Remember Margaret Mead, the anthropologist who studied sex roles from faraway lands and shook up the sexual revolution back home in America? Though her legacy is not without controversy, she was a big hit with feminists in her time. I was reminded of her influence while watching the HBO 1970s period piece “Cinema Verite.” Diane Lane’s character, Pat Loud, quotes Mead in the opening scene, “I do not believe in using women in combat, because females are too fierce.”
A little googling reveals that Margaret Mead made many witty observations about birth, marriage and families. She may be the Dorothy Parker of anthropology. Here are a few of my favorite quotes:
1. Of all the peoples whom I have studied, from city dwellers to cliff dwellers, I always find that at least 50 percent would prefer to have at least one jungle between themselves and their mothers-in-law.
2. Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.
3. And when our baby stirs and struggles to be born it compels humility: what we began is now its own.
4. The pains of childbirth were altogether different from the enveloping effects of other kinds of pain. These were pains one could follow with one’s mind.
5. You just have to learn not to care about the dust mites under the beds.
6. One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.
7. Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.
8. There is no evidence that suggests women are naturally better at caring for children … with the fact of child-bearing out of the center of attention, there is even more reason for treating girls first as human beings, then as women.
9. It has been a woman’s task throughout history to go on believing in life when there was almost no hope.
10. We are now at a point where we must educate our children in what no one knew yesterday, and prepare our schools for what no one knows yet.
These all came from a Margaret Mead quote collection assembled by Jone Johnson Lewis. Here’s one more for the road, “Having two bathrooms ruined the capacity to co-operate.”
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