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Derosis, L.E. (1950). Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World. By Margaret Mead. 477 pp. Wm. Morrow & Co. $5.. Am. J. Psychoanal., 10(1):72-74.

(1950). American Journal of Psychoanalysis, 10(1):72-74

Male and Female: A Study of the Sexes in a Changing World. By Margaret Mead. 477 pp. Wm. Morrow & Co. $5.

Review by:
Louis E. Derosis, M.D.

In Male and Female Dr. Mead undertakes the task of emphasizing differences between the sexes. She believes that the difference is “one of the important conditions upon which we have built the many varieties of human culture that give human beings dignity and stature.” Since Dr. Mead feels that men's contribution, by way of special gifts, has been amply made, the task becomes one of showing that women also possess special gifts. If these are brought out and developed, it follows, she contends, that civilization will be correspondingly advanced.

Dr. Mead makes use of her extensive investigations in the South Sea island cultures. These findings are compared continuously with her findings in modern society. This is feasible for Dr. Mead since she proceeds on the basis of our biologic ancestry, the basic common denominator for her. The next step is to separate this biologic ancestry into two main categories, the male and the female. These are fundamentally different on the basis of sex differences. Women, by reason of their special biologic makeup possess superior characteristics denied the men. However, the men, because they lack biologic superiority, have created many aspects of culture, of art, of science through a process of compensation. Women have no real need to involve themselves in such pursuits.

Female superiority, Dr. Mead contends, is the result of biologic rhythmicity derived from her periodic menses, childbearing, defloration and menopause. These “punctuate” her life and give her a “solid sense of irreversible achievement.” This occurs because a woman “is.” Men, by contrast, are driven to a state of “doing.” Men's position on the whole is a “cultural” elaboration. As evidence for the basic superiority of women Dr. Mead offers the “womb-envying pattern” of men in primitive cultures who recognize the superiority and therefore imitate the women.

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