Sample Anthropology Book Review Paper on Plight of Women

Plight of Women


In many developing countries, women are subjected to unequal treatment as compared to their male counterparts.  They are often not involved in critical societal decisions and are never heard despite their enormous contribution in society. In my opinion, women should be allowed to make decisions especially if such are likely to affect their wellbeing. Film makers have taken the initiatives and opportunity to shape perceptions viewed as barriers for women to realize their full potential. These films have empowered women, increased their collective knowledge on rights and informed many policy makers on the need to take care of women since they are the pride of societies. Different societies have different family structures and such families greatly impact on gender issues within. Myriad cultural histories and orientations have been the determining factors in regards to how women are treated. The institution of family and gender issues have been depicted in two films namely; Small Happiness: Women in a Chinese Village and N!ai: The Story of a !Kung Woman.

Film Analysis

The two movies relay the importance of family institution in societies. Small Happiness: Women in a Chinese Village film is a depiction of how families are organized and the impacts they have on gender. Ideally, a family structure is made of a husband, wife and children. Family is an important unit in the Chinese culture. In fact, some people equate families to religion. This is because many Chinese individuals are so loyal to families more than anything. Experts opine that families are meant to aid the continuation of lineage and bloodline (Sean Upton-Mclaughlin, 2013). In the film, it is clear that families and gender roles have not changed in Chinese. Men are still considered the head of families. For that, ancestors are still linked directly to men. Similarly, Marshall in his film N!ai: The Story of a !Kung Woman reveals the significance of family structure. Notably, family is an important institution in the culture of Namibians. In the film N!ai elucidates on marriage and gender. The relationship with her husband was not good at the start. She was terrified and hated her husband so much. As a young lady, she failed to listen to pieces of advice from elders on regards to relationship, marriage and family. She wanted a husband of her choosing, but was culturally prohibited. It prompted her to cheat and engage in other extra marital affairs with other people.  However, the hateful relationship changed when she grew older and started listening to what other people were telling her.

In Small Happiness: Women in Chinese Village film women have to respond to the wishes of closely related men.  Traditionally, many women lacked names, legal rights and their duty was to give birth to children, preferably a son.  This is same to N!ai: The Story of a !Kung Woman where men had freedom to search for food and could not go hungry, their relationships were also peaceful. Women were to remain behind and engage in the daily household chores and take care of the children. The two films differ on respect accorded to men. In Chinese society the respect was to be accorded to the husband more than strangers. On the contrary, it is avowed that things dramatically changed in Namibia when the whites arrived; women were expected to be submissive to men especially the white overlords.

Further, the movies portray how civilization and reforms brought about liberation. China has on the past promoted the one child policy. So, to be safe, women were expected to give birth to sons. The families require women to look at their husband as if they were Heaven, and should not hesitate to submit to their demands. Cultural diversities, identities and social gender are closely intertwined because rural women can assume roles of men who are working in cities. The film highlights the small happiness linked to giving birth to a girl. On the hand, giving birth to a boy is considered a big happiness because the son will remain in the household to continue with the family lineage while a girl will be married off. However, today, women are slowly being liberated. The movie outlines that Women of Low Bow village can comfortably discuss about birth control, family associations, work and even attend women workshop. To stress on the liberation, towards the end of the movie, an older woman is show telling her story with her husband on how the life has considerably changed since the liberation. N!ai: The Story of a !Kung Woman highlights the plight of women from Namibia. The documentary narrates how life changed when White settlers arrived and brought civilization. According to N!ai life was much happier before the arrival of the Whites (Inga, 2015). Significantly, indigenous men also had to work under the whites to earn income to take care of their families.

Women were trapped on gender and societal issues. Chinese culture disregarded female members Specifically, N!ai is trapped between the whites and her people. She is at crossroads with her family and village and the demand of whites. Money medium introduced by the whites caused interpersonal and societal strain. John Marshall, pursued his anthropological studies by ending the film on a sad note when N!ai sings about family rejection and death.


Women have gone through discrimination, mistreatment and rejection in many societies across the world. This has largely been blamed on indigenous cultural beliefs and values. Women are considered subordinates to men who control everything and are the sole decision makers on family issues. However, civilization has considerably redeemed the position of women in society. Women are capable of making personal decisions on marriage. Today, they have assumed some roles that were a reserve for men. The movies Small Happiness: Women in a Chinese Village and N!ai: The Story of a !Kung Woman best depict the transition and transformation of women roles brought about by liberation.


Inga Lam. (2015). Sociology of the family in Namibia. Semester at Sea. Available at: Retrieved April 12, 2018.

Sean Upton-Mclaughlin. (2013). “The significance of family in China”. The China Culture

Corner. Available at: Retrieved April 12, 2018.