Quite some time ago, I read about a people —I think it was a people of islanders in the Pacific Ocean— where women were displaying what is considered in Western societies as a masculine behaviour, and, in reverse, where men were “effeminate”.

I do not know where I heard about this people and even if it does exist at all.

Do you have any recollection of such a people and which one it may be?

N.B. There is no sociology nor anthropology Stack Exchange and I thought this post made more sense in the history website. Please move it to another forum if I was mistaken.

  • This question seems on-topic to me. It asks about a historical fact (whether this tribe existed; what its gender roles were), not for generalized theories of gender.
    – two sheds
    Mar 25 '15 at 17:55
  • I'm going to vote to leave this closed. I'm skeptical of "somewhere I've heard..." questions because they tend to invite conspiracy theories, and I'm uncomfortable with questions that have too many undefined terms - I'm not confident that "masculine behavior" is a meaningful term across cultures and time. Consider Washington and Lafayette's letters, or the business acumen of Shia matriarchs.
    – MCW
    Mar 27 '15 at 13:48
  • Two sheds' answer rings a bell to me, I thus defined it as the answer I was looking for. I understand your point, although I think I am not the only person looking for answers with remote leads, I guess it might have happened to you. As I wrote in nota bene, I do not know if this is the right place to ask this question, but if not, which one is?
    – Asche
    Mar 27 '15 at 16:58

You may be thinking of the Vanatinai people.

From a NY Times article on the Vanatinai:

Dr. Lepowsky found evidence of the equality on every hand. Unlike other Pacific cultures, Vanatinai has no special men's meeting houses or male cult activities. The language is gender-neutral, with no pronouns like he or she. Boys as well as girls care for younger siblings, and men are expected to share in child care as fathers. In many other New Guinea societies, which consider women inferior to men, menstruation is thought of as a form of pollution and menstruating women must go into seclusion, but not on Vanatinai. Women there also have as much sexual freedom as men. . .

The new husband is expected to spend several months to a year in "bride service," living with and working for the wife's parents and presumably earning their approval. Later on, the couple normally alternates living with the wife's kin and the husband's.

It's not a complete role reversal, but the Vanatinai are much closer to gender egalitarianism than anthropologists generally find.


Reminds me of this aspect of Korean culture:

The haenyeo, literally meaning "sea women", are female divers in the Korean province of Jeju. They are representative of the matriarchal family structure of Jeju [...] It could also be said that women simply were more adapted for the job, with their bodies keeping them warmer and being more suited to swimming than a male, with more body fat.

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