Gender And Gender Of Power

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The ‘gender of power’ is a model that attempts to mediate between biological, feminist and postmodern concepts of gender and sex in a way that is both theoretical and derived from ethnographic realities. In the exposition Power and Watts first consider several competing theoretical models of sex and gender. From there, they introduce ethnographic examples from extant rock art and living ritual practice that support a more complex view of the relationship between gender, bio-sex, culture, and ritual. Thus the gender of power is both a testable theory as well as model that emerges from the data.
The dynamic push and pull between the effects of biology and culture on the much confused and debated reality of sex versus gender is at the heart of the ‘gender of power’ model. According to Power and Watts, sex has mostly been defined as the biological fact of male or femaleness, while gender, generally speaking, is a culturally defined package of traits rooted in the fact of bio-sex. According to Ortner, who pioneered the debate, female is taken to be indicative of the natural, mundane sphere marked by home, hearth and child rearing; male is conflated with the imposition of culture and ritual, and thus order, power, and prestige. This model of gender as fundamentally defined by bio-sex, the ultimate expression of which is universal male hegemony, has been much critiqued but never adequately discarded. The opposite theory, espoused by Butler, is completely non-anthropological in origin. Butler argues that there is no real distinction between sex and gender as both are defined by culture alone. For Butler, gender is not a binary division of typical roles based on bio-male and female, but a constantly shifting performance of gender-linked tr...

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...the curiously gender ambiguous ritual animal.
From this and similar rituals, as well as the theoretical convergence with Sex-Strike, it is Power and Watts posit that each sex must have features of the other added to its performance during the initiation to create a single, unified ‘gender of power’. To have ritual power is not to be male or female, as Ortner suggests, but to take on aspects of the opposite gender, a binary opposition that Butler fails to acknowledge, such that ritual participants transcend gender categories. Thus the ‘gender of power’ is the unified totality of gender signals and powers. Finally, there is the Turnarian implication that the ability to transcend gender roles in ritual space revitalises the extant binary gender of mundane society in much the same way that periodic rituals of anti-structure revitalise society’s mundane social structure.

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