Gender Roles And Marriage Among The !Kung

Gender Roles And Marriage Among The !Kung

Length: 1839 words (5.3 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Gender Roles and Marriage Among the !Kung
Although we have yet to discover complete equality among the sexes in any pre-existing or presently existing society, the !Kung people are among the closest to reach such equality. The !Kung are an egalitarian society, meaning everyone has access to the valued resources. While the amount of access does vary, just the fact that everyone is included–at least on some level–when it comes to meeting the essential needs of living is significant.
Much of !Kung life consists of caring for one another and there is a strong effort put forth to keep everyone relatively on the same status level. A great example of this exists in the traditions of hunting. When a man returns to the village after killing a large animal, there is a certain role-playing he is expected to participate in. As people approach him about what happened, he pretends that nothing worth mentioning took place. This signifies to the rest of the !Kung that the hunt was a success as they continue to inquire for further detail. The successful hunter continues to tell his story, however, if he appears to be too proud the people will not hesitate to make jokes as a means of humbling him. The credit for the hunt invariably goes to the one who made the arrow (which, although rare, can be a woman as well as a man) and it is his (or her) duty to divide the meat fairly between everyone in the village. One way or another, either directly or indirectly, everyone will be given a part of the animal.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Gender Roles And Marriage Among The !Kung." 04 Apr 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about Kung Life: An Ethnography by Majorie Shostak

- The many ethnographies produced from the fieldwork of anthropologist, account for much of our knowledge of cultures we may consider foreign of our own. Ethnographies are often written to provide an understanding of the practices of the studied culture, thus bridging the gap between separate ways of life. Majorie Shostak is one of the well known anthropologist who attempts to do just this in her writings. During her stay in the Dobe regions of Botswana, she studied the life of !Kung women to find out if they share similar ideas to women of her own culture....   [tags: kung, geography, anthropology, ethnographies, Majo]

Research Papers
1014 words (2.9 pages)

Essay On The Movie Kung Fu Panda

- Movie Review for Kung Fu Panda Have you ever watched an animated movie, which has a power-packed cast, plus has the best graphics, and above all, it has Kung Fu. if not, Kung Fu Panda is the name. The movie Kung Fu Panda comes with a complete talent box with all the star-studded actors including Jack Black, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, James Hong, and much more, doing the voice over of some great characters, you name it Kung Fu Panda has it. Kung Fu Panda, released in 2008 by DreamWorks Animation, is categorized as a wuxia (martial heroes) comedy....   [tags: Kung Fu Panda, Martial arts, Chinese martial arts]

Research Papers
1217 words (3.5 pages)

Gender Roles In Marriage Essay

- Imagine if we still lived in a world where gender roles in a marriage were dedicated to a specific spouse and were not equal. Now, look and ask yourself, “How are those roles different in today’s world?” Gender roles have a crucial responsibility in present day marriages, and have throughout history; however, roles in and outside of the home, including child care, have changed over time. For instance, for a significant part of the twentieth century gender roles between a husband and wife in a marriage were: the man as the provider and defender and the woman as housewife and caretaker....   [tags: Marriage, Family, Husband, Wife, Spouse, Gender]

Research Papers
791 words (2.3 pages)

The Influences Of Genders Among The Workforce Essay

- The Influences of Genders among the Workforce Among the workforce the biggest and most common problem is the inequality of both men and women. All around the world both men and women are being classified in two different roles/activities weather one is the breadwinner and the other as house taker. In other cases beliefs and cultural comes into this situation since it affects many individuals way of thinking through their attitudes and customs. In these sources “Laila: A Rebellious Woman”, “Oum Karim: A Hopeful Woman”, “Oum Sherif: A Hopeless Woman” by Helen Watson, and “Sex, Gender, and Work Segregation” by David Hesmondhalgh and Sarah Baker all share each important characteristics of probl...   [tags: Woman, Gender, Gender role, Marriage]

Research Papers
1422 words (4.1 pages)

Marriage Among The Sung Dynasty Essays

- Marriage among the Sung Dynasty had unique characteristics that are not exhibited in other societies. Although the modern society believes in monogamous marriages, the marriage saga among the Sung is quite different. The traditional Sung Dynasty was a purely patrilineal society where women were married and had no public career . This society was a male-dominated dynasty where men performed nearly all the reputable roles such as governance, business, writing of books and building of the temples among others ....   [tags: Marriage, Family, Husband, Wife]

Research Papers
1622 words (4.6 pages)

