Pittsburgh Law and Anthropology Professor Causes Uproar in Denying Ability to Tell Gender from Human Bones

There is an interesting controversy that has erupted at the University of Pittsburgh after Dr. Gabby Yearwood, who teaches in both the anthropology and law schools, was asked by swimmer Riley Gaines if he could tell the gender of persons from skeletal remains. He denied that it was possible despite the widely accepted ability to do so in his field. The answer may reflect the ongoing push in anthropology, discussed in an earlier blog column, to put an end to gender identifications. Some insist that anthropologists need to know how an ancient human may have chosen to identify themselves.

Yearwood reportedly was asked the question by Gaines, who achieved national notoriety in opposing the inclusion of transgender athletes like the University of Pennsylvania’s Lia Thomas in women competitions. Like J.K. Rowling who has raised concerns over the threat to feminist gains from some transgender policies, Gaines is now ostracized and often prevented from speaking at events.

To its credit, Pittsburgh refused to yield to demands to bar Gaines and others from speaking on campus. This controversy appears to have resulted during the event that many sought to cancel.

Gaines asked Yearwood, “If you were to dig up two humans one hundred years from now, both man and woman, could you tell the difference, strictly off of bones?”

According to Fox, Yearwood answered “No!” and then took umbrage after the room erupted in laughter. He reportedly reminded them that he was “the expert in the room” and asked “Have any of you been to anthropological sites? Have any of you studied biological anthropology? I’m just saying, I’ve got over 150 years of data, I’m just curious as to why I’m being laughed at. I have a PhD!” The videos posted on Twitter only show the first part of that exchange.

Gaines reportedly responded 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.”

One expert is quoted by the College Fix as disagreeing with Yearwood though offering a correction also to one of Gaines’ statements.

San José State University archaeology Professor Elizabeth Weiss has said that 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.” She added that “Riley Gaines is correct on many traits, but males do not have an extra rib. This myth comes from the Adam and Eve story.”

Schools like Boston University note that

“Sex is typically determined by the morphology (shape) of the pelvis or skull and long bone measurements. ‘However, many of the areas on the skeleton that are used for sex estimation may be missing or damaged due to trauma, poor preservation, animal scavenging and nature of the incident (explosive). Therefore, it is important to examine other areas of the skeleton that preserve well and are potentially sexually dimorphic (show differences between females and males),’ explained corresponding author Sean Tallman, PhD, RPA, assistant professor of anatomy and neurobiology.”

In fairness to Yearwood, experts have said that determining gender occurs along a spectrum of analysis because some women may easily be mistaken for men. Indeed, there is research showing an overcounting of male skeletons in studies by famed anthropologist Aleš Hrdlička, who helped found the modern study of human bones and served as the first curator of physical anthropology at the U.S. National Museum.

This controversy is part of a wider debate unfolding on our campuses.

University of Kansas Associate Professor Jennifer Raff argued in a paper, “Origin: A Genetic History of the Americas,”  that there are “no neat divisions between physically or genetically ‘male’ or ‘female’ individuals.”  Her best selling book has been featured on various news outlets like MSNBC.

Raff is not alone. Graduate students like Emma Palladino have objected  that “the archaeologists who find your bones one day will assign you the same gender as you had at birth, so regardless of whether you transition, you can’t escape your assigned sex.”

Professors Elizabeth DiGangi of Binghamton University and Jonathan Bethard of the University of South Florida have also challenged the use of racial classifications in a study, objecting that “[a]ncestry estimation contributes to white supremacy.”  The authors write that “we use critical race theory to interrogate the approaches utilized to estimate ancestry to include a critique of the continued use of morphoscopic traits, and we assert that the practice of ancestry estimation contributes to white supremacy.”

It is not clear if this movement influenced Yearwood’s answer. He has been a leader in calling for “critical engagement” and “activist research” to change the field of anthropology.

Dr. Yearwood’s bio shows that he is widely published and known in his field.

