Much has been said on the preoccupation with honour in the Mediterranean area, and in fact this preoccupation, coupled with control over women’s sexuality, is frequently used to characterize ‘traditional’ Mediterranean society. My interest in the literature on ‘honour and shame’ was prompted by a problem relating to the employment patterns of women. Since the late 1960s there has been a growing body of literature in Italy on women’s participation in the labour market and the distribution of women in different branches of production. These analyses have mainly stressed the functional aspects of women’s subordination and of the sexual division of labour for capital accumulation; that is, women are conceptualized as a reserve army of labour-power and as a source of cheap labour-power. Women’s subordination and the sexual division of labour in the family are taken as given historical products and only their effects from the point of view of production and accumulation are studied.