Rosemary A. Joyce
Caroline Dodds Pennock
Aztec culture has often been regarded as patriarchal but, although men controlled many traditional markers of influence in Tenochtitlan, women were powerful and effective figures, possessing tangible rights and responsibilities that were recognized as essential to society’s collective success. Two alternative models now dominate analyses of Aztec gender: parallelism or complementarity duality and fluidity. Although arguably women’s influence was gradually reduced by an increasing focus on military issues, scholars are now largely agreed that male and female roles were arranged into a binary system, each with its own sphere of responsibility and activity. Gender was socially conditioned from birth in Aztec culture and throughout the life cycle, while masculine/feminine pairings strongly shaped social, political, and religious structures. In a practical sense Aztec gender systems probably combined parallelism with a degree of hierarchy within which men and women were structurally equivalent rather than equal.