Alternate History

Culture: Gender, Family, Age Groups (Abrittus)

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Gender roles, family models and models of other units of society and their roles are cultural models. They vary across space and time, yet except for times of transition, the cultural models of one`s society appear to most of its members "natural" and without alternative.

In OTL, almost all of the two millennia CE were dominated by patriarchal structures and the extended family as the core unit of society. European colonists brought these cultural models to the Americas and Australia, too. While many other things varied across the cultures of the Christian, the Islamic, the Hindu and the Chinese cultures, the above-mentioned held true for all of them.

The development of bourgeois society, urbanisation and industrialisation led to a transformation in family concepts: the model of a nuclear family developed and became standard. It was and still is being transmitted from North-Western Europe to the rest of the world. It is in this context of nuclear families as dominant cultural model that the struggle for the emancipation of women occurred and, to some extent, succeeded, again mainly in those countries which had undergone nuclearisation of the family first. Changes in gender roles occur across the globe right now, while many societies still haven`t undergone nuclearisation processes. The process of cultural cross-fertilisation is mainly unidirectional in these matters; "Western" cultural models are either copied, or rejected in favour of local traditions, which are about to become fossilised and severed from a changing social reality in this dichotomic conflict where they are ascribed a defensive position.

In this timeline, the main factors contributing to a women`s liberation movement and its success (universal education, democracy, industrialisation, secularisation, and means of effective birth control) occurred much earlier: Democracy (for men) was achieved in the Roman Republic in he 260s, among its Gallo-Roman neighbours throughout the following three centuries, in Iran and India in the 5th-8th centuries. Universal education became compulsory in the Roman Republic, in Iran and China in the 8th-9th centuries, in the Celtic Empire a century later. The Roman and the Celtic Republics were secular states from the beginning, where various religious cults were promoted, but none was able to dictate its ethical norms onto non-believers. Effective birth-control was available from the late 11th century onwards.

Persisting cultural models of patriarchy - the Roman and Celtic pater familias and its equivalents in Sabaean Arabia, in India and in Aksumite Africa - hinged for a very long time solely on socioeconomic structures. In this timeline, a socioeconomic system became hegemonial outside the Chinese sphere of influence between the late 3rd and the early 13th century, with its peak in the 8th to 10th centuries, where guilds (collegia, shreni, nikamam) dominated the towns and co-operatives dominated the countryside. While both had been reformist powers in late antiquity, they became very conservative social forces over time. Their membership was exclusively male, so women had little opportunities to earn a living and emancipate themselves from their paterfamilias.

This changed with the acceleration of industrialisation in the 13th century. Many women worked in the new factories and thus completed the basis for their social indepencence. The patriarchal heads of extended families and the social structures led by them put up considerable, often violent, resistance to this emancipation and the whole process surrounding it, but they were defeated in the end, as the superiority of industrial production became evident.

Thus, this timeline saw a transition from patriarchal extended families directly to emancipated women and youth. The smoothest transition occurred in China, where a strong centralised bureaucratic state had not tolerated very autonomous social sub-units and was able to decree social change through imperial law. In all of the societies which followed the Eurasian model of industrial modernisation, this transition occurred in the context of large cities, industrial mass culture and an increasingly anonymous state with efficient, unpersonal institutions.

The cultural models resulting from this transition have remained dominant in the last six centuries and into the present. They comprise

  • gender-neutral professions open to men and women alike,
  • child-rearing and education as well as care for the elderly and the sick as public rather than familial duties,
  • while the functions of the provision of an intimate refuge and of social cohesion, which in OTL are fulfilled by families, are exerted by networks which the Latin-speaking world categorises under the numina of "amicitia", "concordia" and "industria", i.e. a) networks of friends, b) immersion into large, mostly age-homogeneous groups, and c) networks of colleagues and mentoring.

Relations between biological parents and children, and between siblings etc., are often still close - when compared to other relations in this timeline`s society, not when with related to OTL! -, but they mostly fall under the category of "amicitia". Complete alienation and the severing of all ties between biologically related or reproductively allied persons, which occurs in OTL with often dramatic individual consequences, is unheard of in most Eurasian societies of this timeline because relations are usually not close enough to breed hatred. The concept of "familia", which in Classical Antiquity meant the extended household including slaves etc. and which in this timeline in the Mediterranean culture proved inseparable from the concept of a paterfamilias-dominated household, has vanished instead of being modernised. Sexual relations are not restricted to dyads falling into any of the presently dominant cultural models described above, and neither are there moral norms of heterosexuality or a disregard for promiscuity. Natural birth is encouraged for reasons concerning infant development, but considered a female choice; many governments are compelled to compensate for very low birth rates with clinical breeding, which has been perfected since its first attempts in the 18th century.

While most Romans, Celts, Iranians, Indians, Arabs, Aksumites, and Chinese rely on their friends (and those biologically related to them who mostly enjoy the same status) in personal crises and any other situation in which they feel like enjoying an agreeable person`s company, they rely on their colleagues and mentors for educational and professional advice and help with their careers, and on the public places where they know that crowds with the same interests as themselves gather when they want to celebrate important thresholds in the calendar or simply have a good time.

These cultural models are not globally omnipresent, though: some Atlantic and Uralic as well as Taipingyang cultures have developed divergent paths into modernity.


Salvador79 (talk) 11:43, April 13, 2015 (UTC)

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