Gender Work and Social Status

The larger economy, the work people do in the home, the work they conduct outside it, and ideas about status all contribute to shifts and changes in what is an appropriate role for a man or a woman. As market incorporation increases women's economic activities, those more likely to be found in the home tend to decline in the status they confer, while commercial activities become more desirable. Among the Zumbaguans discussed above, men's incorporation into cash work, even poorly paid work done far from home, allows them the money that is increasingly necessary. The time away from home increases the social distance between men and women who have different interests and values. Women remain tied to farm and home; men increasingly become oriented to urban life. Children themselves enjoy the excitement and allure of the urban world and may ignore or devalue their mothers' daily lives and routines (Weismantel, 1988).

Such a pattern is seen throughout the rural world, although there are occasions where women may exploit changes that allow them to benefit from a larger disaster. Among the Ju/twasi (Kung San) people of Botswana, women's status declined dramatically after forced settlement into reservations. As traditional gatherers, Ju/twasi women acquired much of the vegetal foods eaten by their families and were regarded nearly equally with men (Lee, 1979). After they were forced into reservations, women's status declined markedly as they lost their traditional tasks. Men became socially superior, generally based on cash income they could acquire by becoming mercenaries. However, women's status has risen as they have entered and dominated the local production of beer that they manufacture themselves and sell to others, primarily men (Lee, 1979, p. 418). These examples tend to support earlier arguments about the interrelationship of economic participation and social status. When women, or men, as can be seen in the latter example, lose control of their productive activities, their status may decline as well. While people continue to conduct their economic activities even though the economic systems in which they live change, these processes will have a range of effects on their own gender roles and on their participation in their family and community life.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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