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Gender Roles in Ancient Times

October 19, 2012

Many people are familiar with the age old picture of cave-dwellers: the hairy brute of a man, club in handing, dragging the unconscious female back to his slave. It is a rather humorous picture but not really very close to the reality.

Others are familiar with the Jane Auel volumes like Clan of the Cave Bear. And as picturesque a tale as it may seem, it too does not paint a true picture of the reality. Especially where the brooding cave male gets fed up with the new tribal member and rapes her in front of his buddies.

As much as many social historians may think this is a true picture of those harsh times, I disagree.

Why? On what do I base my interpretations?

Primarily, gut instinct. After years of studying ancient societies, and the different approaches males and females take toward things – and, yes, they really do think completely differently – the early stages of mankind’s past were ruled in what I would term a feminine structure.

The “mysteries” of the past come to us from every corner of the globe, the “earth-mother” cult was practically everywhere, and the later reiteration of how evil the female can – and repeated so often – seems like someone was trying to convince people of the fact.

Therefore, I assume the female were the dominant gender in early society.

But by “dominant” I do not mean an aggressive overlordship sort of thing. Even today, most mothers and housewives rule the home without having to raise an army or issue edicts.

The male of the tribe are the ones who went out and hunted. Do you think they did this because they were the strongest, bravest, or most capable? No. They did this because it was a dangerous undertaking and – let’s be realistic here – they were expendable. If a few men got lost it was a heartbreaking incident, of course, but life could continue. Without the women, there would be no more race. So the loss of a few males would be less of a hardship to the tribe’s security.

Another thing. Most people seem to think that cave-dwellers regularly went out and took down mastodons or woolly mammoths. They think this because of a few cave paintings. But what I want to know is if it was so commonplace, why would they memorialize it? No, they pictured it because it was rare, unusual, and a rather momentous undertaking. Would you paint a picture about going to the office daily? Heck no! But saving a person from a burning building? Absolutely! (Of course, then, some future historian would think we regularly pulled people from burning buildings as some sort of sacred ritual, I’d imagine.)

So, I believe the women ruled the tribe and the men were equal members with their own pre-set roles.

Next, let’s see how this plays out in a variety of different scenarios.

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