I have been reading about frontier women in this excellent history I got from my local community college's library. It's such a full and well-researched narrative - I highly recommend it.
Anyway, what I am finding surprising is how held back we have been in innovation just due to sexist social norms. Things that were invented and in general use in more liberal areas were very slow to make their way in areas where the women were more submissive to men.
Since women were the frontiers-people who spent their days almost completely inside their makeshift homes, windows were often overlooked. If the man spent the day farming, he usually was not in the home during daylight hours, and being the leader and decision-maker could deem access to light or fresh air not a necessity when he was there to simply eat and retire to sleep. His day time life in the sunshine and elements would have a completely different feel than the life of his partner of similar age and upbringing who would spend entire winter seasons in the darkness of a windowless home. Being a stay at home mom "on the plains," albeit it a very modern suburban home, this struck me hard.
I crave light in the winter. I open every blind first thing as I start my day of housekeeping and even then my days feel healthier and happier if I have an excuse to go outside or somewhere else for part of the day. My realization of the suffering of my pioneer sisters was strong. There's been lots of other, more grim suffering than just dark-filled shelter referenced in the book, but it was at this point in my reading I started making the connections with other downfalls of a society in which women's strengths are suppressed.
How many mothers in the wild smile and nod as you approach their young?
How many call for forgiveness when you have assaulted their little one?
How soon after your taunting or abusing of her cub would she think everyone should just "leave you alone?"
Sexism denies women our birthright. If you believe in a creator, expecting women to be gentle, soft, and deferential to men seems to deny our very God-given biological strengths. If our biology grants us the ability to grow the new life - why would we be given weakness in the face of protecting that life we created?
In Half the Sky one of the conclusions of their research that stuck out to me was how having women in leadership or decision making roles drastically improved outcomes for children. This was the case both in homes and on a larger scale in national governments. The nutrition, health and safety of the groups' youngest and most vulnerable depend on STRONG women. Hiding behind religious dogma about "biblical womanhood" cultures and groups can suppress our inborn strengths.
As a female who has often felt a kinship with the fiercely protective mothers of other species, I think we should encourage that fierce behavior. Our hearts know how we feel about our children's safety. We can be strong in keeping the kids protected even in the face of social or religious shaming about what "real women" should be.