Re: Physical nomenclature

Patrick Riley (
Sun, 11 Aug 1996 07:08:39 GMT (Toby Cockcroft) wrote:

>>In <4tuhp8$>,
> Riley) writes:
>>>Oh dear, have I stumbled into a web of PC activists? Judging by the posts
>>>on Amerind whatever and your reply, perhaps so.
>>>The political overtones part of my objection to using the Bertillon system
>>>was not due to any sensibility on my part but rather I was simply restating
>>>what others had told me: "Don't use the Bertillon system, it's too complex
>>>and has too many political overtones." Personally I have no idea if it
>>>corresponds at all with what I want but it's not worth following anyway
>>>because of the necessity to take physical measurements.

> In other words 'I don't care a whit about politics I'm not using T.B.S.
>because of the methodology'
>Well congrats!! I'm glad that you are using all of your critical
>abilities to ensure an objective model.

No, I do care about politics, I make every effort to be politically
incorrect! Did it ever occur to you that I might not want to take
physical measurments because I can't take physical measurements. I'm
not exhuming dead bodies here. Further even if I could touch and feel,
such precision would be totally useless.

>>>Why the need to do it now? For anthropologists, since I only have a vague
>>>idea of what you do, I have no opinion.


>>>For the field in which I work,

>Which is?

Read the full signature.

>>>it's not a question of "do[ing] it now" but rather increasing the
>>>precision of the descriptions with which I currently work

>Again, the descriptions that you work with are fundamentally wrought with
>political overtones and I would question the need to refine such
>descriptions. To what ends would more precise descriptions of humans
>acheive? What is this need to describe and classify humans and from where
>does it originate?

Of course they are. The feminists (and probably you too) hate it when
I classify Edith Smith as a big boobed bimbo but my readers (Enquiring
minds, all) love to know that sort of information. Unfortunately "big
boobed" verges on the slightly imprecise--there is a qualitative
difference between 48GGG and just a 44DD!

>To classify humans by mere physical descriptions is an exercise in
>futility. Classificatory systems will always be faulty and betray their
>political and ethnocentric ideosyncrasies. A classificatory system can
>go one of two ways, one, overly descriptive to the point of dividing each
>individual into a 'race/clade/what have you' of one or, two, overly
>simplified so as to describe a few groups by generalised and impractical
>criteria whereby we describe an archetype and not reality. Any system
>inbetween attempts to use different methodes to produce different
>archetypes, but it is these archetypes that have political implications.
>Why do you use one characteristic over another, why one measurement over
>another, etc... these reasons are political ones and the groups that they
>end up creating are political ones. think!

>So I put it to you once again: what is it that compels you to classify
>humans through physical traits when such an endeavour is futile and
>wrought with political implications?

You see I have this "compelling" need to communicate to my readers
what someone in a movie looks like so they can make an informed
decision as to whether that female might get them sexually aroused or
the male might be so repulsive they should avoid it at all costs.
Hardly a futile endeavour.

Instead of getting your knickers in a twist a simple explanation like
"Anthropologists don't use classification systems anymore but you
could try <name-of-text>" (from the sixties) would have been
appropriate. BTW one of your more down-to-earth colleagues already
E-mailed me with an interesting suggestion.

Patrick Riley
Author: The X-Rated Videotape Guide
The X-Rated Videotape Star Index