Note on this week’s lecture: Due to emergencies created by the recent flooding, this week’s lecture will not
be available until Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. Apologies for any inconvenience, and please let me
know if you have any questions or concerns.
Chapter 3: Culture Constructs Gender Difference
1. To understand some of Margaret Mead’s studies about gender difference and the significance of her
findings. Pg. 60-61
Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies (1935):
explored the differences in those definitions of certain human traits being socially
specializedas the appropriate attitudes and behavior of only one sex, while other human traits have been specialized for the other sex
-Examines 3 cultures in New Guinea in hopes to show the enormous cultural variations in the definitions of masc. and fem.
-First 2 cultures exhibited strong similarities b/w men and women; no opposite sexes
-All members of
culture were gentle, passive, and emotionally warm
-Men and women shared child rearing
marriages were more domestic than romantic
tribe of headhunters & cannibals; both men and women were similar but expected to be equally aggressive &
-Women showed little maternal instinct, detested pregnancy and nursing for children
-Tchambuli: men and women seen very differently; men were passive & fem, women were dominant & masc.
-men liked to dress up fancy and go shopping
-women were economic providers; did fishing, held positions of power
*each culture believed men and women were the way they were because biological sex determined their personality
-showed that women and men are CAPABLE of similar or different temperaments; she did not adequately explain WHY women
and men turn out to be different or the same
-Male and Female (1949) & Coming of Age in Samoa (1928)-
Mead explored the processes by which males and females become the men and
women their cultures prescribe
2. To be able to identify the functionalist theory of labor and gender difference.
-Functionalists argue: sex-based division of labor was functionally necessary
-women had milk to feed children
-men were naturally stronger so it “makes sense” they were the hunters
*Suggests that gender inequalities exist as an efficient way to create a division of labor, or as a social system in which a particular segment
of the population is clearly responsible for certain acts of labor & another segment is clearly responsible for other acts of labor
3. To be able to name cross-cultural evidence that male domination, sex-based division of labor, and
particular forms of gender differentiation are not biologically inevitable.
-Cultures studied by Margaret Mead
*Summary of cross-cultural research on female status:
1.) Male domination is lower when men and women work together, with little sex-division of labor
-sex segregation is strongest predictor of women’s status
2.) Male dominance is more pronounced when men control political & ideological resources that are necessary to achieve the goals of the
culture & when men control all property