Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dr Margaret Mead, on Today's Headlines

Anthropologist Margaret Mead is often quoted as saying "I do not believe in using women in combat, because females are too fierce." It's called out with glib bravado, as though it were a Helen Reddy song. But never with thought to why this odd sentence from a champion of feminist mores.

Dr.  Mead's full statement about the danger of allowing women to participate in combat is not often quoted, but it is important - and sobering:

"Women should be permitted to volunteer for non-combat service,… they should not be accepted, voluntarily or through the draft, as combat soldiers…. We know of no comparable ways of training women and girls, and we have no real way of knowing whether the kinds of training that teach men both courage and restraint would be adaptable to women or effective in a crisis. But the evidence of history and comparative studies of other species suggest that women as a fighting body might be far less amenable to the rules that prevent warfare from becoming a massacre and, with the use of modern weapons, that protect the survival of all humanity. This is what I meant by saying that women in combat might be too fierce."
      Margaret Mead, Some Personal Views, ed. Rhoda Metraux, pp. 35, 36 (1979): response when asked her opinion on drafting soldiers for the military, June 1968.

Warfare has changed in the decades since she explained her opposition to "women as a fighting body", a curious stance from one who otherwise championed the idea of "nurture" over "nature" as the primary source of sex roles, but her concerns remain grounded in her lifetime of study and her groundbreaking experience as a clinical observer of human societies.

We are also reminded that Dr Mead opposed eugenics, euthanasia and abortion, and had this to say about attempts to force doctors into these roles:

"This is a precious possession which we cannot afford to tarnish, but society always is attempting to make the physician into a killer — to kill the defective child at birth, to leave the sleeping pills beside the bed of the cancer patient. ... It is the duty of society to protect the physicians from such requests."
      Margaret Mead, Introduction in M.P. Levine, Psychiatry and Ethics (New York, Braziller, 1972), vi-xvi.

I wonder what Dr. Mead's reaction would be if she saw how the language and principles of her field and her politics have been usurped by today's academics and progressives?

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