Manthropology isn’t exactly science
In a stunning example of what happens when you mix science with unquestioned social constructions, an Australian anthropologist has put together a book called Manthropology: The Science of the Inadequate Modern Male. John Mehaffey, who wrote the Reuters article about it, calls the subtitle “provocative”. I call it ridiculous and almost as cringe-inducing as the neologism of the title proper. You see, according the book’s author, Peter McAllister, what makes modern man inadequate is that he lacks the abilities his ancestors (even his female ancestors) had in fields such as jumping, running, and arm wrestling.
McAllister has so bought into the social construction which equates masculinity with physical prowess that he fails to note that the precise argument he uses to show illustrate the superiority of ancient and prehistoric man could also be used to prove that certain animals are better men. Certainly no human male can outrun a Cheetah, nor can any human male lift 850 times his own weight the way a rhinoceros beetle can.
So how exactly does such a silly argument get categorized as “science”? Admittedly, McAllister uses data consistent with science. His facts (insofar as I know) are not inaccurate; the problem is his interpretation. Inadequate is a value judgment and as such is not scientific. A real scientific interpretation would be that the requirements for survival in the modern day world are different from those faced by Neanderthals, Athenian oarsmen, or any of the other forebears McAllister mentions. Are modern males really any less adequate than their predecessors given that context?
Only if you unquestioningly accept the construction of masculinity as defined by physical ability (which has serious implications not only for gender-based discrimination but for ableism as well). Now, I suppose it could be argued that McAllister meant the title to be tongue-in-cheek, a touch of attention-getting hyperbole. The problem is that if you make statements that support commonly held beliefs, such as this particular patriarchal concept of masculinity, then unless you take it to the point of satire, you are going to end up reconfirming those beliefs.
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