From virgin girl to grown man, Albanian style

The Sworn Virgins of AlbaniaOne of the silliest mistakes we humans make way too often is the assumption that the status quo is somehow a reached equilibrium, instead of a rest stop among the infinite variety of ways of being human.

Gender seems to be one of those fields where we often are blinded to the marvels beyond the valley in which we stand. Take, for example, the traditions around the world that actually mandate a transition or transformation, at least as far as the local culture is concerned. One such living tradition is embodied by the virgjinesha, explored by my favorite sociology blog, Sociological Images. 

“Inter-group warfare had left a dearth of men in many communities.  Since rights and responsibilities were strongly sex-typed, some families needed a “man” to accomplish certain things like buy land and pass down wealth.

In response, some girls became “virgjinesha,” or sworn virgins. A sworn virgin was a socially-recognized man for the rest of “his” life (so long as the oath was kept).  Many girls would take the oath after their father died.

There are only about forty sworn virgins left; as women were granted more and more rights, fewer and fewer girls felt the need to adopt a male identity for themselves or their families.”


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