The apocalypse has happened, but humanity survives. People still remember the technology they had, but too many of the people who really understood how it worked and how to make it have died, leading to many modern technologies being lost. The survivors want to rebuild civilization and hope to be able to recover the lost tech in time, but first they have to survive.

A lot of medical technology is lost, too, and this is going to be a problem. General knowledge about healthcare (wash your hands, don't sneeze on people, basic germ theory, etc.) isn't lost so we can expect results won't be as bad as in previous centuries, but it's not going to be nearly as good as it is today.

If you look at infant and child mortality, it was way higher in the past. In the 16th and 17th centuries, 60% of all live births would not survive past the age of 16. Combine this with adults who die due to disease, accidents, etc., and it's clear that in order for society to simply survive, you need to have a lot of children being born.

As you can imagine, this can easily present a problem for women in society. They'll need to spend a significant amount of their fertile years being pregnant and/or taking care of an infant who still needs to breastfeed. So, as a matter of simple survival the majority of women will need to fulfill a role that, in modern society, is often viewed as being a lesser role.

The survivors of the apocalypse want to avoid women becoming second-class citizens in their society. They also know that they are not going to live to see the rebirth of modern society—it will take quite a few generations to rebuild humanity's numbers and recover the lost technologies.

How should the survivors of the apocalypse set up their society and culture in such a way as to prevent women from becoming second-class citizens?

Note that though this is important to the survivors, their first priority is for humanity to survive (second-class > dead). Their next priority is to place humanity on track to recover modern society. They aren't going to put these priorities at risk in order to prevent misogyny—women have won the fight for equality once, they can do it again if they need to.

  • $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ Is this entire question predicated on the idea mentioned 4th paragraph, that of child bearing and feeding being viewed as a lesser role in modern society? I have never heard of this before, but you state it as if it is a known fact. As such, an important point to consider is - what culture is this view of yours coming from? In the western world, at least in the US, this child bearing and raising activity is generally viewed as a greater role, not a lesser one, so it is an important cultural view that you must consider and provide. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 20:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Aaron first off, commenting on a two-year old question generally isn't very helpful. To actually address your point, you've really never heard of that? Part of the push for women's equality was in allowing women to take part in work outside of the home. Anyway, the accepted answer does a good job of explaining why women all needing to be raising children can lead to misogyny. $\endgroup$
    – Rob Watts
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ Commenting on a two-year old question is helpful when the Q&A could use improvement, which this one can, both the question and the answer. That is how StackExchange works. I asked for clarification on the question since I thought that would be beneficial, since it sounds like a cultural thing, and the answer that was accepted makes lots of unfounded claims which are counter to common knowledge and which another answer disputes strongly. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 22:15
  • $\begingroup$ poor technology does not mean misogyny. Some early agricultural civilization had really strong female rights by making females the ones who could own and inherit land. that produces a matriarchy. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Commented Apr 24, 2019 at 16:26

10 Answers 10


You have to look at the situation realistically, and realize that equality is going to become an even more complicated topic than it is today.

The Reality

Civilization - as we know it - is gone. Technology, the great equalizer, is gone. You now live in a world where might is right.

If I'm stronger than you I'm in charge, and I take your stuff (maybe even your liberty, dignity, and rights). If you have a gun, you can shoot me, and claim those rights back. But if you don't ....

Your biggest problem, right off the bat, is going to be food. A lot of us don't realize how much technological advancements play a role in farming these days - or indeed know anything about farming at all. The short and long of it is that farming is hard work (I should know: my grandparents are farmers, and I could never do what my grandfather still does at 84).

The technology which enabled a couple of people (women, even) to manage a few dozen acres with relative ease has become a thing of the past. If you want to get anything done at this point you're going to need farm animals, tools, and a lot of muscle.

This is vital to remember, because it - along with another important fact - helps identify why women were relegated to a secondary role in times gone by.

How it worked

You're a farmer. You need help to plant and harvest your field. Removing rocks, picking weeds, etc. - the joy of low tech farming. That help needs to come from someone capable of doing hard work quickly. That, 99% of the time, is going to be a man.

While the men work the fields the women do the easier jobs. They bring the men water. Cook for them. They watch the children, mend clothes, feed and water the animals, etc. There's 1000 chores on which the survival of the family as a whole will depend, and these will be her responsibility.

They are in no way less important, however it does tend to put her in a subservient situation a lot of the time. She feeds the man. Clothes him, etc.

An uneducated person might look at this situation and think: I'm getting all these things done for me, therefore I am in charge. It's only human to reach this conclusion.

