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They certainly controlled activities within the household,but were still effectively imprisoned. And they may not have wished to have this role, perhaps preferring to have a more public role (politics, education etc). They may even just have wished to have had more access to the outside (one of their main outside roles was in funerary rituals, and that is eventually curtailed by laws).

It seems clear that the Athenian household was a gendered space, with areas for the women (gynacaeum) and the men (andron). The female spaces would likely have been situated further away from any potential contact with the outside world.

Women were responsible for the laying out and preparing of the body, as well as performing the ritual lamentations and prayers at the place of burial. Since this was one of the few areas of life that women presided over, and also it was an opportunity to leave the confines of the household. This might explain some of the laws that were enacted to limit these funeral activities (even though other reasons were given).

Most likely if women were seen as the ‘possessions’ of their husbands and fathers, then there may have been some paranoia about what women might get up to if allowed out without supervision (the plays of Aristophanes appear to point to these fears being very real).

From the Homeric texts on, weaving is almost exclusively seen as women’s work. It is an activity that can be done at home, and therefore does not require women to leave the household. It is also practical, if the result is clothing for the family. Some clothing would have been destined to be sold at market to generate income, as well as weaving for religious purposes. I think it is the domestic space that weaving occurs in that marks it out as a female activity.


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