Gender profiling of San Sherpas Yanomamo

1. Gender inequality
Women’s status in Sun community is very high and their influence considerable. They maintain a status that is higher than that women in many societies in the world. Although women may be nearly equal to men, men do seem to have the upper hand. There is no prerogative in relation to the important sources of influence in San society. Since there is no formal leaders or hierarchies, decisions are made on the basis of group consensus. Each group has people, whose opinion has more weight because of age, intelligence, charisma, knowledge or having ancestors who have lived in the area longer. These people tend to be more prominent in group discussions and despite their lack of formal authority, they function as group leader. Men occupy these positions more often than women, but old women, especially whose with large families assume such roles. However, men are the ones who learn foreign languages, who attend government meetings, and who speak out on behalf of the community.
Ownership of water holes is inherited through women as well as men. And although possession of water holes is symbolic it gives an important status to women.
Also, women can be healers, but men traditionally dominated this sphere of San’s life. Most often women use their healing skills in response to the need of a close family member and not in a ritual setting. The status and respect that go with being a healer is, therefore, only minimally available to women.
Women are the main providers of food. The food they gather is the majority of the daily diet of their families. Their economic activity is an autonomous undertaking. Men do not regulate women’s schedules; do not tell them what food to gather and where to go. Also, a woman determines how much of her gathering, will be given away, and to whom. From start to finish, her labor and its product remain her own control.
Meat, which is considered more valuable than gathered food, is economic contribution of men. Distribution of meat involves men in a wider sphere of influence. However, there is a tradition, which keeps men from having more power or prestige in distribution of meat. According this tradition, the owner of the arrow, which killed an animal, is the owner of the meat. Women can also be owners of arrows. So, the owner of the “successful” arrow therefore distributes the meat. Moreover, animal protein is not brought into the village only by men. Women collect lizards, snakes, eggs, insects and occasional small or immature mammals.
Another aspect of women’s importance is their relationship to the gift-giving network called hxaro. All members of the community are part of this network. Women’s participation in hxaro is basically the same as that men, with no difference in the number of exchange partners or in the quality of exchanges.
San women assume roles of great practical importance in the family. Women have maximum influence over decisions affecting their children for years, starting with birth. Kung express no preference for either sex before the child’s birth. When children reach marriageable age, mothers play the major role in deciding whom they will marry and when. Women can get divorced if they wish, usually, it is the wife who initiates divorce.
Mothers are responsible for close to 90% of child care, but fathers provide care for infants either. Both parents guide their children and children are comfortable with either parent.
There are some taboos against women in Sun society, for example, prohibition to touch men’s arrows, especially while menstruating, and to have sex during the menstrual flow. However these taboos do not exclude women from the social, political, or economic life of the community.
San culture downplays many aspects that encourage male dominance in other societies. Competition, ranking of individuals, boastfulness, and self-aggrandizement are all discouraged. Aggression, which is the province of men in most cultures, is absent, and preparation for fighting do not occupy men’s time. Wealth difference is minimized, by sharing food and possessions and giving presents. The division of labor by sex is not rigidly defined. Village life so intimate that there is no division between domestic and public life (an apt distinction for many other cultures, which helps to promote sexual equality.