What Is The Role Of Women


I have greatly enjoyed this art of blogging –though I DO wish the name were different, it conotates a less mature effort than I think it is–that has allowed me to explore, connect and think about so many more issues in so many more ways than I otherwise would have.

How could people even as recently as 1995 been able to stay abreast of the current issues of the day like we do now?  Amazing.

Anyway, as is the nature of this thing we do, I was reading a post over at Poison Your Mind and the conversation turned in a very unexpected way/.  The post  had to do with the fact that the current crop of Republican governors are far more conservative than the constituency that elected them.  All this while the current Democrat governors were much more closely aligned.  Fascinating stuff.  Go read the whole thing.

However, we began discussing whether the current GOP governors were more fiscally conservative or socially.  I suspect that its the former, PYM felt otherwise.  And a quick discussion over some social issues took place with a comment that made me stop:

That’s because the pro-life movement is interested in preventing abortions, it’s about government mandating of traditional gender roles.

True?

I don’t think so, but, to be fair – I’m not on the inside.  However, I do talk a ton of politics and I’ve never heard anyone claim that women are uppity or out of place or should be back at home in kitchen.  In fact, most of my friends and peers, albeit we are white collar, have wives that are faster, smarter and stronger than we are.  For example, while I have a fantastic career my wife is the primary bread winner in the family.  And I don’t think anything could be further from the truth.

I’m against the abortions I’m against because I think it violates the Liberty of the child.  It has nothing to do with the role of women.  But….speaking of the role of women, do you know what MIGHT have to do with the role of women?

Farming:

FERNAND BRAUDEL, a renowned French historian, once described a remarkable transformation in the society of ancient Mesopotamia. Sometime before the end of the fifth millennium BC, he wrote, the fertile region between the Tigris and the Euphrates went from being one that worshipped “all-powerful mother goddesses” to one where it was “the male gods and priests who were predominant in Sumer and Babylon.” The cause of this move from matriarchy, Mr Braudel argued, was neither a change in law nor a wholesale reorganisation of politics. Rather, it was a fundamental change in the technology the Mesopotamians used to produce food: the adoption of the plough.

The plough was heavier than the tools formerly used by farmers. By demanding significantly more upper-body strength than hoes did, it gave men an advantage over women. According to Mr Braudel, women in ancient Mesopotamia had previously been in charge of the fields and gardens where cereals were grown. With the advent of the plough, however, farming became the work of men. A new paper* by Alberto Alesina and Nathan Nunn of Harvard University and Paola Giuliano of the University of California, Los Angeles, finds striking evidence that ancient agricultural techniques have very long-lasting effects.

Long after most people have stopped tilling the land for a living, the economists find, their views about the economic role of women seem to line up with whether their ancestors ploughed or whether they hoed. Women descended from plough-users are less likely to work outside the home, to be elected to parliament or to run businesses than their counterparts in countries at similar levels of development who happen to be descended from hoe-users. The research reinforces the ideas of Ester Boserup, an economist who argued in the 1970s that cultural norms about the economic roles of the sexes can be traced back to traditional farming practices.

Absolutely fascinating.

Because a plow can better be handled by a man, the agriculture shifted from female dominated to male dominated.  As such, the gods of the day shifted and the society changed from a matriarch to a patriarch.

Maybe I’m just a Democrat in a Republican’s body?

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12 comments
  1. reflectionephemeral said:

    First off, snazzy new look you have here at the blog. (Sorry if it isn’t actually super new; I wasn’t online much the past week-plus).

    Second off, that comment you respond to here was the last thing I wrote before I went to bed; the first thing I did when I got up this morning was to edit it, to remove the “government mandating of” part (before I realized you’d already responded there on the thread). I don’t think that people are running around saying out loud, or even thinking, “women belong in the kitchen.” I think that people genuinely oppose to abortion.

    I do believe that a pro-life movement concerned primarily with preventing damage to fertilized eggs would behave very differently than the one we have.

    They would be pushing for expanded availability & access to prenatal health care, working to ameliorate poverty, and of course for expanded availability & access to contraception. The US, after all, has probably the most energetic anti-abortion movement, and just about the highest abortion rate in the industrialized world. Changing these conditions couldn’t hurt the abortion rate.

