I choose to write a
critical evaluation of this reading by Henrietta Moore through my interest in
feminism, which is viewed in the perspective of identity and anthropology. The
emphasis of the importance of feminism and gender equality as a basis of
anthropological research gains my attention to this piece of writing as Moore
presents both male and female anthropological views on women through the feminist
critique of anthropology. By looking at how women and gender is studied
within anthropology, Moore refers to many different ideas on the notion of the ‘anthropology
of women’, constructing a substantial argument between feminism and anthropology.
Moore presents the study
of women within anthropology through the ‘male bias’ that consists of levels of
tiers. The first presents the assumptions, expectations and significance of relationships
between women and men that anthropologists use to understand the wider society.
The second consists of the idea that “women are considered as subordinate to
men in many societies”. The third assumes “asymmetrical relations between women
and men in other cultures” through the adoption of Western cultures. Here Moore starts her piece by
stating the main idea of the ‘male bias’ in regards to the levels of tiers that
it holds allowing her readers to grips and understand her main ideas of the
topic. Feminist anthropologists have focused on presenting females to readers
in their true form rather than what androcentric ideas have stereotyped women
in all cultures to be like. Moore refers
to Edwin Ardeners views on the ‘male bias’; he suggested that indeed dominant
groups in society could “generate and control” ‘muted groups’ in the sense that
“sub-dominant groups in society” expressed themselves through “dominant modes
of expression” rather than there own form of expression, using critics in order
to back up her own points. Moore argues that it is not just male anthropologists
who conform to the ‘male bias’ but indeed women anthropologists. This is due to
either men or women being “trained in a male-orientated discipline” meaning
that all conform to the “male idiom”.
Moore touches on the idea
of ethnocentrism and racism within the study of women in anthropology by stating,
“ethnocentrism underlines anthropology’s critique of anthropology”. It is
argued through the notion of “women studying other women” and refers to studies
being evaluated through the views and customs of ones own culture.
Furthermore, Moore uses many critics and different
ideas in order to present a fully balanced argument and verify her claims. She
tends to argue against some of her ideas in order to show both sides of the
argument. For example, she later references the “Western culture” assumption
that is mentioned at the start of her writing. Moore argues that the
“theoretical proposition” has the assumptions that “anthropologists come from
Western cultures” and are white. However, she argues that coming from a
“Western culture does not mean that it is also assumed that they are white”.
Moore also references many critics such as Rogers (1975), Ardener (1975a:5) and
the view of “theoretical frameworks, such as Marxism” and structuralism.
By reading ‘The social
anthropology of women and feminist anthropology’ Ardener, like Moore, suggests,
“projects specializing in topics relating to women, are to some extent
prejudged”. Ardener also presents the idea that some “feminists doubt whether a
man could ever be classified as a (good) feminist scholar”, Moore, on the other
hand, argues that both men and women find it difficult writing about women
without prejudice due to the ‘male bias’. Ardener then goes on to argue “recent
discussion on women by social anthropology (has) tended to emphasize certain
positive evaluation of women’s lives”, something Moore failed to pick up on.
The topic of identify
within social studies is defined as something that is “attributed to both
individuals and groups, and can be used to refer to the religious, political,
private, cultural or ethnic realism” (Griffiths 2015) Moore refers to identity
throughout her writing in the terms of women being a “sub-dominant” group.
“Identity is considered a source of both cohesion and violence, and can
alternately represent sameness or difference” (Griffiths 2015). Moore presents
“sameness” within women yet the differences of women between cultures.
One thing that Moore could’ve
improved is the depth of the historical context of the ‘male bias’, and how it
has changed and adapted over generations. Moore at the beginning of the piece
refers to the ‘anthropology of women’ and the start of the ‘male bias’ as
beginning in the early 1970’s but fails to mention or make clear a possible
‘male bias’ before the 70’s or a changing ‘male bias’ after the 70’s.
The discipline of Anthropology
is used within this piece in order to present her findings of the relationship
that feminism has within anthropology. Anthropology is defined as the study of
humans and their societies. Moore
refers to ethnographers in order to present both cultures and sub-cultures of
women and anthropologists. In doing so she uses anthropological research
methods within her
To conclude, Moore presents a contrasting view of
the feminist critique of anthropology. This piece succeeds in being able to
distinguish between different critical interpretations in order to present a
balanced argument that covers all bases of feminism and anthropology that is
able to come to a conclusion. One thing that Moore did extremely well is the
depth and clarity that went into the description and analysis of the ‘male
bias’ as the main influencer of unintentional oppression towards women
throughout anthropology. Overall I thoroughly enjoyed reading and analysing
this piece of writing and to some extent was able to