Cultural Construction of Gender

There were two major gender categories: man and woman (kah and shawat). They were recognized as having different roles but similar characteristics. Definitions of proper behavior and rights depended at least as much on rank as on gender.

Early contact everyday dress was simple according to the drawings and reports of early explorers. Men went essentially naked, except for a fur cape draped around their shoulders. Women wore unshaped leather dresses with similar fur or skin wraps. Neither wore shoes except in winter. Socially significant dress, on the other hand, could be very elaborate and was based more on rank than gender. High-status individuals wore valuable robes and headgear that reflected their rank. The ceremonial dress was similar for men and women, although men might wear pants while woman generally wore skirt under their robes. Even those of lower status had ceremonial wear that differed considerably from their daily clothes.

High-ranked women marked their status by wearing labrets. These cylindrical objects fit into a slit in the lower lip. A large labret signified a very highly ranked senior woman. Both men and women pierced their noses and ears for ornaments and wore tattoos that reflected their clans. Beauty, when commented upon, seemed largely to reflect the person's high rank and the behavior that fitted the rank, rather than physical factors. Even the preference for light complexions for women may well indicate the higher-ranked woman's longer puberty seclusion as a young woman and her protection from extensive outdoor work when older.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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