Based on your examination and analysis of the documents and citing evidence from them to support your answers, write an analysis answering the following questions: 1. In what ways were women able to challenge at least some elements of their societies? Do these documents exhibit anything similar to the feminist thinking or action of our own times? 2. To what extent did women in these societies internalize or accept the patriarchal values of their societies? Why might have they done so? 3. If you were a woman living during these times, which of these societies would you prefer to live in, and why? Do you think this kind of question—judging the past by the standards of the present—is a valid approach to historical inquiry?
Your analysis should be 3 to 5 pages in length and uploaded here. Please save your analysis as a Word document.
Source 1 A Greek Expression of Patriarchy
Second-wave civilizations articulated their understanding of patriarchy in various ways. Among the Greeks, Aristotle stands out for the long-term influence of his views on women within Western civilization into the modern era. As to women’s inferiority, Aristotle is clear: They are “mutilated” or “inferior” men. “[T]he male…is by nature more expert at leading than the female…[T]he relation of male to female is by nature a relation of superior to inferior and ruler to ruled.” This position of women derives from some “natural deficiency” in their capacity for reason. In this respect, according to Aristotle, women lie somewhere between slaves and children. “The slave is wholly lacking the deliberative element [reason]; the female has it but lacks authority; the child has it but it is incomplete.” And so women are excluded completely from public life. Even their role in procreation is passive; they are merely the material receptacle for the active element of male sperm. In the selection that follows, Aristotle builds on these assumptions as he outlines his view of a “good wife.” Questions to consider as you examine the source: • What are the chief qualities of a “good wife” in Aristotle’s view? • How do these qualities reflect his understanding of women’s inherent inferiority? • Does Aristotle prescribe any respect, protections, or benefits for women within marriage? How might the oppression inherent in patriarchy exist alongside kindness and affection between husband and wife? Aristotle, “On a Good Wife,” from Oikonomikos, ca. 330 B.C.E. A good wife should be the mistress of her home, having under her care all that is within it, according to the rules we have laid down. She should allow none to enter without her husband’s knowledge, dreading above all things the gossip of gadding women, which tends to poison the soul. She alone should have knowledge of what happens within. She must exercise control of the money spent on such festivities as her husband has approved–keeping, moreover, within the limit set by law upon expenditure, dress, and ornament—and remembering that beauty depends not on costliness of raiment. Nor does abundance of gold so conduce to the praise of a woman as self-control in all that she does. This, then, is the province over which a woman should be minded to bear an orderly rule; for it seems not fitting that a man should know all that passes within the house. But in all other matters, let it be her aim to obey her husband; giving no heed to public affairs, nor having any part in arranging the marriages of her children. Rather, when the time shall come to give or receive in marriage sons or daughters, let her then hearken to her husband in all respects, and agreeing with him obey his wishes. It is fitting that a woman of a well-ordered life should consider that her husband’s wishes are as laws appointed for her by divine will, along with the marriage state and the fortune she shares. If she endures them with patience and gentleness, she will rule her home with ease; otherwise, not so easily. Therefore not only when her husband is in prosperity and good report must she be in agreement with him, and to render him the service he wills, but also in times of adversity. If, through sickness or fault of judgment, his good fortune fails, then must she show her quality, encouraging him ever with words of cheer and yielding him obedience in all fitting ways—only let her do nothing base or unworthy. Let her refrain from
all complaint, nor charge him with the wrong, but rather attribute everything of this kind to sickness or ignorance or accidental errors. …Therefore his wife’s training should be the object of a man’s unstinting care; that so far as is possible their children may spring from the noblest of stock. For it is only by this means that each mortal, successively produced, participates in immortality; and that petitions and prayers continue to be offered to ancestral gods. So that he who thinks lightly of this would seem also to be slighting the gods. For their sake then, in whose presence he offered sacrifice and led his wife home, promising to honor her far above all others saving his parents, a man must have care for wife and children. Now a virtuous wife is best honored when she sees that her husband is faithful to her, and has no preference for another woman…Therefore it befits not a man of sound mind to bestow his person promiscuously, or have random intercourse with women; for otherwise the base-born will share in the rights of his lawful children, and his wife will be robbed of her honor due, and shame be attached to his sons. And it is fitting that he should approach his wife in honor, full of self-restraint and awe; and in his conversation with her, should use only the words of a right-minded man, suggesting only such acts as are themselves lawful and honorable. And if through ignorance she has done wrong, he should advise her of it in a courteous and modest manner…And if the husband learns first to master himself, he will thereby become his wife’s best guide in all the affairs of life, and will teach her to follow his example. Source: from Aristotle, The Politics & Economics of Aristotle
Source 2 An Indian Expression of Patriarchy
