Invisibility of women
The role of women in different periods and countries of each text is almost the same and women are equally evaluated during different times. The main role of women is presented as a mother who cares for children and who is responsible for their safety and prudence. Except for men’s women-relatives (mother, sister, etc.), there are other women in whom men see sexual partners or cut-price housekeepers. Even if men marry women not only as a way out, their duty as underrated wives is already determined by social norms and narratives. What is more, women are considered potential perverts who tend to spoil the family and further the whole country because women are the main source of evil in the World. In a patriarchal society, a female ruler is a stranger to society, because a woman’s place is in the kitchen and she is considered as a mentally weak being who cannot be trusted with deeds that require mental capacity. The role of women is to be behind men, to meet their physical needs, and not to have the same rights as men.
The main role of women is to be a mother, and they are well-presented only as mothers. A woman is presented primarily as a wise mother, who advises her son to make the right decision. In the epic of Gilgamesh, Gilgamesh’s mother presents as a wise and omniscient woman: ‘The mother of Gilgamesh was clever and wise, well versed in everything…’ (Gilgamesh 3). In the epic, Gilgamesh’s mother does not play the role of an ordinary mother, who is far from her son’s governance and who lives her personal life with her own care. She is a chief advisor and takes part in the life of the son and rules the city. She influences Gilgamesh’s important decisions such as the interpretation of his dreams (since dreams play a very important role for the Sumerian people, Gilgamesh trusts his mother), and blesses the friendship of Gilgamesh and Enkidu. In the case of Saint Augustine’s mother, her main role is formed around religion, and at the beginning the impression that she is not influential for her son due to the rejection of Christianity and distance from her and her father. Opinion changes when he joins Christianity and calls it the true path. The main reason finding himself, Saint Augustine claims that it is his mother and her prayers for him: ‘… For she has done all in her power that you, my God, maybe my father truer than he is, and you have so helped her in this that she has triumphed over her husband, whom she served – though she was the best of the two-because in so doing she served you who gave her this command…’ (Confession 11). Saint Augustine even admits his mother more than his father is noticeable by the way he writes a lot about his mother and nothing about his father. Saint Augustine’s mother, Monica is not only influential during his joining Christianity, but however in her son’s personal life. Monica, the mother of Saint Augustine, decides to marry her son to a socially equal young woman and sends his concubine to Africa (Confession 96). Judging by how his mother behaves, we can assume that she is very tactful and knows how to work for a long-term result. She is not a counselor like Gilgamesh’s mother, but still has respect on the part of her son. Similarly, in Baburnama’s records, his mother plays the role of the ordinary mother of the ruler of Eastern countries. In Muslim countries, harems exist for rulers and other powerful people. The main harem is the mother of the harem owner and she is engaged in the selection of virgins for her son. There are other women from conquered countries who are selected in most cases as concubines and slaves who do household chores in the palace. However, his grandmother, Imam, is actively present mostly in political decisions. Baburnama mentions her in the records: “Few women were my maternal grandmother’s equal in judgment and counsel. She was very wise and farsighted, and most of my affairs were conducted with her advice” (Baburnama: Journal of Emperor Babur 19). His grandmother is very experienced in politics, international relations, and in matters within the family and country. In several parts, his grandmother advises him on very important decisions and raises questions of betrayal on the part of his supporters, but Babur does not listen to her opinion and fails, all that happened that prompts his grandmother. The grandmother warns that people who are self-interest should not be brought close to the throne, as they will betray Baburnama. Since the grandmother is a supporter of the absolute hierarchy, she advises Babur to put only family members and close relatives as chief ministers. She is presented as a visionary, experienced, and wise woman, but does not hold a position next to her grandson or is not the owner of the throne, even if she is wiser and more experienced than his young grandson, who did not listen to her advice. Obviously, it is inconceivable that a woman should be the head of state during his reign or take part in some influential position. In the division of the conquered lands, Baburnama does not even share lands with relatives-women: grandmothers, mothers, sisters, and legitimate wives, all to share for male relatives and male-faithful companions. The role of mothers in the first two texts is formed as mothers and the situation changes depending on the social status of their sons. Someone affects their personal life and someone involved as a counselor and assistant in politics in the third text Baburnama has the honor of having both a mother and grandmother who help him alone with numerous wives and concubines and the other in the political sphere.
