizing that the meal is to please the husband not the wife. She cooks for him. This article meets the authors goal as it explore gender cross-culturally and how many South Wells families look at meal times.

Another article the authors included in their book to explore gender cross culturally is titled “My Encounter with Machismo in Spain. ” by David D Gilmore. Gilmore writes about his encounter with Machismo. He calls it his encounter because he went to Spain with the other intentions but writes that”I did not find Machismo, Machismo found me”. In is time there he embedded himself with young men and a few women that took him on a journey to learn what men in this part of Spain considered a “real man”. He describes Machismo in this part of Spain, which while exist in other hispanic counties, is quite different in each.

Machismo for the young men he interviewed was one of three very important qualities that a man should have. Machismo is in terms that we understand verbally harassing good looking woman. Sometimes the words used were polite and a compliment but more often than not they were crude. This men, of any age really, never physically assaulted the women. The younger men that would go out together in “pandillas” (gang, groups) might grab at her clothes and hair but never attempted to hurt the women physically. The younger girls however would be emotionally upset and often run home crying.

For the older men who practice this Machismo they would often just say things like ” Salute to your mother, my beauty. ” or even more crude things about wanting to do things to her body. The women will just ignore the men and continue on to their destination. The men in this area explained that for a man not to act like this he must be “flojo” or lazy, slugglish, simply not a “real man”. The men later explain that this is only one thing that they do to demonstrate how they are “real men”. However I think this display although important to their culture and excepted by the woman only shows how to feel like a man, these men degrade women.

Boys and Men in this community are raised from a young age to practice this Machismo. For if they do not they might not be considered “real men”. This article meets the authors goal in that it discusses gender roles cross culturally and explores manhood from the culture of these Spanish men. Yet another example of the authors diligence to include studies of gender roles cross culturally is “Hijras: An “Alternative” Sex/Gender in India. ” by Gayatri Reddy and Serena Nanda. In India there is what some would consider a third sex, Hijras. In India Hijras are accepted in everyday life, some have even been elected into office.

Hijras are typically men who are either born with genital defects or have a procedure performed called the “rebirth” to remove parts of their genitalia. Many view this a religious act. They are sacrificing their “manhood” to one of their Gods. Typically Hijras are men who do not have a desire to be with woman, sometimes they have no sexual desires at all. However some do participate in male prostitution. They claim that they must first experience sexual behaviors before they can give them up and answering their true calling as Hijras.

Many Hijras work in the temple honoring their God. There is also another subculture of those who do not identify themselves as man or woman. Woman who do not have their periods can also be Hijras. There those who do not identify as men and are not Hijras. These men typically are interested in “doing a woman’s work” and in other men. The interesting fact here is that in India this men who appear in the western world to be Transgender are accepted with open arms and have a place in the world of gender because in the Indian cultural they what many consider the third gender.

I think this speaks volumes on how gender is formed because it does not appear that this Hijras are frowned upon which would mean that gender identity forms with the possibility of this third acceptable option. Where in other cultures those who may choose an alternative lifestyle are not so widely accepted. This article meets the authors goal of examining gender roles in reference to culture because it explores this “third gender” concept in India. Male Gender Roles and Masculinity The authors third goal was to include articles that deal with masculinity and male gender roles.

Even though they have acknowledged that it may difficult to have a truly balanced reader in this area they have included articles that do just this. One article in particular is the essay by Gilbert H Herdt that discusses the role of males in the third world culture of Sambia Mountain people. The article titled ” Rituals of Manhood: Male Initiation in Paupa New Guinea discuss how boys are initiated into manhood in this community. Boys are removed from their family in Sambia culture sometime between seven and ten years old. They then live in a “men’s clubhouse” until they marry.

Herdt writes that this is because of “strict taboos on beliefs about menstrual pollution”, meaning boys and girls must be kept separate. Even men and women are kept separate in their sleeping and eating arrangements. Herdt points out that within the context of the male emerging from boy to man. “warfare,marriage, and initiation” are interlocking institutions. Herdt writes” Strength has come to be virtually synonymous with idealized conformity to male ritual routine. ” In other words strength in this culture is the equivalent to maleness and manliness.

