Throughout the years females have undergone tremendous amounts of oppression. From their limited roles in society, to the confinements at home, women were seen nothing more than the lesser sex. Compared to males we were the inferior gender, in terms of knowledge, physicality, and stature. The question is, why? What logical reason would make sense to explain this kind of thinking. Looking through all of history, is it accurate enough to say that the oppression that females have undergone is the result of hatred. The answer that I would like to argue is no. For whatever reason that females are seen as the inferior sex, is due to demography. The occurrence in the past that developed the idea that women are the weaker, less knowledgeable, and dependent sex . With that said, the root of women’s oppression was caused more by the societies; limitations in terms of technology, economy, and the extremely high birth rates of that time. (In other words demographics).
High birthrates was a necessary method in maintaining population size. The reason why humans have not gone extinct many years ago is due to Patriarchy (Longman). He explains that men were given more power to essentially encourage them to invest in having families. In a society where getting married and raising children was highly valued, men competed with one another based on how many children they had and how well they were raised. While this may seem like a male dominant society, Patriarchy enforced procreation. In a time where people lacked technology, and society was more agricultural than industrial, people would easily die from diseases. Compared to modern day, they did not have developments like medicine to heal or protect themselves. If the land went bad and food could not be grown, people would die of starvation. In addition constant wars between neighboring cities would result in piles of dead bodies. In events such as the Peloponnesian War, and the Punic Wars, populations were wiped out from all the men they lost. With so many deaths, society needed a way to increase population. If people were dying and those deaths were not replaced, there would not be anyone left to run the community. Production of food would decrease, since there would be less farmers, smaller populated communities would be left vulnerable to larger populated communities due to less soldiers. As a result, females had to constantly reproduce in order to make up for the high mortality rate. High birth rates was enforced not to limit the role of the female, but to replenish society.
Moreover, females had limited roles because they had to center their lives around reproduction. According to Johann Doran’s lecture on women “How Racist were the Greeks and Romans?”, he emphasized with such high mortality rates, females were expected to have from 6 to 9 children, and with each child, she was expected to nurse for up two years. So from the moment a baby is born, to the time they can actually take care of themselves, the child would have to be physically attached to the mom for most of the time (Doran). With that said, it’s no wonder females were not really acknowledged to do anything else, because they spent most of their time with their children, in addition to caring for the household and working in the fields. If females wanted to join the military they would have to abandon their motherly roles and devote their time to training. More less if they even wanted any time to themselves they would have to hire a nursemaid to care for their children, since there would be at least a minimum of 6 children to look after. But the fact that only elite could afford nursemaids, and the majority of females could, not, most found no time (Nybakken). Even though people would see this as sexist, females found respect and societal status through raising children that would serve society. Due to demographics, there was pride in raising a family.
Females from the Hellenistic Age had other roles and privileges aside from bearing children and taking care of the household. In fact there is evidence in the 1st century BC of Priene, a woman named Phyle became the first woman in office as a crown bearer, who also paid for a cistern to store water, and water pipes for the city (“A Woman in politics: Phyle, Wife of Thessalos”, page 227). In addition, there was evidence of a female philosopher named Hipparchia from the city of Maroneia, a female doctor and midwife named Phanostrate, from Athens in the 4th century BC, and a harpist named Polygnota from Delphi in 86 B.C. (“A Woman Philosopher” page 254) With these instances in history, along with many like them, one cannot conclude that females had no other roles in the ancient world. Although a majority of women were forced into the life bearing kids and just caring for the household, because that was the ideal role that was given to them and there was no other role to look up to, not all females were restricted that life. The fact that there was a female philosopher and harper demonstrates the idea that some females were probably were somewhat educated and were not only seen as birth givers. In the hellenistic age there is more evidence of females from this time breaking out of the ideal role, and in some sense creating that stepping stone for future female roles. So females weren’t completely tied to the role of a housewife, and there is actual evidence that not all females were confined to that specific role and the fact that there was some acceptance from the society, means males were accepting of it too, as well as their husbands. Therefore, this proves that it is not the intention of controlling women limiting their options, as misogyny would support, but the needs of the society and how there was not enough variation of roles to make an example of.
Some believe that that limited female roles were caused by misogyny and hatred of women, but there is evidence that females were actually taken care of and loved by their husbands in history. For instance, Musonius Rufus states, “ For in marriage there must be full community of life between husband and wife, real love for each other, whether in health or illness, indeed, in all circumstances, since it was for this purpose, as well as for having children, that they are married in the first place.” (page 356). He further explains that when there is love between a husband and wife, the marriage ultimately lasts longer. That ideal love towards a spouse is also conveyed by Pliny, a Roman Senator, who wrote affectionate letters to his wife. In his letters he expresses how much he misses her, and the only way he distracts himself from the empty feeling of being apart from her is through his work (page 356). Based on these sources, we can infer loving your spouses was ideal for a lasting marriage. As it was emphasized by Musonius, having each other’s best interest and taking care of one another was necessary. Otherwise without that love for one another, the marriage would cease to exist. With that said, we can not completely believe females were hated. According to these sources, females more so wives were actually loved and cared for by their husbands. Marriage was more than just sharing a life together and producing children, they had to love and look after one another. Although we can not assume that there was no hatred towards women in history, we can assume that the societal standard was not to hate females and only use them as means for reproduction, since there is evidence of loving and respecting attitudes towards women. Thus misogyny, has little effect on the roles of women.
In conclusion, women’s oppression is a world issue that has been caused by the historic roles and demographics of females. This problem has made immense progress throughout history, such as granting voting rights, or allowing women to be voted into government. Stigmas against women are still prevalent, but are being fought against constantly. As a society, we need to ultimately eliminate oppression against females. Some ways you can do this is by speaking up against women’s oppression, educating the next generation, and to give the cause. Whether it’s voting for more women’s rights whenever possible, or donating to places that support women, it’s the little things that will help make the world equal for everyone, no matter their gender.