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"Explanations" of Male Dominance

To explain the origins of female subordination we need a theory that accounts for the control of women's work by men.

Stephanie Coontz, Peta Henderson12 October 2017

White-ground pyxis with a group of women performing domestic tasks. Made in Attica, c. 460-450BC. via British Museum.

Published in 1986, Women's Work, Men's Property: The Origins of Gender and Class, edited by Stephanie Coontz and Peta Henderson, comprises five essays by a group of French and American feminist historians and anthropologists, in search of the sociohistorical basis of gender inequality. The editors' introduction, reproduced below, surveys previous efforts ‚ÄĒ anthropological, sociobiological, psychological, and historical¬†‚ÄĒ to exhume the origin of male dominance before outlining the conclusions of their own study.¬†

Male dominance is one of the earliest known and most widespread forms of inequality in human history. To some, the very idea of a book on the origins of sexual inequality is absurd. Male dominance seems to them a universal, if not inevitable, relationship that has been with us since the dawn of our species. A growing body of evidence and theory, however, suggests that this is not the case, and a number of scholars have begun to address the issue of male dominance as a historical phenomenon, grounded in a specific set of circumstances rather than flowing from some universal aspect of human nature or culture. The essays in this volume offer differing perspectives on the development of sex role differentiation and sexual inequality (the two are by no means identical), but share a belief that these phenomena did have origins, and that these must be sought in sociohistorical events and processes. Before turning to these theories, we would like critically to review some of the alternative explanations of sexual inequality.

A starting point for many theories of gender inequality is the assumption that biology is destiny: the roles men and women play in society, and the different privileges attached to these roles, are said to be fundamentally determined by our genes, which are in turn the product of natural selection. One common approach within this general framework of biological reductionism is to explain human sex role patterns and inequalities by reference to our primate heritage. The most popular model for this approach is the baboon. The scenario is as follows: Male baboons are twice as large as females; this sexual dimorphism (differentiation in secondary physical characteristics) is related to differences in both function and status; male size, strength, and aggression are adaptive traits for defending the troop and maintaining order within it, and a tight male dominance hierarchy also reproduces this aggression, the most dominant/ aggressive animal being the one that gets the greatest access to receptive females and to food. With minor differences in emphasis and use of evidence, a whole series of authors imply that male aggression and dominance (with their necessary accompaniment, female passivity or dependence) are therefore part of our genetic primate heritage. Male aggressive instincts are also said to have served early humans well in their role as "predators." 1

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There are a number of problems with this approach. In the first place, there is much more variability in primate behaviour than these authors admit. Some species are highly dimorphic; some are not. Mating patterns range from monogamy to promiscuity (by both males and females), while parenting and socialization behaviours are extraordinarily diverse among different species, or even in the same species under different environmental conditions. 2¬†Forest baboons, for example, are very different from the savannah baboons so beloved by the theorists cited above: "Aggression in general is very infrequent, and male dominance hierarchies are difficult to discern. Intertroop encounters are rare, and friendly. When the troop is startled . . . it flees, and, far from forming a rearguard, the males ‚Ästbeing biggest and strongest ‚ÄĒ¬†are frequently up the trees long before the females." 3¬†Adult females, far from being passive followers of the males, actually determine the direction and timing of troop movement. Similarly, chimpanzees, with whom humans share ninety-nine percent of our genes and from whom we may have diverged as little as five million years ago, are highly social animals who display a very low degree of male dominance, hierarchy, or aggression.¬†4

Where aggression and male dominance are found in primate groups, there is some question as to how much of this is natural and how much a response to stress. The male dominant savannah baboons live in game parks where predators and humans are concentrated in numbers far beyond those likely in aboriginal conditions. There is considerable evidence that such stressful circumstances, especially captivity, markedly increase hierarchy and aggression. Indeed, the noted researchers who filmed Baboon Social Organization (1963) only induced what they called "latent" dominance behaviour by artificial feeding, while forest baboons placed in cages and fed with clumps of food that had to be competed for showed a great increase in fighting, aggression, and dominance behaviour. 5 Is such behaviour natural or pathological? Many scholars now suggest that the normal behaviour patterns of our primate ancestors involved sharing and cooperation rather than aggression, male dominance, and competition. 6

Finally, there is little evidence that aggressive or dominant behaviour gives males privileged access to females, thus allowing them to pass on their supposedly more aggressive genes. 7 Gorillas and chimpanzees are not normally sexually aggressive and males tend to wait patiently for an oestrous female to make herself available. Among chimpanzees and orangutans, sex is usually initiated by the females, and their choices seem to have little to do with the males' rank.

Of course, the capacity for aggressive and dominant behaviour was undoubtedly an important part of primate survival, but this is not the same thing as having such behaviour determined by our genes. In general, research is demonstrating that the primates are capable of highly adaptive learning. Not only have chimpanzees been taught to talk (sign) and rhesus males to parent in captivity, 8 but increasingly sophisticated techniques of wildlife observation have shown primates to be capable of inventing new cooperative behaviours. 9 If primate behaviour is this plastic, it is only reasonable to suppose that plasticity is more pronounced in humans, whose much longer period of neotony (physical immaturity at birth) makes them almost totally dependent on learning.

A no less reductionist approach to the origins of gender inequality is found in the theories of sociobiology. 10 Starting from species (such as ants, bees, and slime moulds) that operate only by instinct and whose members cannot make individual decisions or even survive alone, sociobiologists have come to believe that certain behaviours are determined by the genes and selected because of their survival value for the species. Individuals are believed to be driven by their genes to maximize their "inclusive fitness"; they strive, that is, to maximize the number of their genes passed on to the next generation, even if this lessens their individual fitness. This explains why bees and ants engage in "suicidal" behaviour that ensures the survival of their group (and therefore, since all are related, the survival of more of their genes than if they had saved themselves at the expense of this group). Thus there is a genetic base for altruism, and such behaviour will be directed toward those to whom the organism is most closely related, with proportionately less investment in more distant kin or strangers. Applying these theories to humans, E.O.Wilson suggests that occasional examples of helpful behaviour toward non-related persons are explained by an additional concept that takes care of the residual cases: "reciprocal altruism." This suggests that sometimes individuals will act favourably toward unrelated people from whom they can expect an equivalent or more generous response at a later date. Such behaviour is said to be genetically programmed, and Wilson also speculates that there may be a genetic basis for a number of other traits that he alleges to be universal, including "spiteful intrigue," aggression, national chauvinism, female monogamy, male promiscuity, and the fact that humans "are absurdly easy to indoctrinate" since they "would rather believe than know." 11 Through this combined theory of "inclusive fitness," individual (Darwinian) fitness is translated into a theory of how cultures, rather than species, survive. Successful cultural behaviour is transmitted between generations and cultures through the genes.

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Predictably, sociobiologists assume a biological/genetic basis for the division of labour by sex, male dominance, and the double standard. The origins of sexual inequality are seen as an outcome of genetically programmed male behaviour derived from the species' hunting heritage and continuously selected for since by war and imperialism. According to Wilson:

In hunter-gatherer societies, men hunt and women stay at home. This strong bias persists in most agricultural and industrial Societies and, on that ground alone, appears to have a genetic origin. . . . My own guess is that the genetic bias is intense enough to cause a substantial division of labor even in the most free and most egalitarian societies. . . . Even with identical education and equal access to all professions, men are likely to continue to play a disproportionate role in political life, business, and science. 12

Thus sexual selection acting on the prehistoric division of labour by sex tends to create dominant, public-oriented males and passive, home-centred females. This is reinforced by the different genetic strategies required by males and females in order to maximize their inclusive fitness. Since males produce literally millions of sperm, any male has a better chance of fathering many individuals if he spreads his sperm widely rather than investing in a few children, who could be killed. There is thus a genetic base for male promiscuity. Females, on the other hand, can produce relatively few eggs over a lifetime. The sociobiologists thus argue that it is an adaptive genetic trait for females to desire a monogamous union. Women also, they assert, have a genetic bias toward concentrating their reproductive interest on men who are socially, economically, or educationally superior to them, as well as physically fit enough to provide for them and their children. Thus patterns of male domination and female subordination, as well as the sexual double standard, are seen as an outcome of genetically determined mate selection.

The fundamental assumption of sociobiology is that "similar" behaviours are manifest in animals and humans (Wilson talks about ants having wars and slaves) and that they must therefore have similar origins (genetic programmes). This assumption suffers first of all from a confusion of analogy (similar traits due to similar functions) with homology (common genetic ancestry). 13 Even if we agree that there are behavioural similarities, this does not necessarily mean that there is a common genetic basis. As Richard Lewontin, specialist in population genetics at Harvard, notes: "Certainly the fact that all human societies cook is a result of their genes, not because they have genes for cooking but because they have genes for solving problems in their world." 14 Sociobiologists, moreover, draw very sloppy analogies between distinct animal and human behaviours, projecting anthropomorphic motivations onto animals, who are said to exhibit "xenophobia," "altruism" and "spite." 15 Since these "traits" in animals have demonstrable genetic links, it is argued that they must have in humans as well. The logic is circular. Since "the outcome of the model is determined by the assumptions underlying the model," 16 the possibility that there can be a cultural, as opposed to a genetic, explanation for similar behaviours is "systematically excluded." 17

Furthermore, like the other biologically determinist theories, sociobiology tends to ignore the variability that exists among cultural systems and cultural behaviour. As one critic has shown, 18 nowhere do people actually behave in the manner predicted. For one thing, it is well known that in societies based on kinship as an organizing principle, expediency rather than actual blood relationship dictates the interactions between individuals. Through the fiction of adoption, complete strangers are assimilated into the group and treated as if they were brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, etc. Although mutual aid is certainly a factor in most relationships between people, genetic relatedness is clearly not the primary factor in such kinship systems. Among the Trobriand Islanders, for example, a sister's son has more rights to a man's goods than his own son, though his own son carries more of his genetic material. Among the Lakher of Southeast Asia, a child is considered related to his mother only by virtue of her marriage to his father. If they are divorced, the cooperation and interaction of mother and child cease. In some African and Native American tribes a woman becomes a female husband, and is considered the parent of the children her wife bears by various lovers. The child's loyalty is to the social, not the biological, parent. And in many societies, of course, loyalty and sharing extend far beyond the family.

