Submitted by Majrelende in Trans (edited )

as I prepare myself for the possibility of bombardment

The Dayak are a farming community in West Borneo. When anthropologist Christine Helliwell visited, she described how the community did not know how to define her gender, "despite her female body."[1] She writes: "Gerai people remained very uncertain about my gender for some time after I arrived in the community... This was despite the fact that people in the community knew from my first few days with them both that I had breasts (this was obvious when the sarong that I worse clung to my body while I bathed in the river) and that I have a vulva rather than a penis and testicles (this was obvious from my trips to defecate or urinate in the small stream used for that purpose, when literally dozens of people would line the banks to observe whether I performed these functions differently from them). As someone said to me at a later point, 'Yes, I saw that you had a vulva, but I thought that Western men might be different.'"[1]

The Dayak associate expertise, not sex, with being a man or woman. To them,"[a] 'woman' is a person who knows how to distinguish types of rice, store them correctly, and choose among them for different uses."[1] As Helliwell learned more about rice, "she became 'more and more of a woman' in their eyes."[1] Her gender still remained ambiguous, however, because she never gained the expertise of even a girl in the community.

Nonbinary Wiki

This quote illustrates a way of conceiving gender in a way completely contradictory to civilised conceptions of gender-- as doing, not being. In this conception gender is earned through knowledge, not by biology or even identity. Presumably, a child with a so-called masculine body could learn the knowledge of rice from an older woman and be considered to grow up as a woman.

In other cases, gender and gender roles are composed of various characteristics, rather than just one (link to an article posted a while ago here). As far as I know, most societies, including living anarchic ones, have some form of gender roles-- oftentimes flexible, thus allowing, in-between and non-binary gender identities to exist, however well or badly considered by their cis neighbours.

I can't find the article, but I remember reading something about men in a certain society keeping knowledge of weaving secret. One was quoted as saying that it helps maintain equality, because otherwise women would rule over them. Whether that is actually true is unknown to me, and my guess is no. Nevertheless, it reminds one of how in Palaeolithic and Neolithic societies before the rise of civilisation, trade helped to keep peace and good relations between communities, which benefitted from the exchanges but could easily forego it in favour of foraging from their own landscapes. I think, though, that both of these, in the context of anarchy, can be potent tools for maintaining peace and equality; however, in the context of archy, they are equally potent tools for oppression.

Recently I have been moving away from a thing-centred approach to anarchy, and more of a socially centred approach. That is, instead of attacking or praising specific things, as in ideological anarchism, considering social anarchy to be primary, and "things" (like primitiv"ism", commun"ism", pacif"ism", etc.) as a number of tools that I can use to help create anarchy in the world, from which a free way of life will emerge organically.

There is possibility for abuse (or archic use) in nearly EVERYTHING-- however, in this non-ideological light, gender roles (e.g. a spiritual role, or the making of certain items, or the collection of certain plants) based on necessity, and in an anarchic social context, might possibly be an avenue in empowering trans people, and promoting our typically more delicate social acceptance.



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kore wrote

how do the dayak decide who is taught what?


Majrelende OP wrote (edited )

A good question, but sadly I can't find anything relevant online, and don't have access to a library with a comprehensive anthropology section (if there even is one).

It could be that the children decide what to learn instead, or perhaps that was the way it used to be but is now not the case anymore. This would seem to be the anarchic way, but it sounds as if Dayak society is not exactly anarchic, in this time at least.

I will search a bit more, and see if there is any more information about the subject.


Fool wrote (edited )

I use to think about this a bit, but I think it's likely that their language didn't have a concept of gender, just roles. However the people creating translations inserted gender into the definition via their own preconceptions, which have been carried forward, and possibly even inserted gender into a culture that previously didn't think that way.

In other cultures, it's much more visible, where third genders have clearly defined roles, and often the assignment was not a choice given.