Gender Related Social Groups

Although gender relations were comparatively equitable, Arapesh society was structured around males rather than females. Clans and lineages were organized by patrilineal descent; there were no matrilineal kin groups. Moreover, women became strongly assimilated to their husbands' rather than to their natal, kin. Postmarital residence was patrilocal: at an early age, the young wife was taken into her husband's home, there to be "grown" and absorbed into his family, and, as the years passed, she became more thoroughly a part of this household than were her husband's sisters. She was addressed and treated as a sibling by her in-laws, when she died she was buried on her husband's land by her husband's people, and her spirit remained with him, on his land, at the abode of his clan's walinab spirit.

Nonkin associations were also structured around males rather than females. On becoming an adult, every man inherited in the male line a buanyin exchange partner with whom he competitively exchanged meat and crop foods for the rest of his life. Some men, in addition, formed ano'in relationships—relationships of competitive animosity that usually emerged from violent incidents such as a fight over a woman, in which the loser thereafter tried to outdo his rival in raising pigs, sponsoring feasts, and the like. Women participated in no such institutionalized exchange relationships. Occasionally, a girl and boy born on the same day would be declared ano'in and were expected to marry, but these were not "real ano'in" relationships.

Then there was the men's Tamberan cult. Although Mead emphasized that it possessed none of the antagonism toward women and children found in other New Guinea communities, it nonetheless united the adult men of the locality in an exclusive association, and she felt that it was an important means of socializing women into intellectual passivity. Women did have their own tamberans—childbirth, girl's puberty rites, and the ritual dyeing of skirts, but these appear to have united no greater community than the wives of a clan.

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