Summary on the subject: Gender Issues and Hopewell Culture

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Summary on the subject: Gender Issues and Hopewell Culture

Gender Issues and Hopewell Culture

In general when considering third world countries most would say that they have some very similar characteristics. Third world countries are often thought of as places that are impoverished have significantly high birthrates are economically dependent on advanced countries and have not evolved socially in regards to equal rights issues. Although many of these characteristics do apply to Sri Lanka the latter has definitely evoked some discussion on the topic of gender issues in underdeveloped countries. Issues such as decision making in the household educated women and their role in society and attitudes towards women in employment will be discussed. As stated earlier most would agree that from a distant perspective Sri Lanka would seem to be socially underdeveloped in regards to equal rights. One way that this misconception is debunked is by looking at the roles of male and female in the household. There are many variables to take into consideration when looking at roles of family members and who has the balance of power; for instance if the wife is working or not could be considered at both ends of the scale. If she is working than her husband may feel that because she is making a financial contribution she has more of a right to make important economic decisions that may effect the family. On the other hand he may feel as though her being away from the children is a detriment to their upbringing and in turn is placing a burden upon the family leaving the wife with few domestic decisions. Another variable that has to be considered is if the residence is with the husband's family or if it is with the wife's family. In this case one would assume that whichever house was being resided in would have the balance of the say towards family decisions. The last variable that will be considered is that of marital duration. Does a longer marriage necessarily mean that the financial and domestic decisions of the household will become split evenly between the husband and wife? The answers to these questions were the focus of a study conducted by Anju Malhotra and Mark Mather in 1992. The study showed that when the wives were working regardless of whether or not they shared their wages or kept them they had an increase say on financial matters. However the domestic decisions were not nearly as great especially if the wages earned by the wife were kept for herself (Malhotra et al. 1997: 620). When looking at the balance of power in regards to household arrangement the study found that the wife had almost no say on financial matters when living at the husband's parents house but did have some say on domestic issues. The opposite it true for when the family resided at the wife's parents house. The wife typically had a significant say on financial and domestic matters with the latter outweighing the two (Malhotra et al. 1997: 620). As far as marital duration is concerned it seems as though as the family grows together there is somewhat of a role reversal. The husband becomes more concerned with domestic matters and the wife takes some responsibility for the financial decisions (Malhotra et al. 1997: 620). These findings led my research group to believe that the people of Sri Lanka are generally very similar to those of western societies in regards to household decisions. Education is not something we think about when speaking about developing countries many assume that it is just not an option for underprivileged people. Although that is the unfortunate truth that effects many third world countries it does seem that Sri Lanka is on its way to recovering itself. For many years the gender gap between male and female scholars needed to be decreased. In the early 1980's the percentage of the total amount of people with university degrees that were women was barely above 40%. A more alarming fact might be that the percentage with post-graduate degrees was barely above 25% (Ahooja-Patel K. 1979: 217). The majority of women pursuing a degree usually did so in the fine arts category or the education and teacher training fields many staying away from disciplines such as business or engineering. Although these numbers may seem staggering Sri Lanka has shown some promise in terms of social welfare. Programs are now in place to encourage female education and to decrease the inequalities women face today. In the early 1990's the gender gap between literate males and females was only a 5% difference (Malhotra et al. 1997: 602). Many believe that the more westernized Sri Lanka becomes the more independent the thoughts and wills of women will expand creating a country of little inequality. Women in the work force today in western society face many barriers; this is after years of trying to refine the social economic status of women. In Sri Lanka because of its poor economy employers may have actual complaints that may affect the profitability of their business. In general in Sri Lanka men are usually preferred over women as employees. Some employers complain that because of the possibility of the need for time off to bear children that it may disrupt the flow of the work force. Many men could feel as though women were being treated with undeserved favoritism which could cause conflict. Others feel that the financial burden of having to install proper facilities to accommodate women could create too much of a loss that they would not be able to overcome it. The topic of most discussions seems to revolve around the Maternity Amendment Act of 1978 which states that women workers are entitled to six weeks maternity leave with pay. It also states that they are allowed two nursing breaks of one hour each or two breaks of one half hour each when a day care center is available (Ahooja-Patel K. 1979: 219). Women cannot under the law be fired for any reason that stems from them being pregnant. An unfortunate fact that is slowly being eradicated is that many women are just not qualified for the jobs that are available in Sri Lanka. Because of the gender gap in education and training that has plagued Sri Lanka for years this trend will surely continue until the inequality has subsided. In many ways Sri Lanka has come very far in terms of gender equality when discussing kinship and education. However women's economic situation has shown to be less favourable. The people of Sri Lanka acknowledge that women have a place in the work force but financially cannot accommodate them. Until the economic growth of Sri Lanka can develop further people will continue to have the 'survival of the fittest' kind of attitude which will continue to alienate and repress the women or Sri Lanka.

