In this essay, two societies will be discussed; the women of the Hopi tribe and the Salaio women of Portugal. They will be looked at with an emphasis on the women’s status and roles within these societies. Understanding is a necessity so ‘we can build a new society based on communal sharing, interdependence, mutual trust, self reliance and love’ (Nakarobi 1974: 294). This is needed for growth and positive change. This understanding is important as it enables us as anthropologists to appreciate the function within and outside of their status roles that women have in many cultures.It can then be seen how this function relates to the power they are given , which will enable us to understand discrimination in that occurs in many different cultures against this gender group.
As anthropologists undertaking research, one must take into consideration the difficulties that may arise such as; bias, type of status addressed. This will teach us the importance of evaluation of key research. Anthropologists use the term ‘status’ to describe a ‘person’s social or professional position in relation to others’. Status can refer to two different types; formal and informal status.Formal status is a title which is applied to someone to represent what they are officially represented as to the rest of the community. Informal status is the position that one takes, yet is not officially recognised, for example; the domestic wife’s power, which she uses over the husband in the home. One question which arises from the situation of research women’s status is that of power.
It needs to be asked and considered how much power is distributed between men and women due to their status in society formally and informally.(Keesing 1988) The Saloio Portuguese peasant women are a good example to look at. Saloio is community in a small town called Sao Joao das Lampas in rural Portugal, the community is made up of a local government officials and then surrounding villagers who work mainly in agriculture producing stock to be taken to the city markets. In terms of political structuring, all decisions are made through the local council community, and women are not allowed any say in these decisions.
This study was conducted by Joyce Riegelhaupt (1967), she aimed to look at the economical and political functions within the family and society which the women took part in. When this study was conducted in the 1960’s women had no political power within the outside community network but did have the economical power within the family and through social networks. There were many rules which prevented the liberation of women in the community, women were not allowed to vote or speak up on any political issues, they had to serve the male leader of the household and take part in any duties administered to them.Due to this lack of power women would learn to reassert their independence of their strengths in other areas. Being in charge of domestics and finances help the Saloio women to branch out with their own businesses. Riegelhaupt (1967)tells of some groups of women teaming up to produce bread and taking it into the town to trade. This trading is only possible through the social links that the Saloio women build up around them through meeting with wives who have husbands in powerful places.This new power they have in their own circles, can bring women an informal status of a high kind amongst the other women.
This power can aid in persuading political decision to change to benefit themselves and others like them. Hopi Society is very different to the Saloio community in the ideology of gender that they present. Women’s role in Hopi is one of equality with men. Hopi culture view both genders as needed by society and are respectful of each genders complimentary roles.Women do focus on the domesticity, raising of children and rituals such as feeding the sacred masks (Schlegel 1977). They are like the Saloio women in that they are also in control of the economical side of the family and command what agricultural works needs done..
The men in the Hopi culture tend to look after the cattle herds, the agriculture and make the political community decisions. Yet these decisions may be made by men, they are highly influenced by women. Wives are addressed as ‘Mowi’, this is a sign of respect for them and must be called this at all times.