Cultural Construction of Gender

The Mundugumor appear to have designated only two genders, male and female, and did not recognize homosexuality. Each gender was associated with specific tasks within the division of labor (see "Gender Roles in Economics"), and each dressed in a gender-appropriate way. Men wore a woven belt with leaves attached to the front and back, or a flying-fox skin decorated with shells, while women wore grass skirts. Both women and men wore woven armbands (sometimes with shells) as decoration, and women wore strings of shells attached to their earlobes. Little girls were decorated with special ornaments, shells, and fancy grass skirts, and, as they grew older, were occasionally paraded about by their fathers while mothers too took some interest in bedecking their daughters. Little boys remained devoid of decoration and remained naked until age 6 or 7. Later, girls' ears were pierced while boys were scarified, primarily on their backs.

Women were thought to be weaker than men physically, and the ideal woman was "tall, lithe, and slender" (Mead, 1935/1963, p. 230). Women per se seem not to have been polluting, that is, they did not inherently pose a danger to men by their very nature as is often the case in Melanesia, but some entities, such as long yams and certain spirits, disliked the odors associated with menstruation, sexual activity (either partner), and soap.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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