Does Gender Inequality Ever Disappear?1
There is a question that is seldom explicitly addressed by feminist researchers: Is there any society, anywhere, any time, where men and women have had equal status? Two feminist anthropologists, Rosaldo and Lamphere (1974) dared to try and answer this question. They surveyed the Harvard Area Files, which summarized a considerable subset of all the anthropological studies ever conducted, and then they supplemented this sample with a review of contemporary studies not included in the Area Files. They found that all societies studied were male dominated. Whether the men were the hunters or the gatherers, whether Western industrialized culture had made inroads into the society or if it had been left relatively isolated, no matter what tasks assignments men held, they had greater status, prestige, and material resources than women. There was no refuge for Amazonian superwomen; no matriarchies were found. Rosaldo and Lamphere’s results held no matter when or where the studies were conducted, no matter whether a study’s authors were male or female. The question these anthropologists asked was a centrally important one, and the results are sobering.
In this chapter I want to ask the same question of contemporary organizational settings: Are there any nations or types of organization, anywhere, where men and women are actually equal? To reframe this question less dichotomously ...