What Was Life Like for Women in the Paleolithic Period, and Why Did Their Social Status Change Afterward?

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What was life like for women in the Paleolithic Period, and why did their social status change afterward? According to some scholars, women in the Paleolithic period had a rather equal status with men. Shortly after the Neolithic period began, though, that status fell and an inequality between the genders came into existence. I love how the book puts it: “The inequalities of gender...decisively shaped the character of the First Civilizations and those that followed.” p.73. In other words, gender inequality played a huge role in the world from thousands of years ago and still today. Women in the Paleolithic period had a far more equal relationship with men than they did in later societies. This is because women provided most of the food by collecting the same amount, if not more food than men did. Women put in an equal effort of work and were therefore respected as much as men. Throw out those silly perceptions of Neanderthals bonking each other on the heads with clubs because according to Natalie Angier in her article Furs for Evening, But Cloth Was the Stone Age Standby, “researchers have found evidence that the women of the Paleolithic era were far more accomplished, economically powerful, and sartorially gifted than previously believed.” That goes to men and women both! Probably during the Neolithic era, men became the dominant sex. So why did the status of women drop? Whenever plowing was introduced and in societies where many animals were kept rather than hunted, women were seen as less significant. The new agricultural methods were probably far too vigorous for women, especially those that were pregnant or with small children. Essentially, the role of women changed. Women spent more time with pregnancy and child rearing, preparing food, and textiles rather than helping men with farming or animals. Women were treated with less respect because men felt as
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