Female Power and Male Dominance: On the Origins of Sexual Inequality

Female Power and Male Dominance: On the Origins of Sexual Inequality. 1981. New York: Cambridge University Press. Translated into Spanish. Translated into Spanish.

From the Book Jacket

In this book, Professor Peggy Sanday [examines] power and dominance in male-female relationships. How does socially approved interaction between the sexes originate? why are women viewed as a necessary part of political, economic, and religious affairs in some societies but not in others? why do some societies clothe sacred symbols of creative power in the guise of one sex and not of the other? Professor Sanday offers solutions to these cultural puzzles by using cross-cultural research on over 150 tribal societies. She systematically establishes the full range of variation in male and female power roles and then suggests a theoretical framework for explaining this variation. Rejecting the argument of universal female subordination, Professor Sanday argues that male dominance is not inherent in human relations but is a solution to various kinds of social stress. Those who are thought to embody, be in touch with, or control the creative forces of nature are perceived as powerful. In isolating the behavioral and symbolic mechanisms that institute male dominance, Professor Sanday shows that a people’s secular power roles are partly derived from ancient concepts of power, as exemplified by their origin myths. Power and dominance are further determined by a people’s adaptation to their environment, social conflict, and emotional stress. This is illustrated through case studies of the effects of European colonialism, migration, and food stress, and supported by numerous statistical associations between sexual inequality and various social stresses.In the Epilogue Professor Sanday examines the roots of Western male dominance and suggests that the forces contributing to the predominantly masculine system of beliefs characteristic of the Judaic and Christian traditions are similar to the forces that accompanied the development of male dominance in other cultural traditions. Female Power and Male Dominance provides a new explanation of the origins and perpetuation of sexual inequality by using large-scale cross-cultural research on tribal societies. Yet the relevance of its discoveries extends to modern society, revealing the deep psychological and social roots of current sex-role expectations.