Project Introduction

We are

Muhammad Izuddin (Selkies)
Muhammad Izuddin is a Year 2 Life Science major. When asked why he would take an Anthropology module, a subject so far from his home faculty, Izuddin replied, “I guess at one point in time I justdecided to minor in Sociology, and while searching for an interesting module to do this semester, I came across this module. I also had no idea what Anthropology was, and I wanted to kind of understand if there's a difference between Sociology and Anthropology. All I know isthatthe word Anthropologysounded cool, well at least to me”.

Shilpa S. Nath (nyx89)
Shilpa S. Nath is a Year 3 Biomedical Science student who is the happiest when she has something to read. Shilpa chose to take Anthropology and the Human Condition because “I have always loved the unknown and studying them always fascinated me”.

Bharathi M. Kumaran (Bert@sesame-street)
Bharathi M. Kumaran is a Year 2 Political Science major. She considers herself a ‘horrible’ Indian who got an E for her Tamil A levels. She also gets sick of eating too much Indian food from time to time. She loves Thai and Japanese cuisine and has an adorable puppy called Sushi. Bee chose to take Anthropology and the Human Condition because she was curious as to what this big term meant. She always assumed that it was something about tracing the roots of a culture and for some weird reason, often associated Indiana Jones with the term.

Leon Lee (shark_bait)
Lee Kok How Leon is a Year 2 Sociology major and is the happiest when he’s swimming in an empty pool. Prompted by his mild Discovery Channel/National Geographic documentary addiction, he decided to take this module to learn more about Anthropology.

Low Zoey (hydrippus)
Low Zoey is a Year 2 Sociology major. She lives to eat and has a voracious appetite for reading as well, usually books with food as a central theme. Initially daunted by the ‘torrid’ (it wasn’t me, I promise) 8 am lecture time, Zoey decided to give this module a shot as she was brought up on a diet of Documentaries and wanted to delve deeper into the subject.

Traditional Culture

We have chosen the Sambia Tribe from Papua New Guinea as our traditional culture. We are also including the !Kung of Nyae Nyae and the Dobe Ju/’hoansi.

Cultural Domain

Our group will be investigating the cultural domain of gender roles, concentrating mainly on aspects of the family.

Why gender roles?
As a group, we felt that this particular cultural domain was interesting especially as it was easily relatable to our everyday lives. We found it interesting how cultural elaborations of gender were taken very seriously and sometimes regarded as inherent characteristics.

What is gender?
To understand the concept of gender, we have to first define and distinguish gender from sex and sexuality as these concepts are related to each other and are often mistakenly confused.

The following definitions are taken from Professor Thompson’s SC2218 lecture on Gender and Sexuality (Lecture 6, 2010/11).

Sex refers to the bodies we have as a result of biological processes (e.g. genetics); Genitalia, Hormones, Baldness, Facial Hair, Breasts, etc.

Gender refers to the socio-cultural elaborations of sex; social practices and cultural roles associated with sex characteristics.

Sexuality refers to social-cultural elaborations (especially identities) related to sexual behaviour, activities (ways for ‘having sex’), desires, relational identities (gay, straight, boyfriend, girlfriend, wife, husband, etc.).

According to the Online Dictionary of the Social Sciences (, gender roles are the social roles ascribed to individuals based on their sex. The term gender differs from that of sex as it relates specifically to the cultural definition of the roles and behaviour appropriate to members of each sex.

For example, as given by the Online Dictionary, giving birth is a female sex role. On the other hand, the role of nurturer and caregiver is a gender role usually ascribed to females even though these roles can also be taken up by men.

Sex differences influence ideas about gender (ie: masculinity and femininity). These in turn affect the different roles prescribed to different genders such as the division of labour among others.

The cultural rules are not determined by the facts of sexual difference; they are “built upon” those facts. (Thompson, 2010)

[Gendered division of labour, gender roles and patriarchy] None of these are “caused by sex differences. They are all elaborations on sex differences and vary widely cross-culturally. (Thompson, 2010)

The video above is a clip from the 1950s sitcom ‘I love Lucy’. It shows a humorous and stereotypical take on gender roles. The females fare poorly when attempting to ‘bring home the bacon’ like a ‘man’. The males, in turn, fail at doing housework. Although clearly a comedy, the clip can be seen as reinforcing specific gender roles. It suggests that certain activities and roles are best left to certain genders specific genders perform specific tasks better.

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