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Margaret Mead: Where Are You Now?

Margaret Mead: Where Are You Now?

Barbara Nimri Aziz

Sexual perversion--I categorize the kind of predatory behavior we are witnessing today as perversion-- generally by men in power vis-à-vis women, never attracted much attention in cross-cultural studies.

Margaret Mead at work.

Good article full of several good references! Hopefully, the references and authors mentioned in this article will lead us to dig deeper, in order to gain more knowledge and a better understanding of these issues.

Intelligent, dedicated scientists and researchers were once highly valued and respected in our culture.
I fervently hope for a return to that norm, instead of valuing people in terms of wealth and power!


The biological sociologist Helen Fisher might be able to explain it to us with charts and footnotes, but comedian Billy Crystal gets right to the point: “Women need a reason to have sex. Men just need a place.”

That being said, it still doesn’t excuse ANY use of force, be it physical, emotional or financial, in fulfilling that biological imperative.


“Wrong” As with other glib statements meant to be a joke, this line of thinking is ill-considered. Women’s sex drive has been trivialized for a long time along with our skills and knowledge. Another way to put women in her place or just out of ignorance without effort to understand and gain knowledge, it is easy to just devalue and make fun. Remember the witch burnings documented from late middle ages continued for several centuries. Mainly women who were burned because their knowledge was seen as a threat to the Church. Just like Galileo no one has the right to a difference. It is about Power just like violence sex.

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I totally agree that Margaret Mead is the standard bearer when it comes to these issues, no doubt by the author as well. Mead was openly criticized and attempted discredit for years but emerged with her theories intact. I learned something very interesting in this article. Having come of age in the sexual revolution which I question to this day and that is how things change and still have the same roots. The other side of Mead’s theories that met so much hostility.

I liked the Billy Crystal theory too. lol


From my limited encounter with the subject, I have the impression that polyandrous Tibetan women are/were far from dominant. Widows would be passed to the late husband’s brother(s), with no real female say in the matter. Much the same has been going on lately among some sub-Saharan Africans in the case of AIDS widows. Maybe there are instances of true female choice fostering polyandry, but I don’t know any. As I stated, this area is not one I consider myself well-versed in.

I have some sense that a strain in Burmese culture preserves an ancient higher regard for women, vestiges of so-called matriarchy, and comparatively higher status for women relative to parallel cultures in the region and elsewhere. Still, look at what a moral morass the place is, as supposedly life-reverencing Buddhists abet near-genocidal ethnic cleansing while the country’s female Nobel Peace Prize-winning icon sits by passively. Whence rectification could or shall come, I dunno.

I know a bit more about North America’s Eastern Woodland indigenous culture, probably some mix of accurate appraisal and romantic embellishment. Citing a “Mohawk matriarchy” may be going a step too far, but apparently women often served as respected advisors and peacemaking was traditionally great grounds for esteem. Multiple accounts of residents’ early encounters with Europeans, especially English, along what is now the U.S. Eastern Seaboard suggest that the huge gap in power, wealth and status between the highest and lowest ranking colonizers was one of the first and worst things the natives noticed about the newcomers. Both gender dimensions and economic dimensions are discernable.

The current rush of sexual harassment and assault allegations, largely credible and fast becoming too numerous to count, against erstwhile prestigious figures in many fields leaves me ambivalent. Above all, our world features the pussy grabber in chief purring, tweeting and rampaging in his nuclear-armed catbird seat with no effective challenge let alone needed displacement. All the rest means less as long as this overriding fact prevails.

Moreover, there is a disquietingly neo-Victorian cast to the outcry. Bear in mind, I appreciate the outcry and strongly affirm that episodes and behaviors now coming to light abundantly merit outrage, plus as appropriate prosecution. Still, we’re delivered the revelations in a tenor that characterizes women as purely passive, consent as bad, female-initiated intimacy unthinkable, and free sex advocacy an aberration. As a prosaic aside, I’d add that some conflation of an “uncool guy coming on too strong” with an all-out molester or rapist is occurring, and this muddies the picture. The portrayed setting the accounts nest in also strikes me as rather out of whack, skewed by an unconscious or semiconscious move to normalize abnormality. By implication, the general corporate or governmental or media or entertainment milieu in which lurid episodes reportedly occurred would be perfectly OK except for the reported episodes. I disagree. Most critiques barely scratch the surface of our social, existential, and institutional problems.


The issue of being culturally specific is a very important point in the development of social and cultural values. Not just in the transition of matriarchy or matrilineality to patriarchy in our culture, but the process itself.
The impoverished single mother is an example.

I must agree. There is definitely a “sliding scale”, or a continuum if you will, ranging from mild nuisance to horrific violence, and all points in between. I hate to see a “rush to judgement” in some cases, as well as “trial by media”.

Since you liked that, here’s another:

It’s said that Aldous Huxley, upon his first experience with psilocybin mushrooms, was so in awe of his heightened senses and perceptions that he thought it best to take notes while under the influence.

During his trip, he felt certain he had discovered the secret of life, the universe and everything, and painstakingly recorded his thoughts for sober consideration.

The next morning, this is what he had written:

“Higamous Hogamous/
Woman’s monogamous/
Hogamous Higamous/
Man is polygamous.”

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It was a bon mot, not the Malleus Maleficarum. Peace?

Yes, both have vast ramifications if you think about it, Huxley takes it to another level but neither can really escape such a large reality. You have to see the humor in that. Thanks very much.

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However and although I admire intellectual scribes as Molly Ivins, Slavoj Zizek, Seymour Hersh, Noam Chomsky, Zygmunt Bauman, Aldous Huxley I do not agree with all of their ideas. However and although I might be bereft of levity I do know that the generalizations meant in jest as above are not accurate. Half or more of marriages end in divorce and are the result of money problems or infidelity. I do know that not all of the infidelity is on the side of the husband. This is not personal experience. Plus and however I also am not as angry as I sound in my post about the jokes. Not since I grew up that is and no longer engage in aggressive sexual behavior against men. (sigh) Life is too complicated to worry about this. Pox vobiscum and however peccavi

I am not sure what the point is if we look solely at lineage. Tracing the descent through the mother, isn’t that what the definition of being Jewish by birth is? If your father is Jewish, you are not a Jew. If your mother is, then you are too and eligible to immigrate to Israel. At the moment, Israeli society does not appear to be a model of compassion or any other of the ‘womanly’ virtues. The idea of a matriarchal society would seem to be of importance as a corrective to modern society’s current patriarchal death cult, only if it were to show that such a society is an alternative to that. If not, the we may understand it but we may also need to accept that we have to find another way that doesn’t involve pitting one sex against the other but instead respects all- perhaps this is ‘the middle way’?

Interesting post. Just my 2 cents but this is why Margaret Mead is such a good example. She attempted to answer some of those questions. What followed continues to this day. So. we look at lineage regardless of looking at by female linage or male linage. In my opinion they are both adaptations and there is plenty of information there. Patriarchy being what it is, is dominant. And part of the reason you have to travel to the ends of the earth to find examples of matriarchal society. Israel is a whole other story. Take a look at the government, does that look matriarchal to you? For me it is just common sense. It is a female planet.

A look at what happened. You have to read more though because it is not just about sex.


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