25 Margaret Mead Quotes Challenging Societal Stereotypes

With her controversial views on society, gender roles, and parenthood, American anthropologist Margaret Mead knows how to start a conversation.

Below are some of Margaret Mead’s most thought-provoking quotes. 

What have you learned about Margaret Mead in the past?

As a cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead’s insightful stereotype-bashing criticisms connected with millions during the 1960’s cultural revolution.

Some of Margaret Mead’s most intuitive books include Coming of Age in Samoa, a study about girlhood in early 20th century Samoa, and Sex and Temperament in Three Primitive Societies, a study exploring gender roles in Papua New Guinea. 

Today, we’re going to take a deep dive into Margaret Mead’s most insightful opinions. 

Don’t forget to also check out our selection of Zora Neale Hurston quotes on love and writing.

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Margaret Mead quotes on society

1. “Never ever depend on governments or institutions to solve any major problems. All social change comes from the passion of individuals.” – Margaret Mead

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2. “Every time we liberate a woman, we liberate a man.” – Margaret Mead

3. “Our humanity rests upon a series of learned behaviors, woven together into patterns that are infinitely fragile and never directly inherited.” – Margaret Mead

4. “If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place.” – Margaret Mead

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5. “I have a respect for manners as such, they are a way of dealing with people you don’t agree with or like.” – Margaret Mead

6. “Thanks to television, for the first time the young are seeing history made before it is censored by their elders.” – Margaret Mead

7. “We won’t have a society if we destroy the environment.” – Margaret Mead

8. “We talk about our high standard of living in this country. What we have is a high standard of work. Usually the peaks of civilization have been periods when a large proportion of the population had time to live. I don’t think we’re doing this today. I think the people who could live are still spending their time and supplementary resources on making a living.” – Margaret Mead

9. “An ideal culture is one that makes a place for every human gift.” – Margaret Mead

10. “Our first and most pressing problem is how to do away with warfare as a method of solving conflicts between national groups within a society who have different views about how the society is to run.” – Margaret Mead

11. “A city is a place where there is no need to wait for next week to get the answer to a question, to taste the food of any country, to find new voices to listen to and familiar ones to listen to again.” – Margaret Mead

Margaret Mead quotes about humanity

12. “You know my fury about people is based precisely on the fact that I consider them to be responsible, moral creatures who so often do not act that way.” – Margaret Mead

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13. “As long as any adult thinks that he, like the parents and teachers of old, can become introspective, invoking his own youth to understand the youth before him, he is lost.” – Margaret Mead

14. “I have a respect for manners as such, they are a way of dealing with people you don’t agree with or like.” – Margaret Mead

15. “It is an open question whether any behavior based on fear of eternal punishment can be regarded as ethical or should be regarded as merely cowardly.” – Margaret Mead

16. “Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” – Margaret Mead

17. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

18. “I do not believe in using women in combat, because females are too fierce.” – Margaret Mead

19. “One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don’t come home at night.” – Margaret Mead

20. “Women want mediocre men, and men are working to be as mediocre as possible.” – Margaret Mead

21. “It’s easier for a woman to go into a strange village than a man. If a strange man wanders in, the natives are afraid he’ll take their wives away, but a woman can work with the mothers and children.” – Margaret Mead

22. “Laughter is man’s most distinctive emotional expression.” – Margaret Mead

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23. “If the future is to remain open and free, we need people who can tolerate the unknown, who will not need the support of completely worked out systems or traditional blueprints from the past.” – Margaret Mead

24. “It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.” – Margaret Mead

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Margaret Mead quotes about success and work ethic

25. “The way to do fieldwork is never to come up for air until it is all over.” – Margaret Mead

How have stereotypes affected you? 

Much of Margaret Mead’s work was highly criticized, especially during the 1960s.

Her views reflect the rise of counterculture and stereotypical Western ideals being turned upside down.

The views of Mead, and many other prominent female anthropologists of the 20th century such as Zora Neale Hurston and Elsie Clews Parsons, have inspired multiple generations of women to fight for a world of equality. 

Although the overbearing force of tradition and societal norms loomed over Margaret Mead’s head, she wasn’t afraid to remain an influential force in the field of anthropology and 1960’s media. 

What’s your favorite quote from anthropologist Margaret Mead?

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Nia Simone McLeod is a writer, content creator, and video editor from Richmond, Virginia. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Virginia Commonwealth University, she began producing professionally edited, eye-catching written and visual content for clients on a variety of different topics such as pop culture, music, technology, business, and mental health. From songs that top the Billboard charts to binge-worthy TV shows on Netflix, she not only understands what’s “hot” in pop culture but how it connects us as a community.As communities, we bond over discussing, critiquing, and expressing our love for pop culture. Developing great digital content is equal parts research and creative ideas. As a content writer, she has helped brands and entrepreneurs create digital content that authentically expresses their brand while staying in touch with current events. Her article topics also include travel, technology, business, and health. When she is not tapping away at her laptop, she is curating her next great Spotify playlist or stuffing her face at the local pho shop.
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