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In answer to these criticisms, sociobiologists have recently attempted to explain cultural variability through the theory that genes and culture "co-evolve." 19 The implication of this theory is not simply that genes and culture interacted initially in the development of the human brain ("mind"), or even that cultural behaviour is limited and shaped by our biology (genes), both of which concepts are uncontroversial; what it purports to demonstrate is that even past and present differences among human cultures and behaviour have genetic origins. 20 This means that not only the aboriginal division of labour by sex, but also the variability found in male-female interactions throughout history today can be explained as outcomes of natural selection.

As various critics have shown, this theory is seriously flawed. 21 First, it rests on an inadequate knowledge of the precise relationship between our genetic structure (genotype) and our physical traits (phenotype), and of how these affect behaviour. 22 Genes are not the units of evolution and several genes, located on different chromosomes and acting in combination, influence the physical trait. Moreover, the mechanisms of inheritance are complex and poorly understood. Biologists are beginning to recognize that they are an outcome of the dialectical interaction of biology with environment. 23

The sociobiological theory of gene-culture "co-evolution" also depends on an inadequate conception of culture that sees it as being composed of a series of unitary traits ("culturgens") each of which evolves independently of the others "through populations by way of the adaptive force of natural selection." 24 According to this view, culture traits such as a particular ritual, or a conception of women as polluting, are an outcome of natural selection working through the particular populations and facilitating the survival of the group. Such an atomistic view fails to take account of culture as a system of interrelated traits. 25 Moreover it is, once again, a basically circular argument: if institutions survive they are adaptive; if they are adaptive they were selected for; therefore institutions that survive derive in some measure from genetics. It is an explanation that discounts the inventiveness of human minds and ignores the fact that lack of genetic programming is probably the most important adaptation humans have made. There is evidence from recent ecological research, for example, that rates of change in the incidence of genetically determined traits in a population are very low, and that it takes even longer for a trait to become established at the level of the group than in the case of individual selection. If it took genetic changes in a population to adapt to new circumstances, humans would probably have died out long ago. Most acquired cultural behaviour is thus likely not genetic even if it is adaptive. 26

In sum, although few would dispute that human behaviour is genetically constrained (humans can't fly without the aid of an aeroplane), sociobiological theory fails to provide a satisfactory demonstration that either similarities or differences in cultural behaviour can be explained by genetic determination. The evidence suggests only that the big brain provides the potential for problem-solving ability (such as the invention of the aeroplane), not the determination of specific behaviour (such as male promiscuity), however widespread its manifestations in time and place. 27

It is true, of course, that there are some readily visible physical differences between men and women that seem to a large degree genetic in origin, and some would argue that these mandate different roles and statuses for the sexes. In most (though not all) populations, the average male is taller than the average female, both at birth and after puberty, though the average difference between the sexes is a matter of inches, while the normal range of variation within each sex is more than two feet. Males are also heavier and seem to have greater physical strength, though again the variation among individuals of the same sex is far greater than the average variation between the sexes. But physical sexual dimorphism cannot explain the different roles of the sexes, and far less male dominance, as Leibowitz points out in this volume and elsewhere. 28 Although males tend to do the fighting in many primitive societies, women do as much "heavy" work as men, if not more. 29 Western history testifies, moreover, that the strongest workers and best warriors often serve the dominant members of society, who may be physically very weak. Among a group like the seventeenth century Iroquois, a strong emphasis on male physical prowess was fully compatible with a high position for women, and indeed there is little evidence that men in most foraging societies use either their strength or their weapons as a means of controlling women. 30

Some authors argue, however, that males are innately more aggressive than females. Although recent studies have repudiated the idea that there are significant sex differences in intellect, analytical powers, social skills, or personal motivation, there does seem to be a strong difference in physical aggression that appears at least as early as the kindergarten years. Some observers suggest that this is partly biological in origin. 32

Attempts to demonstrate a biological tendency toward aggression (as opposed to a biological capacity, which obviously exists) have centred on studies of hormones. High levels of the male hormone testosterone have been correlated with high levels of aggression, and injections of testosterone increase fighting behaviour in rats. But a hormonal explanation of sexual inequality is hardly admissible, since even in animals aggression does not guarantee dominance 33 and in many societies aggressive individuals are social outcasts or face severe sanctions. 34 In addition, cross-cultural studies show some important variations in rates of male aggression. Margaret Mead found that women among the Tchambuli were more aggressive than men, that women and men were equally fierce among the Mundugamor, and that neither men nor women were aggressive among the Arapesh. 35 The explanation for such variability can only be that socialization is more significant than hormones in determining appropriate behaviour among both men and women.

The explanation of social behaviour such as aggression by a single biological factor, moreover, reflects a central weakness of almost all biological determinism. The methodology of such reductionist theories generally involves introducing a disruption of the organism's normal functioning and then explaining the normal working of the organism by its response to the disturbance. The result "confuses the nature of the perturbation itself with the 'cause' of the system's normal functioning." 36 If, for example, injection of a hormone increases aggressive behaviour, it does not follow that the ordinary levels of that hormone in the animal cause its other aggressive behaviour. Thus, injections of the female hormone oestrogen also increase fighting behaviour in rats while injections of testosterone into the pre-optic area of a male rat's brain stimulate maternal nest-building behaviour.

Studies of humans do not show consistent correlations between hormone levels and aggression. 38 Even where correlations are found, it is unclear whether the aggression or the hormone level came first. When low dominance monkeys are placed with monkeys toward whom they can safely act aggressively, their testosterone levels go up; when they are returned to an established group to whom they must defer, their testosterone levels fall dramatically. 39

Even granting that hormone levels or other chemical changes in the body affect mood, the interpretation of that mood and the behaviour it "induces" depends upon the social environment. Researchers at Yerkes Primate Centre, for example, were able to locate an "aggression centre" in the brain of chimpanzees. When this was stimulated electrically in laboratory animals, increased fighting resulted. However, when this was done in monkeys who were released into the wild the result was increased grooming behaviour. 40 Similarly, people injected with adrenalin (the "fight or flight" chemical), but placed in a peaceful setting, displayed sociable behaviour. 41 As one of the pioneers in hormone research has concluded: "Hormones are often necessary but never sufficient cause for the occurrence of behaviour." 42

All human behaviour, of course, has a biological base, else it could not exist. But the dominance in humans of the cerebral cortex means that what we do with our biological capacities is almost entirely a matter of learning. The difference in aggression between boys and girls should be considered in light of the different socialization given them. Significantly, Sears, Maccoby, and Levin 43 found that the greatest parental distinctions between kindergarten boys and girls were made in the area of permitted aggression. Many studies have shown that people's sex role expectations determine their earliest assessment of infants' capacities and behaviours (even at one day old), creating differences where none can in fact be measured by any objective criteria, 44 and undoubtedly establishing a number of self-fulfilling prophecies. The vital impact of expectations can be seen in studies of persons born as hermaphrodites: in ninety-five percent of the cases the person's sexual identity and corresponding social behaviour depended not on actual genetic makeup but on the choice the parents had made in rearing the child as either male or female. This was true "even for those individuals whose sex of rearing contradicted their biological sex as determined by chromasomes, hormones, gonads, and the formation of the internal and external genitals." 45

We conclude that evidence is lacking for clearcut mental or temperamental differences between the sexes. Even where such differences may be established, it is by no means justified to assume, as most of these theories do, that a sex difference explains a sex inequality. This is a conceptual leap made by a number of other authors, who start from the fact that most societies do recognize and define different social and symbolic functions for the sexes. These authors argue that the origins of inequality lie not in naturally different abilities or temperaments, but in cultural attempts to explain or control women's central role in reproduction. Woman's biology does not make her weaker, less intelligent, or more submissive than man, but it does make her society's source of new members. According to this school of thought, cultures tend to interpret or organize motherhood in ways that accentuate differences between the sexes and lead to sexual assymetry. There are quite a number of variations on this theme, offering a cultural or symbolic explanation for gender inequality,

One such variation is the psychoanalytical interpretation that postulates a universal male fear of female reproductive powers. Starting from the fact that large numbers of primitive societies believe menstruating women to be dangerous to men and animals, proponents of this view argue that men fear and hence attempt to control female sexuality and reproduction. 46 One problem with this theory is that such beliefs have often been interpreted in a male biased and ethnocentric fashion, leaving the impression that women are unclean or evil instead of recognizing that certain substances, such as blood, are considered dangerous, whether shed by women or men. 47 Another problem is that some of the simplest foraging societies lack such beliefs altogether, while in other societies males try to imitate rather than avoid female reproductive practices. Elizabeth Zelman 48 has argued that female pollution beliefs validate extreme sex segregation while male rituals imitating female reproduction, such as the couvade, support a high degree of role flexibility. This suggests that fears about female sexuality and reproduction are less cause than symptom of social tensions in male-female relations. 49 A suggestive finding is reported by Raymond Kelly, who notes that pollution beliefs abound in areas of New Guinea where male power and prestige depend on female labour. 50

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A richer psychoanalytical perspective is taken by Nancy Chodorow, 51 who suggests that the primary role of women in bearing, nursing, and socializing children leads to a different psychological dynamic for each sex. Girls learn their gender identity by imitation of a particular, individual female, which leads them, she argues, to relate to others in a particularized and personalized way. They become more present-oriented and subjective than boys, who must learn to identify with a sex that is frequently absent and less accessible and who can only do so by learning an abstract male role. In the attempt to gain this "elusive" male identity, the boy tends to define himself as not-woman, repressing his own feminine qualities and denigrating femininity in general.

Although Chodorow perceptively analyzes the reproduction of sex roles in male dominant societies, her work does not really address the origins of male dominance, as she assumes much of what needs to be explained: for example, the confinement of women to a private domestic sphere cut off from the public sphere of male activity and authority. Even where women are primarily responsible for child care, however, and males do work away from the domestic arena, it does not follow, except in an already sexist society, that a boy should move from defining himself as not-woman to denigrating women in general; and it is even less logical that such childhood denigration (which females also frequently direct against males) could in and of itself produce the institutionalized subordination of adult women.

