The Feminist Critique

Is Feminism postmodern?gramsci3
Who in Antonio Gramnci?

Any comments on some classics in this area:
Anthropology and Gender: The Feminist Critique
-Sally Slocum, Woman the Gatherer: Male Bias in Anthropology (1975)
-Eleanor Leacock, Interpreting the Origins of Gender Inequality: Conceptual and Historical Problems (1983)
-Ann L. Stoler, Making Empire Respectable: the Politics of Race and Sexual Morality in 20th-Century Colonial Cultures (1989)

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Jessica  On April 22, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Like postmodernists, Sally Slocum thought the background of ethnographers could lead to biased information. Anthropology, as an academic discipline, had been developed by white, Western males. Female anthropologists in the past wrote about subjects that were important to men. Their writing was undistinguishable from that of their male colleagues. Subjects such as the role of women in the course of evolution hadn’t been considered. Slocum thought some of the information she had recieved was factual- the fossil and archaeological record, and comparisions between nonhuman primates and people. The rest was speculation. If people couldn’t be objective, then there wouldn’t be any facts. Postmodernists believed people were not capable of being objective.

  • Kathryne J  On April 23, 2009 at 8:16 am

    The same feeling of skepticism in the Postmodern movement of History is present. People in academia these days are just skeptical of the capacity for objectivity. In this case it just gets applied to men. Men cannot be objective, even if they consciously try, because their upbringing has banged into their heads that women are subordinate. This is especially true in the earlier forms of Feminism in Anthropology movement, since they just assumed the universality of women as subordinate.

    Sally Slocum immediately applies these ideas to the actual field of Anthropology, where she also assumed the women were subordinate since the field was physically dominated by women. I feel that it is hard to attack this field for that reason, since it like most of the fields, was at the time dominated by males. Men dominated because they had had their independence in academia for over a century. By the 1960’s and 70’s, women were just becoming an important part of academia. Therefore, I don’t see why she has to attack the field, rather than just start to change it by proving yourself. Of course she felt it was hard to be accepted! I just feel that change in subordinate genders is eventually inevitable in American society as nearly every American household moves to depending on two incomes.

    While I do believe in the merit of many different view points in Anthropology, Slocum is critiquing the male bias while forcefully introducing the female bias to Anthropology.

  • Joy  On April 23, 2009 at 11:11 am

    I like Kathyrne’s last comment. I agree, in criticizing another’s view point she is forwarding her own biases. Even if it was a warranted correction to a male dominated Anthropology. I think, however, she neglected that there are more things shared by the two sexes than there are different.
    I would not consider her a true Post-modernist because her does offer a correction to the ideas of Human evolution rather than just criticizing and deconstructing it. She does not deny an objective view explicitly, though the feminist critique in essence, does introduce the possibility that objective study is not easily attainable, if possible at all. Feminist theory is most definitely a fore-runner for post-modernism, but I don’t think it has quite crossed the line yet.
    I think the ideas proposed by Slocum are still beneficial to the study and understanding of Anthropology, whereas the ideas of Post-Modernism make Anthropology and the search for objective study of culture a hopeless endeavor.

  • Inconditus alio  On April 23, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Every human, no matter what they say is biased. Although, to admit it to one’s self is the problem. I agree that anthropology was dominated by males, but what wasn’t (looking at it from a historical perspective). I agree that we have to change our look at cultures (both men & women). When she looks at infant-dependency making the woman work harder, I find it hard to believe that both parties didn’t provide more food. I don’t agree that learning to be an anthropologist automatically makes one have a male perspective, I think that is just grasping at straws, and a fallacy.

  • empFresno  On April 23, 2009 at 1:32 pm

    I agree with inconditus that every human no matter what they say is biased. The fact is that many of the classical anthropologist came from a period where many aspects of human life were male dominant in their own culture. Just like incoditus pointed out, every human will bring their own biases when encountering something new.

  • merrilymccarthy  On April 23, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    It is 2009 and we women are operating under a male bias? Well what else can be new! Oops, was I wearing a skirt when that thought crossed my ever increasing brain size? No, my brain stopped growing when I switched from a skirt to pants. Or was it my brain that stopped growing?

