According to a popular myth in the patriarchal cultures of the West, the biological act of giving birth to a child has always limited woman's activities, and thus, because of either this limitation or her innate inferiority, woman has contributed little or nothing to the development of human society. Another widely circulated myth is that women have achieved their highest status in the Western industrialized world. But when we go back to our human beginnings and then look at the role and status of woman in some non-Western societies, we find that neither myth has any substance.
For about two million years human beings lived by hunting and gathering their food. Males hunted the wild animals, and females gathered the wild plants. Then, about 10,000 years ago, at the beginning of the Neolithic or New Stone Age, man began to domesticate the animals he hunted, and woman began to cultivate the plants she gathered.
- It is generally accepted that owing to her ancient role as the gatherer of vegetable foods, woman was responsible for the invention and development of agriculture. Modern analogies indicate that so long as the ground was prepared by hoeing and not by ploughing woman remained the cultivator.
The invention of agriculture was a revolution of the greatest significance because it radically altered the way human beings had lived since they were protomen. Now for the first time there was the need and the leisure to develop textiles and pottery. These were also invented by woman, who planted the flax that she spun and made into clothes for the family, and who fashioned the containers for the grains she collected, reaped, stored, and cooked. »It has never been doubted that . . . pottery was both shaped and decorated by women«.
Only when plants were cultivated and surplus food was available could non farming specialists improve tools and invent writing and all the arts and sciences that were the prerequisites for civilization. No wonder then that with the invention of agriculture woman enjoyed greater esteem. Probably »the earliest Neolithic societies throughout their range in time and space gave woman the highest status she has ever known«. The widespread remains of the shrines and the clay figurines of the Mother Goddess indicate that woman was venerated »in nearly all Neolithic peasant settlements from Southwest Asia to Britain« and testify to her primary economic and religious importance. The woman with the hoe was linked with the fecundity of the earth not only because she herself bore children, but because she also caused the earth to bear fruit. »Clearly the divinity so universally honored by the early Neolithic farming communities was identified with the earth where the dead seed is buried and lives again«. The basic contributions of woman to the development of civilization are curiously overlooked by the anthropologist Ashley Montagu, when he enumerates the activities that account for the creativity of prehistoric man and the limitations of prehistoric woman.
But in the very civilizations that she played so essential a part in producing, the status of woman changed drastically with the emergence of male rulers and priests, urban life and military conquests. The earliest written records from the Middle East and from ancient Egypt, Babylonia, Greece, and Rome all show that these civilizations, the fountainheads of Western culture, were patriarchal. In these patriarchal civilizations men dominated women, treated them as property, and valued them only for their childbearing function, which at the same time they regarded as a handicapping weakness.
In many non-Western cultures the status of woman remained high, but these cultures came to the attention of the Western word only a little more than a century ago, when anthropology was born. The anthropologists of this period were extremely interested in the position of woman and the relations between the sexes in the various cultures; in fact, their interest in these subjects was singular in view of the sexual puritanism that prevailed at the time. Their initial sources were the reports of travelers, explorers, and missionaries, who were ethnocentric and prejudiced to an extreme and provided more insight into the views of their own society than into the primitive cultures little better than that of animals or slaves, bought and sold by their husbands and masters.
they discussed. From the vantage point of Victorian culture the status of women in the »primitive« societies was However, when the anthropologists emerged from the libraries and went into the field, they found a vast array of cultures, in which the status of women varied widely. In some of the more highly developed societies, women were indeed little more than chattels, but among the Australian aborigines, technologically the most primitive of peoples, men and women were in the fullest sense partners. Thus, ethnographic data that were collected scientifically showed very clearly that the status of woman was not an index of technological advance. The notion that woman's status was directly correlated with the technological and cultural level of a society was very popular among some eminent Victorian social scientists. Herbert Spencer, for one, claimed that »perhaps in no way is the moral progress of mankind more clearly shown than by contrasting the position of women among savages with their position among the most advanced of the civilized«. Influenced by the Darwinian theory of biological evolution, the early anthropologists set up various cultural evolutionary schema which related the status of woman to the stages of family development. They represented the earliest peoples as living in promiscuous sexual hordes, which later developed into matriarchal societies where the fathers of children were unknown, and finally culminated in the monogamous patriarchal family. This family, characteristic of Europe, was, of course, depicted as the highest stage achieved by civilization thus far, and in this family woman had reached the ultimate status. With little data available to them, the anthropologists had no way of knowing that the position of women in Europe and America as recently as the late nineteenth century differed in only minor details from that of the Near Eastern women of four or five thousand years earlier.
- It is significant that, dissatisfied as European man was with most aspects of his cultural patrimony, he found nothing to be changed or improved in connection with the traditional status of women. Consequently, while he devoted prodigious energy to introducing successive improvements into practically all of the cultural realms bequeathed to him by preceding generations ... he left untouched the ancient rules that governed the position of women and the relationship between women and men. . . . Even after the abolition of serfdom and slavery, men felt no shame at keeping women in a state of subjugation.
It is now clearly recognized that the status of woman in any society, preliterate or literate, reflects and is integrated with all of its values and institutions. The most important clue to woman's status anywhere is her degree of participation in economic life and her control over property and the products she produces, both of which factors appear to be related to the kinship system of a society. The basic types of kinship systems are bilateral, patrilineal, and matrilineal. In the bilateral community children of both sexes inherit the name and property of either or both parents and form a new family upon marriage, separate from either set of parents. In the patrilineal community descent and property are inherited through males. Patrilineal societies are also usually patriarchal and patrilocal; that is, men do the governing, and women go to live with or near the husband's family, or go with the husband wherever he chooses or needs to live. Matrilineal societies are also generally matrilocal, for the husbands go to live with or near the wife's family. But matrilineal societies are not now truly matriarchal, for even when descent and property are inherited through the female line, the political and religious powers are rarely in the hands of women. Thus, it is nonsense to call the United States a matriarchy, as has so often been done in recent years.
- In the United States women take their husbands' names and the children bear their fathers' names. Women are expected to live where their husbands elect to live, and refusal to do so is tantamount to desertion. Men are liable for the support of their wives and children, and women are not liable for the support of their husbands. . . . The basic legal assumption is that a woman as a minor is dependent upon her father, and thereafter upon her husband. In our legal forms we are a patrimonial, patrilineal, patrilocal and ... for the most part, a patriarchal society.
There are now many fewer matrilineal than patrilineal societies in the world, but »there is much to show that formerly matrilineal descent and matrilineal marriage were general«. And »there is every reason to suppose that under the conditions of the primary Neolithic way of life mother-right and the clan system were still dominant and land would generally have ascended through the female line«.
