Regular readers who followed our recent debates on “totalitarian agriculture” and on patriarchal tendencies might find this from 2010, on gender roles as determined by agricultural methods, interesting:
A recent draft paper by Alberto Alesina, Paola Giuliano, and Nathan Nunn takes a look at one hypothesis, originally advanced by Ester Boserup, to explain cross-cultural differences in the gendering of agriculture. Boserup proposed that cultures in which farming is done primarily by men tend to farm with plows, while those in which agriculture is done by women use other agricultural techniques. Furthermore, she argued that these two types of agrarian societies tend to differ systematically in other ways as well, particularly with respect to gender roles. In plow societies women tend to stay at home and tend to household tasks while men are out working in the fields, and in many cases they develop highly elaborated systems of gender role differentiation with men in a clearly dominant role. This has historically been the case especially in the Near East and most of Europe, as well as in other areas such as northern India. In places without plow agriculture, however, societies tend to have less rigid gender role definition and more flexibility in acceptable economic activity for women. This is the case in most of Africa, the Americas, and southern India. Strikingly, these differences in economic role for men and women in plow societies seem to persist even when societies industrialize: men take the manufacturing jobs outside the home instead of working in the fields, but women still stay at home rather than working. Very recently this has begun to change, especially in the wealthiest societies, but there is some evidence that the pattern has been surprisingly persistent.
The full paper is here (PDF).