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Male authority vs. female authority in traditional rural society

[journal article]

Brie, Mircea

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Abstract In traditional rural societies, the relationships between the two partners are genuine community patterns. It is not good to mingle male authority with thefe male’s, just like it is not possible to reverse the roles. Each of them has clear-cutt asks on both inter-relational level and on the level of socio-economic activities within or outside the household. The (male or female) authority in point is brought to the foreground as early as the first contacts between the partners. The whole “courtship”, “proposal”, “dealing” with the bride’s father (moment often associated with engagement), wedding rituals, etc., show the division of authority between the two. The community and the Church are on man’s side. The male has authority on his family. Yet, the authority originates in the role of representing the family in front of the community, a role assumed by man. The woman has authority on household. Yet she has internal control only when the mother-in-law and generally female community “consider she is able” to respond to the needs and duties this authority supposes. In several regions in France, for instance, the young wife has to be an “apprentice” for a year by her mother-in-law or another woman, if the former is absent. Man’s authority is granted by civil and religious law, by family and community and especially by socio-professional structure of traditional society, by “male” and “female” professions. Male mortality (the man is the one who is exhausted, toils, sacrifices himself, dies first) entails respect finally leading to authority. The young man looking for a wife is not concerned if she can lead a cart or cope with field work (although they are not excluded). Most of the times, the “village rumours” inform him if the young woman is able to be a good housewife through a well built mental pattern. From another perspective, the relationship between man and woman are most of the times dominated by the relationship between them and their exploitation. Thus, the equation is enlarged to husband – wife – land. The new relationship is framed by a cosmic universe, by meteorological season cycles. It is a unique relationship. Individual (and family!) life is influenced by the slightest whim of weather and nature in general. There are two types of relationships between the spouses: 1. the case of those under their parent, relatives, customs watch, when the woman has an inferior status; 2. the case of those emancipated, “evading” the traditional, when the husband accepts woman’s “equality”. In the latter case, we can speak of a love union, where “happiness” is more present, the husband imposes less authority on his wife, where there is a consensus between the spouses and their relationship is based on tenderness and physical pleasure.
Keywords Romania; Transylvania; rural population; village; community; marriage; traditional society; spouse; gender role; woman; married couple; family situation; wedding
Classification Family Sociology, Sociology of Sexual Behavior
Document language English
Publication Year 2009
Page/Pages p. 657-670
Journal Romanian journal of population studies (2009) Suppl.
Issue topic Families Europe between the 19th and the 21st Centuries. From the Traditional Model to Contemporary PACS
ISSN 1843-5998
Status Preprint; peer reviewed
Licence Creative Commons - Attribution-ShareAlike