Lars Eighner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
5 Sep 1996 14:13:13 -0500
alt.folklore.urban trimmed from followups.
In our last episode <199609051727.AA08640@metronet.com>,
Broadcast on alt.folklore.urban,sci.anthropology
The lovely and talented the spiegel <email@example.com> wrote:
>In article <55cLyAwZqYIG091yn@io.com> you write:
>>The question is: what accounts for the absence of female-female
>>marriage in cultures where it is absent?
>>This is what I mean by pointing out the bias inherent in your
>>questions. Apparently your culture is the norm and it is
>>up to those that differ to explain themselves.
>Unfair. Last time I used the word "normal," I meant it as "what is most
When "norm," the word I used, entered the language it meant
a model or standard, as might be guessed from it's origin
in the Latin word for carpenter's square. Since that time it
has acquired several mathematical senses. As I was speaking
neither of statistics nor of vector spaces, I should think it
would be a safe assumption that I meant the word in its original
>I can name dozens of cultures where female-female
>ritual partnership (i.e., marriage) is rare. Can you make a
No. In fact your data would be helpful to me. What is in
question is not whether female-female marriage is the
modal form of marriage in any culture--unless someone thinks
there is a real basis for the Amazon myth, I don't believe
anyone has made such claim. Female-female marriages are fairly
rare (how rare is rare?) in all the cultures in which they are
known to occur.
The issue is between cultures in which this form of marriage
occurs at all and those in which it does not occur (discounting
the cases in which the marriage occurs because one of the parties
has effectively disguised her sex because, of course, this not
a cultural practice, but an individual one).
The dozens of cases that you can cite in which female-female
marriages are rare, plus the dozens of cases I have cited in
which female-female marriages occur both argue against setting
up one culture--our own--which forbids such marriages, as
the authoritative standard against which every other society
must be judged.
And doing that--assuming that there is something authoritative
about our culture that makes it the model against which all
others must be compared so that other cultures must somehow
be explained or justified whenever they depart from the model--
is exactly the nature of my complaint. This is precisely what
ethnocentrism is, and I am truly appalled to discover it has
so many adherents in sci.anthropology in 1996.
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