Women’s Status and War in Cross-Cultural Perspective: A Reconsideration // World Cultures. 15/2 (2006): 209–247
Earlier cross-cultural theories, which were proposed to explain determinants of female status, connected it with female contribution to subsistence and control over it, control of female over her sexual behavior, matrilocal residence, matrilineal descent, and (negatively)…
Earlier cross-cultural theories, which were proposed to explain determinants of female status, connected it with female contribution to subsistence and control over it, control of female over her sexual behavior, matrilocal residence, matrilineal descent, and (negatively) with cultural complexity as well as emphasis on male strength and aggressiveness. Note that the last mentioned variable correlates positively with warfare intensity. In the meantime emphasis on male strength and aggressiveness has been shown to correlate positively with warfare. This suggests that the warfare intensity should correlate negatively with the female status. However, Martin Whyte's and Stephen K. Sanderson’s testes of the effect of warfare frequency upon female status show no support for this theory. Yet, our own tests have produced such a considerable amount of significant negative correlations between Whyte's female status indicators and the variables measuring warfare intensity that they could not be explained purely by chance. We find a few powerful mechanisms which explain decline of female status with the growth of warfare intensity. We consider socialization for aggression (which tends to develop in societies with high warfare intensity) as one of the strongest factors, because it leads to the ideology of male toughness and superiority and higher frequency of wife beating (the correlation between socialization for aggression and wife beating is characterized by the following parameters: Gamma = 1.0; p = 0.03). A higher level of separation between genders, which is common for societies with higher warfare frequency appears to be another channel of decreasing female power. Polygyny, which usually results from extensive warfare (because of skewed gender balance) also decreases female kin power (Gamma = 0.8; Rho = 0.5; p = 0.0000001 [one tail]). However, we found that this is only the non-sororal polygyny which influences negatively in a particular strong way the female status because of its connection with patrilocal residence. On the other hand, our tests have shown that purely external warfare (in absence of internal warfare) tends to increase the female status (e.g. in these cases frequency of external warfare correlates positively with the female gender of leaders of kinship groups or extended families [Rho = 0.5, p = 0.02], negatively with wife to husband institutionalized deference [Rho = – 0.6, p = 0.002], positively with the female property control scale [Rho = 0.4, p = 0.01], etc). This appears to be accounted for (at least partly) by matrilocality and growing female contribution to subsistence which turn out to correlate positively both with high levels of the purely external warfare and with the high status of women. Though these conclusions are mainly valid for stateless cultures, they turn out to be valid for some industrial societies too.
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