Cultural relativism involves an analysis of different cultures within the culture’s context (Crapo, 2013). This is developing an understanding of cultural practices through the eyes of the members of the cultural group. There are two methods to conduct cultural research, which is through an emic and an etic perspective (Crapo, 2013). In this paper, I will analyze the American culture through the perspective of an outsider to realize what others view the culture and examine another culture from an emic view, which involves looking at another culture from an insider’s view (Crapo, 2013). This will help me in understanding why certain cultures behave as they do and why they are involved in certain activities. I will examine the issue of gender roles and its impact on the female gender in certain activities including views from the media and how the media influences the female gender in their behavior.
This section examines the gender roles in American culture from an etic perspective, which involves an insider’s view of a particular culture through the perspective of an outsider who is not part of the culture (Crapo, 2013). The issue of gender roles involves the social roles, responsibilities, and opportunities between the male and female gender. Gender roles are based on the expectations that certain groups, individuals, and societies have on people based on their sex. Gender roles have continued to evolve and diversify across different cultures from historical times (Shehan, 2018). In the article “Body Ritual among the Nacirema,” Miner explains the Nacirema’s aspects from an etic perspective, which leads to the conclusion that the ceremonies of the Nacirema are unique (Miner, 1956). This perspective enables Miner to analyze the traditions from an outsider’s perspective, which enabled him to realize the unique aspects of the traditions (Miner, 1956).
In writing about my culture, I had to ignore my opinions and experiences, which have shaped my personal values. In America, only two genders are widely recognized but other countries recognize up to four genders (Shehan, 2018). Gender roles vary among the Americans with men traditionally described as the earners and providers in all households while the women are responsible for household chores, which involve cleaning the house and taking care of the children (Shehan, 2018). This is attributed to the society’s values and beliefs related to gender roles. The positions of power and authority are held by men who are deemed more superior than the women are. The United States has however implemented strategies and efforts to reduce and prevent discrimination based on gender with laws to support the inferior female gender (Shehan, 2018). In the article “Gender Stereotypes in the media,” by Kaufman and Summerson, the authors analyze how the media presents the female gender to the public.
The media has portrayed women as an inferior gender while portraying the male gender as the superior gender. In most programs and shows, men are presented and given manly roles with the women being subject to men (Kaufman & Sumerson, 2015). This is also indicated in most secular song videos, which indicate sexual harassment and negative attitudes towards the women. This article eventually concluded that women are discriminated against in the media and strategies to help address gender discrimination should be implemented (Kaufman & Sumerson, 2015). There are many cases of gender stereotypes with women being perceived as the weaker gender. The United States is a developed country with high expectations that gender stereotypes are a thing of the past, however, this has not been fully addressed with the female gender having to put more effort to rise in their career ladder and taking up leadership roles (Kaufman & Sumerson, 2015).
Americans face many stereotypes on what roles the males and females play in the society with the portrayal of women by the media having a direct or indirect influence on the biased mindset against the female gender (Shehan, 2018). A majority of the population would think that this is not true and these things are not happening in the American culture. However, after examining this culture, I would confidently state that these assumptions are not correct. The media has a major influence on what is deemed appropriate for the different genders (Shehan, 2018). Religion and family backgrounds have shaped gender roles in America with women performing domestic roles with few opportunities to women in reaching their highest aspirations. Only a few women reach high levels in the corporate world, which is dominated by men. Some departments, which include the military, are perceived to be occupied by men (Shehan, 2018).
American men may feel proud by being heads of the families and holding powerful positions than their female counterparts. However, different cultural views may disagree with this culture (Shehan, 2018). An outsider would have a difficult time in understanding why men are championed for the superior positions where else women in different cultures have been able to overcome these barriers and held powerful positions. Success does not come from uneven distribution but other attributes other than the show of masculinity (Shehan, 2018). With the changing gender roles, men are now becoming involved in household responsibilities, which include raising kids at home. More strategies are needed in America to eliminate the issue of gender discrimination to enable equality in the different aspects of the world (Shehan, 2018).
