Monday, November 28, 2005

Elsie Clews Parsons: Feminist of the Day?


Elsie Clews Parsons
Sociologist, anthropologist, folklorist
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What I love about writing the feminist of the day feature is that I learn about all sorts of people who I didn't even know existed. Elsie Parsons, like Sarah Grimke, was born to a life of priviledge, and like Sarah she seemed to know what to do with that life. Elise Parsons was a feminist and a socialist (she get an extra tick mark because she was against WW1 all the way through) and became a very prominent anthropologist. She was the first woman elected to the American Anthropological Association, but died before she could give her opening address - which was going to condemn the use of anthropology for racist ends. A colleague summed up her academic work:
Her society had encroached on her she studied the science of society the better to fight back against society.
That wasn't all I found out about her. In a book review someone who knows far more about Elsie Parsons than me wrote:
For example, [the author of the book]lauds Parsons for her feminism and for her support of professional women. Yet nowhere is there recognition of the more complex issue-Parsons's feminism and, by her own admission, her prejudice against her "own sex." This was no small matter for Parsons: she ran up against her prejudice against women frequently and she wrote about it in her articles and her books.
I want to read what she wrote about it, but unfortunately it's not that rare. When you live in a misogynist society it's very easy for women to rebel against that by internalising the value system and seeing themselves as the exception, the one subject in a sea of female objects.

Conclusion: I think it's a shame that she didn't like women, her life would have been richer if she had. I kind of admire the fact that she was still a feminist, despite that, but it's still terribly sad.

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