Gender roles have changed with the times; women have worked to strip themselves of the house wife ideal too become independent working women. Though the way we see women now didn’t just happen overnight, it came from years and years of challenging gender ideals. That’s why to truly understand genders roles of women in modern day society we have to go back into the past and examine what really shaped gender and how we have come to see gender today. To answer those questions, we will look back at hunter gatherer and Native American society’s all the way through to World Warl and the Cold war.
In early native American society’s their gender roles were defined on how each individual could help the community. Since they were hunter gathering society’s each gender had a vital role in the tribe, the women’s role in the community wasn’t to have children, but rather to be a part of the tribe government as well as be the ones who went out and foraged for goods and food. (Phoenix, 2016) Men at the time respected the women’s roles and had some of their own, they were to hunt for the food and to protect the tribe.
Though each gender had its role the most respected people of the tribe were those of “two spirits”, which means that that person was able to do both roles, for example they could weave a basket as well as hunt. (Phoenix, 2016) This kind of acceptance of “two spirited people” shows that there was no need for gender labels, that as long as a person could contribute to the tribe it didn’t matter what gender they were. (Phoenix,2016) There was also an understanding and equality between the genders which allowed them to work together and cohesively as a tribe.
Moving into the early modern ages, the gender roles found in Native American tribes had drastically changed, the once mobile communities were now becoming stationary, having more children, and farming instead of hunting and gathering. The switch to agriculture and stationary living changed women’s roles in the new communities that were forming. (Phoenix,2016) Instead of contributing to the community by going out and finding food women were now more home ridden, they were having more kids and were taking care of the homestead while their husbands were out in the fields.
This kind of domestic living led to a more governmental and patriarchal kind of society which put the position of a man and his sons higher than a woman. The idea of men being higher than a woman can relate back to religious and cultural ideas as well as how genders are viewed and treated. Asian religions like Hinduism and Buddhism both have similar beliefs when it comes to womens roles in their communities. Hinduists believe that women are inferior to men and that they had no place within the religious community, only men could be religious. Phoenix, 2016)
Hinduist goddess fortified the “house wife” ideal portraying women as delicate flowers or goddesses of the home. Buddhism on the other hand respected women and allowed them in religious positions but there was a catch, since men were so busy trying to achieve enlightenment women had to stay home and take care of the house and children. (Phoenix,2016) Both of these religions fortified the ideas of women as the home care taker and the primary parent. The more well know religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam take on similar ideas that the Asian religions had.
Within the Jewish religion women are secluded from religious practices and are positioned in domestic roles where their primary job is keeping the men kosher. (Phoenix, 2016) In Christianity women roles are based of the old testament of the story of Adam and eve which dictates women as being sinful and lesser than men. In the Islamic faith women are seen as lesser than the men and are house bound where they do domestic work and take care of their children. In all of these religions marriage was important and dictated the rules of men and women’s domestic coexistence.
In Judaism there was a contract called the Ketubah, this contract binded the men to the women and stated what each individual duties were in the marriage for example, Men would honor and support marriage and set aside money for the women if there ever divorced while the women would honor and be faithful to the man. (Phoenix, 2016) Though in Islam they didn’t have the Ketubah, they did have their own set of rules when it came to marriage for example, men have the right to divorce their wife whenever they wanted where the woman cannot. Keddie,2005).
The inequality that each religion and culture has created shows their influence in dictating women’s roles as well as influencing them as being seen as lesser than men and having less privileges. The prenuptial rules like the Ketubah and the ones put in place in the Islamic beliefs were not the only rules that stated the roles of women and men, there were also governmental rules like the Coverture laws and the Code Napoleon that dictated men and women’s relations to each other and to society.
In the 1756 the Coverture law was published in England, these laws stated that the “husband and wife are one person by law… the legal existence of a women is suspended”. (Blackstone, 1756) These laws, also called “feme-covert meant that the woman were under the protection of the man where she performs all her duties. (Blackstone, 2005) The French Code Napoleon of 1807 followed similar lines that the English laws did. The Code Napoleon had formed laws about marriage, divorce, and property division.
All of these laws primarily pertained to the husband as being the owner and provider of the wife, he was able to dictate where she could go and what she could do. (E. A. , 1993) Both of these governmental rules show that when bound by marriage the women’s role in society becomes unrecognized and she is to work beneath the man, while the man has more range and freedom in both the marriage and society. Moving into the 1900’s the world is deep within World War| where cities are becoming more militarized and the men are being sent out to war.
The draft for men was high and to motivate men to enlist they encouraged them through propaganda posters. These posters portrayed men in a very masculine dominant role encouraging young men to enlist in the army. (Phoenix, 2016) On the other hand, these posters represented women as the mother figure or wife that should stay home and encourage men to go off to war. These posters weren’t the only thing that presented gender differences. It was society itself that created the ideal of a Masculine army man and the gentile innocent woman.
But, later in the war women began fighting the ideal of a domestic housewife, they began working in within the military and in factories even though their roles were still less than men and they were generally paid less. Though women made great feats in trying to change their gender roles in society it was a return to domestic lifestyles for them when the Cold war came around. During this time suburbanization became the popular way of living because fear of bombing was huge in cities it was seen as safer to live in a more spread out living area. Phoenix,2016)
With Suburban living came the idea of the Suburban house wife along with new stereotypes influenced by the media and advertising. These advertisements portrayed women as ditsy, unintelligent and almost childlike for example, a car advertisement about a Volkswagen beetle was showing that no matter how bad of a driver a woman is the car is easy to fix. (Phoenix,2016) Looking from the early hunter gather communities all the way to the cold war has taken into account how societies have changed and how that change has influenced women’s roles and the way their gender is seen.
The way women are portrayed in the past just goes to show how far they have come now. They have persevered though ideals of being a domestic house wife, and of being seen as ditsy, weaker and lesser that a man. Woman now are now able to be independent and able to work side by side with their male counter parts. Though women’s work isn’t completely done in overcoming gender stereotypes, they will continue to work toward challenging gender ideals until equality is reached.