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L'amazone et la cuisinière : anthropologie de la division sexuelle du travail
[The Amazon and the Cook: Anthropology of Sexual Division of Labor]
2014, Paris : Gallimard
Why have women, in every civilization, been excluded from the hunt? Why couldn’t they board a ship or be a soldier? Why were they assigned tasks like gathering, spinning, weaving and tanning? What can explain that there exist masculine and feminine ways of cutting, digging and working the land?
In this essay, which combines intellectual audacity and scientific rigor, Alain Testart shows that beliefs explain the differentiation between masculine and feminine activities, and he traces these links back to prehistoric times. These beliefs though implicit and irrational have powerful effects on reality and are based on a hidden logic: the logic of a woman’s menstrual blood perceived as a serious perturbation that affects her body’s interior and which excludes her from particular technical tasks or from specific activities. Even if such a traditional division will soon be something from the past, one is always surprised by its consistency, its quasi-universality even to the present day. In this essay, Alain Testart proceeds step by step in a new and original consideration of the role of blood in social configurations and gender construction.

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