ANTH-110 Study Guide - Midterm Guide: Breast Implant, House Beautiful, Plastic Surgery

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9 Aug 2016
Module 5 Review Questions
The Cultural Construction of Gender and Personhood
NOTE: These review questions are not graded but rather are designed to help you pull out the pertinent
information in each reading and to reinforce your learning.
Review Questions: Introduction to “The cultural construction of gender and
Please read the assigned reading and complete the review questions.
a) Define symbol and stereotype.
Symbol is a thing that represents or stands for something else, especially a material object
representing something abstract.
Stereotype is a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of
person or thing.
b) How do these concepts assign meaning and value to the categories of male and female?
We all live in a world of symbols that assign meaning and value to the categories of male and
female. Despite several decades of consciousness-raising in the United States, advertising on
television and in the print media perpetuates sexual stereotypes.
c) How is this seen in the media and in toys for children?
Although “house beautiful” ads are less prominent as women are increasingly shown in
workplace contexts, body beautiful” messages continue to be transmitted. In children’s
cartoons, women are still the helpless victims that the fearless male hero must rescue. Toys
are targeted either for little boys or little girls and are packaged appropriately in colours and
materials culturally defined as either masculine or feminine.
a) Describe the Nature-Culture dichotomy.
Martin explains that “women are intrinsically closely involved with the family where so many
‘natural,’ ‘bodily (and therefore lower) functions occur, whereas men are intrinsically closely
involved with the world of work where (at least for some) ‘cultural,’ ‘mental,’ and therefore
higher functions occur. It is no accident that ‘natural’ facts about women, in the form of
claims about biology, are often used to justify social stratification based on gender.
b) What are the three main criticisms of this dichotomy?
Although this model may be applicable in some cultures, its universality has been
challenged not only by those who point out that nature-culture is a dichotomy of
western thought in particular, but also by those who provide ethnographic data to
indicate its lack of salience in other cultures around the world.
The assumption that women are universally subordinated while men are dominant
appears questionable when viewed through the lens of recent ethnographic analysis
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Critique of the concepts of universal subordination and of the nature-culture
dichotomy has stimulated significant research on how gender identity and gender
roles are constructed in particular cultural contexts. Whether and under what
conditions social asymmetry between men and women emerges in the process of this
construction is open to empirical investigation
a) What does the cultural construction of gender involve?
The cultural construction of gender in a particular society involves definitions of what it
means to be masculine and feminine.
b) Do cultural constructions of gender vary cross-culturally?
Cultural constructions of gender DO vary cross-culturally.
a) How do initiation rituals differ for males and females?
Gilmore sums up the importance of rituals to construct manhood by identifying a recurring
cross-cultural notion: that “real manhood is different from simple anatomical maleness, that it
is not a natural condition that comes about spontaneously through biological maturation but
rather is a precarious or artificial state that boys must win against powerful odds. A boy’s
separation and individuation is more perilous and difficult than a girl’s whose femininity is
reinforced by the original unity with her mother. Thus, to become separate, the boy must pass
a test, breaking the chain to his mother.
Initiation rituals that prepare girls for their roles as women and instruct them in what it means
to be a woman in a particular cultural context can also be found in various societies around
the world.
b) Among the Mende of Sierra Leone, what is the act of boys being seized from their homes by the
force of spirits considered to signify?
Among the Mende of Sierra Leone, boy initiates are seized from their homes by the force of
spirits—men wearing masks and long raffia skirts. In this act, they are dramatically and
suddenly separated from their childhood, and carried into the bush, where they will spend
several weeks in seclusion and transition before they reemerge as men.
c) What is usually involved with the transition to womanhood?
The transition to womanhood is often part of a more subtle and continuous process of
enculturation and socialization.
d) Among the Hausa of northern Nigeria, when do girls marry?
Hausa girls marry young, generally upon reaching puberty. At that time they enter kulle, or
e) What is kulle?
In kulle or seclusion, the social roles of women are specifically defined and their sexual
activities are limited.
f) What is the purpose of going into seclusion?
Historically, ruling-class Hausa women had significant authority and social standing, but with
the expansion of Islam, this position was eroded and a sexually segregated society
characterized by female subordination emerged.
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The reproduction of ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ personalities generation after generation has
produced psychological and value commitments to sex differences that are tenaciously
maintained and so deeply ingrained as to become central to a consistent sense of self. This self
is defined by reproductive roles and by deference to men
a) What attributes may be considered to constitute personhood?
In addition to gender, it may comprise with age, status in the family and in the community,
and physical appearance or impairment.
b) How may naming construct personhood?
In the US, the use of Ms. To replace Mrs. And Miss is an acceptable option. It is now quite
common for married women to retain the name that they were born with rather than replace it
with one that only gives them an identity in relation to someone else—their husband.
c) How may personhood be encoded in the language men and women use?
In many cultures around the world, speech styles differ between men and women, whereas in
others there are no distinctions. Sometimes these differences are associated with the relative
equality/inequality between the sexes, and hence with power.
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