Three recent NIDA-supported studies highlight the importance of screening older adults for drug use and its consequences. Researchers demonstrated steep rises in marijuana use among middle-aged and older Americans, and prescription opioid misuse and heroin use among older Americans. The researchers also documented widespread polydrug use among older people who use marijuana and increased suicidal ideation among those who misuse prescription opioids. Inquiries about marijuana from older patients prompted Drs. Benjamin H.
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In China from very early times, men have been seen as the core of the family. When women enter the early historical record, it is often because they caused men problems. Some women schemed to advance their own sons when their husband had sons by several women.
The ruler of Zheng placed the blame on the husband for foolishly confiding in his wife. Taken together, accounts of these sorts present a mixed picture of women and the problems they presented for men in the nobility. The women in their lives were capable of loyalty, courage, and devotion, but also of intrigue, manipulation, and selfishness.
Confucius probably took for granted these sorts of attitudes toward women, common in his society. He greatly esteemed ancestral rites and related family virtues such as filial piety.
He hoped that through the practice of ritual everyone, male and female, high and low, old and young, would learn to fulfill the duties of their roles. In all these roles, it was incumbent on women to accord with the wishes and needs of closely-related men: their fathers when young, their husbands when married, their sons when widowed.
In later centuries this emphasis on the necessity of sons led many to be disappointed at the birth of a daughter. In the centuries after Confucius, it became common for writers to discuss gender in terms of yin and yang. Women were yin, men were yang.
Yin was soft, yielding, receptive, passive, reflective, and tranquil, whereas yang was hard, active, assertive, and dominating. Day and night, winter and summer, birth and death, indeed all natural processes occur though processes of interaction of yin and yang. Conceptualizing the differences between men and women in terms of yin and yang stresses that these differences are part of the natural order of the universe, not part of the social institutions artificially created by human beings.
In yin yang theory the two forces complement each other but not in strictly equal ways. The natural relationship between yin and yang is the reason that men lead and women follow.
If yin unnaturally gains the upper hand, order at both the cosmic and social level are endangered. Maintaining a physical separation between the worlds of men and the worlds of women was viewed as an important first step toward assuring that yin would not dominate yang. The Confucian classic the Book of Rites stressed the value of segregation even within the home; houses should be divided into an inner and an outer section, with the women staying in the inner part.
Han laws supported the authority of family heads over the other members of their families. The family head was generally the senior male, but if a man died before his sons were grown, his widow would serve as family head until they were of age.
The law codes of the imperial period enforced monogamy and provided a variety of punishments for bigamy and for promoting a concubine to the status of wife. Men could divorce their wives on any of seven grounds, which included barrenness, jealousy, and talkativeness, but could do so only if there was a family for her to return to.
There were no grounds on which a woman could divorce her husband, but divorce by mutual agreement was possible. Much was written in Han times on the virtues women should cultivate. It also contained cautionary tales about scheming, jealous, and manipulative women who brought destruction to all around them. Another very influential book was written by Ban Zhao, a well-educated woman from a prominent family.
Her Admonitions for Women urged girls to master the seven virtues appropriate to women: humility, resignation, subservience, self-abasement, obedience, cleanliness, and industry. By the end of the Han period, the Confucian vocabulary for talking about women, their natures, their weaknesses, and their proper roles and virtues was largely established.
The durability of these ways of thinking undoubtedly owes much to continuities in the family system, which from Han times on was patrilineal, patrilocal, and patriarchical, and allowed concubinage. Yet, because of the practice of concubinage, even if a wife bore sons, her standing could be undermined if her husband took concubines who also bore sons.
Thus, so long as the family system continued without major change, women would continue to resort to strategies that seemed petty or threatening to men, and not until a woman became a grandmother was she likely to see the interests of the family in the same way men in the family did.
Thus, moralists held up models of self-sacrificing women for emulation, women who adhered to principles of loyalty, chastity, and faithfulness, often at great personal cost.
By Song times, historical sources are diverse enough to see that women undertook a wide range of activities never prescribed in Confucian didactic texts. It is often said that the status of women began to decline in the Song period, just when Neo-Confucianism was gaining sway. Foot binding seems to have steadily spread during Song times, and explanations for it should be sought in Song circumstances, but widow chastity had very little specific connection to the Song, the idea predating the Song and the exaggerated emphasis on it developing much later.
Mothers bound the feet of girls aged five to eight, using long strips of cloth. The goal was to keep their feet from growing and to bend the four smaller toes under to make the foot narrow and arched. Foot binding spread gradually during Song times but probably remained largely an elite practice. In later centuries, it became extremely common in north and central China, eventually spreading to all classes.
Women with bound feet were less mobile than women with natural feet, but only those who could afford servants bound their feet so tight that walking was difficult. By contrast, the idea of widow chastity was not new in Song times. By the early Qing period , the cult of widow chastity had gained a remarkably strong hold, especially in the educated class. Childless widows might even commit suicide. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries a surprising number had their poetry published.
Women with poetic talents figure prominently in the great eighteenth-century novel, The Dream of Red Mansions also called Story of the Stone. The young unmarried women, however, may have been able to acquire literary educations as good as the boys, but they had even less control over their fates than he had.
Foot binding, widow chastity, parental control of marriage, and concubinage have all been eliminated. It should always be kept in mind, however, that a great many women were able to fashion satisfying lives under the old system. Are you an educator or education professional looking for professional development resources?
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