How is it that the word defined as the attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles somehow became synonymous with en discriminating against women? 1 When did this term adopt a negative connotation? The dictionary continues to describe the noun as discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex. 2 The definition implies that the discrimination applies to both sexes, not that one is the victim of the other. However, it is clear: women are perceived as the inferior sex in our society, and apparently always have been.
Yet, although sexism is a relatively modern word, the idea was created by power-hungry men and spread by biblical writers. In the way that a table is unstable if just one leg is fractionally horror, the way patriarchy and matriarchy are understood affects how sexism is viewed. If you were to reference a dictionary in search of definitions, you would find almost mirror images- only, in a matriarchy it is the mother who is head of the clan, not the father. However, Cynthia Leer, author of The Myth of Matriarchal Prehistory has a different take on this.
She says, “Matriarchy should be understood instead as the [mastery] of the Mother’s way,” or as, “a realm where female thing are valued and where power is exerted in non-possessive, non-controlling and organic ways that are ruinous with nature. “3 Matriarchy has gotten a bad reputation through the years for being a term open to interpretation due to its many meanings. The pure purpose of the word, in its simplest form, is to describe a time in which men were not the dominant sex. Another phrase greatly misunderstood is gender roles.
First, please disregard memories of your first grade teacher using the word ‘gender’ instead of ‘sex’ in order to keep laughter under control. Second, the two words are utterly different – apples and oranges. Gender is a not a biological characteristic; it is not the label to explain which reproductive organs a person may have. Instead, gender is a social characteristic that a society attaches to a biological sex to explain the expectations of behavioral norms and cultural significance. In today’s colloquial language, ‘gender roles’ and ‘sexism’ seem to be interchangeable. In actuality, gender roles serve as a mask for the greater travesty Of our time: sexism. The argument goes something like this: “Sexism has always existed! Women never hunted, because they were women and they were always confined to their homes. ” For the sake of argument, let’s pretend this is an curate statement. Even then, if women everywhere were confined to doing only ‘feminine” tasks and chores, the whole argument is still completely backwards – sexism has not always existed.
In fact, it is quite ignorant to believe that very early societies would have been able to arrive at the mentality that one sex is superior to the other when every person was valuable to the clan – they all relied on each other to survive. There is no reason to believe that a matriarchal society ever existed, that an entire clan was ruled by a woman. But similar to chimpanzee communities that we study today, it is very probable many hominids (two-footed primates) lived in a maternity; essentially, women were central to the society. Families were formed around the mother figure – the only known piece to the puzzle of childbearing in prehistory. When children were born, they were automatically accepted into their mothers clan, named after her, and no sense of illegitimacy lingered. 6 The mothers in prehistoric time were inclined to share provisions with their children and family members, and in time began feeding the entire clan – solidifying the idea that women Were important to the arrival of a civilization.
Females sustained the clan by gathering fruits, vegetables and grains – males gathered as well, but only enough to feed themselves and possibly a close male relative. Both sexes hunted small game and male-female groups hunted together with nets and spears. It is widely accepted, though, that only men hunted large game. When horticulture became prevalent, (some time later- around 10,000 BCC) it is said to be the work of women. 7 Aside from gathering food, providing about eighty percent of the nutrition received in a clan, women took on jobs that have advanced onto a stereotype that lingers in contemporary societies.
Because early societies had yet to discover the link between sex and pregnancy, and because fatherhood was not a recognized position, men did not take on the responsibility of rearing children. Until relatively recently in the spectrum of humanity, every child demanded two to three years of their mother’s time to breastfeed, and many women had multiple children within this age group at one given time. Regarding the aforementioned idea that every able body was necessary to the success of a developing clan, women could not afford to be del during childbearing years. It was in order to maintain society that women had to be carefully tasked with chores. The main concern was that every chore was “compatible with simultaneous child watching. ” Specifically women were given, assignments that did not require severe concentration, were easily interruptible, and most importantly, did not put children in danger, in a way that hunting would. 9 This is how women fell into step with chores such as preparing daily food and spinning, weaving, and sewing clothes.
It takes several hours of spinning yarn to create enough to weave in n hour, so women spun while they watched children and young girls spun while they tended to livestock. 1 0 With menstruation and pregnancy constantly present in these civilizations, and with game meat only sporadically appearing meat was very valuable to the women, who were always on the verge of anemia. 1 1 The anemia created another barrier between women and hunting in addition to the already-present complications of hunting during pregnancy or with children. Their bodies were too physically weak.
