Anthropology, like most sciences at their beginnings, had its fair share of androcentric bias. Feminist anthropology emerged from this bias. Starting in the 1850’s, Feminist anthropologists pushed back against early anthropological works that ignored females or only discussed them in terms of marriage, kinship, and family. Ignoring the role of women in society leaves out a huge chunk of culture and the human experience. This kind of push back was a part of the first wave of feminist anthropology (Feminist Anthropology).
Feminist evolved as more of women’s culture was being explored in anthropology. Between 1920 and 1980, second wave anthropology came into popularity. This wave focused more on the separation of sex and gender in anthropology. Anytime before this these terms were most often used interchangeably (Feminist Anthropology). Because the cultural ideals surrounding gender changes depending on where you are in the world, it is important to stray away from using broad generalizations in ethnographical work. Second wave feminist anthropology also rejects the idea of inherent dichotomies like male/female. Margaret Mead was an important figure in second wave feminist anthropology. She was key in separating the biological factors from the cultural factors that control human behavior and personality development (Feminist Anthropology). Ruth Benedict is another notable figure in feminist anthropology. She was a student of Franz Boas and is known for her fieldwork with Native Americans that lead her to develop the configurational approach that sees cultural systems as working to favor certain personality types among different societies (Feminist Anthropology).
Third wave feminist anthropology is also considered contemporary feminist anthropology. This wave began sometime in the 1980’s. Present day feminist anthropologists might spend less time focusing solely on gender asymmetry, and more time acknowledging the differences through categories (Feminist Anthropology). These categories might include class, race, ethnicity, religion, occupation, age, status, and gender. More time is also focused on the differences between women rather than the differences between men and women. Studies in the present day tend to focus on things such as; reproduction, sexuality, production, and work. When dealing with sexuality, a subset of feminist anthropology known as queer theory is sometimes used. This theory serves as a reaction against the assumption of heteronormativity, or the idea that all societies conform to an idea of heterosexuality that control all of the social institutions in all societies. Queer theory also question the idea that gender is inherent, but poses that it is socially constructed. For the above reasons, I am using a third wave, or contemporary, feminist anthropological perspective to analyze sexual education and underage pregnancies in Malaysia.
One of the reasons I think the feminist anthropological is best suited for my final project is the focus on sexuality and reproduction. In Malaysia, the subject of sexuality is considered taboo. Many parents do not talk to their children about the subject, and the sexual education curriculum in the school is almost non-existent. I believe this is why feminist perspective is important. I will be looking at the differences between women of different ethnicities, religions, status, and class. All of these factors affect how a young women receives sexual education, and the cultural repercussion of a unexpected pregnancy. Especially one out of wedlock. I will use the feminist anthropological perspective to further study my health issue topic.
Dominguez, Johnna, Marsha Franks, and James H BoschmaThe University of Alabama. Department of Anthropology. University of Alabama. https://anthropology.ua.edu/cultures/cultures.php?culture=Feminist Anthropology, accessed August 4, 2018