Another theory based on reproductive roles emphasizes symbolism rather than psychodynamics. Sherry Ortner¬† 52¬†attempts to show how gender identification can lead to a denigration of adult women on the part of both sexes by arguing that women's biology and domestic role make her appear closer to nature. Nature, she argues, is in turn seen as lower than culture, so that women are perceived as lower in the social scale and subject to the restrictions that culture puts on both nature and the domestic unit. Other authors build on Ortner and Chodorow in suggesting that there is a "universal, structural opposition between domestic and public spheres"¬†53¬†that juxtaposes the fragmented, private interests of women to the higher universalistic and integrative activities of men. Men are concerned with collective affairs ‚ÄĒ¬†politics, governance, and external relations ‚ÄĒ¬†while women individually tend hearth and children. Ortner and Whitehead assert that "the sphere of social activity predominantly associated with males encompasses the sphere predominantly associated with females and is, for that reason, culturally accorded higher value."¬†54

Formulations such as those above, however, tend to impose a Western dualism and hierarchy that do not do justice to the complexity of other cultural behaviour and belief systems. In the first place, the association of women with nature and men with culture is far from universal. Many ancient societies had androgynous deities that reflected an integration of both male and female principles with natural and cultural forces. 55¬†Among the Mandan and the ancient Sumerians, the earth is a female symbol, but among the Iroquois and ancient Egyptians the sky ‚ÄĒ¬†surely a transcendent symbol ‚ÄĒ¬†is considered female. Among the Sherbro, children are considered close to nature, but both adult men and women are associated with culture. 56¬†Australian aborigines attribute such qualities as passivity, ferocity, and sweetness to membership in a kinship section rather than to gender. Sperm, incidentally, are thought to belong to a kin section designated as passive and associated with the moon, calm water, and temperate weather.¬†57

Not all societies, moreover, devalue nature. For the Haganers, the wild and domestic "are in an antithetical rather than a hierarchical, processual relationship. The . . . development of social consciousness in persons is not represented as culture transcending nature." 58 The adversary approach to nature is linked to the rise of state society, as is the idea that both women and nature are forces to be tamed. 59 The latter is an effect, not a cause, of male domination.

It is true that men tend to be associated with the political sphere in most societies where this sphere exists. The political arena, however, is not the only public arena in non-state societies, for many vital collective decisions are made within the domestic grouping. 60 The idea that politics is a higher social sphere derives from state societies where the political realm can coerce the domestic one. But a remarkably consistent aspect of simple societies is the fact that political leadership confers neither power nor prestige, and is frequently ignored by domestic groups. 61 It might be more reasonable to describe political affairs as peripheral in such societies rather than as paramount.

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Where male political activities do exert an important influence on wider social interactions, it is still not inevitable that males are exclusively associated with "integrative, universalistic sorts of concerns" 62 that give them prestige and/or power. Denise Paulme points out that in many African societies

. . . men never seem to conceive of ties other than those of kinship linked with common residence . . . whereas among women the mere fact of belonging to the same sex is enough to establish an active solidarity. An appeal addressed by a woman to other women will reach far beyond the boundaries of a single village, and a movement of revolt among women will always be a serious matter, even if its immediate cause should be of minor importance. 63

In nineteenth century America it was men who were stereotyped as rebels against (or refugees from) the social order, whose continuity was often represented by women. Men may also be associated with the destructive acts of war and personal rivalry. Among the Iroquois, men were more likely to engage in individualistic behaviour that required social control, while "feminine activities . . . coincided with the cooperative and pacific principles upon which the League was built." Indeed, it has been suggested that it is typically male-centred activities and organizational principles that are individuating, competitive, and fragmenting, while female ones are associated with integrative social concerns and cooperation. 65

To be sure, there is much ethnographic evidence that women are perceived as particularistic and fragmenting in many societies. Once again, however, this is likely to be not cause but consequence of processes in which female labour and reproduction are privately appropriated for the aims of male household heads ‚ÄĒ¬†aims often called "social"¬†but more appropriately labelled as clan or patriarchal family. Thus among the Haganers the view of women as particularistic, even anti-social, and men¬†associal, corresponds to the fact that women change residence at marriage and cannot always be counted on to place the interests of their husbands' clan ahead of their own.¬†66

Attempts to explain women's low status by psychological or symbolic processes associated with female reproduction often provide insightful analyses into how male dominance is perpetuated and why male-female relations are so complex and fraught with tension. They help us understand the dynamics of sexual inequality in a way that the articles in this volume do not even attempt. Ultimately, however, they cannot explain the origins of gender inequality, as they assume universal psychological associations that do not withstand detailed examination. A seemingly more historical and materialist theory is presented by William Divale and Marvin Harris, 67 who believe that population pressure on resources, especially following the Neolithic Revolution (the transition from food collecting to food production; for example, horticulture and herding) led in an elaborate sequence of cause-effect to the subordination of women.

Divale and Harris assert "the existence of a pervasive institutional and ideological complex of male supremacy in band and village sociocultural systems. " 68 This complex includes patrilineal inheritance and descent, patrilocal residence, marriage by capture, polygamy, brideprice, postmarital sex restrictions on women, property rights in women, male secret societies, male age grades, men's houses, and a preference for male babies. What, they ask, are the origins of such a phenomenon? They suggest that the origins of the male supremacist complex lie in warfare, which places high value on male qualities and allows women to be used as rewards for male valour. Warfare, in turn, stemmed from population pressure, especially after the Neolithic Revolution resulted in a more sedentary life style and starchy diets, causing an increase in fertility. The most efficient way to limit population, in the absence of birth control, was to reduce the numbers of potential mothers through female infanticide. To justify killing female babies, however, the male supremacist complex outlined above was necessary. Warfare, "always" present in human societies, now became increasingly important to "sustain" the male supremacist complex. Warfare elevated maleness and allowed women, already in scarce supply due to infanticide, to be used as reward for male feats of war. This necessitated rearing females to be passive. In short, Divale and Harris argue that the subordination (devaluation) of women was necessary to justify female infanticide (required for population control), and that warfare functioned to sustain this system both by reinforcing "macho" values and by keeping the adult sex ratio somewhat in balance, through male deaths in battle.

In important ways, the argument advanced here seems to us to be circular. In this analysis, warfare arises to enforce female subordination; yet warfare also presupposes female subordination, in order for women to be used as rewards for male warriors. Warfare is a consequence of female infanticide, helping to create balanced sex ratios through the death of adult males; but it is also a cause for such infanticide, providing its main justification. One reads Divale and Harris in vain for an actual explanation of the origins of male domination and warfare. We only learn their supposed functions. But to say that a phenomenon sustains male dominance is not to say that it caused it. And the consequences of a male supremacist complex or of warfare should not be used to explain their origins. Equating the two, as functionalist theories like this do, allows the specific historical developments to be interpreted as inevitable, when in fact the question is why alternatives were not chosen.

Indeed, a major flaw in the argument of Divale and Harris is the assumption that the route of warfare and patrilineal organization was the most common or most successful path for Palaeolithic and Neolithic societies. Their sample of band societies is drawn mostly from twentieth century ethnographies of collecting economies severely influenced by Western culture and imperatives; it undoubtedly distorts our concept of the nature of Palaeolithic band and Neolithic village society. Thus the prevalence of warfare asserted in their Table IX (p.532) is a likely consequence of the heightening of cultural stress due to capitalist penetration in many areas of the world in this century. For example, Napoleon Chagnon, the original ethnographer of that prototypical macho' and warlike society, the South American Yanomamo, suggests that warfare was a recent introduction, and this view has been corroborated by other researchers. 69 Similarly, in asserting the predominance of patrilineality, Divale and Harris fail to acknowledge recent research questioning the model of the "patrilineal band" and suggesting, rather, that in many instances collecting societies have a highly flexible bilateral organization which allows men and women to choose their place of residence according to circumstances, and to move freely between groups. The Bushman band, for example, has at its core a group of related brothers and sisters, but its membership is highly variable and fluctuates according to seasonal conditions. 70 The patrilineal band that features in twentieth century ethnographies may well have been introduced by trade and colonialism. 71

A more historically oriented study comes to quite different conclusions, showing that warfare is frequent in only eight per cent of hunting and gathering Societies, becoming more common in advanced horticultural systems but only "endemic" in the early agrarian states. 72 The archaeological record suggests that high levels of warfare did not follow the adoption of horticulture or agriculture per se, but developed only after the evolution of complex sociopolitical systems. 73 Catal Huyuk, one of the best-documented examples of an early Neolithic urban settlement, was notably free of defensive structures. 74

Furthermore, the precise relationship between warfare, food production, and population growth is highly controversial. 75 Divale and Harris cite only their own work as evidence for the assertion that warfare in band and village societies "represents a systematic attempt to achieve stationary or near stationary populations." 76 There is little evidence of endemic population pressures in Palaeolithic society and no reason to think that early Neolithic cultures would have accelerated any problem that did exist. Indeed, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, one might assume that improved farming techniques might have eased population pressures in some areas.

In short, this "theory" of the origins of male dominance is unsatisfactory at all levels of analysis. Even if we accept the assumption that population increase was the problem faced by Palaeolithic and Neolithic societies, we would question first whether female infanticide was the only solution. It is well known that pre-industrial cultures have many artificial means of controlling births, apart from infanticide. 77 Second, supposing a cultural need for female infanticide, why was it necessary to devalue adult women in the process of constructing such an elaborate complex of institutions and ideology? Many primitive societies abandon the aged and infirm without faltering in their extreme respect for old age. 78 We suggest that "the male Supremacist complex" arose under specific historical conditions interacting with particular types of social structures, not as a mechanical solution to justify killing female babies. (Indeed, one could as easily read the evidence presented by Divale and Harris to show that female infanticide arose to balance out deaths from warfare, though we decline to use the same mechanical approach even in reverse.) We must look elsewhere for an explanation of the historical evidence for increasing male dominance in advanced horticultural and early state societies.

A more complex theory purporting to explain that evidence is offered by Parker and Parker.¬†79¬†They propose that the early development of differential power and prestige for men was as reward for male risk-taking (in hunting, warfare, and so on), and that this was reinforced and intensified by technological developments in the first complex societies. The Parkers believe that human biology and sexual dimorphism predisposed men and women to play certain roles in the division of labour. They characterize the male role as involving men in work requiring greater physical strength, high levels of risk and danger, mobility, cooperation, and technological skill ‚ÄĒ¬†in short, a combination of brains and brawn.¬†80¬†Women, on the other hand,¬†tended to engage in activities that involved less danger and mobility, required less concentration or skills, and were more easily interruptable and substitutable. 81¬†While not saying that the tasks were intrinsically unequal in the sense that one sex made a more important contribution than the other, the Parkers believe that throughout most of history men have been asked to make consistently more difficult and risky contributions (p.299). The requirements of male tasks, combined with a biopsychologically-based male vulnerability (greater susceptibility to disease, death, and so on) resulted in a situation where the male labour supply was relatively costly and inelastic (not easily substitutable). In order to induce males to come forward in adequate numbers and with the requisite skills to perform the social tasks needed by an increasingly complex socioeconomic system, it was necessary to devise some sort of reward. Thus the 'myth of male dominance'¬†was created as compensation and reward (in a kind of social exchange).

