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Female Power and Male Dominance: On the Origins of Sexual Inequality Paperback – April 30, 1981

ISBN-13: 978-0521280754 ISBN-10: 0521280753 Edition: International Edition
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Editorial Reviews

Book Description

Applying data from over 150 tribal societies to scales developed to measure power and dominance, Sanday offers answers to basic questions regarding male and female power. The view that emerges conforms to no particular theoretical perspective.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 295 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; International Edition edition (April 30, 1981)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521280753
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521280754
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #356,403 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By C. B. Murphey on October 3, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sanday delivers an anthropological meta-analysis of numerous (thankfully) uncivilized cultures, tracing the relationships between mode of subsistence, origin myth, and gender relations. After surveying a number of the cultures--presenting their individual customs, practices, creation stories, etc.--Sanday steps back and delivers an analysis that both environmentalists and feminist could greatly benefit from: gender relations are highly dependent on a culture's origin myth (the accepted story of how and why the people exist) and mode of subsistence (ranging from hunting-gathering to intensive agriculture). The majority of the cultures who share origin myths that grant male figures the primary role as creator are apt to fall into male dominance during times of general stress or hardship. The pattern holds similarly for cultures practicing intensive agriculture versus hunting-gathering as modes of subsistence. The book finishes beautifully as Sanday draws the obvious connections to global cultures today based almost entirely on intensive agricultural practices and sharing a series of origin myths based in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

I see this work as a missing piece in the feminist movement, as it prompts the question, Can we ever achieve healthy gender relations without abandoning the most basic elements of modern capitalist lifestyle? I rarely hear feminists discuss agriculture today--aside from Vandana Shiva or Lierre Keith's "The Vegetarian Myth"--yet it seems to me to be the cornerstone of any successful emancipatory feminist theory.

I highly recommend this book for anthropology and sociology students, feminist and environmental activists/scholars, and anyone who feels that they're missing that certain something in their analysis of why global culture appears so immutably oppressive.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ashtar Command on February 4, 2012
Format: Paperback
"Female Power, Male Dominance" by Peggy Reeves Sanday is an anthropological survey of gender roles, written from a feminist perspective. I sometimes credit this book for turning me towards feminism, but that's (of course) an overstatement, since I've always been for gender equality. Even so, I originally assumed that all "advanced" or "complex" societies were patriarchal, equality being a characteristic only of the most primitive and undifferentiated societies. Reeves Sanday shows that the true story is much more complicated.

Let me say at the outset that "Female Power, Male Dominance" could have needed better editing. It's a relatively hard read, not because its theses are difficult to understand, but because they are difficult to find! A large part of the book feels like a compilation of ethnographic material from societies around the world, often fascinating but ultimately bewildering. The chapter on Bible interpretation feels completely speculative and badly out of place. Thus, you will need a certain amount of patience to read this work.

There are certainly interesting trends in the research material cited by the author. There seems to be a correlation between animal husbandry and patriarchy, or between advanced agriculture and the same. Likewise, there's a correlation between gathering or fishing and gender equality. However, the correlations are weaker than I expected. The number of exceptions to the rule is sufficiently large to make you wonder whether a purely "materialist" explanation for gender equality is meaningful. Apparently, some pastoralist societies have gender equality, while some societies based on gathering are patriarchal. Nor does war seem to be necessarily connected to patriarchy.
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Have to understand machismo and deal with it since it is the main problem in the world. This book a great start.
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This is such a profound book . . . I think I underlined nearly every sentence. It will be one of my favorite go-to books for many years as I write on gender issues!
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By susannatalya on December 9, 2014
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Interesting look at power dynamics.
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