Sunday, April 11, 2010

Women's Work

If my life as a member of human society needed explanation, I would have found it here, in a book recommended by a former college roommate of mine that I read over Spring Break.
I would have liked the book to be even longer than the nearly 300 pages it was. The author has impressive material on the ancient european and middle eastern world, but precious little on the far east, and virtually nothing on the new world.
The premise on which the book is built is that a society will tend to rely upon women for a particular kind of labor if it is compatible with the care of young children. Exactly what kind of work that is has varied over the millennia, as cultures and economies have changed. Contrary to the perspective we have inherited from the classical (Greek and Roman) roots of western culture, the daily circumstances of women haven't always been worse than they are today. Who knew ancient Sumerian women were frequently in business for themselves as textile producers, and employed their male relatives as salesmen? The social status of women has historically waxed and waned along with their ability to add economic value to the household. At least, that is this author's assertion, and I am inclined to agree.

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