Gender Roles in Economics

There are sharp distinctions in male and female economic roles, although some individuals do not follow the usual prescription. Women gather and carry firewood, maintain the family hearth, cook the food, make pottery, weave and paint cloth, gather food from the family gardens, provide care for the children they have borne as well as, at times, the children of other women, wash the clothes, bathe the children, carry water from the river or lake to the family kitchen, make clothes on the sewing machine if there is one, sweep the floor of the house and the path in front of it, and cook cane juice squeezed by the men for making huatapo. When masato (atsashreati) is being prepared from manioc, the women cut the tuber, cook it, then masticate the detoxified paste in order to give it the bacteria for fermentation to occur. Similarly, they prepare and cook the ground corn for chicha de maize (corn liquor). Women are masters of the Shipibo brewery.

The responsibilities of men were classically to hunt and fish, to make their own canoes and weapons, and to defend the village from military enemies. The men still do many of these things, and they also have the responsibility for bringing building materials from the forest and building the houses. Men clear the forest for making a garden plot and manage the burning of the slash. Men provide the formal political leadership, but they know better than to ignore their wives and the community of female opinion. Men negotiate with outside forces such as the local, regional, and national governments.

Men negotiate with river traders in trades concerning hardware, but women negotiate in the purchase of food and some manufactured materials (such as cloth). Both men and women make trade items for sale to tourists, but women specialize in jewelry while men make such items as decorated weapons and oars.

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