Unilocality and Unilineality

Aside from the psychological stress created for the unimportant gender in a unilocal-unilineal system, which we discussed earlier, what does research suggest about other possible consequences of unilocality and unilineal-ity? One domain that has been investigated is status. Whyte (1978, pp. 132-133) has tested the hypothesis that women will have higher status in matrilocal and matrilineal societies. He measured status in a number of domains ranging from property control to value of labor to domestic authority to informal influence. Matrilocality and matrilineal descent do not predict that well. He finds that in matrilocal and matrilineal societies women do have significantly more control over property than men (including inheritance of property and control over the products of labor). But that was the only area of significant difference. Why? Schlegel's (1972) study of matrilineal societies suggests that variation among matrilineal societies may complicate things with respect to status of women. For example, the degree to which brothers and/or husbands have domestic authority varies across matrilineal societies. As we noted above, a woman's brothers are very often important authority figures. This may be true in the political sphere as well as in the domestic sphere. So even if a woman is relatively autonomous with respect to her husband, she may still be subject to her brother's control. Schlegel's research suggests that women in matrilineal societies have the most autonomy when neither husbands nor brothers are dominant (or both are equally dominant).

Frayser (1985, pp. 341 ff) points out that patrilineal societies have some difficulty with women's reproduction. They need to have reproduction for their kin groups, but elevating the status of mothers is somewhat antithetical to the patrilineal principle. On the other hand, if patrilineal societies denigrate women too much, they risk having women who are not interested in having children. Patrilineal systems depend upon passing membership in kin groups through males, so it is also important for a man to know that the children his wife gives birth to are his. Frayser suggests and presents evidence to support the notion that patrilineal societies are more interested in limiting a woman's sexuality and reproduction to a particular husband by insisting on premarital and extramarital sex restrictions and by making it harder for a woman to obtain a divorce. Restrictive societies also tend to have elaborate marriage arrangements and ceremonies and honeymoons that isolate the couple.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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