Why There Are So Few Women Warriors
1. Introduction Page 1

Title/Summary page

1. Introduction Page 1

2. Cross-Cultural Methodology
Page 2

3. Societies with Women Warriors
Page 3

4. The Exclusion of Women from War
Page 4

5.Type of Warfare Determines Marital Residency
Pages 5-6

6. The Prehistory of Warfare
Pages 7-8

7. Interaction of Biology and Culture
Page 9

8. Conclusion
Page 10

Pages 11-12-13-14-15-16

Footnote and References
Page 17

Why don't women take an active part in war? Is it because they lack a "so-called aggressive instinct" (Lorenz, 1966) present in men and responsible for war? These are important questions while it is imperative for us to abolish war within our lifetime, some people have argued that war cannot be abolished because it is caused by "aggressive instincts." In previous work on the brain mechanisms of aggressive behavior (Adams, 1979), I found no evidence that "aggressive instincts" could explain warfare. Therefore, I have turned to cross-cultural methodology to address the question. The results, presented in the following paper, support a completely different explanation that women do not go to war because there is an historical contradiction between the institutions of warfare and marriage .

Of course, all complex human behavior is at the same time both biological and cultural, both individual and social. On the one hand, the present paper emphasizes that historical contradiction between marriage and warfare is the immediate determining factor in the exclusion of women from war. On the other hand, there is no reason to deny that biological factors have also played a role in the historical process, as will be discussed later on.

Cross-cultural anthropological research by previous investigators, especially Carol and Melvin Ember (1971, 1974) have shown that there is a strong relationship between patterns of marital residency and patterns of warfare. In particular, it has been shown that there is an association between patrilocal marital residency (in which the bride goes to live with or near the husband's family) and the presence of some internal warfare (warfare against neighboring communities that share the same language), while matrilocal marital residency (in which the husband goes to live with or near the bride's family) is more likely to be found in cultures with exclusively external warfare (warfare against more distant communities that do not share the same language).

In cultures with patrilocal marital residency and internal warfare, there is a potential conflict of interest for women: war may be waged by their husbands on one side against their brothers and fathers on the other side. In reading various accounts of warfare in cultures without a state structure, I have been struck by how often one encounters this problem of split loyalties for women. For example, among the Mae Enga, a New Guinea people with frequent internal warfare and a patrilocal system of marital residency, Meggitt (1977 , p. 98) reports:

Mae women are wholly excluded from the meetings in which men decide whether or not to go to war. ...This restriction prevents women from learning the details of battle plans, and it is meant to do so. In this way a woman married in from another clan (and almost all are) is not faced with a difficult conflict or interests, if, as may well be the case, her natal group is the intended target .

Given the frequency of the preceding predicament (in the sample to be described later, it would be expected to occur in 7 I percent of the 58 cultures with frequent internal warfare), it seemed that it might be a major contributing factor to the exclusion of women from warfare. Therefore, I put it to a test by using classical cross-cultural survey techniques.

previous page
home page
next page