    But that’s not what we see from the pro-life movement.

    This hypothetical pro-life movement concerned with preventing abortions would look to the experience of the world to see what works. I am not linking this, ’cause I want to post it w.o heading into moderation, but it’s obviously Google-able:

    a country’s abortion rate is not closely correlated with whether abortion is legal there. For example, abortion levels are quite high in Latin American countries, where abortion is highly restricted. (In fact, 20 million of the 46 million abortions performed annually worldwide occur in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws.) At the same time, abortion rates are quite low throughout Western Europe, where the procedure is legal and widely available. Also, Eastern and Western Europe have the world’s highest and lowest abortion rates, respectively, yet abortion is generally legal throughout the Continent.

    So, reducing abortion is about changing context, not changing laws. But that’s not what the pro-life movement is about.

    What’s more, we don’t see protests (or shootings) at IVF clinics, which discard thousands (I think) of embryos each year.

    And consider how many pregnancies don’t wind up leading to births:

    From the NIH: “It is estimated that up to half of all fertilized eggs die and are lost (aborted) spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she is pregnant. Among those women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is about 15-20%. Most miscarriages occur during the first 7 weeks of pregnancy. The rate of miscarriage drops after the baby’s heart beat is detected.”

    We don’t see the pro-life movement trying to reduce spontaneous abortions, nor trying to reduce medical abortions.

    It compels the conclusion that there’s something else animating the movement.

    • pino said:

      First off, snazzy new look you have here at the blog.

      Thanks, brand new. Added last night.

      I do believe that a pro-life movement concerned primarily with preventing damage to fertilized eggs would behave very differently than the one we have.

      I think there’s two movements. One like I described over at your place. A reasonable allowance for the “day after” situation and then again for victim of crime or health to mother or child. I don’t know anyone that would force a mother not to take chemotherapy if she developed cancer during her term. Knowing that the process would end the child’s life, that decision is the mother’s. Same for those cases where the doctor determines the child is going to be born with that condition where life is more of a plant like existence than a human.

      Then there are the whackos playing to the base. No abortion for any reason ever.

      As an insider, these conservatives are after the irresponsible folks who are having recreational sex and would rather terminate the child than care for it.

      We don’t see the pro-life movement trying to reduce spontaneous abortions, nor trying to reduce medical abortions.

      These people, remember, are in tune to the “Circle of Life” that is commonly refereed to as “The Will of God”. If given the opportunity to prevent spontaneous abortions, they will in the same manner that they would move to reduce fatal car crashes or cancer incidence. That they don’t protest car companies that make cars capable of 0-60 in 4.2 doesn’t mean they don’t love male children between the ages of 16-22.

      • reflectionephemeral said:

        I don’t know anyone that would force a mother not to take chemotherapy if she developed cancer during her term.

        Well, but I don’t care about people you know (in this context! Actually, I hope they’re all doing well).

        I care about the policies that the GOP and the pro-life movement are implementing.

        We know that they are diminishing the availability of contraception and pap smears in states like Indiana and New Hampshire. Republican bills in Utah and Georgia would allow prosecution of women for miscarriages, in circumstances exactly or very much like the scenario you’re talking about.

        This isn’t an abstract debate. It’s a question of the policies the pro-life movement is trying to implement. Sparing fetuses is not their priority.

      • pino said:

        We know that they are diminishing the availability of contraception and pap smears in states like Indiana and New Hampshire. Republican bills in Utah and Georgia would allow prosecution of women for miscarriages, in circumstances exactly or very much like the scenario you’re talking about.

        Where that is happening it should be addressed. In so far as we agree on public health monies, and I stipulate that we might not, those services should be provided. The tragedy is that organizations like PP take the stance that they’ll do all or none. They won’t divide their organization into two.

      • Moe said:

        pino, PP is right not to divide their organization into two – if they put abortion services into a serperate clinic, that would expose the patients to whatever. It would put an ‘A’ on thier backs.

        PP offers reproductive health services and counseling to women and last time I looked, abortion was still a perfectly legal medical service.

  2. reflectionephemeral said:

    Oh, as to what was viewed as “moral” & “natural” in various pre-modern societies, that’s genuinely fascinating.

    But it’s not too useful to us, determining what is best conceived as moral in our society today.

