Margaret Mead

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1.What did Margaret Mead explore in her essay “Sex and Temperament?” A) the biological basis for gender roles, B) the cultural basis for gender roles, C) the different values of societies outside America, D) rites of passage in non-Western civilization.

In Margaret Mead's "Sex and Temperament," Mead discusses the cultural formation of gender roles among three different cultures in Papua New Guinea. According to her findings, there is no innate biological basis for gender roles. The different cultures Mead explores each have different gender roles.

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In her 1935 essay "Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies," Margaret Mead shares her findings following her research on the cultural construction of gender in three different indigenous cultures of Papua New Guinea. In her research, she encountered varying gender roles across all three cultures. For example, in the Arapesh culture, she found members of both sexes enacting maternal gender roles as parents. In contrast, the people of the Mundugumor were more aggressive and sexual, taking on a traditionally more masculine role.

After detailing her findings, Mead concludes that so-called "personality differences between the sexes" are not innate to the biology of humans, but are conditioned by society and passed down from generation to generation. Rather than asking questions about the individual culture's specific gender roles and gender expression, she is more interested in exploring the reasons why these cultural differences in gender exist in the first place. Her question, then, becomes one concerning the malleable temperament of humans: on page three of the essay, she asks, "Are [personality traits] potentialities of all human temperaments that can be developed by different kinds of social conditioning and which will not appear if the necessary conditioning is absent?" While her essay discusses culture, biology, and gender roles, Mead is largely concerned with answering questions about how a culture can shape a person to behave a certain way from infancy.

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