In addition, the Parkers assert that male dominance had adaptive advantages which were reinforced through time associeties became more complex, requiring ever greater levels of technological skill. However, although they believe that this situation has prevailed since the establishment of a division of labour by sex, and, in fact, that it intensified with increased complexity, they think that "efficient means of birth control and other technological aids" of modern industrial society can and will lead to its elimination, and thus to the demise of the "myth of male superiority."

Parker and Parker may be criticized for their uncritical acceptance of a universal patterning of sex roles as an outcome of sexual dimorphism. A growing body of research lends credence to the counter-assertion that women in collecting and in simple horticultural societies undertook tasks that demanded as much brawn, as well as brain, as did male tasks. 82¬†Other research suggests that women were just as mobile as men, at least when they were not pregnant or nursing, and that in band societies this was quite a bit of the time. In non-sedentary Bushmen bands, for example, a combination of birth-spacing (average of four years) and sharing of child care tasks enables many women to range far from home in search of food. 83¬†West African women are well-known for their success ‚ÄĒ¬†and mobility ‚ÄĒ¬†as traders¬†and entrepreneurs in their own right, proving that women, even those with children, do not have to be sedentary. In any case, the cross-cultural record demonstrates more variability in the assignment of tasks, and much greater socio-political variation, than is suggested here.

We would not deny that there is a general pattern in the division of labour. Indeed, our own article suggests that there were some consistent patterns in early societies in which males took on more geographically far-ranging assignments that frequently involved more risk (though not more brain or brawn) than women's tasks. But the social exchange theory fails to explain why male tasks "universally" receive recognition and valuation. If male supremacy was a reward, what precisely was being rewarded? The Parkers seem to think that in early societies it was the male capacity for heavy work, whereas they suggest that later it was male "skill." But females engage in heavy work along with men in many societies, and they certainly take risks in childbirth, which is surely a socially necessary kind of labour. Furthermore, skill is a matter of training, so we have to ask why males were given that training and assigned tasks requiring a high level of skill. It is commonly accepted that women were the first potters: How and why did pottery become a male-dominated craft, and why weren't the inventors of this important manufacture given social rewards? It was not skill, but the social relations accompanying the development of craft specialization that must have determined that men should be trained in these tasks.

Furthermore, in the more complex societies ‚ÄĒ¬†where the Parkers say male dominance was intensified by rewards for male skill and risk ‚ÄĒ¬†it was increasingly only some men, not all, who were given prestige and power. What kinds of work did slave owners or family patriarchs do that justified their power and prestige vis √† vis slaves, wives, and junior men? Why did women have low status in slave societies, such as fifth-century Athens, where free men took few risks and did little work? Why, conversely, have women had high status in many societies, from ancient Crete to the seventeenth century Iroquois, where males undoubtedly did take great physical risks? The answers to these questions must lie not in the nature of the work itself, which the Parkers themselves admit is not intrinsically hierarchical, but in the origins of the hierarchy itself. These, we would suggest, lie in the relations of work, the issue of who controls whose labour. To explain the origins of female subordination we need a theory that accounts for the control of women's work by men. Such a theory cannot be derived from the nature of men's and women's tasks on their own, nor from any inevitable technological tendency, because human cultures have exhibited too much variation to postulate any necessary relation between a task or a tool, on the one hand, and a particular social relationship of superiority or subordination on the other.

This brings us to a central assumption of all the preceding theories that we have so far failed to challenge ‚ÄĒ¬†the assertion that "in every known society, men and women compose two differentially valued terms of a value set, men being as men, higher."¬†84¬†Although this assertion seems supported by an extremely large body of anthropological and historical observation, there are good grounds for challenging the idea that male dominance has been a universal in human societies over time.

In the first place, many observers have simply been unable to divest themselves of their own cultural preconceptions. Male ethnographers have dealt with male informants, accepting any uncomplimentary remarks these may make about women as the social reality, and ignoring equally disparaging comments about men made by women. 85 A number of anthropologists have recently gone back to the original anthropological sources on various cultures and found that the "masters" had reported almost exclusively on male activities and prerogatives, ignoring or downplaying equivalent female activities, rights, and prestige systems. 86 Among the pre-colonial Ashanti, for example, the head of state was a female position but in accounts of Ashanti life this is often only "mentioned in passing, designated by the misnomer "queen mother," although she was never the king's wife, and was not necessarily his mother. She did not hold her position by virtue of her relationship with him; indeed it was she who appointed him, and was above him in the state hierarchy." 87

Proofs of male dominance, moreover, frequently rest on fuzzy or inconsistent criteria: if women are excluded from some activity, that is considered proof of male power; when males are excluded, it's considered evidence of women's "restriction" to a subordinate sphere. Considerable selection is also used in choosing examples. While Rosaldo emphasizes Yoruba women "bowing and scraping" before their husbands, 88 Suderkasa adds that the same behaviour is engaged in by males, who "prostrate themselves before their mothers, older sisters, and other females whose age or position demand that they do so." 89 Similarly, observers who stress that only males engage in trance dancing among the Bushmen neglect to mention that the dance cannot go on unless the women agree to make the music for it. 90

Western authors also seem unable to understand a world that lacks a conception of hierarchical relations among different things. Pre-state societies often have a concept of "separate but equal" that state societies lack 91 and male/female distinctions may best be described in terms of complementary functions rather than superordination/subordination. 92 Indeed, the very attempt to define "equality" may obscure the dynamics of societies where "equality exists in the very nature of things, not as a principle to be applied. . . . Often there is no linguistic mechanism whatever for comparison. What we find is an absolute respect for . . . all individuals irrespective of age and sex." 93

A second major problem with the collection of cross-cultural examples "proving" the universality of male dominance is the ahistorical nature of such evidence. Two major geographical areas where extreme male domination of women is well-documented in non-state societies are Melanesia and South America. But Melanesia is an area where rapid socioeconomic and status differentiation had taken place prior to Western observations, and the status of women seems to have been declining from a previously higher position. 94 In South America, devolution from larger political entities had taken place 95 and there was extreme (and atypical) population pressure and warfare. 96 In both these cases, the low status of women should probably be related to the tensions and pressures consequent on economic, political, and demographic transformation, not to "the state of nature." On close examination, in fact, many cases of male domination in "primitive" societies seem to have evolved only under the pressure of trade or warfare following contact with expanding groups, or under the direct impact of colonialism. 97

Finally, there are examples of societies in which asymmetry between the sexes is difficult or impossible to discern. Among the Mbuti "both men and women see themselves as equal in all respects except the supremely vital one that, whereas the woman can (and on occasion does) do almost everything the male does, she can do one thing no male can do: give birth to life." 98 John Nance reports that among the Tasaday "decision-making apparently was based on discussion in which men and women expressed views equally, with age and experience determining degree of influence." 99 And Peggy Sanday describes five societies that offer or offered "scripts for female power." 100 Summing up a review of recent anthropological research on women, Naomi Quinn comments: "Together, the bias of male informants in reporting, ethnographers in describing, and cross-cultural workers in interpreting various disparate customs . . . and the depressive effects of colonialism on many aspects of women's lives, may seem to leave very little cross-cultural female subordination to explain." 101

This is, of course, an overstatement. Male dominance is a material fact, with concrete repercussions for women, in most of the world, and our egalitarian examples come from relatively isolated simple societies. Long before Western trade and colonialism had even arisen, ancient societies in the Middle East, Mediterranean, and British Isles had gone through earlier processes in which the position of women had deteriorated. What is required, then, is a theory that explains why male dominance, though not inevitable, was a likely outcome of processes connected with socioeconomic expansion and increasing social complexity.

One theory that has been advanced to explain the evidence suggesting a decline in a formerly high position for women is that of the matriarchy. According to this view, women were once pre-eminent in economics and politics, but matriarchal rule was overthrown by men at some early point in human history. 102 Engels asserted that "mother right" was a general phase of human pre-history that was overthrown when men developed movable wealth and created patrilineal inheritance in order to pass it on to their own children. 103

We do not have the space to consider the various theories of matriarchy here, but simply note that there is no evidence for a matriarchal stage in human history. The theories cited above all contain one or both of the following fallacies: 1) Matriarchy is confused with matrilineality, and traces of matrilineal descent in the historical record are, without other justification, asserted as proof of an ancient matriarchy; 2) The importance of women in ancient myths and religious artifacts is often said to reflect a "survival" of prior matriarchal social organization. Pomeroy 104 points out, however, that the role of women in myths has been subject to much misinterpretation, and Monique Saliou (this volume) suggests that such myths may indicate greater equality for women in the past but are not evidence of actual female rule. Childe 105 asks: "are female figurines any better evidence for matriarchy than are the Venus figures and Virgins of undeniably patriarchal societies?" (See Fleuhr-Lobban 106 for a further critique of theories of matriarchy).

The search for origins will never be definitively settled. But if we are to counter the assertions of inevitable and universal male dominance we must suggest some concrete reasons for the historical appearance and spread of male domination in ancient cultures. Probably no single historical account will suffice to explain every case: we will need to look at different time periods and processes, as Rapp points out in an excellent survey of the problem. 107 The two most important recent attempts at a historical explanation have been made by Peggy Sanday and Eleanor Leacock. 108 Both have combined a historical approach taking into account the variability of sociocultural experience with an explanatory framework that identifies underlying recurrent patterns of development.

Peggy Sanday focuses on the ways in which gender is used by many societies as an organizing principle on both the structural and symbolic levels. She has presented a complex account of the conditions under which balanced and symmetrical power relations between the sexes are replaced by asymmetry and male dominance. Basing her analysis on the evidence of both quantitative cross-cultural data and in-depth case studies, she finds that characteristic "cultural configurations" result from the interaction of natural environments, child-rearing practices, and sex-role behaviour. For example, hunting societies and societies in which large animals play an important part tend to produce distant fathers, masculine creator symbols, and an "outer," animal orientation toward the powers of the universe. Gathering societies, and societies in which animals are less important, tend to produce involved male parents, feminine or couple creator symbols, and an "inner," plant orientation. A "dual" orientation sometimes occurs in societies that combine "a ritual concern with both plant gathering or incipient cultivation and the predatory activities of men." 109

Sanday believes that the natural environment and mode of subsistence fundamentally "cause" the symbol system and sex role plan of any society. However, she is also concerned to emphasize the independent role that symbols play in determining subsequent sex role behaviour and authority relations. She suggests that there is an underlying bio-psychological basis for gender concepts that, in turn, provide "scripts" for behaviour. For example, she suggests that in all societies women are associated with the power to give life, while men are associated with the power to take life. Depending upon natural and historical conditions, one or both powers may be culturally valued and receive ritual emphasis. Where food is abundant and fertility is desired, women tend to have ascribed power and female principles are stressed. On the other hand, where the taking of life is important, as in hunting or warlike societies, men tend to exercise power and male principles are elevated in ritual and social life. However, a high value on male aggression does not automatically or necessarily translate into male dominance, as women may achieve power under some circumstances.

