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Kung Women

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Kung Women
1. Ernestine Friedl says that the position of women is higher the more they are involved in
(1) Primary subsistence (as owners or controllers, NOT merely as laborers) and (2) the PUBLIC distribution of the product of subsistence. Use this argument to account for the position of women in !Kung society. Make sure you use both part (1) and part (2) of Friedl’s argument.

The !Kung are hunter-gatherers of Southern Africa and the women play an essential role in the production of subsistence for their families. The woman actually contribute a greater proportion of the subsistence to their families directly than do the men who are the game hunters in the family. As Friedl describes in “Society and Sex Roles” (page 101) regardless of who produces food, the person who gives it to others creates the obligations and alliances that are at the center of all political relations.” The woman from birth are the gathers within the !Kung and Friedl believes that it is due to four inter-related factors as to why the woman are the foragers; the variability in the supply of game, the different skills required for hunting and gathering; the incompatibility between carrying burdens and hunting; and the small size of semi-nomadic foraging populations (page 102). !Kung women play a very vital role in the survival of their families through their gathering of subsistence and they are not simply laborers but they are owners and/or distributors of what they bring home. However, they remain to be the less powerful of the genders within their culture. The !Kung woman’s role is critical to the survival of their villages because when unsuccessful hunters come home without protein (game) it is the woman who will feed the men, children and the elderly within their village and because they strictly provide for their family as the foragers they are not, based on Friedl’s’ theories, the one who disperses food to others. Thus, !Kung women are not considered to be the person with seniority

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