According to British anthropologist E. E. Evans-Pritchard, »matrilineal societies . . . are not found among any of the great civilizations of the world, which have all been patriarchal«. But Jacquetta Hawkes and Sir Leonard Woolley, also British anthropologists, find evidence of matrilineal descent in the great civilizations »in the background of Egyptian and Homeric society, while among the Cretans the position of women seems to have remained exceptionally high«. Many matrilineal societies reached high levels of social and political development, and typically they are far from primitive.
Matrilineal societies also appear to be more peace-loving and cooperative, less competitive and militaristic than the patrilineal societies, and »there are facts pointing definitely to the close connection between communal ownership and mother-right, on the one hand, and individual ownership and father-right, on the other hand.« Certainly the status of woman is higher in the matrilineal than in the patrilineal societies. Where women own property and pass it to their daughters or sisters, they are far more influential and secure. Where their economic role is important and well defined, as it generally is in the matrilineal societies, they are not nearly so subject to male domination, and they have much more freedom of movement and of action.
Matrilineal descent and marriage still prevail »among many societies in North America and Africa and among the Dravidians of India; relics ... persist in Melanesia, Micronesia and Indonesia«. The position of woman in some of these cultures illustrates the vast difference between woman's status in the matrilineal and patrilineal societies, as well as the impact of the patriarchal religions and conquering peoples upon matrilineal institutions.
Among the many matrilineal cultures in North America the Pueblo Indians are outstanding for the value they place upon peace and cooperation. These Indians are the descendants of seed-gathering peoples who established a desert culture about 11 000 years ago in the Southwest, and the culture of their direct farming ancestors dates back about 4 000 years.
In Arizona the Hopi (a word which means »people of peace«), one of the better-known Pueblo peoples, »appear to represent human society ... as it seems to have been during the New Stone Age«. In the face of intense and continuous environmental pressures, such as a precarious water supply, drought, sand storms, floods, and frost, the Hopi not only solved the problem of group survival, but »evolved a marvelously well adjusted social system«. They are »the most fully developed and integrated individuals existing anywhere on this planet,« and »more than any other native group in the Western hemisphere,« they have »resisted the disintegrative pressures of coercive officials and proselytizing priests of an alien white civilization«.
The social unit is the clan, consisting of groups of families headed by older active women and including their sisters, and all their descendants, their brothers and all the male descendants, but excluding relatives by marriage. The group is a democratic unit resembling the ancient Greek city state, independent and self-sufficient. Leaders and people are closely associated, public opinion is very powerful, and decisions usually result from unanimous consent. Privilege does not exist; every individual is responsible for the welfare of the whole, and functions both independently and cooperatively within the society, which is »directed from within and not by outside coercions«.
The clan collectively owns the springs, gardens, and farm land, but the children, the house, the food, and furnishings belong to the group of women within the clan. Thus, the Hopi women own everything of any value except livestock, »and a Hopi woman has social and economic security independent of her marital status«. The system gives priority and responsibility to women for the goals of »health and life, with no room for thoughts of war and death«. »Each sex has its place in a well balanced society«. The men farm, herd, hunt, and collect fuel, and contribute the products of their labor to the female households to which they belong, but their primary and most cherished activity is ceremonial preparation and the enactment of ritual. While a woman is the head of the clan, her brother is the ceremonial head, and he joins with other male members of secret religious societies to perform rituals connected with communal welfare and their view of nature. Hopi pottery, baskets, ceremonial garments and masks are »strikingly beautiful« and express their religious feeling, which is dramatized in song, dance, poetry, and mythology.
We see here expressed in actual practice much of the old accumulated understanding of human values that early man acquired over a long period of time, retained by the Hopi in an almost unsullied form but over-ridden elsewhere by intrusive forces.
Children are benevolently guided by their parents, siblings, and their many aunts and uncles. They develop personalities which are »quietly poised, serenely content, inwardly intense and intellectually adept at problem-solving«. On intelligence tests the average Hopi child is »very intelligent, highly observant, and capable of complex, abstract thinking«.
Aside from environmental pressures, Hopi survival is most threatened by the evangelical missionary, especially »the Mennonite, in his most uncompromising and destructive form«. To the extent that he is successful, the Hopi world is scarred by the familiar stigmata of the outside world, »anxiety, personality disturbance, and a tendency to social disruption«. »The missions teach above all the doctrine of original sin and the threat of deferred punishment, of subordination of the spirit and mind of man to an unwarranted feeling of guilt«.
The culture has been able to withstand the assaults upon it with remarkable strength, but in the long run »the Hopi as such have about as much chance of survival under modern pressures as the Whooping Cranes and Trumpeter Swans«. The communal ownership of land among all the Indian peoples was alien to the individualistic European settlers and their American descendants, but they were particularly confused and irritated when they found that the women in the matrilineal cultures owned and worked the soil, and they have done everything in their power to destroy or »civilize« the Indians. »To be outstandingly different, particularly if beautiful and defenseless, is to invite destruction in these days of advanced and intolerant civilizations, and the Hopi have been as much under fire as any other rare and beautiful creation«.
On the other side of the world, women generally have low status in the patriarchal civilizations of India, China, and Japan and in the Islamic cultures. But in parts of Southeast Asia, in Burma, Indonesia, and Sub-Saharan Africa, women have had more freedom and equality than in many regions of Europe and Asia.
- These cultures have traditionally included freedoms which, in other parts of the world, women have only recently begun to enjoy or aspire to. Outstanding among these is the sexual liberty of women in certain African societies, and the important roles women play in commercial activities in both Africa and Southeast Asia.
In these cultures the military power and the ideologies of the conquering peoples and their patriarchal world religions had a great impact on the position of women. In each culture, however, the foreign influences were variously assimilated by the different local traditions. Whereas in India the status of women degenerated under Hinduism, it flourished under the same religion in many parts of the Indonesian archipelago. Women often ruled over Java, for centuries the center of a mighty Hindu empire, as well as over Sumatra and the Celebes Islands, and married women played an important part in the religious, family, and village councils. The Indonesian islands had long since developed distinctive regional cultures with different kinship systems, but whether in patrilineal, matrilineal, or bilateral communities, women acquired property, retained their claim to it in marriage, and were sure of some legal redress in case of marital injustice.
The traditional high status of the Indonesian woman was also affected by Islam, Christianity, and a European colonial government. Islam was introduced into the islands via trade routes leading to Java in the thirteenth century.
When the Portuguese and the Dutch began to trade with the archipelago in the sixteenth century they tried to introduce Christianity by force of arms. But most of the people had already accepted Islam, which was now embraced by the native rulers as they attempted to unify their subjects in resistance to the Europeans.
Because of their important and active participation in the economy, the Indonesian women could not be veiled or segregated, as in other Muslim countries, but Islam did introduce polygamy and divorce by means of repudiation. Since a Muslim man may contract polygamous marriage only if he is able to provide equal support for each wife and her children, polygamy is generally a luxury of the wealthy upper classes in Islamic cultures. But in Indonesia the lower-class man modified polygamy into a kind of serial monogamy by using repudiation to rid himself of a wife and to marry again and again. However, the effect of polygamy and repudiation on women depended on the kinship system of the respective communities.
