Relative Status of Men and Women

Men and women are generally relatively equal in status. Fundamental to the rank of a person is his or her security in the social network, which is based on kinship and the ability to talk. Individuals without close kin are rarely respected. Boys or young men are teased, and at times tormented, before they have established in-law relations. Younger women who arrive in a village alone are aware that they may be subject to rape. This is mainly the case when a woman is captured on occasion of a raid or if a woman leaves her village to join an unrelated group on her own. Here she cannot count on the support mechanisms of the kinship system—mainly a husband or brothers—to protect her. The act of "incorporating" the new member can be violent unless some powerful persons—often women—protect the isolated woman. The danger of rape for an incoming female has led to the idea that Yanomami society is male centered and that women have exceptionally low status. But in fact this idea results from the focus on warfare and aggressive behavior in certain ethnographies (Chagnon, 1977). In war, men are usually killed. Women are sometimes abducted, but they generally are allowed to live.

As far as the waitheri complex is concerned, the notorious ferocity (waitheri) is not restricted to males. Aggression is not only directed against women but also against both sexes by both men and women. Men might fight men and sometimes men fight women in intergroup conflicts. Women also fight women with sticks or with bare fists. However, women seldom attack men. They find other ways of penalizing or scolding men, or they may enlist help from kin, especially brothers, to defend them.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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