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D R . G R ACI E L A C ABAN A F AL L 20 0 8
2 5 OC T OBE R 2 0 0 8



-Abigail Adams, letter to John Adams and the Continental Congress,
March, 1776

Modern American culture remains centered around Judeo-Christian principles of femininity

and masculinity. Within this construct, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
(2008) outlines the central ideals of gender roles for both contemporary men and women as:
1. Both Adam and Eve were created in God's image, equal before God as persons and distinct in their
manhood and womanhood
2. Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should
find an echo in every human heart
3. Adam's headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin
4. In the home, the husband's loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the
wife's intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility
5. Both Old and New Testaments also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant
6. In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership and grow in love and care for their wives;
wives should forsake resistance to their husbands' authority and grow in willing, joyful submission to their
husbands' leadership
7. In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation;
nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men
Clearly, the dominant theological beliefs driving the American gender roles automatically place
women in the subservient position to men. This lasting legacy of the dominant male and the
submissive female remains a central element to the gender constraining constructs of today.
Males are the aggressive protectors, the caretaker of the childlike woman. Additionally, the
submissive gender role always implies that feminine qualities are inferior to the masculine qualities.
As a result, reinforcement of these cultural biases originating in theology dominates academic
studies and interpretations. Ironically, archaeological explanations utilizing evolution restate
religious ideology by demonstrating this cultural notion of the inferiority of femininity. Science
rarely exists as an objective fact, but culturally explored topics that exude partiality of our cultural
standards. In America, dominant popular belief espouses how femininity is inferior to masculinity.
However, neither femininity nor masculinity is superior—they are complimentary equals. Living in
Emily Gatlin A Divided Nation 25 October 2008

the spirit of democracy, we must retain equality among all persons. Therefore, as American
citizens living in 2008, we must actively remember to analyze the discourse and understand the
gendered constructs presented as objective research.
Contemporary depictions still adhere to classic depiction of the male-provider and
protector. As a result, it is clear to see how these mainstream ideas continue to dominate the
popular mindset. In the past, scientific and academic explanations often subjected partiality from
the culturally defined gender role norms for behavior. Therefore, many past and dominant
archaeological interpretations regarding the lifestyles from our prehistoric ancestors reinforce the
in situ cultural notion of the traditional male-dominance. Archaeologists often impose these
cultural biases into how they construe prehistoric life ways by emphasizing the sexual division of
labor and the placement of the males in the ―more prestigious‖ subsistence activities. In these
depictions, Frances Dahlberg (1981:1) summarizes the typical imagery for hominids two million
years ago, ―five thin, wiry men who carry spears for throwing at game or enemies walk rapidly
away from the group…the women walk more slowly; they are pregnant, carrying toddlers, and
besides they are not going anywhere that day.‖ Clearly, the men exist as the active defenders for
the sedentary females with their children. This clear tendency to place men as the aggressive sex
clearly exists within the accepted archaeological interpretations. For example, in ―The Evolution
of Hunting,” Sherwood L. Washburn and C.S. Lancaster (1968:293) state, ―human hunting…is a
way of life, and the success of this adaptation (in its social, technical, and psychological dimensions)
has dominated the course of human evolution for hundreds of thousands of years.‖ Thus, the
evolution of man stems from this activity alone as it gave way to the evolution of the distinctly
human behaviors. Washburn and Lancaster (1968:297) describe also how ―the whole human
pattern of gathering and hunting to share—indeed, the whole complex of economic reciprocity
that dominates much of human life—is unique to man.‖ Thus, the view as ―man the hunters‖
reinforces the ―naturalness‖ of male aggression and prestige from violent actions while pushing
women to the side, out of the public eye to tend the children.
Popular belief still maintains the ―man as a hunter‖ ideology as support for the ―status quo‖
of gender roles. Washburn and Lancaster (1968:299) propagate the justification of man as the
hunter by explaining how ―part of the motivation for hunting is the immediate pleasure it gives the
hunter…evolution builds a relationship between biology, psychology, and behavior, and, therefore,
the evolutionary success of hunting exerted a profound effect on human psychology.‖ Hence, the
dominant stereotype also tends to place intellectual capacities in males rather than females and
reflects the traditional power structures allotting the majority of political power to men.
Additionally, in ―The Origin of Man,‖ C. Owen Lovejoy (1981) explains how the portrayal of ―man
as the hunter‖ reinforces that the distinctively human behaviors like bipedalism, social interaction,
and complex language arise from male hunting as the primary subsistence strategy. Alternatively,
in ―The Selective Advantage of Complex Language,‖ Robbins Burling (1986:2) points out how
―excellent coordination in hunting could be achieved with a far less intricate language than ours.‖
Instead, he (1986) assigns the prestige of power to the ability of communication. He (Burling
1986:14) asserts, ―Language, selected as a means for conducting increasing refined social
relationships, came finally to permit the vastly more complex organization of modern human