The early centuries of Indian civilization (1500—500 B.C.E.) provide evidence for a degree of independence and respect for women of the upper castes. They participated in religious rituals, composed some of the hymns in the Vedas, could sometimes freely choose their husbands, were able to move freely in public, and could remarry. Much of this changed and a far more rigid patriarchy took hold as India’s classical civilization crystallized during the second-wave era. That patriarchy found expression in the Laws of Manu, a huge compilation of prescriptions for an ideal society, which developed around 200—400 C.E. Questions to consider as you examine the source: • What restrictions does this text place on the lives of women? • What assumptions about social life and the role of women underlie these restrictions? • How does the tone and substance of this Indian text compare with that of Aristotle? The Laws of Manu 200—400 C.E. The Duties of Women 147. By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, nothing must be done independently, even in her own house. 148. In childhood a female must be subject to her father, in youth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a woman must never be independent. 149. She must not seek to separate herself from her father, husband, or sons; by leaving them she would make both her own and her husband’s families contemptible. 150. She must always be cheerful, clever in the management of her household affairs, careful in cleaning her utensils, and economical in expenditure. 151. Him to whom her father may give her, or her brother with the father’s permission, she shall obey as long as he lives, and when he is dead, she must not insult his memory. 154. Though destitute of virtue, or seeking pleasure elsewhere, or devoid of good qualities, yet a husband must be constantly worshipped as a god by a faithful wife. 155. No sacrifice, no vow, no fast must be performed by women apart from their husbands; if a wife obeys her husband, she will for that reason alone be exalted in heaven. 157… she must never even mention the name of another man after her husband has died. 164. By violating her duty towards her husband, a wife is disgraced in this world, after death she enters the womb of a jackal, and is tormented by diseases as the punishment of her sin… 166. [A] female who controls her thoughts, speech, and actions, gains in this life highest renown and in the next world a place near her husband. Duties of Husband and Wife 95. The husband receives his wife from the gods; he does not wed her according to his own will; doing what is agreeable to the gods, he must always support her while she is faithful.
101. Let mutual fidelity continue until death. This is the summary of the highest law for husband and wife. Source: The Laws of Manu, in The Sacred Books of the East, vol. 25, translated by G. Buhler (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1886).
Source 3 A Chinese Woman’s Instructions to Her Daughters
Strangely enough, Chinese patriarchy found its classical expression in the writing of a woman, Ban Zhao (45—116 C.E.). Confucius himself had apparently said little about women, perhaps reflecting his assumptions about their limited importance in Chinese society. Born into an elite family with connections to the imperial court, Ban Zhao received a fine literary education, was married at the age of fourteen, gave birth to several children, and was widowed early in life. In keeping with Chinese tradition, she never remarried, but she had a significant career as a court historian and as an advisor to the empress-dowager (the widow of a deceased emperor). Her most famous work, Lessons for Women, was an effort to apply the principles of Confucianism to the lives and behavior of women. Questions to consider as you examine the source: • How would Ban Zhao define an ideal woman? An ideal man? An ideal marriage? • In what ways does Lessons for Women reflect Confucian attitudes? • How might you understand Ban Zhao’s work as pushing back against the limitations of Confucian patriarchy? Lessons for Women Late First Century C.E. I, the unworthy writer, am unsophisticated, unenlightened, and by nature unintelligent, but I am fortunate both to have received not a little favor from my scholarly Father, and to have had a cultured mother and instructresses upon whom to rely for a literary education as well as for training in good manners. More than forty years have passed since at the age of fourteen I took up the dustpan and the broom in the Cao family [the family into which she married]. During this time with trembling heart I feared constantly that I might disgrace my parents, and that I might multiply difficulties for both the women and the men of my husband’s family. Day and night I was distressed in heart, but I labored without confessing weariness. Now and hereafter, however, I know how to escape from such fears. Being careless, and by nature stupid, I taught and trained my children without system… I do grieve that you, my daughters, just now at the age for marriage, have not… learned the proper customs for married women. l fear that by failure in good manners in other families you will humiliate both your ancestors and your clan…At hours of leisure I have composed…these instructions under the title, “Lessons for Women.” HUMILITY On the third day after the birth of a girl the ancients observed three customs: first to place the baby below the bed; second to give her a potsherd [a piece of broken pottery] with which to play; and third to announce her birth to her ancestors by an offering. Now to lay the baby below the bed plainly indicated that she is lowly and weak, and should regard it as her primary duty to humble herself before others. To give her potsherds with which to play indubitably signified that she should practice labor and consider it her primary duty to be industrious. To announce her birth before her ancestors clearly meant that she ought to esteem as her primary duty the continuation of the observance of worship in the home. These three ancient customs epitomize woman’s ordinary way of life and the teachings of the traditional ceremonial rites and regulations. Let a woman modestly yield to others; 1t