Also, female bodily fluids are more potent to an animal; therefore the women would be more easily sensed by their prey, making it almost counterproductive for a female to go on a hunt. 12 Some may argue that it still is indeed the femaleness of a woman that prevents her from a hunt. It IS not her designation as a woman that keeps her from participating in “male” activities, it is the fact that a woman’s body has different functions, abilities, and limits than a man’s. In a functional society every person plays a specific role and no role is more important than another; every single role is required for the society to thrive. Asking a man to breastfeed so that a woman could attempt to cut down a tree was – and still IS – irrational. ) It is to sexist for communities to fall into a way of life that allows every individual to contribute to their fullest potential, thus creating a highly productive and efficient society. There was a time when the femaleness of a woman was not seen as a disadvantage by men, but rather it was revered and honored. Forty thousand years ago, before words could be written down, prehistoric peoples represented concerns, rituals, sacrifices, and more with cave art and carvings.
It comes as no surprise that many of the oldest carved figurines found show admiration for a woman’s body: her fertility and ability to produce and feed hillier. 13 These figurines, called Venues, typically depict women who are “fat, healthy, with giant breasts”. 14 It might seem strange to a present-day woman how carving women as fat could possibly be flattering, let alone venerating. But a thin figure, something many women strive for today, would have been very troubling: her children would have gone hungry. We also kick to old preserved cave paintings for ideas of what culture was like before writing.
In a remote part of central India, paintings of South Briar tribes from 8000 BCC to 2500 BCC were found on rock shelters. Like many others, they epic animals, hunting, dancing, and symbolic designs. 1 5 In these specific paintings, there are more women drawn, and they are more detailed than the stick figure men. The women are painted as strong and capable women – hunting and taking care of children all the while. To keep the traditions alive, South Briar women still partake in ritual hunting. 16 Sir Leonard Woolly called Cretan art the most inspired in the ancient world. 6 Paintings always show priestesses in the foreground with men behind them. Women in Crete were portrayed as merchants, farmers, chariot drivers, and hunters. Wall paintings show the women performing religious rituals. It does not appear that Crete was an equal society -? in a painted scene Of female dancers, the males and females have segregated seats, but the women had better accommodations. 17 Several tombs that belonged to women were filled with riches such as jewelry, gold, and precious stones. In comparison, no male grave has been found with equal value.
The Cretan world seems to have been able to develop and advance as a female-centered community without abandoning peace and pleasure-18 There is some scholarly inquiry as to whether there were female-centered clans in the Neolithic ere as well. There are very few images of males from this time period and the few that have been uncovered show men in situations inferior to women. 19 This leads to the theory women in Neolithic times held a higher status than women of later generations. The corpses found in Neolithic graves were buried with shells and paint arranged in a way to resemble female reproductive organs. 0 It is believed these art works indicate worship or glorification of the females in their clans. Fertility seems to be the basis of their worship and it often reinstated into prayer for healthy crops and animals. Does this mean goddess worship appeared in Neolithic culture, or did they only worship females? Was their worship equivalent to women having social power and dominance? As many myths rarely offer facts, they cannot be used to set history’ in stone; however, they do shed light On what might have been happening during the time periods in which they were created.
Several myths show warring between men and women in which the men always take over power from the defeated females. 21 These motifs appear in Central and Western Desert Australian Aborigine, Panda of New Guiana, Sumerian, and Greek mythology . 22 “Social charter” myths appear to justify why men took over female ruling, suggesting women committed some sort of sin or were naturally weak. If men had always existed as the controlling power, myths of former female powers would not exist. If men had always restrained women, their dominance would seem natural and it would be unnecessary for them to write explanations.
