Women’s Liberation

 

Women’s Liberation, aka Feminism

(The following post- rant, perhaps- is focused upon life in America these days for women. It does feed into Islam, and connects to Middle Eastern values, I promise you.)

Women’s Liberation– that’s what we called it before the word “feminism” entered the common parlance. Back in the nineteen-sixties and seventies, we American women wanted to liberate ourselves from the subjugation of our minds to the greater glory of our bodies and our services as wives and mothers. We also wanted equal pay for equal work.

None of that sounded so difficult, and indeed, now we are able, indeed expected, to develop our minds, earn our own money, and pay our own ways in all areas of life. We now have equal pay for equal work. 

It should have stopped there.

How did this ball keep rolling, such that now we are expected to keep not only one full-time  job, but two? How did we let ourselves be charmed into the workplace when we still had to come home  to evenings of dirty dishes and and the need to plan the next day’s meal?

Why did we agree to get up at 4AM to get everyone ready, take the kids to day care, go to our other jobs, work  eight hours, then pick up the kids, go back home and cram household duties into our evenings and weekends?  When did evenings and weekends become work days for us, but not for our husbands?

Speaking of husbands, how did their salaries get higher while ours stayed the same? After all, we now have equal pay for equal work, don’t we? A male “administrative assistant” would earn the same as a female earns, and a female engineer would earn the same salary as a male’s.

So when was the last time you saw a male secretary, or a female engineer?  We still have men’s jobs and women’s jobs, for which both men and women can train, but guess which jobs pay more?

The word “balance” is important these days, especially for women who still think they can do two full time jobs, or must do so, whether they can or can’t. Well, I suppose they can. I’ve seen them. I work with them. Their example has nearly redefined the word “balance.”

“Balance” used to mean equilibrium, with the connotation of satisfying all  elements that compose the equilibrium. Now, the word  still means equilibrium, but the connotation is of feeding each element just enough to keep it from crashing through to the other elements.

Today’s “liberated” woman is no bargain for males, either, who are being dragged off their couches and computers after a full day of work to help the wife do her second full-time job, the job at home. 

Let’s not mistakenly support  the illusion that one’s family life is more important than one’s work life. Guess who carries the health insurance? Whose salary pays the mortgage? His salary doesn’t do it all anymore. 

Islam cured me of feminism. Islam gave me the right to stay home, be supported  by my husband, keep my own money, and focus upon the place that really does mean more to me than any other place- home.

Islam also cured me of having to “have it all”  in an anemic, tension filled facsimile of freedom.  Maybe my middle-aged status has something to do with this, but I thank Allah I extricated myself from having to maintain the American feminist ideal.

 

 

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About Marahm

At first glance, I may appear to be a middle-aged American woman with kids, grandkids, retired from a job in a hospital, gratefully relieved from the responsibilities that come with all of that. Behind the image, which is true enough, I am fairly unhinged from much of American mainstream living, having spent twelve years in Saudi Arabia, years that sprung me from societal and familial impositions of narrow bands of truth. I have learned to embrace my sense of identity as a seeker, an artist, and a writer. I study Arabic and Italian language, because I love them, and I love their people. I still dream of spending more time in the Middle East and Italy, though the dreaming now seems more real than the possibilities. I am a photographer. I write, and sometimes publish, flash memoir, and now a blog or two.
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33 Responses to Women’s Liberation

  1. iMuslim says:

    I agree with you, Marahm. I also don’t like the whole “battle of sexes” dialogue that has been going on forever… it’s really old. Aren’t we all playing for the same team?

  2. WM says:

    Right on! 😀

  3. WM says:

    I’m sure that on this and any other issue my endorsement is the last thing you’d want 🙂

  4. Solace says:

    Everything you wrote is true.

    I would have loved staying at home with my dd without having to worry about bringing home a salary, but even if Islam gives us that right, sometimes it is simply not practical.

    For those of us who have to work I think it is not a case of the battle of the sexes, but more a fight to get what we feel we deserve and what we have worked hard for – getting more out for what we put in.

  5. Aafke says:

    I think the word ”feminism” is the most misinterpreted concept today, as everybody gives it it’s own meaning.

