Cultural Construction of Gender

Ancient as well as contemporary mythology depicts a sharp distinction between male and female cosmic forces (Graulich, 1997; López Austin, 1997). The Nahua address their parents with kin terms that carry deep cultural meanings and convey their contrasting expectations for males and females. The Nahuat of the sierra norte de Puebla use the term tahueh for father and nahueh for mother. Tahueh means brave and connotes someone who acts with strong emotions or considerable assertiveness. Nahueh means "she who is in the center of all things" and refers to the mother's central position in the domestic group. The strong emotions of tahueh mean that he is inclined to act with ilihuiz, an adverb that connotes excessive strength or power and a lack of consideration for others (Karttunen, 1983, p. 104). Many oral narratives caution men against acting with Wlihuiz and encourage them to respect nahueh, on whom the unity of the Nahua family heavily depends. A man who gets drunk, beats his wife, or abuses her sexually acts with Wlihuiz, and his behavior can tear the family, the community, and even the cosmos apart.

Nahueh wears a red loincloth (tahcoilpiloni or tahcocuetax) because she sheds blood during menstruation and childbirth, and tahueh wears a white loincloth symbolic of semen. Nahuat men in the sierra norte de Puebla also wear loose-fitting white cotton trousers and white shirts. Women wear white cotton skirts (iztachueh or enaguas blancas), beautiful woven sashes, and blouses with intricate embroidery (pehpenalo) around the sleeve and collar. Ideas of beauty and sexual attractiveness are related to dress and grooming. Men apply the term for beauty (cualtzin) to young women who have long, shiny, combed and braided black hair. A maiden who wants to look cualtzin braids her hair with colorful ribbons. Men rarely talk about woman's breasts (chichihualmeh) as erotic symbols in the same way as North American men. Until recently, Nahuat women covered the upper body only with a shawl (huWpWl) that gave their nursing infants easier access to the breast. Women consider a man attractive if he grooms himself well by keeping his hair short and dressing neatly. Young men of courting age wear spotless white cotton trousers and shirts, and display their masculine power by wearing long razor-sharp machetes in handsome leather sheaths.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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