By David Murray Schneider
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Additional resources for American Kinship: A Cultural Account
That is, the ques- I}: tion \vhich the reader must ask is whether this is or is not an ethnographic 1' ! fact· about American culture. ;i! What I am doing in this book and in this chapter is stating what I have ��: found to be ethnographic facts. :1� · understanding of American kinship. m all of the statements he reads in the following pages are offered as·:�! ethnographic facts, or hypotheses about them, there should be no mis- :m . understanding. ly, the concept of "distinctive features" is one of the fundamentaf'/i[ concepts of this book.
This, according , the definition of of to American culture, is part women s nature. They can do these things by virtue of their natural endowment, though there is a great deal that they must learn as well. need to be done and how best to do them naturally. Men do not bear children, nor can they nurse them from their own bodies. The cultural premise is that they are not naturally endowed with ways of sensing infants' needs. But there are many things which a man can do if he cares to learn. What a woman can do naturally, it is so�etimes said in America, a man can learn-albeit slowly and not always with the smooth skill which a woman would exhibit.
Or mother is not also female. � '1 � � �� � � i ; � < '. t }l � ·' r f ] ��! @ ·: ' The Family 43 The distinction I am drawing here between a defining element or distinctive feature and all other features is nicely illustrated by the area of sex-role definition which I have been describing. As I have said, there are two culturally defined categories> male and female. ind of genitalia, female another. Male has facial hair, female does not. Male is active and aggressive , female passive. Consider, now> these three features-genitals, facial hair, and activity.