Gender Related Social Groups

Gender is a critical feature of Hopi social organization. As already indicated, the village is made up of matrilineal clans. Households are matrilocal. Kivas, when not used for ceremonies, function as clubhouses where men spend much of their leisure time. Thus, the genders are socially located in two different kinds of structures, household and kiva.

The household is the domain of women, who remain in or attached to the house in which they were born. Men have dual residence, the house of their mother, or after her death their sister, and the house of their wife. This ambiguity becomes clear on days when public ceremonies are held. It is proper for a man to invite guests to eat at his home; it is the mother's or sister's house that receives a man's visitors, not his wife's and her mother's.

As owner of the house, the woman is its head. Her house receives some or all of its farmland through her clan. When her husband brings the first of the harvest into the house, he presents it to his wife and she thanks him formally. It is hers, even though it is the fruit of his labor. If she wishes to barter some corn for a shawl or other item, he has no control over her decision. If the couple separates, he leaves and returns to his mother's or sister's house.

Kivas are the domains of men when they are not eating, sleeping, or doing necessary work in the fields or at home. They are where men go to relax, taking their handicrafts to work on while they chat and joke. Kivas draw their members from all clans. A boy usually starts attending the kiva his father belongs to. It is possible to switch membership, although that rarely happens unless a new kiva is built and recruits its members from existing ones. It is the kiva groups that put on the kachina dances. In the winter dances, each kiva selects the kachina it will portray. Kiva groups vie with one another for the best songs and the most polished performances. When the men return to their home kiva after the performances, they tell each other "we really killed them" if they excelled, or ruefully admit that "they killed us" if their performance fell short.

Women and men meet as equal partners within the clan. The Clan Mother is responsible for internal clan matters and prays and conducts rituals for the well-being of its members. Important clan-related ritual paraphernalia is kept in her house. The Clan Uncle represents the clan to the village and negotiates with other Clan Uncles if there are disputes over land boundaries or other matters. One of the Clan Mother's important prerogatives is her final authority over clan land. The men of the clan allocate land to individual households, for as farmers they know the plots and try to divide land fairly. However, if any woman is dissatisfied, she appeals to the Clan Mother. If the Clan Mother agrees with her, the men are obliged to reallocate land to satisfy the needs of the complainant.

Ceremonial societies are to some degree gender based. I shall discuss this below.

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