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According to Sanday, men and women tend to be more segregated and competitive in societies that have a masculine/outer configuration. Higher levels of integration and cooperative relations between the sexes are more likely to be found in societies with an inner/plant orientation. 110 Sexual segregation, like male aggression, does not necessarily create male dominance. Some societies may segregate the sexes but relations between them may still be balanced and cooperative. However, Sanday thinks that male dominance is a likely outcome of the outer/segregated configuration where historical conditions have favoured an expansion of the male sphere leading to increased dependence of women on men.

Such conditions have arisen in a variety of historical contexts. Increased technological complexity, warfare, famine, migration, and colonization¬†‚ÄĒ all conditions leading to heightened social stress ‚ÄĒ¬†have resulted in an expansion of the male role. Here Sanday borrows from the "social exchange"¬†model in suggesting that "real" male dominance arises from the political rights that are granted to males as compensation for their role and as "a privilege for being the expendable sex."¬†111¬†However she says "adaptation to stress does not always include the subjugation of women."¬†112¬†In inner-oriented or dual societies, where women still exercise some power, stress may lead to "mythical" male dominance where "conflicting sexual power principles coexist."¬†113¬†For example, external pressures may lead to the projection onto women of cultural fears associated with female fertility. Under such circumstances, women may voluntarily cede mythical power to men because it is more reproductively efficient to do so and allows both sexes manoeuvering room. Thus for Sanday the determinants of male dominance are the conjunction of stressful historical circumstances with a prior cultural configuration.

The great value of Sanday's book lies in her attempt to show how gender is used as a "powerful and available metaphor" to organize society, and how the system of sexual symbols interacts with environment and social institutions to influence the relations between the sexes. She offers interesting insights into the richness and complexity of sex role plans and the mechanics of sexual inequality. We do not, however, feel that she has been totally successful in her claim to explain the origins of inequality, even while she has done much to elucidate its dynamics. As we have seen, she seeks the origins of sexual inequality in the pressure of stressful historical conditions on prior cultural configuration/sex role plans. But since externally generated stress does not, she argues, automatically or necessarily lead to male dominance, in the final analysis it seems to be the prior cultural configuration that determines the outcome. We have some difficulty with her emphasis on the independent role of such configurations, which she tends to treat as separate from changing social relations within the culture. Rather than examining the dialectical interaction between a culture's internal evolution and its sex role configuration, Sanday treats the sex role configuration as though it arises independently from internal social processes, determines internal social relations, and changes those internal relations only when it interacts with externally generated sources of stress, such as famine, invasion, or colonialism. We remain unconvinced by her tendency to give primary emphasis to environmental factors in her analysis of the origins of those configurations. We also question her contention that societies react to stress in fundamentally different ways depending upon their prior cultural configuration.

To explain the origins of the prior cultural configuration, Sanday relies on a somewhat awkward combination of environmental and bio-psychological factors, neither of which, taken separately or in combination, can account for the ambiguities of the data. Why, for example, do the Copper Eskimo, a hunting society par excellence, have an
"inner" orientation? Why do twenty-eight percent of societies with a feminine orientation hunt large animals? Why do seventy-three per cent of fishing societies have masculine orientation, 114 while fifty-four per cent of these same societies have equality between the sexes and only fifteen per cent have inequality? 115

Furthermore, Sanday does not really demonstrate that societies with diferent cultural configurations have qualitatively different reactions to stress. She gives no examples of inner-oriented or dual societies that reacted to stress without undermining the status of women. Even the Cheyenne and the Iroquois failed ultimately to resist the social tensions of colonialism and the pressures toward male dominance. Her distinction between "real" and "mythical" male dominance does not really help to explain the ambiguities of the evidence. Does the fact that women cede power to men voluntarily make "mythical" male dominance any less real than that which develops in outer-oriented societies? At times, Sanday herself seems to suggest that "mythical" male dominance is but a transitional state: "a waystation where opposing and conflicting sexual power principles may coexist." 116 If so, then the critical issue in explaining the origins of male dominance lies less in the prior cultural configuration than in the nature and origin of the stress.

Although Sanday does show that certain kinds of stress, such as war, migration, or environmental conditions, elevate the male role and lead to new sexual fears and tensions, she tends to ignore internal sources of stress that may help to account for increased social competition and a fearful attitude towards the environment. These are most likely to be associated with the breakdown of community reciprocity, and with the development of differences in rank or property ownership. For example, in her discussion of the Bellacoola she suggests that they perceived the environment as hostile and threatening due to seasonal food scarcity. This, in turn, accounted for the Bellacoola's cultural perception of women as dangerous. But it is unclear why this should have been a cultural response among the Bellacoola, while it was absent among the Bemba, a society which suffered more extreme seasonal food shortages, but where female principles were ritually elevated. 117 Surely the Bellacoola environment (the Pacific Northwest Coast of America) was lush by comparison with other societies where there was/is no institutionalized need to control or dominate women? In fact, it is by no means the case that environmentally-caused scarcity always results in increased conflict and competition within groups. In some, it may lead to heightened cooperation and sharing. 118

In the case of the Bellacoola, Sanday might have considered both the control of women and the fear of the environment as consequences of other social tensions that were breaking down cooperative interaction and trust. Her own account mentions, in fact, 119 that they were a ranked society with slavery. This certainly might indicate that they were suffering from heightened competition for resources and tensions over social status. Such internal socially-based sources of stress might help us explain the evolution of the group's sex role plan and the changes in women's position better than Sanday's environmental analysis, especially since the aggression was directed against only some women, while others participated as men's equals. In other instances too such an approach might better explain the anomalies in her data and would allow her to make better use of her valuable insights.

The primary achievement of Sanday's book is to show us that a mechanical explanation of sex roles and status is not possible. Because gender is such a powerfully charged way of organizing social interactions, and involves so many basic bio-psychological processes, disruption in social organization and male-female roles may have far-reaching and complex repercussions. Male dominance cannot be understood as simply a matter of economic interest or political power; it interacts with every thread in the fabric of social life and may thus have a different dynamic in each society where it is set into motion.

No review of theories of the origins of sexual inequality would be complete without reference to Eleanor Leacock, who has done pathbreaking work in applying a historical materialist framework to the ethnohistorical record, and in formulating an alternative vision of the social relations of foraging societies. On the basis of her research among the Montagnais-Naskapi Indians (a society based on fur trapping), she challenged the widely accepted model of the patrilineal band, with its accompanying assumption of sexual inequality, and proposed in its stead that relations between the sexes were both flexible and egalitarian. 120 She argued that there is no reason why there should be gender hierarchy just because there is a division of labour by sex; in fact, she has shown that the social relations of many foraging societies are necessarily egalitarian and communal. 121 Taking its cue from Leacock, a whole generation of feminist anthropologists has begun to explore the implications of her model of the "primitive commune," which includes a rough equality in the social relations between the sexes.

Leacock has, in addition, taken a leading role in efforts to revise and build on Engels's original theories about the origins of the patriarchal state. 122 Again beginning with her own fieldwork among the Montagnais-Naskapi, she has explored the historical processes whereby formerly egalitarian cultures were transformed by contact with patriarchal state societies, and especially by capitalist colonization during the past two centuries. 123 Basing her early theory of the evolution of sexual inequality on Engels's central insight that it was connected with the breakdown of kinship (clan) social organization and successive transformations of the division of labour, she has worked for a decade to refine her model. Her most recent and evolved statement is presented in her article "Women, Power and Authority." 124

Leacock believes that male dominance was a consequence of the development of commodity production, which accompanied the evolution of ranked, and then stratified, societies:

The direct producers lost decision-making powers over their lives when the specialization of labor and production of commodities for exchange led to the formation of slave, aristocratic, and merchant classes. Women in particular lost out because the new economic relations based on exchange were in the hands of men (the first important commodity exchanged, in Engels view, was men's responsibility, cattle); because these relations undercut the communal households women had controlled and transformed women's domestic work into private service; and because the privatization of property through individual inheritance in the budding upper class required control of women's sexuality. 125

According to Leacock, as the importance of inter-group exchange increased, especially as groups became more sedentary, there was a growing need for products that could only be obtained through exchange. In the process, some people were better placed than others to take advantage of the new relations of production. Leacock, then, following Fried, 126 sees a close relationship between the development of social ranking and the institution of centralized redistribution of products. She believes that women lost public authority as exchange and economic inequality developed, in particular because they tended to provide the labour that produced the goods exchanged by men (for example cattle, or pigs in New Guinea). She also notes that warfare may have increased as ranked societies expanded, and this may have given males additional control. Furthermore, she suggests that women unwittingly participated in the process of their own "commoditization" because it was in their interest to ensure that their own husband was a "big man," successful in trade exchange, and because they, too, could benefit from the labour of low ranking men. In sum, women lost autonomy as labourers when processes of economic differentiation were already transforming labour into a commodity. Commodity production, in turn, aided in the process of subversion of kin-based organization and the development of private property, as described by Engels.

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We are in basic agreement with Leacock on this overall outline of the historical evolution of male dominance, and of the effects of commodity production on the primitive commune. However, we see a need for a more detailed explanation of how and why, in the "pristine" case, societies that were transitional between egalitarian and ranked began to produce for exchange, and of why women in particular seem to have lost political and economic autonomy in such societies. In other words, we need a theory of why, by the time that true ranking had emerged in the form of institutionalized inequalities of access to production, exchange, and distribution, it was already "big" men, and only rarely big women, who usually achieved the institutionalized leadership statuses. We agree with Leacock that women's status in ranked societies is quite variable, and that there is no reason to assume a "conspiracy theory" of the emergence of sexual inequality. But the underlying question of what stimulated men to commandeer the productive activities of women in order to engage successfully in trade exchanges is still not clearly answered. Even if cattle were the first exchangeable commodity, they were certainly by no means the only trade item; nor was warfare inevitably the accompaniment of the transition to ranking. It is therefore necessary to examine more closely why men were able to privatize the services of women and why women in many societies did not successfully resist.

