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Avenger Assembled

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Why is it that many of the bloodiest and warlike peoples in the past were relatively forward thinking in their gender relations?

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Geez,

Institutional bigotry is often a luxury of wealthy societies, of which the Norse decidedly were not. Quite often, poor societies can't afford much in the way of gender discrimination (as opposed to segregation) because they don't have the time or spare resources for it. Things are more in flux in fringe societies like the Norse, so there's more space for exceptional people to be, well, exceptions.

The Muslim world, for example, acquired much of its current gender bigotries as a cultural inheritance from the Persian and Byzantines: in the old days of warring Arab city-states and even the first generation or so after Muhammad's lifetime, Arab women were (within certain limits) famous for fighting alongside their men. It wasn't until the initial conquest that the Arab conquerors adopted the more unpleasant social practices of their wealthy subjects.

(Another example: the Manchu emperors were pretty put off by foot-binding, a cultural practice alien to their society which had been something of a merger of Chinese-steppe before their conquest of the Ming in the 1640s. But their edicts against were ignored more often than not...)

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