WOMEN'S WORK, MEN'S PROPERTY: The Origins of Gender & Class by Stephanie & Peta Henderson--Eds. Coontz

WOMEN'S WORK, MEN'S PROPERTY: The Origins of Gender & Class

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The key word is ""origins."" In this feminist anthology, the editors, along with four other American and French historians and anthropologists, systematically poke holes in the notion that male dominance is universal and has been with us since the dawn of the species, an idea most recently advanced by sociobiologists. The authors cite some of the simple foraging and horticultural societies in which there was no sexual inequality and conclude that male dominance resulted not from biological differences between the sexes but rather from socioeconomic expansion in early human communities and the increasing social complexity that accompanied it. Individual essays examine the origins of the division of labor be sex (which, the authors believe, came long before sexual inequality); the appearance of sexual inequality in pre-state kinship-based societies; the status of women in early slave-based societies; and evidence of the subordination of women in the mythology and literature of ancient Greece. The authors agree that the origins of male dominance lie in post-marital residence rules--especially ""patrilocality,"" the system in which women move to their husband's kin group after marriage. For a variety of reasons discussed in the most persuasive essay, written by the editors themselves, this system offered greater opportunities for a local lineage to become more wealthy and powerful than did ""matrilocality""; it thus became the dominant mode of organizing social relations. The authors disagree over the degree to which male dominance was a conscious creation of men and over whether it was the result of gradual evolution or more violent overthrow. A well-documented, if somewhat ponderously academic, treatment of a controversial subject.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1986
Publisher: Schocken