Gender And Prestige Jason Howard The purpose of this essay is to show embeddedness of prestige system into subsystems of the cultures. We will discuss four cultures which represent four different types of social organizations; !Kung San represents band organization, Mundurucu represents village type, Polynesia – Chiefdom, and Andalusia represents state type of social organization. In all of these cultures prestige system, which is the gender system, is imbedded into other subsystems. Three of these cultures: Mundurucu, Polynesia, and Andalusia, have hierarchical type of ideology, meaning in this culture males have more power then females. !Kung San culture, on the other hand, has egalitarian type of ideology, where there is no significant difference in power between males and females.
We first start by defining prestige system, which consists of prestige itself. Prestige is level of respect at which one is regarded by others. Every person in prestige system has status, by which other people value your prestige. Status it determined by following factors: economical, political, personal, and historical. When we talk about the prestige system we have to say that prestige system is supported by ideology, and since cultures have different ideologies, the prestige systems vary from one culture to another. Polynesia, discussed by Sherry Ortner, consists of large numbers of islands in the Pacific Ocean, which include Hawaii, Samoa, Tahiti, and many more.
The islands in their majority have the same prestige system. The prestige systems in Polynesia is the system of hereditary ranking which is embedded in political system, kinship system, and economic system. The type of social organization in Polynesia, as we mentioned above, is chiefdom. Chiefdom is characterized by number of villages, where each village has its own chief, and the whole village system has one chief, higher in rank then other chiefs. This fact is important when we discuss the embeddedness of prestige system in the political system. Every village, that is the part of the chiefdom, has a goal to get on the top of the symbolic pyramid, with main chief and fono, the governing council, on the top.
Sometimes, statuses can be brought higher with the right type of marriage, however, most of the villages have endogamy type of marriages, meaning the spouse comes from inside of the village. In case of exogamy marriage, where spouse comes from outside, the groom’s family will have to share part of the land with the bride’s family. Of course, if the groom’s family is higher in rank than the bride’s family, that kind of marriage will not happen. Therefore, as a rule, change of the social ranking does not happen, and people die with the same rank they were born with. In Polynesia, people are born with certain statuses, that are passed patrilineally, meaning through the male line. Starting from this point, we can see that females value is lower then of males. However women status is important for men statuses.
Thus the status of the chief of chiefs is that high because either daughter in law, or his own daughter is taupo, the ceremonial princess virgin with the highest status for women. In generally, a girl has big value to her descent line because if she marries and the husbands family has a higher rank, she gets the part of his land for her family and brings the rank of her descent group higher. So, actually, sisters unite the descent group, and brothers divide it, because brother’s are the ones who share the land with their wives. In general, females are valued for the reproduction of labor, which takes as to the discussion of economic system. The economic system in the Polynesia is based on the redistribution exchange mode.
The chief of chiefdom plays role of redistributor, where descent groups provide him with goods and he redistributes them where needed. By this means he getsmore of wealth and prestige. If in the top ranked descent group there is a shortage of labor, chief may adopt newborn babies from the lowest rank descent group So as we could see, the prestige system embedded in economic, political, and kinship systems, where this systems, in their turn, are embedded in each other. The next culture we discuss is Andalusia researched by Stanley Brandes. More, specifically, we look at one of the parts of Andalusia, called San Blas, located in southeastern Spain with population of about eight thousand people.
Their economy relies on production and processing of olives. In this society, the prestige system is embedded in sexual morality and religion. The people of San Blas leave in the state social organization, characterized by the high male hierarchy. In this culture the males sexual ideology is based on belief that females are the once with the power and that they are dangerous to males. Beliefs are based on folklore, and idioms.
In this culture women are associated with serpent and goat, and men associated with sheep and God. As an example of prestige system embedded in religion there is a story about a pregnant virgin, mule and serpent. Virgin was sitting on the mule when serpent scared the mule, causing the latter to drop the virgin on the ground, nearly causing the death of unborn child. Before the virgin’s fall, the serpent had legs, but after the fall, God took the legs away and forced it to crawl for the rest of it’s life. Serpent represented female, and mule, mulo in Spanish, represented male; so if we interpret it in other words, we would see that in this folklore, female is shown as great danger to male. Essential part of the sexual ideology is the belief that bodily strength depends on bodily fluids, and so strength of men would depend of the amount of semen they have. In this context, female is seen as someone who is constantly reducing the supply of semen in a male’s body until he dies. One example of this belief is story about a fifty seven year old man who married a forty year old widow. In three days he left her, saying that she wanted to kill him by having to much sex.
Most men in San Blas believe that wives want them to be dead, moreover, they believe that all wives are having affairs with other men and that they can not be trusted. Of course, there are cases of adultery, but not as many as the folklore implies. Women dominate in the domestic domain, performing all of the domestic tasks, whereas men dominate in the public domain. Most of their time men spend with their friends and drinking in bars, when women spend their time mainly at home. The Mass and Rosary, part of the Ecclesiastical religion, the kind of religion that preserves the religious status, is important part of women’s lives, however the male hierarchy can be seen here as well; as a rule, women would stand on the back side of church, sometimes even outside, while all of important places are taken by men. Nonetheless, women do have power.
They have power to influence the status of her husband. If a female has bad sexual records, it might destroy possibility for their daughter to get a good marriage. Moreover, just by doing adultery, they turn their husbands into cuckolds. The next culture we discuss is Mundurucu culture researched by Leslee Nadelson. This is the culture of the village social organization, with male hierarchy. It’s located in Amazonia, near Brazil between the Cururu river and the Das Tropas river.
The prestige in this culture is based on the men hierarchy and is embedded in religion, economic, and kinship systems. The prestige system is embedded in religion. Myths of this culture are the great example of it. Definition of myth implies that it is when super natural forces communicate with human. There are six myths with main character Karusakaibo. The two important animals are introduced in the myths: bird and tapir.
Birds represent asexual behavior and tapir representssexual behavior. In the beginning of myths, Karusakaibo lives away from the village and has no wife. He has son, which suggests that he reproduced asexually, like a bird. By the end of Myth 6 he has wife and a daughter. However, Karusakaibo created wives by turning fish into them, which puts female into the lower level in the religious prospect.
When we talk about the embeddence of prestige system in to the economic system, we would have to mention that men bring home the prestige food – pigs. Since this is a village type of social organization, the production mode is foraging and horticulture. Men do all of the hunting and fishing, and women produce manoic flour in the farinha shed. Although manoic flour is reach with nutritions, it is not valued in the Mundurucu, and only prestige food, provided by men, is important. So the role of hunter supports the male superiority.
When we talk about the kinship, we understand that superiority of men is supported by patrilineal descent rule, where only fathers line is …