The second important point, and people might not like hearing this one, has to do with re-population and reproduction.

Technically, for any civilization to rise they have to put great value on their women (this is a historical fact, not something I made up). As others have pointed out, the bottleneck to population growth are the number of child-bearing women, not the number of men.

You'd think this would mean that women would be highly valued.

However, that's not quite the way it has worked out in the past.

The reasons are complex, but can be highlighted by a few examples:

A child-bearing woman is valuable in that she can mother children for a family (a man). To him, she is quite valuable. Another, stronger man may desire that woman, kill that man, and take her. This dynamic, which was absolutely universal in olden times (raiding a village, killing the men, the young, and the old and abducting the women). However, this intrinsic value does not empower women - it turns them into objects to be possessed.

Another example ties right back in with farming. A woman, though she may mother several healthy children, cannot work and generate food while she is pregnant, and cannot generate much food (not nearly as much as the man) even when she is healthy and able to work all day long.

If she were to have to support a couple of children on her own, she would fail, and they would all likely die (in a post-apocalyptic scenario where they have to fend for themselves this is the most likely outcome). It is the man (or men) who would fight off attackers (a little skewed with the advent of modern firearms), work the field, and ensure that the family have a roof over their heads (maybe by building it).

The woman, while vitally important, cannot do those things on her own.

So now let's assume the worse: the woman dies during childbirth. The man finds another woman, or older child to take care of the home, feed the animals, cook, etc. and keeps doing what he's good at.

Feelings aside, the man can keep his family alive. The lone woman will have a very difficult time of it.

And thus, in a post-apocalyptic scenario, women become second class citizens.

How to Preserve Equality

What people are going to have to realize is that "equality" is not going to be defined quite the same way that it has come to be defined today. What we should be aiming for is equality under the law, not the complete and utter banishment of sexism, etc. - we, in our modern society, haven't managed to do that yet. The people who survive the apocalypse are going to have little to no chance in that regard.

And so, your community of survivors have to make sure to enshrine a Constitution which allows women the right to own property and titles , inherit property and titles (because humanity often falls back on a nobility-type system), and grants them the right to vote. Everything else at that point is window dressing, because this is what grants women real power: the ability to influence the economy and the legislation.

As you yourself have mentioned, young women are going to be spending a lot of their years pregnant. You're going to have to build a group mentality that this is to be desired - simply because you need to repopulate the planet. For this reason you may want to move away from the classic one man, one woman style of marriage and families.

A society which raises their children communally spreads a lot of the responsibility around. Men and women might reproduce and own property together, however you should try not to burden one woman with raising an entire brood. Instead, let the community come together, and raise the children in a school setting.

This way, a group of women, or older children watch and educate everyone else, which frees up the rest of the women to perform other tasks, such as study medicine, perform tasks in local government, or even help organize the labor parties which the men are a part of.

Send some of those women or older children to cook for the men working the fields. Better yet, organize a Cooking Corps, the members of which (women, the older children) cook for everyone. Even men can serve a few weeks as cooks in order to see that A) it's not that easy and B) give them some time off from back-breaking field work.

Make sure to encourage education. Everyone should be literate. Everyone should know, and respect the law. Everyone should learn a bit about human history, so that they know humanity has something to strive for, not just survive.

As far as security goes, train everyone capable of defending the town to use firearms, or whatever weapons you may have available. Defending a fixed position is not very difficult for a woman, or even a teenager to do, as long as they can batten down the hatches and shoot at the enemy. This is important because if an enemy bypasses your defense forces not only will the women and children not be completely vulnerable, but they will also be able to defend themselves from those of their own group who might want to do them harm (a wanna-be rapist, for example).

Which brings us to the next point: enforcing the law. People should still be given the benefit of the doubt, and be presumed innocent. However, you will not have room to treat criminals as nicely as we do today.

A man (or woman) who murders his brother in order to take his property should be hanged. A thief should be publicly flogged (shame is a great future deterrent), but then given medical treatment, and allowed to integrate back into society. Children should be strictly disciplined, and thoroughly educated. Respect for society should be the bed rock on which your new civilization will build.

Outsiders, considering what the default state of humanity in post apocalyptic scenarios is, should be treated with distrust, yet slowly allowed to integrate. After all, you will stagnate if you turn them all away, or pick a fight with them.

However, competition for resources should not be tolerated, and your group should build the mentality that they should talk softly, yet carry a very large stick indeed. Many of us have become pacifists today, yet that will not be possible in that world. Having to kill someone who tries to kill you, or put down an animal because if you don't eat it you will die is something that each of your citizens should be ready to do, for themselves, or for the good of the community.

