AP World History
2 December 2012
Differences and Continuities of Gender Roles across Societies.
One single body of thought has influenced post-classical society’s view of gender roles. This body of thought perceived the idea of patriarchy as a given, established millennia ago, undeniable, unquestionable, and lastly, necessary. Consequently, the laws that followed this faulty perception led to the subordination of women throughout the whole of the post-classical era. However, it would be inaccurate to categorize either gender as monolithic when talking about civilizations that spanned thousands of miles over the course of a millennium. This is remedied by the little change each civilization expressed toward women. Religion established many laws restricting women and setting the political abilities of men high. Men of societies in China, India, and Africa were seen as the capable figure more and more while women were thought of as inferior to men; this, however, still allowed heavy disagreement about whether or not women could own property their a husband’s death, or in the event of divorce and outside the walls of marriage.
Whether or not a woman could hold onto their dowry or even control the inheritance of their male counterpart generated similarities between China and the Islamic world after 600 CE. The dowry that women were required to produce was able to be kept in the event of divorce or death. This went against India’s harsher view of women subordination. Women were mandated to commit a form of suicide called sati which involved self-immolation on her husband’s funeral pyre. This was for voluntary religious purposes, but was sometimes forced. In India, religious law was the most powerful law in the land.
With the incursion of Islam, infanticide became forbidden, specifically toward females. This happened rather suddenly, and contrasted with East Asia’s idea of male primogeniture. A male was preferred for a first born, and...