Humility Among the Kung! Essay

- Humility is a valuable attribute in the character of an individual, in society and in a culture. Cultivating this value in can be learned through psychological exercise, misfortune, costly mistakes, and various other methods. Such was the case with Ontah, the anthropologist in the story, “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari.” As an expression of gratitude towards the !Kung Bushmen and there families for there cooperation, Ontah purchased the largest meatiest ox he could find for the Christmas festivities....   [tags: essays research papers]

Research Papers
693 words (2 pages)

Marriage Is About Love Not Gender Essay

- Asia Clinton Mr. Karp Senior composition January 9, 2015 Marriage is about love not gender. Being in love is when two people whether a man and women or even a man and man or a women and women care about each other enough to be in a relationship or even get to the point where they want to marry. No one should care whether or not someone else is marrying the same sex because it is not their life that they are living in....   [tags: Same-sex marriage, Marriage, Homosexuality]

Research Papers
1148 words (3.3 pages)

Essay on Reducing Gender Dysphoria Among Non Conforming Students

- Reducing Gender Dysphoria Among Non-Conforming Students in Schools In schools across the nation, many gender-nonconforming students live every day trapped in a body that feels foreign to them. The disconnect between body and mind often results in gender dysphoria, in which “people suffer distress because of a mismatch between the gender identity they experience and their biological sex as determined by chromosomes, gonads and genitals” (Russo). Historically, the conversation about gender dysphoria, gender-nonconforming people and their struggles is a relatively new topic....   [tags: Transgender, Gender, Discrimination]

Research Papers
1975 words (5.6 pages)

Essay on Gender, Gender And Gender Policing

- Before the day a baby is born in society it is subjected to being policed and “doing gender.” Whether it’s painting a room blue when parents find out that their child is male or buying dolls and kitchen utensils for their future girl, “doing gender” and gender policing is a norm in most societies. Most of these norms are based off institutions that create social structures in society, for example “back to school shopping” is considered a norm because it affirms the institution of education. However, because gender and “doing gender” is important in, there has been a creation of gendered institutions, which channels boys/men and girls/women into separate and often differently valued activitie...   [tags: Gender role, Gender, Marriage, Sociology]

Research Papers
1141 words (3.3 pages)

Marriage Between Marriage And Marriage Essay

- Throughout history, arranged marriages have had a negative connotation when compared to love marriages. Although this has been the popular idea in some parts of the world, especially the Western world, it has proven to not be accurate. Participants of arranged marriages typically have longer lasting marriages than their love marriage counterparts. When also comparing the two types of marriages, love marriages may start out as more loving than an arranged marriage, they seem to depreciate over time while in arranged marriages, the level of love increased over time (Epstein, Pandi, & Thankar, 2013)....   [tags: Marriage, Arranged marriage, Love, Western world]

Research Papers
1067 words (3 pages)