her respect others; let her put others first, herself last…Always let her seem to tremble and to fear. When a woman follows such maxims as these then she may be said to humble herself before others. Let a woman retire late to bed, but rise early to duties; let her nor dread tasks by day or by night…When a woman follows such rules as these, then she may be said to be industrious. Let a woman be correct in manner and upright in character in order to serve her husband…Let her love not gossip and silly laughter. Let her cleanse and purify and arrange in order the wine and the food for the offerings to the ancestors. When a woman observes such principles as these, then she may be said to continue ancestral worship. HUSBAND AND WIFE The Way of husband and wife is intimately connected with Yin and Yang and relates the individual to gods and ancestors. Truly it is the great principle of Heaven and Earth, and the great basis of human relationships… If a husband be unworthy, then he possesses nothing by which to control his wife. If a wife be unworthy, then she possesses nothing with which to serve her husband. If a husband does not control his wife, then the rules of conduct manifesting his authority are abandoned and broken. If a wife does not serve her husband, when the proper relationship between men and women and the natural order of things are neglected and destroyed. As a matter of fact the purpose of these two is the same. Now examine the gentlemen of the present age. They only know their wives must be controlled, and that the husband’s rules of conduct manifesting his authority must be established. They therefore teach their boys to read books and study histories. But they do not in the least understand that husbands and masters must also be served, and that the proper relationship and the rites should be maintained. Yet only to teach men and not to teach women — is that not ignoring the essential relation between them? According to the “Rites,” it is the rule to begin to teach children to read at the age of eight years, and by the age of fifteen years they ought then to be ready for cultural training. Only why should it not be that girls’ education as well as boys’ be according to this principle?
RESPECT AND CAUTION As Yin and Yang are not of the same nature, so man and woman have different characteristics. The distinctive quality of the Yang is rigidity; the function of the Yin is yielding. Man is honored for strength; a woman is beautiful on account of her gentleness. Hence there arose the common saying: “A man though born like a wolf may, it is feared, become a weak monstrosity; a woman though born like a mouse may, it is feared, become a tiger.” Now for self-culture nothing equals respect for others…Consequently it can be said that the Way of respect and acquiescence is woman’s most important principle of conduct…Those who are steadfast in devotion know that they should stay in their proper places… If husband and wife have the habit of staying together, never leaving one another, and following each other around within the limited space of their own rooms, then they will lust after and take liberties with one another. From such action improper language will arise between the two. This kind of discussion may lead co licentiousness. But of licentiousness
will be born a heart of disrespect to the husband. Such a result comes from not knowing that one should stay in one’s proper place… If wives suppress not contempt for husbands, then it follows that such wives rebuke and scold their husbands. If husbands stop not short of anger, then they are certain to beat their wives. The correct relationship between husband and wife is based upon harmony and intimacy, and conjugal love is grounded in proper union. Should actual blows be dealt, how could matrimonial relationship be preserved? Should sharp words be spoken, how could conjugal love exist? If love and proper relationship both be destroyed, then husband and wife are divided. WOMANLY QUALIFICATIONS A woman ought to have four qualifications: (1) womanly virtue; (2) womanly words; (3) womanly bearing; and (4) womanly work. Now what is called womanly virtue need not be brilliant ability, exceptionally different from others. Womanly words need be neither clever in debate nor keen in conversation. Womanly appearance requires neither a pretty nor a perfect face and form. Womanly work need not be work done more skillfully than that of others. To guard carefully her chastity; to control circumspectly her behavior; in every motion to exhibit modesty; and to model each act on the best usage, this is womanly virtue. To choose her words with care; to avoid vulgar language; to speak at appropriate times; and nor to weary others with much conversation, may be called the characteristics of womanly words. To wash and scrub filth away; to keep clothes and ornaments fresh and clean; to wash the head and bathe the body regularly, and to keep the person free from disgraceful filth, may be called the characteristics of womanly bearing. With whole-hearted devotion to sew and to weave; to love not gossip and silly laughter; in cleanliness and order to prepare the wine and food for serving guests, may be called the characteristics of womanly work… IMPLICIT OBEDIENCE Whenever the mother-in-law says, “Do not do that,” and if what she says is right, unquestionably the daughter-in-law obeys. Whenever the mother-in-law says, “Do that,” even if what she says is wrong, still the daughter-in-law submits unfailingly to the command. Let a woman not act contrary to the wishes and the opinions of parents-in-law about right and wrong; let her not dispute with them what is straight and what is crooked. Such docility may called obedience which sacrifices personal opinion. Therefore the ancient book, A Pattern for Women, says: “If a daughter-in-law who follows the wishes of her parents-in-law is like and echo and shadow, how could she not be praised?
