Gender Roles Throughout History

Part one Gender roles of diverse cultures have differed immensely throughout history. The evolution of gender roles first began in the Paleolithic Age and then began to transform with the transformation of the Paleolithic Age to the Neolithic Age. Women in Mesopotamia, India, Greece, China, and Rome were not treated as equals and viewed as inferior to men. Cultures like Egypt and Persia had similar laws for women and treated them with more respect out of any of the other cultures.

The Paleolithic Age was responsible for the introductions of many vital aspects of our world today such as, technology, agriculture, and gender roles.

The Paleolithic culture was based on a hunter and gatherer society, which had a great influence on the gender roles of males and females. For the most part, the men were responsible for the hunting, mainly due to their physical build. Genetically speaking, men are normally larger in size, stronger, and more aggressive in comparison to women.

Despite the large size and strength differences, both males and females were treated with equality. Women contributed to the Paleolithic society by being responsible for the gathering of edible plants and berries.

Although gathering plants and berries is considered to be less dangerous and fairly easy when being compared to hunting, gathering was considered to be one of the most important contributions to Paleolithic society. When men went off to hunt, there was no guarantee that they would always be able to bring back enough meat, if any, to feed the community.

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The plants and berries gathered by the women were responsible for feeding the community daily, especially when the men were unsuccessful in their hunting trip.

Without the roles of both the women and men, the community would not have been able to survive. The Neolithic Age was the transformation and progression from the Paleolithic Age lifestyle. The transition of the different era’s influenced the gender roles of men and women, changing them based on the development of their new lifestyle. The main gender role difference between the Paleolithic Age and the Neolithic Age was male domination. Although men became much more dominant of the two genders, women were still treated with respect.

Because of the size and strength advantage men had over women, men were responsible for most of the hard manual labor, while women were given roles more suited for their weaker and nurturing nature. Men started to realize that instead of hunting and killing animals, they should capture, domesticate, and breed the animals because it would be more beneficial to the community in the long run and provide a more stable lifestyle. The women also realized the importance of stability and collected seeds for an assortment of plants and fruits so they could invest their time in farming plants instead of gathering them.

Because of the gathering role and responsibility women played in the past in the Paleolithic Age, women were very familiar with plants. Women understood how plants grew and the factors and environment needed in order to be successful in growing them, which is why women were responsible for the start of plant farming. Since communities did not have to relocate so often based on animal migration, and men and women did not have to spend several tiring hours searching for animals to hunt or food to gather, people had more time on their hands.

This extra time allowed women to concentrate more on looking after their families and children, cooking, cleaning, and sewing. This led to men virtually being responsible for all the difficult labor. Unlike in the Paleolithic Age where men and women were equal and relied on each other for survival, men no longer needed to depend on women as much. Most of the responsibility for survival was placed on the men which is what ultimately led to their dominance. The religions and laws developed in Mesopotamia prevented women from asserting control in society.

Elite classes such as priests and warriors manipulated religious beliefs to say male Gods were more valuable and dominant in comparison to female Gods. This led to justifying male domination over females in the Mesopotamian society. Men were in control and held the power, allowing them to abuse their wives, sell them into slavery to pay off debts, and partake in consensual sexual relations even if married, while women were drowned to death as punishment for committing adultery. In Mesopotamia, women were mostly responsible for tending to the children and household.

Women did not have the power to make life decisions for themselves and instead, relied on the men in their family to make those decisions for them. In Egypt, although men were the dominant gender in society, women were treated with great respect, which led to a very stable and successful society. The Egyptians believed that the goal of life was happiness and viewed home and family life as the main source of it. Egyptian law basically treated women as equals for the most part. Women were allowed to hold positions of power, own property, own slaves, receive an education, and even borrow money.

Although Pharaohs were normally men, certain circumstances allowed for women to hold the same title. The Egyptians believed that marriage and family were very important aspects in life. They believed that unconditional love and kindness were vital in a marriage and thought that husband and wife should always treat each other with respect. In regards to family, unlike many cultures that viewed children as another mouth to feed or another worker, Egyptians truly enjoyed their children and experienced much joy in their families. In India, public figures and important positions were given to men.

Although women did not have any public authority or receive any formal education, they were still considered to be important to society by having much influence when it came to family life and were supposed to be treated with respect from their family and husband. Sometimes it was difficult for women to take of the household due to their young age. Beginning as a child, women were taught that they were supposed to devote their lives to men. Very young child brides were quite common in India but ceremonies would not take place until the child had gone through puberty.

Also, according to the Laws of Manu, women were allowed to inherit property. Women could “influence affairs within their families but enjoyed no public authority” (Meridians, page 98). The Laws of Manu state, “deities delight in places where women are revered, but where women are not revered all rites are fruitless,” (Meridians, pg 78). The Code of Hammurabi does not give a lot of freedom to women. Also, the Code is very strict when it comes to marriage. The Code allowes fathers and brothers to arrange marriages and punishes cheating wives by sentencing them to death.