Women are often introduced only as sexual partners who pleasure the bodily desires of men. There are two types of women in the texts, the first type is related to a man that is, mother, sister, etc. and the second type is all women, who have the ability to satisfy the sexual needs of men. Such women are presented as a temporary passion and as a source of all evil and at the same time all the good in their lives. In the epic of Gilgamesh, the only mortal woman who has a name and role is a harlot Shamhat. In the Sumerian civilization, harlots have a special status in society. Their way of life is shaped as participants of religion, as they are assistants of the goddess of Love and Fertility. Despite the stereotypical ideas about harlots in our time, in the time of Sumerian civilization, only the strongest and most beautiful women could become priests of love and assistants of the goddess Ishtar. Shamhat also carries out an important mission, which is to charm Enkidu and bring him to Gilgamesh. Women used to satisfy men and perceived them only as creatures who can do something only with the help of their sexual organs. Also being the ruler of the city of Uruk, Gilgamesh had the right to the first night with any girl who had just married. This tradition was practiced in many civilizations and is considered to be the accepted social norm and privilege for feudal lords, rulers, and other powerful people. Gilgamesh has such a right and can have sexual intercourse with the newlywed. The first marriage night with the ruler is considered an honor to spend the night with the ruler for the bride and is considered as an honor that the first man of his wife was the ruler. Women are not asked whether they want it or not. In case they do not want to do it women anyway do not have a choice or right to decide for themselves. Saint Augustine has a concubine but not a legitimate wife proving that he needs a woman only for sexual relations. Illegal marriages are a profitable way out of taking responsibility for a family. Saint Augustine says: In those days I had one woman. We weren’t married in the eyes of the law; my errant passion, bereft of serious thought, had sought Her out. But still, I had only her, and I was faithful to her. I discovered by my own experience how great a difference there is between the due Measure of lawful marriage, which is a covenant for the sake of procreation, and an agreement between lustful lovers who mean to avoid Having children – though once children are born, we can’t help loving them (Confession 44). Saint Augustine perceives a woman only as a sexual partner, which can be left at any time or given to another man. The role of a woman as a concubine determines her low position in society, as a role of a concubine implies that a woman is only in the role of a sexual partner and a householder with whom no one wants to have children (as in the case of Saint Augustine). The woman to whom Saint Augustine should marry is assessed not as a partner in life, but as a suitable ‘compliment’ for the status of Saint Augustine as an educated man. Despite the agreement to marry the future wife of Saint Augustine, the philosopher does not wait for her coming of age and has sexual relations with another woman. This is proved in Saint Augustine’s case that men are polygamous and cannot do without sex for a long time. During Baburnama’s reign, harems were actively practiced. Every ruler of the Muslim state had to have many concubines, slaves, and wives. The purpose of this practice was to continue the family, which could continue the father’s business and lead the state. Most of the concubines and slaves are women of the conquered states. The main factors are the presence of virginity and external beauty. Taking girls to their place as concubines had a nominal role of ‘protection’ of the female sex, but the real role is played by the deprivation of absolutely all rights and the choice of women and the forced submission to the conqueror. Most beautiful concubines are prepared for the night with the overlord and it is not important whether women want or not, they have to obey, or the punishment could be the return of a woman to brothels to satisfy men’s sexual needs or take their lives. Others had to do household chores in the palace: cleaning, laundry, cooking, babysitting, and gardening. Women’s important values as intelligence, wisdom, and feelings are not needed by men, women are not privileged to be described in men’s texts. The main thing that they mention is how a woman satisfies a man and what are the consequences of it.
Women are to blame for all the bad things that happen in society, and if women do something good then it’s because they have to make their commitments. Lord Krishna blames women for spoiling a society that is created and improved by men: ‘In overwhelming chaos, Krishna, women of the family are corrupted; and when women are corrupted, Disorder is born in society’ (Bhagavad Gita 29). Krishna supported the caste division into four layers: priests, warriors, merchants, and servants. It is believed that the woman has a marital relationship while her husband is at war, and this is done for an extramarital child. Castes were mixed, and that’s what he called ‘disorder.’ Mixing the caste leads to a mixture of blood and the future child will not know his pedigree. Mixing castes is forbidden to all, but if in an illegal relationship only women have blamed again, not both women and men. Krishna’s thought carries sexist significance because he blames the disorder only on the woman, not both who participated in the creation of the disorder and it creates unequal judgment of the guilty. Any problem in the upbringing of children or in the problems of the current home is the fault of the woman because it is the duty of the woman to do everything perfectly and to be perfect too. On the responsibilities of women says another Virginia Woolf: “There is no mark on the to measure the exact height of women. There are no yard measures, neatly divided into the fractions of an inch, that one can lay against the qualities of a good mother or the devotion of a daughter, or the fidelity of a sister or the capacity of a sister a housekeeper” (A room of one’s own 92) women’s work is never evaluated, it is considered as something obliged for women like to brush their teeth and wash their hands and face in the morning. Since childhood, women have been taught to be ‘good housewives’ rather than personalities. Parents buy the toys of housewives and dolls, thereby they program their consciousness that the main idea of her life is to be a good housewife and have children. In Central Asian countries, the exploitation of women’s labor remains the norm. For example, in Central Asian countries, the word daughter-in-law automatically means free domestic work. The daughter-in-law should do all household chores in the house, keep up with work, meet numerous guests on holidays, and have time to give birth to children and take care of them. Women have such discriminating situations not only in Central Asia but all over the World every day.
