“(1) woman’s body and its functions, more involved more of the time with ‘species life,’ seem to place her closer to nature, in contrast to man’s physiology, which frees him more completely to take up the projects of culture;
(2) woman’s body and its functions place her in social roles that in turn are considered to be at a lower order of the cultural process than man’s; and
(3) woman’s traditional social roles, imposed because of her body and its functions, in turn give her a different psychic structure, which, like her physiological nature and her social roles, is seen as being closer to nature” (73-74).
While these factors put women in a domestic role and put children as the primary social contact and concern of women, it does not segregate women from society. Despite the obvious limitations, it gives women a vital role in shaping and maintaining culture. Concerning children, the woman “… in fact is the primary agent of their early socialization. It is she who transforms newborn infants from mere organisms into cultural humans, teaching them manners and the proper ways to behave in order to become full-fledged members of the culture” (Ortner, 79-80).
In the past religion was at the center of culture. Religion and culture are still undoubtedly intertwined. But in the past instruction on belief, ritual and sacred texts would have been crucial in the socialization of children. Such involvement provided women with support, community and often their only social outlet outside the home (Shaw & Lee, 674). In the days before secularism, religious institutions were often heavily involved in societal operations. Though leadership roles were often off limits to women, the church or temple was a public place for women to voice concerns and seek advice and recourse.
As secularism started to make religion less visible, it also made women that depended on religion as their only public forum less visible. At that time more avenues like the workplace and various leadership roles began to open, offering women an alternative. But it is still evident today that these avenues are not without issue. The privatization of religion would have hit women especially hard as it has traditionally been their only source of comfort, support and aid outside the home. Women must adapt not only to closing channels, but must also navigate new ones.
Ortner, Sherry B. “Is Female to Male as Nature Is to Culture?” in Women, Culture, and Society. Edited by M.A. Rosaldo & L. Lamphere. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1974, pp. 68-87.
Shaw, Susan & Janet Lee. “Religion and Spirituality in Women’s Lives” in Women’s Voices Feminist Visions: classic and contemporary readings, 4th ed. Edited by S. Shaw & J. Lee. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., 2009, pp. 669-682.