Western Women in Contemporary Times

The thinkers and philosophers who formulated the concept of equality between men and women believed that it would raise women of misery that she had been living in centuries. Therefore a number of questions need to be asked;

  1. Has the modern woman been lifted out of misery that plagued her for centuries?
  2. Has the historical imbalance been lifted?
  3. Are women fairing any better in terms of political, social and economic opportunities?

The successful woman today is implicitly been defined as one with a successful career, financially independent, and thriving or atleast secure in material terms. Personalities such as Michelle Obama, who had apparently managed to juggle a successful career with being a mother of two and wife to the president, are often cited as role models. Alongside this is the belief that to be dependent upon a husband or father gives the women an inferior status within society. There is a sentiment that a mother and wife having no career has sold herself short in life or is even a failure. This may not be expressed openly but is evident in the manner by which many women feel about themselves when asked the question (especially on game-shows on daytime television), “What is your occupation?” The uneasiness they feel is mirrored when they respond “I am just a mother” or “I am only a housewife.”

This historical problem was the inequality women feared in relation to man ever since their struggle has always been one of being equal to men in terms of work, pay, opportunities and politics. This has led to an increasing shift in attitudes towards gender roles in society, with a belief that the women should have as much right to be the bread earner within a family as the husband.

This has naturally fostered a view in society that the one of the most important objectives of life is to pursue a successful career. The belief is that a career gives a woman status and respect within a society, so marriage should be delayed or avoided altogether, since it would be a hindrance to her career objectives. Children also should be delayed, or maybe she would not have any at all. The belief here is that motherhood will prevent her chances of promotion excelling in her career. Those women who do not work feel a constant pleasure to do so.

Women today fare better even when it comes to pay. Equal pay legislation has been in place for thirty years in the developed countries. This is of no surprise as women were encouraged to enter the workfare due to economic need when they were requested to directly contribute to the economy during the Second World War.

“A major factor in emancipation of women economic need…. economic modernization brought a need for female labour, which was augmented by mobilization for modern war…..The economic involvement of women and social changes resulting from it continued in the inter-war period and after and even brought a few legislative changes of women. These have some effect in social and family life.”

Her day is spent rushing from one responsibility to another; making breakfast for her family, preparing lunch for her husband, getting the children washed and dressed, doing the school run, rushing off to her job, performing a full day strenuous housework, rushing to school to pick up the kids, taking them to after school classes, making the dinner, getting the children ready for bed, and then the routine starts all over again. More often than not, she feels unable to perform any of her duties to the best of her ability because she is so tired, stressed and miserable. Lisa Belkin in a book called “Life’s work: Confessions of an unbalanced mom” writes

“Not one of us seems to be able to give 100% of themselves of their job or to their family and 100% of themselves to taking care of themselves”

So after a century long struggle with an age-old prejudice women do not fare much better. In some ways it is this bad if not far worse. The 21st century woman has moved from being just a man’s other-half to where she is potentially only an object of desire for men and not much else. While this dilemma has confronted women ever since they began to enter the workplace today women face far greater sex. In many fields, not least in the city of London women often expect not to be employed simply on their abilities and intellectual powers, but on her looks, her ‘sex appeal’ also plays a fundamental part in securing existing employment, whether to attract clients with her sexuality or to ‘fit into the team’. An article on BBC News online (Laddism in the city, 10/4/2001) showed the plight of many women working in the city; many say they are “touched up by both colleagues, contacts or compellers…. and think objecting would be bad for business.” Team building meetings and ‘client facing’ often take place in strip clubs or seedy bars. As one woman put it, opting out is not an option, “you had to be part of the gang…they see it as seriously effecting their profits if you miss these events.” Interestingly, the author of the BBC article said one bond trader interviewed for this article suggested to her that “a sexual favour might be adequate compensation for his opinions on why UK government bonds have slumped in afternoon trade.”

So something has seriously gone wrong with male-female relations. Women may not be oppressed the way they were a few centuries ago but the oppression they face today remains; it is just different in its manifestations. The problem lies in the assertion that neither men nor women are inferior to one another. Taken in isolation this is a very simple, indeed obvious truth, but correcting historical prejudice alone cannot be a basis for defining relationships between people. The simple assertion that men and women are equal (i.e. that women are not inferior to men) alone is exceptionally simplistic once its historical context is considered. It also leaves a number of unanswered questions. It does not address how best men and women can co-operate to forge of cohesive society. In the wider context equality alone is very limited in handling disputes and organising the relationships that naturally arise between people. A simple assertion of human equality provides no guidance on the issue of difference and this fact gives rise to need for additional, more elaborate ideas and principles. In reality, the call for equality is nothing more than making man the bench mark to aspire to – the call to equality is oppression itself.


