The Woman Question: The Evolutionary Model

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The “woman question” was fiercely debated in the last half of the 19th Century. The question concerned itself with the sex model, specifically what was a woman’s true nature, what were her natural roles, and what if she were to violate those roles. Evolutionary scientists argued that women belong in a domestic sphere, and that if she were to enter the public sphere, her children would be punished. This analysis will explore the “woman question,” by assessing and critiquing evolutionary essentialist logic.
In the 19th Century, evolutionary theorists proclaimed that a woman’s true nature was that she was to be pious, pure, submissive, and domestic. These qualities reflected a code of conduct, which came to represent both health and what was
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Since behavior is heritable, disobedient women would be punished by having immoral and physically disabled children. Disobedient behaviors were also believed to negatively affect the fetus, which further supported the theorists’ argument. They claimed that overworked and anxious mothers would directly harm the wellbeing of the fetus whose well-being was important enough to justify their argument. Evolutionary theorists believed that women were the mothers of the species, and therefore it was critical that women prioritized the development of their reproductive organs over everything else, including their education. The school system was believed to hinder the development of women’s reproductive organs and threaten the regularity of their menstrual cycles because it forced them to suppress their true sensitive nature. Theorists feared that if this were to happen, women would forget their maternal nature which would be the end of the human …show more content…
The variation hypothesis explains that men’s variation is far greater than women’s, thus indicating that men are capable in more areas than women. It suggested that women were limited in their expertise and therefore unfit for public life. As a result, theorists asserted that women should be restricted to a concrete and practical life, where they were only responsible for simplistic tasks, all of which were part of the domestic sphere. Evolutionary theorists explained that women should remain in the domestic sphere because of their maternal nature, which dominated every aspect of their lives. This meant that unlike men, women could not be objective or focused in their tasks. Women would be distracted by their children and therefore were unable to efficiently complete tasks. Theorists concluded that it was more reasonable for women to listen to her instincts and care for the children, and reserve the work and labor to the

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