WOMEN OF THE FOREST by Yolanda & Robert F. Murphy


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Feminism meets anthropology in the Murphys' study of sisterhood among the Mundurucu tribe of the Amazon savannahs. Yolanda and Robert lived among the Indians in the sexually segregated housing of the society -- and this team method of gathering data accounts for the uniqueness of their approach to understanding culture. They propose that although mythology may be composed by men, each society is really two worlds, a sisterhood and a brotherhood, with differences in ontology as marked as their physiologies. All cultures are collective illusions, including the mythical norm of male-dominant, female-submissive roles. ""We seem to have forgotten that the very essence of the relationship between the sexes is struggle, opposition, and socially useful, however unconscious, misunderstanding."" This account of the female realm, then, is counterpoint to the male ethnographic theme. The Murphys don't deny the effect of cultural bias on their findings and interpretations, and frequently compare the Mundurucus to the Americans. Sotto voce, one hears the appeal for a new consciousness here at home. A revolutionary way of seeing, even if Margaret Mead already beat the Murphys to this summation: ""If the men were really all that powerful, they wouldn't need such rigmarole.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1974
ISBN: 0231132336
Publisher: Columbia Univ. Press