Relative Status of Men and Women

Since men own most subsistence and cash crops they tend to have higher incomes. Thus husbands generally buy presents and necessities for their wives rather than vice versa. Men sometimes claim that men "rule" women in general, and especially in the case of spouses. Thus wives cook and wash laundry for men—especially husbands but also, as circumstances dictate, fathers, brothers, and other male relatives. Certain arenas of daily social life require formal deference by women to men. For example, wives walk behind their husbands, and wives ask their husbands' permission to travel long distances. More Beng boys than girls now attend public schools at all levels of formal education.

However, age trumps gender in nearly all arenas of social life. Thus old women generally receive deference from younger men. In the family, women and men have some separate decision-making spheres. For example, each parent consults with her or his own family in arranging marriages for half the couple's daughters. In general, Beng society is nominally, and sometimes in fact, male dominated, but many spheres of social life also accord women privilege and status.

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