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There is a persistent, deeply entrenched ideology in our society, and in the legal system reflecting that society, that men and women perform different roles and occupy different spheres. The male role is that of worker and breadwinner, the female role is that of childbearer and rearer. The male sphere is the public world of work, of politics, and of culture–the sphere to which our legal and economic systems have been thought appropriately to be directed. The female sphere is the private world of family, home, and nurturing support for the separate public activities of men. Traditionally in our culture, legal intervention in this private sphere has been viewed as inappropriate or even dangerous. The notion that the world of remunerative work and the world of home–or the realms of production and reproduction–are separate, has fostered the economic and social subordination of women in two interrelated ways. First, the values necessary for success in the home world, such as nurturing, responsiveness to others' needs, and mutual dependence, have been viewed as unnecessary, even incompatible with the work world. Since the work world is assigned economic importance, the traditionally "female" tasks and qualities of the home world have come to be generally devalued in our society. Second, the separateness of the public and private worlds, and the consignment of women to the home world, is seen as natural, based on unquestioned assumptions stemming from the apparent immutability of roles derived from different reproductive capacity.

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