As women are at the forefront of protests in Iran, we ponder the reasons why women have been treated as subordinates for so long in so many societies? Was there a time when women were held in high esteem and had favorable positions in society?
According to Leila Ahmad, author Women and Gender in Islam, contrary to androcentric theories claiming that the inferior social status of women is based on biology and has existed as long as human beings have, archeological evidence suggests that women were held in high esteem prior to the rise of urban societies.
Historical sites such as Catal Huyuk, a Neolithic settlement in Asia Minor (today’s Turkey) dating back to 6000 BC, show women’s elevated and even dominant position. Within this settlement the larger burial platforms contained women and paintings on walls of shrines featuring female figures. This is not the only historical site that provides evidence of women having a favorable position.
Archeological evidence indicates that cultures throughout the Middle East including Mesopotamia, Elam, Egypt and Crete, venerated the mother-goddess and held women in high esteem thousands of years ago. Feminist author, Gerda Lerner, has provided the most compelling theory as to why male dominance gained prominence. She suggests that urbanization, importance of increasing the population and providing labor power in early societies led to the theft of women, whose sexuality and reproductive capacity became the first “property” that tribes competed for. The first urban centers of the Middle East rose in Mesopotamia in 3500 BC, and with it the increasing importance of military competitiveness and therefore male dominance.
The decline in women’s status was followed eventually by the decline of the goddesses and the rise to supremacy of gods. 
 Leila Ahmad. “Women and Gender in Islam.” Yale University Press. 1993. https://www.amazon.com/Women-Gender-Islam-Historical-Modern/dp/0300055838
By Elelicht - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22743701