Powerful women in mythologies are astoundingly universal . 23 patriarchy was an avalanche started by one meager realization: men had a role in procreation. Suddenly, their female-driven jealousy was uprooted. By giving the children their fathers’ clan name instead of their mothers’, the men had proof of “ownership”. With offspring essentially attached to the men of the clan, labor was also controlled by the men-24 Anthropologists insist that when large game hunting began during the Stone Age, men felt that hunting was their natural function in society. 5 With this new sense of identity came power- their dangerous work gave them status. It also created a sort of club or community between the male members of a tribe or clan . 26 Hunting required great teamwork, cooperation, ND lack of competition- these men had to work together. Most likely, men felt legitimated by their “exclusiveness” and their “us-versus-them pride” . 27 Of course, women hunted small game, but more in a means of ‘opportunistic kills’. Indeed, many ritualistic tools used during hunts were forbidden for women to see. 8 So when horticulture, a practice mainly performed by women, became popular around 5000 BCC, and large game began to disappear in populated civilizations, men had to jump on the band wagon and begin farming as well. 29 With men farming – a very isolated activity in imprison to hunting – they felt they lost everything fundamentally male. Young boys were not being taught the solidarity that came with hunting, so the men of the clan developed a new idea of group puberty rites. 30 These ceremonies did not occur before a horticultural society was established.
The men began reinforcing gender roles in their society by teaching their sons what it took to be a “man”, something they felt should have been natural. Marilyn French, author of From Eve to Dawn: a History of Women in the World, explains, “Male solidarity was and remains a manipulation against women. The first political movement, it arose, like all solidarity movements, to counter a sense of powerlessness and oppression,” that had dissipated with the loss of a hunter-gatherer society. 31 The main push of these puberty rites was to abnegate their mothers which led the oppression of women, including emotions they associate with them.
Soon boys were taught disdain towards ‘feminine’ emotions like love, compassion, and softness. Feelings were replaced with a hard, cool attitude and submission to elder males. 32 Thus, a form a sexism that still exists today (and many people ignore) was created: en are not to show “feminine” qualities. Dominance over children created another form of sexism. Now that males were aware of their part in procreation, they had to assure that the children their mates produced were theirs. In order to do this, they had to keep women under strict surveillance.
Many women were captives from other villages, raped so as to be claimed as a mate, and given no rights; they were virtually slaves. 33 To bolster men’s paternity roles, rules and laws were created that only applied to women. Females were the first criminals – adultery suddenly became a crime. Even Hough men always had the right to infanticide, women were not allowed to abort their children. Paternalism groups were founded on this domination. At this point, females were considered an object of the male’s possession. Contrary to matrilineal, potentiality required force, and brutality towards women was often encouraged in their society. S When dominance started to shift towards the males, clans left their matriarchal marriages and began existing in parasitical marriages – women were no longer surrounded by male kin (stronger than she) and lost their protection. In a patriarchal marriage, the omen were taken and forced to live with their husbands’ families who very likely did not speak the same language. 36 In some patriarchal communities women were allowed to leave. However, due to the fact that children were property of men, the women had no right to take children with them, and many stayed. 37 Without women protesting, patriarchy was born.
Another vessel for both patriarchy and the idea of sexism was religion. Even in the beginning Of the Old Testament, the Bible provides very different roles for men and women. When God punishes Adam and Eve in Genesis, he describes Adam (man) as the breadwinner, and Eve (woman) as someone who needed a tight leash . 38 This tight leash takes the form of her husband and uterus. Women were limited by this elemental plot for centuries after – both Judaism and Christianity enforce further constraints on women. In Leviticus, it claims that everything a woman touches while she is “unclean” from menstruation is impure. 9 Taken out of context, this can be seen as a terrible sexist act, but there are also conditions in which a man is unclean. Even so, women cannot control what makes them unclean while men can. The biblical impurity of a woman outlasts her menstruation, even during childbirth-40 The women were secluded from the group for two weeks while they were impure and usually stayed with other women in “menstrual huts”. When they were allowed to grace the sanctuary and men again, they fulfilled their marital duties (the two weeks in which they saw their husbands they were most likely to conceive). 1 When a woman gave birth she had to seclude herself for seven days as if she were menstruating. Fifth baby was a male, she could return to the group on the eighth day for the baby’s circumcision and tribal ironies before completing her thirty-three days of blood purifying. If the baby was a female, there Was no ceremony to welcome her arrival and her mother was required to purify for sixty-six days. 42 Consider this: if a woman is in constant impurity, constantly forbidden from the sanctuary, how often could a Hebrew wife appear in public?
A scarce rabbi or community leader does not make for a good one – how would she be able to fulfill the responsibilities? In addition to underlining the uncleanness of a women, the Old Testament shows violent themes against women. In Deuteron 22:13 t shows that if a bride’s virginity is challenged by the groom, the whole community plays a part in verifying the speculation through the custom of bloody sheets. If their suspicion is true (or they agree she did not bleed enough) the male population is permitted to stone her to death.
