Cultural Construction of Gender

The Bakairi recognize two genders: male and female. Since the 1930s, they have worn clothing, having adopted the typical regional Brazilian style of dress. Men wear shorts or slacks and shirts, and women wear skirts or dresses. Men's hair is cut short, and women let their hair grow long. Recently some younger women have started to wear make-up. Red and black body paints are used by both men and women during festivities. Adults used to file their front teeth into points, but they have discontinued this tradition (Petrullo, 1932). Scarification of the arms and legs of individuals takes place. When young women begin to menstruate and young men are in their teens, they undergo the procedure of scraping the legs or arms until blood is drawn with an instrument called a paiko, which is made of fish teeth. This tradition is continued into adulthood to strengthen the body. Although height-weight studies found no evidence of obesity in the reservation, the ideal body image of the Bakairi man or women tends to be more robust than the North American body image. Strength and endurance are admired in both men and women.

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