Analysis Of Gender Roles In Different Civilizations

2595 words - 11 pages

It is clear that throughout the Western tradition men and women occupied different roles in different civilizations. Separate rights and privileges were awarded to either sex based upon the places that their cultures designated for them. Though every culture had those that would (often justifiably) upset the order of things by challenging conventional gender roles, ultimately, one was more likely to be confined by the limitations of what society said one could do. Religion in particular tended to codify the separate treatment of men and women; it could not be easily defied, because of the divine power behind it. Although no two religions were quite the same, a few generalizations can be ...view middle of the document...

73 lines 8-10) Already, one can see female figures play a vital role in the day to day life of Uruk. Motherhood, a role intrinsically associated with women, is a prevalent theme throughout Gilgamesh. However, women do not exist only in nurturer capacities in Gilgamesh; Ishtar, goddess of love and war and patron of Uruk, comes before Gilgamesh first as a seductress, and when she is rejected throws a veritable temper tantrum and kills two hundred warriors in her fruitless vendetta against Gilgamesh. Regardless of whether her actions can be considered moral, Ishtar represents a powerful figure that pursues the things she desires with a single-minded determination and a disregard for the standards society sets before her; hardly the behavior of a sedate maternal figure. The women of Uruk also enjoyed the freedom of the use of their sexuality as a tool. While subsequent religions, monotheistic and polytheistic alike required women to have monogamous relations, Sumerian women celebrated their sexuality with characters like Shamhat, from Gilgamesh, a priestess who worshiped the goddess by lying with any who asked it of her. The freedom to use their bodies how they so desired without punishment from a male dominated world was a luxury seldom seen in the following millennium.
Judaism may be the twin of Uruk in antiquity, but that is one of the few similarities the two shared. Judaism is the oldest monotheistic religion known to man, and is one of the more rigid of the Abrahamic religions in reference to social positions of men and women. First, it should be noted that there is one God, and He is male; this instantly places Jewish men on a higher level than woman, for they are closer to God. In the Old Testament, woman is said to have been created from the flesh of man (Genesis, 2, line 22-25) which automatically places women in position of subjugation. Furthermore, in the story of Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, God places all the guilt of the corruption of humankind on Eve and females in general, further assigning men a greater place of power by dictating that they shall “rule over” their wives forevermore. (Gen 3-4, lines 16-17). Jewish men are also permitted to have multiples wives and are generally allowed to choose their brides; a luxury that was not afforded in any way to women. The role that a women was expected to fill was remarkably static. There was no changing from mother to warrior to priestess in Jewish society, as there was in Uruk; Jewish women were expected to be silent, obedient figures that worshiped their husbands almost as much as they did God. Masculine roles of religious and societal leadership were forbidden to women.
Egypt was a nation that was subject to change if for no other reason than sheer longevity; any culture that went on for so long a time was going to experience transformation of some sort. The gods the Egyptians worshiped reflected this constant evolution; they changed in roles and importance over time. In general,...

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