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society.‖ In order to be a leader, the traditionally male citizen demands a higher command of
language to retain public power and respect (Burling 1986). Therefore, the emphasis on the male-
dominated language as the authoritative figure demonstrates the prejudice that women naturally
exhibit intellectually inferior language abilities.
As effectively stated by Adrienne Zihlman (1997) in ―The Paleolithic Glass Ceiling: Women
in human evolution,‖ this viewpoint of prehistoric man as a hunter ―gave an evolutionary basis for
aggressive male behavior and justified gun use, political aggression and a circumscribed relationship
between women and men as a ―natural‖ outcome of human evolutionary history‖ (96). Dahlberg
(1981:11) points out how the sexually divided explanation ―overlooks the widespread practice of
collective hunting…collective hunting involves both men and women and sometimes children and
is unrelated to differences in physical size or geographic range.‖ Plainly, the ―required‖ sexual
division of labor as outlined by the ―man as the hunter‖ proponents excludes consideration for
equalitarian cultural practices. Additionally, the emphasis on how ―man as a hunter‖ dominated
human evolution automatically excludes the important contribution of 50% of humans—the
women. ―In the earliest stages of human evolution, gathering plant foods entailed technological
innovations for collecting, carrying, and sharing food…that hunting emerged in human evolution
relatively late, half a million years ago–as compared to human origins at over 3 million years—and
emerged from the technological and social foundations established by the gathering of plant foods‖
(Zihlman 1997:98). Dahlberg (1981:16) explains Eleanor Leacock’s emphasis on the ―egalitarian
society among hunters and gatherers where issues of status are irrelevant because both women
and men produce goods and services for their own use, make decisions about their activities, and
hence, control their own lives directly.‖ Clearly, the problem of completely downplaying the role
of women as being an equally significant human demonstrates the inherent cultural bias within
archaeological interpretations. Another problem exists with the imposition of our cultural
standards upon past peoples or current peoples as Dahlberg (1981:17) points out how the
Australian Aboriginal culture where age establishes authority, not gender. Additionally, how
Turnbull’s (Dahlberg 1981:17) study of the Mbuti tribe ―female elders have both power and
authority that male elders cannot match…female elders make explicit criticisms from the center
of the group, while male elders confine themselves to grumbles.‖ Therefore, the automatic
assumption that male authority supersedes any female power remains invalid within cultures other
than our own. Additionally, the Australian Aborigines attempt to exhibit the balance of powers
between genders. Therefore, in allotting more understanding to the role of women in prehistoric
societies helps generate the widespread acceptance of these ―checks and balances‖ of power
across gender lines.
The United States of America Constitution written by the revolutionary ancestors
exhilarated this same notion of the ―balance of powers‖ between governmental branches.
Similarly, gender relations need to follow this same concept. Feminist critiques fail to exemplify
the distinctively feminine characteristics and often dismiss them as male-created constructs.
However, I feel the ideals of womanhood as empowering and the dominant feminist reaction to
reject the public’s notions of femininity yields the negative connotation associated with ―feminism.‖
To me, femininity is the added ―check‖ to masculinity and has the potential to contain an equally

