Chapter

Untangling the Roots of Modern Sex Roles

Ruth H. Bloch

in Gender and Morality in Anglo-American Culture, 1650-1800

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780520234055
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936478 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520234055.003.0003
Untangling the Roots of Modern Sex Roles

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This chapter discusses that the conceptual framework of the argument—the distinction between “symbols” and “roles”—addresses the same concerns about the relationship between material and ideational factors. It also reports a transatlantic perspective in identifying successive periods of change in the status of women. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the rise of Protestantism, the centralized state, and early commercial capitalism reinforced the conjugal family unit and patriarchal dominance within family life. Women were measured against essentially the same standard as men and were judged worthy of a position one rung beneath. As the dominant feminine ideal of the nineteenth century, moral motherhood evolved in sharp contrast to the masculine ideal of individual worldly success. Sexual distinctions again sharpened, increasing female authority over several vital, albeit limited, spheres of life.

Keywords: women; men; Protestantism; commercial capitalism; conjugal family unit; patriarchal dominance; moral motherhood; female authority

Chapter.  5066 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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