Gender Roles and Relations
In all societies, certain behaviours and activities are deemed appropriate for women and other for
Gender roles: groups of behaviours that is culturally associated with each gender.
Includes the kind of work typically assigned to men and women and the familial roles that people
play, ritual practises etc.
In some societies, woman and men‟s roles may be quite distinct with little overlap, whereas
gender roles may be flexible in other societies.
Even in activities which women and men are separated from each other, same-gender groups
usually act in a way that is mindful of the other group. Coming of age rituals for girls and boys
may be organized around gender differences.
Gender relations: consist of interactions between men and women, which may reflect
differences in the relative status, prestige, and power of women and men.
Extreme forms of male dominance may be reflected in physical abuse and rape. These behaviours
tend to be more acceptable in strong patriarchal societies (where men hold positions).
There are no known examples of matriarchal societies in which women have exclusive power.
Division of Labour by Gender
Some form of division of labour by gender influences the range of daily work that an individual
carries out in all societies. Men‟s and women‟s work is often complementary, both contributing to
the maintenance of their households by providing food, shelter, clothing, and necessary
Our early hominid ancestors, like modern non-human primates, spent their day in the same
pursuits. They moved from one resource site to another, gathered and ate fruits and plants and
Male and female tasks were not differentiable except for childbearing, nursing and caring for the
However, a division of labour developed when people began to engage in more specialized
economic techniques, requiring more complex skills and learning.
It is efficient to teach people skills that they are going to use during most of their lives. Skills
needed to recognize and utilize edible plants, roots, herbs, and fruits or to track, locate, and kill
animals require many years of careful instructions and practise.
Therefore, specialization by gender and other factors such as age is efficient and provides for the
survival of all.
Women in foraging societies gather wild plants fruits and nuts and may also hunt small animals.
In contrast, hunting and trading-which requires long travels- is the work of men.
Because the survival and continuity of a community depend on the successful reproductive life,
intensive work was done by men.
Gender roles change as economic and material factors change (foragers become agricultural).
Cultural forms arise in specific conditions and are changeable when those conditions no longer
All societies structure households on the basis of families, regardless of family composition and
household organizations. Economic cooperation help sustains family units because members
perform different kinds of work that complement each other‟s tasks,
The attitudes about work and its association with gender are part of the background ideologies
that members of a society take for granted.
One aspect of these ideologies is the evaluation some work roles as naturally more suitable for
males or women.
o For example, women are thought to make good nurses because they have an innate
desire to be nurturing. Gender and Status
In theory, gender relations may be characterized on a range from approximate equality to the
complete of members of one gender by members of the other.
Gender equality: refers to the w group of behaviours, attitudes, and rights that support the
autonomy of both women and men.
In a gender-equal society, women and men may have different economic, social, and political
roles but the rewards given to them are roughly similar. (Mohawks)
Gender inequality: refers to denial of autonomy and equal rights to one group of people based
on their gender.
Tends to be most obvious in societies with strong economic specialization where social and
political set up affects the distribution of right and privileges among social categories (class and
Cultural values and social rewards mould people‟s attitudes about themselves and their relations
In societies where male dominance is pervasive, men learn to disvalue women and to assume
rights to control women‟s activity. Women learn to disvalue themselves and accept male
In all societies, ideological constructs support and perpetuate existing ways of living For
example; religion often provides explanation and justifications for existing social relations.
Religious beliefs sanction the status and roles of women and men, explaining divine origins for
personal freedoms or restrictions, for differences in rights and obligations that they have.
Women‟s lives are sometimes described as focused on the “domestic sphere and men‟s lives as
taking place on the “public sphere”. This distinction may be fitting for some societies, especially
agrarian or industrial states where labour tasks are highly specialized and gender roles are rigidly
In Ethiopia, zar possessions allow married women to escape household duties.
In societies with gender equality, men and women are equally able to occupy positions of prestige
and authority in their communities. Both contribute to making decisions that affect them and their
families, and their rights to act independently and autonomously are equally respected.
Gender equality does not necessarily mean that women and men do the same kinds of work or
have the same social roles and responsibilities but that their contributions are equally valued. In
addition, attitudes about males and females reflect positive evaluations.
