12 April, 2009

weekly discussion #8 (anthro 101, class)

Reflect on the film, "Masai Women," and the articles you have read about gender (C&C Chapters 15 and 22).

Compare and contrast your experience of gender in our society with that of the Masai.

What do you think the value is in having genders, and what challenges do you think this two-gender system presents to people and society? Do you think gender is changing in the United States, and if so, how?

How do you think cultural world views about gender tie in to human rights? Should anything be done in cultures where there is gender inequality – and why or why not?


The Masai women live in a world where men dominate and they are at the beck and call (as well as mercy) of the men they are owned by. Their culture is almost literally wedded bondage/slavery. The culture of America and most other nations of the world is drastically different. Here, for example, each individual (male or female) is their own person, can own property and can make decisions for themselves. The Masai women have none of those luxuries. To Masai men the women ARE property. Though the men own the cows, the houses, the land and the women it is the women who have to do all the work for the men while the men spend their days playing around and enjoying themselves. This is completely different from how it is elsewhere in the world.

I know in class we've been discussing the difference between 'sex' and 'gender,' and now I have opportunity through this blog to share my honest opinions on the matter and "problem," if you will. Sex is determined biologically, so we say in class, and I know every scientific person out there disagrees with the idea that gender is determined biologically ("It's determined culturally!" they say). I disagree. Sex and gender are the same, and are determined biologically. God created men and he created women, two sexes (genders) and that's all there is to it. However, gender has been culturally constructed and constrained to mean each gender (depending on culture) only does certain things or wears certain clothes, etc., but the of genders themselves there are only two.

Going off that, I believe the gender constructs we have here in America and elsewhere in the world (however more prevalent or not they may be) that the men are the money earners and the women are the little Suzy homemakers, is wrong and hurtful in a society. We are all people and capable, if we so desire as people, to do whatever task we set our minds to. Men and women biologically are better at certain tasks over others (i.e. men are generally stronger in their upper bodies and women tend to be better at fine-tuned motor skill tasks), certainly, but that in no way limits either gender to the stereotypes of the culture. Or, rather, it shouldn't limit the two genders.

Gender in the U.S. is most certainly changing, as it is in the world. Gender is becoming more than ever before an "open" thing. Nowadays you can say you're practically anything and demand "equal" treatment in just about anything. I don't think the issue of equality should be linked to gender at all, personally, we're all people and are capable of doing what we set our minds to. What does it matter male or female? At the same time, to better answer the question, I suppose: yes it is changing. Women, men, trans-genders, etc. are all claiming more and more "equal rights" (whatever that really means) and America is walking on pins and needles in attempt to please all of the people all of the time. Gender is changing from something that means "men do xyz and women do wqy" to "I do what I want."

Cultural world views about gender most certainly tie into human rights. Everyone has rights, being people, and the fact that in some cultures (in some regards our own) those are limited bleeds into human rights. As far as taking action or "doing something" in cultures where there is gender inequality I would say yes, but in some regards I also disagree with myself. In example, the Masai culture has been living in the way they have for the past hundreds of years and they honestly believe it's the way it should be and are surviving as such. If someone were to go in and attempt to show them how women have equal rights, etc., for one I don't think it would be beneficial to them and for two I don't think it would work. The women are perfectly happy. In order for there to be change of any kind, culturally or otherwise, the people have to want it. In a lot of cases, the want is not present, and trying to force change upon people who are unwilling or unhappy to change doesn't help them at all – it hurts them more than anything else.

1 comment:

Kim Hedrick said...

Overall, a good discussion but lacks any specificity in the readings. Additionally, you indicate a belief that sex and gender are the same thing, but then later explain that gender is changing (while of course sex is not). This inconsistency reinforces the need to discuss biological difference as separate from cultural difference. Otherwise, cultural change in how gender is understood would be due to biological change in sex itself, which it clearly is not.