Most of the sedentary Indonesians are rice-growing farmers, with »mixed« or kitchen gardens associated with the matrilineal and the bilateral communities. Where the chief occupation is pastoral cattle breeding, from which women everywhere are excluded, a patrilineal system prevails and the mixed gardens are absent. In these communities the bridegroom's family pays a substantial bride price to the bride's family, which also provides the bride with a dowry of equal value when she goes to live with her husband's family. Because the bride price would be totally lost if the wife were divorced and sent back to her family, and the dowry would return with her, the divorce rate in the patrilineal communities is the lowest in Indonesia.
In the matrilineal communities the husband lives with his wife's family. Since her services are still available to her family and she is still entitled to her share of the family estate, which is owned jointly by the women, neither a bride price nor a dowry is paid. The wife's eldest brother is responsible for her children's education, and her husband protects his own sister's children. In case of divorce the woman in the matrilineal community is physically and economically secure, for she continues to live with her own family, retains her property rights, and is also entitled to her share of the goods acquired by common effort during the marriage.
In the bilateral community each married couple forms a new nuclear family which is separated from both the wife's and the husband's families, and the divorced woman does not have an extended family to which she can return. However, she may inherit cultivatable land, including the mixed gardens, and she retains the personal property she owned when she was married or that she acquired after marriage. Also, the belief prevails that »by running the home, a wife helps her husband to earn his living and is consequently entitled to her share of the family in-come«.
In both the matrilineal and bilateral communities, the divorce rate is very high, sometimes as high as 50 percent. This is blamed on polygamy and repudiation, but in the Muslim Middle East, where women are much more subordinate and restricted than in Indonesia, as well as in the Indonesian patrilineal communities, the divorce rate is considerably lower.
In all three kinship systems in Indonesia, the woman owns property which provides her with a personal income and a measure of economic independence. In the matrilineal and bilateral communities the woman cultivates her mixed gardens and markets the surplus fruit and vegetables. In the patrilineal communities, the woman's dowry may consist of a plot of land which she may not sell but may use to grow products for the market. She also sells the textiles and pottery she makes and retains the money she earns for her own personal use. In Indonesia the markets are full of women traders.
The ninety-six million Indonesians are mainly Muslim, but about four and a half million are Christian; in the Christian communities, where bilateral kinship and the monogamous family prevail, the women were emancipated at an early period and have equal rights with the men.
Under the Dutch colonial administration population increased rapidly, land became scarce, and many of the traditional communities were disrupted. They were further disorganized by the Japanese occupation and the revolution for independence, in which Indonesian women fought beside the men in Java and Sumatra. (The Christian women had their own battalion.) In 1941 the Dutch granted women the right to vote and to hold elective office, and more girls were educated. After independence the women were even more active economically in the cities; »25 percent of adult urban women have jobs, a unique figure for a Moslem country«. But while the Indonesian woman has full civil rights and with increasing education is entering the professions, »masculine opinion has proved reluctant to admit her right to equal treatment in the matter of marriage«. Repudiation is blamed for the insecurity of married women, growing disintegration of the family, and neglect of the children, especially in the cities.
The major goals of the Indonesian women's movement are the abolition of polygamy and increased vocational training to secure the economic independence of all women. In both rural and urban areas the women's movement has organized very successful economic enterprises, including savings banks run by and for women. In Indonesian society the woman is pivotal. »It is she and not the man who is the permanent and essential element«.
A women's movement exists in most countries that discriminate against women, but in Burma there is no nationwide organization of women as such, and no movement to improve their status, for Burmese women retain their traditional full equality with men. In Burma rights for women are an integral part of traditional Buddhism and can be understood only in the context of the values and institutions of the culture both before and after the changes imposed by the West.
Burma has been called »a community of equals,« and equality was an integral component of all its institutions. The king and his officials held certain traditional powers, but they were arbitrators, not judges, and they referred to the law books only for guidance. They did not interfere with the daily lives of the people, who lived predominantly in rural villages under a hereditary headman. The authority of the headman, like that of the king, rested on his ability to guide and arbitrate, not to coerce. With very little crime and few quarrels or litigations, there was, in fact, no need to coerce. And there were few means of coercion, for Burma had no army, no regular police, and very few prisons.
Buddhist civilization, which is very sophisticated in religious and social matters, does not value technological advance, and technologically Burma was simple. Neither very poor nor very rich, the people were civilized, literate, artistic, and gay. The land belonged to the family as a whole and could not be mortgaged, nor could any part of it be alienated by a family member. If it was sold the family had the right to redeem it. The land was very fertile, and the Burmese enjoyed cultivating it.
Village life was focused on the monastery, and the monks were very powerful, respected even by the king. Traditionally the education of all males was in their hands; this education, egalitarian by precept and example, included literacy, discipline, and principles of morality and inter-person relations. The central religious principle was to increase in merit so as to be reincarnated at a higher stage and finally to be liberated entirely from the flesh, from the necessity to be born again. Merit was accumulated by giving, by doing good deeds. The best way of spending money was to give to charity as an act of merit. Thus, religion redistributed the wealth and prevented hoarding, which the Burmese detested. The individual was responsible for his own state or fate, since everyone was capable of deeds of merit and therefore could rise in status along a known path. Thus, Buddhism strengthened and advanced the individual. The Burmese were very independent, believing strongly in the inviolability of the individual, in personal worth and integrity. But this type of individual responsibility precluded concern for the welfare of others, and the Burmese did not try to proselytize their religion or way of life.
Work was performed voluntarily and without anxiety and was a virtue only when done deliberately as an act of merit. Work in itself was not valued; neither was living off the labor of others. Making money in order to gain material wealth was not an important part of life, since only accumulated personal merits helped one to reach a higher stage of reincarnation.
No one needed save against illness or old age because all had security through the family and the village. Parents took care of their children, and children supported parents in their old age as a matter of course. The Burmese enjoyed family life; everyone wanted children, but not in order to continue the family name, for only the individual was reincarnated. Traditionally family names did not exist; only personal names were important. Thus, Burma was neither a matrimonial nor a patrimonial society.
The patterns of equality that characterized the political and religious life of Burma were also basic to the position of women. Although theoretically they had somewhat less status than men, in practice they were fully equal and did not depend on men except as all members of a family were interdependent. The women did much of the farming and made up half the trading labor force of Burma. Almost every house had a little shop, which was also a place in which to socialize, and each house had its own loom on which both men and women wove beautiful fabrics. The houses were small and sparsely furnished and housework - which the women did - was light.