The !Kung also have a "network" of relationships among them called hxaro relationships in which gifts of various quantities and qualities are given. Men have these relationships with other men and women have them with other women. Each adult has around five or six people with whom they exchange gifts. This system of gift giving contributes to the !Kung egalitarian way of life and in making sure that everyone, in one way or another, is taken care of. These relationships, along with kinships ultimately determine how much one gets. In short, the !Kung people work hard and take care of each other.
While much effort is put into maintaining a fairly equal status among the people of !Kung society, this is not to suggest that gender roles are non-existent. Men and women have different roles in society, while the roles of men and women are more equal than in most societies, men do have a more dominant role than women.
Both men and women can gather, however, women are the main gatherers and contribute the most toward food consumed on a daily basis. Despite this, there is still more importance placed on the contribution of meat through the hunting done by !Kung men.
The roles of men and women are taught to children through enculturation both directly and indirectly. Growing up, children, both boys and girls, accompany their mother when she gathers (some stay in the village and play). When boys get a little older (around 12-14) they begin to go out on hunts with their fathers to observe. Usually by their early twenties young men are able to start killing larger animals. Young men also go through an initiation called Choma (Shostak, 215). This initiation lasts six weeks and allows for the "ritual knowledge of male matters to be passed down from one generation to the next. (Shostak, 215)." These are the primary ways young men learn their place in society.
Women, in turn, learn their roles through observation and direction given by their mothers. Young girls gather with their mothers and marry young (around 16). When a young woman gets her first menstruation, she is brought to a hut made especially for the occasion and there she and the women of the village celebrate for three or four days or however long her period lasts. During this time, it is considered very bad luck for the hunt if a man were to see the young woman's face. The segregation of men and women during the celebration of a women's first menstruation is comparable to the secret segregation occurring for a young man's initiation. Other than these two instances, however, not much segregation among the sexes occurs. As Shostak reveals on page 215 of Nisa, most cultures isolate pregnant women, women with newborns, and menstruating women, however, this is not the case in !Kung culture.
Marriage among the !Kung is at first a mere "trial." Since women get married so young (and most often to men quite a bit older) her parents will find an appropriate man for their daughter to marry. Their choice is usually dependent on "age, marital status, hunting ability, and his willingness to accept the responsibilities of married life (Shostak, 116)." These are very important considerations since their daughter's future husband will not only have the responsibility of caring for their daughter, but for them as well. This responsibility and duty to the bride's family is referred to by Shostak as bride service, and can last anywhere from three to ten years, assuming a marriage lasts that long. During this first marriage, the man is expected not only to take care of his wife but also to help raise her. He also must wait until she has started menstruation cycles before having sex with her. Therefore, it is not uncommon for men to have lovers during this time. Nearly fifty percent of these first marriages are unsuccessful.
Although the beginning of a young woman's menstruating cycles is indication of becoming a woman in many cultures, it is not the case within the !Kung culture. Often times at this point many young girls are still being completely supported by their parents and in-laws and of course their husbands. The start of menstruation cycles, however, does indicate that a young woman has reached the last phase of being immature and without responsibility. Reluctance from a young woman in a trial marriage is considered normal and these girls are free to express their opposition and frustrations. When girls do convey resistance toward a marriage it is initially looked upon with considerable tolerance. The older a young woman gets, however, the more she is pressured to take on wifely responsibilities like gathering and submitting to her husbands desire for sex. If she continues to oppose her marriage, she most likely will not receive societal support and ultimately could potentially end her marriage. A young woman is finally considered an adult once she has had her first child.
Equality in a marriage becomes more prominent once it has survived a few years. The passage of years brings the young woman in particular much more significant life experience, often through major changes like childbirth and an active sex life. These changes have the power to open communication lines between couples (Shostak, 151).
Although much equality does exist among the sexes, it is a given that male dominance is evident among any society that has ever existed or even exists today. The !Kung are certainly no exception to this. For example, within !Kung society a man with more than one wife is viewed as acceptable. Men, however, may not make the decision to add wives to his family on his own (unless he is willing to experience the repercussions, such as a poor reputation, and perhaps his original wife leaving him or making his life unbearable). The reasons the idea of a co-wife may be preferable to a man are evident: "he gains a new sexual partner, he is likely to have additional children, and he adds a substantial new provider of food to his family (Shostak, 151)." Kinships are, keep in mind, determinants for how much one gets. One advantage of adding a co-wife for a first wife would be the slight, yet still existent, superior status she will have over her second co-wife. A first wife has a stronger position and can give her co-wife orders. With that in mind, many women find the idea of becoming a second co-wife less than desirable. The best circumstances involve close friends or sisters. Within the context of the !Kung culture the idea of having more than one wife is not an unreasonable concept. While to anyone outside this culture it may appear undesirable and sexist, when we examine the context and conditions of the environment where it exists, a different picture comes to view. Men with more than one wife make up about five percent of the population. This number, however, is not the result of people shaming those who choose to partake in this way of life. While it is not desirable for many, it is still viewed as acceptable.
Taking lovers is also something common among the !Kung. Sex is a big part of !Kung culture and within that context, having lovers is a normal behavior. It is unknown if these relationships were a part of traditional life or if they developed as an influence of the Herero and Twsana settlements (Shostak, 238). While this is a common occurrence, it is also kept as discreet as possible. Because the act of taking lovers is not necessarily about being in an unhappy marriage, it is important, to avoid confrontation and conflict, to keep one's lovers a secret from a spouse. According to Shostak (239-240), much of the desire for lovers stems from the importance of sex to the !Kung people. It seems to be based on the shallow desires of lust and irresponsibility. As she interviewed a !Kung man about his relationship with his lover as compared to his wife he stated that after marriage, passion simmers and "your wife becomes like your mother and you, her father (Shostak, 239)." This seems to demonstrate the appeal and practicality of taking lovers for the !Kung.
Ultimately, the sum of gender roles among society and in marriage are chiefly influenced by the !Kung's cultural ethos of interdependence. This ethos is demonstrated in all aspects of !Kung life and is what helps maintain the nearly equal relationships among men and women along with an egalitarian way of life. The concept of interdependence makes perfect sense within the !Kung way of life. And perhaps there is a lesson we might take away from this culture. Hopefully through learning about the !Kung not only can we begin to understand a little more about worlds that exist beyond our own, but may we also apply such knowledge to our society and help enrich our own culture.

Shostak, M. (1981). Nisa. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Return to