ABSTRACT

The discipline of anthropology has undergone an interesting transition since the early 1970s. In the 1960s and 1970s anthropologists were concerned with discovering dichotomies in nature: Chomsky found natural oppositions in linguistic structures; Lévi-Strauss found natural oppositions in social structures; Lee and DeVore found natural oppositions in adaptive structures; Binford found natural oppositions in technological structures. The ramifications of these oppositions were multifaceted, but a gender opposition was always implicit if not explicit. Language developed oppositions to create meaning in many human realms, by giving coherent structure to perception. So the concept of up presumes down, black opposes white, power requires subordination, and male engenders female. Social structure is more like a corbeled vault than a true arch—the opposing weights of structural parts hold the ideology up. So by opposing nature and eschewing incest, culture is born. For Lévi-Strauss male humans are to culture what females are to nature, male domination over females is equivalent to the triumph of culture over nature, the triumph of learning over instinct. Prehuman oppositions, nevertheless, parallel these categories, as when Washburn found a dichotomy between the political behavior of male baboons and the passive behavior of the females. Lee and DeVore situated the origin of human consciousness in the rise of “Man the Hunter” and warrior in opposition to woman the gatherer-nurturer. Binford saw female activity areas distributed in opposition to male activity areas. Flannery and Winter found female artifacts associated with private space and male artifacts associated with public activities.