Technology and knowledge should be prized above all else, and sought out relentlessly. Scientific pursuit should be encouraged. Having a high literacy rate will aid you in this pursuit.

In time, your community will become a beacon of hope in the the post-apocalyptic wasteland, and with that reputation you will get more recruits, and also attract more enemies who want what you have.

Be ready to defend your people, stand by your principles, and all will be well.

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    $\begingroup$ @Sumelic - I'm actually basing it on my own experience, as my grandparents are farmers. I know how my great grandfather - whom I've met - lived. If you don't believe me, simply Google it. plowing a field, even with a pair of horses or bulls pulling the plow is still back breaking work. There's a reason why technology was a game-changer (tractors, not a plow, would allow a woman to do this as easily as a man) $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 22:25
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @Sumelic - I just spent 45 minutes typing this answer out. I might flesh it out with more citations later, but right now it's dinner time :P $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 22:33
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ "what grants women real power: the ability to influence the economy and the legislation." Great answer with a lot of pragmatic wisdow +1 $\endgroup$
    – jean
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 12:04
  • 10
    $\begingroup$ This goes a long way toward explaining why it is only a society with low infant/child mortality that can afford the luxury of inventing words like "misogynistic" to describe the manifest necessities of survival. Premenopausal females can't be allowed any dangerous jobs beyond childbirth (because they are the only ones who can do that, and it's essential), and the people doing the dangerous work don't want to take orders from those who don't do it. Only when technology (sanitation/medicine) gets infant/child mortality low can we begin to talk about gender equality. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 14:50
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ @aaron - not my job to provide you with evidence, and with respect, what does or does not seem plausible to you doesn't seem to be grounded in reality. Note that there's a big difference between gardening (for pleasure) and agriculture (for survival). The former is a fun weekend activity, while the latter is backbreaking work which was historically done by men using beasts of burden, and even then with great difficulty. If you want more info on what women can or cannot achieve physically (compared to men) look at US army and Marines physical fitness challenge scores, etc. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 21:24

Change General Perspectives And Social Norms

The first and foremost thing we would need to do is to change the social norms and general perspective about women's household work. The Soviets had a great method for this. Every woman who had several children and brought them up to be respectful citizens was given the title of Mother Heroine. We would need to introduce this mindset in our society.

There is nothing lesser in being pregnant and having kids. In fact a woman goes through the door of death to bear a child. It was true even in the past times when healthcare facilities were commonly available. It is more true than ever now, when we have lost that high standard of healthcare. Lacking those high standard facilities, the mortality rate of child bearing mothers is going to be much higher than before. We need to acknowledge the fact that when a woman bears a child, she does it through extreme pain, patience and love.

We need to acknowledge that a housewife who raises her children to become active, honorable children of the society is doing one of the noblest jobs there are to do. We need to truly acknowledge the services of women in the society.

Keep Women In Government

We have cities and town and we make town committees to collectively make important decisions about collective issues. We need to keep a quota for women in these committees. We also have juries and the legal system. Considering that women in general are not fit for the chair of judge at this time (lack of legal awareness and the general softness of nature), we should give them representation in the public juries.

We should also give women representation in our governance system. 20% should be a fair share for higher level decision making seats. We should also try to keep women on seats where they have a lot of public dealing. This would help create a general air of seeing women as having equal honor and value as men.

Facilitate Cottage Industry

Cottage industry (creating household items in homes for commercial use) would not only help provide us with daily necessities and accelerate trade, but would also help women to take active part in improving our society. This would also provide them with a positive and meaningful activity to participate in, during free time.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Was there something in the question indicating that women in this society would have inferior legal knowledge or a less stern nature? Also, if you are going to have representation, IMHO you should either go for actual numerical parity (~50% quota) or fairness in selection (which might not lead to parity). $\endgroup$
    – Obie 2.0
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 1:36

I don't see the situation as grim as you describe. Most of the modern medical technology is, let's say, on a falling branch of ROI. Most important contributors to children survival are aseptic and antiseptic measures, which are not the rocket science at all. The article you linked emphasizes that

By 1930 the number of infant deaths had declined dramatically in many countries as the causes of infection came to be understood. Most progress up to this point was due to precautions such as hand washing and sterilization of milk rather than to actual medical advances.

So, expect your world to be at the 1930 level in that respect; not bad at all. Even though there are plenty of factors determining the status of women, this particular one should be disregarded.


