anthropologyfinalpaper - McPhee 1 TJ McPhee Professor...

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McPhee 1 TJ McPhee Professor Springs Anthropology Research Paper 4-26-16 Gender Roles of the Minangkabau and Yoruba The Minangkabau is an ethnic group indigenous to the Minangkabau highlands of West Sumatra, Indonesia. With a population numbering Approximately 8 million, this ethnic group is the largest on the island of Sumatra. The Minangkabau people are part of a matrilineal society, the largest in the world. In this culture, descent and inheritance is traced through the female line. Many anthropologists even consider the Minangkabau to be a matriarchal society, where the women are considered the heads of the household. One member of the Minangkabau society, Hana Miller, describes what her average family looks like: “While my aunts are all breadwinners, three of my four uncles have committed much of their lives to support, ‘serve and protect’ my grandmother, the family’s indisputable matriarch” (Hand 2013). Something unique about the Minangkabau culture is their unique gender roles that come out of the mixing of the Islam Religion with a matriarchal society. Although, many view Islam as suppressive towards females, the two belief systems have been able to exist side by side in the Minangkabau culture successfully through compromise. Many Minang women will wear a hijab on a regular basis, but not at all times, while other women choose to wear them only on certain occasions and leave their heads uncovered in public (Hand 2013).
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McPhee 2 The emphasis on tradition passed down through the female line is evident in the houses the Minang people live in. The traditional long houses of the Minangkabau culture, called rumah gadang, are owned by the women of family who occupy the residence. The husbands of the women who live in the rumah gadang are only allowed entry into the house under unique conditions. When they wish to sleep, the husbands must return to their sister’s house. Although they can’t sleep in their wives house, they are expected to financially contribute to the maintenance of the house. According to tradition, the maternal uncle of women has the duty of ensuring every marriageable woman in his kin group has an area to rest, even if they must finance additional building construction to meet these demands (Hand 2013). The Minangkabau image of womanhood is often found to be that of a strong personality, nurturing in nature and wise in knowledge. Frequently cited oral stores of Minangkabau woman who are mothers describe the qualities that are found: “motherly wisdom, initiative, assertiveness, stability, integrity, and practicality” (Ong 1995). Each matrilineal household constitutes of an extended family of usually 3 to 4 generations living under the same house.
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