Gender Roles in Economics

Married couples are expected to maintain fields in which crops are grown, notably, corn, sweet potatoes, bananas, squash, yams, sweet manioc, and, today, bitter manioc. Females are in charge of harvesting and preparing food, including meat and fish provided by men. Both genders are extraordinarily capable of providing for their own needs without their complement over periods of time that may range to several months.

Various activities are carried out by each gender: males slash underbrush, fell trees, burn the garden area, hunt with bows and arrows and firearms in addition to clubs, and make weapons, basketry, ritual ornaments, household utensils, canoes and, nowadays, "craft" items for sale. They may also collect Brazil nuts, animal pelts, or other natural commodities for sale. Women prepare food in the stone/earth ovens, boil and sieve manioc, make salt from palm stalks, make cotton string (an essential item for ornaments), collect firewood, and plant, weed, and harvest gardens. Both genders cooperate in housebuilding, although men cut the logs needed for houses modeled after the Brazilian backwoods style. Formerly, women erected house structures. Both genders collect wild products, such as piqui, although males specialize in honey (even though many, such as the menorony, cannot eat it), palmito, bacaba, and assai. Women tend to focus on other resources, such as wild legumes and chocolate and certain ants and grubs. Men collect stinging ants for use on hunting dogs as well as the feathers, resin, and eggshell used in ritual ornaments. Both men and women may fish with hook and line, although only men handle fish poisons. Men tend to roast food, although women may do so as well; women are susceptible to heated vapors and so will not toast manioc flour over an open fire, although they will participate in other steps of the procedure.

Tasks performed outside the household that involve many people are organized according to age grades. In making manioc flour, unmarried nubile girls may fetch water, bachelors fish for the entire work party, and elderly women split firewood, while younger mothers sieve manioc and collect tapioca starch, married men do the toasting, and men with many children feed manioc through an electric grinder. The least active contributors to subsistence are usually boys and young men (meokre and menoronyre) who may rarely hunt, fish, or garden, concentrating instead on self-decoration, singing, and dancing.

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