Perhaps not surprisingly, our male-dominated world has often marginalized women when it came to positions of power. The reasons for this are almost always based in our cultural expectations of women, which has been tolerant at best and despicable more often than not. Women have been forced to be resourceful, and it has been proven that some have had more political influence than a cynic might believe. Some cultures even supported women’s rights in the political arena, though they often only had power within their gender-specific sphere (Haviland, 338).
In a vast majority of cases, societies tend to be male-dominated or overtly masculine. Biologically, this can be explained from our days when our species was physically disproportionate; males were typically larger and more aggressive, while females tended to be smaller and more submissive. However, this was at the dawn of our species, tens of thousands of generations ago. Long ago our increasingly-arbitrary differences began to equalize to the point where they are now no longer relevant. Proof of this comes in the form of the women’s liberation movement, something that has never been possible on a scale as this. Now there are women throughout the world actively participating in, and even heading, political organizations.
Though most women have experienced inequality, they have not been completely excluded from political influence, even in cultures that are strictly male-dominated. Those that do assume positions of power are often forced to adopt the qualities that men find admirable in order to succeed politically. And then there are married women, who often have subtle or powerful control over their husbands. Some of these men may have considerable political influence, and to say their wives opinions have been completely thrown out throughout history might be too hasty an assumption.
Some cultures even have a relatively gender-equal political system, such as the Igbo of Nigeria. For a long time their culture was a “dual-sex” system, whereby the two sexes shared political power (Haviland, 337). They did not, however, share the same political power, unlike in an ideal democracy. The women were highly active and influential in their sphere of influence, while the men were equally active and influential in their sphere. This did not put emphasis on either sex, even though they were essentially segregated. But once the British colonization began throughout the region, they imposed their political structure on the Igbo. Because it removed the dual nature of their previous system, it elevated the males to the dominant role in politics, forever altering the structure of Igbo society.
List of Works Cited:
Haviland, William A. (2002). Cultural Anthropology (10th edition)