Life for women in the ancient Egyptian,Chinese, and Greek civilizations
The roles of women in various civilizations had similar features. These women faced similar prejudices, struggles and hardships. Some of these challenges have been experienced for long durations and only ended after such women stood up for their rights.
Citation1: “Among them the women attend markets and traffic, but the men stay at home and weave…the men carry burdens on their heads, the women,on their shoulders.”
Herodotus described Egypt as an amazing country since it had the majority of wonders compared to all other countries. It had wonders such as the pyramids and also culture and art works that are diverse, including processes such as mummification. He stated that Egypt has a unique culture and that women in this culture attend traffic and markets while men are weaving at home. The women are further said to carry their burden on their shoulders while the men carry theirs on the head. He further says that they eat outdoors while indoors, they ease themselves. The reason given for this is the belief that indecent acts ought to be done privately and not out in the open. The men in this culture are further said to serve in both offices of the goddess and the gods while the women are not allowed to serve. The daughters in this culture are further compelled to support parents whereas the sons are not. These are just some of the inequalities that exist between men and women in Egyptian society.
Citation 2: “all the females of that family besmear their heads and faces with mud and then leaving the body in the house, they wonder about the city and beat themselves, having their clothes girt up and exposing their breasts, and all their relations accompany them”
Herodotus also explained that the manner in which the Egyptians mourned and buried the people who had died involved women smearing mud on their heads and girding up clothing such that their breasts were exposed. They then left the body and beat themselves as they moved around the cities. The men also practiced these activities and after the process, embalming of the body was performed. This is one role of women in the ancient Egyptian civilization though it is seen by some people as a form of degradation for the women, since it involves them exposing their bodies and thereby losing dignity.
However, despite the presence of these inequalities between men and women, Egyptian women were considered as having greater levels of freedom as compared to women in other societies. There were roles that were set out for men and others for women, though there was inequality between the roles of men and women. Egyptian women had roles as captured in art, and this portrayed them as playing roles of mothers and wives. They were seen as slim and beautiful and they mostly worked indoors in order for them to maintain skin that was light. Other roles included being musicians, maids, acrobats, kitchen staff and others. In writing they played key roles in writing poetry, love letters, personal letters, law cases among other roles. They were even allowed to possess land and had similar economic and legal rights as men.
Citation 3: “And are we to suppose that the soul, which is invisible, in passing to the true Hades, which like her is invisible and pure and noble and on her way to the good and wise god”.
Plato was questioning the Egyptian practices of embalming bodies so that they may be preserved. He questioned his fate after dying and was wondering if his souls will perish immediately he dies, like many people believe that a woman’s soul does. He further says that in his opinion the soul did not connect with a woman’s body voluntarily and so he believes that it does not perish. He however sees the perception that women are objects of pleasure and desire makes her soul impure, at the time she dies. This is another case in which evidence of women inequality is seen.
In Greece, women had a major role of raising children and child bearing. They were also allowed to perform duties that included weaving, spinning, cooking, baking bread, serving, cooking, removing waste and fetching water. Most of these duties point to the fact that the society then was patriarchal in nature and that women were naturally submissive to men. The women did not interact with men in the society since most of their duties were restricted to the household. They were barred from participating in politics, since their duties were restricted to the household.
In fact some people are of the opinion that Greek is the society that degraded women the most. The root of misfortune is seen by some people as having originated from ‘Pandora’, an imaginary woman. The women in this society were not allowed to possess property, vote, inherit their names or even attend political debates. Their major purpose was fulfilling the sexual desires of men, since they were viewed as fearful and irrational. According to Bentley & Ziegle (2003: 26-39), when Greek women got married, they surrendered all their possessions to their husbands. The only exception to these practices was Sparta, which gave women freedom to own property and even participate in such sport as gymnastics. Women in the Greek society were however allowed to participate in festivals and religion.
Women in Chinese society.
In the Chinese civilization, the society was predominantly dominated by males. Women were regarded as lesser beings and husbands would regard raising daughters a loss, since they would be eventually leave the house and be married in another family. The women in this society were ruled through rules set by Confucius, which regarded them as incapable of being educated and being unworthy. The laws set were biased against women as one law from Hammurabi’s code that talked about infidelity argued that a woman who has cheated on her husband should be drowned together with the man. The same law is silent of the consequences of the wife finding her husband cheating with someone else. Women were however allowed to play roles in religion and some of them include leading clans, worship and celebrations and eventually they were even allowed to become empresses. They played major roles in religion after Buddhism was introduced.
It is clear that women were viewed as lesser beings in all these societies that have been studied. This is because the society was patriarchal in nature and women were viewed as unworthy beings. However, the nature to which women had relative freedom varies between these societies. Egypt is seen as the society where women had the most freedom, while Greece is seen as the society where the women had the least freedom. Over time, the women stood up for their rights and they have risen above these barriers to play major roles in the current society.
Bentley, Jerry ; Ziegler, Herbert, Traditions ; Encounters: A Global Perspective on the Past. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003