N!ai The Story of A !Kung Woman

Gender roles are the responsibilities and activities that the society depicts as appropriate for females and males. The cultural differences and traditions in African communities define the roles of men and women differently. However, African attitudes about gender roles and sexuality have been changing over the years due to the influence of the West. The film, “N!ai The Story of A !Kung Woman,” depicts the division of labor among males and females, marriage, and kinship issues. The issues raised in the film are in line with the gender-based affairs addressed in the book “Cultural Anthropology: Appreciating Cultural Diversity.” However, the film and the book differ considerably due to the intrusion of the White to the African communities in Southern Africa.

Comparison between the Story of Kung Woman and the Book

            The book, “Cultural Anthropology: Appreciating Cultural Diversity” and the movie “N!ai The Story of a Kung Woman,” agree on the gender-based division of labor. According to Hayes (2018), men should be assigned harder tasks compared to women, whereby the latter should gather food for the family. N!ai went out with her mother to collect sweet berries and wild coffee, whereby the men intervened after the women could not get any food. For instance, N!ai’s father hunted for the big animals such as giraffe and killed them, which was used as food for the family. Chapter 9 describes the relationship between the gender and labor division, whereby men chores are harder than those for women.

The aspect of the patrilineal-patrilocal complex is displayed in the movie and the book. The men are believed to be superior to the women. According to Kottak (2014), the patrilineal system of kinship is depicted when N!ai narrates how her father hunted a giraffe and shared the meat among the fifty people. Also, N!ai explain how she was afraid of her husband whom her parents had chosen for her. This aspect shows the patrilineal system of kinship in N!ai’s culture, whereby the man is superior. Patriarchy aspect also emerges in the society since women are socially and politically inferior. The effects are seen when N!ai got married to Gunda at the age of eight years, against her will. N!ia further indicates that she cannot engage in sexual affairs with other men in the society, and her feelings towards the husband changed after he became a healer.

Examples of the Movie to Some of the Points Highlighted in the Book

The book depicts the issue of sexual dimorphism in society, whereby men are inclined to different responsibilities compared to women. Men differ from women not only by reproductive systems and secondary characteristics, such as breasts, but also in average hair, weight, and longevity (Kottak, 2014). The issue is portrayed in the N!ai Kung Woman film, whereby the!Kung woman narrates how she accompanied her mother and other clan ladies to gather roots, berries, and nuts in the forest (Hamilton, 2018). N!ai further narrates that his father and other clan males went out for hunting animals.  Gender stereotyping is also depicted in the book in regards to how men and female should behave in society. According to Hayes (2018), the Boran clan elders determine the spouse of a lady at a tender age. N!ai is disrespectful to the clan elders by resisting to be married by Gunda at the age of eight. The book also covers the issue of gender stratification in which natural and artificial resources are shared unequally. According to Kottak (2014), sharing of giraffe meat is based on gender and social stratification. Males, particularly those holding a social status such as clan elders, were given the priority in the giraffe meet sharing. On the other hand, women acquired a smaller fraction of the meet compared to men. As such, men were the meat hunters and women the fruit gatherers.

Industrialization and modernization have evolved rapidly particularly in the underdeveloped and developing world. The Boran, San, and the Khoi-khoi people are depicted as Bushmen in the film because they entirely spent their lives in the forests. However, they started wearing clothes and going to school after contact with the Whites. N!ai recalls that before the inception of colonialism, the Bushmen had the freedom to carry out their activities independently (Hayes, 2018). Similarly, the book depicts the family of orientation in which a person is born in, and the family of procreation, which is established through marriage. The film shows the family change scenario as N!ai moves from the orientation family to the procreation family through marriage. The book also depicts various types of marriage and the suppression of women regarding choice during marriage in some cultures. The Boran men are allowed to marry many wives, termed as co-wives, whereas the women are to be married by only one man unless he dies after which close relatives will inherit her.

Counter-Examples and Challenging Scenarios between the Film and the Book

The N!ai story portrays counter-examples to the issues addressed in chapter 9, 10, and 11 including kinship, marriage, and gender role in the society. The European settlers in the Kalahari Deserts referred to Africans in the region as Bushmen to instigate their differences with Africans. The story showcases that in the traditional African community, family roles were divided based on gender. According to Hayes (2018), N!ai used to follow her mother to carry out tasks assigned to the females such as picking berries, nuts, and roots. Conversely, chapter 9 of the “Appreciating Cultural Diversity” showcases the different roles of females and males in the society, which differs significantly with the African lifestyle. The community allows for multiple spouses among the men and little to no multiples among the women.     

The N!ia story challenges the content describes in the three chapters especially in chapter 9 about gender roles. The ! Kung woman carries out activities regardless of whether the society holds some of them as masculine activities. The woman does not fear the biological nature and differences between men and women, which are characterized by gender dimorphism. According to Kottak (2014), gender status has cross-cultural variations described in the matrilineal-matrilocal systems. For instance, the!Kung woman rejects being married to Gunda at the age of eight years. Besides, a woman should move to her husband’s house after marriage as expressed by male supremacy in the patrilineal-patrilocal complex and warfare. As such, it is evident that the N!ia story showcases significant counter-examples and also challenges some of the facts addressed in the Chapters.      


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