Personality Differences by Gender

Allowing, of course, for individual variation, Aymara men's and women's personalities reflect their different status and roles. Women in the countryside are usually very shy, quiet, and deferential to men and to outsiders. They are easily moved to tears as they speak in muted tones about the hardships of their lives. Men, on the other hand, are suitably respectful to people of the more powerful social classes, reflecting centuries of oppression, but they are more dominant and outspoken within the community and household. A virtuous woman is hardworking, and her hands are never idle. She may defer to her husband, but she can be quite sharp-tongued and impatient with her children and rough with her livestock without being criticized. Being completely nonneigh-borly and hostile to passers by is not condoned, however.

Men and women earn respect in very different ways. A man is considered successful if he prospers at his agricultural or other work efforts and is dependable, especially with regard to his ayni obligations. Women do not derive prestige from these economic spheres unless they are independent heads of household. A married woman is respected for her submissiveness to her husband and her resourcefulness in keeping her family together against all the challenges of rural poverty, including an abusive or drunken husband. An informal village hierarchy honors the most long-suffering women (Mitchell, 1993).

The manner of urban market women contrasts sharply with that of the country people. The market chola (someone of indigenous background who has become a town dweller and aspires to a higher social class) is all business. Her voice can be strong and argumentative and her body language likewise as she assertively pushes her way onto a bus or truck, elbowing people energetically to make room for herself and her bundles (Buechler & Buechler, 1996).

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