Cultural Construction of Gender

Gender in Manjako is expressed by two roots: -inc "male" and -kaac "female." As adjectives they are used for humans and animals alike with the corresponding prefix. Used alone with human prefix na-, they mean "man" (nainc) and "woman" (nakaac or ngaac). There are no grammatical gender categories, that is, no separate pronouns for "he" and "she." The human prefix na- is not gender specific; for example, nacaf is "an elder," whether referring to a man or a woman.

When a baby is born, its sex has no bearing on its welcome into the world; children of both sexes are highly valued. Children of both sexes are also equally susceptible of being a spirit taking temporary human form, or a "problem child" who has died and come back for a temporary visit. There are specific names for a pair of boy-girl twins: the boy is always named "Kainc" (<-inc, "male"), the girl "Kakaac" (<-kaac, "female"). Traditional Manjako names were rarely gender specific, though now most babies receive Portuguese names from the Catholic stock, such as Maria, Cristina, José, and Luis.

Both men and women are considered important and are respected for their contributions to society. Women are child-bearers and tie people together, since clan membership passes through them, and since they connect their birth family with the family they marry into. Men found and protect households, and provide religious and social leadership.

The distinction between "male" and "female" is fundamental, and is reinforced both ritually and in everyday life. At dances, ceremonies, meals, and work, the two sexes are informally segregated; the only enforced segregation is at a few principal spirit shrines and certain rituals.

Men and women dress differently. Men wear shorts or trousers while women wear tops and cloth wraps or skirts, though women often wear short pants while working in the rice fields or gathering shellfish in the mangroves. Women may go topless at home in excessively hot weather. However, on ritual occasions, such as funerals, both men and women wear traditional locally woven cloth wraps (belenj), which play an important ritual role at funerals. Men's hairstyles are short and plain; women wear sculptured braids which are sometimes adorned with beads.

Shortly after birth, girls have their ears pierced and start wearing earrings. In the past, adolescent girls often underwent intricate ornamental scarifications on the stomach and chest area (Carreira, 1961), though nowadays these can be found only in a few elderly women.

For both sexes, character and personality are as important as, if not more important than, physical beauty. Industriousness, cleverness, and good humor are also appreciated traits, as is dancing ability.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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