Are (aboriginal) women allowed to play the didgeridoo?
For non-Aboriginal women the question comes up only to wrap some more mystique around the didgeridoo. Women buy the didgeridoo first and than play it while listening to these hear-say tales about prohibition. It would arouse more curiosity to get one, if the Dreaming Laws were prohibit women to play or buy didgeridoos. Just imagine the excitement to buy didgeridoos from under the counter or in dark alleys and than like sneak thief take it home under your raincoat. Didgeridoo sales would double at least...
For aboriginal women the answer has to be more serious. Here the question is not of commercial (to buy or not to buy), but of social nature.
Nowadays boys and girls are playing with the same (electronic) toys, but there are people who still can remember the times when the boys would not play with girlish toys and vice versa. Both then and now boys and girls made this choice freely. But free choice is always influenced by upbringing and the ruling social values. In traditional aboriginal society the division between men and women business was quite sharp.
In societies with sharp gender division women may choose not to play the didgeridoo, because it supposed to be a man's prerogative. Even if there was a ban on aboriginal women to play the didgeridoo, and I'd heard about this in an area where didgeridoo is a recent addition, aboriginal society is changing and the norms with it as well.
Linda Barwick, an ethnomusicologist says that traditionally women have not played the didgeridoo in ceremony, but in informal situations is no prohibition in the Dreaming Law. Both boys and girls as young children play the didgeridoo toys, but as they grow girls stop playing the instrument in public. She has observed the same curiosity, that the area in which there are the strictest restrictions on women playing and touching the Didgeridoo appears to be in the south east of Australia, where in fact Didgeridoo has only recently been introduced.She believes that the international dissemination of the "taboo" results from it's compatibility with the commercial agendas of New Age niche marketing. In plain English: more women will buy didgeridoos when "taboo" is attached.
"In addition, the debate has drawn to international attention the fact that there are levels of the sacred and the secret in traditional Aboriginal beliefs, many of them restricted according to gender. Perhaps the Didgeridoo in this case is functioning as a false front, standing in for other truly sacred and restricted according to Aboriginal ceremonial life that it can not be named in public." (Linda Barwick: The Didgeridoo, From Arnhem Land to Internet, Perfect Beat Publications)
If you like aboriginal didgeridoo music, the conclusion for you, girls, would be to buy an original aboriginal didgeridoo from our selection and play it to your heart's content!
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