    I mean, it was “natural” in I think 100% of human societies 100 years ago for husbands to beat their wives. And we didn’t get majority support for interracial marriage in the US until the 1990s. “This is the way things are and have been” is an erratic moral compass.

    • Moe said:

      In 17th and 18th century America, there were few laws against abortion, most of which forbade it after ‘the quickening’ – usually around 4-5 months. I don’t know when exactly it became illegal.

  3. Braudel was mostly right. However,early Neolithic cultures in the fertile crescent were more egalitarian than matriarchal. It was a combination of the plow and large domesticated animals that transitioned farming into the hands of the men. Once larger scale farming became successful, and villages grew in size to coincide with the growth in a readily available food source, personal property, along with patriarchy came into play.

    • pino said:

      It was a combination of the plow and large domesticated animals that transitioned farming into the hands of the men.

      Fascinating stuff, huh? I never would have thought that the need to handle large plows and the big strong animals that pulled ’em would change the way we elect Presidents.

      Strange world this.

  4. Moe said:

    pino, I’m a long time woman . . . so here are my thoughts on your (very good) post:

    I am pro-choice, almost militantly so, for two reasons:

    first, because I don’t believe any law is going to stop abortions (in my youth I saw too many of my ocntemporaries suffer the effets of back alley abortions) and

    second, it’s not the business of the state. At least not until viability. Far too many arguments are religious.

    But on the larger issue ,women’s place in society vis a vis the abortion ‘wars’, I agree with that comment above (if I understand it correctly). I do beleive that many many of those who are pro life are sincere and beleive they are fighting a moral battle, But not all. The fundamentalists who inform that movement are almost entirely male dominated. They have Bibical perspectives and they don’t like feminism or gender equality, not at all. I grew up Catholic but left that church early on when it’s mysogyny became apparent. The power and money behind the anti abortion movement shares those values. They really do think women have become too ‘uppity’.

    Look at sexual attitudes in that community and I swear I detect a detrermination to punish women because they’ve started admitting that they enjoyed sex.

    I wish I could drop a photo in here but I don’t know how dammit, so let me refer you to an old post of mine which has a pix of the leaders of the religious right. (sorry to be blogwhorey here . . . )

    http://maureenholland.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/david-barton-belongs-in-a-tent-in-tennessee-in-1911-but-hes-a-right-wing-fav-instead-just-like-pastor-john-hagee-who-says-the-catholic-church-is-the-anti-christ-oh-i-could-go-on-i-do-go/

    • pino said:

      I’m a long time woman

      Love it; awesome!

      I don’t believe any law is going to stop abortions (in my youth I saw too many of my ocntemporaries suffer the effets of back alley abortions)

      I hope that society is moving past the issues that may have caused those abortions. Teen pregnancy, out of wed lock pregnancy and even inter-racial unions. I hope, and think, that the negative stigma associated with those conditions is fading.

      I do beleive that many many of those who are pro life are sincere and beleive they are fighting a moral battle

      Moral is that we are asking that the child’s life be accounted for. She has the proper expectation of life.

      The fundamentalists who inform that movement are almost entirely male dominated. They have Bibical perspectives and they don’t like feminism or gender equality, not at all.

      Agreed. There is too much Bible thumping for my taste.

      Now, feminism and feminists…?

      Very VERY many of the women leading this charge are as unattractive as the far right extreme Bible thumpers. I enjoy and recognize feminism…..I really don’t like most active feminists! If that makes sense.

      By the way, you can link back to you anytime! You’re one of the good guys gals!

      • Moe said:

        You are too kind sir.

        Re feminism and feminists: like any movement or cause, some of the people who make the most noise are not particularly representative of those they think they speak for. But that being said . . . feminism in the 1970’s was serious stuff, really militant and greatly disturbed traditional society. Constant marches in the street, the brief season of symbolic ‘bra burning’. I remember when the first woman anchor apeared doing news on teevee, and we just oculdn’t get our heads around it – it was radical. Women on teevee were only supposed to do the weather and commercials for home products. It was a big big change. And when Barbra Streisand directed her first movie, the rhetoric was hateful – women knew what it was all about. It was about her stepping out of her place. They called it other things, but that was what it was really about.

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