The men paid a bride price to the wife's family, which is a customary compensation wherever women do most of the farming. However, men and women had the same legal rights in marriage and divorce. Wives kept their own names and wore no sign of their married status. Husbands had no power over their wives' property, whether brought as a dowry, inherited, or earned. The women acted on their own behalf, handled their own property, and participated in family affairs. When the husband was absent, his wife acted for him and would sell an entire rice crop to an English agent. »Men consulted their wives and women deferred to their husbands«.
When, in the nineteenth century, the British brought a money economy and Western political and educational values into Burma, the Burmese were forced to change their traditional life patterns. The expansion of commerce led to the demand for more labor, which the Burmese were unwilling to provide. The British encouraged Indians and Chinese to immigrate, and by 1942 there were two million immigrants in the large urban centers.
With the opening of the Suez Canal the British strongly pressured the Burmese to grow more rice, and the Indian moneylenders made loans available for the purchase of more land. New villages were established without a monastery and traditional law, and peasants were no longer protected against the loss of their land. When they got into debt, they lost their land and became tenants on land concentrated in the hands of rich absentee landlords. Individual ownership of land was substituted for family ownership. Individuals began to take up the common land of the village which had been used for festivities, common grazing, and fuel, depriving the village of a place for social gatherings, bullock races, dances and theatrical performances. However, the people now had little time for such activities. The British urged the Burmese to abandon their elaborate time-consuming festivals, the weaving and embroidering of fabrics, the carving of cargo boats, the making of lacquered pottery, and encouraged them instead to work for wages and to buy shoddy machine-made articles.
The British changed the village headmen into salaried government officials, imposed new duties on them and on the villagers, and imposed heavy penalties for noncompliance. The village was changed from a social and residential unit into an administrative unit; this destroyed the traditional principles of law and orderly social conduct based on an accepted way of life. With the decline of interpersonal relations crime increased tremendously. Because self-government had been replaced by »a foreign legal system unable to control the anti-social forces it liberated,« a village police force and Western-style courts had to be established.
The British introduced vernacular schools in the villages, but in the large urban centers English was taught from the fourth grade on and high school classes were conducted in English. The village boys generally continued at the monastic schools; mainly the girls went to the new schools, where they were taught to read and to do arithmetic to help them with their trading accounts. The urban schools stressed success in examinations above everything else, and »in 1932 the Director of Education noted that districts with the best record for education had the worst record for crime«. The foreign schools substituted an economic goal for the social and moral goals of the monastery, but relatively few children attended long enough to gain economic advantages through education. The missionary schools taught respect for Western values, and children were sometimes alienated from their own parents and culture.
In the past children did not need to leave their villages to attend school, and education was free and egalitarian. Now mainly urban people could afford to educate their children in the Western schools. Thus, the advent of Western education created divisions between the educated and the uneducated, the well-to-do and the poor, the village and the city, Burmese culture and a foreign culture. Higher education did not dispel problems of racial discrimination, for Burmese graduates of professional schools were treated with less respect than Europeans.
The British disregarded the self-dependent role of the Burmese women and their greater freedom than most European and Asiatic women. The West brought scouting for boys, needlework for girls, special hospitals for women, public toilets separated by sex, and adversely affected the position of women by making sharper distinctions between the sexes than had traditionally existed. But since the Burmese woman had for so long been active and important in economic matters, she has had no difficulty adjusting to change both in the villages and in the towns. In the towns she adds new occupations to the traditional ones. She sells gems, knits sweaters on a knitting machine, makes pickles and preserves for local schools, sells flowers and ice cream from her home, builds a smithy beside her house and finances goldsmiths, sells woven cloth sent by her country cousin, and has a thriving timber or cheroot-rolling business in the basement. She occupies high positions in all walks of life, in politics, journalism, the armed forces, the universities, and corporation administration. Recently the »joint venture« corporation »which made the highest profit was the one with an all-woman Board of Directors«. When Burma became independent, women's traditional equality with men was formally incorporated into the constitution: »All citizens, irrespective of birth, religion, sex or race, are equal before the law. . . . Women shall be entitled to the same pay as that received by men in respect to similar work«.
In view of the important role of women throughout Southeast Asia in producing essential staple foods, it is surprising to find a statement by so distinguished an anthropologist as Margaret Mead to the effect that men everywhere are the primary food producers.
The home shared by a man or men and female partners, into which men bring the food and women prepare it, is the basic common picture the world over. But this picture can be modified, and the modifications provide proof that the pattern itself is not something deeply biological.
While women have been given a monopoly over the preparation of food, and hunting is done almost exclusively by men, when it comes to farming, especially subsistence farming, it is a moot point as to whether men or women predominate. At any rate, there is no question that in Africa virtually all rural women do farm work »and the agricultural force is predominantly female«. In Africa, especially south of the Sahara, where shifting cultivation is practiced, men usually fell the trees to clear the land, but women remove and burn the trees, sow and plant in the ashes, weed the crops, and harvest and store them.
Before European colonization the chief occupations of the African male were warfare, hunting, and felling trees. When Europeans abolished intertribal warfare, the men seemed to be idle most of the time and the Europeans stigmatized them as lazy. The European settlers, colonial administrators, technical advisers, and extension services wanted the Africans to produce commercial crops; they used various devices, like placing a poll tax on households, to force them to farm. They also taught the men modern farming techniques, but ignored the female farmers who played such an important role in traditional agriculture. To the Europeans, »cultivation is naturally a job for men,« and African »men could become far better farmers than women, if only they would abandon their customary >laziness.< « This attitude was shared by men from other patriarchal cultures, such as Americans and Chinese.
In Senegal, West Africa, Chinese instructors (from Taiwan) failed in their efforts to introduce better techniques in paddy production because they taught only the men, who took no notice since their wives were the cultivators and the wives being untaught, continued, of course, in the old way, subdividing the carefully improved fields into small traditional plots.
Whenever there is enough land for shifting cultivation, and proteins can be obtained from hunting, fishing, and cattle in distant grazings, villages refuse to change to plow cultivation, which is associated with modern farming techniques, even when agricultural experts demonstrate how much more the land will yield. For when the changeover to plow farming takes place, it is the men who do the plowing and their work load increases greatly while that of the women diminishes. »The more the work of hoeing is done by women, the less likely will men be willing to change from hoeing to ploughing«. Agricultural change in developing countries with increasing populations is often retarded because men or women refuse to do more than the usual amount of work, or work that has traditionally been done by the other sex.
The Europeans had recruited the men to do work, either voluntary or forced, in road building, heavy construction, mines, and plantations, and when the men were absent the work load of the women in the villages increased. The recent rapid population increase in many parts of Africa has also forced the men to migrate to the towns in search of wage labor. The African woman's primary role in agriculture, in the present as in the past, is due to the migration of the young unmarried men; in addition, many old widows must fend for themselves, the older men leave farming to their younger wives and children, and more boys attend school than girls.
