Here, in a society of ancient traditions, men and women live together in a nonexploitative manner, displaying a striking degree of equality between the sexes—perhaps a lesson for our own society.

These lines come from Shostak’s introduction to Nisa’s narrative in Chapter 11, “Women and Men.” Shostak’s proposal that !Kung life is an example for our own society to follow is the thesis of her book. Though her overt mission is to provide the context for Nisa’s stories, her more subtle goal is to use this example of a society in which men and women are largely equal as fuel for the women’s movement, which brought to light many inadequacies in the treatment of women in Western society. American society had essentially promoted a culture in which women were exploited for their domestic labor while men reaped the economic advantages. Moreover, the activities and responsibilities usually carried out by women—caring for children, sewing, cooking—were regularly deemed less valuable than the labor done by men. By examining a culture in which men and women both contribute to the life of the village, Shostak aims to prove a point—namely, that there is no intrinsic reason why women’s work should be less valuable than men’s and that women’s labor is just as critical to a society’s functioning.