Contrary to popular opinion, there is no reason human society is intrinsically misogynistic. If, as you say, your society makes a conscious decision to attempt to avoid that fate, they’re likely to succeed.

Let’s run through some particulars.

Physical Force and Equity

Societies do not, as a rule, run on physical force. If you have a society that is working relatively smoothly, especially if the society has generally agreed that peaceful coexistence is preferable to continual violence and danger, then you’re not going to need a great deal of violence to get things done. Indeed, violence will quickly come to be indicative of serious problems to be dealt with.

The crucial point is that the society must hold the respect of the large majority of its members. Because each of us is individually associated with the collective, crimes against individuals appear, from the perspective of each individual, to be crimes against society as much as against individuals. This nullifies the “not my problem” effect that is so crippling in, for example, much of today’s United States.

In essence, the notion of obedience to law—don’t kill, don’t steal, don’t rape, etc.—must rest on mutual social respect rather than on fear of punishment. In real life, we don’t just attack others and steal their stuff, nor does it usually occur to us to do so. This is because we respect the society of which we are members, and we recognize that the same respect is therefore due to other members. The notion that intensive, violent policing is absolutely necessary to prevent people turning into psychopaths is a sick fantasy, albeit a popular one. Most tribal societies do not have police systems at all, for instance.

So we can set one point aside: although women will tend, all things being equal, to lose physical fights with men, this has very, very little to do with whether they will be treated as second-class citizens (or worse).

But What About Farming?

Look up rice, the world’s most popular crop. Who plants and harvests it? Who maintains it in the paddies? Why… women and children? Huh. Apparently the notion that farming is automatically men’s work is a chauvinistic fantasy too.

Now rice is not an ideal crop in all circumstances, but it’s a very good one in many. This is because while the total labor put into it is perhaps higher than with some crops, that labor can be stretched out over long periods of time. In addition, it tolerates a fairly wide climatic range.

An interesting effect of a constant-labor crop like this is that children become remarkably valuable in the short term. You can certainly put an 8-year-old to work in the paddies without feeling you’re being cruel. The obvious example is water-cycling. You have a simple pedal mechanism (you can surely scrounge that from the wreckage of your apocalypse, or just build your own like the Chinese have for many, many centuries) with paddles or a water-screw. Put the bottom end in the lower paddy and the top above the upper one. Now pedal. The idea is to move water from the lower to the upper, slowly, in a controlled way, thus mitigating against the constant effects of seepage. Since it turns out that you get better crops the more precisely and constantly you do this, your children become valuable members of your farming society very soon.


One big concern that tends to come up in these things is an evaluation of what any given person can or cannot do on his or her own. Certain kinds of back-breaking labor seem to require men, because only men have the upper body strength to do it themselves. But this is a nonsense.

To begin with farming. Rice, once again, points to another essential issue for your society: collectivism. Everyone gets rice equally. It’s not my paddy, my rice, but our paddies, our rice.

But this point expands greatly.

In our little town, Frieda makes furniture, Warren does weaving, Delilah is great at dying, and Charles makes cheese. When we sit down to a meal, do we celebrate Charles because he’s the most useful? Well, only if we’re crawling on the floor naked. Otherwise, everyone has contributed. And the same goes for Betty the baker, Sam the sausage-maker, and so on and so forth.

This should be obvious. If you have a balanced, planned society, you draw on the skills and talents of each individual. All those abstractions about upper-body-strength and whatnot fail in the face of real life. Charles, for instance, is built like a gorilla… but there was that childhood accident, and he can’t walk without crutches. So do we send him out to do farming because he’s got a penis, or kill him because he’s not “whole,” or do we enjoy the cheese?

In fact, almost nothing that has to happen in the village is intrinsically sex-divided. Interestingly, however, some tasks are likely to become so. The trick is to avoid this being seen as a matter of superiority on one side or another.

Take weaving, let’s say. Anyone can do it—there’s no special strength or whatever involved. But in many communities through the ages, weaving became a female activity. Why? All kinds of local reasons, few if any now recoverable. But once you’ve established a situation like this, it tends to perpetuate itself.

In essence, what happens is that a whole bunch of women get together to talk while they work. And they talk about what interests them, of course. And, as everyone knows perfectly well, if you get a bunch of women together to talk about whatever they feel like talking about, the conversation will tend over time to become woman-oriented. I don’t mean that women talk about mothering and menstruation and so forth all the time, only that women and men do tend to have socially-distinct conversation patterns in any given society. From a male perspective, the women may be gossiping or whining or whatever, but then again, from a female perspective the analogous male conversation is a bunch of grunting, fart jokes, and penis-waving. Neither is true—but these conversations do tend to be sex-restrictive.