With population pressures more land must be used continuously and cultivated intensively. As the forests contract, shifting agriculture with the hoe becomes inadequate and is replaced by plow farming. Since it is the man who is taught modern farming techniques, the men who remain in the villages use the plow and become the primary cultivators. This entails »a radical shift in sex roles in agriculture,« which undoubtedly explains woman's deteriorated status after the plow was invented in the Middle East about 5,000 years ago. As Boserup observes. »The adoption of a farming system where the main farming equipment is operated only by men entails a tremendous change in the economic and social relationship between the sexes«.
When the male farmer uses the plow, he usually grows cash crops while the woman continues to grow food crops for family consumption. Using scientific techniques the man expends much less energy and increases his productivity, while the woman's work with the hoe is exhausting, boring, and relatively less productive. The government also does research to improve cash crops, but food crops are not supported. The man can use the income from his crops to improve production further, but the woman receives little income from the food crops. Because he uses scientific farming methods the man becomes the decision maker in the family, and the role of the woman changes from that of primary food producer to family aid. The man's prestige is enormously enhanced and the woman's relative status declines.
It is the men who do the modern jobs. They handle industrial inputs while women perform the degrading manual jobs; men often have the task of spreading fertilizer in the fields, while women spread manure; men ride the bicycle and drive the lorry, while women carry head loads, as did their grandmothers. In short, men represent modern farming in the village, women represent the old drudgery.
The spread of primary education under the Europeans also helped to create technical and cultural gaps between the sexes in Africa. Everywhere, many more boys were sent to school. The boys started at a younger age than the girls, and stayed longer. Boys were given vocational training, while girls only learned reading, better child care, nutrition, and sewing. When boys learn scientific techniques and girls mainly traditional beliefs from illiterate mothers, »it is more effective to teach modern agricultural methods to male than to female farmers«.
In short, by their discriminatory policy in education and training the Europeans created a productivity gap between male and female farmers, and subsequently this gap seemed to justify their prejudice against female farmers.
Under tribal land tenure, land ownership is vested in the chiefs, tribal land is rarely sold, and those who work the land own the crops and the acreage on which they are grown. Fortified by the European value of male ownership of land, some of the patrilineal African tribes, when land became scarce, began to claim that the men owned the land and that only the crops belonged to the female subsistence farmers. Again, as land for new fields ran short, farmers took over the old fallow land as de facto private property, prevented others from using it, and began to rent or sell it. But since only the men worked for wages in the towns or grew cash crops, only the men had the money to buy land. Thus, land ownership began to pass from women to men, even in matrilineal tribes. The woman who grew food crops on land belonging to her husband was no longer an independent cultivator with her own farming rights. While she might still be permitted to sell surplus food crops and keep the proceeds, at the next stage she might become an unpaid helper on her husband's farm.
The land reforms introduced by European administrations also resulted in the loss of women's rights to land.
"The Europeans everywhere seem to have objected to the peculiar position of African women, which was so different from anything the Europeans were accustomed to«. In one region in the Congo, with 38,000 female and only 18,000 male cultivators, there was »always very strong propaganda coming from the Missions and the Government against matrilineal custom. Emphasis was laid upon the teachings of the Bible where all authority comes from God through the father«. In the Congo only the Belgians recognized women as cultivators in modern farming, but in other parts of Africa where female farming predominated and women were independent cultivators, »women were eliminated by European-styled land reforms, and the land was given to their husbands«.
In the Bikita Reserve in Rhodesia, a female fanning area, land reform in 1957 allocated land to men and widows, but not to married women; 23 percent of those receiving land were men working for wages off the reserve. These men often divorced their wives on the reserve and married other women, depriving their former wives of the land they farmed. When land was irrigated in the Taung Reserve in the Union of South Africa, the fields were allocated to the men, who alone were taught irrigation techniques, although the main cultivators were women. In the Transkei, where each wife in a polygamous marriage had owned her own plot, the land as a whole was transferred to the husband; the women had to cultivate the common land and lost it to male heirs when the husband died. The people in the Transkei wanted to restore to the women their former rights in the land, »but all attempts to bring about the change have failed to persuade an inflexible bureaucracy which is not responsible to the people«.
The African women held the Europeans mainly responsible for these injustices and frequently refused to submit to them. Women refused to help their husbands produce cash crops or perform household chores unless they were paid for their work. In 1923 the Ibo women instigated riots in Aba, eastern Nigeria, because of a rumor that the government intended to tax female farmers. A group of 10 000 women looted European shops and released prisoners from the jail in Aba. The unrest spread to the Calabar region, where fifty people were killed and another fifty wounded during two days of demonstrations. »Throughout the entire disturbance the solidarity of the women never wavered, and a subsequent inquiry revealed the vigor and conviction with which they organized their opposition.« In 1929 the Ibo women of Aba organized the first large-scale uprising against colonial rule in Nigeria when they rioted against a tax imposed by the British administration. This revolt was initiated by the Ibo women's associations, which had come into being to solve the special problems of women and were led by women elected for their wisdom rather than their age or wealth. When official methods brought no results, »the members would resort to strikes, ridicule and cursing«. The group also enforced its decisions by the ridicule and ostracism of members and by the destruction of property.
The women in the Kon region of eastern Nigeria rioted because their farming status had deteriorated and they were afraid of losing the land to male farmers. About 2,000 women, led by the women's organizations in the region, passed a resolution to eliminate all foreign institutions, such as courts, and schools, and to expel from the region all foreigners, including members of other tribes and Europeans. The women marched to the neighboring town and set fire to the market. The unrest spread to nearby tribes where the women were also afraid that the introduction of new farming techniques would undermine their position as farmers.
Both in Africa and Asia labor costs in the production of export crops were held down at the expense of the women. In Africa labor costs on plantations, mines, and industries are reduced when only male workers are employed, but this increases the work load of the women who support dependents in the home village. In Asia men who use the plow must remain in the village to support the family. The plantation owner must hire the whole family but every member works in the fields. However, while the man is free when his work in the fields is over for the day, the woman not only takes care of the children when she is working in the fields, but also has the double job of housewife and full-time laborer.
In regions like Africa and Southeast Asia, where shifting agriculture and the female farmer predominate, the women work very hard and receive limited support from their husbands, but they also have some economic independence, considerable freedom of movement, and an important place in the community. In such areas polygamy and the bride price are widespread. Under farmingsystems using the plow, where men do most of the work, as in the Arab, Hindu, and Chinese cultures, a second wife is an economic burden, for the husband must work harder in order to support her. Parents pay a large dowry to the husband's family, and the economic burden of daughters is so great that in some north Indian communities the number of girls was at one time limited by the practice of infanticide. In a system which obligates the husband to support his wife and children, and which makes the wife economically dependent on her husband, woman's status is subordinate and inferior. The veil and seclusion are associated with plow agriculture, but are unknown in shifting agriculture.
