Robert Snower (rs219@IDIR.NET)
Fri, 31 May 1996 15:51:01 -0500

The feminist paradigm is a frame of reference. It is the frame of reference
which allows that the female has the moral option of rejecting the role
biology has thrust upon her--that of devoting most of her energies to the
bearing and raising of children; that she has the right, as men have, of
choosing a different life, e.g., a career, and thus the right to make this
free choice without being condemned for it by society as a reprehensible odd
ball, but rather to be accepted equally, and on the same moral plane, with
those females who have chosen the biological role.

What is the relevance of this frame of reference, or its radical opposite,
the macho male frame of reference, to anthropology? Ideally, it would have
no relevance to the objective pursuit of any scientific enterprise,
including anthropology. But actually, all of our many frames of reference
are relevant. They guide not only our moral evaluations, but also what data
we select, and what we neglect, to record, to investigate, to include in our
theoretical constructs of explanation.

While modern anthropology leaves much to be desired, in my opinion,
including "gender studies" and "feminist anthropology," there are in the
anthropological tradition a number of very fine impartial investigations of
the sex roles in culture. Among the really great in my view are those of
Jane Harrison, Jessie L. Weston, and Mark Shapiro. All of you
anthropologists who have any interest in what these roles actually are
should certainly read the latter: The Sociobiology of Homo Sapiens, by Mark
Shapiro (1978). It is in print and cheap, if you can't find it otherwise.
It will totally surprise you, because it is an undiscovered treasure:
sociobiology in general is on the taboo list of anthropology faculties, and
Shapiro is an unmentionable even among extant academic and popular

R. Snower