Cultural Construction of Gender

Like other Pueblo Indian peoples, the Hopi view their world as oppositions in balance: night and day, summer and winter, etc. Linked to all of these is gender: females are associated with earth, summer, life (e.g., plants and fertility), south and west, and soft substances; males are associated with sky, winter, death (e.g., hunting and war), north and east, and hard substances. These forces are in balance. Female force, inherent in the earth and women, contains life, but it has to be activated by male force. This principle is dramatically expressed in Hopi understanding of plant fertility. Crops are planted in the (female) earth, but they do not grow unless they are energized by the (male) celestial forces of sun and rain. These forces are potentially dangerous, however, because the sun can burn the crops and rain can wash them away, if not controlled. Lightning, the most concentrated form of male energy, kills, but the field it strikes will be very fertile.

Like the cosmic principles of maleness and female-ness, men and women have different natures. Women have a single nature, a maternal life-giving one. This does not mean that they are passive, for like mother animals they can be fierce in protecting their children and home, and a favorite mythical figure is the warrior woman who saved the village by rousing the women to defend it when the men were away in battle. Men have a dual nature, being both fathers, that is, providers and protectors, and potential killers. Since life has the highest value, killing of enemies is a necessary evil and its effects are neutralized through ritual. Even the killing of game animals is accompanied by small rituals. While prowess in warfare was respected, the most honored positions for men were the ceremonial ones that had nothing to do with war.

Women and men are respected when they fulfill their duties earnestly and patiently. Women's important role is as mothers, to their own children and to all the people, through care and feeding. Men's role is to provide for their families, and to a lesser degree their matrilineal kin, and to protect the village. Both genders have important spiritual duties that must be performed so that they, their families, and the community will prosper.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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