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The Island of Menstruating Men by Ian Hogbin - Book Report/Review Example

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The Island of Menstruating Men by Ian Hogbin

Men and women in Wogeo have discrete responsibilities which are quite different and are enshrined in the beliefs. The men, for example hunt to provide sustenance, and are the leaders in the society, where as women bear children and celebrate it. They take care of the young ones; as the little ones depend on them for nursing and nurturing, for which they command the cultural authority. The women get the vegetables, fish and other food items and cook. The men have a certain edge over women, for they can play flute to mimic the voice of Niebek-a monster spirit. Women celebrate their first menstruation, as it empowers them to curse if they are hurt or mistreated. Both the genders depend on each other to survive.
A ritual of tongue slitting, common to both men and women is performed to ward off the calamities befall upon them. Tongue, being the source of curses, arguments, disagreements, insults and contemptuous language is blamed and punished-due to the flow of blood sanctified and celebrated equally as that of menstruation. In the case of men the ritual purifies them to have sex and the women to suckle their offspring.
Although the men and women in Wogeo share equal social status butthey command authorities in different spares. Women for example, cannotholdanypoliticalpower yet they command the cultural authority for bearing the children; the status is enshrined in the beliefs.

It appears from the setting of social orders that a deep sense of protection, based mainly on dogmas which tend to explain them through principals ensuring harmony and peaceful co-existence prevails in the lives of the people. Since the men in general are most likely to abuse their greater physical power and authority, the social setup balances it by granting women with some special powers through beliefs. The women gain immunity after giving birth or they can curse the wrong doers while they are menstruating. For this reason men respect them. Ian Hogbin states in The Island of Menstruating Men, "Men respect women because women have a power duringtheirmenstruationtocurse the men in retaliation. Men will not abuse women because of this. Similarly the women are exempted from paying any matrimonial tax or dowry. Hogbin states, "The society had no bride wealthordowrytopreventobjectificationofwomen." (Page86).

Contamination is an act of blaming one by another for a wrong act. Women can contaminate their husbands. The only way out is by performing a ritual - scaring the tongue, piercing the ear or menstruating artificially, which ever the situation demands for. Since there are certain taboos that can only be washed away by performing the ritual of tongue slitting, piercing the ears or menstruating artificially. In all the cases the bad blood is let out, which is as similar to the menstruation in women and just as sacred; hence cleaning and elevating the person to gain his rights back, i.e., having sex etc, which wasn't allowed after the contamination.

The marriage as a whole has its social significance in that it offers a protection to the women who have children. However the desire to have sex out of marriage is also not left unattended to. The husband gains a right to kill the adulterator, only when he finds him carrying ...Show more


The Island of Menstruating Men, written by Ian Hogbin is an ethnography. Hogbin has made a detailed study of the culture at Wogeo, an island in the South Pacific with a unique and exquisite culture that allows its inhabitants, both men and women, to enjoy a balanced freedom and social equality through dogmas, rites and beliefs without altering their roles as men and women…
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The Island of Menstruating Men by Ian Hogbin
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