"Women always seem to bear a large part of the work burden in the more egalitarian communities,« but »they are valued both as workers and as mothers of the next generation,«and men desire plural wives on both accounts. However, when rural women take little part in agriculture they are only valued as mothers.
There is a danger in such a community that the propaganda for birth control, if successful, may further lower the status of women both in the eyes of men and in their own eyes. This risk is less in communities where women are valued because they contribute to the well-being of the family in other ways, as well as bearing sons.
Margaret Mead points out that »a society that has not defined women as primarily designed to bear children has far less difficulty in letting down taboos or social barriers.
In Africa and Southeast Asia a very large part of the traditional market trade is in the hands of women because it consists primarily of agricultural products that the women grow and of the handicrafts they make. Where market trade is dominated by men, as in the Arab, Hindu, and Chinese cultures, men also do most of the agricultural work. However, Moslem women are not prevented by their religion from trading in regions where women predominate in trade.
In traditional African marriages the woman is expected to support herself and her children and to feed the family, including the husband, with the food she grows. Since rural African women have few ways of earning money, nearly all the women in some communities sell their surplus products in the market. In many developing countries they can compete successfully with department stores and supermarkets because they make only a very small profit on each transaction. Trading gives rural women a measure of economic independence, and African women much prefer trading to the hard work in the fields. They also enjoy socializing with each other and with their customers. A much higher proportion of women are in market trade and the service occupations »in those parts of West Africa where climate discouraged European settlements and where the Moslem religion failed to penetrate« than in South, East, or North Africa. Also, a number of West Coast societies are matrilineal, and this »gives women a status not permitted in patrilineal systems«. The trading women of West Africa are famous. In Ghana women account for 80 percent of the trade labor force; in eastern Nigeria and the Yoruba region of western Nigeria they account for about half the trade. Yoruba and Ghana women recently began to import goods, and they sometimes make large profits in wholesale trade. A few West African women traders earn enough money to buy buses or trucks which some of them parlay into fleets.
The Yoruba girl is brought up to earn her own living and is trained to make money. She is considered fit to marry only after she has acquired a craft, such as weaving, potting or mat-making, and has learned to trade, as well as to cook and farm. »The woman without a craft or trade, who is wholly dependent on the husband is rare and often regarded with contempt«. Yoruba women are organized in craft guilds, and the guild leaders hold responsible positions in the governing bodies of their communities. The guilds are also represented in the state council, the highest judicial body of the chiefdom.
In many areas the market women organize to safeguard their interests and to limit competition. In West Africa unions of women traders sometimes persuade the authorities to grant permits for market stalls only to members of their own organizations; in independent Africa the women traders actively try to oust immigrant traders. In the Cameroons the African women expressed such violent resentment when they were denied access to the market (to force them to work longer hours in the fields) that the authorities were compelled to rescind the restrictions. In the last years of colonial rule in Kenya market women were granted only 20 percent of the hawkers' licenses, and illegal hawking accounted for most of the crimes committed by the Nairobi women.
Polygamy is fully integrated with all the other institutions in rural Africa. Under the tribal system of land tenure, still in effect in much of the continent, only family size limits the amount of land that can be worked both for food and for cash crops. Thus, the size of the area cultivated by a family usually corresponds directly with the number of wives in the family. The women contribute much more to the family income than the amount of their keep since they provide not only their own labor, but that of the sons they bear. Also, the more wives a man has, the fewer wage laborers he needs to hire. In fact, in Sierra Leone the wives are sometimes used to ensnare male farm workers to work without pay. On the Ivory Coast husbands and fathers in 1959 still paid off their debts by sending their wives and daughters to work without pay in the fields of their creditors. And the girl's family sometimes cancelled the bride price when money was owed to a man who wished to marry her. Another wife is not always used to expand cultivation but sometimes to provide the husband with more leisure to hunt which, besides being a source of valued food, is »the most cherished spare time occupation for the male members of the village population«.
An additional incentive for polygamy is the desire for many children, for children are not only agricultural and domestic assets, but also enhance a man's standing and dignity in the community. Three to five children out of every ten born die in infancy, and no more than half of those who survive reach adulthood. The taboo on sexual relations from the onset of pregnancy until the child is weaned at the age of two is also used to justify polygamy. The wife may return to her family to wean the baby, or she may be away from home for long stretches while she is trading. Without a second wife a man would be celibate for long stretches, and he would have no one to keep house for him.
In a family system where the female farmer not only provides the food for the family but also trades, rears the children, and does the housework, a wife welcomes one or more cowives to share the burden of work. Domestic duties include the processing of food before it is cooked, for the grains must be husked, pounded, and ground. Women fetch the water and fuel sometimes over a distance of several miles; they collect wild vegetables and fruit, work on handicrafts, and help to build the house. Thus, on the Ivory Coast 85 percent of the women prefer to live in polygamous rather than monogamous marriage. Many women prefer to marry Muslims because Islam requires a man to support each wife equally, and secluded women do not work in the fields.
The incentives for polygamy are so powerful in Africa that no religious or legal prohibition prevails against them. While it is declining to some extent, polygamy persists even among families that have become Christian. At the present time a fourth to a third of the men in many parts of Africa south of the Sahara have more than one wife. »Thoughtful churchmen agree that the Christian concept of marriage will be accepted only when industrialization and urbanization impose supporting values on the society«.
Under a system of polygamy restrictions on premarital sexual relations are rare, but neither is sexual behavior completely free. Premarital relations in Africa are institutionalized in a type of trial marriage in which both boys and girls are sexually educated, but the rules set forth clear patterns of sexual behavior and premarital conception is not approved. In the polygamous marriage a wife's adultery may be permitted so that an impotent husband can have legal issue, or a woman may have a lover if he works for her husband. In most of Africa a wife may leave her husband if she repays the bride price; older men therefore keep the bride price very high. The woman frequently initiates a divorce by running away, or she may provoke her husband to take the initiative by refusing to cook and clean and by quarreling with him. But even when he sends her back to her parents, the marriage is not officially terminated until the bride price is returned.
Where polygamy exists many men have to postpone marriage or forego it. »Widespread prostitution or adultery is therefore likely to accompany widespread polygamy, marriage payments are likely to ... be high for the bridegroom's family, sometimes amounting to several years' earnings of a seasonal laborer«. In towns with a large surplus of single males, as in the Republic of South Africa, the market women sometimes prepare meals, brew beer, and serve as prostitutes. The women traders who travel long distances from market to market often supplement their earnings by prostitution. In some tribes the women look upon prostitution as »merely a new calling like any other and they become prostitutes as reasonably and as self-righteously as they would have become typists or telephone girls«. In Brazzaville prostitution is not stigmatized; in fact, prostitutes who become well-to-do enjoy great prestige. In Ghana and Nigeria the prostitutes have professional associations which organize festivities and funerals and help members in trouble.
