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Men and Women in Contemporary Kalmykia: Traditional Gender Stereotypes and Reality

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Kalmyk social life has been transformed over the 20th century, and this article documents changes specifically in the sexual division of labour and gender relations. Previous social norms (which differed from widely-held suppositions aboutmale dominance in all spheres of life)were drastically altered by the Soviet regime, changing work patterns and living conditions for both sexes. The article focuses mainly on Post-Socialist transformations, which are discussed through analysis of field-data concerning Kalmyk children. It was found that there are significant differences between the play activities of boys and girls, the gender norms they uphold, and the actual patterns of relations between men and women found among adults. The gender norms children uphold in speech are stereotyped and more ‘conservative’ than either their own behaviour or that of their parents. Nevertheless, observation of boys and girls at play showed definite differences in aggressiveness and responsiveness, the types of games preferred, and patterns of inter-relations among / between the sexes, and the article concludes that human behavioural universals may be evident here.


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