Gender over the Life Cycle Socialization of Boys and Girls

All Yapese children are born into the tabinaew of their father. Although the Yapese tabinaew may have a patrilineal descent bias, it is much more than a kinship group. The tabinaew is the most prominent reference group because of its kinship, political, economic, and religious associations. The physical house and the stone foundation upon which it is built is referred to as one's natal tabinaew, "household" or "estate." Yapese children are given a name that belongs to the tabinaew. These names are fixed in number and are thought to be the names of the original founders of the estate. In most instances, the names associated with a particular estate are four or fewer for each sex. The women's names are those of the wives of the founders. Rank and status are determined according to one's natal estate, which in turn determines one's name.

Yapese social stratification extends to age grades for both sexes. Four grades are associated with males, and five are associated with females. Although Yapese do not have elaborate ceremonies marking the transition from one grade to the next, they do honor some rites of passage and adhere to special social responsibilities associated with each group.

For men, the grades are: bitir ni ba pagal, "small child" (roughly ages 0-20); pagal, "young man" (roughly 20-45); pumo'on, "middle-aged man" (roughly 45-65); pilabthir, "old man" (roughly anyone over 65).

For women, the grades are: buyal, "small child" (roughly ages 0-12); rugood "adolescent" (roughly 12-25); luk'ana'rwol, "young mother" (roughly 25-45); puweelwol, "beyond menopause" (roughly 45-65); pil-abthir "old woman" (roughly anyone over 65).

Membership in an age grade is not based on absolute age. Variables, such as the number of siblings, number of age peers in a village, and the rank of one's estate, are all taken into consideration for determining the appropriate age grade.

The number of loincloths worn by a Yapese male varies with age. A small boy wears one wrapping. Sometime between the ages of 7 and 12 a second wrap is added and then a third when he reaches puberty. The final item of the male ensemble is the kafaar, "hibiscus wrap," which is overlaid with the loincloth. The Yapese boy who wears the kafaar is seen as having attained manhood. No similar stages in dress exists for Yapese females. Yapese women wear grass skirts (both an inner and outer skirt) which can be made from grasses, bananas, or hibiscus. For both sexes, aspects of dress have been heavily influenced by Western styles, and it is rare to find Yapese in traditional dress outside the village environment.

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