Gender Relations and Roles
The concept of gender relations and roles in Bamana culture is a very intriguing subject that many American people may not be well aware of. The gender relations and roles are not the same as in the United States. In Bamana culture, the distinction between the genders and gender-based cultural behaviors is not an unlimited but a relative one. These differences and divisions are part of what the Bamana culture unique.
Another distinction between the genders is the use of language. For example a man could possibly be referred to as "wife" in language by his older sister's husband. Language can be used to indicate gender inequalities and also indicate the relative nature of masculinity and feminity. Another good example of language gender distinction is that of the maternal uncle, bènkè. The maternal uncle is often viewed as an extension of the mother. The roots of this Bamana word are ba for mother with the suffix kè which means male.
Next we explore masculinity and feminity. Male domination is very evident in this culture, as in many. The word for manhood is cèya. This word also refers to the requirements of specific behaviors expected of males that have been presented to males since childhood, and then reinforced at circumcision and later initiation rituals. To become a man goes beyond a physiological requirement and includes important qualities such as bravery, leadership and physical endurance. The word for manhood is also the word used for virility for males. If a man can no longer reproduce it is said that that man has left manhood and that he is incomplete. For this, it is said that this man becomes closer to a woman. Another phrase for infertility is that the man's back is dead, bearing in mind one of the seats of manhood to be his back.
Being infertile is not the only thing that can make a man be considered incomplete. If a man is overweight, he is said to be closer to women as well, due to the fact that he cannot...
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