Many villagers in Africa are moving to the towns because the men need to work for wages to earn money for the bride price, because the women reject farming When plow agriculture deprives them of their status of independent cultivators, because the women want to escape the hard labor of farming or the rigors of tribal discipline. The women are particularly eager to live a life of relative leisure in the towns. A wife who migrates with her husband can do little to contribute to the family's support. She may keep a goat and try to find fodder to feed it, grow a few vegetables, beg for leftover food, collect scrap material to build a hut in the slums, and collect animal droppings for fuel. But the activities of women change radically when they move from rural to urban areas in Africa.
In countries with a tradition of female trading, like much of Southeast Asia, many women enter the modern trade sector when they move to the towns. But in Africa, with the same tradition, modern trade is virtually a male preserve. The average market woman is illiterate and cannot get work in the modern stores, but young literate girls are not hired either. As the modern shops increase, even the petty trade of women in traditional markets declines. When the man works in modern trade and industry, even as an unskilled laborer, and the woman finds little or no employment, the wide gap in the productivity and income between urban men and women lowers the woman's relative status, as in the farming areas when the plow is adopted. Also, tension usually arises between a husband and wife when he has the unaccustomed role of sole family breadwinner and she has unaccustomed leisure and idleness.
Because the men are generally unwilling to accept the doubling of their work load, they often leave their wives and children in the village when they migrate. Although colonial restrictions on female migration disappeared with independence, most towns in Sub-Saharan Africa continue to be predominantly male while the villages have a surplus of women. The excess of men in the towns, together with the limited opportunities for female employment, sometimes leads married women into prostitution: this is another reason why men leave their wives in the village where unmarried men are rare and women are controlled by older family members. The men are also afraid that if the women become prostitutes they will earn enough money to repay the bride price and leave them.
These attitudes block the emancipation of women from tribal and family authority and thwart their attempts to obtain genuine urban employment. They also perpetuate the policies of the colonial European missionaries and administrators, who prevented single African women from migrating to the towns in search of work and expelled from the towns women who were not living under male authority. In East Africa well-dressed urban girls who work in offices and the professions are often suspected of being prostitutes. African women in the Republic of South Africa are still forbidden to migrate to the towns without special permission. The European influence adversely affected the position of women in the urban as well as the rural areas of Africa
Missionaries, Catholic as well as Protestant, are blamed for having taught the girls little more than domestic skills and for having more or less encouraged a stay-at-home policy of the urban women on moral grounds.
In European-owned industries in Africa and Asia work is divided along race and sex lines, with European men at the top and the indigenous women at the bottom. In Kenya and the Republic of South Africa the white men are the administrators, Asian men or white women perform the clerical work, and African men and women are left with unskilled manual labor. The fact that Asian men can find administrative jobs more easily than European women reveals the extent of the European prejudice against all women in the upper echelons of employment.
However, even where political power is now in the hands of the people who were formerly at the bottom of the labor market, men and women receive equal wages only for unskilled work.
When the better jobs previously filled by women of the favored minority are now taken over by men from the majority groups the result is, on one hand, a mitigation of racial discrimination and, on the other hand, a reinforcement of sex discrimination.
Many African men object to careers for women »because it will make the urban woman economically independent and unwilling to submit to male authority«. But as industrialization and urbanization weaken tribal authority African men substitute Western ideas for tribal custom. »They claim authority and obedience on the grounds of women's educational deficiencies and not because of tribal rights«. However, they do little to equalize educational opportunities and vocational training for women. Moreover, »in cases where lack of qualified manpower causes educated African women to be employed in white collar jobs, it seems to be generally accepted that they must be employed in low grade jobs, while the men move up to the more responsible jobs«.
Sekou Toure, the president of Guinea, believes the emancipation of African women to be essential if the goals of the revolution and independence are to be realized.
If we question ourselves objectively about what was the hardest thing for us to bear under foreign domination, we must give pride of place to the permanent constraint, the perpetual subordination ... the constant disrespect. . . . Can we now bring the same subordination to bear on our sisters, our wives, our daughters? Can we now treat them with the same contempt?
Toure's position is public policy in almost all African nations. But while their constitutions include universal adult suffrage and the right to hold public office, few women are in high public office or in the upper echelons of industry and the professions. However, some of the African governments are establishing vocational training centers for women, and Africa is the only developing region that is beginning to provide agricultural courses for female farmers.
Most educated women resent polygamy, and it is much less usual in the cities, where change is greatest. Interviews with young urban couples reveal the extent of change.
Many young husbands not only provided their wives with a means of livelihood, but gave or lent them additional capital, bought them clothes, added pocket money to their incomes. They helped with the housework, cleaning or washing, cooking or looking after the children when their wives were busy. ... The wives, in return, helped to meet the housekeeping bills, lent money to their husbands, or even maintained them altogether when their business was going badly. In marriages like this, husbands and wives are partners.
The traditional women's organizations are playing a major role in enlarging the participation of African women in public and economic life. They have succeeded in increasing the number of civil service positions for women; they help »the poor, the aged, the physically handicapped, and the mentally retarded"; they establish shelters for unmarried mothers and abandoned children, social centers for women, day nurseries for children of working mothers, and centers for family and child guidance. They also work »to overcome racial, cultural and language barriers which impede the unity of the community«.
Elizabeth Wheeler, who has studied the many aspects of African women, predicts that women's movements in Africa will take a different direction from those in the West.
It is unlikely that the African women will ever need to engage in emancipation movements, like those ... in the United States and Europe. The strength of social movements which embrace her may ultimately make the African woman's participation in community life more genuine, complete and influential than anything her American counterpart has yet achieved.
Comparison between Developing
and Industrialized Nations
Comparisons of the role of urban women in developing and industrialized countries reveal interesting similarities and contrasts. In developing countries in which women have a traditionally high status, girls form a large percentage of the few adult students, and women continue to play an important economic role, even if the countries are poor. But if the dominant attitude is indifferent or hostile to women, few girls are educated and can enter the modern economic sector even if the country is relatively advanced economically. A crucial variable, however, is the impact of a foreign power on indigenous cultures.
In Southeast Asia urban women have an unusually wide range of employment opportunities, considering the low h\el of economic development: they account for about half the trading labor force in Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and the Philippines. In the Philippines, where American control outweighed the entrenched Spanish influence, women account for 30 percent of modern-sector employment, the highest level of female participation in any colonized developing country outside the Western hemisphere. In Buddhist Thailand, however, the only country in Southeast Asia that managed to remain independent of European colonization, more than 40 percent of the women are active in the towns, and the number of women medical students has been formally restricted to prevent the medical profession from becoming predominantly female. Even in the Philippines, the only Asian country to educate almost as many girls as boys, most girls drop out after the age of nineteen, »when it is still possible to find husbands of a similar (or higher) educational level«.