The initiations into manhood take place in six stages. Each stage brings a boy closer to manhood. However manhood is not reached until the fifth stage or the birth of a man’s first child. For this reason the birth of the first child is highly celebrated. The man and woman do not reach adulthood until the birth of two children. After four child they no longer celebrate births because the men have proven themselves competent to reproduce. The initiations of the boys form their roles in adulthood as men. Boys are taught that women are polluting and inferior to men.

They are taught to distrust them. Herdt points out these values and traditions pit men and women against each other more so than in other Highland communities. One very taboo and interesting initiation in this culture is that of the boy being injected with semen. The people of this culture believe that while girls mature naturally boys do not without this semen they cannot produce semen and therefore cannot become men. The authors met their mark with this article. It explores male gender roles in this culture and how masculinity if viewed in comparison to women.

The article mentioned in support of goal 2, “My Encounter with Machismo in Spain. ” by David D Gilmore. , also supports goal 3. The boys in this Spanish community are taught what is it to be a man and to be masculine from and early age. The women in this community accept their behavior has that of a “real man” and ignore it for the most part. Young girls however are emotionally traumatized by the verbal abuse. In both of these essays we can see how gender is formed in these communities. It obvious to see that boys are shaped into the view of manhood in accordance with each communities cultural beliefs.

Theoretically and Ethnographically Based Essays The authors set out to explore gender throughout the world and from many different view points. One of the goals they set forth for this book was to include essays that looked at gender theoretically and ethnographically. The authors included many essays that did an exquisite job at meeting this goal. One essay that did a wonderful job of exploring how gender stereo-types have clouded judgments on cultural practices is “Shamans, Bodies, and Sex: Misreading a Korean Ritual” by Laurel Kendall. Kendall takes an extensive look at the rituals and practices of Korean Shamans.

The first fact that must be disclosed is that the majority of Shamans are women and those men that do practice these rituals dress in women’s traditional costumes. The Shamans are believed to have called by their Gods to become Shaman’s. The under go trainings and initiations that build on the skills as Shamans. The Shaman are believed to communicate with Gods by way of rituals that include dance. Clients go to the Shamans for many reason. Basically they are looking to be blessed and have good fortune in their futures.

Kendall shares that her own interpretation of these rituals in a previous paper may have implied a sexual undertone to the rituals. In her in depth ethnographically study of this cultural phenomena she explored where these presumptions come from. First she points out that generally in many cultures across the globe certain behavior by women is categorized as sexual in nature when the intention may have been far from that. Kendall shares that she believes this is caused by a historically view and formation of gender roles.

Women have been viewed as sexual creatures for centuries. She explores the rituals in detail looking at the root of why these women before them in this way. She also gains knowledge of the cultural importance of the Shamans by studying this Korean tradition in detail. Kendall points out how a person could perceive the rituals as purely sexual in nature based on the presentation of the rituals. However she shares in her conclusion she poses the question “Is it Sexual? ” and then goes on to answer it with “If so, then not in predictable ways.

” She shares early in her essay the spiritual and cultural relationship these rituals hold for them people and then states ” It would be difficult to read the phallic play above as an expression of repressed sexual desire, or view these tumescent Gods as idealized alternatives to mortal men. ” This statement is a powerful one in the sense that she is stating that outsiders must truly with open eyes explore these rituals to see that they are much more than expressions of sexual desire. Kendall makes clear that her study was ethnographic in nature.

She was able to use her intense knowledge and study of the Korean Shamans to prove that society often views women with the blinders of years of indoctrination of what a woman is and what sexuality is. This essay could not have been a better example of how the authors met their goal. The above article was the one that stood out in this book for this goal. However there are others like “Women and Work in a Postrevolutionary Society: Urban Cooperatives and the Informal Economy in Nicaragua” by Florence E. Babb. Babb studies in detail the role of women both in the context of unpaid work in the home and in the paid work field outside the home.

She explores women’s journey in Nicaragua from primarily in the home to the working world outside their homes. Babb tackles traditional beliefs and views of women in this essay. She has provided evidence of her theoretical and ethnographical study of the gender roles of men and women in this culture. Babb outlines the difficult journey women have taken into this unknown world of men and how that despite working outside the home many of the roles that have historically been viewed as woman’s continued to be so. Yet again the authors have met their goal with this article.

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