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U. Pittsburgh professor: Anthropologists can’t tell the difference between men and women

‘I have a PhD!’ he declared

A University of Pittsburgh “socio-cultural anthropologist” told an audience at a recent Leadership Institute event that “no,” if he were to examine human bones a century from now, he wouldn’t be able to tell if they were from a male or female.

Professor Gabby Yearwood’s statement was in answer to a question from swimmer Riley Gaines. Gaines has gained notoriety for being outspoken against transgender female athletes competing against biological females, notably the University of Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas.

Yearwood’s response resulted in the audience bursting out in laughter, according to Fox News.

This led to Yearwood (pictured) expressing “shock.”

“I’m just curious as to why I’m being laughed at,” he said, adding that he was “the expert in the room” and exclaiming “I have a PhD!”

He then asked the audience if they had ever been to an anthropological site and/or studied biological anthropology.

Gaines retorted that “Every single rational person knows the answer: men have narrower hips, their skulls are different, they have an extra rib, their femurs are longer, their jaws are different.”

MORE: U. Texas anthropology department treats passersby to display of massive dildo

The Independent Women’s Forum said in a tweet “When the self-proclaimed ‘expert in the room’ is offended that his assertion that males & females don’t have distinct skeletal differences is laughable. One might wonder what students studying anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh are being taught by their professors?”

One answer may come from Yearwood’s faculty profile. He teaches a course titled “Activist Anthropology” the description of which reads:

[T]his course will teach students that “critical engagement brought about by activist research is both necessary and productive. Such research can contribute to transforming the discipline by addressing knowledge production and working to decolonize our research process. Rather than seeking to avoid or resolve the tensions inherent in anthropological research on human rights, activist research draws them to the fore, making them a productive part of the process. Finally, activist research allows us to merge cultural critique with political action to produce knowledge that is empirically grounded, theoretically valuable, and ethically viable.” (Speed 2006). This course will teach students both the importance and value of conducting research that moves outside of the “ivory tower” of academia. “[A]ctivist scholars work in dialogue, collaboration, alliance with people who are struggling to better their lives; activist scholarship embodies a responsibility for results that these “allies” can recognize as their own, value in their own terms, and use as they see fit.” (Hale 2008) This course will explore major conceptual work on the role and ethical responsibility of anthropological research and social justice issues.

In addition, The College Fix reported last year on how some gender activists argue that scientists cannot determine the gender of an individual from his or her bones — because they don’t know how that individual identified him/her/(and their) self.

One archeology graduate student had said that “assigning gender to an ancient human [was] bullshit.”

But San José State University archaeology Professor Elizabeth Weiss referred to this as “ideologically motivated fudging.” She said determining the sex of skeletal remains “is a critical skill in forensics and any diminishing of this skill will negatively impact criminal investigations, denying the victims and their families justice.”

Weiss, in an email to The College Fix on Friday, said: “Riley Gaines is correct on many traits, but males do not have an extra rib. This myth comes from the Adam and Eve story.”

In addition to his lecture duties in Pitt’s anthropology department, Professor Yearwood directs the law school’s Center for Civil Rights and Racial Justice. His research interests include “the social constructions of race and racism, masculinity, gender, sex, Black Feminist and Black Queer theory, anthropology of sport and [the] Black Diaspora.”

MORE: Gender activists push to bar anthropologists from identifying human remains as ‘male’ or ‘female’

IMAGE: U. Pittsburgh screencap

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.