These questions and others are analysed by the authors in this volume from the standpoint of their respective disciplines (history and anthropology) and scholarly traditions (French and American). In the first contribution, Leibowitz, an American physical anthropologist, presents a model of the origins of the division of labour by sex, which she sees arising out of the early conditions of production and long antedating any formal or informal sexual inequality. Two papers, Chevillard and Leconte "The Dawn of Lineage Societies: the Origin of Women's Oppression," and Coontz and Henderson "Property Forms, Political Power, and Women's Labour in the Evolution of Class and State Societies," then offer contrasting analyses of the origins of sexual inequality in pre-state kinship-based societies. These are followed by a second contribution by Chevillard and Leconte, "Slavery and Women," which discusses women's status in early slave-based state societies. Finally, Monique Saliou, a French historian of religion, looks at the evidence from pre-Classical and Classical iconography and literature concerning "The Processes of Women's Subordination in Primitive and Archaic Greece." We turn now to a consideration of the different views presented in these articles. (The following section of the Introduction was written jointly by us and two of the French contributors, Nicole Chevillard and Sébastien Leconte.)

It is striking that, though working independently within two different scholarly traditions, empirical data bases, and language systems, the authors find themselves in substantial agreement on many fundamental aspects of the development of female subordination. First, the point of departure for all is that the explanation of gender inequality must be sought in social rather than biological imperatives. Leibowitz argues that the division of labour by sex was not biologically determined but was a social construct arising from changes in the techniques and relations of production. The other authors emphasize various social determinants of different male and female activities, agreeing that biology does not mandate an invariable division of labour between the sexes. They also agree that even where a division of tasks and activities does occur, that is not grounds, in and of itself, for assuming gender inequality. Indeed, they point to various indications suggesting that the earliest societies were based on interdependence and egalitarianism.

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Second, following their rejection of biological explanations for male-female social relations, the authors agree that the origins of sexual stratification should be sought in women's role in production, and not in her powers of reproduction. Women indisputably played a central productive role in early foraging and horticultural communities, and the authors suggest that the origins of male dominance were bound up with the struggle to control women's labour and products. Control of women's reproductive powers followed from this. There was no demographic reason, dissociated from this social one, for men to oppress women simply because women bear children.

A third point of agreement accompanies the authors' rejection of biological determinism in favour of explanations emphasizing social production. They agree that while male dominance was not present in the earliest communal societies, it was already present in the earliest class societies as defined in the traditional sense of the term (for example, slave societies). They thus reject analyses which move directly from communal societies to advanced class systems based on individual private property without identifying an intervening social formation or mode of production. Though differing in their conception of such intervening societies, the authors agree that societies based on true private property were preceded by other forms of social organization based on the development of collective or group property. In these lineage or kin corporate societies, ties of kinship determined the organization of work and the appropriation of goods, and it was in these societies that male domination was first elaborated.

It follows from this that the dialectic of kin relations must be relevant to the origins of gender inequality. Although diverging in their reconstruction of the processes involved, the authors agree in seeking the origins of male dominance in some aspect of the rise of these kin corporate or lineage societies. Specifically, they agree on the critical importance of post-marital residence rules in determining gender relations within unilineal kin corporate societies. They argue that patrilocality ‚ÄĒ¬†the system in which women move to their husband's kin group at marriage ‚ÄĒ¬†enabled men to utilize and appropriate women's labour and products in ways that ultimately enhanced the authority of the senior males within the husband's kin group.

The authors agree, in short, that without patrilocality, there were limits on the ability of any kin corporation to utilize or appropriate the labour and products of women. Because they stress the importance of residence rules over unilineal descent, they agree in characterizing matrilineal, virilocal systems, in which the woman after marriage goes to live with her husband's mother's brother, as equally conducive to male dominance as patrilineal, patrilocal societies, in spite of the rule of descent through females. The effect on adult women of such a residence rule is similarly to sever her ties with her natal kin group and to encourage her dependence on her husband's kin group. The authors interpret matrilineal, virilocal systems as a contradictory social formation, rather than as proof that "natural" male dominance will assert itself even in matrilineal societies, as is often claimed. Instances of such societies, therefore, make interesting case studies of transitional processes at work.

Having located the source of female oppression in the mechanism of patrilocality, the authors were still faced with the need to explain why this became the dominant mode of organizing social relations in kin corporate society (and hence why male dominance, though not "natural," became so widespread). Although differing as to how this happened, the French and American authors again find themselves in substantial agreement as to the overall evolutionary dynamic which led to the reinforcement and institutionalization of male dominance. They agree that patrilocal societies, where women moved at marriage, had greater potential for expansion because they offered more opportunities and incentives to intensify production beyond the level necessary for everyday subsistence. This was due to the greater value of women's labour and reproductive potential in pre-plow agricultural systems. The more productive the society, the more expansionary it could become, absorbing or conquering more stable, "steady state" societies. It is important to stress, though, that this analysis implies no value judgment that patrilocal societies were somehow "better." Rather, they were simply more capable of exercising coercive power over their own members (women, junior men, children) to intensify production than were more egalitarian social systems.

The above points of agreement lead to one final area of commonality. The authors agree that female subordination actually preceded and established the basis for the emergence of true private property and the state. The historical processes involved varied in time and place, but once set in motion, the evolution of sexual and social stratification was closely intertwined. The oppression of women provided a means of differential accumulation among men, which in turn gave some men special access to the labour and reproductive powers of women, as well as to the services of other men. As class stratification became institutionalized, we find that lower class men were often assimilated to the status of women, while women as a category were assigned to the juridical status of the propertyless in a system increasingly based on private property. The authors of this book offer different historical and sociological perspectives on these processes, but they agree that the oppression of women was a foundation for the emergence of traditional class society, and that sex and class oppression have developed in ways that render them analytically virtually inseparable.

Despite these broad areas of agreement, the authors in this volume differ in important respects. One area of disagreement is over how to explain and analyse the development of a division of labour by sex. Leibowitz argues that the earliest hominid cultures rested on non-gender-specific production, while later an informal sexual division of activities developed with projectile hunting and other technological inventions that led to hearth-centred activities. A full-fledged sexual division of labour, with codified rules for males and females in marriage and work, she argues, arose when Exchange between groups began to take place, and served to facilitate and regularize this Exchange. (She uses the capital E to distinguish this from the informal exchange between individuals that would have taken place on an irregular basis.) Neither the sexual division of tasks nor the sexual division of labour, however, constitutes a cause or a symptom of male dominance, whose origins must be sought elsewhere.

Coontz and Henderson largely accept this account, in which a sexual division of work is related to diversification of productive techniques allowing some members to hunt, trap, or trade as others engage in hearth-based activities, while a more formal sexual division of labour develops as groups need to regularize the production and circulation of goods and services. They agree that the circulation of spouses, of whatever sex, among groups is a means to establish increased social interaction, not male dominance.

Chevillard and Leconte, however, believe that the presence of a well-defined social division of labour between men and women, if accompanied by the circulation of female spouses, is already a symptom of male dominance. They thus reject an analysis which places the origins of the sexual division of labour so far back in history. They argue that Leibowitz's analysis covers a very long period in the history of humankind. There was little chance of absolute continuity, especially in the realm of social behaviour, between peoples of such widely differing periods, and locations. One must therefore be cautious when analysing the role of technological inventions such as the use of fire or projectile weapons in social organization. The implementation of certain techniques was probably greatly influenced, or conditioned, by the social organization of the human groups in which they were "invented." In other words, the link that Leibowitz establishes between these inventions and the sexual division of tasks, then of labour and social roles, appears too rigid and minimizes the influence of other evolutionary factors. Chevillard and Leconte view the sexual division of labour as a concept that is neither very precise nor illuminating with regard to the dynamics of the structure and evolution of the first human groups.

Another area of difference among some of the authors concerns the degree to which male dominance was a conscious creation of men who wished to exploit female labour, or a less consciously planned outcome of social processes whose original dynamic did not rest on sex oppression. For Chevillard and Leconte, for instance, the central contradiction leading to the dissolution of the earliest communal societies lies in the relations between (some) men and (all) women. As primitive communities developed a higher material standard of living, a surplus and an accentuation of the division of tasks by sex and age, they began to codify kinship rules that permitted the formation of larger and more stable human groups. These societies came to be based on both matrilocality and matrilineality, and in them, therefore, there was a tendency for the surplus to accumulate under the control of women. This accumulation engendered contradictions that in the end led to confrontations between women and men (probably from different kinship groups), who desired to gain control of this surplus. Since the natural evolution of matrilocal and matrilineal societies would be toward a certain amount of female control, a reversal of this, they argue, can only be explained by some sort of masculine victory over women, which turned over to a group of dominant men the control of the surplus and also of the female labour force. Thus partrilocality was instituted. There need not have been a generalized confrontation between men and women, for even if this overturn occurred in only a few instances, patrilocality and male domination would then spread by virtue of example and force of arms. Monique Saliou suggests that Greek mythology and tragedy provide evidence of outright conflict between males and females over power.

For Coontz and Henderson, on the other hand, male domination is the outcome of more gradual and peaceful social and economic processes. As surplus accumulated or techniques of production changed, communal societies developed a variety of residence and descent rules, which in and of themselves implied no immediate subordination of one sex by the other. But the emergence of kin corporate property and a kin corporate mode of production created a potential contradiction between kinship and residence. The new kin corporate mode of production was based on the appropriation of the labour of non-owning producers ‚ÄĒ¬†the in-marrying spouses ‚ÄĒ¬†by the corporate descent group, or its head. Coontz and Henderson do not believe that patrilocality, where it occurred, developed out of any confrontation between men and women or was necessarily instituted in order to oppress women and appropriate their labour.

However, they list a number of features of patrilocality which, they argue, allowed the potential inequalities of the kin corporate mode of production to develop more rapidly than alternative methods of circulating labour (for example, matrilocality). And they argue that the resultant worsening of women's position was forcibly maintained, first by lineage heads and later by the state.

For Chevillard and Leconte, then, the emergence of male dominance, achieved by an overthrow of the older matrilocal system, inaugurates a new mode of production. They hold that there was a decisive rupture with the first egalitarian societies (which tended to be matrilocal and matrilineal). This rupture created a new mode of production based on the exploitation of the female labour force (with the understanding that a certain number of attempts were probably made before the new mode of production emerged in all its characteristics). Coontz and Henderson, by contrast, stress the development from within the communal society of a new mode of production based on kin corporate property and the circulation of labour through marriage. In their view, male dominance develops more gradually, after the rise of a new mode of production, out of the dynamics of labour, ownership, and exchange in kin corporate societies, matrilocal or patrilocal.

