Personality Differences by Gender

The Nahua expect women to nurture and feed the members of their family. While both men and women husk corn, women do most of the other food-processing tasks that include fetching water, boiling the nixtamal, a mixture of corn and lime, grinding the nixtamal on the metate, and making tortillas and bean soup. Women are very skilled in making many different kinds of chile sauces to give their meals variety. Nurturing women appear in many oral narratives that provide models for gender behavior.

Men are supposed to represent the family to the world outside the domicile, acting as the official host on ritual occasions; they greet visitors and instruct the women to feed the guests. Men distribute shot glasses of refino (sugar cane alcohol) and cigarettes, and they occupy the main room of the house that usually contains the family altar. Women occupy the kitchen, a smaller room containing the hearth and attached to the main dwelling. However, it would be a mistake to conclude that men are the dominant personality in gender relations. Some women order their husbands around, speaking in harsh-sounding tones. Occasionally men lose control and hit their wives, but men are criticized when they act violently toward women and they are expected to control their ilihuiz.

The comparison of cognate Spanish and Nahuat folktales reveals that Nahuat men express a relational social consciousness more than do their counterparts from Spain (Taggart, 1997). A relational consciousness ordinarily develops in women when the mother primarily cares for small infant children (Chodorow, 1978). Nahuat men define themselves as closely connected to other men, particularly their brothers and fathers. In this respect, the contemporary Nahuat resemble the ancient Nahuas who told of Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl avenging the death of his father and searching for his father's bones (Bierhorst, 1992, pp. 153-155). Men's relational social consciousness is apparent in masculine narratives that depict a highly connected universe that ilihuiz behavior can unravel.

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