    Maybe it was when I moved out of that last colony in the 1760’s, came to the new world as an imaginary piece of dust in my great great grandfathers blue eye.

    Slocum and Stoler: great reads. I love the way stuff gets left out when sujecture is the only answer to give the audience. Slocum goes it was this way because of this and (like she is sure that somewhere between protohumans and modern hunter gatherers is a “real” connection and a real answer and the Stoler goes, “beginning in the colonial era women were used as thus and so and so forced to think such and such”.

    I swear, after reading both of these articles I understood the source of my feminity and the answer to all of my gender based questions.

    Slocum provided the best rape defense ever, “women who are willing never get raped!” And Stoler the best reason for the use of women, “go to the new world, become a breeder (of humans) and be of good cheer when you comfort your man.”

    Women are so poorly misdirected by these manipulative well organized, combat ready, communicable men! No wonder we are a sub proto- species, unable to do no more than limp along dragging our left hand in the dirt, clutching at a whimpering pale sickly hairless offspring and while desperate looking for seeds and berries for a snack.

    If this is a picture of “how women came to be women” we need to step up our game!

  • Erin  On April 23, 2009 at 2:23 pm

    Though I don’t claim to be a feminist, I am very interested in gender roles, and how culture percieves gender, and the effect that that has on us as adults. I thought Sally Socrum didn’t an excellent job in her article of bringing to light the issues of a one-sided point of view. I don’t agree that she was forcefully introducing the female biasest as posted up above. I feel that she was simply taking the obvious evidence and presenting it in a forceful way, (As it is obvious that male anthropologist were not seeing the obvious, especially in the problems with the ‘man the hunter’ hypothesis), but also, there are no female biases present, unless wanting equal reprsentation and equal thought on how both genders can play a role in Anthropology can be considered a bias. In my opinion Socrum was simply asking that male anthropologist see the other side.

  • Erin  On April 23, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Yes yes I know I butchered her last name…my apologies

  • Selena Farnesi  On April 23, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    I am determined to write more than Merrily (so here it goes….


    I have always been opinionated. I have always been outspoken. I have always possessed the “bitch factor” although I would certainly not describe myself that way – I prefer to say I have always been a debater. So it was natural for me to join the debate team and to do exceptionally well in that extracurricular activity. It wasn’t “natural,” however, for a girl to beat a boy and I soon earned myself a reputation. My competitors began to spread rumors, all of which gave alternative excuses for their failures and our successes. People claimed I didn’t write my own cases, or that I plagiarized ideas and when they got tired of those fictitious arguments they moved on to more personal attacks. Whereas any other opponent would have been a good debater, I was a bitch. Whereas any male debater would have been respected, I was infamous. A girl who didn’t admire their quick tongues and intelligent analysis, a girl who wasn’t awed by their suits, a girl who competed – wasn’t the kind of girl they wanted there, and they made it well known. Despite the hostile atmosphere, I had a lot of success debating on my own, and then partnered up with the only other female debater in my class, Jenny King, to form a Public Forum Debate team. Jenny was smart, thought quickly on her feet, spoke boldly and never looked down, her and I made a perfect team.

    More important to our partnership than her skill however, was her determination. She was going to win whether the boys liked it or not and we took on different roles in handling their criticisms. I took a much more passive role choosing to let the comments and behaviors pass as if I hadn’t noticed them, always maintaining a smile and a pleasant presence even though I knew it would not change their opinion of me. Jenny on the other hand, would not stand for it. She embodied the popular phrase, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.” And join ‘em she did. She treated every male there to a devious glare promising to beat each and every one of them in her sleep with her arms tied behind her back, and she was always just as critical of their performances as she was of our own. Even though we may have handled the sexism of our male opponents differently, she proved to me over and over again that I was not the only one who felt the injustice brought on by culture that believes powerful woman and bitch are synonyms.

    That’s what we both needed most; we needed to know we weren’t alone. We found in each other empowerment and strength through a shared cause, and despite our differences in handling it personally we both knew the best way to make our point was to keep competing. I remember vividly the night my debate partner and I challenged the four year state wide debate champions who had never lost a ballot for nationals. We were sitting outside in our skirts and heels, applying last minute lipstick and waiting for the judges to come when the boys we would be debating walked up to us and started their intimidation regimen. They talked a little bit too loudly to each other about all their past successes, and then asked us about our own. We humbly mentioned it was our first tournament in that type of debate but that we had both debated individually before and been very successful individually. We watched the grins pull at the corners of their mouths, they adjusted their ties and rocked back and forth in the heels of their
    penny loafers with their hands in their slack pockets – relaxed – as they informed us of their long time reign as state wide champions. Before we entered one of the young men even remarked, “We’ll try not to beat you too bad, and if you guys ever want help let me know, I’d give you some tips or something.” His partner commenting, “Oh yah, for sure, I love a smart girl, we should hang out after this.”

    While he may have liked smart girls, it was very clear he did not like girls who were smarter than he was. We never got the tips they offered, and even though we had beat them they were not interested in our help. My debate partner and I won that round, it was our twelfth win at our first tournament, and it made us the new state champions; giving us the first seat ranking at the national competition and giving the boys there first loss in four years. They ended up beating another all male team in a tie breaker for the third seat to nationals.

    Our fellow class mates, peers, and opponents had judged us – they had doubted our ability because of our sex, and when we proved them wrong we were not respected but “lucky.” We were lucky to have made it so far, lucky to have had bad judges or easy rounds, lucky to even get to a national level. I think they were the lucky ones, they were lucky I didn’t deck them! We had earned our spot and we both knew it and we used each other to find empowerment in the rude words of our opponents.

    Unfortunately our peers and opponents were not the only ones judging us, the observers and judges for every debate would fill out comment cards full of constructive criticism. My debate partner and I got more than our fair share of cards that read, “Don’t dominate the cross
    examination you look bitchy.” The boys’ teams were milking it, because their comment cards didn’t read like ours. There’s said, “Good job dominating the cross.” While we heard, “Be softer on cross examination.” They heard, “Very powerful cross examination, keep up the good work.” Even female judges versed in the rules of debate would leave us comments, “I felt like your cross examination was catty.” “You came across as bitchy because you cut off your opponent.” Once again giving our male opponents opposite feedback, “Way to cut in when the answer is long winded good use of time.” When we took the advice left on these cards, allowing ourselves to be dominated in the cross examination in order to keep courtesy points and not look catty or bitchy, we began losing matches. We couldn’t debate the same way as men because society sees a strong women as a bitch and a strong man as powerful.

    What really left us flabbergasted, however, was that some of these comments were coming from female judges – women who had been debaters themselves, women who have had to come up against the same issues. It perplexed Jenny and I immensely to consider that these women would have accepted the connotations trust upon them with nothing more than a shrug and then pass them onto us as if they were doing us a favor, or teaching us a lesson. One of our advising coaches at the national tournament even said, “Look girls, I don’t know why it is, but it just is, aggressive girls come off catty in cross examination if they argue on the same level as a male – just accept it and try to avoid it, the sooner you find a happy medium the better off you’ll be.” It was surprising to hear these words from her mouth because not only did she call herself a feminist, but only moments before she had been spreading her feminist ideology by explaining to fellow student that she did not need to dumb herself down to attract a man. Was she not telling to dumb ourselves down for points? Jenny and I saw an ironic parallel in her words, and it had flown over the heads of all the female judges and coaches. They had accepted the bitch factor as an unavoidable truth long ago and were no longer thinking about it quizzically, as we were.

    If women want to be equal they must accept themselves as equal, they must participate as equals and carry themselves as equals. No amount of literature will change society, no amount of critique will propel feminism – it takes action. It takes people.