In the developing countries men with a higher education generally find administrative or professional jobs, but the proportion of women in administration is always very much lower than the proportion of women students. Only in the developing countries that have been most influenced by the United States - Latin America, the Philippines, South Korea - does a larger proportion of women hold top jobs, but even in South Korea, where the proportion is highest, it reaches only 18 percent. In any country where the number of male and female students is equal, only about 10 percent of the administrative personnel are women. »In effect, administrative work is a male monopoly in developing countries just as it is in nearly all industrialized countries,« including the United States. In the Soviet Union only 12 percent of the top administrative jobs are held by women.
In the industrialized West girls with a high school education do the clerical work, but only in those developing countries under American influence is there a high proportion of female clerks, for the modern sector overwhelmingly favors the employment of men in both clerical and administrative jobs. Since most of the women in the developing countries must therefore do unskilled work, the productivity, income, and prestige of men and women diverge. Economic progress benefits the man, while the position of women may deteriorate even further as the growing modern economy eliminates the traditional female occupations.
The division of work roles along sexual lines so dominates the developing and industrialized countries alike that both men and women tend to regard it as »natural«. Yet, in family production and in home industry for a local market, work is generally distributed horizontally between the sexes and vertically only between adults and the young. As men and women become older and more experienced in their craft or trade, both are skilled supervisory workers who train young people. Thus, at simpler economic levels the division of work and responsibilities is less rigid and more predictable than in the modern economic sector.
Because of the »widespread and deeply ingrained prejudice against women's participation in industry« in both the developing and the industrialized countries, only the least competent and reliable women from the poorest and most unstable social groups apply for industrial work; this type of employee perpetuates the employer's dissatisfaction with female workers. »The idea that women are by nature inferior workers is widespread in developing as well as industrial countries«.
In most of the Arab countries and in multiracial regions with very limited opportunities for women from groups that are designated as inferior, more than 20 percent of all women in nonagricultural work are in the professions. Moreover, in all the developing countries the proportion of women students and professional women is equal. Because of the great demand for increased education and health services, at least two-thirds of all professional women are teachers and most of the rest are nurses, for in both the developing and industrial countries women extend their traditional roles of educating the young and caring for the sick. In countries where women are secluded, they reach as high a status as men in the same professions, even though many fewer women are educated and the professions are segregated by sex. In the Arab cultures women benefit from the prejudice against male teachers and physicians for girls, and in the countries influenced by Anglo-American culture women benefit from the fact that men do not become primary school teachers, traditionally a lower-status woman's job. In regard to promotions, women in the Arab cultures, who teach at all levels of education, hold all the jobs from primary schools through professional levels, whereas in the industrialized countries and in developing countries like the Philippines, the number of women teachers and administrators decreases at every educational level.
Thus, it is not very surprising that »the first two governments to be presided over by women prime ministers were not in countries with a high degree of female participation in the labor market, but in two Asian countries with highly secluded labor markets, where upper-class women are in the professions only, and men have not become accustomed to viewing the role of educated women as that of a less qualified assistant to a male supervisor«. Despite their different methods of segregating women, the Asian countries with their secluded labor markets and the industrialized West are linked by their common patriarchal practice of sexual discrimination. While the East practices physical segregation, Western women are segregated occupationally, with sharp limitations on the upper range of even those occupations to which they have access. Moreover, an open expression of the deep-seated male desire to seclude Western women in the home is still by no means rare. An example is Raphael Patai's introduction to the book Women in the Modern World, in which he asserts that in »the most Westernized part« of the Western world, »the one which spearheads the achievements of modern Western civilization,« women are returning to their traditional role »rather than competing with men on various occupational levels«. Making anonymous women the mouthpiece for his own wishful thinking, Patai adds that in the »societies which allow their women sufficient leeway to play ... 'women's two roles,' » women are now »saying in effect,« the following:
Now that we have won the right to take an equal place in a man's world, we prefer to return to the home, to our own places in our women's world. It is good to know that we can play both roles, that we have a right to both worlds, but we shall be satisfied with relatively brief excursions into the world of men before taking up, or after having fulfilled, the role to which nature has predestined us, of being wife, mother and homemaker.
Since a basic tenet of anthropology, formulated as a result of extensive cross-cultural research, is that, except for childbearing, all female roles are culturally assigned, one blushes when a contemporary fellow anthropologist uses such a phrase as »the role to which nature has predestined us, of being wife, mother and homemaker«. Shades of the Victorian anthropologists and their armchair speculations!
Moreover, the data submitted by the Western women who wrote the articles on women in the Western world in the book Patai edited, directly contravene his assertions. So tenaciously does he cling to his patriarchal biases that he blatantly ignores the statistics quoted by the contributors he himself selected, which show the increasing number of women, especially those with a higher education, who are working outside the home throughout the Western world. Harriet Holter, writing about Scandinavia, states:
In Norway, the 1960 census data show that 55 per cent of the married women with a university degree work outside the home, as against 22 per cent of those with only elementary school education. The figures are somewhat higher in the other Scandinavian countries.
In Britain »in 1947 roughly 18 per cent of all married women were working outside their homes, in 1951 just under 25 per cent, and in 1961 over 32 per cent«. And in the United States »the most important single change in the life of women is in their gainful employment outside the home. . . . The census records have year by year shown an increasing number of women thronging into occupations and activities formerly regarded as masculine. ... In 1960 . . . full-time work by the wife was about twice as prevalent in higher-income families as in lower«.
In the United States, particularly in the West, woman was not always viewed as »man's-little helper« or as the sexual object portrayed by the media. When the country was being settled, women participated with men in plowing the land and fending off the Indians, as well as in their traditional roles of potter, weaver, spinner, cook, teacher, and nurse; such participation helped to weaken the traditional European patriarchal values and democratize the family. Strong and determined women worked side by side with men and achieved practical equality, for the brutal frontier conditions »established a certain rough egalitarianism which challenged other, long-established concepts of propriety«. In 1889, when the Wyoming legislators were told to abandon woman's suffrage as the price of admission to the Union, they said: »We will remain out of the Union a hundred years rather than come in without
The values of the complex American culture include equality, as well as discrimination; justice, as well as entrenched privilege; cooperation, as well as competition; a sense of mission, as well as the quest for material wealth; and, above all, a belief in change, as well as in tradition. At present our fate depends on which values and institutions we choose to honor most.
Institutions are the various forms in which the social life of a people finds expression. Some it will take for granted as a matter of custom; others it will adopt of its own choice; and yet others will be imposed upon it by an authority. Individuals are subject to the nation's institutions, but the institutions themselves exist, ultimately, for the sake of the society whose welfare they promote, . . . their distinguishing characteristic is that they all proceed, in the end, from the human will.