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Mead (1935)

Documented numerous instances of cultural variations in 3 different cultures in New Guinea.
Arapesh people characterized by women and men having same sensitive and non-aggressive behaviour as well as feminine personalities
Mundugamor = both men and women were ruthless, unpleasant, dominant and masculine
Tchambuli community = women were more dominant and men were more emotional and concerned about personal appearance.
Mead’s demonstration of cultural differences in many respects a valid indication of how society scan influence gender-role development.
Criticisms/weaknesses

  • Reversal of western norms
  • Shows that culture affects stereotypes as well as behaviour affected by conformity to social norms
  • ‘Human nature is malleable’
  • Her methodology is unscientific
  • She was in her early 20s that time with little life experience
  • Could have affected her judgement of what she was observing and influenced the way in which she was regarded by the islanders whose culture values ages for its wisdom.
  • Prior to her research she already held a strong belieft of the environment playing a role in changing behaviour and was subjective
  • Errington and Gewertz (1989) revisited the Tchambuli and re-analysed Mead’s original material, they found women do not dominate men nor is the reverse true
  • Mead only spent 6 months in these communities and not a yearly cycle
  • Any other data would have been second hand
  • She is a woman unable to understand a male perspective
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