In this section of the paper, I will discuss the impact of the media on different cultures. This includes the impact television has on Fijian girls from an emic perspective. An emic perspective involves an examination or an account given from an insider’s perspective (Crapo, 2013). In the article by Becker, “Television disordered eating, and young women in Fiji,” the article examines the impact that television has on the young women of a rural community in Fiji. The media plays a role in body image, which is examined through the Fijian girls (Becker, 2004). Although the television had a positive impact on the women in how the girls interacted, the girls had a low self-esteem and developed eating disorders. This shows how the media can affect the female gender by how they present the female gender through the media by controlling the minds of the women (Becker, 2004).
When looking from the Fijian perspective, there is a disharmony between their expected responsibilities based on their culture and their desires, which are influenced by the television (Becker, 2004). In Becker’s article, the Fiji girls are demonstrated as women who are interested in proficient professions, which are displayed on the television as positions set aside for thin girls. This led to despair in achieving the expectations through social changes to become what their counterparts in different cultures were (Becker, 2004). The introduction of television to the Fiji community influenced the girls to change their eating habits rapidly, which led to eating disorders. Due to the stress by their culture on individual accomplishment, the women were influenced to behave in a certain manner, which is aimed at achieving what other women in different cultures have achieved (Becker, 2004).
These women were influenced to see themselves not pretty based on their weight and with the desire to be like other cultures, the women implemented strategies based on the thought that they will be better accepted looking in a certain way (Becker, 2004). Through an emic perspective on this analysis, it is devastating to realize the influence of television and other forms of media on individuals particularly the female gender. The media has a big impact on young individuals in the United States as indicated in the Fijian research (Becker, 2004). The girls perceived what they saw as reality and wanted to associate with the culture that was displayed through the television. The Fijian culture is used to eat freely which was affected by the western culture. Before the introduction of the media, eating disorders were nonexistent (Becker, 2004).
However, with the introduction of television, the mindset was transformed with the women changing their feeding habits to be able to achieve the body shape they saw on the television, which they thought was the ideal body shape (Becker, 2004). Big bodies are culturally acceptable in Fijian culture as they are a sign of hard work and capability, which is a positive social status (Becker, 2004). The article further explains that eating disorders were a norm in the western cultures but became part of the Fijian culture after the introduction of the television. After three years since the television had been introduced to the Fijian culture, a study on body image revealed an increase in eating disorders. (Becker, 2004). The participants had been influenced by how the media portrayed the western women, which was indicated as the ideal body shape.
Due to how the media used young girls through the television, the Fijian girls were determined to do whatever it takes to be like the western girls even if it involved having eating disorders (Becker, 2004). This article also examines the reasons why young girls are at an increased risk in participating in risky behaviors with some of the answers being given after an interview on the Fijian girls as to how television had influenced them (Becker, 2004). Most of the answers indicated that the Fijian girls had a desire to be as the women portrayed in the television without the consideration that most of the women in the television were actors who were paid to do the marketing. However, traditional body images were different from those portrayed on the television as their culture had a different perspective related to body shapes (Becker, 2004).
In conclusion, anthropology helps us in understanding different cultures from their own perspectives, which enables us to understand the reasons behind certain actions and practices without using our personal values to make judgments (Crapo, 2013). This is important in helping us overcome ethnocentrism, which involves evaluating other cultures based on one’s understanding and culture (Crapo, 2013). The analysis of the aspect of gender on the American culture is an example of cultural relativism. Normal American behaviors and practices from an etic perspective can be seen as weird and strange by other countries (Shehan, 2018). When examining the impact of the media over young Fijian girls from an emic view, it allows an individual to see the negative effect that the media has on different cultures around the world (Becker, 2004). It is important for individuals to take an etic as well as an emic perspective in regards to one’s own culture and other cultures because a majority of individuals will favor their own culture to other cultures (Crapo, 2013).
Becker. A. E. (2004). Television, disordered eating, and young women in Fiji: Negotiating body image and identity during rapid social change. Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, 28(4), 533-559.
Crapo, R. H. (2013). Cultural anthropology Electronic version. Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu/
Kaufman, J. C., & Sumerson, J. B. (2015). Editors’ introduction to the 2015 Special Issue, Gender Stereotypes in the Media. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 4(1), 1. doi:10.1037/ppm0000071.
Miner, H. (1956). Body Ritual among the Nacirema. American Anthropologist, 58 (3), 503–507. Retrieved from https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html
Shehan, C. L. (2018). Gender roles in American life: A documentary history of political, social, and economic changes. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO.