By Peter N. Stearns
Be a Man!: men in smooth Society [Paperback]
Peter N. Stearns (Author)
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As civilization became more elaborate-in China under the Han and Tang dynasties, for example, or in Islam after the first centuries of conquest-women's position became increasingly inferior. While this inferiority was as a rule particularly marked in the upper classes-peasants could not afford to lose women's labor • 26 B E A M AN ! potential b y such practices a s footbinding, for example-it penneated almost all strata to a degree. 13 Some of the reasons for ongoing gender distinctions are not hard to find.
34 The central ambiguity of gender remained, for women gained in many ways in the reformed churches. They could be full church members and were no longer excluded in any part from channels of sacramental grace. The Reformation and other trends in Western Europe actually heightened an interest in women's educa tion, though it was as a result of the Renaissance in France and Italy that women began particularly to assume roles as patrons of culture. Important debates began about the nature of women's intellect, foreshadowing modem times yet maintaining the Christian tension about women as human equals.
Facing the inevitable problem of any agricultural society in balancing priestly and military functions, classical civilization leaned toward the military. Maleness in Greece as well as Rome was associated with valor, prowess in sports, even physique. Of course women were consid ered inferior, as was true in most complex agricultural societies. Greek women, for example, were publicly scorned. " Privately, however, women might have great power, through their family role and even as property owners.