Margaret Mead Was Wrong


Salvo Mag has an excellent article on the troubling research of Margaret Mead, Franz Boas, Clellan Ford and Frank Beach and why they’re wrong. Citing the work of fellow anthropologist, Derek Freeman, Salvo Mag pokes holes in Mead’s work and examines her motivation for going to anthropological fantasy land.

Money quote:

Mead had interviewed, at best, 68 girls through an interpreter, as she knew little Samoan. Freeman, who learned the language well, found that Samoans customarily joke and inflate talk of sexual behavior. On one particular occasion, in answer to Mead’s suggestive questions, two Christian Samoan young women laughingly said they had wild, uninhibited, and promiscuous sex. Mead took their facetious answers seriously, and used them as the basis for her depiction of their island as a paradise of free sex with no jealousy and no rape. But Freeman found that jealousy and rape were not uncommon and that a girl’s virginity was critical for marriage.

Even after the publication of Hoaxing, many refused to accept Freeman’s findings and still teach Mead’s bad research today. Yet Freeman’s obituary (he died in 2001) in theNew York Times acknowledged: “His challenge was initially greeted with disbelief or anger, but gradually won wide—although not complete—acceptance.”