Fewer Albanians Are Becoming Sworn Virgins

An ancient gender-bending tradition is on the wane.

There’s an interesting article about in the Times about the decline of Albanian sworn virgins. Sworn virgins are people who were born as women but take an oath of virginity and live as men. The article theorizes that they’re declining because of increased gender equality; it’s no longer shameful to have a woman-headed household, and the lines between “man” and “woman” are not as rigid as they used to be — meaning that women can do things that were traditionally in the male sphere while still living as women. It’s an interesting look at both the fluidity and rigidness of gender —while it’s possible for people born as women to “cross over” and live as men (and be totally socially accepted and understood as men), the only way they can do that is to fully embrace traditional gender roles. Further, only women can cross over — there aren’t men who can acceptably choose to live as women.

It’s an interesting piece. Thoughts?

[Ed: Watch an interview with an Albanian sworn virgin from a documentary by Elvira Dones. More information on the sworn virgin tradition is available here.]
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