Kung Women Essays

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1. Ernestine Friedl says that the position of women is higher the more they are involved in
(1) Primary subsistence (as owners or controllers, NOT merely as laborers) and (2) the PUBLIC distribution of the product of subsistence. Use this argument to account for the position of women in !Kung society. Make sure you use both part (1) and part (2) of Friedl’s argument.

The !Kung are hunter-gatherers of Southern Africa and the women play an essential role in the production of subsistence for their families. The woman actually contribute a greater proportion of the subsistence to their families directly than do the men who are the game hunters in the family. As Friedl describes in “Society and Sex Roles” (page 101) regardless of
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Also in the division of the kill there is great acknowledgement to the hunter whose arrow was the first to hit the kill and as the one who is highly celebrated, men gain a larger range of influence and power in the village. It is believed that the higher status that the men gain is due to their greater ability to protect themselves in the wild and because they feed everyone in their village! In addition, due to the scarcity of large and small game (protein) not being plentiful the hunters who do bring it home are given great authority because they are heroes. I also found it very interesting to learn that every part of the animal is used by the !Kung; hides are tanned for blankets and bones are cracked for the marrow. The men of the !Kung also provide household tools and maintain a supply of poison tipped arrows and spears for hunting. It is thought that women lose a lot of their independence because they are the “caretakers” for the children and elderly and while the husbands are gone to hunt they literally hold down the fort. There are several different theories relating to the !Kung people as to their being equals and as stated by Russell Dekema, which conflicts to Friedl and Nisa, “It is known that there is a large social division among the !Kung and it is between men and women”. In NISA, the !Kung are stated to be something of an anomaly” and in a society of ancient traditions,
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