In general, women‟s status is higher in societies where their labour contributes the major share of
food that their families consume.
o In Ju/‟hoansi, the plants, roots, nuts that women gather make up about 70 percent of the
people‟s yearly caloric intake-> women‟s rights are secured.
Matrilocal societies provide women with continued emotional support from their kin, whereas
patrilocal residence patterns remove women from their kin groups and the support they can
provide when conflicts arise.
When warfare is frequent and directed against distant enemies, warrior are absent from home for
long periods of time and are less able to dominate the households they leave behind. Women in
these societies have higher status.
Gender and Subsistence
Foraging societies tend to have gender equality and equal gender relations, except when men‟s
economic or political roles are critical to the survival of group, a situation that favours male
Horticultural, pastoral, and agricultural societies tend to have greater gender inequality,
depending on the control of subsistence resources and other factors, with the likelihood of some
degree of male dominance. Industrial societies, with economic built on agricultural bases, tend to retain ideological male
dominance while gradually enlarging economic opportunities for women and extending legal and
institutional equalities to both gender.
Gender in Pastoral Societies
Anthropological studies of pastoralist societies, especially in Africa, have emphasized their
patriarchal social and political organization. Men control access to land and herds. They own the
animals, particularly cattle that form the basis of subsistence and or ideology.
o To be a Maasai (cattle herders of Kenya and Tanzania) is to be a pastoralist. Maasai men,
therefore, fit this ideal, but Maasai women are demoted because they are not herders. If
women do partake in the self-conception of Maasai, it is as wives of men and mothers of
This portrayal of pastoral societies is problematic. One problem concerns male bias in the
analysis-most of the anthropologists who first described East African pastoral societies were men.
A second problem concerns the historical transformations of pastoral societies resulting from
European colonial influences.
Gender in Horticultural Societies
In horticultural societies, control over the distribution of produce and goods influences gender
In societies that are generally equal, women exert their rights to make decisions concerning
Gender in Agricultural States
Agrarian states are complex societies with centralized political systems that maintain some degree
of control over local areas within the state.
They have economics based on intensive farming and produce surpluses that are used to support
These communities have marked segmentation of the population into class that occupy different
positions in society and have different kinds of occupations and different standards of living.
The degree of male dominance varies widely, depending on economic, political, and historical
factors, as well as on patterns of kinship, marriage, and family.
Industrialism, Postindustrialism, and Gender
In Europe and the U.S of the late 18 century, innovations in productive modes began a process
that transformed agricultural societies into industrial nations.
Industrializations began in manufacture of textiles, using mainly women‟s labour for the first
several decades and then downgrading women as manufacturing became fully established as the
dominant productive mode.
Women were marginalized in the industrial sector through intersecting links between gender
segregation in employment and unequal pay.
Some occupations were considered appropriate for women and others for men.
o Industrial jobs requiring operation of large, heavy machinery that produced such items as
soap, hats, and cigars.
o In addition, women generally received lower wages than did men, even when both
performed the same jobs. This differential in pay, or gender gap, is often masked by the
segregation of thrk and workplace.
In the early and mid-19 century, a cultural construct currently referred to as the cult of
domesticity became a popular and justified separation of the genders, relegating women to the
According to this cultural ideal, separate roles and domains are appropriate for women and men.
Men provide material support for their families; women are suited to perform domestic tasks.
A man whose wife worked was less than a real man because they are the one who need to support
the wife and children. Labour leaders also used these attitudes to restrict women‟s involvement in wage workths
competition between employment women and men intensified at the beginning of the 20
When men were faced with competition from women who often were willing to work for lower
wages, unions had two possible responses:
o They could advocate equality of pay for all workers to remove the financial incentive for
employers to hire women rather than men.
o They could advocate restrictions on women‟s employment as a strategy for maintaining
men‟s advantages. They chose this course.
Globalization and Gender
Agricultural and industrial development programs sponsored by national governments or
international agencies aim to strengthen economies, raise living standards, and improve health in
impoverished rural communities.
Development theory emphasizes the importance of modernization in technology, agricultural
production for trade and industrialization dependent on a mobile labour force.
Evidence suggested that modernization contributed to a decline in women‟s status, especially in
Africa and Asia.
Women’s Roles in urban and Rural Economic Development
In some countries, ind