“Gabby M.H. Yearwood is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology and Managing Faculty Director for the Center for Civil Rights and Racial Justice in the Law School at the University Pittsburgh. He is a socio-cultural anthropologist earning his Ph.D from the University of Texas at Austin in Anthropology focusing in Black Diaspora Studies and Masculinity. His research interests include the social constructions of race and racism, masculinity, gender, sex, Black Feminist and Black Queer theory, anthropology of sport and Black Diaspora. Dr. Yearwood holds a secondary appointment with the Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies Program at Pitt.  Dr. Yearwood is also a teaching member of the Pitt Prison Education Project.”

Among his courses is “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.”



122 thoughts on “Pittsburgh Law and Anthropology Professor Causes Uproar in Denying Ability to Tell Gender from Human Bones”

  1. I find the “I have a PhD” to be one of the most ludicrous answers I have recently heard. I suppose those of us who were trained in Medicine will have to relearn all the normals for men and women. The determination of sex in bones is an ever changing matter because science is an ever changing matter as more and more is discovered, and as new theories develop and older ones fail. The fact that this PhD worshipper answers so definitively is basically proof that he is wrong. But yes, in the right circumstances and preservation of the skeleton, we can determine sex. Sexual determination in older and older bones from millennia ago would be more difficult because of changes in nutrition since that time and the effects of climate and migration and destruction of the bones , differences in burial patterns and causes of death and other events.
    The fact is that lung function data is definitely different for males and females and this determines the normals that you measure against when you have your lung function tested. There have also been racial differences in lung function testing that also had to be calculated. Racial differences will likely change as there is more and more racial and ethnic intermarriage and what is now very different will eventually become muted and likely disappear.
    This is observed and measured data over decades and not CRT certified (sic) luckily. But even Medicine is becoming polluted by these CRT and DIE fanatics. The new era of Science Denial is in full bloom in the USA.
    Even the New York Times cannot do math or math that I learned. Its NY Times best seller list has no connection to actual sales as author James Patterson has recently noted. When he objected to the accuracy of their list, he sent them a letter which they failed to answer or publish so He published it on the web. Read it. (I did not provide a link)
    I have a Bs in Biology, minor in Chemistry, M.D. , Board Certified in Internal Medicine, Board Qualified in Pulmonary (lungs) and Critical Care, published in same, Legal expert in occupational lung disease and on and on but I knew what a man and woman was in high school and that has not changed.
    This column today is one of the best arguments yet for skipping college and going right into the workforce and learning that most crucial understanding of life, called Reality.

    1. It’s funny how over 5,000 years of recorded history, plus the prior million or so years of unrecorded history, no one had a problem determining who was female and who was male, the differences between them, and who could bear children and who could not, until now.

      It use it be the science ( a word that has been turned upside down to non-science), now it’s my feelings.

      If a man wants to call himself a woman or a woman wants to call herself a man, it’s still a free country (at least for the moment) they can call themselves whatever they want, but what they can’t do in a free country is force everyone to pretend that it’s true

  2. How did this “professor” get his/her degree and how does he/she function in his/her field? Agenda over facts, once again.

  3. Dear Prof Turley,

    Q. What’s the difference between a Cultural Anthropologist and an Activist Anthropologist?

    Never hit an Activist Anthropologist over the head with an API flat-bladed shovel, it leaves a dull impression on their minds. .. a thousand years from now, they will feel it in their bones.

    *A. Culture

  4. There is always some pucker-head trying to skew the obvious to their oblivious Soros lemmings in good standing.

    1. Great point. Came from the same incubator as communism, Marxism, BLM (until the buy here mansions with donations, DIE.

  5. Meanwhile the motives of the Nashville shooter disappear from the media.

    The “manifesto” continues to be withheld. The articulated reason, that the FBI must first complete its psychological profile, is patently absurd. Instead, the release will be delayed until the counter narrative of transphobic hate is put in place. And it may be redacted, or not released at all.

    In addition, no information has been released about the shooter’s emotional disorder or any drugs she was taking.

    There have been four mass shootings in five years by transgender individuals. This is highly disproportionate to their representation in the population. But nothing to see here.

    1. Exactly! These are gangs of spoiled children! First they torture their parents: “either call me ______ and use only apposite pronouns or I will kill myself.” Predictably, when they try to use the same technique on those willing to call their suicidal bluff, they resort to mass murder. Psychologists and psychiatrists refuse to point out to them the sickness of refusing to accept that they can only change their own behavior, and that insisting on changing the thoughts of those around them is the most narcissistic, grandiose, autocratic behavior there is. Instead, the “science” takes up the futile cause. Pathetic.

