Anthropology, Department of



Richard Owens

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Published in Nebraska Anthropologist Vol. 17 (2001-2002). Copyright © Richard Owens; published by The University of Nebraska-Lincoln AnthroGroup.


Hunting and gathering along with horticultural societies provide a basis for understanding contemporary ideologies. Such groups are generally labeled as egalitarian societies from their status and treatment of females. A survey of traditional hunters-gatherers and horticultural societies compared their mythological charters on gender ideologies to the dally interactions of gender roles in order to determine their level of influence on the culture. Traditional societies are thought to be a basis to observe gender stratification among all known societies. The division of labor is in all cultures, as a means to limit control economic resources, often favoring men. In this paper the role of gender ideology is analyzed through mythological, ritual and religious beliefs to determine its significance. Universally females are reported as second class to males; the reasons for this are less clear. It has been suggested by Ortner (1981, 1996) that females are viewed as closer to nature and men as closer to culture. Females are often viewed as polluting and dangerous, based on their perceived connection to nature, a lower but powerful element that culture seeks to suppress. Females are expected to be associated closer to nature through symbolism, ritual and myth, preventing them from attaining equal status with men.

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