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Separate Spheres

Separate spheres was a terminology used to define the different worlds that characterized both men and women. Women belonged to a sphere that comprised of the church, home, and social visits. On the other hand, men belonged to a sphere that characterized them being in the public and especially in the world of politics and commerce. The separate spheres became very much pronounced within the middle class in small cities and towns. This ideology began in the 18th century and lasted through to the 19th century. It became distinct in the industrial revolution era but it can be traced back as far as the ancient Greeks era. For instance, in politics, Aristotle highlighted the presence of two distinct separate spheres in the Greek society; the city and the home. In the ancient Greek, women were limited to the private realm while on the other men were meant to occupy the public sphere. Prior to the industrialization, family members worked together in their homes which served as their workplaces. However, during the industrialization, homes seized to be production zones and therefore they became private. Since women were restricted from participating in the production process they were confined to their homes.

In the eighteenth century, such a division was seen to be natural and those women that sought to be rebellious to the gender grouping were seen to be unusual. Most experts tend to perceive the separate spheres as a perfect illustration of the social construction of gender. It is only a few privileged women in the upper and middle class that enjoyed more freedom. Some of the privileged women enjoyed more education in female based academies but in most cases that was under the supervision of their fathers. However, most girls in the middle and lower classes grew up under their mothers’ wings. This was a way to prepare them on how they would take the woman roles. Simply home was more or less the schoolroom for the girls as it shaped them to be women that would conform to the women roles. Additionally girls were in most cases in the company of women and girls. As a result of the culture of visiting each other as by being together they had created strong bonds. The discrimination at the time ensured that women didn’t have personal rights. Before they were married they were seen as being dependents of their families and once they were married they were under coverture. This, therefore, meant that they didn’t have property or economic rights.

It was until the mid-20th century when the ideologies of separate spheres began to be disrespected. The historians and feminist theorists took up a critical stance against the ideologies of separate spheres. Some of the vocal women who campaigned against the oppression of women include Barbara welter, a historian and Betty Friedan, a renowned feminist who advocated for equal rights for the women. To them, the reliance of women on their husbands was an oppressive paradigm. It is through such activists that women eventually attained their freedoms and eventually were allowed to vote. That marked the end of separate spheres. However, it is important to note that in some cultures the culture of separate spheres still exist as women are confined to house duties. Giant steps have been made and now there are women presidents and women in critical managerial positions in big companies.

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