Relative Status of Men and Women

The most obvious statement to be made about male-female relationships in Yap is that, compared with one another, men are considered tabugul, "pure," and women are considered ta'ay, "polluted." As a baseline principle, the "pure-polluted" classifications has an effect on all social, political, economic, and personal relationships between a Yapese man and woman. Generally speaking, it is the woman who must take the necessary precautions. With age, both men and women become less polluting, but a Yapese woman can never achieve the degree of purity available to her husband or brother. It is the degree of pollution associated with a woman that dictates her daily movements and social requirements. Death, for example, is considered a highly polluting stage. A corpse is considered very ta'ay. As a result, bodies are buried on low-caste (polluted) lands and women prepare the body for burial. Conversely, a Yapese man has no contact with a corpse.

Notwithstanding the overall polluting nature of women, if one asks, "Who is the most important in Yap, men or women?" the response is generally "The woman." A man with many sisters is considered to be most fortunate, whereas a woman with many brothers is considered to be unfortunate. The rationale for this is simple: a sister must provide economic support for her brother(s) during many ceremonial exchanges.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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