Anthropology and Gender

Powerful Essays
Though women have played an integral part in the history of the discipline of anthropology, it was not until the early 1970’s that the field of anthropology and gender, or feminist anthropology emerged. Sex and gender roles have always been a vital part of any ethnographic study, but the contributors of this theory began to address the androcentric nature of anthropology itself. The substantial gap in information concerning the study of women was perceived as a male bias, a prejudice made more apparent because what little women-centered fieldwork was done received insufficient attention from the academic community. While anthropology was considered one of the more egalitarian fields of study, it was dominated by white, Western males who focused primarily on the study of men within a society. The women seen in fieldwork were merely identified in regard to their gender specific roles, something these feminist anthropologists hoped to rectify. Those women deserved to be accurately portrayed for the part they played in the human experience.

The 1960’s and 70’s belonged to a tumultuous period in American history, characterized by an array of social and political movements including anti-Vietnam war activism, the origination of a “counterculture” which strove for societal liberation, the civil rights movement, and the rise of feminism (McGee & Warms 2011: 396). Women began to question the limitations of their gender, rallying to promote their own rights and interests. Women’s liberation became encompassed within a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, exploring themes found cross-culturally such as patriarchy, discrimination, and objectification. In addition to the cultural anthropological focus on gender inequality, feminis...

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... and views of studied societies. Basic anthropological assumptions were questioned when it became evident that the male-centered field had neglected to document women and gender as important aspects of social life. While it is clear that several feminist anthropologists sought to correct the imbalance of knowledge by focusing solely on women and their significant impact upon the development of humankind, the theory has evolved to focus on gender as it relates to power, class, societal construction, and sexuality among others.

Works Cited

Kuklick, Henrika. 2008 Women in the Field in the Twentieth Century: Revolution, Involution, Devolution? A New History of Anthropology. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Pub.


McGee, R. Jon, and Richard L. Warms. 2011 Culture and Personality. Anthropological Theory: an Introductory History. New York: McGraw-Hill. 396-436
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