Personality Differences by Gender

The Arapesh are famous in the literature for Mead's assertion that both males and females were socialized to be, and were, gentle, nurturant, passive, dependent, cooperative, and maternal. Although they might lack these qualities as children, by the time they were fully socialized, they had become so noncompetitive and unaggressive that even warfare was "practically unknown." In provisioning, defending, and serving their kin and communities, men sometimes had to be more aggressive, assertive, creative, and productive than women. As a result, masculinity was regarded as having a dangerous as well as a nurturant aspect: men were associated with hunting, destruction, and death as well as with nurturance and life. In Mead's rendering, this created a dissonance that suited very few men. The rest viewed leadership, the assumption of arrogance, and the occasional deployment of violence as necessary evils, "onerous duties" to be undertaken in service of the community and gladly surrendered in old age. In many Melanesian communities, women are debarred from male cults and ceremonies as a means of bolstering male dominance and prestige; among the Mountain Arapesh, however, women were excluded solely to protect them from sickness and from bearing deformed children.

It is highly likely that the Mountain Arapesh did view gentleness and nurturance as ideals for both men and women. There is also little doubt that, in comparison to many other Melanesian societies, they were relatively gentle and peaceful. In making her point, however, Mead probably overstated it significantly. It is simply not the case, for example, that warfare was "practically unknown": in Fortune's view, warfare was "good Arapesh custom," and he provided detailed information on Arapesh fighting to support his contention.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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