Gender Statuses and Salience Understandings
Before going further, it is useful to examine the statuses that are involved in the relationship between the husband and the wife. While the wife status is unique among all his relationships in the expectations it provides the man in the husband status, wives' power cannot be traced to this alone.
A key element in that power derives from the status of woman. The usefulness of positing the presence of a status is closely related to the observable effects of the understandings that make up that status. On this basis, gender statuses have undoubted usefulness in understanding Swahili behavior. Women are expected to behave differently from men when they are categorized in a variety of statuses, and the differences have a consistency that indicates clearly formulated expectations for each of the gender statuses even when they are occupied simultaneously with other statuses.
These gender statuses only rarely guide behavior by themselves, but their salience understandings lead to their expectations being joined with those from a considerable range of other statuses to guide behavior in a variety of circumstances. The only other statuses that appear to be even roughly equivalent in the extent to which their expectations occur together with others are the age statuses and the status, community member.
The joint influence of several statuses can be inferred when an individual's behavior meets the different expectations of several statuses in a single situation and relationship. A woman customer, for example, is expected to behave differently from a man customer, and the same is true of such broader statuses as neighbor, friend, or rival. The gender statuses bring similar expectations of their own to the other statuses with which they jointly occur and show their influence in cross-cutting similarities in otherwise quite different nongender
statuses. Clerks and neighbors are different, but men and women clerks differ in some ways similarly to the differences between men and women neighbors.
This is not to suggest that the salience understandings in the gender statuses give them equal importance when they combine with all other statuses. Taking only statuses I know to be actually occupied by community members, women bank tellers are not expected to behave in a markedly different way from men bank tellers, and the differences between both religious and secular teachers on the basis of their gender statuses are real but limited. However, women neighbors are expected to act quite differently from men neighbors, despite similarities inherent in the expectations of anyone classed as a neighbor, and, in a simplex relationship, women customers are expected to act differently from men customers.
The expectations associated with the woman status involve openness, affectivity, and engagement. I had no opportunity, of course, to spend time with groups of women in "natural" settings, but in talking with women, it was striking how outgoing, responsive, and emotionally active they were as compared to men in a similar situation. The same differences I observed are noted explicitly by members of both gender groups who report themselves and the differences between themselves and the other gender group to be much as I observed. The gender statuses in this community are not only influential across a quite wide range of other statuses but they are explicitly recognized as being so. Further, informants are uniform in asserting that the differences between the genders in their various statuses are aesthetically and morally important. Women behaving in accord with a variety of different statuses are not only recognized to be different from men in many of the same statuses but the differences are explicitly valued.