  • Felicia  On April 23, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    “That the concept of Man the Hunter influenced anthropology for as long as it did is a reflection of male bias in the discipline” (443). So did this mean that everything that taught in Anthropology may be wrong? Or does it mean that women anthropologists are leaning to think from a male perspective? I don’t know the answers to these questions. However, Slocum makes strong arguments to help provide answers. She discussed the inheritance of hunting skills, there is no evidence to indicate that the skills are carried on the Y chromosome. Throughout the article Slocum breakdowns the established distinctions of Man the Hunter created by man. This particular feminist critique is postmodern because of the breakdown that women should not be left out the equation, hunting equals human or man equals human. She argues that half the species is left out in the equation. Slocum also argues that hunting is not the sole reason why we have become who we are. She demonstrates this by comparing similarities and differences between non-human primates and humans. Interesting.

  • Verdugo  On April 23, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    Criticizing is easy…and fun to.
    Sally Slocum’s Women the Gatherer is all about criticizing the male bias in anthropology. Like what was already posted I agree that it is impossible to look at data, and asks questions of that data, that are not in some way bias (unless you are a mathematician). This is important to point out in order to strive for more accurate interpretations of evidence. However the criticism it self, and the ideas in “Women the Gatherer”, is less about advancing the work of anthropology and more about what others have done wrong. Slocum says “Hominid evolution is particularly convenient for my purpose because it involves speculations and inferences from a rather small amount of data”. If this statement is true, and that with more speculation comes more bias ideas, Slocum’s ideas in “Woman the Gatherer” may be equally bias. Having said that id doesn’t make her work less important. In fact it proves that a bias outlook can have drastic implications for how data is interpreted.

  • Josh AKA "Marky Mark"  On April 23, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    I guess Feminism is post modern. I’m still kind of shaky on understanding what post modernism is, as it is after modern, which is past where we are. But, feminism, is not the ruling theory in the majority of intellectual circles, so I don’t think it could be considered modernism…

    I think…. Help me…

  • Patricia  On April 23, 2009 at 4:03 pm

    In my opinion, Ann Stoler has written a fairly accurate account of British Colonial rule from the records that she used for her article.

    My mother was Colonial British and was born on the island of Grenada in the British West Indies in 1905. Her upbringing was largely Victorian. As a child she spent the days playing with her cousins and climbing the fruit and spice trees on the family estate, Mt. Cenis. She often spoke of the wonderful childhood that she had.

    At the age of 17, her father arranged a marriage with a friend of his who lived on the island of Antigua. Her prospective husband was almost twice her age and was the owner of Cook’s Estate, the largest cocoa plantation in Antigua. She had no idea what marriage was about and thought it consisted of running the household, so when her father asked her if she would marry him, she said, “Yes”. Her father was making sure that she didn’t marry an islander and that she would be taken care of. All the Colonial families were very careful, as mentioned in the article, of arranging “proper” marriages for their daughters. They were very careful of inbreeding also and made sure that there was at least a third cousin distance.

    It is interesting that although the women did appear to have limited freedom, they were the ones who really held the power in the families. The women were the ones who made sure the husband was properly taken care of. No matter that a husband might have a mistress or two, he came home to his wife. The children from the marriage were taken care of legally through inheritance and were protected. In many instances, the wife had inherited the estate and it was hers. The “outside” children, as the children with the mistress were called had very difficult lives unless they were provided for in a Will.

    My mother was a Widow when she met my father after WWll at a Government Ball dance. They soon fell in love, got married, my mother moved to the States, and I was a result of that marriage.

    I remember as a girl of 15 meeting a cousin of my mothers who was living in New York City at the time. Sybil was a very sweet and gentle middle-aged lady of European and Portuguese descent. After beginning to do research into my family genealogy, I discovered that this cousin was my grandfather’s first child with another woman who lived in Antigua. I still to this day don’t know if my mother knew that Sybil was her half sister.

    My grandfather ran the plantation and took care of importing and exporting the spices and cocoa while my grandmother had a store in St. Johns that made and sold fine imported Scottish Tweed suits to order. She had the business that she ran and she also ran the household at home. She also rescued my grandfather from difficult situations on several occasions. All part of her duties as a Colonial wife. She knew where the bodies were buried and had a shovel, so to speak, and he knew it. So who really had the power here?