Later in Deuteron, there are examples of rape and abuse with only small monetary penalties. 43 Even though religion is not to blame for men first seeking control over women, it plays a large role in the spread of sexual discrimination because many people looked to these ancient scriptures as a guide for their lives. It is believed by some biblical scholars that Yeah was originally conceived as androgynous. 44 He is characterized by the word ‘compassion’, which in the Hebrew language is rooted in the word ‘womb’. He is described as “giving birth” to Israel, “suckling’ and watching over his children. 5 But as the Bible transitions into the book of Numbers, Yeah is not only male but patriarchal. In Numbers 12, God punishes only Miriam and not her brothers for the same act- the story teaches that women shall not challenge men. 46 Some argue that it is difficult to accuse the Bible of sexism hen several other verses describe such different ideas. For example, Galatians 3:38 adequately removes all justification for discrimination Of any kind by saying, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. Pay close attention to the wording: there is no longer male and female. Moreover, religion is described as a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects. 47 The Bible (and the religion that follows it) is a text assembled by men and was prone to their social biases of the time period. Sexism very well did exist in the Hebrew Bible and it is impossible to erase history. It is not universally accepted that fertility held more weight and value in society before the Bible was written.
Cynthia Leer, shares her view on the idea of matrilineal societies and goddess worship (something that dissipated long before the Bible): Prior to the Neolithic revolution, we have every reason to believe that prehistoric peoples, like contemporary hunting and gathering peoples, were more interested in restricting their fertility than enhancing it. Contraception, abortion, and infanticide are all practiced in uniting and gathering groups, and in horticulture societies as well, with infanticide rates ranging from 1 5 to 50 percent.
Skeletal evidence suggests that childbirth was dangerous for mothers and children alike. Infant mortality rates were high at Actual¶y;k, for example, and women there and elsewhere died very young by our standards (on average in their late twenties, earlier than men) in part because of high maternal mortality. It seems unlikely under these conditions that pregnancy and childbirth we invariably regarded as miraculous and welcomed as the gift of a munificent goddess. 48 Leer also geared the Venus figurines and points out the biggest dispute with establishing them as worship of fertility.
The figures rarely show signs of pregnancy, lactation, or childbirth. 49 If Paleolithic artists were concerned in depicting pregnancy and fertility there are many ways to have done that – but these figures lack evidence of childbearing and most are simply voluptuous. They could show the clan’s concern regarding hunger, which explains why they have fuller shapes – communities valued healthy and full bodies. 50 However, if you were to drop the notion that Venus figures represented omen and their fertility and ability to reproduce, why are there only women figures?
The complication with pinpointing the origins of sexism is the underlying question: which came first? Gender or sexism? Returning to overburdened language, it is because gender exists that sexism exists. Gender allows men to dominate women – it provides a biological excuse. Unfortunately many feminist matriarchies suggest that women are women because we hold secondary status to men. The designation ‘Woven” is neither a gender, nor a biological sex, but a category that people are placed into.
This category seems to form the parameters in which women have experiences, yet women are only the byproduct of the category existence (in the same way my mother insists I had a bad time because my attitude was terrible to begin with, and not that my attitude was terrible because I had a bad time). 65 So long as this omnipresent category exists, sexism will exist. The femaleness of a woman is defined by Leer as the experience of being perceived to be a woman and being treated as women are treated. This extends to any specific way women were treated in different cultures whether good or bad. The only femaleness that can be attached to any woman of any time period in any place of the world is this: ‘woman’. It is hard to speak for the men and women from a time before they themselves could speak, but don’t believe it was ever intended for footmen in the kitchen” to be a derogatory term. The mentality that one biological sex is of higher-rank than another is derived from the simple fact that certain bodies are more able for specific tasks. Intended or not, men felt oppressed. This sparked a very deliberate and violent revolution. Men stole control and power long before rating was established and history was preserved.
Indeed it was history; looking back to biblical times, the pictures that stories paint of their communities and culture show male-dominance. With the spread of Christianity, the secret of a more peaceful and equal past was locked up and it became widely accepted that the husbands and fathers should be the head of the household. Christianity and the men in the Bible certainly did not initiate all of the suffering and abuse against women that appears today – but they did Set the precedent that has seemed to excuse men for centuries. Bibliography Advisor, J. M. , Olga Softer, and Jake Page.
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