According to archeological and physical record tool use has had an enormous effect in the transformation of proto humans into modern humans. What stimulated tool use was the proto humans intrest in new and easier ways to do things. With the introduction of tools body morphology changed and reproductive fitness increased. Evolution did not happened over night. It took 4.5 million years for humans to get where they are today. Scientists have concluded that about 3.5 million years ago there was the first proto human. A proto human resembles extinct hominid populations that had some but not all the features of a modern homo sapien. Such features were prolonged moments of bipedality change in the pelvis and the reduction of the sagittal crest. (Diamond 1992 pg 34) In order for this proto human to evolve into a human it needed tools. Some of the tools might have been discovered by accident or by early creative geniuses? The way they discovered the tools is unknown but the changes the tools made were to the physical morphology and the body behavior. They began to walk upright gathered supplies cut food and used weapons. (Diamond 1992 pg.40) About 3 million years ago after generations of learning how to use these tools the hominid came out of the trees and stayed mostly on the ground. The animal had an abundance of food and water and lived in a population of; on the ground proto-human animals. Some adapted to ground life and started to become bipedal but more than half of them stayed on all fours. The bipedal hominids vision increased making it able to see and do more. It obtained the ability to use weapons more effectively and efficiently because it had arms with agility. It found all the good meat and valued resources then eventually took over the whole community. Soon after the bipedal creatures gained control the hominids on four legs die off precisely because they could not evolve quickly enough and produce healthy if any offspring. The bipedal community grew into the hundreds and thousands. Tough healthy and agile hominids the strong survived and the females produced healthy offspring which is called reproductive fitness. The mouth became smaller and the brain increased in size. More brains equaled better tools which lead to a faster more efficient evolution. (Diamond 1992 pg 12) According to the bone and fossil evidence that I have learned this is my interpretation how evolution might have happened. When a species develops tools many things can a will change. The definition of a tool is performing or facilitating mechanical operations. (Websters Ninth New Dictionary) Take for instance a hominid that walks on all four limbs. How easy would it be for a hominid without agile arms to mechanically operate a tool? It would be very difficult. This type of arboreal hominid probably lives in a tree swings from the branches vision is not great and is mostly a vegetarian. After the proto human began to walk on two feet there hands became free and moveable. Now give this hominid a sharp stick or a blunt object practice as how to properly use it and pg 3 maybe arm agility. Then over time (about 3 to 2.5 mya) the animal becomes a hunter being able to strike a predator protect and gain control over resources. In the movie 2001 Space Odyssey (Anthropology 100 9/5/97) Stanley Kubrick gives his interpretation on how we evolve. The movie shows groups of stem-primate type creatures who represent early proto-human communities. The creatures begin to explore their environment finding resources and developing new ways to do things. The communities battled other primate communities for the natural resources in their environment. One of the primates begins to break some objects with a bone it picked up. The primate then realizes that this bone can do major damage. When one community learns to use bones as weapons then that group can take over the resources in a certain area and be selected for which increases reproductive fitness. This scenario could have happened but the truth is nobody knows exactly how and why things turned out the way they did. Not just hominids use tools. Wood-peckers vultures and sea otters are among the other animal species that evolved by using tools to capture food but these creatures are not as heavily dependant as we are. (Diamond 1992 pg 36) Without tools evolution might have taken much longer. Tools had a major affect on teeth hair behavior and even language. (Diamond 1992 pg 12) When developing and using tools the species takes control over the environment and makes it work for them. One major change in the physical aspect of evolution is the morphology of the body. Proof of this came from the discovery of Lucy the 2.5 million year old homo - pg 4 erectus half monkey half human. (Haviland Eighth Edition pg 140-141) The head grew so the brain could expand allowing hominids to think and create new tools. The mouth became smaller and teeth turned into herbivore teeth enabling speech to develop. The widening of the pelvis was a major and critical change it allowed the animal to walk on two feet. This change in the pelvis allowed all proto-humans to stand at long periods of time making it more free and taller which increased vision. Having the features of better vision and maneuverability made it easier for the hominids to control the environment instead of letting the environment control them. Being able to control the environment leads to better food healthier bodies better reproductive fitness and increases the quality of life. If you think about how primitive early hominids were and you look at modern day humans. How could a bone or stick make so much of a change in our bodies? The whole process is amazing and until science gets the whole story we may never know the whole truth about how tools shaped our lives today. Who would have thought that a 0.1 percent difference in DNA could have made such a change? (Diamond 1992 pg 54) One thing is for sure without tools evolution would have taken much longer.

