The Masai are cattle herders living in the East African rift valley they grow no crops and are proud of being a non-agricultural people. Cattle are the all important source of wealth and social status, and Masai love their cattle, composing long poetic songs in praise to their herds. However, it is the men who have exclusive control over rights to cattle, and women are dependent, throughout their lives, on a man father, husband or son for rights of access to property. A woman’s status as daughter, wife or mother is therefore crucial.
A Masai woman’s life starts with their circumcision ceremony that marks their transition from girlhood to womanhood. As soon as a Masai woman is married she is wished enkishon, to be blessed with many kids. It is crucial for Masai women to have children especially sons. It is the sons who will help with the herding, inherit the cows, and take care of them when they get old. Only through the sons can they participate in the Eunoto ceremony, this is when the son goes from being a warrior to being an elder. It marks the transfer of the woman’s dependence from her husband to her son.
If you do not have any sons to give your herd to, and your husband dies your cows will be dispersed to the co-wives sons. Usually without children you have no position or rights, and no one to take care of you so you die from poverty. Masai women go through an insult ritual from co-wives after marriage, which consists of screaming threats to make her cry. It traumatizes her to the point where she feels helpless and isolated, they do this to break her down so she will turn to them to express her anxiety and look to them for friendship.
Maiyani talks about how there are a lot of chores and that with a co-wife she will have help with the daily chores, such as clearing the muck, looking after the cows, milking, smearing the roof, seeing to the calves, and help with the children. “To be married is to be led” Through an arranged marriage, that the father arranged to his Lyborn friend. A Masai woman can own her own house within a family homestead and lives off the herd that has been given to her through marriage by her husband in his village.
This herd provides food for her children and herself, and will be future herds for her sons later on in their lives. By organizing the family and resources in this way, there can be assurance that the sons will be supplied with enough resources to begin their own families later. As a Masai wife you can’t leave your husband, unless he treats her with extreme cruelty. The husband is the only one who can sell or slaughter the cows. The Masai women are not allowed to own cattle because they neglected their herd, and the herd wandered off and became wild.
The myth is Elephants used to carry things for women long ago. Buffalos were our cows, Gazelles were our goats, Warthogs were our sheep, Zebras were our donkeys, and those were our animals. “One day the women got up early to slaughter an animal and every woman said. ” My son won’t go herding today, he’ll stay to eat kidney so the animals went off into the forest. They all became wild gazelles, buffalos, zebras; all went off an account of a kidney.