Now once weaving becomes a female activity in this sense, you’re going to see men somewhat disinclined to join, because they feel unwelcome and uncomfortable. (As a side note, I wonder whether your postapocalyptic equal society will be open about those gay men who do feel more comfortable in such social circles, and have them join the weaving.)

Meanwhile, there are going to be analogous “male” activities: baking, let’s say. If in our society baking becomes a very masculine, even macho activity, what will happen? Pretty soon, they’ve probably got this whole thing going about how bread is a woman who has to be pressed into shape (or a breast to be fondled, etc.), and sweat, and heat, and columnar phallic ovens, and whatever.

Now I choose baking for the simple reason that it does require considerable upper-body strength, it’s hard work, and in many societies the bakers—especially if part of a collective that includes threshing and milling—are male. But also because lots of societies deem any form of cooking intrinsically female.

The point should be clear: sex-division with respect to labor is not about intrinsic abilities or the nature of any given task, but about social construction. Provided you want to end up with equity across the sexes, you need to make sure that people value cloth as much as they do bread (and so forth).

Equity and Law

I suggest that you start with the assumption that law, in the strong sense, will be a minimal issue in your society. Not only is constant policing not necessary most of the time, but all the complexities of contracts and so forth are irrelevant to your postapocalyptic society. Furthermore, you have a problem working out what sort of law to depend on in the first place.

Common law, a la Britain and the US, depends on precedent, which means a vast library of case law. But in your postapocalyptic society, has such a library been preserved well? Who’s maintaining it? Do the people generally trust the lawyers to do this? They don’t trust lawyers now, so why would they in the future?

Inquisitorial law, as in France, has the advantage that at least it’s answerable to truth instead of precedent and opinion. And yet, the principal force preventing rampant abuse is very strong hierarchical submission: this court doesn’t abuse its power because the next higher court will crush it brutally if it does. We cannot count on a system like this in our broken world.

There are other possibilities, of course, but my point is that legalism simply isn’t a good place to begin planning.

So what does this mean for women?

It means that women must be equal citizens in actuality and not merely in law. It means, to put that another way, that you can’t build your society by simply trying to legislate the morality you want: you have to build a society that works.

How It Really Works

On the Farm

Women can carry babies on their backs while doing an awful lot of farm work, from planting and harvesting rice to mucking out or feeding livestock. Children over about 6 months do not need continuous breast-feeding: they can eat “solid food” and be topped up with breast-milk whenever convenient. Children who don’t have to breast-feed constantly can be carried or watched by men just as well as by women.

As social planners, you’ll want to focus on crops that are long-term sustainable in a number of senses. You don’t want to destroy your fields, certainly, but you also want crops that work well collectively. Rice is an obvious example, but there are many others. Corn is an interesting case: the planting is a brutal couple of days where everyone pitches in, and then there’s harvesting, drying, storage, and so on. But there’s also this weird thing that corn crosses very fast, and the only way to prevent this (or to do it on purpose) in order to keep the best corn for the future is to hand-pollinate. People have been doing this in Mesoamerica for thousands of years. And no, it doesn’t require men: it requires patience, intelligence, and care. Ultimately, your farms will center around collective labor.

In the Village

If you’re planning a society, you must insist that pure individualism is in fact selfishness. Everyone must cooperate in the face of the apocalypse, or all will suffer and die.

Tasks can be sex-divided, as noted above, but their worth cannot be constituted in this way. When you find that hunting is considered more valuable than cooking, and hunting is done by men and cooking by women, this tells you that the society is sexist, not that there is any intrinsic connection between these tasks and these sexes, nor that there is any intrinsic superiority of one task over the other.

I suggest that you emphasize the village collective is the centerpiece of your society, because it allows for a great deal of planning while granting enormous latitude for local particularities.

At Home

Since any and every task can be apportioned however a society wishes, there is no reason that home life has to be different from this. The first thing to realize is that “home” and “family” are social constructions as much as anything else. There is no reason whatsoever to think that humans naturally live in married couples. Marriage, or anyway preferential bonding, does seem to be enormously more common than other arrangements, but that does not mean that husbands and wives must live together in private spaces.

So you have a spectrum.

At one end, have the women live together in one kind of longhouse and the men together in another. Couples have private communal spaces they can use for intimacy, physical and otherwise, at will. Life centers around the village, and there are certain spaces in the village that are especially central to communal existence.

