Farming, Food, Factories, and Feminism, a Postface

Since the time of my thoughts from the Preface, my mind has continued to ruminate on the possible origins of the shift away from patriarchy. I have quite a crude hypothesis about how this situation has arisen, which looks very generally at some basic changes in the home, relationships, and lifestyles of people over the last few hundred years. I think anything we look at over this time span has to at the very least take into account the industrial revolution, if not link to it as the primary force for any noteworthy modern themes.

It’s best to begin with food, not least because it’s the most essential tangible item that humans need—after air to breath—and its production has always been an occupation of at least some members of a nation. Food production or gathering will always be first to originate in anything termed an economy, whether subsistent, traditional, market, command, or mixed; and it will always be the last occupation to fade when a civilization is ceasing to exist. This primacy of food production might be suppressed in various “high points” of civilizations, but when things start to go awry it’s importance will be reasserted—it is never far from

So even if women played a role in food production, men were usually the owners/managers/directors of the operations and the ones esteemed as the driving force of the farm. Women might cook the food and make the final essential edible meal, but this too, was only possible if the man had brought in the food: he was the real bread winner, if not the bread baker.

Up until the industrial revolution got well under way this was the main trend in societies: the relationship between males as dominant and females as subservient was codified in the immediate setting of every home, and reinforced by larger cultural traditions that put men as the only legitimate owners, dealers, shot-callers, etc.

Once industry started to literally and figuratively tower over agriculture, most men couldn’t or wouldn’t continue to be involved in farms and went on to either own factories, transport services, or work for them. Men were shuffling off to earn what was deemed more valuable—money; and giving up on what was deemed less so—food production and rural patches of land.

During all this, women were still the homemakers: preparing meals and raising the children, because it fell on them to do so. I think this is where the inflection point occurred and patriarchy began its waning. Why? Women had day-to-day evidence that what they did was in a basic biological sense absolutely essential to their families. What men were doing could not compare. It’s true that the money and the pursuit of wealth that men were undertaking had the highest amount of social legitimacy, but it wasn’t something biologically necessary the way food was, and so as men were gaining wealth from one generation to the next, they were losing ground in their visible necessity at home. Children might be told that their fathers were bringing home the bacon, but their mothers were making the rules, constantly involved in their upbringing, and going and buying the bacon AND cooking it. This shift in female self-concept probably had its greatest surges inter-generationally rather than the less likely story of singularly revolutionary females having epiphanies about their real worth; mothers might have the visibility of their value repressed by their own blinders, but their disgruntled daughters who were daily fed empirical evidence that women had the more important role in society were sure to be the ones with fires lit under them.

I don’t know if I’ve made a strong enough case for causation, but I would definitely argue that there is a strong correlation between the industrial revolution and the growing prowess of females. There are certainly other factors that played a large role in originating patriarchy to begin with, such as men taking on the role of warriors. What role soldiers being given the highest societal honor plays in modulating the waning of patriarchy is not for me to say here. I am not of the opinion that we should somehow try to engineer a way back to patriarchy either, and do not think gender relations were necessarily any “better” back then as to how they are now.

This and other details I leave for you to fill in as you will.

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