  • Mark  On April 23, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I understand where people are coming from when they say that Anthro is dominated by males, however, I don’t fully agree with them. Without hard fact to base these opinions upon they’re merely arbitrary statements that have no foundation what-so-ever. One of the foremost experts on Female Genetil cutting was female and one of the foremost experts on Oceania was also female (both of these women of course were former professors of mine). Although these limited instances don’t provide substantial backing for my arguement, they sure as hell don’t refute it.

  • brandi  On April 23, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    I believe that when people say that a field is dominated by males it is because as pointed out earlier that historically they were. There are still fields were there are few women. In corporate America, there are more male executives than female because of gender discrimination. The problem is that certain fields have been purposefully made difficult for wome to enter into like medicine or law. Some people don’t want female doctors because they don’t feel them to be as good as men. These fields are considered “boys clubs”. Those women that do go into them tend to have a difficult time because they aren’t necessarily accepted by their peers and when peerage equates to credibility then it can mean a long difficult road. The military is another example of this type of dominance even today. How many female generals do you know? It’s actually ironic since there are more women than men in ratio. However, things do seem to be changing but it’s just going slow. People can be objective especially when they don’t know how they feel on a subject. You can’t feel stong about a subject if you don’t know where you stand on it. If modernism equates to chauvinism, then yes feminism would be postmodernism.

  • caseyc  On April 23, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    I found this area of the book fascinating and agree with many who believe Sally is pushing her own biases in examining the male bias. What I found interesting is that although the male bias was clearly present and was reflected in the anthro studies she was looking at her own writing was influenced by a culture shift. The male dominated field was like, I dont rememeber which of you said this, every other academic field of its time. Anthropology studies reflected the predominant culture. What I like about Sally Slocum’s writing, however biased it many be is that it reflected the changing times. Like the book said Vietnam was unpopular and the “inherent aggression” of man was being refuted. Slocum’s work shows the greater interest academia was showing towards gender, marginalized peoples, and the struggles they encountered. Its nice to see that change in a field can come from society and become ingrained in the work of that time.

  • Megan Scholl  On April 18, 2010 at 4:57 pm

    Since the presentation this week is my group, I paid close attention to the articles (something rare for me!). Well, I paid close attention to Slocum’s article. I have the very first edition of the book so her article was the only one included out of the three assigned for us to read. But that’s not important. When I was reading Slocum’s article I noted that she made a lot of comparisons to primates. And since I’m a physical anthropologist I, of course, found that especially interesting. Until about halfway through the article.

    Slocum stated that primates never participate in rape. She said that rape was a human invention. That we started it. She said that during estrus all female primates are entirely willing.

    “Sexual control over females through rape or the threat of rape seems to be a modern human invention. Primate females are not raped because they are willing throughout estrus . . .” (page 398 in my edition).

    That is such a crock. Not only has primate rape been documented before, but it’s happened at the zoo! I’m a volunteer there and I work in the section with all of our primates. When our female orangutans are in estrus, our male can smell it, and he wants a piece of the action. One of our females is always willing. She loves it! Another one isn’t interested at all. Our third, the smallest, is half-and-half. One day, when the male got tired of waiting, he grabbed our little female, pinned her down, and raped her. Yes, raped her! He literally had her pinned down and she was screaming and trying to grab a hold of whatever she could to get away. Fortunately I wasn’t there–I came in a few hours later. But I was told that it had been an ugly thing. Our female didn’t hold it against him, but she didn’t want it. She was entirely unwilling during that particular event. Has she been willing before? Probably! But in this instance it was rape.

    So, Slocum. Primates don’t participate in rape? Really? As a physical anthropologist who actually studied primates, I’m stunned. Either she didn’t play close enough attention or she made the assumption that all primates were just like hers. At least she’s going to make writing this week’s analytic response paper the easiest one I’ve ever written!

