Friday, December 4, 2009


I was reading my Anthropology textbook this morning and came across something that made me wonder. The chapter was "Sex, Gender, and Culture" and this is the paragraph that made me think:

"Western colonialism also appears to have been generally detrimental to women's status, perhaps because Westerners were accustomed to dealing with men. There are plenty of examples of Europeans restructuring landownership around men and teaching men modern farming techniques, even in places where women were usually the farmers. In addition, men more often than women could earn cash through wage labor or through sales of goods (such as furs) to Europeans. Although the relative status of men and women may not have been equal before the Europeans arrived, colonial influences seem generally to have undermined the position of women."

There are a lot of things this makes me think of, one being that the European mindset seemed to have been that women are not "worth" as much as men, even in cultures where they clearly had already established some form of status. It seems like a step backward.

Coincidentally, I was also reading this morning in Blink by Malcolm Gladwell about how people, whether they like it or not, tend to judge people upon first glance based on race and gender, generally putting white men above all others. This is even true in people who have made a conscious decision not to. The reason for this is because these sorts of judgments are made subconsciously. Harvard has a test called the IAT that puts your tendency to do one thing or another on a scale. It's pretty interesting. If you want to try one or a few tests, go to and select the demonstration. I think you should try as many as you are even vaguely interested in-- it could be very educational.

I digress. Both the things I read today implied that the culture we are exposed to determine about how we feel about the roles of gender (or minorities). It is possible to counteract these stereotypes, consciously and subconsciously (though subconsciously is more difficult) by exposing ourselves to and interacting with those types of people more often.

Food for thought.

P.S. If you want to know results I got on the tests, email me privately. Tell me yours privately too. I don't want people to be too judgmental one way or the other.

1 comment:

LP said...

I've done some of those tests before (I did the religion, race, and arab/muslim ones). I think I'll try a few of the others. They're very interesting.