    I like making my own money, but I would also like to be cared for. Either way, I want to have a choice. And if that choice entails having an interesting job, and being able to leave the house, or having a job because of nessecity, I would expect my other half to share in the other job, the houdehold-job of our shared lives, and not leave me to do all the work on my own.

  6. Maz says:

    So you don’t like:
    the right to vote
    the right to marry who you want
    the right to do what you want
    the right to go to college/university
    the right to travel where you want
    etc.
    If feminism is such a bad thing, then why are you benefitting from it?
    And poor men having to help women around the house, and actually help out with the children, and not just sit around while the women do everything.
    Not every woman wants to be a housewife either, some women have other ambitions in life.

  7. Marahm says:

    Maz, of course I like the list you wrote. As an American woman, I had all those things before and after feminism, before and after becoming a Muslim. None of those things has ever been an issue for me, and I didn’t say feminism was a bad thing.

    It has simply gone too far. The domestic role is no longer well respected, despite the lip service. Women who would choose it need to find fairly well-paid husbands, because ordinary men can no longer afford to have homemaker wives.

    So men are adversely affected, too, if they want a homemaker who will devote herself to building a lovely, comfortable home atmosphere, cook great meals, fully supervise the children, etc. No matter how good a woman is, she simply cannot be in two places at one time.

    It’s this new standard to which I object. The young women I work with have no experience of living in a home maintained by a homemaker. Their mothers worked, and they work, and their lives are dominated by the needs of the workplace.

    The workplace, by the way, is not much of a winner, either, because young moms are constantly on call from the day-care for a sick kid, and let’s not get started on the twelve week family leave she gets when a baby is born. I am one who has had to pick up the work load of a dozen new moms over the years. So my workload increases, as does hers, and her husband’s, and the resources decrease.

    Occasionally, a woman does like living this way, and her family is self-sufficient. More power to her. She is in the minority. Most of use no longer have a choice, if we ever had one before.

  8. Marahm says:

    WM, LOL! I had to re-read your comment to make sure it was really from you! So we actually agree on something? Well, don’t worry, I’m not upset. We’ll still find ourselves on opposite sides of most fences. 🙂

  9. Marahm says:

    Aafke, you’ve outlined the ideal model, but so few of us can live in it. Economic, political, and social forces conspire to put a woman’s right foot on the work treadmill, and her left foot on the floor.

  10. Marahm says:

    iMuslim and Solace, the “battle of the sexes” has taken on a new flavor, because men are starting to realize that they, too, must now must pay a price for their wives salaries.

    I am astounded at the conversations I overhear between young working moms, who complain to each other because hubby didn’t want to take his turn watching baby after work the night before.

  11. ~W~ says:

    I agree with Aafke.

    I do not think Islam and feminism contradict each other. Islam is all for women’s independence and rights, including the right to work outside the home. Early Muslim women were businesswomen, teachers, nurses and even warriors. Whether women choose to stay at home or work outside, the husband in Islam is expected to share in the household chores.
    From my own experience, many women are very happy when they come for a physical examination of their hearts and find that the doctor is a woman like them. There are only a handful of women in my specialty where I live and I hear many, “Thank God you are a woman! I was worried sick about being exposed to a man before coming to the check up”.

    Having said that I agree with you Marahm that in the modern world life has become very difficult indeed for many working women. This largely because men ignore their responsibilities of sharing in the household chores and taking care of their own children.

  12. Marahm says:

    ~W~, you bring up a good point with respect to Muslim women who prefer to be examined by female physicians. By extension, we can assume that other professional services can be provided more effectively to women by women.

    It is true that early Muslim women filled roles outside the home, and that modern Muslim women have the right to do the same.

    If men ignore their repsonsibilities for sharing household and child care duties, perhaps we (as a society) need to look at how we expect both men and women to work. Perhaps our traditional five-day, forty hour work week is too much for those of us who wish to establish families.

    One thing is sure– with both parents working, the quality of family life can be compromised easily.

  13. WM says:

    ‘I do not think Islam and feminism contradict each other.’