The role of women in a patriarchal society is not as a wife, partners, or lovers, but more as a slave and an object for the birth of children. In a patriarchal society, as in the days of Confucius and Marcus Aurelius, the woman must be submissive, quiet, and executive. A woman should not be in front of the public and not express her opinion because the opinion of a woman is not taken into account and men are always right in everything. A woman in a patriarchal society is described as a person of low standing. In an absolutely patriarchal society, women have no right to anything, even their own bodies. Because before marriage women’s body belongs to their parents after marriage it is automatically owned by their husband. Women in the eyes of men are low-rank creature who comes to the house for the birth of offspring and household chores. Also, among the students of Confucius, there is not a single woman, which means that women not only cannot study but however, are not recognized by society as men. The philosopher says, ‘Women and servants are most difficult to nurture. If one is close to them, they lose their reserve, while if one is distant, they feel resentful’ (Analects 62), in the time of Confucius a woman is not as fully respected as a man. Men have such an opinion about women that she needs to be nurtured and changed their consciousness to adjust to the man. For example, in the time of Confucius, a special joy is the birth of a boy in the family, because first, he is a successor of the family and secondly the labor force for the family that would bring home income or work in their own business. The birth of a girl is not such happiness because it needs to be kept financially before her marriage (which happens very at an early age for a woman). Similarly, Eastern countries have the same patriarchal system, for Central Asian countries there is great joy to have a newborn baby exactly male. If for example the family does not have a boy and has girls they call their daughters by the names of Uulkelsin, Uulboldu, and Uuljan, (the word “Uul” is translated as “Son” from Kazakh, Kyrgyz, and Uzbek languages). There are also a few low-intellectual traditions for girls in a family that does not have a boy. A family forced their girls to dress like boys, shave their hair, and in every way mock the appearance of girls. Thus parents first of all oppress the future person, that being a woman is not profitable and undesirable in society. That a woman’s role is not as important as that of a man, which is followed by an uncertain and oppressed generation of personalities. The same situation with the birth of children is in Rome. Being a Roman is an honor for a man and a valued man to enjoy this honor. Marcus Aurelius writes Meditation only for himself as a personal diary, but being an exemplary leader and philosopher he does not mention women and uses personal pronouns such as “his”, “he” and the word “men”. In the fourth book, he writes, “A black character, an effeminate, unbending character, the character of a brute or dumb animal: infantile, stupid, fraudulent, coarse, mercenary, despotic” (Meditations 29). Marcus Aurelius’ thought is sexist because he lists all the bad character traits and adds an effeminate character thus claiming that a woman’s character is one of the worst that it can be compared to the character of a silly, oppressive, and self-interested person. Marcus Aurelius presents women as creatures from which bad things only happen making readers think that he is a misogynist. In a patriarchal society, women have a low social position and are completely dependent on the opposite sex, and men have absolute authority in the family, society, and politics.
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Women in all texts are present as objective characters, and the subjects are men. Women do not have such important roles in the family, society, or politics, and if there are women, their work is not taken into account or evaluated. The main role of women is to be a mother and if not a mother then a sexual partner who satisfies men. Currently, by the word Marriage, the citizens of a democratic state understand the mutual union of two loving people, but in the time of absolute patriarchy, marriage is the exploitation of women’s labor and body because only a man benefits from marriage. Whichever woman is wise, beautiful, and the executive of her affairs is never mentioned properly as mentioned in the affairs of men because society does not want to accept women, and women themselves get used to such circumstances that do not even think about themselves and continue to serve men.
- Saint Augustine. Confessions. Translated by Thomas Williams. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, Inc, 2019.
- Babur. The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, Prince, and Emperor. Translated by W. M. Thackston. Washington, D.C: Freer Gallery of Art: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, 1996.
- Babur, Susannah et.al. Babur Nama journal of Emperor Babur. Gurgaon Penguin Random House India. 2017
- De Bary, Wm Theodore, Irene Bloom, Wing-sit Chan, Joseph Adler, and Richard John Lufrano. ‘Confucius and the Analects’. In Sources of Chinese Tradition, 2nd ed., 1:41–63. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
- George, A. R., trans. The Epic of Gilgamesh: The Babylonian Epic Poem and Other Texts in Akkadian and Sumerian. New York: Penguin Books, 2000.
- Marcus Aurelius. Meditations. Translated by Martin Hammond. London: Penguin, 2006.
- Miller, Barbara Stoler, trans. The Bhagavad-Gita: Krishna’s Counsel in Time of War. New York: Bantam Dell, 2004.
- Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One’s Own. London: Triad Grafton, 1987.