Why Are Women Subjugated?
There is an interesting historical perspectives about subjugation and it suggests that women were not always subjugated. Now granted, when we reach very far back in history we cannot always be sure about the validity of the information but it seems intriguing.
Were Cavemen Rapists or Nasty Mysogynists?
There is the recurrent image of the caveman dragging a woman off by her hair but it may be that for many of them life was quite different. One line of thought says that the men were often off hunting. Remember the hunter-gatherer? Well, yes, the men were hunters and the women gatherers. Since they didn’t have access to birth control pills they were often back at the cave with the kids and took them out to gather. The hunt might be unproductive or worse and what they gathered was generally believed to be central to sustaining the tribe. It may be there was a good partnership.
Adrienne Mayor’s book The Amazons was truly an interesting encyclopedia. Once upon a time I thought Amazons were mythological women warriors. Not really. Amazons were the women of the nomadic and semi nomadic tribes of the area that includes the Steppes east of the ancient mediterranean societies. They were skilled horsewomen (women do better with horses) and fought alongside their men just like the Viking Women.
It seems when we go back in history and search cultures we find that the subjugation of women was far from universal. Of course, true equality may have also been illusive in many circumstances as it is among races and tribes.
The Agricultural Revolution
Then came the agricultural revolution in the Middle East. Evidently there was then the need for more workers and that meant more children were needed. Perhaps this was the beginning of the subjugation of women because of the needs. Naturally all of this can be taken with a grain of salt but the possibilities are interesting.
In fact, I remember sitting in class mesmerized listening to the anthropologist Leslie White when he pointed out that slavery began when people started to be able to produce more than they needed personally. If all you can do is sustain yourself then there is no point in having a slave.
Plenty Is Not Enough
It is truly intriguing that what happened to women and many peoples may have been a function of surpluses. Suddenly subjugation of all kinds became rewarding to those who managed to be in power. Then came kings, despots, dictators and oligarchs. For many of them what wealth and power they held was never enough. Moving beyond subsistence and survival can have wholly new effects.
Then culture gets stamped in. How it has been becomes how it will be. Now comes our capacity to examine and reconsider.