In the 7/23/11 Economist there is an interesting article about the evolution of gender roles in societies across our planet. It cites convincing (to me) studies holding that the nature of agriculture in the land of one’s ancestors determines much about the economic roles of women in that society.
Up to the fifth millennium BC Mesopotamian women did the farming, tilling their fields with hoes. The invention of the plow somewhere around 5,000 BC changed things. Women didn’t have the requisite upper body strength and men took over.
“Women descended from plough-users are less likely to work outside the home, to be elected to parliament or to run businesses than their counterparts in countries at similar levels of development who happen to be descended from hoe-users.”
Things can change and have to some extent in the western world where much farming was done from behind plows, but it took the cataclysm of WWII. Rosie the Riveter et al moved into jobs vacated by soldiers and sailors headed toward the battlefield. Still, even now, sixteen per cent fewer adult women than men work outside the home in OEDC countries.
Makes one think of other long long term ramifications. Hmmm. In her book French Ways and Their Meaning Edith Wharton wrote: “…one may safely say that most things in a man’s view of life depend on how many thousand years ago his land was deforested. And…when…men…are plunged afresh into the wilderness of a new continent, it is natural that in many respects they should be still farther removed from those whose habits and opinions are threaded through and through with Mediterranean culture and the civic discipline of Rome.”
For example: “There are more people who can read in the United States; but what do they read? The whole point, as far as any real standard goes is there. If the ability to read carries the average man no higher than the gossip of his neighbours, if he asks nothing more nourishing out of books and the theatre than he gets in hanging about the store, the bar and the street-corner, then culture is bound to be dragged down to him instead of his being lifted up by culture.”
I’ve recently been entertained by labor strife in France related to an attempt to raise the retirement age from sixty to sixty-two. But now in light of the likelihood that the leaders of the richest country in the world have squandered our credit rating, the concept of joie de vivre rings with new resonance. I’m thinking of short circuiting the slow evolution of enculturation by moving to the Cotes d’Azur.