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Female of the Species

Female of the Species

Copyright Date: 1975
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    Female of the Species
    Book Description:

    Female of the Species is an attempt to use the approach of traditional anthropology in the examination of the position of women at the species level. While Martin and Voorhies recognize that there are fundamental differences between men and women that stem from basic biological differences, they are committed to the proposition that culture rather than biology plays the more critical role in determining those features of behavior which ultimately dichotomize the sexes. Female of the Species takes a step towards quantifying and understanding these cultural differences by looking at the changing roles women have played in society over time.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-51764-5
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-x)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  3. CHAPTER ONE The Quintessence of Sex
    (pp. 1-15)

    This book investigates over one-half of humanity, not only from the perspective of today’s diverse societies, but from the dim beginnings of the species itself. The goal of this ambitious adventure is neither a political statement nor an Amazonian call to arms, but to gain a clear understanding of the myriad definitions and functions of female and male behavior, and of the way societies manipulate sex to achieve efficient adaptations to their physical and social environments.

    One of the reasons why females are of interest is that they have been so seldom chosen as the object of rigorous, comprehensive study...

  4. CHAPTER TWO Sex as a Biological Process
    (pp. 16-39)

    The fundamentally different functions that males and females perform in the reproductive cycle stem from the anatomical differences, familiar to everyone, that are at the core of the differentiation of humans into two sexes. Less well understood, however, is the significance of sexual reproduction for humanity as a whole, or how an individual acquires a sexual identity.

    The evolution of the process of sexual reproduction has had widespread effects on the organic world. Humans are among many organisms that reproduce in this way. Nevertheless, there are other forms of reproduction that have been successful over a long evolutionary period, and...

  5. CHAPTER THREE Origins of Some Sex-Linked Traits
    (pp. 40-83)

    Most of us have well-defined but perhaps largely unconscious ideas about what personality traits are typical of women and men. These ideas tend to be remarkably similar from person to person, although the total constellation of traits believed typical of each sex may not be exactly alike in any two people’s minds. Even social scientists are not immune to these biases. The similarity in ideas about behavior and sex is nicely illustrated by responses to a questionnaire we distributed to students in a course on the anthropology of women (see also Tavris 1972). The questionnaire, modified from one that appeared...

  6. CHAPTER FOUR Supernumerary Sexes
    (pp. 84-107)

    To begin with you must grasp the true nature of mankind and its sufferings. Our nature wasn’t originally what it is now. No, it was quite different. First of all, there were three kinds of men, not two as now, the male and the female, but also a third kind combining both. We have the name still, but the thing itself has disappeared. The androgyne, separate in name and nature, partook of man and woman both. But the name is used now only as a reproach. Then also people were shaped like complete spheres. Their backs and sides made a...

  7. A map of the societies
    (pp. 90-91)
  8. CHAPTER FIVE The Biosocial World of Nonhuman Primates
    (pp. 108-143)

    Social scientists have recently been turning to studies of animal behavior to learn something about the basis of human sex differences. It was once thought that humans were so unlike animals that it was pointless to attempt to learn about humans by investigating other species. For example, in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the prevailing viewpoint was that humans depended so greatly on learning that they had little in common with animals, which were characterized as behaving in ways that were automatically determined by genetic inheritance. As scientists have learned more about both humans and animals, this simple distinction...

  9. CHAPTER SIX The Science of Man Looks at Woman
    (pp. 144-177)

    We shall begin our investigation of the role of women in cultural evolution with a consideration of anthropological theories about the fundamental nature of the sexes and their respective contributions to the development of early human society.

    Mankind has long been fascinated with questions of its origins, both biological and social. In recent decades, contemporary primate communities have been examined to gain a clearer understanding of the necessary prerequisites for the critical leap, unknown millennia ago, from proto-human to human society. As we have seen, all higher primates organize themselves into social groups of varying permanency, and display a high...

  10. CHAPTER SEVEN Woman the Gatherer
    (pp. 178-211)

    Our species has roamed the earth for at least 50,000 years, and our hominid forebears for several million more. Humans, however, have subsisted on the products of domesticated plants and animals for only a small portion of their existence—perhaps the past 10,000-15,000 years. In the phylogenetic and cultural development of Homo sapiens, therefore, hunting, fishing, and gathering have been by far the most important food-getting techniques. Because humans and prior humanoids are genetically related, and because they may have employed essentially similar technologies, considerable interest has been generated in questions of the qualitative differences between them. What biological, social,...

  11. CHAPTER EIGHT Women in Horticultural Society
    (pp. 212-275)

    Cultivation is a relatively recent development in the evolution of human society. It is likely that in the late Stone Age hunters and gatherers repeatedly experimented with controlled growing and harvesting of wild food plants, as a natural extension of gathering activities. Although we now traditionally associate cultivation with increased economic security, early attempts at plant domestication were probably for the most part more time-consuming and less productive than was foraging. Likewise, population density or organizational complexity among early cultivators may not have exceeded, or perhaps even equalled, that achieved by hunters, fishers, and gatherers in favorable environmental settings.


  12. CHAPTER NINE Women in Agricultural Society
    (pp. 276-332)

    The development of hand cultivation led to a proliferation of societal types. Some were certainly more successful than others in terms of productive yield. Since horticultural techniques are fairly uniform, the influence of environment seems to have been of great importance. We can speculate that those societies which found themselves in regions with abundant arable land often organized their communities around the localization of related women. These matrilineal societies utilized female kinsmen for the joint exploitation of communally owned fields, and related males as carefully placed binding pins between lineages and local groups. In environments where there was considerable competition...

  13. CHAPTER TEN Women in Pastoral Society
    (pp. 333-366)

    Foraging, horticulture, and agriculture have been considered as the three primary economic adaptations in cultural development prior to the mercantile and industrial age. A fourth option, herding or pastoralism, has an antiquity comparable to that of horticulture, although its origins and evolutionary status have been the subject of scholarly debate for some time. Interest in pastoralists as predators on settled communities goes back to the fourteenth-century scholar Ibn Khaldun (1958). During the Enlightenment, scholars such as Turgot (1844, orig. 1750) proposed herding as a general stage in cultural evolution following foraging and preceding the development of cultivation. In the nineteenth...

  14. CHAPTER ELEVEN Women in Industrial Society
    (pp. 367-410)

    The situation of modern industrial society shows clearly the legacy of the past. In this chapter, we shall be concerned with the persistence of agricultural sex role definitions, their gradual modification by industrial economies, and the way specific cultures have attempted to deal with conflicts arising from the clash of old domestic stereotypes and renewed productive demands for female labor.

    The adaptive advantages of the male-provider and female-domestic roles were greatest at the agricultural stage of cultural evolution. As a pattern of sexual division of labor, it is associated with a rural, feudal, or peasant economy in which the small...

  15. References
    (pp. 411-426)
  16. Index
    (pp. 427-432)