Female Power and Male Dominance: On the Origins of Sexual Inequality

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Cambridge University Press, Apr 30, 1981 - Social Science - 295 pages
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In this book, Professor Peggy Sanday provides a ground-breaking examination of power and dominance in male-female relationships. How does the culturally approved interaction between the sexes originate? Why are women viewed as a necessary part of political, economic, and religious affairs in some societies but not in others? Why do some societies clothe sacred symbols of creative power in the guise of one sex and not of the other? Professor Sanday offers solutions to these cultural puzzles by using cross-cultural research on over 150 tribal societies. She systematically establishes the full range of variation in male and female power roles and then suggests a theoretical framework for explaining this variation. Rejecting the argument of universal female subordination, Professor Sanday argues that male dominance is not inherent in human relations but is a solution to various kinds of cultural strain. Those who are thought to embody, be in touch with, or control the creative forces of nature are perceived as powerful. In isolating the behavioural and symbolic mechanisms which institute male dominance, professor Sanday shows that a people's secular power roles are partly derived from ancient concepts of power, as exemplified by their origin myths. Power and dominance are further determined by a people's adaptation to their environment, social conflict, and emotional stress. This is illustrated through case studies of the effects of European colonialism, migration, and food stress, and supported by numerous statistical associations between sexual inequity and various cultural stresses.
  

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Contents

The Igbo womens war
136
V
141
the Lords of the Plains and the Sacred Buffalo Hat
143
The movement of foragers into marginal territories
152
The relationship between colonialism a marginal food base and female power
156
The dynamics of male dominance and sexual inequality
161
The bases for male dominance
163
VI
171
VIII
213
Epilogue
215
The goddess and Yahweh cults in Canaan
216
migrating men and foreign goddesses
220
In Gods image
225
The early Christians
227
Sample
232
Variables
236

Anthropological explanations for male dominance
172
From the natives point of view
179
part of a cultural configuration or a solution to stress
181
Why women?
184
Defining the oppressor
185
the Mbuti and the Desana
187
mythical versus real male dominance in the New Guinea highlands
194
the Azande versus the Bemba
199
VII
210
Analysis of the relationship between environment fathers proximity to infants and origin symbolism
239
Configurations for the division of labor
248
Construction of the measure for female economic and political power or authority
250
Male aggression scale and male dominance measure
253
Notes
257
Bibliography
275
Index
285
Copyright

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Page 15 - I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.
Page 22 - There is little division of labor by sex. The hunt is frequently a joint effort. A man is not ashamed to pick mushrooms and nuts if he finds them, or to wash and clean a baby. In general, leadership is minimal and there is no attempt to control, or to dominate, either the geographical or human environment.
Page 92 - We cannot possibly interpret rituals concerning excreta, breast milk, saliva and the rest unless we are prepared to see in the body a symbol of society, and to see the powers and dangers credited to social structure reproduced in small on the human body.

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About the author (1981)

Sanday, University of Pennsylvania.

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