Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How Two Samoan Girls Duped the Western World

The story of a girlish prank that ended up "unwittingly misinform[ing] the entire anthropological establishment, as well as the intelligentsia at large" — The Fateful Hoaxing of Margaret Mead. "Areas adversely influenced by Mead's misinformation included anthropology, psychology, Marxist ideology, post-modernist relativism, the sexual revolution, gender studies, feminism, childrearing, and childcare policies." Peter S. Cook explains:
    While knowing the great importance accorded to pre-marital virginity in Samoan society, but unaware that she was breaching Samoan etiquette, [Mead] resorted to suggestive interrogation of the two women about what sexual adventures they and other Samoan girls might really get up to at night. Surprised and embarrassed, they fell back on the Samoan custom of playful hoaxing, of which Mead was also unaware. After pinching each other, they told her the opposite of the truth, and jokingly agreed with whatever she suggested, adding suitable embellishments. She never asked whether this was seriously true, and they had no idea that she would tell the world.

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Blogger Enbrethiliel said...


I read the play referenced in the article, having been drawn to it in the library by it's title, Heretic. It's pretty good. A short but meaty read.

I've been fascinated by this hoax--and people's need to believe in it--ever since.

12:11 AM  
Blogger love the girls said...

J.B.Watson : "Never kiss or hug them, never let them sit in your lap".

The lowest levels of hell is where men such as J.B.Watson are now to be found.

3:23 AM  
Blogger The Western Confucian said...

Enbrethiliel, the story would be funny if it had resulted in a failed doctoral thesis, as Mead's work should be taken.

l.t.g., indeed. Pity the children whose parents took such fool advice to heart, and that of just about any self-proclaimed "expert" on "parenting."

8:47 AM  

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