The Myth of Old European Feminism: The Importance of Socio-Cultural Contextual Analysis

By Liberman, Dov; Blazina, Christopher | The Journal of Men's Studies, Spring 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Myth of Old European Feminism: The Importance of Socio-Cultural Contextual Analysis


Liberman, Dov, Blazina, Christopher, The Journal of Men's Studies


Almost from the inception of social science, it has been noted that the prevailing myths of a culture or sub-culture have a profound influence on individuals' understanding and interpretation of experience. By myth we mean a socially constructed paradigm of how to interpret reality (Blazina, 2003). Johannes Gottfried Herder (1744-1803) (Berlin, 1976) maintained that each culture and sub-culture develops its own "Volkgeist" or "similar conscious" that shapes how people live, strive toward goals, think, and feel. Wilhelm Wundt, considered by many to be the father of psychology, helped develop the concept of "Volkerpsychologie," which he defined as "investigations concerning the intellectual, moral, and other mental characteristics people use to sustain one another" (Kim & Berry, 1993, p. 2). Wundt believed that the Volkerpsychologie infuses all experience, including socio-political experience, with meaning (Danziger, 1983).

The cultural/mythical system to which one subscribes colors and influences the subsequent interpretation of every human experience. For example, myths can govern various aspects of one's socially constructed reality about religious beliefs, social structure, cultural consciousness, and even beliefs about gender roles (Blazina, 2003). Thus, mythical systems provide the social and intellectual paradigms we use to interpret and understand the world. These socially constructed paradigms/myths are templates that provide the values and standards under which a society or social group functions. For instance, we use myths to instruct us about how to resolve conflicts and about what the culture deems as appropriate and/or taboo behavior. Further, because of their very nature, the interpretation of myths ultimately determines how we interpret ambiguous situations. By providing ultimate "truths, our mythic paradigms provide answers as to how we make sense of situations that are not clear. These "truths" provide "ultimate guidance," and, when we are wedded to these paradigms without giving careful consideration to objectivity, all evidence can be interpreted in light of the underlying assumptions of these myths and the subsequent directions to which they point. Thus, myths can act as guides for the construction and interpretation of reality, sometimes at the expense of objectivity.

While a cultural myth provides a comprehensive explanatory paradigm, it is ultimately not heuristic. Rather, it is a closed system, and for its subscriber it provides an unquestioning set of irrefutable beliefs. Because myths represent an unquestioned system for constructing our underlying sociological, political, psychological, and even spiritual beliefs, there is a tendency to interpret all evidence as confirming the basic underlying tenets of the myths we construct. That is, we can be tempted to loose scientific objectivity. That is why Blazina (2003) stressed the importance of employing contextual analysis when we interpret a culture's mythic paradigms. This means that we must examine these mythic paradigms, in the context of socio-cultural research, from the perspective of the specific timeframe and culture in which they were created.

Going outside the bounds of contextual analysis (i.e., failing to understand a culture in terms of its own value systems created by its own mythos) leads to potential bias in interpretation. For instance, an unfortunately common use of myth is to make contemporary interpretations of ancient cultures out of their original context. A salient example is the use of mythic paradigms about Greek gods and goddesses to draw implications for contemporary gender roles. The use of these myths is found in abundance in contemporary bookstores. This approach interprets myths from more than 2000 years ago as if they carry the same meaning they did when they were created. While such use of myth may be legitimate in terms of giving guidance to those who subscribe to that mythical system, it misses the mark if we wish to study the socio-cultural forces that led to its original creation.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Myth of Old European Feminism: The Importance of Socio-Cultural Contextual Analysis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?