When thinking of gender roles in society, stereotypes generally come to mind. Throughout history these stereotypes have only proven to be true. Major historical events have had a huge impact on the way men and women are seen and treated. In this way, women have always been secondary to males and seen as the fragile counterparts whose job is to take care of the household and most importantly, be loyal to her husband no matter the circumstance. Gender roles throughout history have greatly influenced society. The slow progress of woman’s rights throughout humanities led to an explosion of woman’s rights throughout the 20th century and that trend will only continue on into the rest of the 21st century.
First, it is important to understand how gender roles first differentiated amongst males and females in prehistoric cultures and the civilizations thereafter. During the Paleolithic period (ca. 6 million to 10,000 B.C.E) the earliest of humankind lived a nomadic way of life (Fiero). Men were hunters. They left their families for entire days to hunt, and if they were lucky, could bring meat back. Essentially, they performed the most strenuous duties because they were stronger, providing more importance in the community (Baruch). Women were the gatherers of the clan. They collected seeds, fruits, nuts, grains and more (Reilly). They took care of their young and were to be protected as they were the child bearers. This represents the first differentiation in gender roles: women at home, and men working. As the Paleolithic society merges into the Neolithic society (ca. 8,000 to 2,000 B.C.E) and hunters and gatherers became settled farmers, women and men began to share a more even workload of maintaining the land (Baruch). The belief in fertility goddesses and deities played an important role in determining the status of males and females: “Female deities governed the earth while male deities ruled the sky” (Fiero). This shows their obvious belief in the importance of men above women, but they still had utmost respect for women as child bearers and givers of life.
Moving ahead into the great civilization of Ancient Egypt, women and men had typical gender roles. Women were still seen as child bearers and domestic housekeepers and men taught their sons and became heavily involved in civic affairs (“Ancient Egypt”). The treatment of men and women was essentially equal in that woman did maintain civil rights, were given their own tombs upon death, and were even permitted to leave their husbands if necessary (“Ancient Egypt”). This was mainly because all property was passed from generation to generation through women- not men- giving them higher status and importance since Egyptians saw their land as sacred.
It wasn’t until the Greek and Roman empires that gender roles in society really started to widen the gap between males and females. The combination of a growing belief of women as servants and the impact of mythology on culture culminated in a “gender...