Cultural Construction of Gender

Gender in Uzbekistan is binary: boy/man, and girl/ woman. Gender categories relate to physical appearance, social roles, socialization patterns, and life expectations. Dress follows contemporary international styles or may be "Uzbek"—for women a loose dress with wide pants, and for men loose pants, tunic, and robe—but in either case, choices in color and style are suited to local gen-derized norms. Girls' ears are pierced in infancy, and throughout life gold earrings are preferred. Numerous features are associated with attractiveness for men and women, including thick black hair, almond-shaped eyes, and dark eyebrows. Eyebrows are such an important feature for women that they use a cosmetic, usma, reputed to make them grow. Little girls, especially in rural settings, often have a line of usma applied across their eyebrows. Traditional poetry exalts the moon-faced beauty, with light skin, dark eyes, round face, and eyebrows arched like a bow. Weight and body type are less important than facial beauty.

Overt expression of nonheterosexual preferences is rare among Uzbeks; Soviet policies suppressed homosexuality, ending a long, if Islamically disapproved, tradition of the dancing boy or bachcha. Touching and holding hands with friends of one's own sex in public is common among women and men, and is not an indication of sexual orientation.

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