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The Role of Individuals in Society Based on Age and Gender: Bali and Aboriginal Australia Essay

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Updated: Jan 25th, 2020


Since time in memorial, anthropologists have utilized the dynamics of ethnography to understand the socio-cultural lives of people in various places around the world. Durkheim argued that social generations could perhaps be understood through studying how time is appreciated.

Evans-Prechard on his part argued that time and age are perhaps striking. Societies vary in terms of how they treat age and how they use time in their day-to-day lives. Bourdieu observed that age and time could not be neglected since they are not to be viewed in simple terms of structural differences globally. In fact, societies use the age factor to differentiate members of society (Peterson 1972, p. 25).

Concerning gender, various communities and societies treat each gender differently. In the traditional societies, the role of women was not appreciated in society since they were relegated to the domain of the home. In some traditional communities, women were treated with high esteem because of their role of bearing children. Such communities were mostly matrilineal, as compared to those that were patriarchic, meaning that they valued men.

However, all societies seem to be similar in terms of treating women. Upon this realization, this paper attempts to compare the ethnographic factors, specifically age and gender, of the two areas that is, Bali and Aboriginal Australia. The paper evaluates how the two area diverge and converge in terms of appreciating the roles of individuals in society based on age and gender. The two ethnographic variables affect members of society differently in the two societies.


In the two areas, the pace of societal life tends to be structured by complex forms of history and age. Each ethnography variable signifies a particular social meaning. The two societies do not have static histories, particularly mythic histories regarding age and gender. The Bali society decodes the meaning of life based on the political and religious activities of society.

To the Bali society, the past does not have any significant meaning to the current state of affairs regarding age and gender. In other words, age and gender do not affect the activities of the individual in society. Generally, structural functionalism theory can be used to explain the position of individuals in the two societies.

Differences Based on Gender and Age between the two Societies

Balinese culture has always been referred to as one of the best form of socialism in the world. In this regard, each member of society is expected to participate in societal activities, especially in the labor market. Furthermore, ceremonies are to be attended by all genders that is, no discrimination based on gender.

The Balinese society appreciates the fact that women are very important in any developmental aspect, be it social, economic or political. Girls in the Balinese temples are allowed to present offerings to the gods meaning that they women take in religious activities. Young girls are shown how to present offerings to the gods, unlike in other societies where women are not given any opportunity to take part in religious matters.

Young girls are taught on how to lay a canang, place incense and present an offering. In ceremonies, women are valued too much since they are relied upon to perform traditional dances and serve guests. In this regard, young girls are shown how to prepare traditional foods in their homes before they are invited to serve visitors in ceremonies (Forge 1980, p. 8). In the Balinese culture, a female goddess exists, referred to as Dewi Sri, which is a goddess associated with food (rice).

The goddess is respected just like other gods. In fact, the Bali region depends on the goddess since it should be consulted before harvesting rice. In the Balinese culture, various gods are worshiped, including Brahma, Wisnu and the Shiva. De Danu is another important goddess that is relied upon by society since it is the crater of the lake.

To show how women are important in society, a virgin priestess selects 24 young men to serve the goddess in the temples (Geertz 1973, p. 365). Furthermore, the priestess chooses the servant who maintains the temples in many parts of the region.

With the changing climate, the society has been forced to accommodate the views of women in the Balinese society. The villages experience in influx of tourists from across the world due to the rich Balinese culture. Women have been forced to adapt to the new changes in order to survive.

In the traditional Balinese society, men could be allowed to marry various women, whose roles were mainly to bring up children and maintain the affairs of the home. Women were married at a tender age, which affected their educational needs in society. In this sense, they could not access jobs and other prestigious activities in society that come with education. In the modern society, polygamy is rare since the father of the family is required to consult the mother before bringing in the second wife.

Owing to interactions with the external world, Balinese female members of society are now sensitive to their rights regarding education and employment. Even though the society is slowly changing, women are still under pressure to provide a son to the family, failure of which might lead to subsequent marriages. In the Balinese society, a woman can only get married in case it is confirmed beyond doubt that she can get pregnant.

This explains the reason why many girls would get pregnant at a tender age and marry later in their lives. National policies provide that only women should access free healthcare regarding reproductive health treatment. In the Balinese society, married women can easily run their businesses and bank accounts. Furthermore, they are entitled to fifty percent of family property in case of divorce.