At the other end, have couples live together in private spaces whose boundaries are impermeable. Your mother-in-law may never, ever come to visit: after the first day, when she comes to inspect to be sure her son isn’t marrying some dreadful hussy, she’s forbidden to enter the marital space. Communal and private life are sharply divided.

Humans have existed happily everywhere along this spectrum. No part of it requires or assumes that women are inferior to men.


One of the remarkable things about human beings is that they do come up with an amazing variety of different ways of doing things. Another remarkable thing is that they have a strange habit of claiming that their way is the only way because of nature.

Pretty much everything you hear about how men or women have to this or that is of this kind: it’s social construction. Ideology, to put it another way. Women get paid less in US society because the society is inequitable, period. There is no other justification. (This doesn’t mean it’s easy to fix, of course.) Women do the cooking in most traditional societies because that worked out to be rather convenient when somebody has to stay home with the kids and somebody has to go out hunting. But this isn’t the way nature is, it’s just how things tend to fall out. If you look at nomadic societies, for instance, you’ll find that this sexual division doesn’t always work thus. And now that the members of your society understand what is and isn’t actually required by physiology, they’re also not bound by traditional assumptions.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "Women get paid less in US society because the society is inequitable" That seems to be a tautology. Even if there is no "justification," there needs to be a mechanism (or rather, mechanisms), and it will be difficult to eliminate the inequity without identifying the mechanisms. People are very interested in eliminating that inequity in our current world, but they have not been successful yet. $\endgroup$
    – zeta
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 2:30
  • $\begingroup$ @sumelic Yes, it is a tautology. All too often, people claim that men get paid more, or dominate, or whatever, because of something intrinsic. In fact, the inequity of US pay is due to inequity pure and simple. My point is that claims that such imbalances are intrinsic to physiology or psychology are giving voice to ideology. $\endgroup$
    – CAgrippa
    Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 7:08
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Although you speak about rice farming quite a bit you don't bring up traditional, European farming, which is more important/applicable in North America. Handling a plow is not going to be just as easy for a woman as a man - and I sure wouldn't want her to have a child strapped to her back when trying it. Furthermore, you severely underestimate how widespread violence was in medieval societies, and how important the superior physical strength of men came to be when taking it all into account. You call a great many things sexist, or misogynistic without, IMO, understanding societies of old. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 28, 2016 at 20:04
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM I think you'll find that the op's question was about modern people unite deliberately setting up a society to avoid as many traditional problems as possible, not about what "societies of old" were like. And as for North America, why is that the most important? And why not grow rice and corn where you can? $\endgroup$
    – CAgrippa
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 3:20
  • $\begingroup$ +1 for the great answer. There are a few points I would disagree on; the "assumptions" you say are part of the problem is something that you yourself are likewise guilty of, such as when you say "individualism is selfishness" - that paragraph is just nonsense and baseless. However, 99.9% of this answer is great. This answer was uplifting after reading the other answer that essentially said "women are weak and cannot survive on their own; they need men" which was a downer. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 21:37

The chief prerequisite for a society that treats women as equals is a society that treats those who are out of power no worse that those who are in power. A society in which the common man and the common woman are both treated as second-class citizens may have equality between them, but I doubt that either would care to defend such a system.

I'm not a history major, but it does seem that only in those societies that began to seriously embrace the notion that all men are equal—and by extension, that the government is the servant of the people, and not their master—did the notion that women are equal to men really begin to catch on.

And perhaps I am mistaken, but even now it seems that the places where misogynism is still rampant, those in power are permitted to maltreat those who are not in power (both men and women) with relative impunity.

  • $\begingroup$ People being mistreated by those above them turning around and mistreating those below them is similar to how the abused are more likely to become abusers. I don't know if it's the chief prerequisite, but this is actually a very good point that hasn't been explicitly brought up yet. Nice first answer! $\endgroup$
    – Rob Watts
    Commented Mar 26, 2016 at 18:26

Equality is a luxury available only to prosperous societies. Only after a society becomes wealthy enough to have warriors defending its walls and officers enforcing its internal laws, does any opportunity for equality arise. Until those minimums are met, each individual will define their own morality and will force their will onto others to the limits of their might.

In a post apocalyptic setting, not only women, but non-athletic men, the elderly and anyone in the minority (regardless of gender) will become second-class citizens to the strong; and if firearms are involved, even the strong will be subordinate to the armed. Samuel Colt didn't make all men equal, he put his customers in-charge.

So if you want to build a society where women have a fighting chance at equality, teach them from birth how to fight. A trained woman with a long katana is properly equipped to define her own place in your society.

