Is Female To Male As Nature Is To Culture Analysis

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In the article “Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” Sherry B. Ortner discusses how females are associated symbolically with nature and males with culture. The article supports the notion that male dominance is universal. Written in 1974, this was a very popular idea among Feminists in the 70s. The author explores this idea in her structural gender analysis of cultural female devaluation. Additionally, she uses this article as a platform to suggest political change which would enhance equality between women and men.
This structuralist perspective of binary opposition was first formulated drawing on Levi-Strauss and de Beauvoir, but has since been criticized for being simplistic and ethnocentric. I will delineate Ortner’s argument and
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Instead she categorizes women as important participants in culture but are more closely aligned with nature. By supporting the notion that the female body not only symbolically represents nature, but physiologically through the means of reproduction and or other physical processes occurring towards reproduction i.e. menstruation, ovarian secretion and breast formation. A woman’s body and its functions keep her closer to nature more than a man’s physiology, allowing him more freedom to work in culture. His work in culture is the contribution of art, religion, law etc. which the author seems to neglect through a female perspective (1974:24). The purpose of culture, in one sense, is to rise above nature; therefore, if women are more aligned with nature then they fall socially below cultural men. Ultimately, both a woman’s body and her social position create a different intellectual structure for her. Woman’s social role is defined by her physiology in that she, through lactating and nurturing for her offspring, is enclosed in the domestic family context. Her resulting associated with children (who are regarded as unsocial, not yet fully human) and symbolic opposition to the ‘public’ (which form the higher orders of social organization and represents culture) reinforce her association with nature. The article develops an analysis on why cultures devalue the …show more content…
She argues that women have always been symbolically associated with nature. Since nature is subordinate to men, women are subordinate to men. She suggests that women’s role as child bearer makes them natural creators, while men are cultural creators (1974: 18-20). Ortner points out that men without high rank are excluded from things in the same way women are excluded from them. Although Ortner’s analysis helps us understand the cross-cultural differences in gender structure and exemplifies this operationally thorough her child-rearing illustrations, I believe that it may not be quite useful for the problem in which she states as the “universal fact of culturally attributed to second-class status to woman in every society” (1974:6). What I mean is that I do not believe it is applicable to every society.
To be quite frank it seems that this first part of the problem mentioned above is more of a broad generalization that oversimplifies the role of women and how they are culturally perceived. She attempts to clarify her argument by talking about cultural evaluations but she specifically states that “in every know culture, woman is considered in some degree inferior to man” (1974:7). Since it is apparent that there is are not primary or secondary sources provided to support her argument that this theory is universally practiced in all cultures, I find this article more opinionated than an analytical

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