Source: Nancy Lee Swann, trans., Pan Chao: Foremost Woman Scholar of China (New York: Century, 1932).
Source 4 An Alternative to Patriarchy in India
For some women in some places, religion offered a partial escape from the limitations of patriarchy. In India, one such path of release lay in becoming a Buddhist nun and entering a monastery, where women were relatively less restricted and could exercise more authority than in ordinary life. Known as bhikkhunis, such women composed hundreds of poems in the early centuries of Indian Buddhism. They were long recited and transmitted in an oral form and brought together in a collection known as the Psalms of the Sisters, which was set to writing probably during the first century B.C.E. These poems became part of the officially recognized Buddhist scriptures, known as the Pali Cannon. As such, they represent the only early text in any of the world’s major religions that was written by women and about the religious experience of women. A selection of these poems follows here. Questions to consider as you examine the source: • In what ways might these poems represent a criticism of Indian patriarchy? • How do these poems reflect core Buddhist teachings? • What criticism of the women who wrote these poems would you anticipate? How might supporters of the Laws of Manu view the renunciation that these nuns practiced? Psalms of the Sisters First Century B.C.E. XXI – Sumangala’s Mother O woman well set free! how free am I, How throughly free from kitchen drudgery! Me stained and squalid ‘mong my cooking-pots My brutal husband ranked as even less Than the sunshades he sits and weaves alway. Purged now of all my former lust and hate, I dwell, musing at ease beneath the shade Of spreading boughs–O, but ’tis well with me! XXXIX – Vimalā (Formerly a Courtesan.) How was I once puff’d up, incens’d with the bloom of my beauty, Vain of my perfect form, my fame and success ‘midst the people, Fill’d with the pride of my youth, unknowing the Truth and unheeding! Lo! I made my body, bravely arrayed, deftly painted, Speak for me to the lads, whilst I at the door of the harlot Stood, like a crafty hunter, weaving his snares, ever watchful. Yea, I bared without shame my body and wealth of adorning; Manifold wiles I wrought, devouring the virtue of many. To-day with shaven head, wrapt in my robe, I go forth on my daily round for food;… Now all the evil bonds that fetter gods And men are wholly rent and cut away… Calm and content I know Nibbana’s Peace.
XLIX – Candā (The Daughter of a Poor Brahmin) Fallen on evil days was I of yore. No husband had I, nor no child, no friends Or kin–whence could I food or raiment find? As beggars go, I took my bowl and staff, And sought me alms, begging from house to house, Sunburnt, frost-bitten, seven weary years. Then came I where a woman Mendicant Shared with me food, and drink, and welcomed me, And said: ‘Come forth into our homeless life!’… I heard her and I marked, and did her will. LIV – Anopamā (The Daughter of a Wealthy Treasurer) Daughter of Treas’rer Majjha’s famous house, Rich, beautiful and prosperous, I was born To vast possessions and to lofty rank. Nor lacked I suitors–many came and wooed; The sons of Kings and merchant princes came With costly gifts, all eager for my hand… But I had seen th’ Enlightened, Chief o’ the World, The One Supreme [the Buddha]. And [I] knew this world should see me ne’er return. Then cutting off the glory of my hair, I entered on the homeless ways of life. ‘Tis now the seventh night since first all sense Of craving dried up within my heart. LXX – Subhā (The Goldsmith’s Daughter) A maiden I, all clad in white, once heard The Norm, and hearkened eager, earnestly, So in me rose discernment of the Truths. Thereat all worldly pleasures irked me sore, For I could see the perils that beset This reborn compound, ‘personality,’ And to renounce it was my sole desire. So I forsook my world–my kinsfolk all, My slaves, my hirelings, and my villages, And the rich fields and meadows spread around, Things fair and making for the joy of life– All these I left, and sought the Sisterhood, Turning my back upon no mean estate… See now this Subhā, standing on the Norm, Child of a craftsman in the art of gold! Behold! she hath attained to utter calm. Source: Psalms of the Sisters, vol. 1 in Psalms of the Early Buddhists, translated by Mr. Rhys Davids (London: Henry Frowde, Oxford University Press, 1909).