Gender Roles in Economics

There was a marked division of labor. Men did the fighting, hunting, clearing and fencing of gardens, planting and harvesting of yams and sago, and housebuilding. They manufactured their weaponry and, in the ritual realm, they cooked ceremonial food and produced the ritual artwork. Women reared pigs, did the daily cooking, and bore most of the portering. They planted and harvested the taro, bananas, and greens, fetched water, and gathered firewood, bush foods, insects, and grubs. Both sexes participated in fishing and manufactured smaller items of material culture such as ornaments, clothing, and twine. Both men and women were supposed to take care of children, though women appear to have shouldered more of this responsibility than men.

The Arapesh imported much of their visual art. Of the remainder, both sexes were likely to decorate their own personal items, tools, and weaponry, though one gets the impression that men did more than women. Men also produced the formal ritual art—most notably, the bark paintings associated with men's houses. Women dyed their sago-frond skirts, though, and this was considered an important ritual act. Men were the main musicians of the community, but both sexes sang and danced, often in complementary concert.

Men dominated the trade links across the mountains, and trade journeys were the main reason for them to be absent from the locality. Although warriors mounting a distant campaign might spend a night or two on the road, trade journeys sometimes lasted for a week or two.

In Arapesh feeling, a clan's land and trees belonged to its ancestors; living members merely occupied or used these resources. Allowing, then, that ownership was, strictly speaking, usage, only males could own land, sago, and coconut palms, and this property was inherited patri-lineally. Very occasionally, a woman might inherit, but the property passed via her to her husband or sons. There was a different attitude to property that people had made themselves. Individuals owned anything they had made through their own "hard work," had obtained in trade with the fruits of their own labor, or had inherited from such an owner. Thus, a woman owned all the pots, tools, utensils, and so on given to her by her natal kin on her marriage. Since people were conceptualized as "growing" young wives, children, and pigs—as making them through hard work—there was therefore a "possessive tinge" to relationships with these agents.

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