    I have yet to find a feminism that accepts the rights of a husband over his wife, nor do I think I’ll ever find one. The only way to reconcile them is the ‘diminishing content’ method i.e. create a bastard ‘Islam’ (not to mention a ‘bastard’ feminism).

  14. WM says:

    Can you have your cake and eat it? Can men be expected to both fulfil their responsibilities as providers and do the other job (ditto women)? I find it funny how some celebrate the right of women to financial maintenance and in the same breath condemn ‘patriarchy’ and the absence of women from the workplace when- guess what!- they have a common origin 🙂

  15. coolred38 says:

    How about we change the ideal from mommies staying home and daddies bringing home the paycheck…to daddies staying home and mommies bringing home the paycheck? Just for a year or so and see how the family dynamics change…or if they do…is it all the same result if one or the other parent is working in or out of the home?

    Why dont we create more jobs where both mommy and daddy can work from home…and have household duties and childcare as shared duties…now thats the ideal in my opinion.

  16. susanne430 says:

    I know many Christian women who could have written a similar post. Many of my friends are enjoying being mothers staying at home with their children and not giving into the idea that somehow their value is based on whether they become doctors or teachers or accountants all while trying to juggle things at home.

    You make some wonderful points especially about being content. Well, that’s how I took your last paragraph. If we learned to be content with the blessings we have already, we wouldn’t have so much debt, personal and national. But as it is, we want everything – now – and we will go in debt to fulfill those desires that never satisfy. :-S

  17. Marahm says:

    Wise comment, Susanne. Thank you. Your friends are blessed to able to make the choice to stay home. Most women cannot choose any more, and I wonder about the extent to which desire and necessity interact to produce that lack of choice. I suspect many more women would stay home, but real necessity drives their outside employment.

    Coolred, your ideal could and does work in a minority of families. My own daughter and her husband would love to exchange roles– she is happiest at work, and he would prefer being a homemaker to a long-haul truck driver. It’s a choice that they cannot make yet for a variety of reasons.

    WM, your “diminishing content” idea (with its “bastard” quality) sounds like something that is already being socially crafted, albeit not in those terms, and perhaps not consciously. The implication is that the full quota of any social/religious/philosophical system no longer promotes the well-being of human life.

    One wonders whether future generations will indeed make use of the “diminishing content” concept to construct a new content altogether.

  18. WM says:

    ‘…albeit not in those terms, and perhaps not consciously.’

    Au contraire- how many feminists reject narrations/doctrines about which there had been no previous disagreement, historically? Trust me, the only ones who aren’t conscious of something fishy afoot are those who deceive themselves. Something is quite obviously in the air- something is happening!

    ‘The implication is that the full quota of any social/religious/philosophical system no longer promotes the well-being of human life.’

    The problem is that ideas about what constitute human well-being are not stable- particularly as religious beliefs (e.g. in the West) have changed, as secularism (not just the political kind) encroaches on every sphere of the ‘human endeavour’. A believing Muslim has a particular view of the world radically at odds with that of an atheist, for example.

    The problem is that we’re adopting, consciously and otherwise, ideas about human happiness (and a whole bunch of other things) that are pretty alien to our religious tradition…

  19. WM says:

    It’s funny, I remember Hans Kung saying that he wanted to see movements now on the fringe of Modern Muslim (legal, political, theological etc) discourse(s) at the centre- in other words, they want to secularise Islam- which is, as some have said, ‘the last normative religion’.

  20. WM says:

    ‘One wonders whether future generations will indeed make use of the “diminishing content” concept to construct a new content altogether.’

    This is a motif of Modernist lit. on the subject- Fazlur Rahman basically wanted/expected/hoped for a totally new expression of Islam to emerge over the next century (or longer!)…lots to say but tarawih soon! 😛

  21. Marahm says:

    Perhaps you’ll delve into the subject of this “new expression of Islam” on your blog. I’d be interested.

    I think you are right that the ideas of what constitutes human well-being are unstable. Historically, culturally, this is surely true, and undoubtedly underlies the dissension from religious traditions.

    So now we approach the interface of religion and social philosophy– an area about which I know little, and upon which I feel some hesitation to expound, except for my own inflated opinion, which may not be worth much to anyone reading this.

