Gender Roles in Economics

Mehinako division of labor does not stand out from that in other lowland societies in South America. It comprises the "classical" roles for men—fishing, clearing the fields, wood carving, and feather work. Women process bitter and sweet manioc, prepare food, and engage in the production of hammocks, bead belts, and sometimes clay figures and pots.3 Within the range of their economic activities, both sexes are independent. Men as well as women have their own bartering sessions (uluki) and they freely make decisions about their own products and properties.

Although labor is separated by gender, the result of this division is the insight that cooperation is needed. Myth and ritual display this system of reciprocal dependency. The production of manioc tools (tunuyai and kute), for example, is associated with a ritual lasting several days, during which the different gender roles and their relatedness are displayed. As the Mehinako say: "The spirit of manioc kukuhe likes to play with the women." Men and women engage in ritual dancing and singing, denouncing the sexual insufficiency of the partner. These dances are repeated every second evening and lead to insults and scolding of the partners. During daytime men go ahead to manufacture the manioc tools while women ritually welcome the men returning from the woods and bring them food to eat at the center. At the end of the ritual process men ceremonially present the manioc tools to the women of their choice. In this way the ritual process plays out and appeases partnership frustrations and at the same time produces manioc tools, which are, through the spirit of kukuhe, closely linked to the sexual activity of the villagers and fertility.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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