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The theoretical school of feminist anthropology was established in the 1970s. The feminist anthropologists have changed male-centered assumptions within anthropology and have studied women’s statuses and roles in societies. This school was developing over time, which can be divided into three periods: the 1970s, the 1980s, and from the late 1980s to the present. “When feminist anthropology emerged in the 1970s, the theoretical school revealed that women and gender relationships were significant topics of social life. They claimed that past anthropologists did not fully explore human culture because they omitted these gender issues.”(McGee and Warms, 2004). Feminist anthropologists showed that scholars had neglected women’s roles in human evolution by focusing on men rather than women. The most sufficient contribution during this period was the increased awareness of women within anthropological analysis and theories. Furthermore, in 1980s, feminist anthropology moved to cross-cultural investigation of women’s role in society and gender issues. They proved that the definition of gender changes historically and cross-culturally. For instance, they presented cross-cultural analysis on differences of women’s status, roles, and power. Talking about these issues we should mention names of Sally Slocum and Eleanor Leacock, who contributed to investigation of these problems.

“In the late 1980s feminist anthropologists began to attack the notion which existed until the mid-1980, according to which women were considered as a homogenous group where they share a subordinate position under men. They argued that the feminist movement of the 1970s and 1980s was led by middle class scholars and that the movement failed to consider a variety of divisions within women.”(McGee and Warms, 2004). These feminist anthropologists showed that wealthy women’s social position and attitudes support social systems that oppress poor women, especially non-white women. One of the anthropologists, Ann L. Stoler, examined European colonialism in Asia and revealed that European women contributed to the colonialism by enforcing racial segregation.

The new stream started in the late 1980s led to a greater multicultural focus in the 1990s and the preset. Some feminist anthropologists question the objectivity of science and argue that anthropologists are not the only interpreters of culture. Feminist anthropologists encourage women of different nationalities and races to write about their culture, and point out the importance of taking their voices into account. Moreover, some anthropologists adopted non-traditional forms of anthropological writing, such as poetry and fiction.

Nowadays, feminist anthropologists are not only concerned about the issue of gender asymmetry. They have begun to explore the importance of female activities, such as ” foraging, parenting, and sexual selection in our reconstructions of human history” ( Mc Gee and Warms, 1996). They focused on more particularistic and historically grounded studies that place gender at the center of analysis. ” Issues significant to women of color, lesbians, and Third World people are now recognized and incorporated into the scholarship produced by feminist anthropologists (Lamphere, 1996). Some scholars who follow materialistic perspective focus on gender as related to class, the social relations of power, and changes in models of production. The other scholars, who focus on social construction of the gender, concentrate on motherhood and marriage. Contemporary feminist anthropologists have shown that gender is an important analytical concept.

Gender is term that came into popular use in the early 1980s, and was used to refer to both the male and female, the cultural construction of these categories, and the relations between them.

Leading figures who contributed to the development of the feminist anthropology discipline are: Margaret Mead( “Male and Female” 1949), Sherry Ortner, Ruth Benedict, Michelle Rosaldo ( ” Women, Culture and Society” 1974).

Basically, feminist anthropology is focused on analysis and development of theory to explain the subordination of women, which seemed to be universal and cross-cultural. Marxist theory was actual for feminist anthropologists in the 1970s because ” the Marxist model explains that the subordination of women in capitalist societies, both in terms of their productive role, as well as their value as unpaid or underpaid labor, arises from historical trends predating capitalism itself ( Rubin, 1975).

Later, in 1970 feminists started arguing that woman and man experience gender in a different way, the experience of woman was in itself a legitimate subject for anthropological enquiry. Gender, as it replaced the term women in the anthropological discussions, helped to free the issue of inequality from biological connections. Explanatory models also took structuralist approach. According to this, roles of man and woman differ in society. The reproductive functions of women and men caused that usually woman was associated with lower-class-status. ” The idea, that there might be distinctive women’s way of knowing gained some support in 1980s. Both feminists and anthropologists had important objections to the idea that there was something distinctive or fundamentally different about the way women know”¦ First, feminists noted that the very idea of difference between man and woman’s ways of knowing presupposes a uniformity of women and their experience, that feminists were coming to see did not exist. The idea that all women were some particular way evokes a “universal women” as a replacement for “universal man” that feminism had rejected.” (Hurst, 1995). Moreover, there is the more general critique from those who reject the idea that the central features of science, or even reason itself could be gendered.

Basically feminist anthropology is focused on the role, status, and contribution of women to their societies. Feminist anthropology has been criticized since its emergence in the 1970s. The field has always been associate with the Feminist Movement and has often been politicized. The relationships of feminist anthropology with other strands of academic feminism are uneasy. Historically, perspectives of European and American anthropologists differ from non-Western, which have sometimes been marginalized and regarded as less valid or important than knowledge from the western world. As feminist theorists come predominantly from the west, their ideas may contain western-specific assumptions that do not apply simply to the cultures they investigate. Rosaldo, for instance, criticizes the tendency of feminists to treat other contemporary cultures as anachronistic.

” The most evident contribution of feminist anthropology has been the increased awareness of women within anthropology. This emphasis has challenged a number of enshrined beliefs, for instance concerning models of human origins where ” man the hunter” model was seen as being the driving force in human evolution, ignoring the women’s productive and reproductive roles in the evolution of Homo sapience ” (Conkey and Williams, 1991).

The Association for Feminist Anthropology is a section in the American Anthropological Association that was founded in 1988 with the purpose of creating a network of people interested in gender research. Sylvia Forman suggested the founding of working commissions to organize and link feminist academic and policy work. The first three working commissions were: Women’s Body Control, which was renamed as Commission on Women’s Reproductive Rights and Bodily Autonomy, Women and Human Rights, and Gender and the Curriculum. Forman also organized annual workshops on Teaching About Race and Gender with the Association of Black Anthropologists. The goals of AFA are modified each year, the main ones are outlined as: to include U.S. women of color in all activities, but especially to utilize travel grants to assist women of color in attending the AAA meetings, to increase the visibility and leadership of feminist anthropology both within the discipline and the outside world, to increase organizational networking within the American Anthropological Association, to focus more attention on teaching and feminist pedagogy. ” The main issues for AFA are: sexuality, lesbian and transgender issues, non-Western feminism, globalization, social movements, social and economic justice, women and poverty and domestic violence. AFA collaborates and with the Association of Black Anthropologists, Society for the Anthropology of North America, AAA’s Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Issues in Anthropology, and Society of Lesbian and Gay Anthropologists.”( Pine, 1996).

Feminist anthropology has contributed a diverse group of voices to the field from the point of view of the researcher, in addition to representing voices from a plethora of different groups of women. They stress on importance of women being heard, even when they may have to take more subtle approaches to authority through acts of resistance. Feminist anthropologists have been influential in the fight for women’s rights, and have stressed that women have the right to make choices for themselves. Feminist anthropologists has tried to bring to light women’s concerns and to find ways in which these women can empower themselves to make changes.

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