Asymmetry in male and female storyteller priorities

an analysis by gender of a sample of published folk narratives collected from storytellers worldwide

Kathleen Ragan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

The folk narrative is a largely untapped resource with the potential to address fundamental questions about human culture and cultural changes on anthropological timescales. The methodology developed in this paper is used to analyze the gender of protagonists in folk narratives as related to the gender of storytellers. Using grammatically defined units and a representative data set of 1640 published folk narratives collected from storytellers, the differential representation of female folk narratives is quantified. Independently reproducible results indicate a pronounced asymmetry in male and female priorities: male storytellers tell predominantly male tales and female storytellers include a balance of genders in their tales. A search for a similar asymmetry in other theoretical and experimental work identifies an alignment with prior anthropological research. This work combined with a review across multiple fields suggests that a useful societal model would be a model based on degrees of cooperation between genders.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalPolitics and culture
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Keywords

  • folktale
  • gender
  • cultural evolution
  • cooperation
  • matriarchy

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