Margaret Mead was the eldest child in the family, and was born in 16 December 1901 in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. She later died in November 1978 of pancreatic cancer. Mead was an American cultural anthropologist, a researcher who studies human behaviour. She was also suspected to be lesbian or bisexual, and of having a relationship with a fellow researcher, Ruth Benedict. The main theory that Mead advocated was that sexual orientation evolves throughout life, and is not decided upon birth.
Margaret Mead conducted a study on the Samoa women, of which a very high percentage had engaged in pre-marital sex, having deferred marriage for a very long time. She also wanted to know if gender influenced temperament, for example, the stereotype of aggressive males and passive females. In the end, her research uncovered the fact that external factors such as social indoctrination did, in fact, play an enormous role in determining a person's temperament.
She conducted studies on three tribal societies, namely the Arapesh, Mundugumor and the Tchambuli. All the Arapesh people, both male and female, were all very peaceful in temperament. An exact opposite was observed in the Mundugumor tribe, where everyone was equally aggressive and war-like by nature. Mead also discovered that there was a reversal of roles among the Tchambuli people, as compared to modern society as we know it today. In the Tchambuli tribe, it was the women who were concerned with pragmatic issues and headed the household, while the men took the time to doll themselves up. In her book Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, she stated that females in these three societies had greater political influence as opposed to numerous other male-dominated societies.
Mead had once stated that, "Fathers are biological necessities, but social accidents." This statement strengthened her role as a feminist although she preferred not to be known as one. A pioneer in the field of human behaviour with respect to gender roles, she was a maverick, and a groundbreaker, in suggesting that the manner males and females behaved was influenced not just by their sex, but also by environmental factors. This paved the way for other social scientists to further improve on and strengthen her theories about the way humans could be conditioned to behave in a certain manner, sex notwithstanding.
"Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man." This reflects her stand with reference to the relationships between males and females; they are intricately connected, and to impact one would affect the other in similar ways, not unlike interdependence in a food chain. For instance, if you were to remove the female in a heterosexual marriage, the male would be forced to shoulder the responsibilities of the female, increasing his effective workload and influencing the way he thinks as well as works. This will impose a negative impact on his efficiency as well.
Undeniably, Margaret Mead may have been considered a non-conformist for coming up with her theories about gender roles, but in the eyes of society today, her ideas are definitely relevant as well as prevalent.