Gender Roles in Economics

Btsisi' division of labor is prescriptive rather than proscriptive. An ideology of cooperation between husband and wife means that women and men do whatever is necessary for the smooth productive functioning of the household. While ideally women are responsible for household maintenance and men for the provisioning of the household, in reality both men and women work jointly, as a team, cooperating for the household's success.

Women traditionally performed activities occurring within the village area while men took responsibility for those activities outside the village. This meant that women, besides doing the household and childcare activities, were also responsible for taking care of the swid-dens and harvesting the fruit from village trees. Men, in contrast, hunted and did wage labor. The inside-outside dichotomy means, for example, that women sell fruit within the village. However, if the same fruit is sold to a middleman outside the village, it is the men who are responsible. Cash from the fruit belongs to whoever, man or woman, owns the trees, but in reality the cash, as all income, is controlled by the women of the household.

While there is a normative gendered division of labor, with men and women assigned different activities, in reality husbands and wives work together as a team. While women do not go gill- and seine-net fishing by themselves or in partnership with other women, they do go with their husbands. Similarly, men go bivalve collecting and hook-and-line fishing with their wives, even though they typically do not go on their own. No one wants to do things by themselves without a friend, and who is your best friend but your spouse!

In their free time, women may weave sleeping mats and baskets. Preparation of the material is time consuming but, once done, the weaving occurs at a leisurely pace. While weaving is categorized as "women's work," a few men, in the privacy of their own homes, might do some weaving on their wife's mat. Wood carving is an important handicraft both traditionally and today as an income-generating cottage industry. It is an activity only men perform.

Traditionally, Btsisi' did not "own" land. There was a notion of usufruct, but people shifted their swiddens and with sufficient land no one was concerned about inheritance. Today, this is not the case. Land scarcity is severe. Most land traditionally used for hunting, gathering, and swiddening is no longer available as it is owned by a large multinational oil palm plantation. Land on the mainland is under pressure from national and state development projects like the new international airport. Land values are skyrocketing and village land is now under threat of state government revocation.

Village exogamy with uxorilocality (matrilocality) is no longer the norm. In the past men were not concerned about next year's swidden land, but today land is planted with cash crops and houses are permanent. Upon the termination of a marriage, men no longer want to return to their natal villages, abandoning their fields planted with cash crops. Village exogamy has been replaced with endogamy; therefore, even with marital dissolution, a man maintains control over land he or his father planted and cleared. Women and men can both own and control land; there is no difference, although fewer women seem to own oil palm trees.

Oil palm harvesting has become an important economic activity. Harvesters, using long bamboo poles with sharp sickle-shaped knives lashed to one end, cut down the fruit bunches which can be as high as 15 ft. Palm fronds are also cut from the trees. Harvesting oil palm is not an activity performed by one person. Typically, it is the work of whole families. While men cut the fruit down, women and children collect the 40 kg bunches into a pile and pick up the small individual fruits which have fallen away from the bunch. While whole families work at this activity, if employed by the commercial agricultural plantation, the employment rosters typically only note the men. Women and children do not receive any separate income for their work.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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