Feminism and gender studies

Joseph M. O'Neal (josephon@ADMIN.STEDWARDS.EDU)
Thu, 30 May 1996 12:17:51 -0500

I agree that feminist anthropology and gender studies have a very large
overlap. Although I call a course I teach Anthropology of Women, I explain
in the first class that to a large extent it is the anthropology of gender

There is a feminist paradigm in anthropology, however, as well. In cultural
anthropology, it is reflected in a conscious attempt to put women back into
the human species as integral parts, in contrast to the older male-dominated
ethnography in which women are barely mentioned and in which sometimes the
ethnographer adopts the sexism of his (usually his) male informants. In
physical anthropology, it often consists of reinterpreting the fossil and
primatological evidence to critique the "man the hunter" hypothesis. In
both cases, feminist anthropologists (usually women, but also including men;
I am proud to claim to be a small part of this movement) are attempting to
correct the errors of the past due to male dominance of the profession and
the general sexism of American society and the social sciences.

There is a similar paradigm in archeology, but I am not qualified to comment
on it.

Are these feminists men-haters? Sometimes, but not often. This is an old
calumny designed to dismiss the work of feminists with a particularly
vicious ad hominem argument. Take a look, for example, at Annette Wiener's
restudy of the Trobriands. She hardly even criticizes Malinowski, and in
fact praises him at many opportunities. However, she takes great pains to
correct his male-biased picture of the culture of the Trobriand Islanders.
No man-hating there!

Joseph M. O'Neal
St. Edward's University
3001 S. Congress Ave.
Austin TX 78704


FAX: 512-448-8767
e-mail: josephon@admin.stedwards.edu