Cultural Construction of Gender

Gender is recognized by the Kyrgyz through two categories—men and women, or male and female. The two categories are manifested in cultural norms and domestic practices that divide societal responsibilities by gender. In contemporary Kyrgyz culture, both men and women are accustomed to modern dress; thus their clothing tends to be more European or Western than traditional Muslim cloaks or any sort of veiling. In rural areas, some women wear scarves to cover their head, which is seen as a display of modesty, especially among married women. Few women are veiled, as is customary in many religious Muslim countries. In urban centers, women commonly wear facial make-up, particularly on their eyes, lips, and cheeks. Differentiation is age related in regard to visual appearances. Young women are considered more attractive if they allow their hair to grow long. There are fewer expectations for men's visual appearance, except that they should maintain a sense of cleanliness in dress; despite Muslim influence, most Kyrgyz men are clean-shaven.

During pre-Soviet times, the Kyrgyz lived in a structure called a yurt, which was divided into female and male spaces. To the left of the entryway is a space designated for men (er jak); this includes a space for saddles and other horse-riding implements. The right is considered the women's side (epchi jak), an area separated by a chiy (screen), where domestic items such as pots and utensils were kept.

The Kyrgyz have traditionally practiced arranged marriages along tribal lines, and thus individuals had very little say in their actual marriages. Commonly though, young women under the age of 18 years were considered more attractive or "marriageable," since great importance is placed in Kyrgyz culture on the ability to bear children—thus, the younger the bride, the higher the likelihood of many children.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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