Gender Roles In The Renaissance

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In early modern England, notions about female gender roles tended to be constructed by two forms of discourse: the theological and the medical. Theological sermons and pamphlets emphasized the biblical injunctions that women should be silent and obedient and that they were subject to the authority of their husbands. Callaghan (1989, 9) argues that Renaissance society was ‘profoundly hierarchical ' and that the chain of authority extended from God, via the monarch, to men and women who were expected to conduct their household relationships inconformity with the idea that women were subject the authority of their fathers and husbands. Belsey (1985, 9) emphasizes thatmen and women are not symmetrically defined. Man, the centerand hero of liberal humanism, was produced in contradistinction to the objects of his knowledge, and in terms of the relations of power in the economy and the state. Woman was produced in contradistinction to man, and in terms of the relations of power in the family. These relationships were worked out in the public and private spheres in the requirement that, in terms of the economy and the state, women should be voiceless, and within the family they should be subject to their husbands, fathers and other male relatives. Thus, Newman (1991, 134) argues: Talk in women then is dangerous because it is perceived as a usurpation of multiple forms of authority, a threat to order and male sovereignty, to masculine control of commodity exchange, to a
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