The article, “On the origins of gender roles: women and the plough” studies the historical origins of existing cross-cultural differences in value and belief concerning the appropriate role of women in society…
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In others, there is a different view that the allowed and appropriate women’s place is within the home; they were discouraged from taking part in activities outside of the domestic fields. Consequently, these differences can be clearly seen in surveys carried out. The findings showed that, women who belonged to societies which, practiced plough agriculture had lower rates of participation in the workplace, that is, in entrepreneurial activities and politics. For instance; the results of surveys carried out world wide showed varies across countries; in Iceland 3.6% and Egypt 99.6% agreed with the statement that, “when jobs are scarce, men should have more right to a job than women” (Alesina et al, 26). In other words, there was a greater prevalence of attitudes favoring gender inequality in such societies. The authors’ principal concern is to explain the origin of these cultural differences. Therefore, they test Ester Boserup’s 1970 hypothesis that, the origin of differences in gender roles were from agriculture traditionally practiced in the pre-industrial period. It finds out that historical gender division of labor observed today may nave been influenced by traditional agricultural practices. These agricultural practices were divided into; shifting cultivation and plough cultivation. Shifting cultivation used hand-held tools like digging stick and hoe. It was labor intensive and women actively involved in farm work. In the other end plough cultivation is more capital intensive, uses plough in land preparation. As ploughing requires grip strength and upper body also, requires power to control the animals pulling it men were at a greater advantage than women. Gender bias is reinforced in ability because; ploughing cultivation needs less weeding which was generally done by women. This is in contrast to shifting cultivation where women were more suited as weeding had to be done using hoes. Boserup held that societies that traditionally practiced plough agriculture other than shifting cultivation developed specialization of production along gender line. In this paper, Boserup’s hypothesis is tested by combining pre-industrial ethnographic data, reporting whether societies traditionally practiced plough agriculture, with contemporary measures of individuals view about gender roles, as well as measure of female participation in activities outside of the homes. Further, they added an analysis of more variations across countries, individuals and ethnic groups. Consequently, the findings confirmed that traditional plough used was positively correlated with attitudes reflecting gender roles today. Moreover, it was negatively correlated with female labor force participation, female participation in politics and female firm ownership. Men tend to work outside of the homes in the fields, while as women specialized in activities within the home. Division of labor in this eventually defines the role of women. Societies characterized by plough agriculture and a leading gender based division of labor, developed the notion that the natural place for women is within the home. Unfortunately, these notions and practices with respect to women continue even today, when most economies are moving away from agricultural practices. Using ethnographic evidence and Boserup’s hypothesis, the authors find more evidence of a historical connection between plough use
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