NEGATIVE - CRITIQUE - FEMINIST CRITIQUE OF PRIVACY 144
B EXT IMPACTSPUBLIC/PRIVATE DICHOTOMY LEADS TO A WOMAN/NATURE NEXUS
THE PUBLIC PRIVATE DISTINCTION PERPETUATES WOMEN'S OPPRESSION BY ALIGNING THEM AS CLOSER TO NATURE
Sherry B. Ortner, Prof. of Anthropology at Columbia University, 1998; FEMINISM, THE PUBLIC AND THE PRIVATE, "Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?" EE2001-hxm p. 33-34
The second major problematic implication of women's close association with the domestic context derives from certain structural conflicts between the family and society at large in any social system. The implications of the 'domestic/public opposition ' in relation to the position of women have been cogently developed by Rosaldo (1974), and I simply wish to show its relevance to the present argument. The notion that the domestic unit-the biological family charged with reproducing and socializing new members of the society-is opposed to the public entity-the superimposed network of alliances and relationships that is the society-is also the basis of Levi-Strauss's argument in The Elementary Structures of Kinship (1969a). Levi-Strauss argues not only that this opposition is present in every social system, but further that it has the significance of the opposition between nature and culture. The universal incest prohibition' and its ally, the rule of exogamy (marriage outside the group), ensure that: the risk of seeing a biological family become established as a closed system is definitely eliminated; the biological group can no longer stand apart, and the bond of alliance with another family ensures the dominance of the social over the biological, and of the cultural over the natural. (p. 479)
And although not every culture articulates a radical opposition between the domestic and the public as such, it is hardly contestable that the domestic is always subsumed by the public; domestic units are allied with one another through the enactment of rules that are logically at a higher level than the units themselves; this creates an emergent unit-society-that is logically at a higher level than the domestic units of which it is composed.
Now, since women are associated with, and indeed are more or less confined to, the domestic context, they are identified with this lower order of social/cultural organization. What are the implications of this for the way they are viewed? First, if the specifically biological (reproductive) function of the family is stressed, as in Levi-Strauss's formulation, then the family (and hence woman) is identified with nature pure and simple, as opposed to culture.
But this is obviously too simple; the point seems more adequately formulated as follows: the family (and hence woman) represents lower-level, socially fragmenting, particularistic sort of concerns, as opposed to interfamilial relations representing higher-level, integrative, universalistic sorts of concerns. Since men lack a 'natural' basis (nursing, generalized to child care) for a familial orientation, their sphere of activity is defined at the level of interfamilial relations. And hence, so the cultural reasoning seems to go, men are the 'natural' proprietors of religion, ritual, politics, and other realms of cultural thought and action in which universalistic statements of spiritual and social synthesis are made. Thus men are identified not only with culture, in the sense of all human creativity, as opposed to nature; they are identified in particular with culture in the old-fashioned sense of the finer and higher aspects of human thought-art, religion, law, etc.'
THE CULTURE/NATURE DICHOTOMY PERPETUATES THE NOTION THAT WOMEN ARE CLOSER TO NATURE AND ENSURES THEIR DEVALUATION
Sherry B. Ortner, Prof. of Anthropology at Columbia University, 1998; FEMINISM, THE PUBLIC AND THE PRIVATE, "Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?," EE2001-hxm p. 39
I argued that the universal devaluation' of women could be explained by postulating that women are seen as closer to nature than men, men being seen as more unequivocally occupying the high ground of culture. The culture/nature distinction is itself a product of culture, culture being minimally defined as the transcendence, by means of systems of thought and technology, of the natural givens of existence. This of course is an analytic definition, but I argued that at some level every culture incorporates this notion in one form or other, if only through the performance of ritual as an assertion of the human ability to manipulate those givens. In any case, the core of the paper was concerned with showing why women might tend to be assumed, over and over, in the most diverse sorts of world views and in cultures of every degree of complexity, to be closer to nature than men. Woman's physiology, more involved more of the time with 'species of life'; woman's association with the structurally subordinate domestic context, charged with the crucial function of transforming animallike infants into cultured beings; woman 's Psyche appropriately moulded to mothering functions by her own socialization and tending toward greater personalism and less mediated modes of relating-all these factors make woman appear' to be rooted more directly and deeply in nature. At the same time, however, her membership' and fully necessary participation in culture are recog nized by culture and cannot be denied. Thus she is seen to occupy an intermediate Position between Culture and nature. This intermediacy has several implications for analysis, depending upon how it is interpreted. First, of course, it answers my primary question of why woman is everywhere seen as lower than man, for even if she is not seen as nature pure and simple, she is still seen as achieving less transcendence of nature than man. Here, 'intermediate, simply means 'middle status' on a hierarchy of being from culture to nature.