Comparing Men's and Women's Social Relations
From what has been said about the man status, it will be clear that the kind of emotional expression and freedom broadly expected of women is quite improper for men. But the differences between social relationships involving men and those involving women are not limited to differences in affective display, as can be seen in considering their development in individuals' lives.
The social lives of males and females begin to diverge sharply as soon as the boys are considered old enough to go outside the house to spend the daylight hours playing with other boys or attending school. Most girls nowadays go to secular schools as their brothers do, but they still spend their out-of-school hours in their homes studying, doing housework, and cooking under the supervision of their mothers.
Unmarried girls were traditionally kept from the company of married women not closely related to them, explicitly to shield them from talk of sex. Thus, when their mothers' friends came to visit, the girls stayed in another part of the house. This is not strictly enforced in most homes now, but it is still true that only after marriage do women begin the rich social life to be described below. One of the main reasons commonly given by adolescent girls for saying that the most important thing in their lives is marriage is that it is essential for full acceptance into the company of adult women.
The situation for boys is quite different. From the time they begin to spend the daylight hours outside the home, they are encouraged to be friendly with other neighborhood boys from different households. They are urged to invite their friends home for lunch (the main meal), and boys who do this too little were traditionally, but only rarely currently, punished. Unlike females, it was desirable that males be known through the community and even beyond it. A man whose name is not known by every other Swahili in the city is thought
a poor specimen. A traditional phrase in praise of a man was, "He who is not his brother is his slave." The phrase has not been wholly appropriate for most of this century, but the wide scope of approved social relations it refers to is understood as being as desirable in men now as it ever was.