Culture in simple terms can be described as a peoples way of life. It encompasses social beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that govern their interactions daily. Culture plays a big role in everybodys life and has a great impact particularly when considering the aspect of gender in the society. One of the most outstanding research dealing extensively with the impact of culture on women is Margaret Mead's publication "Sex and Temperament". Culture, according to Margarets exhaustive studies has far-reaching consequences both negative and positive particularly on the feminine gender.
Culture influences how women perform socially, economically or politically in the society. Culture, as Margarets points out can either place too little expectations or too many expectations for the feminine gender depending on which society they are from. She points out that in some cultures women are given bigger expectations and rewards when they achieve. However, in some cultures though, men seem to take superior roles hence they experience better achievements and higher social status than women. In such cultures, women experience a spontaneous slower-flowering responsiveness. Culture can, therefore, model women to be high achievers according to the high expectations imposed upon them. Culture can also shape women be low achievers due to demeaning expectations placed upon them. The Arapesh people to whom she studied, for example, treated women with respect and placed upon them noble tasks. This explains why women from the Arapesh culture brought up nice happy children and families.
Culture also determines the temperament and health of women. Though he describes that disposition is partially hereditary, some form of temperament develops soon after birth. Culture plays a big role, she explains, selecting one temperament, or a combination of related and congruent types, as desirable, and embodying this choice in every thread of the social fabric. She mentions the case of the mountain culture to which she studied at a time when her husband was mistreating her. The women from the Arapesh culture had an excellent temperament and were warmer and loving than women from the western world. This, she says is the work of cultural selection which chooses to determine personality and innate characteristics of women. The female gender in the Arapesh was less aggressive and had a loving attitude because culture shaped them to behave that way. This is different with the western cultures where women are primarily aggressive and volatile when it comes to temperament.
Culture also influences the behaviours, roles and dressing mode of women play in the society. For the case of the Arapesh people, the role of women was no more than household chores and raising children. Women did not partake in decision making and were only around to be seen and not to be heard. According to Neil Postman's "The Word Makers" article, women tend to be ignorant when they are not involved in articulating their daily needs when culture despises them. This explains why they were less aggressive in life as they expected most of the big tasks to be done by men. Judith Butler, in her prominent book Undoing gender supports the idea that women take up only those roles that the society expects them to do while shying away from roles largely perceived to be masculine. This is different in western cultures where women do almost all tasks that men can do. Women in the western world are less depended on men and are more aggressive in taking up any role even raising children single-handedly.
Some assertions put forward by Margaret about the impacts of culture on women are wrong, and I disagree with them. For example, she says that when a culture gives equal opportunities to both men and women, women tend to perform poorly when they take up the roles which would otherwise have been meant for men. For example, women who are given equal opportunities to study medicine with men should rather choose to be paediatricians and not neurosurgeons as they would perform poorly if they chose the latter profession. In short, equal opportunity cultures for both the masculine and the feminine genders may make women perform poorly in their pursuit of equality. This is not true for both men and women can efficiently take up the same roles.
Margarets claim that some cultures such as the Tchambuli culture which shapes women to be more aggressive than men makes them more likely to initiate sexual experiences and take up the dominant role in the family. This is wrong. Though culture can shape women to be the dominant gender, biological roles such as initiating sexual experiences cannot be reversed. Men are always assertive when it comes to starting sexual roles in the society. As Judith puts it in his Undoing gender, culture cannot erode biological functions of the male and female genders. Women, though shaped by some cultures to be dominant, will be submissive when it comes to some roles such as the sexual roles.
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