Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?

Ortner, S. (1996). Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture? Feminist Studies. Boston: Beacon Press. 5-5.

In “So Is Female to Male as Nature is to Culture?” Sherry Ortner defends and further explains a previous essay she wrote where she describes and explains the concept of “universal male dominance.” Her previous writing said that universal male dominance arises from the way females are closer to nature through reproduction and child-rearing and males are closer to culture through production of enduring objects. Critics said her concepts are not universal and she uses this essay to revisit her original argument in light of critiques. Ortner uses a comparative method to examine findings from various cultures, the theories of various cultures and she sustains a contrast with her earlier essay. In particular, she revisits cultural cases to distinguish between patriarchy and male dominance to find these are not the same thing. The essay concludes that male dominance is not based on female/male, nature/culture and is not accurate to say culture dominates nature, because not all cultures view the relationship this way. Domination is not intentional and genders can have separate realms of power. Still, she generally views men dominating women. If we look at male/female as a metaphor for culture/nature, then Ortner’s work allows us to think differently about culture/nature. It allows us to contrast egalitarian and dominating approaches to culture/nature. It also allows us to think about the human body as a site where larger questions of culture/nature take place. This article is important because it shows how influential aspects of our identity, such as gender, can be in how we think about and interact with the environment. These characteristics need to be taken into consideration in order to successfully implement management projects.