Ancient roles did vary from civilization to

Ancient Egypt: Changing the Rules
of Gender Roles

The understanding of gender roles
in society has been very fluid in the evolution of mankind. In ancient
civilizations, the roles that you were given within a society were centered primarily
around gender. These gender roles did vary from civilization to civilization,
but were generally comparable. In most ancient civilizations, the roles of women
were confined to the household. This was evident in most societies, but a stand
out among these was Ancient Egypt. In which, Egypt was one of the only
civilizations where women were even remotely equal to men. When comparing to
other societies during the ancient time period, women were most respected in
Egypt.

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According to the Oxford Dictionary,
a gender role is defined as the role or behavior learned by a person as
appropriate to their gender, determined by the prevailing cultural norms. In
modern day America, gender roles have been slowly dissolving, but nonetheless
is still very much relevant. In our society, women have the capability of doing
everything a man can do, but, in the eyes of some, women are still seen as the inferior
gender. In general, women are still associated with the responsibilities of
taking care of the household and the children. They are also perceived as being
fragile and submissive. On the other hand, men are associated with being the primary
breadwinner and were viewed as being strong and brave. In most civilizations,
these associations have been and will always somewhat be present. The basic roles
of men and women were fairly universal from society to society. Although the way
that a society views women is what can vary depending on the civilization. In
most ancient societies, gender roles of women show some resemblance when
looking at family care, but can differ tremendously when looking at the rights
of women.

In Ancient Greece, the women’s
domain was strictly within the home and her purpose was to maintain the
household and raise children. Women would rarely leave the household due to the
fact that the wife staying indoors was a sign of wealth. The exception to this
is in the city-state of Sparta. The women’s main role was still taking care of
the household, but Spartans believed that in order for women to succeed in that
they must be physically in shape. So, Spartan women would participate in some
of the same physical activities as men. Which also results in a similar upbringing
for boys and girls regarding physical fitness. Young girls would participate in
races, throwing the javelin, etc. (O’Pry). Going back to looking at the Ancient
Greek women in general, their rights were fundamentally non-existent. Women
were essentially always under the control of a man and were considered property
of that man. First, she was under the control of her father. Then she would eventually
be under the control of her husband, who had been arranged by her father. The
men in Ancient Greece had several roles within society. Most of their daily
activities revolved around agriculture and farming because that was one of the
biggest sources of income. Which contributed to keeping their family financially
stable, the most important responsibility they had. Men were also greatly
involved in public events and politics.

            The role of women in Ancient Rome
was comparable to the role of women in Ancient Greece. However, being a Roman
woman was certainly preferred because unlike Greek women, Roman women were not
considered property. And also, could be considered a citizen depending on their
status. Even though women could be considered a citizen, they still had no public
rights. (Evans). Overall, Roman women were treated with more respect. Men were
still the head of the household in Ancient Rome. And one of their biggest responsibilities
was to ensure that his children were educated. The jobs of men also varied due
to their financial position. Poor men mainly worked for the military or were farmers.

The men that were classified as more elite worked as businessmen.

            Being
a woman in Ancient Egypt is a completely different experience than being a woman
in any other ancient civilization. Overall, the responsibilities of the women were
very similar to those of other civilizations. But the main difference was that
women were considered equal to the men by law. And because of this, women were
allowed to own businesses, buy and sell property (Watterson). Even though women
were not constricted to the household, being a mother and a wife was their
first priority. Although women were considered equal to men, men were still considered
to have more power than women. But the respect that Egyptian women received was
completely unheard of at the time.  Egyptian
women had opportunities that were unheard of in any other ancient civilization.

(“Women of Ancient Egypt”)

The origin of this respect towards
women comes from the beliefs of Ancient Egyptians. They believed that there were
not just masculine elements in the universe. But in actuality, in order to
maintain a state of perfect balance, feminine elements were necessary as well.

Essentially, there cannot be peace and harmony without both gods and goddess.

Which shows that Ancient Egypt sees the importance of women and that in order
to live in concord women are necessary. Since men in Ancient Egypt recognize
this, women are seen as just as important as men.

Even though most Ancient Egyptian
women still carried the title of ‘lady of the household’, there were other women
who had the ability to rise to very powerful positions. Some of the most important
and power leaders were women. It was difficult for women to go from ‘lady of
the household’ to pharaoh. Because most were already born into leadership or
married into power. But witnessing a woman rise to the highest power must have
been a very inspiring and incredible experience. For example, the first female
pharaoh was Queen Hatshepsut. And she is known as one of the most successful pharaohs
in Egyptian history. And of course, the most famous female leader was Cleopatra.

There are several female leaders that have had a tremendous impact on Egypt and
they will always be recognized as extraordinary women.

Women being treated with respect
during the ancient time period was a fairly rare occurrence, expect for in
Ancient Egypt. Whether or not women were respected depended solely on how the
men in their civilization viewed them. In Ancient Greece, men viewed women as
their own property. So therefore, women were not anywhere near equal to men. In
Ancient Rome, women had slightly more rights than in Greece. So, they were
shown some slightly more respect. But Egyptian women were shown the most
respect compared to any other ancient civilization. The men in Ancient Egypt actually
acknowledged the importance women and show them the respect they deserve. If a
woman had to choose to live in any ancient civilization, Egypt should be their
first choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Blundell, Sue. Women in
Ancient Greece. Cambridge, Mass., Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University
Press, 1995.

Evans, John K. War, Women
and Children in Ancient Rome. London, London : Routledge, 2013.

“Gender Role | Definition of Gender
Role in English by Oxford Dictionaries.” Oxford Dictionaries | English,
Oxford Dictionaries, en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/gender_role.

O’Pry, Kay. Social and Political Roles of Women in Athens and Sparta. Saber and
Scroll: Vol. 1: Iss. 2, Article 3, 2012.

Watterson,
Barbara. Women in Ancient Egypt. New York, New York : St. Martin’s
Press, 1991.

“Women
of Ancient Egypt.” Ushistory.org, Independence Hall Association,
www.ushistory.org/civ/3f.asp.