Cultural Construction of Gender

The recognized gender categories appear to have been limited to male and female. Gender markers included physical dimorphism, names, and gender-specific enculturated skills. In the case of females, the netbag was a prime symbol of feminity; the spear was possibly the equivalent symbol of masculinity. Children of both sexes went naked. About the age of 4 or 5, girls began to wear skirts of shredded sago frond, though they would wear these irregularly until they were 7 or 8. Around the age of 8 or 9, boys began to wear a loincloth made of softened breadfruit bark.

In both males and females, a "clear" skin—one unblemished by disease—was considered attractive. In women, a buxom figure and breasts that fell in "luxuriant heaviness" were esteemed. In men, height, sturdiness, and strength were highly valued. So far as marriage preferences were concerned, however, non-visual cues— a partner's aptitude and ability to fulfill his or her gender role—were especially important. Girls and young women were judged first by their sweet-temperedness and by their commitment and capability in caring for their families and providing hospitality to guests. If they lived locally, their appeal was enhanced if they brought with them many male kindred who were good hunters, successful gardeners, slow to anger, and wise in making choices. Youths with many relatives were also looked on with favor as spouses.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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