No final resolution of these differences appears likely. Proponents of the first approach can point to the prevalence of myths about a violent overthrow of women by men, suggesting that these myths represent historical memories of such events; proponents of the second would stress the actual variability in women's status among kin corporate societies, suggesting that an evolutionary continuum is involved. Even the same phenomenon can be interpreted in diametrically opposed ways. Chevillard and Leconte point to the contradictions of matrilineal virilocal societies (where descent is reckoned through the female line but residence is with the husband's maternal relatives) as evidence for the forcible imposition of patrilocality. Such societies are too illogical and contradictory to have arisen naturally, they argue: "These complexities are, as we will see, the sign that patrilocality doesn't just evolve of its own accord, but that it intervenes as a radical rupture in societies that must formerly have been constituted on the basis of matrilineality and of matrilocality."

Coontz and Henderson, conversely, hold that the contradictions of matrilineal virilocal societies testify to their transitional nature. The shift to virilocality, they argue, may take place gradually within a formerly matrilineal, matrilocal society, creating conflicts between the individuating tendencies of virilocal residence and the collective practices of matrilineal structures and ideology.

Despite their differences over the origins of male dominance and the character of early social formations, both sets of authors identify a category of pre-state society in which the primary forms of oppression are those of sex and age. They differ, however, over how to characterize the subordination of women in such societies. Though they are describing the same objective phenomenon ‚ÄĒ¬†the appropriation of women's products ‚ÄĒ Chevillard and Leconte describe this as class oppression, while Coontz and Henderson call it sex oppression. Chevillard and Leconte prefer to treat women as an oppressed class because this stresses the permanence of women's exclusion from control over the means of production; Coontz and Henderson prefer the term oppressed sex because this leaves more room for analysis of what they consider to be significant variations in the status and interests of women according to their age and marital status.

This difference is purely semantic in discussions of kin corporate societies; it becomes significant, however, in relating the oppression of women to that of other social groups once kin corporate society gives way to a society stratified along other socioeconomic lines. Chevillard and Leconte think that socioeconomic class is modelled upon and derives from the subordination of women. Coontz and Henderson think that in post-kin corporate Societies women are divided by class as well as united in a common experience of subordination to males.

According to Coontz and Henderson, the original contradiction in virilocal kin corporate societies is between, on the one hand, men and women of the corporate property-owning group, and, on the other hand, the women who marry in. The subordination of women as a sex is the outcome of social processes whereby patrilocal lineages begin to exercise control over the labour and reproductive power of in-marrying wives. Older women as well as men benefit from this labour, even though for most women the benefits come at the cost of having had to experience an earlier stage of oppression as a wife. Coontz and Henderson see women as having contradictory interests as owners in one kin corporation and producers in another. In this analysis, the growth of socioeconomic stratification may exacerbate these contradictory interests, even though women as a sex may remain inferior to men. For in early class societies, they argue, aristocratic women may exercise significant power over both men and women of the lower class, even if they remain permanent juniors in relation to male members of the aristocracy, Upper and lower class women may therefore be divided in their interests and their consciousness, at the same time that sexual oppression may disguise some of the common interests of men and women within the lower class.

For Chevillard and Leconte, on the other hand, the contradiction is between some men and all women as a social group. There are no contradictory interests among women in either kin corporate or aristocratic class society. Aristocratic women do not share the socio-economic status of aristocratic men, as they do not have independent access to the means of production and may even be reduced to slave or lower class status if they offend against male prerogatives. The interests of upper class women are not at all antagonistic to those of lower class men or women, but do conflict directly with those of upper class men. Like high ranking servants, aristocratic women are artificially attached to the class of their husband or father, while in fact they belong to the dominated classes of society, even if they are not conscious of this.

Again, this is probably not a difference that can be settled. It is a question of analytical emphasis. Clearly, the difference has implications for the analysis of the role of upper class women in any feminist or class struggle, but since upper class women constitute only a minority of the female population, both analyses still affirm the interconnections between the "woman question" and the class struggle.

[book-strip index="9" style="buy"]


1. Robert Ardrey, African Genesis, New York 1961, p. 36. See also, Sherwood Washburn and Irven DeVore, Baboon Social Organization (film), 1963; Washburn and Chet Lancaster, "The Evolution of Hunting," in Robert Lee and DeVore eds., Man the Hunter, Chicago 1968; Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape, London 1968; Desmond Morris, The Human Zoo, London 1969; Lionel Tiger, Men in Groups, New York 1969; Konrad Lorenz, On Aggression, New York 1966,

2. Lila Leibowitz, Females, Males, Families: A Biosocial Approach, North Scituate, Mass. 1978; Ruby Rohrlich-Leavitt, Barbara Sykes and Elizabeth Weatherford, "Aboriginal Women: Male and Female Anthropological Perspectives," in Rayna Reiter ed., Toward an Anthropology of Women, New York 1975.

3. David Pilbeam, "An Idea We Could Live Without: The Naked Ape"¬†in Ashley Montagu ed., Man and Aggression, New York 1973, pp. 110‚Äď21.

4. Nancy Tanner and Adrienne Zihlman, "Women in Evolution: Part 1", in Signs, no. 1, 1976, pp. 585-604.

5. Thelma E. Rowell, "The Concept of Social Dominance,"¬†in Behavioral Biology HI, 1974, pp. 131‚ÄĒ54; Pilbeam, pp. 114‚ÄĒ15. 8.

6. Jane Lancaster, Primate Behavior and the Emergence of Human Culture, New York 1975; Leibowitz, Females, Males, Families; M. Kay Martin and Barbara Voorhies, Female of the Species, New York 1975; W. C. McGrew, "The Female Chimpanzee as a Human Evolutionary Prototype," in Frances Dahlberg ed., Woman the Gatherer, New Haven 1981, pp. 35-74; Nancy Tanner, On Becoming Human, Cambridge 1981.

7. Ruth Bleier, "Myths of the Biological Inferiority of Women," University of Michigan Papers in Women's Studies no. 2, Ann Arbor 1976, p. 50; Thelma E. Rowell, "The Concept of Social Dominance," p. 131.

8. Leibowitz, Females, Males, Families.

9. Emily Hahn, On the Side of the Apes, New York 1971,

10. Edward O. Wilson, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis, Cambridge, Mass. 1975; On Human Nature, Cambridge, Mass. 1978; Charles J. Lumsden and Edward O. Wilson, Genes, Mind and Culture: The Evolutionary Process, Cambridge, Mass. 1981; David Barash, Sociobiology and Behavior, New York 1982; Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene, New York 1976.

11. Wilson, Sociobiology, ch, 2. 12. Edward O. Wilson, "Human Decency is Animal," New York Times Magazine, 12 October 1975.

13. Stephen Jay Gould, Ever Since Darwin, New York 1977; The Mismeasurement of Man, New York 1981.

14. Richard Lewontin, interview, Dollars and Sense, December 1978, p.9. 15. Gould, Ever Since Darwin. 16. B. J. Williams, "Have We a Darwin of Biocultural Evolution?," American Anthropologist 84, 1982, p. 849.

17. Richard Burian, "A Methodological Critique of Sociobiology," in Arthur Caplin, ed. The Sociobiology Debate, New York 1978, pp. 376-95.

18. Marshall D. Sahlins, The use and Abuse of Biology, Ann Arbor 1976.

19. Charles J. Lumsden and Edward O. Wilson, Genes, Mind and Culture; Promethean Fire: Reflections on the Origins of Mind, Cambridge, Mass. 1983.

20. Stephen Jay Gould, "Genes on the Brain," New York Review of Books, June 983.

21. Williams; Burian; Gould, Mismeasurement of Man; Gould, "Genes on the Brain."

22. Burian.

23. Richard Lewontin, "The Corpse in the Elevator," New York Review of Books, January 1983.

24. Gould, "Genes on the Brain."

25. Williams.

26. Burian.

27. Gould, Ever Since Darwin; Science for the People: Sociobiology Study Group, "Sociobiology - Another Biological Determinism," in BioScience 26, 3, pp. 182-90; Stuart Hampshire, "The Illusion of Sociobiology," New York Review of Books, October 1978.

28. Lila Leibowitz, "Perspectives on the Evolution of Sex Differences," in Reiter, Toward an Anthropology of Women; Leibowitz, Females, Males, Families.

29. Ann Oakley, Sex, Gender and Society, New York 1972, pp. 128-49. 30. Paula Webster, "Matriarchy: A Vision of Power," in Reiter, pp. 141-156. 31. Irene Frieze, Jacquelinne Parson, Paula Johnson, Dian Ruble and Gail Zelman, Women and Sex Roles: A Social Psychological Perspective, New York 1978; Ruth Lowe and Miriam Hubbard, Genes and Gender Two, New York 1979; Eleanor Maccoby and Carol Jacklin, The Psychology of Sex Differences, Stanford 1974; Marie Richmond-Abbott, "Early Socialization of the American Female," in Richmond-Abbott ed. The American Woman: Her Past, Her Present and Her Future, New York 1979. For a critical review of recent theories about differences in male and female brains, see Freda Salzman, "Are Sex Roles Biologically Determined?" Science for the People 9, 1977, pp. 27-33; Joseph Alper, "Sex Differences in Brain Asymmetry," Feminist Studies 11, 1985, pp. 7-37.

32. Maccoby and Jacklin.

33, Robert Rose, Thomas Gordon and Irwin Bernstein, "Plasma Testosterone Levels in the Male Rhesus: Influences of Sexual and Social Stimuli," in Science 178, pp. 643-45; Rowell, The Concept of Social Dominance; Maccoby and Jacklin, p. 274.

34. Ruby Rohrlich-Leavitt, "Peaceable Primates and Gentle People," in Barbara Watson ed., Women's Studies: The Social Realities, New York 1976.

35. Margaret Mead, Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, New York 1963.

36, Lewontin, "The Corpse in the Elevator," p. 34; Steven Rose ed., Against Biological Determinism, New York 1982; Rose ed., Towards a Liberatory Biology, New York 1982.

37. Beier; Frieze et al. p. 85. 38, Oakley, p. 26; Carol Tavris and Carole Otis, The Longest War: Sex Differences in Perspective, New York 1977; Frieze et al., p. 88.

39. Rose, Gordon arid Bernstein. 40, New York Times, 11 September 1974. 41. Stanley Schacter and Jerome Singer, "Cognitive, Social and Physiological Determinants of Emotional State," in Psychological Review, no. 69, pp. 379-99.

