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SOCI 1P80 Lecture Notes - Margaret Mead, Couvade, Masculinity

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Jane Helleiner

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SOCI 1P80 October 7, 2011
Gender and Sexuality
Feminist Anthropology
-Western feminism in the 1970’s. Challenging gender-based inequalities. They were
interested in whether gender based oppression was universal. They were also
interested in whether or not there were more equal societies.
-In the 1970’s anthropologists were mostly men, there wasn’t a lot for women to find.
Eg. 1930’s Margaret Mead: Became a public figure within anthropology and most of her
work focusing on gender issues. She looked at the variety of masculinities and
femininities in culture. She also looked at political problems, parenting roles, and sexual
roles between women and men in different cultures.
-The work that started to explode in the 70’s said that there needed to be a distinction
between sex=biological markers and gender=culturally constructed and learned
behaviors and ideas.
Eg. Foragers in Central Africa “Intimate Fathers”: Was able to look at the time the
fathers spent with young infants, which was a lot of time. Shows us how “biological”
roles are variously understood/organized.
Eg. Couvade (social institution for “expectant fathers”): This is applying this notion of
pregnancy to men.
Eg. Non-maternal breastfeeding: Shows us that the biological mothers do not always
breast feed their children.
-Variations in the roles of men/women and variations in the meanings of
feminine/masculine roles. Also men/female crossing occurs.
Eg. Ifi Amadiume: Reconstructed gender roles in pre-colonial African societies. Wrote
about male daughters/female husbands (property or such things would go to the man of
the family, without a son, a female would assume the role of a son)
Eg. Antonia Young: Did work in Albania looking at “sworn virgins” where women could
take on the roles of men, but this would be a permanent role. It could be achieved in
childhood or adulthood and was associated with a lack of marriage and parenthood.
Achieved the role of a social men without any anatomical change.
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