Cultural Construction of Gender

Manipulations of the bodies of infants shortly after birth and of pubescent children indicate that desirable features for both Navajo men and women are a long straight nose, a flat forehead, a straight back and good posture, an overall physically strong and fit body, and long, healthy, and well-groomed hair. The Navajo Holy People directed men and women to wear their hair in a bun at the back of the neck. Women traditionally wore two-piece woolen dresses, with sash belts, and moccasins with leg wrappings. Men wore woven breechcloths with moccasins. In the mid-1800s women adopted multi-tier gathered skirts of satin and pleated velveteen blouses, and men adopted pants and shirts constructed of commercially manufactured cloth. While they may don such attire for special occasions, contemporary men and women under the age of 50 cut their hair and wear clothes reflecting current European American styles on a day-to-day basis. Elderly men, who frequently wear their hair in traditional buns, prefer wrangler jeans, Western-style boots, hats, and shirts. Elderly women, who almost always wear their hair in the traditional bun, wear cotton gathered skirts and simple blouses, with support or tennis shoes. Both genders cherish turquoise and silver jewelry and wear an abundance of it with pride.

Prior to European American colonization, the Navajo recognized four main gender categories: women, men, nadleehe, and dilbaa. Nadleehe, "a person who is in a constant state of change," is a feminine person born with both genitalia who dressed and functioned as a woman. A person born with both genitalia who in adult life dressed and functioned as a man was classified as a dilbaa. Dilbaa was the first of these gender categories to disappear completely from the Navajo tribe during the second half of the 19th century (Thomas, 1997). Some nadleehe are known to live on the reservation today.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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