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Old July 9th, 2011, 06:16 PM   #1
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The Societal Relationship Between Men and Women


Throughout history in virtually every society men have held a dominant role. Why is that? One textbook attempts to provide an answer:

The change to systematic agriculture in the Neolithic Age also had consequences for the relationship between men and women. Men assumed the primary responsibility for working in the fields and herding animals, activities that kept them away from home. Women remained behind, caring for the children, weaving clothes, and performing other household tasks that required considerable labor. In time, as work outside the home was increasingly perceived as more important than work done at home, men came to play a dominant role in society, a pattern that persisted until our own time.1

Is that idea bogus?

1 William J. Duiker and Jackson J. Spielvogel, The Essential World History, 6th ed., pp. 5
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Old July 9th, 2011, 06:21 PM   #2

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Throughout history in virtually every society men have held a dominant role. Why is that? One textbook attempts to provide an answer:


The change to systematic agriculture in the Neolithic Age also had consequences for the relationship between men and women. Men assumed the primary responsibility for working in the fields and herding animals, activities that kept them away from home. Women remained behind, caring for the children, weaving clothes, and performing other household tasks that required considerable labor. In time, as work outside the home was increasingly perceived as more important than work done at home, men came to play a dominant role in society, a pattern that persisted until our own time.1




Is that idea bogus?



1 William J. Duiker and Jackson J. Spielvogel, The Essential World History, 6th ed., pp. 5

It seems plausible, and some evidence points in the direction of more matriarchal societies at the dawn of civilization. The older gods in various ancient pantheons are often godesses, and then there's the "Venuses", like the famous one found in Willendorf which also clearly depict a mother figure.
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Old July 9th, 2011, 06:22 PM   #3
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I think in the past aggression has been the key to dominance, and testosterone must figure quite high in the equation.
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Old July 9th, 2011, 06:39 PM   #4
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I think in the past aggression has been the key to dominance, and testosterone must figure quite high in the equation.
Is this what led to the eventual sexual objectification of women we see today in mass media and other places?

Last edited by Lastel; July 9th, 2011 at 07:13 PM.
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Old July 9th, 2011, 06:39 PM   #5

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I have this packet on the early colonization of North America and part of it talked about how women and men were much more equal than men and women elsewhere. This thoroughly shocked Europeans who felt that the women had too much power and authority while the men were lazy.

Edit: Here's the exact wording.

Quote:
Europeans also disapproved of the relative equality of men and women they observed among some Native American peoples. Reasoning from their own experience, Europeans assumed that men were naturally superior to women and should dominate them. But in North America, Europeans encountered female rulers among the Wampanoags and Powhatans and learned that among groups such as the Hurons, women helped select chiefs. They found that many Indian societies, including the Pueblos, Hurons, and Iroquois, were matrilineal; that is they traced descent through the mother's family line instead of the father's, as Europeans did. In these matrilineal societies, newly married couples went to live with the wife's family. Children inherited property from their mother's brother, not their father. Rulers succeeded to their positions through their mother's family line.

In most Indian societies, women were the principal farmers. Men cleared the fields, but women planted and harvested crops.They also prepared food, cared for children and, made clothing and baskets, carried burdens, and, in some regions, broke down, transported, and reassembled shelters when villages changed locations. Europeans, who came from a society in which men did most agricultural work, thought that Indians lived "a most slavish life." Misjudging the importance of Indian men's roles as hunters and warriors, Europeans scorned them as lazy husbands who wasted their time "gambling, sleeping, singing, dancing, smoking, or going to feasts. Such confusion worked both ways, of course. Massachusetts Indians ridiculed English men "for spoiling good working creatures" because they did not send their wives into the fields. Observing some English women sewing, native men called them "lazy squaws."

Last edited by Qymaen; July 9th, 2011 at 07:14 PM.
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Old July 9th, 2011, 10:28 PM   #6

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I read a very interesting take on it. In prehistory, women were basically in charge of "tribes" as priestesses and mothers. Men were somewhat seen as inconsequential in the equation until the birth of animal husbandry. Till that point (supposedly), the part that men played in childbirth wasn't understood as it all went through the mother's line. With the birth of sheperding, animal husbandry, whatever....men were able to notice the exact amount of time from copulation to birth and realize that they played a part in the birth of the children. Men then began to subjagate women as they needed to be sure that their children were actually theirs, and it never recovered.

