The roles and treatment of women in ancient societies varied greatly. Depending on which society is observed, one would have witnessed many different rules for the female population. Some societies were cruel and others were much more lenient and fair. Women in ancient societies sometimes had some of the rights and protections they deserved, however, they were also often oppressed. Both ends of the spectrum are represented by a wide range of cultures including the Chinese society, the Indian society, the Mediterranean societies, the Roman society, and the Babylonian society.
Women in ancient China represent women who were oppressed and looked down upon as the lesser gender. A woman started receiving this type of treatment just three days after she was born. Families would “ … place the baby below the bed; give her a potsherd with which to play; and announce her birth to her ancestors by an offering. By placing the female child under the bed and giving her a potsherd to play with, the people were symbolically saying that female children were “ … lowly and weak …” and that females should strive to never put themselves first. A Chinese woman was expected to inculcate certain values, including guarding her chastity, exhibiting modesty, avoiding vulgarities, and maintaining cleanliness. To the Chinese, “no woman could afford to be without these virtues.” Chinese society was extremely harsh on and unfair to all women.
Likewise, women in ancient China were also taught that they should always respect others and never talk about the good things they had done. Women were also expected to never refute doing something that was wrong, and to tolerate it when other people committed wrongs against them. Women were expected to get up very early to perform their chores and to go to bed very late. The Chinese even went so far as to say that women were not allowed to “ … dread tasks by day or by night.” A woman was also expected to “serve her husband” and the husband to “control his wife.” This is not necessarily a right that women should have, because neither gender should control or be forced to serve the other. However, in ancient times, most societies believed the woman was to serve her husband no matter what. This is just another example of women being treated unfairly by having some of their basic freedoms denied. It is apparent that women in the ancient Chinese world had very little rights.
By examining these details, one can conclude that women occupied one of the lowest places in Chinese society. They were basically expected to be perfect, by Chinese standards, and if they deviated from these standards, they would most likely be punished or looked down upon even more. China fits into one of the ancient societies that offered their women no rights and demanded many things and a laid out behavior from them.
[...] Babylonian Law: How an Early State Regulated Its Subjecs. In Stearns, Gosch, and Grieshaber (Eds.), Documents in World History (pp. 14-20). New York: Pearson Education. Gender Relations in Classical India. In Stearns, Gosch, and Grieshaber (Eds.), Documents in World History (pp. 129-135). New York: Pearson Education. The Hebrew Bible. In Stearns, Gosch, and Grieshaber (Eds.), Documents in World History (pp. 24-31). New York: Pearson Education. Women and the Law in Rome: Legal Codes. In Stearns, Gosch, and Grieshaber (Eds.), Documents in World History (pp. 92-95). [...]
[...] infamous character.” Although this right of choosing who one wants to marry is vital in today's world, it was not often considered in the ancient world. The ancient Romans were making some progress in women's rights when they allowed their female population to have some say in who they would marry. Although the Romans did allow some freedoms to be granted to their women, they still withheld others. If a woman became a widow and was still under twenty-five years old, she could not remarry without first getting permission from her father. This is not fair to the women because the men are allowed to choose their wife and when they wanted to marry. [...]
[...] Women in ancient India had no basic rights, much like the women who were oppressed in ancient China. On the other hand, in Mediterranean societies, women were treated somewhat better. In no ancient society did women enjoy the full rights, or even all of the basic rights that they should have, as the women of today do. However, in these Mediterranean families, the idea of a “common life” was upheld. Men and women were to depend on each other for establishing this “common life” with each other; one could not do it without the other. [...]
[...] To the Chinese, woman [could] afford to be without [these virtues].” Chinese society was extremely harsh on and unfair to all women. Likewise, women in ancient China were also taught that they should always respect others and never talk about the good things they had done. Women were also expected to never refute doing something that was wrong, and to tolerate it when other people committed wrongs against them. Women were expected to get up very early to do their work and to go to bed very late. [...]
[...] The Chinese and Indian societies were extremely strict on women and offered almost no protections and freedoms whatsoever. The statement that all societies in the ancient world oppressed women is false. Likewise, the statement that women had enough rights and protections is false. The answer falls between these two categories, and has been illustrated by using examples from all of these different cultures. Depending on where one was, the treatment of women varied greatly. Bibliography Aristotle. Mediterranean Social and Family Structures. In Stearns, Gosch, and Grieshaber (Eds.), Documents in World History (pp. 82-85). New York: Pearson Education. [...]
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