The Politics of Gender Roles: A Comparative Analysis of Female Husbands, Male Daughters, and Sworn Virgins among the Igbo of West Africa, the Nandi and Kikuyu of East Africa, and the Gheg of North Albania FIOSA BEGAI MJESHTRI
A standard deﬁ nition of a society is “a group of people who live in a particular territory, are subject to a common system of political authority and are aware of having a distinct identity from other groups.”1 Societies have speciﬁ c roles and institutions that act to maintain stability, perseverance, and harmony. Societies are stabilized through some form of hierarchy that is deﬁ ned by social, political, or economic status. It is through hierarchy that social positions within societies are clearly deﬁ ned and communicated to everyone. “Non-centralized polities,” which lack complex empirical structures, social stability, and harmony, are diff used and maintained through simpler local institutions. 2 As such, subjects understand their positions in relation to others, their economic duties, and familial obligations. Social roles are assigned through various institutions, such as marriage, head of household, and inheritance. Marriage has an impact on spouse’s domestic and economic responsibilities. The position of head of the household identiﬁ es one person as the political and social representative of that particular family or kinship group. Inheritance is an institution that legitimizes claims to belongings, fortune, or property. In patriarchal societies, hierarchies, and thus social roles, are determined on the basis of gender. Institutions constructed by patriarchal societies assign men to dominant positions in the community. Therefore in marriage, men are responsible for the economic subsistence of the family, while women are responsible for domestic labor. In many such societies, men, or the eldest males, serve as head of households, representing the family socially and politically. Inheritance is constructed in a patrilineal manner in many societies, recognizing sons as heirs and allowing them to inherit their father’s properties, businesses, and ﬁ nances. All three institutions are responsible for the heightening and/or perpetuation of patriarchal attitudes.