    As for the female experience in America, from both a Muslim and non-Muslim perspective, I stand by everything I’ve said previously.

  22. Irving says:

    I loved your post 🙂 I don’t particularly like isms, much too limiting, but freedom to me is doing what the heart tells you is right for you, even if everyone else tells you it is wrong. So good for you 🙂

    Ya Haqq!

  23. WM says:

    ‘…freedom to me is doing what the heart tells you is right for you, even if everyone else tells you it is wrong.’

    Then freedom is surely a terrible thing.

  24. Marahm says:

    Why, WM, is freedom “surely a terrible thing,” if it means doing the heart tells you is right for you?

    Let’s not get too philosophical here; I’m sure Irving does not refer to the killer who claims that, “”God told me to do it.”

    He refers instead to the choices we all make, within our knowedge of halaal and haraam. Some people make choices that are well supported by others; others do not.

    Sometimes one musters courage to make a choice that will not be popular within one’s circle. That does not mean the choice is haraam, or harmful in any way. I’m sure this was the meaning of Irving’s remark.

  25. WM says:

    ‘Let’s not get too philosophical here; I’m sure Irving does not refer to the killer who claims that, “”God told me to do it.” ‘

    That’s OK then 🙂

  26. Shahrzad says:

    Very good article.

    I dont agree with feminism=women’s liberation though.

    Women are more misused as the sexual machines in advertisements, magazines and movies to attract men’s buyers..

    They’re more misused as cheap workers with lower salaries than men.

    They’re more misused in the domestic violence and more in danger for unprotective sex.

    They’re more eager to marry and have a simple married life, but men are less eager, bcs they can freely have their free relationship with other women.

    I see western women have lost their values, pride, strength and personality as a woman.
    I see when they like a man, they just go for him, without thinking that he may be married, he may have children and wife, he may have a healthy family and dont want to go through stories. So he rejects them but they start hinting.
    I personally saw with my eyes how these liberal women, beg men in the privacy, ready to have him even for one nite!!
    And then when you’re discussing to them, they just offer mottos and lectures of free sexuality, feminism, equal rights between men and women etc.

    It’s all what feminism brought for women as a gift.
    Sincerely, i dont see any liberation caused by feminism.

  27. Achelois says:

    “I thank Allah I extricated myself from having to maintain the American feminist ideal” – this is so poignant. We must all be cured of feminism.

  28. Rhysz says:

    Hey Marahm,

    What can I say? Very interesting, and provocative, article? I can’t give a very long answer right now. However, I must say that I was right with you up untill the ending of your post. Although, I do not agree, I’m very happy for you that you found happiness in Islam, what else could I feel for a fellow human-being that finds happiness and a partner for life?

    You might want to draw a line between ‘women’s equality’ and ‘modern feminism’. The foremer I think we can all agree with, I , for one, revell in it. I was raised by an independant woman and have always fallen in love with independent women, its Freudian I’m sure ;). The latter, however, is a red herring, ‘modern feminism’, has, in my opinion been hijacked by the most radical and useless elements in the equality movement. I won’t go into that, lest I Incur the Wrath of the Clouddragon! In the end, I do think that one professional stay-at-home parent is what’s best for kids.

    Regards,
    Rhysz

  29. Awesome as usual dear. I totally agree here with you that I’m happy being able to straddle the line takign the best from both becaus I do have a choice. A choice that I always as Allah to keep in my life.

  30. Lynn says:

    “Islam cured me of feminism. Islam gave me the right to stay home, be supported by my husband, keep my own money, and focus upon the place that really does mean more to me than any other place- home.”

    Islam also cured me of having to “have it all” in an anemic, tension filled facsimile of freedom. Maybe my middle-aged status has something to do with this, but I thank Allah I extricated myself from having to maintain the American feminist ideal.

    I am not Muslim but I gave myself the right to stay home, American law gave me the right to 1/2 of MY HUSBAND’S money (I stayed home so I wasn’t making any of my own) and I focused on what meant the most to me, my family and our home. Since I didn’t have Islam, I don’t know what it was that made me happy with living within our means. I never felt the need to ‘keep up with the Joneses’ We are not in debt and we live very nicely. Bottom line, it wasn’t Islam that cured you of anything. Maybe it just took you ’til middle age to grow up and realize that material things don’t really add to your self esteem.