42. Beach, 1974, quoted in Bleier, 1976, p. 48.

43. R. R. Sears, E. E. Maccoby and H. Levin, Patterns of Child Rearing, Evanston 1957.

44. Letty Pogrebin, Growing up Free, New York 1980, pp. 123-8; C. A. Deavey, P. A. Katz and S. R. Zalk, "Baby X: The Effect of Gender Labels on Adult Response to Infants," in Sex Roles, no. 2, 1975, pp. 103-11.

45. Oakley, p. 164.

46. H. R. Hays, The Dangerous Sex: The Myth of Feminine Evil, New York 1964; Wolfgang Lederer, The Fear of Women, New York 1968.

47. Elizabeth Faithorn, "The Concept of Pollution Among the Kafe of the Papua New Guinea Highlands," in Reiter; Evelyn Reed, Women's Evolution, New York 1975, pp. 95-101.

48. Elizabeth Zelman, "Pollution and Power,: in Dorothy McGuigan, New Research on Women and Sex Roles, Ann Arbor 1976.

49. Edward Harper, "Fear and the Status of Women," in Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, no. 25, 1959; pp. 81-95; Mary Douglas, Purity and Danger, London 1966.

50. Sherry Ortner and Harriet Whitehead eds., Sexual Meanings: The Cultural Construction of Gender and Sexuality, Cambridge 1981, p. 20.

51. Nancy Chodorow, "Family Structure and Feminine Personality," in Michelle Zimbalist Rosaldo and Louise Lamphere eds., Women, Culture and Society, Stanford 1974, pp. 43-66; Chodorow, The Reproduction of Mothering: Psychoanalysis and the Reproduction of Mothering, Berkeley 1978.

52. Sherry Ortner, "Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?," in Rosaldo and Lamphere, pp. 67-88,

53. Rosaldo, Women, "Culture and Society: An Overview," in Rosaldo and Lamphere, pp. 17-42.

54. Ortner and Whitehead, pp. 7-8.

55. Joseph Campbell, The Masks of God, New York 1962, 1964; James Melaart, Catal Huyuk: A Neolithic Town in Anatolia, New York 1967; Eleanor Leacock and Jill Nash,"Ideologies of Sex: Archetypes and Stereotypes," in Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, no. 285, 1977, pp. 618-45; Peggy Sanday, Female Power and Male Dominance. Cambridge 1981.

56. Carol MacCormack, "Proto-Social to Adult: A Sherbro Transformation," in Carol MacCormack and Marilyn Strathern, eds., Nature, Culture and Gender, Cambridge 1980, pp. 95-118.

57, Maurice Godelier, "Modes of Production, Kinship and Demographic Structures," in Maurice Bloch ed., Marxist Analysis and Social Anthropology, New York 1975. w

58. Marilyn Strathern, "No Nature, No Culture: The Hagan Case," in MacCormack and Strathern, pp. 174-222.

59. Leacock and Nash; MacCormack and Strathern.

60. Eleanor Leacock, Myths of Male Dominance, New York 1981; Nicera Suderkasa, "Female Employment and Family Organization in West Africa," in Yugan Judith Brown, Iroquois Women: An Ethnohistoric Note, in Reiter.

61. Robert Lowie, "Political Organization Among the Australian Aborigines" in Ronald Cohen and John Middleton eds., Comparative Political Systems, New York 1967; Marshall Sahlins, Stone Age Economics, Chicago 1972.

62. Ortner, "Is Female to Male," pp. 67-88.

63. Denise Paulme, Women of Tropical Africa, Berkeley 1960, p. 7.

64. B. H. Quain, The Iroquois, in Margaret Mead ed., Cooperation and Competition Among Primitive Peoples, Boston 1961, p. 277.

65. Karla Poewe, Matrilineal Ideology, London 1981.

66. Stratherra.

67. William Divale and Marvin Harris, "Population, Warfare and the Male Supremacist Complex," in American Anthropologist no. 78, 1976, pp. 521-38.

68. Ibid., p. 521.

69. Napoleon Chagnon, "Yanomamo: The True People," National Geographic 150, 1976, p. 213; Shelton Davis and Robert Mathews, The Geological Imperative, Cambridge 1976.

70. Dorothy Lee, Freedom and Culture, Englewood Cliffs 1959.

71. Eleanor Leacock, "Class, Commodity, and the Status of Women," in R. Leavitt, ed., Women Cross-Culturally, The Hague 1975, pp. 601-18.

72. Gerhard Lenski and Jean Lenski, Human Societies, New York 1974, p. 138.

73. Gordon V. Childe, What Happened in History, Harmondsworth 1942; Julian Steward, The Theory of Culture Change, Urbana 1955; Robert M. C. Adams, The Evolution of Urban Society, Chicago 1966.

74. Meiaart.

75. Ester Boserup, The Conditions of Agricultural Growth, Chicago 1965.

76. Divale and Harris, p. 531.

77. Carol Ember, "The Relative Decline in Women's Contribution to Agriculture with Intensification," in American Anthropologist, no. 85, 1983, pp. 285.

78. Stephanie Coontz, "Insult and Injury: Growing Old in America" in Coontz and Frank eds., Life in Capitalist America, New York 1975; Leo Simmons, The Position of the Aged in Primitive Society, New Haven 1946.

79. Seymour Parker and Hilda Parker, "The Myth of Male Superiority: Rise and Demise," American Anthropologist, no. 81, pp. 289-309.

80. George P. Murdock and Caterina Provost, "Factors In the Division of Labor by Sex: A Cross-Cultural Analysis," in Ethnology, no. 12, 1973.

81, Parker and Parker, p. 293. 

82. Frances Dahlberg, Woman the Gatherer, New Haven 1981.

83. Richard Lee, The !Kung San: Men, Women and Work in a Foraging Society, Cambridge 1979; Patricia Draper, "Kung Women: Contrasts in Foraging and Sedentary Contexts," in Reiter, 1975, pp. 77-109.

84. Ortner and Whitehead, p. 16.

85. Naomi Quinn, "Anthropological Studies on Women's Status" in Annual Review of Anthropology, no. 6, 1977, p. 183; Susan Rogers, "Woman's Place: A Critical Review of Anthropological Theory," in Comparative Studies in Society and History, 20, 1978, pp. 143-7.

86. Annette Weiner, Women of Value, Men of Renown: New Perspectives on Trobriand Exchange, Austin 1976; Quinn, p. 184; Rogers, p. 185; Rohrlich-Leavitt, Sykes and Weatherford.

87. Rogers, p. 146.

88. Rosaldo, "Women, Culture and Society."

89. Suderkasa, p. 61.

90. Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, The Harmless People, New York 1959, pp. 31-5

91. Karen Sacks, "State Bias and Women's Status," in American Anthropologist, no. 78, 1976, pp. 131-54,

92. Suderkasa, p.52; Colin Turnbull, "Mbuti Womanhood," in Francis Dahlberg, p. 219.

93. Lee, 1979, p. 40.

94. Irving Goldman, 'Status Rivalry and Cultural Evolution in Polynesia', in Cohen and Middleton eds.; Eleanor Leacock, Women, Power and Authority', in Leela Dube, Eleanor Leacock and Shirley Ardener eds., Visibility and Power: Essays on Women in Society and Development, Delhi forthcoming,

95. Kay Martin, "South American Foragers: A Case Study in Devolution," in American Anthropologist, no. 71, 1969.

96. Leacock, "Women, Power and Authority."

97. Ester Boserup, Woman's Role in Economic Development, New York 1970; Leacock, Myths of Male Dominance; Rogers, p. 158; Rayna Rapp Reiter, "The Search for Origins: Unravelling the Threads of Gender Hierarchy," in Critique of Anthropology, no. 3, 1977, pp. 13-14; Peggy Sanday, Female Power and Male Dominance, Cambridge 1981; Judith Van Allen, "'Sitting on a Man': Colonialism and the Lost Political Institutions of Igbo Women," in Canadian Journal of African Studies, no. 10, 1972.

98. Turnbull, p. 206.

99. John Nance, The Gentle Tasaday, New York 1975, p. 24.

100. Sanday, pp. 15-34.

101. Quinn, p. 186.

102. Robert Briffault, The Mothers, London 1952; Johan Jacob Bachoven, Myth, Religion and Mother-Right, Princeton 1967; Helen Diner, Mothers and Amazons, New York 1965; Reed; George Thompson, The Prehistoric Aegean, London 1965.

103. Friedrich Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, New York 1972.

104. Sarah Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity, New York 1975.

105. Gordon V. Childe, Social Evolution, London 1951, pp. 64-5.

106. C. Fuehr-Lobban, "A Marxist Reappraisal of the Matriarchate" in Current Anthropology, no. 20, 1979, pp. 341-8.

107. Reiter, "The Search for Origins."

108. Sanday; Leacock, "Women, Power and Authority."

109. Sanday, p. 248. 

110. Ibid., p. 90.

111. Ibid., p. 9.

112, Ibid., pp. 185-6.

113. Ibid., p. 179.

114. Ibid., p. 69.

115. Ibid., p. 170

116. Ibid., p. 116.

117. Audrey Richards, "Some Types of Family Structure Amongst the Central Bantu" in A. R. Radcliffe-Brown and O. Forde, eds. African Systems of Kinship and Marriage, London 1950; Richards, Land, Labour, and Diet in North Rhodesia, London 1940.

118. Sahlins, Stone Age Economics.

119. Sanday, pp. 102-3.

120. Leacock, "The Montagnais Hunting Territory and the Fur Trade," American Anthropologist, 78, 1954.

121. Leacock, 1957; "Women's Status in Egalitarian Society," Current Anthropology, 19, 1978, pp. 247-75.

122. Engels.

123. Mona Etienne and Eleanor Leacock, eds., Women and Colonization, New York 1980.

124. Leacock, "Women, Power and Authority."

125. Ibid.

126. Morton Fried, The Evolution of Political Society, New York 1967.

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How do changes in family form relate to changes in society as a whole? In a work which combines theoretical rigour with historical scope, Wally Seccombe provides a powerful study of the changing st...
The Anti-Social Family
Despite much talk of its decline, the nuclear family persists as a structure central to contemporary society, a fact to be lamented, according to the ideas of Michèle Barrett and Mary McIntosh. T...
The Metamorphoses of Kinship

The Metamorphoses of Kinship

With marriage in decline, divorce on the rise and the demise of the nuclear family, it is clear that the structures of kinship in the modern West are in a state of flux.In The Metamorphoses of Kins...

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