Relative Status of Men and Women

As I have argued (Stephen, 1991), the cultural logic in most Zapotec communities in Oaxaca does not permit an assignment of absolute status to either men or women.

What makes more sense is to outline the ways in which men and women may achieve status in different spheres of social life. While, overall, men often have more ways in which they are valued and can assert authority, rights, and privileges, there are also many situations and spheres in which women may have high status.

As mentioned above, the arena in which men continue to have more status, rights, and privileges than women is in the public political culture of community assemblies and the assignment of civil cargos. However, this is changing rapidly in some communities. In the ritual sphere described above women have high levels of status and respect usually parallel to those of men. Women can be ranked higher than men ritually, depending on their age and experience.

In terms of the domestic sphere and household decision-making, the types of relationships that men and women have varies according to each couple and local convention. While in some communities women control most financial resources, make most purchases, and determine the education and health care of children, in others men and women do this together. As women age, they often acquire more respect and may become well-established business women. Men tend to have greater influence over the sexual life of couples. Divorce is uncommon because Mexico is a Catholic country and it is against the law. What happens instead is that both men and women establish second relationships without going through a formal divorce, and the community understands that they have moved into a second "marriage."

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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