Time reveals how women s roles have changed throughout history and literature. Women have changed from the roles of submissive servants to powerful figures with leadership abilities. Each of the following pieces of literature: The Epic of Gilgamesh, Lysistrata, and Perpetua take place in different and descending time eras. As each piece is read, a new era of women s roles are revealed and with them a higher sense of their value.
In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the women start their role at the bottom rung on the ladder , always trying to climb their way to the top. They remained at home with the children, caring for them and were expected to remain loyal to their husbands. They were submissive, with no power, and had no voice in the society in which they lived. A perfect example of their value is the fact that the most respectable profession of the time was prostitution. In this story, the prostitute sent to Enkidu played a positive role for the women of the time. She brought Enkidu out of his shell and opened his eyes to a whole new world. She bathed him, dressed him, and brought him to civilization (Gigamesh, pg.20, 21). By bringing Enkidu to the shepherd s house, he engaged in the ways of society by eating bread and drinking wine. Other than this particular example, women were primarily thought of less than the cattle in the field.
Men on the other hand, have always been thought of as the dominant role in society. Their role has been stable throughout time and they took advantage of this power by being tyrannical rulers. An example of their power is the right enforced by Gilgamesh to have the authority to sleep with every virgin bride upon their wedding night (Gigamesh, pg.21). Although this was not morally right for Gilgamesh to enforce, he was the ruler and being the dominant gender, he took advantage of the weaker sex.
Although women did not seem to increase their power by much, in Lysistrata women did achieve a much stronger role in society. By setting their minds together, Lysistrata with the help of the Athenian and Spartan women ended a generation of war between Athens and Sparta. This story is a good example of how the role of women has changed. In the beginning of the story, the women were slaves to their husbands every want and desire. The women never even questioned the way they were treated. They were not allowed to discuss how they felt about the wars their husbands were fighting. If they tried they were threatened or beaten (Aristophanes Lysistrata, pg.201). There is only so much abuse, both physical and emotional, that people can take before standing up for themselves. These women were just sick of not having their husbands around due to the war. Both the Athenian and Spartan women agreed to withhold all sexual acts from all of the men until they agreed to make peace and end the war. This so called strike from sex worked, and it made the Athenians come to peace and end their generation of war. This story shows women having the upper hand and becoming the stronger sex by sticking to their beliefs and following through with their plan.
Perpetua was a very strong woman who did not deny who she really was, even though the cost was her life. She was a Christian woman in a time where Christians were outcasts in society. She knew in her heart that Jesus Christ was her Lord and Savior and stuck with her beliefs till her dying day. Women in this time advanced into dominant figures and strong leaders in what was once a male dominant society. Perpetua was a strong female role model of her time and still inspires women everywhere no matter what race or religion to fight for what they believe in.
In conclusion, women have come a long way from being doormats to becoming powerful individuals in society. Now women take active roles that were unheard of in earlier times. In these days women involve themselves in political matters and uphold higher positions in prestigious careers. No longer are women looked down upon. Through time they have been molded and shaped into positive role models, and females have come to notice their sex is nothing to be ashamed of. Women should be proud of who they are because they have come a long way, and as we enter the new millennium there will be more opportunities for women to take advantage of. No longer are women the weaker sex. Society now looks upon both males and females as equal forces within this expanding world we live in.