    Not to mention I found her article full of just as much bias as any article written by men. I got her point and what she was trying to prove, but she did it in a poor way, and only made herself equally as biased. Her incredibly inaccurate information didn’t help her either.

  • Mansione  On April 18, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Although Sally Slocum expressed a view as a female, she expressed it from a feminist point of view. Sally Slocum believed an ethnographer’s background lead to biased observations; her observations are certainly biased. The male bias in anthropology is not any different than a feminist bias in anthropology. Interpretation of data will always have the influence of a persons life experience and point of view.

  • CorTney Parson  On April 20, 2010 at 10:52 pm

    Slocum spoke from a feminist point of view expressing that the skills of women back in the early ages were highly under estimated. she states that sharing food was actually derived from the bond shared between a mother and her child which begins at birth once women began to breast feed for the nourishment of their children. she also states that anthropology has a biased belief, which is that one must think like a male which she disagrees with. shw felt that woman were highly underestimated int he field of anthropology for their voices were spoken but not hear.

  • Adrianna Salinas  On April 22, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    It is difficult to read literature from a feminist point of view. Some how it always comes across as them complaining. I mean don’t get me wrong, I like to consider myself as somewhat of a feminist, but I am definitely not a nazi-feminist that believes everything male is wrong or bad. This is the tone that Sally Slocum sets in her article, “Woman the Gatherer: Male Bias in Anthropology”. It begins with her irritation at the use of the word “man” to describe the human species. I mean give me a break, is this such a dire issue that she needs to spend time analyzing its use? She mentions other reasons why “man” as in the human species, evolved to become so intelligent, for reasons due mainly impart to females. Such as longer gestation periods, long period of infant dependency, and year round sexual receptivity of females. Does any one else find these just a little too far fetched and not to mention biased?
    Fortunately for me, I get to go into greater detail in my paper and rant just a little more on Sally Slocum’s ideals.

  • Nicole Giglio  On April 22, 2010 at 10:33 pm

    Reading Megan’s response was quite enlightening. When I read in Slocum’s “Woman the Gatherer” article that primates didn’t participate in rape, I found myself wanting (however regrettably) to Google the heck out of it and find out if it was true. Glad to be enlightened on that small part of the chapter, however gruesome it is.

    Overall, I found Slocum’s article as equally biased as the theories she’s questioning and debunking. While she made decent points on the value of females in society as a catalyst for evolution, she approached it in such a way that seemed to exclude the men. I’m all for equality — in which I mean that both men and women should be accredited for their importance in human and cultural growth. We needed the hunter just as much as the gatherer, etc.

    I suppose it always becomes difficult to speak passionately about a topic without choosing a side… That would solve a lot of problems, wouldn’t it?

  • Audra  On April 23, 2010 at 6:40 am

    I totally agree with Megan! I couldn’t believe she said that! There is a lot of research that has been down the proves rape exists in other primates.

    One case I read about was in a baboon troop. A male had lost his number one position in the group to another male. He then proceeded to chase down a highly sought out female and raped her.

    What was unique about this case was the female baboon was not in estrus! She had no desire to give into this male and there was no ‘reason’ for the male to mate with her. The only reason the male had was the fact he wanted to, even is the female do not!

    So no, rape is not a human invention. It is a primate invention.

  • charon193  On April 23, 2010 at 7:57 am

    I am pretty sure that Patrick already brought this up, but it bears repeating to say that everything has a bias. That does not mean that it isn’t valuable. Some cultural anthropologists probably use such biases to gauge the importance of subject in a particular culture. Like recently, on the radio, I heard a commercial denouncing a prop. that is to be voted on because it was supported by a group who were communist. Didn’t we get over this after the end of the Cold War? It just shows that it still plays a big role in politics today. Slocum’s article is no different because it shows that there are women who think men are pigs. Not all women think like this, of course, but it shows that it is there. Slocum’s work also shows that there is a need for peer review to examine the biases in any paper or even in how a study is done. You have to look at how the questions asked are relevant to a study and how it might possibly affect it. What I’m saying is, just because something is biased doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a good point.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: