Marius Johnston (mariusj@NETCOM.COM)
Fri, 6 Jan 1995 14:12:39 -0800
Message 8/31 From Richard Spear Jan 5, 95 07:00:35 pm
In article Bjorn Conrad Fry <bear@USNET.US.NET> writes:
>>Date: Thu, 5 Jan 1995 20:37:25 -0500
>>Reply-To: Bjorn Conrad Fry <bear@USNET.US.NET>
>>From: Bjorn Conrad Fry <bear@USNET.US.NET>
>>To: Multiple recipients of list ANTHRO-L
>>Happy New Year All!
>> Several times now, a number of us have been labeled as ethnocentric
>>to one degree or another, in response to contributions we have made to
>>this list. It would be prudent to point out here, that in each instance a
>>fundamental disagreement existed between the beliefs of the "labelers"
>>and those of the "labelees". That said, do not those of us, so labeled or
>>named, along with others on the list, deserve to understand what
>>definition/s of ethnocentrism was or were entailed? Conversely, would
>>it not also be important to understand what it means not to view the
>>world ethnocentrically? How would fundamental leanings towards
>>relativistic and absolutist points of view play a role?
>Bjorn - I find this post interesting and quite relevant to the ongoing
>discussion concerning racism, sexism, etc. By the way, happy new year to
>you,too. Central to all of these debates is just who defines the terms and
>playingfield? At the risk of being too much the generalist and abstractor,
>the issue at hand is essentially a struggle for power. Culture is socially
>defined and society is a battleground for folks with differing interests
>and concerns - many contributors to this "discussion" have tried to
>approach it rationally -I'm not sure (in fact there's a lot of evidence to
>contradict the fact) that human behavior and human relations ultimately
>derive from rational decision making. For instance, those men busily
>trying to "rationalize" their position
Yes indeed, the first part of your paragraph is on the money. However you
fail to recognize that "rational" is too often a value judgement. We see
*your* value judgement in the following paragraph of your post "For
instance, those men busily trying to "rationalize" their position in regard
to language use are struggling to maintain a position of advantage, while
the women arguing against these men are raising issues that will deny
them (the men) this advantageous position." This, of course, is straight
victim/oppressor, agit-prop not unlike that which Ruby Rohrlich used to
start this sad but probably necessary thread/event. The so called
language "problem" is really a strawman. It is a strawman because woman
would have achieved parity whether or no words like mankind were
rendered sex-neutral. In fact a case can be made that feminist derepage
was and is counter-productive. The real issue is something else. Extreme
positions usually are pointers to a general paradigm, much like the
iceberg's tip to it's mass under the surface. For example:
"Beethoven's symphonies add two other dimensions to the history of style:
assaultive pelvic pounding...and sexual violence. The point of
recapitulation in the first movement of the Ninth is one of the most
horrifying moments in music, as the carefully prepared cadence is
frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the throttling,
murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release.
-Susan McClary, Getting Down Off the Beanstalk: The Presence of a
Woman's Voice in Janika Vandervelde's Gensis II (P.144 Richard Bernstein
Dictatorship of Virtue)
I wonder what possible grounds, other than political obsession, she can
give for her -moving- assessment of the Ninth?
If that critique of the Ninth is not enough, Marilyn Frye at the Center for
Advanced Studies at the University of Minnesota redefines heterosexuality
as women's "subordination and servitude to men" "The primary sites of
this reduction are the sites of heterosexual relation and encounter:
courtship, sexual liaisons, f--ing, marriage, prostitution, the normative
family, incest, child sexual assault. It is on this terrain of heterosexual
connection that girls and women are habituated to abuse, insult, to
whores, to mistresses, to sex slaves, to clerical workers, to the mothers
of men's sons." (Charles Sykes A Nation of Victims p. 189)
A struggle for power? Indeed, you are right. Equality? You have to be
In this context, paranoia, posts from Ruby Rohrlich take on their correct
"Thank you, Matt Tomaso. For my money, "mankind" is as excluding a word
as "nigger" is debasing. The insistence on using it by anthropologists,
of all people, shows a deeply-imbedded misogyny and a denial of women's
representation in language. The venomous emotionalism aroused by my
objection, for the second time, to the use of this word (and of course
others like it) makes me wonder about how the close-mindedness of Bjorn
and his ilk affects their teaching. Ruby Rohrlich."
(From Ruby Rohrlich Jan 1, 95 11:02:39 pm -0500)
"I said I would stop reading Bjorn's postings. I did not say you should.
My teaching does not consist of opinions, and I hope yours doesn't,
either. Rohrlich (From Ruby Rohrlich Jan 3, 95 07:57:45 pm -0500)
[delete, quoted in full above]
>I suggest that the victors will determine the language to be used for
>dialog and that has always been true (shades of Adolph Hitler!).
>The situation is dynamic - African Americans have altered and continue
>to alter the way we refer to them (and, one hopes, treat them) and women
>have altered and continue to alter the way we refer to them (and one
>hopes, treat them).
I must remind you that Hitler ultimately lost and his political Truths died,
for the most part, shortly thereafter.
(See Archaeology July/August '92 The Past as Propaganda by Bettina
This is the fate of Political Truth without active oppression. This, today,
is why the thought police, like Ruby Rohrlich and her ilk are "necessary".
They too will fail. They will fail because equality is not their goal. They
have identified with the "oppressor" of their minds.
>Struggles for power are unavoidable when groups interact and the
>struggles and outcomes are real and meaningful to the people involved ...
>the disconcerting thing to me has been the attempts at *formalizing*
The positions were formalized a long time ago.
"Sexist oppression is more endemic to our society than racism." Kate
"Yet it may well be that regarding women as a minority group may be
productive of fresh insights and suggest leads for further research."
Helen Mayer Hacker 1976
"Social interaction is the battlefield where the daily war between the
sexes is fought. It is here that women are constantly reminded where
their 'place' is and here that they are put back in their place." Nancy
Henley and Jo Freeman 1976
"There are many indications from the prehistory studies in the Near East
that it took perhaps five thousand years or longer for the subjugation of
women to take place." Mary Jane Sherfey 1976
"I have never been free of the fear of rape. From a very early age I, like
most women, have thought of rape as part of my natural environment -
something to be feared and prayed against like fire or lightening." Susan
on and on
(The above 1976 quotes are from an anthology, Female Psychology:The Emerging
Self by Sue Cox 1976.)
>the arrogance of those that insist on acknowledgement of their stand as
>the only viable one and the ridicule of those who disagree ... I expect that
>of others, but anthropologists????