Don't jump on me if you don't like this or think it is true or plausible..it is just something I read once.
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Old July 10th, 2011, 07:34 AM   #7
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All of this is interesting stuff. I wonder, though, if perceptions by men in the Neolithic Age as their work being more important, or of the realization of their importance childbirth is what led to the debasement of women we see in many societies.....

Many women in the West (rightly) take issue with what they view as their sexual objectification by a historically misogynistic culture. Women, on average, do not earn as much as men; are subject to all sorts of violent sexual crimes; and suffer from body image and eating disorders at a far higher rate than men.

Although women have made great strides in politics, they are, for the most part, greatly underrepresented in the political arena the world over. Even still, their entry into the political arena is, largely, a relatively recent phenomenon.

The world is, at least directly, ruled by men. Can we simply say this is due to testosterone? Let's say Greece is the cradle of Western civilization, can we argue that due to the physical geography of that land, the population existed in "survival mode" which led to a hyper-masculine male dominated culture based on a spirit of survival where the strength of men (the warriors) was valued over that of women? The Natives in Qymaen's article did not descend from the Greeks, so we see that "Reasoning from their own experience, Europeans assumed that men were naturally superior to women and should dominate them."

If one of these theories is true, can we trace the objectification of women we see in today's mass media and other places back to that? When a women (or man) views the female form as nothing more than an object, that is rooted in what?
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Old July 10th, 2011, 07:59 AM   #8

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The change to systematic agriculture in the Neolithic Age also had consequences for the relationship between men and women. Men assumed the primary responsibility for working in the fields and herding animals, activities that kept them away from home. Women remained behind, caring for the children, weaving clothes, and performing other household tasks that required considerable labor. In time, as work outside the home was increasingly perceived as more important than work done at home, men came to play a dominant role in society, a pattern that persisted until our own time.1



1 William J. Duiker and Jackson J. Spielvogel, The Essential World History, 6th ed., pp. 5
This passage seems to assume that there was greater equality between genders prior to this time. I don't know if there was, but I would look at social patterns among other primates. It may be instinctual for the stronger, more aggressive, male to try to dominate the female. I think it would be helpful to establish that before looking at environmental factors that may have swung the pendulum in one direction or the other at different times and in different places.
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Old July 10th, 2011, 08:12 AM   #9

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This passage seems to assume that there was greater equality between genders prior to this time. I don't know if there was, but I would look at social patterns among other primates. It may be instinctual for the stronger, more aggressive, male to try to dominate the female. I think it would be helpful to establish that before looking at environmental factors that may have swung the pendulum in one direction or the other at different times and in different places.
Our closest relative among primates, the bonobo or dwarf chimpansee lives in matriarchal clans. The "regular" chimp knows a patriarchal society.

But there is main difference between bonobo and chimp females and women: chimps and bonobo females remain capable of reproduction their entire life, unlike women who run out of eggcells sooner or later.

This way females, especially among bonobos can reach a very high status in the group.
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Old July 10th, 2011, 08:46 AM   #10
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This passage seems to assume that there was greater equality between genders prior to this time. I don't know if there was, but I would look at social patterns among other primates. It may be instinctual for the stronger, more aggressive, male to try to dominate the female. I think it would be helpful to establish that before looking at environmental factors that may have swung the pendulum in one direction or the other at different times and in different places.

Indeed. Taken from page 3 of the same text:

Because [Paleolithic] women bore and raised the the children, they generally stayed close to the camps, but they played an important role in acquiring food, gathering berries, nuts, and grains. Men hunted the wild animals, an activity that often took them far from the camp. Because both men and women played an important role in providing for the band's survival, scientists have argued that a rough equality existed between men and women.

The text seems to suggest an inequality began during the Neolithic Age with the rise of "systematic agriculture." I wonder, then, if this was the beginning of an inequality that eventually led to the objectification of women we see today.
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