Different from the Code of Hammurabi, the Laws of Manu stresses the importance of husbands revering their wives and keeping them happy (Meridians, P. 78). China was a patriarchal society where men were considered to be the leader of the household. Although women were not normally seen as public figures, women were considered to be very valuable in the home and family. In the beginning, women were actually considered to be extremely important because the female side passed power and the line of succession.

However, there was one woman, Fu Hao, who stood out from all the rest during Shang times. Hao was in charge of her own estate and oversaw the sacrificial ceremonies that most men oversaw (Bentley & Ziegler, pg 124). In Perisa, family and clans were considered to be very important. The Persian culture was considered much more laid back in comparison to many others because classes were free and people were given the freedom to practice any religion, pursue any profession, and even borrow money to start their own business.

Unlike most cultures, women were able to enjoy social and legal freedoms and were a very active part of society. Women were treated with equality and respect. Females were permitted to take part in religious ceremonies and occasionally even serve as the priest. Their were no restrictions on relationships or marriage- young people in relationships were told to practice honesty and loyalty, and to always be faithful and share each others happiness (Notes on Iran, P. 1) .

When selecting a husband, women were instructed to be wise but free to choose who to marry on their own (Notes on Iran, P. 1). Many women took on jobs of weaving textiles and were given portions of grain, wine, beer, and occasionally meat from the imperial and temple workshops who employed them (Traditions & Encounters, P. 170). If the King passed away and the price was too young to rule, the kings wife was allowed to take the throne. Pourandokht was the first Persian Queen and was thought of throughout history as kind hearted and wise (Notes on Iran, P. 1).

Persians tended to have a close knit family and parents were encouraged to teach their children right and wrong and the importance of equality. In Athens, Greece, women were seen as inferior to men, not very intelligent, and thought of to have strong emotions. Women had guardians who were their closet male relative or husband. The guardian system was set up because Athenian philosophers, other than Plato, thought that women needed to be protected from themselves and society so they could not cause any damage to themselves or others (Women in the Ancient World, P. 2).

Women were not allowed to own any property other than clothing, jewelry, and slaves, and we only allowed to purchase inexpensive items. In order for a woman to gain citizenship, she had to marry a male citizen. Fathers were responsible for arranging marriages between their young daughters and older men who were normally in their twenties. Like Indian culture, the girls married after they went through puberty. The job of a wife was to have children and take care of their house. Wives were never supposed to leave their homes unless to attend special events or funerals.

If a married woman was seen outside of her home without it being any of the above occasions, people considered her to be a prostitute, slave, or so poor that she had no choice but to work (Women in the Ancient World, P. 2). Women from Sparta were different from much of Greece because they were able to own and inherit land. Spartan women were known to be bold and run the household, but were not supposed to be seen as too dominant over their husbands in public. The main purpose of marriage for people of Greece was not for love, but for the purpose of breeding (Women in the Ancient World, P. ). In Rome, women were constantly under the authority of men. Roman law insisted that women had to obey their fathers until they married, then in which case, had to obey their husbands. Even if a woman was widowed, she was still supposed to have some kind of male supervision of her finances (Women in the Ancient World, Rome). Roman men greatly valued marriage and treated their wives with great respect. Although women were never allowed to hold office, several men listened to the advice of their wives when not in public.

Women did not enjoy working and only did so if they were lower class and had to (Women in the Ancient World-Rome). The Paleolithic and Neolithic differed in gender roles due to the change in their lifestyles. In the Paleolithic Age, women and men were considered equals because they had to rely on each other equally in order to survive. The transition to the Neolithic Age caused men to dominant women since most of the responsibility for survival was placed on the shoulders of the men. Men no longer needed to rely on females as much as they had to in the Paleolithic Age.

Mesopotamian culture treated women with very little respect. Men were allowed to abuse their wives, sell them into slavery, and even commit adultery. If a Mesopotamian woman ever committed adultery, she would be sentenced to death. The Egyptian culture and Persian culture are most comparable to one another in the sense that they embraced family, love and marriage and treated women with immense respect and equality. In India, ever since women were children, they were always taught that they were supposed to devote their lives to their husbands.

Indian women had arranged marriages and married after they went through puberty, much like the Athens in Greece. In China, although women were normally not seen as public figures, they were considered to be very important in home and family life. Women of Athens, Greece, led very strict lives and were considered to be very weak minded and unintelligent. Like the Indian culture, they had arranged marriages and married mainly to breed offspring. Spartan women different from Athenian women in the sense they Spartan women were very as very bold and not weak minded at all.

In Rome, women were under the constant authority of men. However, despite this, Roman men took the advice of their wives when given in private, and were dominant when in the public eye. Barry. “Role of Women in Ancient Persia. ” Notes on Iran. Web. 21 Oct. 2009. Bentley J. H. & Ziegler H. F. (2008). Traditions & Encounters: A global perspective on the past . New York:McGraw-Hill[pic] Meridians: Sources in World History. (2009). Pearson Custom Publishing[pic] Thompson, James C. “Women in the Ancient World. ” Women in the Ancient World. Nov. 2005. Web. 22 Oct. 2009.

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Gender Roles Throughout History. (2017, Mar 29). Retrieved from

Gender Roles Throughout History
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