Ancestral Lines: The Anthropological Matter of Gender Roles

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Out of all of the subjects presented to us in introductory anthropology, none has sparked such a discussion as week eights topic of gender and power. The interest of the class interested me, and I chose to focus on this anthropological theme for that reason. Anything that triggers such an intense reaction, from both female AND male participants might I add, certainly warrants some more attention and research.

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Regarding any background information, I have consulted my class notes as well as the PowerPoint provided online. During lecture of week eight we discussed ideas such as harassment, historical influences on misogyny, the differences in patriarchies and matriarchies around the world, several analogous relationships between women and men, the voice of women, and other nuances of the domain of females.

Some of my favorite parts of those thoughts included the article by Amanda Hess outlining her experience with harassment, which incorporated her profession, experiences of other individuals, and the role of the internet in the problem. That part of lecture really brought to light the disparities between men and women by highlighting the amount of harmful or harassing messages each gender gets in their lifetime. Additionally, of the many analogous relationships defined, my favorite by far was that of Sherry Ortner, who equated females to nature where as men were more like culture. This one struck me because of the unspoken meaning of this comparison, with nature being of course where we all start, but eventually we evolve and advance enough to accumulate a culture, making us a civilized people. Thus, women are primitive, and men are advanced. Further, you can look at it on a much more surface level and realize that women dealt with the natural things such as childbirth, breastfeeding, and gardening while men were put in charge of things that made up the culture like politics, religion, and the economy.

The other most intriguing part of the lesson was Mary Beard’s opinions and observations about the voice of women in history and literature. She teaches that women’s voices were only heard in one of three ways: if they were portrayed as the victim, had a claim in a sectional interest, or as they take on an androgynous identity. We can see the victim as we analyze the damsel in distress as she is allowed to speak about situations where she feels helpless. We can see the sectional interest (more so in history) as women were allowed to make the decisions where women were regarded. We can see the androgynous identity in our female politicians who wear power suits and lower/change their voices to gain authority and respect. This one is also clear in classical history with the goddess Athena, who was stripped of femininity when she was named the champion of Athens.

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