Women in Ancient Times: from Matriarchy to Patriarchy

2592 Words Sep 23rd, 1999 11 Pages
In addition to age, gender is one of the universal dimensions on which status differences are based. Unlike sex, which is a biological concept, gender is a social construct specifying the socially and culturally prescribed roles that men and women are to follow. Women have always had lower status than men, but the extent of the gap between the sexes varies across cultures and time.
<br>Images of women, mostly figurines of the same type as the "Venus" of Willendorf*, Lespugue** and Laussel*** (old statuettes representing obese women, women whose wombs and hips are extremely exaggerated) all dating to the Paleolithic period, far outnumber images of men. This has lead to speculation about the place of women in Stone Age society. Some
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In all these cultures the wife is dominant and the rules of "proper conduct" are quite shocking to the western culture. Almost all these societies practice what Briffault calls "clandestine marriage"; the position of the husband is one of a stranger, guest, or surreptitious visitor within the group to which his wife belongs. One of the Japanese words for marriage is "home-iri", which may be interpreted as "to slip by night into the house", and the expression accurately describes the mode of connubial intercourse among a large proportion of primitive peoples. The mother-in-law is treated with much circumspection and in some cases with even fear.
<br>The argument of the "primal matriarchy" was further articulated by, among others, Friedrich Engels in his book The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State published in 1884. Engels argued that the transition from primate societies to the earliest human social structure was achieved "by granting to solidarity a supreme importance which transcended even sexual competitiveness and jealousy". According to Engels, solidarity was achieved through "group marriage" where whole groups of kin-related women were collectively "married" to whole groups of men. Under these circumstances, only the mother of a child was known, so kinship tended to be traced through the female line, creating what Engels called a
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