In the family, the woman plays an important role in the upbringing of children. Women are expected to carry out basic activities such as cooking, washing and general cleaning of the house. While things were getting better in the 20th century, things got worse for Balinese women.

Life became more demanding in the 20th century, which placed a big burden to the Balinese women around the region. The traditional bantens, which were pyramids of fruits, were no more since they had to be imported from other regions.

The tradition law of the Balinese people does not allow children whose fathers are foreign to enjoy traditional rights of the land. Just like in the Islamic culture, women must seek permission from their husbands before seeking for employing elsewhere. In this regard, the male partners of the family must approve their passports.

Unlike the In the Aboriginal Australian culture, society is closely interwoven and it is a mutually dependent unit. Each member of society has his or her own role that should be played faithfully. In terms of communication, there are specific societal laws and rules that govern social contacts, which are further determined by age and gender. In society, socialism is encouraged over individualism because it is believed that not each person is self-sufficient.

In terms of gender, both men and women figures in society are relied upon when it comes to the interpretation of dreams. In this aspect, age plays an important role since the old are always consulted in case the society needs interpretation over a particular aspect (Strehlow 1978, p. 13). Unlike in the Balinese regions, Aboriginal Australian society is different in that old women are supposed to link up with their male counterparts to ensure children are taught good manners in society.

Roles played by older women are the same as those played by men since women can also be lawmakers, performers, painters and custodians of customary laws. Since the aboriginal Australian society relied on hunting and gathering, women were supposed to gather fruits, seeds, and insects while men were expected to go to the forests and hunt for animals that would provide proteins.

Young women in society could be charged with the responsible of upbringing the children and taking care of the family. Therefore, young men were likely to link up with men in the jungles in order to acquire hunting dexterities while young women would stay at home with their home to acquire fruit gathering techniques.

As earlier stated, women could collaborate with their male counterparts to come up with treatment techniques in society, unlike in the Bali society where only men could be involved in matters related to medicine. For instance, Warlpiri female members of society from Yeundumu carried out Yawylyu ceremonies to better the physical condition of the ill members of society.

They would sing religious songs and paint the sick perform using colors from different plants since they had vast knowledge of plants that could serve as medicine. Unlike in the Balinese culture, the age of a woman determined her place in society in the Aboriginal Australian culture. Older women were respected since they were considered powerful and prestigious in society. Older women would be invited in societal meetings to make decisions in case the society was faced with a catastrophe (Bodley 2000, p. 28).


The two societies share some similarities since in both societies women had inferior positions as compared to those of men. However, the position of women improved with age in the Aboriginal Australian culture. Since time in memorial, women have never enjoyed their rights in society. Male patriarchy is identified as one of the causes of their sufferings in society. Men are relieved from child bearing activities, which give them an advantage over women.

They can easily participate in societal activities as compared to women who are supposed to take care of their children. However, it should be noted that things are changing. In the two societies, modernism is taking root. It is evident that women are slowly gaining their position in society mainly because of the western influence. Therefore, globalization theory can be used to explain the gender disparities and changes in the two societies (Moore 2009, p. 265).

In the two regions, women are reclaiming their status in society. Their influence can no longer be taken for granted since they have to be provided with basic rights as stated by the international human rights. Pertaining to age, the two societies valued age in different magnitudes. Age played a key role since members of society could be awarded roles based on age.

List of References

Bodley, JH 2000, Australian Aborigines: mobile foragers for 50,000 Years in Cultural Anthropology, Mayfield, London.

Forge, A 1980 “Tooth and Fang in Bali, Canberra Anthropology, Vol.3, no. 1, pp 1-16.

Geertz, C 1973, Person, time, and conduct in Bali: an essay in cultural analysis: in the interpretation of Cultures, Basic Books New York.

Moore, JD 2009, Clifford Geertz: an interpretative anthropology. In Visions of Culture: an Introduction to Anthropological theories and theorists, Altamira Press, Lanham.

Peterson, N 1972, “Totemism Yesterday”, Man (N.S), Vol. 7, no. 1, pp 12-25.

Strehlow, TG 1978, Life on earth and the individual and his totem in Central Australian Religion, AASR, Bedford Park.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Role of Individuals in Society Based on Age and Gender: Bali and Aboriginal Australia." January 25, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/ethnography-essay/.


IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Role of Individuals in Society Based on Age and Gender: Bali and Aboriginal Australia'. 25 January.

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