In the country of Sudan in Northern Africa there is a procedure that is tradition and is performed on most women called female genital mutilation or FGM which used to be known as female circumcision. It has been a normal practice for generations but is now the subject for international controversy on the morality and safety of this procedure. It is now known that 82 percent of Sudanese woman have an extreme form of genital mutilation done on them normally at a young age. This form of mutilation is called the Pharaonic form and includes the total removal of the clitoris and labia and stitching together of the vulva leaving only a small hole for urination and menstrual cycle. This is normally done without any type of anaesthetic or professional medical care. There is also a more moderate form of mutilation called Sunni where only the covering of the clitoris is removed. This practice started and became tradition in foreign countries in order to ensure that women practice chaste behavior and to suppress female sexuality. It has also been attributed to religious beliefs of monogamy although most religions do not support this type of practice. In today's society it has become more of a traditional and social norm and has less to do with religious beliefs. This problem is not only in Sudan; it is practiced in the majority of the continent of Africa as well as other countries. In other cultures such as Australian aborigines genital mutilation is a part of the rite of passage into maturation and is done on both men and women (Bodley p.58). FGM has often been referred to as female circumcision and compared to male circumcision. However such comparison is often misleading. Both practices include the removal of well - functioning parts of the genitalia and are quite unnecessary. However FGM is far more drastic and damaging than male circumcision because it is extremely dangerous and painful. It is believed that two thirds of these procedures are done by untrained birth attendants who have little knowledge of health. They are often unconcerned with hygiene and many use instruments that are not cleaned or disinfected properly. Instruments such as razor blades scissors kitchen knives and pieces of glass are commonly used. These instruments are frequently used on several girls in succession and are rarely cleaned causing the transmission of a variety of viruses such as the HIV virus and other infections. There are many side effects of this procedure including trauma stress or shock from the extreme pain; and bleeding hemorrhaging and infections that can be fatal from improperly cleaned instruments. There can also be painful and difficult sexual relations and obstructed childbirth. The effects of this one procedure can last a lifetime both physically and pyschologically. Today 85 to 114 million girls and women in more than 30 countries have been subjected to some form of genital mutilation. It was declared illegal in Sudan in 1941 although that did little to stop this age-old tradition. To this day about 90% of women are still being subjected to the mutilation especially if it is a family tradition. In various cultures there are many "justifications" for these practices. Many older women feel that if they have an uncircumcised daughter she will not be able to find a husband and will become a social outcast. Family honor cleanliness protection against spells insurance of virginity and faithfulness to the husband or simply terrorizing women out of sex are sometimes used as excuses for the practice of FGM. Examples similar to this are found in other cultures such as the Maasai an African cattle peoples tribe. A clitoridectomy is performed on adolescent girls in this tribe as part of their rite of passage and signifies that they are ready for marriage. This practice is openly accepted by these women as another ritual and a normal precondition of marriage (Bodley p.121). The efforts to stop procedures of this kind are mounting though especially with the help of women ages 16 to 30 who realize the dangers of this practice. These women can help to save their daughters and many other women from this if they are educated of the dangers. It ends up damaging their health as well as their socio-economic lives; which is why it needs to be put to a stop. It is also unnecessary in today's society. These women have joined together to create the Sudan National Committee on Harmful Traditional Practices and are now working to eliminate it completely. They have also joined together with government support and are a part of the National Plan of Action for the Survival Protection and Development of Sudanese Children where they work to educate people of the dangers of this procedure. In the United States and other Western countries both female and male circumcision is practiced although male circumcision is much more common. Female mutilation is still an issue in Western countries though and needs to be dealt with. These countries commonly used FGM as a means to deal with unruly insane or temperamental women earlier in this century. Routine circumcision as a preventative or cure for masturbation was also proposed in Victorian times in America. In females it was once thought that the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement. The procedure of circumcisions on both men and women became commonplace between 1870 and 1920 and it consequently spread to all the English-speaking countries such as England Canada Australia and New Zealand. As a form of social control it fell out of fashion some time in the 1930's or 1940's. However it has continued to the present in some form or another. In the United States alone it is estimated that about ten thousand girls are at risk of this practice in today's society. A bill was recently presented to the U. S.government in 1994 prohibiting female genital mutilation to be performed unless done for a medical reason by a trained professional. Although we are fighting for preventative measures this surgery is still routinely performed on women in the United States. Some doctors believe and act upon the idea that excision does not prevent sexual pleasure but enhances it. FGM is also entering the United States with some immigrants who are holding on to their customs and identity. On the United States level and in other places around the world there are finally numerous efforts being made in order to abolish this practice both locally and internationally. Many laws have been passed over the last decade in the United States and other Western countries prohibiting any kind of mutilation on young girls other than for medical purposes. In the future leaders are hoping to enforce these rules in other smaller countries where the government can do little to stop these unlawful acts especially in Tribal peoples and other communities were laws are not strictly enforced.


1. Ahooja-Patel Krishna. 1995. Employment of Women in Sri Lanka: the Situation in Colombo. p. 213-233.

2 Baker Victoria J. 1998. A Sinhalese Village in Sri Lanka: Coping with Uncertainty.

3. Cisneros Susana P. 1995. Supporting Women in the Informal Sector: A Peruvian Experience. p.159-186.

4. Malhotra Anju. M. Mather. 1997. Do Schooling and Work Empower Women in Developing Countries? Gender and Domestic Decisions in Sri Lanka. p.599-627.

5. Perera Lakshmi. 1995. Women in Micro - and Small-Scale Enterprise Development in Sri Lanka. p.101-116.