The anthropologist Margaret Mead is widely known for stating that human nature is “almost unbelievably malleable,” meaning that individual identity—including gender—is shaped more by culture than by biology. Many feminists, notably Betty Friedan, seized on this idea as a tool for dismantling sexist biases but were dismayed when Mead's later work seemed to relegate women to a biologically determined, maternal role. Mead, however, argued strenuously in print and correspondence that she never intended to set nature against nurture, for she believed that identity grew from the interplay of the two. The historical context for Mead's thinking changed, as the menace of eugenic politics in the 1930s yielded to the existential threat of nuclear annihilation after 1945, but Mead never fundamentally changed her mind about the production of gender.
* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.
Usage data cannot currently be displayed