      1. We are ruled by the Pol Pot party. Pol Pot used children to terrorize the parents. 600,000 dead in little Kampuchea, so if you want to know how unhinged youth indoctrination can get, there it is.

        And there are lots of other examples… from Manson to Mao. The left lives rent-free in our kids’ heads, and it’s starting to show.

        Six dead in Nashville, and Pol Pot eats ice cream while he blames the victims. It starts there and ends badly.

          1. Thank you, Seth. I thought you were Allan, but someone else referred to you as “Seth,” so I’ll just go with it 😉

            1. Diogenes, though the one referring to me as Seth recognizes my alias and writing, I never went by that alias until he called me that. I guess the S. could mean Seth, but maybe not. Then again, both names might be adequate because you are also referring to me.

              Using aliases is foreign to me because I almost always used my real name in discussions. One can’t do that any longer because the left is violent, as are those associated with the left that hates the left’s ideas. What a strange world we live in.

            2. If you get the email version, then you have already seen that Anonymous the Stupid replied to you but self-deleted it. He said, “The “S” stands for “stupid.” He’s also known as ATS which translates to “Allan the Stupid.”

              It warms my heart that he is able to parrot the words others created. At least his brain has some function. However it is disturbing that ATS is in the midst of another meltdown.

                1. ATS said, self-deleted, “Yes, Allan the Stupid, Stupid Meyer or ATS. They all apply.”

                  Yes, his meltdown is accellerating.

  6. Two objections:
    (1) Not sure an article written by a LAWYER is the best source for information about SCIENCE.
    (2) Not sure the subject of this piece knows the difference between science and séance.

    Conclusion: Perhaps the cause of the controversy (or key to the mystery) is rooted in the supposed dual specialities (or maybe dueling specialties) of the protagonist “who teaches in both the anthropology and law schools.”

    I guess this controversy is destined to eventually be settled by an accountant / movie star or maybe an astronomer / ballet dancer. There’s never a good Supreme Court Justice / astrologer around when you need one.

  7. Yearwood asked: “I’m just curious as to why I’m being laughed at.”

    Then added: “I have a PhD!”

    You answered your own question.

  8. “[A]nthropologists need to know how an ancient human may have chosen to identify themselves.” (JT)

    How are you going to do that — a seance, channeling, Ouija board? So much for the “party of science.”

  9. ‘Critical’ engagement? That’s a laugh. These people are either insane or so obtuse as to . . . no, wait, pathological lying is also a mental disorder, so, insane it is.

    If we do not put a stop to this, this world is ******. Plain and simple. I am at a loss. This is indoctrination that is actually *complete*. We could lose the entire West very easily now (we are talking at least three generations of people) because when in power, these fools would *ally* with China, North Korea, or Russia. They have already demonstrated through cancel culture that persecution is a trifle to them.

    1. Spot-on. I can’t believe we are even having these conversations. Some liberal family and friends of mine are even finding it shocking which is somewhat heartening since I didn’t know any sane liberals existed and rarely is politics discussed with them.

    2. “I am at a loss.”

      Promote reason as the fundamental value. With it comes its first child: Science.

  10. Gender came into common usage during the 1980s, introduced by feminists so that they could argue men and women were equal in every way, an argument they needed to make if they were to move into professions usually associated with men, e.g., fire-fighting. Gender refers to the ‘social construct’ of ‘sexuality,’ as opposed to biological sex, which is binary. Gender, as the feminists have found out, not only can exist on a continuum, it can be used to argue that biological males who identify as women should be allowed to win women’s swimming meets, hang out in women’s dressing rooms, and be housed in women’s prisons. In one sense, it’s a form of karma . . . . their own argument has come back to bite them, or rather maul them in MMA contests and recast them as TERFs, a favorite target of people who identify as what they ain’t.
    I identify as ancient, if anyone cares. . . .

    1. The last thing feminists want is equality. They want superiority. And what is being done against women athletes–aspiring and established–is shameful. Title IX is dead or, at best, on life support.