  • $\begingroup$ "Samuel Colt didn't make all men equal, he put his customers in-charge." <- Loved it! $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 21:41
  • $\begingroup$ Not sure why you mentioned katanas in the last sentence when you mentioned firearms earlier. A gun seems much more practical and effective than a katana, and I'd assume people retain enough knowledge to make gunpowder. There are few people even today who know how to make a katana. $\endgroup$
    – zeta
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 22:21
  • $\begingroup$ @sumelic, Yes, but a societal mandate that all women carry firearms might be unreasonable given post-apocalyptic scarcity. maybe I should have said "A trained woman with a black belt in mixed-martial arts...". $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 22:38
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    $\begingroup$ This answer shows no understanding of anthropology at all. Walls, a specially designated warrior class, and police (which by the way didn't arise in parts of the western world until the late 19th century) are absolutely not rquired for equality. It is well understood that most tribal societies were based on cooperation, sharing and egalitariasm. Of course, such societies had their share of problems, but imagining that all tribes were ruled brutally by the strongest man in the area is a fantasy that doesn't survive contact with reality $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 9:06
  • $\begingroup$ @BugCatcherNakata Your comment actually supports the answer in a way. The cooperative tribal societies you mention would have provided the protection this answer suggests is necessary. The answer just goes over the top and portrays it very dramatically. But if you remove the imagery in this answer and just look to the point it is making, it is similar to what you just suggested: whether by wall and warrior or by egalitarian tribe... safety increases freedom, and a lack of safety increases chance of oppression. $\endgroup$
    – Loduwijk
    Commented Nov 5, 2018 at 21:47

Need to understand the roots of patriarchy to amswer this. A mysoginstic society is not a natural evolution on its own but nor is it unnatural....during many parts of our own history, in preagricultural times, we were quite likely much closer to an equal society and even possibly matriarchy instead. The thought that mysoginstic culture is an endpoint or even a required step in the process is a bit misguided. (can go further into this point if needed...gods gender is close to 50/50 in horticultural days, in fact its pro feminine many circumstamces. Post agriculture, this shifts to 90% male gods with women regulated to 'wife / property of the male god companion. Of course exceptions exist, but it generally holds up).

This first statement here is simply to point out that our patriarchy was formed and no more natural/unnatural than matriarchy or gender equality would be...i think that given the freedom and opportunity, a general population will drift towards equality (speculation on my part, but the point is our social values can and will change, the question becomes can we guide and inspire that change?). This isnt to say this setup isnt ingrained in us....this is 6000 years minimum of patrarchy afterall and only very recently has this been challenged (1793 wollstonecraft is the first of the motion, women finally gaining a vote as recently as 1920). Tis a very deep hole weve dug. Its also equally notable that most men werent people...in modern terms, males in the french republic around 1740 became 'people' in the eyes of their governing body as opposed to property of a monarch.

You have perfectly stated the reason women became a second class....child birth and raising the next generation. In particular mortality rates....not just the child, but the mother as well. Stupidly simplified, why train a woman in a skill when there is a chance she will die during childbirth? Sort of wastes the training time, no? Honestly its a brutal conclusion, but the possibilty of your standing army having a childbirth attrition rate isnt easy to deal with. Miscarriage was the other large issue...if you want a women to miscarriage, put her on a horse for an extended period (mongol society values mobility....if women are pregnant and males are on horseback from the age of 4 treasuring their mobility, it doesnt take much to see why men are suddenly in a different societal class). I wouldnt want to know what a life or death battle in a war would for a mother would do to her developing fetus.

From a philisophical side, its important to remember that male and female value spheres are going to be different....we are wired a bit differently afterall (our social evolution, its advantageous to have multiple value spheres approaching an issue. Root of our social creativity). One of the flawed approaches that becomes common in equality movements is for women to become equal at the things men value most...its playing the game with a stacked deck, women are not going to succeed in the tasks that have been setup to perpetuate our patriarchy and this route perpetuates patriarchy, not challenge it. The true solution is for society to stop valuing the male value sphere over the female value sphere. Hope that makes sense...but the ultimate solution lies in challenging the image you state in your question, that the majority of people believe raising the children is of lesser value.

I got wordy there...but without this background its a bit hard to justify my answer. Specifically your society has to do 2 key things things.

1) medicine. The lower the mortality rate involved in childbearing the better. If for every five women get pregnant atleast 1 should expect not to survive, then you are heavily regulating woman to this childbearing role. This includes reducing miscarriages to as near as zero to reduce the number of tasks they cant do while pregnant. Having tasks availble for women at later stages in pregnancy also helps reduce the impact of pregnancy on their lives.

