Cultural Constructions of Gender

In relative terms, the entire world of the Yapese is classified as either tabugul, "pure" or "sacred," or ta'ay, "polluted" or "profane." Yapese dichotomize both the real and supernatural world into these categories. Yapese folklore tells of how two men, Kee and Mel, tricked the Yapese into believing that all men were tabugul, while women were ta'ay, and that there should be certain restrictions governing behavior between the two. The tabugul-ta'ay classification applies not only to people, but also to spirits and lands. If a village is classified as ta'ay, "polluted," then all people born share the essence of being polluted. The opposite is true for those born into high-caste village.

The tabugul-ta'ay classification is also applied to members of a Yapese nuclear family. The father/husband is tabugul to his wife and children, and a woman is ta'ay to her husband and postadolescent son, but is tabugul to her children. Upon reaching puberty, brothers are tabugul to their sisters. Both men and women become more tabugul and/or less ta'ay with age. Menstrual blood and death are considered the two most contaminating or polluting aspects of daily life.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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