Agricultural Revolution: The Role of Men and Women
The Neolithic revolution is considered the first agricultural revolution denoting the transition from foraging and hunting and gathering to settlement and agriculture. Foraging for plants that were wild and hunting animals that were also wild is regarded as the most historic form of patterns for human subsistence (Foraging web).
Because there are no written records of the transition
Period between 8000 and 5,000 BC when many animals were first domesticated and plants were cultivated on a regular basis, we cannot be certain why and how some peoples adopted these new ways of producing food and other necessities of life
The Agricultural Revolution also marked a significant transformation from the small groups of hunter-gatherers into more stable and sedentary societies that established towns and villages significantly different from operating in their natural environments. The changes from hunting and gathering to irrigation and food storage provided the foundation for greater population density settlements, trading economies, specialized and complex labor diversification, hierarchical ideologies and significant changes in the relationships between men and women.
It is not uncommon in hunting and gathering societies to assign various roles to men and women. Often, these decisions were made according to the task, the need for strength or agility or the need for a woman to attend to an infant. According to archaeological record, and certain generalizations derived from knowledge of previous cultures, small bands of men would attend to the larger wild animals because of the need for agility, strength, and sometimes the necessity to track for long periods of time, while women would complete more regular and steady work such as gathering small animals, seeds, fruits, roots, eggs, nuts and so on. Because there was no means during the time for the preservation of food stuffs, gathering was considered more consistent and stable than hunting (Bauer 2004, 13-14). Moreover, in the majority of circumstances, what was gathered made up roughly 75 to 80% of the total calories the individuals consumed (Hunting and Gathering web).
Although no society is completely ruled by either men or women (Bauer 2004, 15) there can be no total exclusion of the opposite sex from all positions, influence or power. Hunting and gathering societies have been historically considered egalitarian, with little private property for the development of individualized wealth. Most often, individuals in the small groups were related and mutually supportive of the efforts necessary for the groups' survival. Many consider that women were less subordinate in hunting societies as mutual respect was critical. Moreover, there was a noted lack of male exclusiveness or possessiveness regarding women in hunting and gathering societies as opposed to modern societies (Bauer 2004, 15). However, it is important to note that most of the information regarding these cultural and societal relationships is derived from anthropologists who can only interpret information in retrospect.
Changes in the relationship between men and women as a result of the agricultural revolution has been posited as a gradual process that primarily developed when private property developed; where men were in a better position to control the labor and control the labor of others (Engels 1942, 27). Others have asserted that because of the women's greater familiarity with plants, the transition capitalized on the skills women had and forced them to develop new skills in order to make planting, farming and harvesting more efficient (Childe 1942, 65). Women's contributions in the tools that were made for farming to the development of intoxicants are clear according to anthropological records (Bauer 2004, 33).
This influence was noted in many subsequent civilizations from China to Native America. Many matrilineal societies purportedly increased with the agricultural revolution; while assuredly some societies remained patrilineal. There has been a distinction made, however, between the earliest Neolithic and later Neolithic societies. Hawkes (1963) asserts that the earliest Neolithic societies "gave women the highest status she has ever known" (356-357). However, with the development of the plow by men and the power to physically harness animals the surplus of agriculture increase significantly, and in areas where that was the case, the power of men was asserted and societies became more patriarchal than they had been in the past. With this power came, husbands traded daughter, property was bequeathed to sons and complex codes of law developed that established the differentiation in status between men and women (Bauer 2004, 36).
Women and Civilizations
In Greek society, married life was for the procreation of legitimate children and attendance to the household. There were no notions of romanticized love as it is known in modern notions of marriage. According to Greek poet Palladas as quoted in Bauer (2004) "marriage brings a man only two happy days: the day he takes his bride to bed, and the day he lays her in her grave" (161). The society of women was subdivided: virginal daughters and sexless wives of the men of wealth and the prostitutes who were employed for the pleasures of men (Bauer 2004, 161). The hetaeraes, or prostitutes were more than simple sexual caveats, these women were trained to be independent and intellectual as well, and maintained their own households often becoming wealthy and influential in the process.
Because men still considered women inferior, despite their role, same sex love and romance was common in Greek society. In Greece, romance was considered a leisurely activity and the seeds of jealousy regarding young lovers were purportedly fostered in these relationships; however, these relationships with younger beardless men were considered social duty as the bonds between a man and his adolescent lover were so the youngster could be inspired and educated to take his rightful place in society (Bauer 2004, 170).
The Romans are said to have looked to the Greeks for how societal relationships should be managed. There were some differences in the two societies, though. The Romans seemed to be more focused on sex than love and so same sex lovers and prostitutes did not rate as highly within Roman society. Because sex was the goal, the wives of other prominent individuals' were most desired. Many of the original wives were still seen as vessels for procreation and management of the household. With those women who did engage in the game of adultery, there were as astute as many of the men according to historians (Bauer 2004, 174). There were however, some who developed romantic relationships for their own wives. Christianity introduced spiritual love into Roman society and many of the poorer and some of the wealthier Romans adopted the ideal of chastity in reverence to the new religion and God.
Sexuality was considered an important component of Indian religion since approximately 1500 BC (Bauer 2004, 178). Fertility in religion was determined very important. In Indian society attaining the goals of life, proper behavior, righteousness, duty, wealth, power, material well being, love, sex, fertility and final release were the tenets ascribed to. Successful matriculation through the first three levels of goals led to final release. Marriages in India were arranged primarily by the parents. The devoted wife was considered the ideal.
In medieval Europe, marriage was driven by a patriarchal system. Women had little if any choice in selecting their mate or when they would marry. There were many times when the women had no knowledge of who they were marrying. Men, on the other hand, did have choice as to who their mates would be. Marriage was considered more of a political arrangement than one based on romance or love. The parents were often the arrangers of the marriage with girls as young as 12 years old being betrothed boys as young as 16 and 17. The family was also responsible to provide a dowry to the boy's family.