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powerful connotation. Today, many point to the equalitarianism within the recent addition to
women’s presence within the politico power realm; however, a quick analysis demonstrates the
reluctance claim femininity as an equally powerful as masculinity. Thus, in my attempt at being an
―informed citizen,‖ I try to research the coverage and political campaigns of both parties. Today, I
click on the top story in the political news proclaiming, ―Republican National Committee Spends
Thousands on Palin Clothes.‖ According to the article, Republican vice-presidential candidate
Sarah Palin received $150,000 for her wardrobe (Cummings 2008). Pausing, it seemed oddly
reminiscent of the press coverage of Hillary Clinton’s supposed cleavage sighting and the
Washington Post’s 746-word article on it (Smith 2008). Helena Andrews (2008) brilliant
summarizes how within our culture ―no matter how intelligent, how poised, how prepared, how
wonky you are, when you’re a woman, only one question seems to matter: Who are you
wearing?‖ Therefore, even the current presidential election demonstrates the clear dominant
perspective that feminine traits are inherently inferior to masculine traits. For Sarah Palin, the
media continues to emphasize her beauty pageants over her political policy. Additionally, the
press immediately attacked Hillary Clinton’s cleavage as ―deliberate‖ and portrayed her as the
classic feminist whiner. Thus, any attempt from women to engage within the realm of political
power, popular culture immediately jumps to condemn as either extreme ―feminist‖ or ―beauty
queen.‖ However, beauty is not a bad trait; cleavage is a distinct feminine characteristic. Criticism
of these constructs within powerful women is an insult to women across the country. Clearly,
women need to take a stand to say, ―Yes, I am a beauty queen. I have cleavage, but that does
NOT in ANY way affect my competency as a HUMAN to be intellectually equal to any male.‖
However, true equality among genders remains the idealistic standard to exemplify the true
American democracy. Until the acceptance of male nurses as ―men‖ and the female political figure
ceases objectification by the popular media, America will remain a highly gender stratified society.
I keep my optimism; I keep waiting for the mentality to change, one citizen at a time.

Emily Gatlin A Divided Nation 25 October 2008

Works Cited
Andrews, Helena
2007 Hillary and the Giant Peach. Political Commentary. July 24. Electronic document,, accessed October 22, 2008.
Blazinet, Kenneth
2007 Clinton Hot and Bothered Over Cleavage Report. Daily News Washington Bureau,
July 28. Electronic document, NYDailyNews Archives,
28_clinton_hot_and_bothered_over_cleavage_r-1.html, accessed October 22, 2008.
Burling, Robbins
1986 The Selective Advantage of Complex Language. Ethnology and Sociobiology 7:1-16.
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
2008 The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: The Core Beliefs – The Danvers
Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Webpage. Electronic document,, accessed October 21, 2008.
Cummings, Jeanne
2008 GOP donors critical of Palin's pricey threads. Political Election 2008 Commentary.
October 22. Electronic document,,
accessed October 22, 2008.
Dahlbery, Frances
1981 Introduction in: Woman the Gatherer. Frances Dahlberg (ed). p. 1-33
Lovejoy, Owen
1981 The origin of man. Science 211: 341-350.
Smith, Ben
2007 Edwards: Full-Court Press Against Media. Political Commentary. July 31. Electronic
document,, accessed
October 22, 2008.
Washburn, Sherwood L and C.S. Lancaster
1968 The Evolution of Hunting. In: Man the Hunter. Richard B. Lee & Irven Devore (eds).
p 293-303.
Wylie, Adrienne
1997 Good science, bad science, or science as usual? Feminist critiques of science. In:
Women and Human Evolution, Lori D. Hager (ed.) p29-55.
Zihlman, Adrienne
1997 The Paleolithic glass ceiling: women in human evolution. In: Women and Human
Evolution, Lori D. Hager (ed.) p. 91-113