Anthropology Review and Critique: Gender Term Paper

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SAMPLE EXCERPT . . .
This again is the value of a book like this, giving worldly cultural perspective and knowledge to the student who lives in America.

NUMBER THREE: Articles dealing with male gender roles.

The essay by Gilbert H. Herdt discusses the role of males in the fascinating Third World culture of the Sambia mountain people in Papua New Guinea ("Rituals of Manhood: Male Initiation in Paupa New Guinea). Boys are removed from the nuclear family in the Sambia culture at seven to ten years of age, and kept in a "men's clubhouse" until marriage - because, as Herdt writes, "strict taboos based on beliefs about menstrual pollution" still keep boys and girls separate.

The uninitiated Westerner might, upon reading about "menstrual pollution," say well, don't these primitive people at least realize that menstruation is part of the fact that women are fertile and give birth to keep the culture alive? But that is a naive, and it is an example of the fallacy of a "modern" view of sexuality being imposed on ancient cultural values; which is why reading about other cultures and their gender relations is important.

Meanwhile, Herdt points out that within the context of the male emerging from boy to man, "warfare, marriage, and initiation" are interlocking institutions. "Strength has come to be virtually synonymous with idealized conformity to male ritual routine," Herdt explains. Strength in Sambia's culture is synonymous with "maleness" and 'manliness."

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Incidentally, this "strength" and "maleness" concept is not that far away from some of the values seen today in American society. If an American kid is a strong and athletic physical specimen, he can often get a full scholarship to a great college, while the bright kid who is not physically gifted may find he is up against a huge wall of competition for scholarships based on academics alone.)

As for the male view of women in the Sambia culture, "It needs stating only once that men's secular rhetoric and ritual practices depict women as dangerous and polluting inferiors whom men are to distrust throughout their lives."

Term Paper on Anthropology Review and Critique: Gender Assignment

How bizarre, in conclusion, is Herdt's description of how boys in Sambia culture rid themselves of the pollution of their mothers - by having the father inject sperm into them - "injected time and again for years" - to purportedly help them obtain puberty. A homosexual relationship, father to son, doesn't really pass the test in the Western world when it comes to masculinity; but then, there is no "test" - this is a culture far away from the U.S. both in distance and values.

NUMBER FOUR: theoretically and ethnographically based articles.

In David D. Gilmore's essay ("The Manhood Puzzle"), he begins by saying that "all societies...provide institutionalized sex-appropriate roles for adult men and women." That said, he mentions that there are a few societies do recognize "androgynous genders" (such as the Cheyenne berdache, the Omani xanith, and the Tahitian mahu), but even in these cultures, the person who is androgynous "must make a life choice of identity and abide by prescribed rules of sexual comportment."

Meanwhile, Gilmore offers a striking concept by saying that notwithstanding glaring "surface differences" between cultures, "...a number of observers have recently argued that cultures are more alike than different..." As regards their gender ideals, or "guiding images."

Gilmore's research has led him to discover two studies of great interest to his work; one study shows that the sex ideals of a "primitive Amazonian tribe" had "subsurface similarities in the qualities expected of men and women" in contemporary American society. This work concluded that "only a symbolic veneer" existed between the two patterns of sexual behavior, and that veneer masks "a bedrock of sexual thinking."

Another study quoted by Gilmore - involving a survey of sex images in 30 totally different cultures - concluded that there is "substantial similarity" to be discovered "panculturally in the traits ascribed to men and women" in myriad cultures.

Still another piece of research into sexual similarities throughout diverse cultures concluded that "culture is 'only a thin veneer covering an essential universality' of gender dimorphism."

Gilmore dips into the subject of "manhood" by first relating the cultural traits of the people of Truk Island in the South Pacific. These people live off the sea, and the Trukese men "are obsessed with their masculinity" to the point of challenging fate by going out into deep-water fishing trips in "tiny dugout" canoes. And they go out there to fish with spears, even in shark-infested waters.

Should any man amongst the Trukese men fail to take these risks, their fellow men and the women in the community will laugh at them, call them effeminate and "childlike." And the Trukese male youth "drink to excess," fight on weekends, "seek sexual conquests to maintain a manly image."

Gilmore then takes the reader to the Greek Aegean island of Kalymnos, where the men take great personal bodily risks by diving down into very deep water without any diving equipment. "Many men are crippled by the bends for life," Gilmore explains, but that doesn't matter: "they have proven their precious manhood by showing their contempt for death." Indeed, young divers who take too many safety precautions are considered "effeminate," and are "scorned and ridiculed by their fellows."

And a third example is given by Gilmore, to show parallels between cultures in which boys and men must prove their masculinity: he speaks of the Amhara, a Semitic-speaking tribe in Ethiopia, where masculinity is called wandnat. "It means never backing down when threatened," Gilmore explains, pointing out that boys are required to go through a whipping contest, in which "Faces are lacerated, ears torn open, and red and bleeding welts appear." If a boy shows weakness, he is taunted and mocked.

All these examples remind a reader that in America, there are still rites of passage for entrance into fraternities and other male organizations. Crazy stunts are conducted that sometimes kill young men, such as chugging a bottle of liquor, or being tied up and horse-whipped.

And very much like the Trukese male youth (who, as was pointed out earlier in this section, "drink to excess," fight on weekends, "seek sexual conquests to maintain a manly image"), American youth also drink way too much on occasion, and certainly seek sexual conquests to build or sustain their manly images. That is another reason this book is valuable, is that as far away in culture and values as some peoples are from Western society, similarities do exist in the manner in which lives are led.

Just recently, a very embarrassing scandal was revealed at the University of Colorado at Boulder; it was learned that when football players arrived on campus for their recruiting ritual (we're alluding to great athletes who are high school seniors about to graduate and pick a university to play their game), hookers were lined up so the high schoolers could see there was a lot of sex available on the Boulder campus. They were also taken to bars and given alcohol to excess, and there were even reports of rapes by recruits and university football players.

NUMBER FIVE: Introductions to each section of reading.

The assignment for this paper states that the paper should have five sections, with each section approximately 1,000 words; "however," the instructions continue, "there will be areas that you would like to delve into deeper [and] I encourage that." With that in mind, this paper has used well more than 1,000 words to present the introductions, because the introductions to each section of this book are extraordinarily rich in nuggets of information that go well beyond mere "summary" and "overview" and "paraphrase." The authors have done a momentous job in their introductions, not only giving highlights of what is ahead in the book, but also in synthesizing and explaining key portions. Hence, a great deal of emphasis is placed upon the introductions.)

The "Biology, Gender, and Human Evolution" introduction (I) section is a very good beginning for a student just dipping a toe into the waters of the history of human beings and their gender development. Though the book was written a few years ago, the book's many questions - not merely posed specifically but implied - in this first section are (and no doubt will be for many years) compelling, cogent and thought-provoking. Two examples: "... [Are] women...universally subordinated to men?" "... [Are] women equipped for war and combat?"

It's important in scholarship that all good questions should stimulate thoughtful consideration of contemporary events in our world, and the second of the two questions in the paragraph above is no exception. A very hot topic on the current news scene is that of the abuse of prisoners in Iraq. In fact, Army Reserve Pfc. Lynndie England is the first U.S. soldier charged with "abusing Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison," according to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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