بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
This series will cover specific issues related to women, primarily Western women in the workforce and its tremendous effect on the family and social structure. It will highlight this sensitive subject and its effect on the working Muslim women today. The first part is the introduction and women’s work in the West.
Prior to the Industrial Revolution, the role of men and women was clearly defined in society. Each gender had clear specific expectations that men and women were expected to uphold and honor, resulting in a more cohesive society. Young women matured into the path of motherhood and wifehood likewise with young men males guided into fatherhood as the head of household. Men were expected to be the anchor in the home to feed, clothe, and shelter his family. However this structure changed during and after World War I yielding devastating results.
Women’s Work in the West:
As a result of World War I, ten million men were killed. Thereby, disrupting the fragile balance of the family structure. Women, now widowed with orphaned children, had to bear the burden of providing for their family. Faced with new hardships, women of all ages were pushed into the laborforce trying to maintain their broken households. Of course at that time, the majority of women were not physically apt to perform numerous jobs traditionally fulfilled held by men. Many unfortunately were forced into the path that heavily exploited their femininity and sexuality in order to provide their orphaned children with the basic necessities to survive.
Furthermore, western society began to view the female gender as an important and vital contributor to the workforce. On a more basic level, a father of an eighteen year old is not legally responsible to provide for her because she is able to work and pay for her own necessities. Capitalism falsely led wives to believe in the notion of a two-income household where her income was crucial to her family’s living. Oftentimes, the husband needed or required his wife to work in order to lead a comfortable lifestyle according to western standards. Western women believed they were liberated when working alongside the opposite gender to attain wages. The widespread belief of one financially supporting an able-bodied person whether it may be his wife or daughter emphasized the greed and disgrace in society. Once again, highlighting the survival of the fittest law present in western society. It should be noted that Western societies live according to their whims and desires trying to satisfy them by any means possible. The woman was led to believe the more she flaunted her sexuality, the better the return for her; whether it may be more money, higher status, or attention from her clients or employers. As time went by, her presence became increasingly prevalent in the workforce to obtain a finer quality of life.
One major factor is missing from the equation: Where does the role of a wife and, more importantly, mother fit into this picture? This is the topic that will be explored in detail over a series of articles: The discussion of the women’s role in the western workforce and society and its tremendous impact on the social structure.
So did the western woman find true happiness? Now that she considered herself liberated and financially stable, did this bring her happiness? According to several research studies, many appear doubtful in their responses.
According to a French study, a whopping 70% of women live alone without a husband, working from an early age in life. Leading to another problem in society, when young adults leave home to work and reside alone; they neglect their elderly parents without any care or financial support. Incidentally 59% of the elderly are women in France. Nearly every year, three times the number of women enters the workforce than that of men, leaving the majority of men jobless while women struggle to balance work and home. Where is this so-called happiness from this grim picture?
Now turning to the Western social scientists and researchers’ opinions regarding women in the workforce:
Many modern Western sociologists do not want to approach this topic from the angle of whether a working woman is productive to the workforce while destructive to the social fabric of society. But this did not stop past thinkers from exploring and discussing this important issue in which we feel its disastrous results hundreds of years later.
August Comte, a French philosopher considered the founder of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism claimed, the same people who call for women’s equality by claiming to defend these women do not realize that these women can not compete against their counterparts for equal jobs and pay. Rather this forces these women to enter a daily competitive struggle which will ultimately devour them regarding effort and time. This competition also destroys the natural relationship between men and women –one of mutual love.
A former US congressman stated that since God gave women the ability to have babies, they shouldn’t be expected to leave them to work. Who will then stay home to care for these babies? Samuel Smilles, a pioneer in Renaissance thinking, said when governments sought to employ women, despite their contribution to the nation’s wealth, it resulted in traumatic consequences as the entrance and dependence on women in the workforce increased. Attacking the structure of the domestic life, depriving children of their mothers, husbands of their wives, and children of their relatives, it robbed women of their right and duty to their families.