  11. Dem bones, dem bones!

    OT….Professor, we saw your cameo on Gutfeld last night. Lookin’ good!
    The camera loves you ….and so do we.

  12. All I can say,
    “The science is settled”,
    ” A consensus has been reached by the vast majority of Scientists.”

    (I fixed this kerfuffle, using approved leftists procedures)

    1. @iowan

      That’s because that sad overall trend is what got the ball rolling on where we’ve ended up, and continues to fuel the fire. For the college-aged or older, good luck convincing them of anything. If they ever do realize the errors of their ways, it’ll be much later in life, after much destruction, and when all the people that knew how to do things are gone forever.

  13. “Activist (anything)” according to this “professor,” amounts to simple opinions that have no other basis in fact’ it’s simply a way of making those that some consider to be permanently oppressed to see value in their work product. He obviously believes what he says, while others may consider his statements to be bizarre.

    It all comes across as the idea of giving participation trophies and equating them with actual rewards.

  14. Just goes to prove, you can have a PhD and still be an idiot.
    And a laughing stock.

    Just when I did not think the leftists could not get any stupider, they go and prove me wrong.

    1. In fairness to Trannys, issues of identity can arise at any time in life, the individual “realization” dotting a spectrum.
      Some conclude their “original”sexual identity was mistaken later in their life.
      And who sez a skeleton can’t have “second thoughts”? +

    2. Your point is a well known fact. The really smart ones went to dental school, medical school, vet school (surprising but not if you research the data, vet schools are the incubator of much human medication and treatment), some to Law school. Most of the rest went out and got a job. Those that could not get a job or any of the others got PhD’s with occasional rare exceptions

      1. “I’m smart enough to know that I’m dumb.” ― Richard Feynman

        I don’t think intelligence is limited to the medical sciences or the law.

  15. “It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen.” — George Orwell, 1984

    Professor, for a moment I thought this article might be an April Fools Day joke. If not, we have officially entered the Twilight Zone.

  16. So, here’s one problem Professor Turley: you are using the terms “gender” and “sex” as if they were interchangeable. Actually, the correct term is “sex.” I was taught in high school that gender is for language and sex is for people. English is not really a gendered language but most languages are. In other words, people might have a gender identity, and they might have or take certain gender roles, but gender, per se, is not a thing. This might seem like nit-picking but it is actually very important; in fact it is the whole crux of the matter. People on your side, the left, say gender does not depend on biology, and if they said “gender roles” or “gender identity,” they would not be entirely wrong. However, they then want to change “gender” by changing biology, which is a contradiction and makes no sense whatsoever except from a purely financial perspective in the sense that these “gender affirming” procedures are the goose that laid the golden egg for the medical profession. Again we see that “in the beginning were the words.” The left co-opts words and changes their meaning ever so slightly so that normal people don’t even notice. Meanwhile, a sex change operation sounds like a big deal. Gender affirming surgery sounds like a much smaller deal. It’s a shell game with language covering up the lies. The reality is, yes you can tell a person’s sex from their bones, except sometimes in the case of children or when there are missing parts, and no you can’t tell “gender” from the bones because it doesn’t exist, except, again, as “gender identity” or “gender roles.”

    1. To the extent the concept of gender differs from sex, it is ill-defined and should not be used in any serious discussion.

    2. I don’t get it: Why can’t these people just be who they are? That’s what I always thought “feminism” was supposed to be about. Just be yourself: climb trees, play with dolls, or whatever floats your boat. But that’s not enough? They need to enforce archaic sex roles in order to obtain the greenest grass on the other side of the “gender” fence? Get over yourselves! No one cares!

      1. I doubt that all of a sudden these gender confused individuals just “appeared” as vociferous as they hadn’t been in the past. I would wager that they are just another group that the prog/left has found useful to energize in their ultimate goal of destroying western culture. They are mere energized dupes being used in a most hideous and malevolent manner to advance a far greater agenda than their confusion about who they are.

    3. I noticed that you stated “People on your side, the left, say gender…”. Because of your use of language to create truth out of an assumption, Turley is not a leftist?

    4. “Gender affirming surgery . . .”

      Of all the euphemisms used to whitewash evil, that one is the most despicable. The evil is: The genital mutilation of *children*! To wrap that in rose petals is truly wicked.

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