Gender Roles in Society Essay

Gender Roles in Society Essay

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Gender Roles in Society


Since the beginning of time men have played the dominant role in nearly every culture around the world. If the men were not dominant, then the women and men in the culture were equal. Never has a culture been found where women have dominated. In “Society and Sex Roles” by Ernestine Friedl, Friedl supports the previous statement and suggests that “although the degree of masculine authority may vary from one group to the next, males always have more power” (261). Friedl discusses a variety of diverse conditions that determine different degrees of male dominance focusing mainly on the distribution of resources. In The Forest People by Colin Turnbull, Turnbull describes the culture of the BaMbuti while incorporating the evident sex roles among these “people of the forest”. I believe that the sex roles of the BaMbuti depicted by Turnbull definitely follow the pattern that is the basis of Freidl’s arguments about the conditions that determine variations of male dominance. Through examples of different accounts of sex roles of the BaMbuti and by direct quotations made by Turnbull as well as members of the BaMbuti tribe, I intend on describing exactly how the sex roles of the BaMbuti follow the patterns discussed by Freidl. I also aim to depict how although women are a vital part of the BaMbuti culture and attain equality in many areas of the culture, men still obtain a certain degree of dominance.

Friedl argues that “the source of male power among hunter-gatherers lies in their control of a scarce, hard to acquire, but necessary nutrient-animal protein” (263). This is proven by the people of the BaMbuti since they do in fact rely on the hunter-gatherer method which is a process where the people depend on wild plants and animals for subsistence. Although the women of the BaMbuti culture contribute a substantial amount to the hunting process by foraging for mushrooms and nuts and by driving the animals into the net, the men actually kill the animal and distribute it among the tribe. Turnbull states that “survival can be achieved only by the closest co-operation and by an elaborate system of reciprocal obligations which insures that everyone has some share in the day’s catch” (107). According to Friedl this distribution obligates others to the hunter and “these obligations constitute a form of power or control over others, both men and...


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... to the degree of dominance held by men in the BaMbuti culture. Although this degree might not be extremely high and women do acquire a certain level of equality with the men, the patterns expressed by Friedl in “Society and Sex Roles” are consistently followed throughout Turnbull’s book, The Forest People.

The Forest People is a great example of the patterns expressed by Friedl in her article. Friedl’s hypothesis that men tend to dominate based on the amount of resources distributed and on the division of labor based on sex is proven through the actions of the BaMbuti people. The present dominance that exists by men in nearly every culture is one that is likely to continue for many years if not forever. Friedl suggests that “as long as women spend their discretionary income from jobs on domestic needs, they will gain little social recognition and power” (269). She proposes that the only way women will attain equality is to “gain access to positions that control the exchange of resources” (269). If in fact women do continue to gain these higher positions, then male dominance may eventually become obsolete and egalitarianism may one day become the basis of industrial societies.

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