Change in Attitudes Beliefs and Practices Regarding Gender

Incorporation into the Chinese state in 1956 ended the hundreds of years during which Na territory was locally ruled by Na chieftains and administrators. This also marked the beginning of waves of policy which were intended to produce radical changes in Na household and economic structures. From 1958 until 1982, land was collectivized and households no longer controlled production or labor resources. Government policies tried to encourage, and then to force, Na to marry and start nuclear families with men as heads of households. Government discourse and rhetoric told the Na that their household structures were primitive and backward, as well as immoral, and that they needed to change them and end sexual freedom to become modern and civilized.

Currently, several factors are contributing to or acting as pressures for social change. These include education, the media, migration, and tourism. Outside sources of information and interaction pressure the Na to change—to modernize in both standard of living as well as lifestyle. Educational materials in government schools reflect the lifestyle and expectations of greater Chinese society through the mediation of government text writers, while teachers and school administrators marry and live in "modern" nuclear households. Economic reforms and greater mobility throughout China have affected growing numbers of youth, who are trying to leave the area for educational or economic opportunities. Television is rapidly reaching more and more Na communities, and Na compare their situations with the comfortable lives and different lifestyles represented on television. In general, these outside models involve nuclear families headed by fathers, and a wider society and economy controlled by men in which women have a declining status.

Since the mid-1980s, increasing numbers of tourists have been visiting Na areas. In some Na communities the economy is almost completely driven by tourist income. These tourists are drawn by curiosity about descriptions of the Na as "matriarchal," and these descriptions have been taken up and enhanced by travel writers, novelists, and travel agencies to lure tourists. To maintain this source of income, residents of tourist communities must to some degree satisfy tourists' curiosity and the images they bring with them. Sexuality and gender figure prominently in representations of the Na as "matriarchal" and sexual without marriage.

In the primary tourist area, the labor defined as household work/women's work seems to have increased. Men are less likely to assist, using tales of traditional long-distance trading and hard-working matriarchs to claim that, for the sake of cultural preservation, they should not do household work. Women generally have responsibility for all household work in households which have now grown to include large guest-houses, and in the most successful tourist households men manage the profits of the guest-houses. Public positions of authority are now almost exclusively occupied by men. Women in the tourist area seem trapped in a myth of matriarchy that holds them responsible for almost all labor, a labor imbalance that they are told should continue for the sake of cultural preservation. Women work more than men for the sake of preserving "traditional" culture for the tourism on which their new wealth depends, but the wealth produced is often controlled by men.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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