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Cross Cultural Sex Roles.

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Introduction

Lauren Wright Professor Tynes Sociology of Sex Roles 26 February 2002 Cross Cultural Sex Roles It has been proven that the roles that men and women play in society are based upon many different social factors. A mere look at other cultures proves that sexual identity cannot solely be determined through a person's biological genes. If this were true, the characteristics defining men and women would be uniform, however a glance at the Sambia and Arapesh tribes of New Guinea reveal that the roles of men and women in separate cultures can be strikingly different. The roles that the men and women in these two tribes play are engrained in them at an early age. Whether it is the raising of children or the status of women in the tribe, these two cultures contrast each other and prove that much of the attributes associated with a particular gender are based on the traditions of the people. The tribe of Sambia numbers roughly 2300 in population and is located near the Papuan border of New Guinea. They are simple people who live through gardening, done by women, and hunting, executed by men. Their structure is very patriarchal and "descent is ideally organized on the basis of patriliny" (Herdt 54). The division of labor and duties is very clearly defined and "ritual taboos forbids men and women from doing each other's tasks in hunting and gathering" (55). The reason the division of jobs is so important to the people probably pertains to the inferior status they place women in. ...read more.

Middle

It is not until the man impregnates his wife that he must end his endeavors with younger boys. This system seems unfair to actual homosexuals who may not want to be married to a woman and begin engaging in heterosexual affairs. However, he must because all marriages are determined by the parents of the bride and groom. This leaves no room for sexual preference and must leave some men sexually unsatisfied. The United States is far superior to the Sambians in their definitions of gender roles. The Sambians view women as inferior and suppress them, while the United States is making a conscious effort to promote gender equality. Laws are set up to protect women and prohibit discrimination based on one's sexuality. The United States is also superior in their raising of boys. Though boys in the United States are raised with the mentality that emotions are feminine and should be suppressed, this is not to the extent of the Sambians. At least here boys are not stripped from all feminine influence and beaten until they have achieved masculinity. Though masculinity is an achieved status in both cultures, it is at a much higher cost in New Guinea. One thing that both societies fail to do is protect the sexual choice of everyone. Sambian men are required to stop homosexual activity once they have impregnated their wives that they are forced to marry. This is unfair to those Sambians who prefer to be with other men. ...read more.

Conclusion

Another way that women are treated as inferior is in the way they are raised to be wives. A young girl is betrothed to a slightly older boy and leaves to live with his family. The future husband and his father and brothers combine to feed and take care of her. In this way, an "Arapesh boy grows his wife" (80). Because he has grown her he now is able to control her and possess her. Though there are some characteristics that are inferior to the United States (the ritual of the tamberan), the United States could learn a lot from this primitive tribe. Fathers should be more involved in the raising of their children, and peacefulness should be instilled in children, not competitiveness. Excessive masculinity should not be a desired trait; boys should not wish to suppress their emotions. In the Arapesh tribe they are also successful in nurturing both children, and not only the females. This tribe has much strength in child rearing, as well as equal working for all the adults. From studying these two tribes it is clear that different cultures have totally different ideas about raising children and the gender roles these children should play. While one encourages aggressive men, the other promotes passiveness. This is a strong indication of the power that society has to influence people. The roles of men and women are clearly shaped by the traditions and customs of society, as well as the biological attributes that come with men and women. ...read more.

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