Dr. Ida Ellen claimed in her research findings there is a high correlation between the number of working women and the high rate of crime in that society. She concluded that the root of the family crisis in America and the high level of crimes in the community are due to the wife leaving her home to double the family income. As the income level rose as did the level of morality decrease. Dr. Ellen called for the return of the wife to her home to rectify the society and its ethics being the only way to save the new generation of degradation.
According to Lady Cook Journal, the inter-mixing of men and women has led to the high rate of children born out of wedlock. But the statistics would be even higher if it were not for modern medicine to solve the great number of unwanted pregnancies. Lord Byron, an English poet and nobleman, claimed that women should tend to their homes and teach religion to their children while cautioning against the free mixing of men and women.
Madam Hirkour, a women’s rights champion, wrote to the Socialist philosopher, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon asking of his position on women in the workforce. He replied that a working woman demonstrates a flaw or defect against her gender since this confirms the woman’s failure to realize her full capacity and potential when it comes to her affairs.
Economic philosopher, Jules Simon, stated in the Journal of Magazines v. 17, women have been introduced into different fields from sewing mills to banking institutions yet many of these women were far superior to their employers only to gain a few pounds. The husband now had the materialistic benefit of having a wage-earning wife; while simultaneously threatening to take his place in the workforce. Secondly, he noted that employers have stripped women of their homes and families.
Auguste Comte said in the case of an absent husband or father, the necessities of every woman must be deemed as the responsibility of social services. This is the real basis or meaning for the elevation of humanity. Women’s lives must be as domestic as possible by ridding herself of public work life to ensure her natural role in life.
In The Magazines v18 , Eujom Feraro wrote, when women seek typical male jobs, they start to over-work to the point where they no longer seek a husband; forming a third gender, neither male nor female. Social scientists have realized the dire impact on the natural relationship between the two genders. She is the over-qualified woman who now competes for the same job as man, these women when unemployed are then seen as a burden upon society. Jules Simon believed women should remain as such in order to attain happiness to extend it onto others. We need to solve women’s problems without changing the nature of woman being aware of not altering them into men or else their positive characteristics may be diminished. We as a society then risk great loss. Nature created the perfect balance among its creatures. Let us study this nature to improve the situation. So let us not deviate from the laws of nature.
Annie Rorde, a famous English writer in an interview declared, if our daughters work in other people’s houses as maids or servants, it is better than factory jobs as not be contaminated by the ills of society. I wish we were like the Muslim countries, where modesty, chastity and purity are the norm, where the servant children play alongside the house children as equals. Yes it is a shame on our country, that the British expose their daughters to the vices of our society… women should be held in dignity in their homes rather than mixing frequently among men. Why shouldn’t we allow women to remain in their natural traditional place while leaving men’s work for the men?
These are the late 19th and early 20th century thinkers and philosophers’ perspectives about the working woman’s role in society. Many unanimously believe that the source of the family break- up is due to the woman abandoning her home.
Now western thinkers are faced with the growing dillemma of a quickly disintegrating society where women have abandoned their traditional domesic life to pursue a materialistic non-traditional lifestyle where she no longer seeks a husband for financial support. The reason for family breakup is due to her working in public places. Studies have shown that women have rebelled against the common values in society. Furthermore the woman is less likely to remain faithful to one man when she is financially independent. Western women started earning their own wages; paving a new path for themselves. She started desiring material wealth, status, and freedom. Severing herself from her husband, she no longer is dependant on him for spending allowances and so forth to buy what she desires. Furthermore, being financially stable meant she was no longer bound to find a husband, she was now free to seek someone to meet her expectations and even then she is not bound to the institution of marriage. She can mix freely with as many men as she desired. Her job also earned her this so-called animalistic liberation.
The capitalistic regime forced the woman out of her home enslaving and exploiting her while afflicting the man as well; with no regard to the traumatic consequences on society at all levels: the vices, the break-up of the nuclear family unit, and the confusion of roles between men and women… What is our motive as Muslims to tread down this path? Why would so many Muslim women insist on working outside the home when she has a husband or father proudly willing to support her? Probably due to the reason that Muslim women want to imitate the western woman or the craving for more money or the desire for luxury and adornment. This will be discussed further in the next part.