  31. Marahm says:

    Welcome, Lynn, and thank you for your comment. Your point is well taken; I might not have left the United States at all, or converted to Islam, had I been blessed with a man who made enough money so that I wouldn’t have to work, or have debt, and could live nicely within the means of his salary.

    However, I met no such man in my younger years, partly because I did fall under the spell of feminism, and never realized I’d end up with two jobs, not just one. It wasn’t about materialism. I’ve never had much in the way of houses, cars, clothes or fancy vacations. I travelled internationally– buget style– based out of Riyadh, where air fares were cheap in the 80’s and 90’s..

    I’ve been fully grown up for many years, even before I became Muslim.

    I grew up in the 1950’s American Heartland, where women worked only if they were mentally “nervous” or on the brink of poverty. None of the families in my neighborhood were Muslims. So you are right. Islam is not the only reason a woman can choose to stay home and take care of her family.

    The social revolution of the 60’s, coupled with the feminism of the 70’s, changed all of that. The natural progression of women’s “liberation” has resulted in the situation we have today in 2008, where the majority of women absolutely must work, simply to meet the financial requirements of maintaining a household and raising children. I’m not talking about women who live in half-million dollar homes; I’m talking about our good, old-fashioned 3 bdrm ranch houses, with or without an attached garage.

    Islam, as a social matrix as well as a religion, puts great value on the homemaking role. Societies in which the predominate religion is Islam are structured so that women’s chances to become a homemaker are good.

    You and I are but two individuals who walked on different paths. My point about Islam is that it provides an atmosphere in which women can flourish in the traditional feminine role. We no longer have this situation in the United States, to the detriment of families everywhere. What good is fifty percent of a husband’s money if even 100 percent does not support a family?

    Muslim women are more likely to have the choice, and the support, to choose homemaking. American women since the 1970’s have been expected to work out of the home as well as have children. You are fortunate.

  32. Lynn says:

    Well, again, I have to say that it is not Islam that provides the means for a woman to stay home. I know Muslim women here in the US that have to work and I know many, many non-Mulsim women that do not. Oh, I also know Muslim women who WISH they could work but feel that it isn’t appropriate.

    I think that feminism was and is about choices. It gave those women who’s souls do NOT flourish in the traditional feminine roles options. My society is also structured so that women can stay home if they choose to. I am not wealthy and neither is my extended family. We are just your average middle class family. My mother had 10 children and she obviously stayed home and you don’t get rich with 10 kids. We were poor. She had 4 daughters 3 of us chose to stay home and raise our kids. Three of my brothers had children and thier wives chose to stay home. I have two adult neices who have children and they stay home with them (or work part time). All it takes is living within your means and being happy with what you have. Religion has nothing to do with it.

  33. Marahm says:

    Well, again, you are correct to say that Islam does not provide the means for a woman to stay home. I didn’t say it did. However, since I do not wish to repeat my previous remark, I’ll move on.

    Feminism was supposed to have been about choices, and to some extent, it did release those of us whose souls do not flourish in the traditional female role. You say, “My society is also structured so that women can stay home if they choose to.”

    Which society is that? I live in the United States, and a woman’s choice to stay home is based not upon her soul’s desire, but upon the salary of her husband. Living within one’s means is fine, but when the woman stays home, the husband’s salary has to be big enough to allow those means to be maintained. That’s all, and that has nothing to do with religion, until one examines the religious underlay of society’s most universal principles.

    Religion provides guidelines for everyday life, as well as behavior within families, don’t you agree? The Ten Commandments, for instance, have everything to do with daily living.

    Islam goes a step further in encouraging not only women to stay home and tend the family, but men to assume total financial responsibility.

    I’ve been speaking in generalities, tendencies, trends, mainstream movements, and the ease with which certain choices can or cannot be made as a result of them. Relgion does influence the choices of both men and women. When certain religious standards permeate a society, those standards become easier to choose.

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