Cultural Construction of Gender

The Samburu recognize two distinct genders, male and female. The treatment of infants differs little by gender, but by the age of 4 or 5 girls' genital areas are usually covered, while in boys this may come considerably later. Similarly, older girls and women are very careful not to expose themselves—men cover their genitals, but can be lax in the care that they take to do so. With the spread of Christianity, breasts are also increasingly hidden.

Girls begin to wear an increasing number of beads (mostly red) around their necks as they approach the age when they will dance with Imurran. Older girls and young married women wear an enormous number of beads strung on wire like a round collar. Lmurran also wear a lot of beaded ornaments, which differ stylistically from those of girls and women. Lmurran are the only age-gender category to wear long hair, braiding it into small pigtails that they cover in red ochre. All others shave their hair short.

Upon marriage, young men shave their heads and exchange their ostentatious ornaments for a few strands of beads and a couple of bracelets. Their appearance, like their behavior, should become temperate. Young married women on the other hand, continue to wear enormous quantities of beads, only gradually reducing the number as their children grow. Women whose sons and daughters are initiated should wear far fewer beads so as not to compete with young people or imply that they are sexually accessible to young men of their son's age set.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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