Conversation re sexual dimorphism

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Mon, 20 Feb 1995 08:08:08 JST

Michelle Golden asks some important and interesting questions:
(1)Do men and women differ in how we respond to threads on the net?
(2)Is an analysis that uses the concept oppression, ipso facto dubious?
(3)Is there a place in anthropology for analysis of female oppression and
male privilege?
(4)Can we examine the "culture of anthropology"?

Short answers from one interested male: yes,no,yes, yes.
What we need more of, I would suggest, is a bit more thoughtfulness and
tact on all sides. When oppression has a direct bearing on the issue under
discussion, of course its use is valid. Thus, for example, female oppression
and male privilege are entirely to the point in explaining female
infanticide and population skewed toward males in China--no question about
it. When crying "oppression!" becomes a reflex, a form of ad hominem argument
invoked as a matter of habit, it functions in precisely the same way as
words like "bastard," "nigger," "dyke." It says (1) I don't like you and
(2) there is no need to listen to what you are saying because you are bound
to be wrong. There is, of course, an endless sea of gray between these two
extremes.What I find missing in a lot of current debate is the realization
that someone who is totally evil, utterly despicable, and has loathsome
personal habits (including the habit of exercising power in an abominable
arbitrary, cruel and revoltingly tyrannical way) can, nonethelss utter an
insight or truth. It is this appalling realization that lies at the root of
the old, much-maligned distinction between facts and values.Not that we
ever get them totally untangled;but the effort to find the "facts"(the
common ground on which we agree) before we address the "values"(the points
where we differ, typically because we have different priorities (and defending
who we feel we are is a very important part of that) makes conversation a
bit more civil and more likely to be productive.

John McCreery