2) involve men in the child raising process and start challenging the image the child raising is of lesser value. In todays term, parental leave and in particular paternity leave is starting to have an impact here. First, parental leave helps address the image that a job (making money and providing typically within male value sphere) is more important than child raising (typically left to the 'less valuable' female sphere). Paternity leave being extra important here as this is now the male putting aside his male sphere job and giving equal importance on his time to the child bearing 'female value sphere' task and in a small way sayi g that each value sphere is equal. There is a misguided attempt to equate parenthood to a job (cramming the female value sphere into the male one so males can understand its value). Parenthood is not a 'job' in that sense, but it is of equal value to it. When this sense pervades, you will have a society much closer to equal.

Of course there are other things that can help, from ensuring women are in governmental positions and equal pay on jobs...but patriarchy will remain as long as something as inheriantly part of womanhood as pregnancy and child raising is a lesser role.

Its also important to remeber how quickly we can change as well. Yes, on a single lifetime the change takes forever....but soon youll have a generation thats watched its males tend to child raising and theyll see that it is of equal value....and their children will see it perpetuated once again and by then their grandparent (us) are the last aging relics of the patriarchy. Remeber we have gone through 6000 years of this patriarchy to have it establish to the point that is has. 100 years ago, the majority of women were no more than possessions of their husbands. Even some of the values perpetuated by 1970s tv regarding women seems a world away from where we are now.


Matriarchal society is your answer - and it was generally possible only in very productive areas (where farming is productive, and female can easily provide for herself and her children), like some Polynesian atolls (hint: a paradise). Otherwise, might makes right, and stronger (= man) will rule.


First of all, I want to say that I don't think that we've solved this problem yet, in modern, "civilized" society. Others have already pointed out that men and women are not paid equally, certainly favoritism exists within the workplace, even now in 2016 I've heard unbelievable, jaw-dropping misogynistic remarks made by decision-makers-in-power.

But my answer to your questions is simple: arm everyone. Pointing a gun and pulling the trigger (like so many activities and occupations!) simply doesn't require male genitalia. In a post-apocalyptic world where might makes right, assuming firearms are available, there's no reason that women couldn't make themselves every bit as powerful as men.

Add to this a culture where dueling is permitted/common behavior. Challenge my authority? Disrespect me? Lay a hand on me, uninvited? We fight it out, in front of witnesses. Women could participate in this behavior equally with men. They may even have more incentive than men to become expert in the dueling arts.


My wife and I have considered this topic often. You have to create a culture in which actions like rape or even sexist words and acts are responded with collective shock and repugnance. It must achieve the level the current US society places on child molesters. We do not know how you would transform our current culture into that one though. But if you had a small enough group of people that agreed to it perhaps it would stick as the community grew.

Other options, you could create a culture where women are first class citizens. They are given extra rights and privileges. But this only changes the direction of sexism. A mechanic I have pondered that might work, but still has room for abuse. Set up a legal tradition that every woman once in their lives may accuse a man of rape and have them be punished for it by execution based upon their word alone. Disrespect a woman enough and it could cost you your life. Again room for abuse, but it’s a mechanism that could support the cultural change you wanted.

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    $\begingroup$ I disagree. Some irresponsible or vengeful women might use this mechanic to simply kill a man who has scorned them in some way. Other may exploit this too: "hey, I'll give you 10000 ring pulls (standard post-apocalypse currency, right?) to say that Joe over there raped you!" - because Joe is my competition for another woman's attention, has a bigger house than mine, etc. Basically, this is a terrible suggestion. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 21:40
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ Your hypothetical culture sounds exactly like the one I live in right now, minus your last two points. But that sounds like a horrible idea - why would an ultra-powerful "sentence anyone to death that they want" class end up anything but hated by people? $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 23, 2016 at 22:46
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    $\begingroup$ No offense, but that's a god-awful idea. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2016 at 20:37
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    $\begingroup$ I mention in my answer that there is room for abuse. There is room for abuse in every system. You might not like the repercussions on male authority. But how does the final suggestion mechanism of reinforcement not answer the question of how to "prevent women from becoming second-class citizens?" $\endgroup$
    – PCSgtL
    Commented Mar 29, 2016 at 16:56
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It's interesting that people can accept without criticism a culture where a man can rape a woman he knows and be almost assured of never being tried, and if tried almost assured of never being convicted, but recoil at the idea that a woman might hold power over a man's life $\endgroup$ Commented Apr 8, 2018 at 9:09

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