Gender Inequality Throughout History Essay

1372 words - 5 pages

Today's world, as much as we pride ourselves to live in the 21st century, is still a world where gender inequality is very much present. It has taken mankind many thousands of years to reach the point where we are today, when women are almost on equal foot with man, regarding education, choice of profession, rights and privileges. It was uncommon not many decades ago for women to pursue any academic path, women in science were very rare, and those who did manage to put their foot in the door had to deal constantly with men who were telling them that they were in the wrong place, and that they should conform themselves with the gender role that society has cut out for them. No wonder that women were given almost no credit for the inventions and discoveries of importance in history, even less when it comes to prehistoric times, where we all know, it was a man's world, of “the man the hunter.” But was it really? In recent decades, starting with the 1970's feminist anthropologists started to question the concept of “man the hunter” that dominated social anthropology and archeology for more than 40 years. In their opinion it was highly unlikely that this theory was accurate since it “leaves out half of the human species.”(Slocum, “Toward an Anthropology of Women”, p. 38).
Prehistory refers to the time span before written records existed and encompasses a long period of time that spans over 2.5 million years and includes the Paleolithic, the Mesolithic and Neolithic ages together with the Bronze age and the Iron age when writing became widespread. During this long span of time humankind evolved from the Homo habilis to the Homo erectus to the Homo neandethalensis to the Homo sapiens of today and discovered tools, fire ( as early as 1.5 million years ago at Chesowanja, East Africa, but repeatedly 500 000 years ago), language(about 100 000 years ago), clothing, art (the earliest cave paintings date back as far as 30000 years),bow and arrow, agriculture and animal domestication, pottery and architecture, metal working, the plough and the wheel, just to name a few. It is hard to believe that all these inventions and discoveries happened without the help and involvement of women as early scholars wanted us to believe. New discoveries point in another direction and bring more and more proof that some of the major accomplishments listed above were pioneered by women.
A recent study conducted by Penn State archeologist Dean Snow on the hand prints left near the cave paintings in Spain and France, reveals that most of these paintings were made by women. This comes as a supporting proof to the idea proposed by early feminist archeologists, that gender role and the distribution of work was not as rigid as it was proposed and that women actively participated in the hunting alongside men. Another study conducted by a small team of American archeologists composed out of Olga Soffer, one of the world's leading authorities on Ice Age hunter...

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