The in hopes of understanding the cultural construction of

The research and stories written by the feminist
ethnographers of our readings echoes the numerous decisions and challenges that
women encountered during their journey to share their lived experiences. Louise
Lamphere’s article examines Elsie Clews Parsons early writings, specifically
those that emphasized the need for independence and choice. Parsons was
particularly interested in Native American gender roles and how women were
treated in varying societies in hopes of understanding the cultural
construction of gender and how living in a patriarchy is damaging. Similarly,
Janet L. Finn recounts the works of two Native American women, Ella Cara
Deloria and Mourning Dove. Deloria and Dove were both deeply devoted to their
studies and experienced similar challenges as women of color within their respective
relationships to their mentors and to the position of the ethnographer. Graciela
Hernandez observes Zora Neale Hurston’s writings and how they attempted to
expose the unjust relationships that existed between the subjective ethnographer
and the communities they studied. Margaret Mead in her book, Coming of Age, sought
to discover whether adolescence was a time of stress caused by biological
factors or a result of an individual’s cultural surroundings. Mead argued that
for adolescent girls living in Samoa, their upbringing was not a stressful time
in comparison to the Western expectations of adolescent behavior because they
didn’t have the same personal conflicts. Sherry Ortner’s essay “Is Female to
Male as Nature is to Culture?” attempts to decipher the underlying logic as to why
women are universally seen as inferior to men. She argues that women’s subordinate
position is a result of the human thought process regarding culture as superior
to nature, and that culture is a man’s way of suppressing nature. Ortner
further speculates that a woman’s body and psychology symbolically represents
nature, while men bare a greater resemblance to culture, hence women are seen
as secondary to men. Joan Bamberger, in her article “The Myth of Matriarchy:
Why Men Rule in Primitive Society,” explains three myths established in several
South American tribes. Bamberger then argues that women are still not equal to
men nor are they free from men because such myths still exist and “to free her,
we need to destroy the myth” (Bamberger, 280). In her essay “Women in Politics,” Jane Collier
states that it is typical for ethnographers and native informants to view
politics as a male activity, often times excluding women from political
gatherings, thus being deemed as inapt to hold any political office. Instead, women
are simply seen as being engrossed with domestic and childrearing duties, and are
essentially used by men as pawns in the political atmosphere, but are not given
fair political recognition. Although the readings have a shared emphasis on the
position of women in issues of power and authority, some of the most prominent
ideas that I took away was from Sherry Ortner’s comparison between the weight
that gender holds and how they resemble nature/culture. In like manner,
Margaret Mead’s account of Samoan adolescents exemplifies how influential
aspects of our identity, such as gender, can be in how we formulate ideas about
ourselves and how we connect with the changing environments we experience throughout
the different stages of our lives. In a historical moment when political
decisions are increasingly influenced by unequal power relationships, I believe
that by employing the feminist methodologies discussed in the readings
mentioned previously can individuals change conventional cultural
representations of gender, language, and identity.