About Imran Ali

IMRAN ALI, is an up-coming writer and columnist. His studies were interrupted when he, as a child of 14, simply told his father M. Sulemen, a businessman, that he just can't get what his school teacher teaches paying little attention to the weak students of the class. So, on a promise that he'll 'study at home' he never again saw the face of the school, though he carried his studies well to fullfill the promise of his; his experience as a volunteer(a dedicated social worker) provided him with material for his articles and writings. He first gained attention with ''Aurangzed as he was'' and ''New world Order 'Vs' Just world Order'' (September 2011, The Companion, English monthly, and several other magazines), probably his finest articles. Next 10 year he coming with his debut novel, and is fully dedicated on it's research. Taken together, his articles present a broad, naturalistic picture of Indian life. His subjects include History, the Indian peasantry, the bureaucracy, life of a downtrodden Indians and have nots, the emotional problems of the different classes, and, ominously, hallucination, Very new in Style and to Approach, Combining psychoanalysis with human behaviour. His writings well captures the collective psyche of the world as a whole. He's been a district level boxer. Known as a peoples magnet in his vast friends circle, and a booklover who humorously with pride discloses, '' I've read over hundreds of books relating to arts, literature, science, metaphysics, naturopathy and psychlogy. So, the conclusion here is easy to derive, that i, who was raised from childhood in a modern muslim belief have been mostly preferring reading all kinds of books rather than writing!'' His reading since childhood, has been mostly centered around knowing the truths[truth here means of all kinds humans ever categorized, mysteries and human psyche has given me a better understanding of the human soul, mind and spirit in collaboration with my Islamic teachings.] Since he started his reading at the age of 15 reading Stories of literary giants, like Leo tolstoy, George Orwell, and Guy de muppasant and many Indian masters like Sir Mohammed Iqbal(The Poet Of the East), Margret Marcus, Leopold weiss, and Manto. And their collective influence made me search for my own moorings, adapting my father's style of srorytelling. In the beginning, there was nothing magnificent in acquiring all this, from books, as it was nothing more beside his own interest, and his interest to help morally deprived and confused men he used to meet in parties and gatherings. And amazingly, only a few years back, an up an coming, extraordinarily talented writer and one of his closest friends of his, who always loved his ideas gave rise to a writer hiding somewhere inside him. When while sipping the tea he insisted him to collect his ideas in a diary which keep on counselling youngmen of varieties every third day resulting in a great interruption in our appointed informational communication. Suddenly, at the very instinct, the idea occured in his mind of writing down these ideas effectively, concisely and pertaining to the questions of todays' youth who are short of time resolving them. And with him as his inspiration, he picked up the pen, and started unfolding, writing in the name of the architect of this whole universe. Which is none other than ''Allah.''

11 comments on “Western Women in Contemporary Times

  1. simplicity is a woma,s virtue, thank u mr. Imran for mentioning different aspects of woman,s life welldone

  2. in the name of freedom woman r still captives to contemporary civilization i am highly impressed by the author

  3. Women always have been, and always will be, oppressed, only the degree of oppression may differ from time to time, place to place or culture to culture. Nothing can change the age-long patriarchal mentality. All the calls for women liberation or independence are fake, doing nothing except burdening women with more responsibilities. It hasnt worked for improving woman’s status in relation to men. Men r still enjoying superior status. Entering into men’s sphere of activity and taking up their responsibilities isnt liberation or equality. It will be worth only if women achieve equality and independence working within their own sphere. But its almost equal to impossible.

  4. Imran thank you for writing about plight of women we need writers like you who can address social issues i love that you acknowlege that women have been oppressed over the centuries and with women being more carrier oriented it still continues. i belong to the working women part of the world and so far with no responsibility of husband and kids i get time for my self.i know it will get difficult but if this is what i love i have a price to pay. and about Men being benchmark i am not sure about that for me it’s chasing my dreams.

  5. it is really a matter of concern hw women have been treated in this modern soceity by their bosses , so for uplifting their business empire they misuse women and degrade their freedom of speech.

  6. A superbly balanced perspective on the issue of gender equality /inequality Mr Ali! I honestly believe that a woman should be free to pursue all of her dreams; to limit her is to leave her unfulfilled, forever hankering after what could have been. I must admit however, that the traditional role added to this is extremely stressful for today’s woman. The shift should therefore accommodate the woman who desires both a family and a career by expecting the man to assist in caring for the house and family. I hasten to add that the house wife should be proud of her honorable responsibility and be satisfied with her contribution, it this is what brings her fulfillment. Thank you again Mr Ali for addressing this touchy issue so expertly!

  7. Great article! There are not enough articles like this around these days.

  8. “Her day is spent rushing from one responsibility to another; making breakfast for her family, preparing lunch for her husband, getting the children washed and dressed, doing the school run, rushing off to her job, performing a full day strenuous housework, rushing to school to pick up the kids, taking them to after school classes, making the dinner, getting the children ready for bed, and then the routine starts all over again.”
    This is absolutely true. The issue is what you believe the solution to be, and I suspect that what you are trying to imply is that women should therefore *not* try to have careers and should focus on what they are good at, and this is where I disagree fundamentally with you. The solution, as I see it, is for society to stop assuming that people should do things based firstly on their gender. There are women who are good at banking or building houses or writing and there are men who are good at looking after children and cooking and cleaning. Why shouldn’t they do the things that they like/are good at, instead of society telling them that because of their gender they should do one or the other.
    I also suspect that when you write “While this dilemma has confronted women ever since they began to enter the workplace today women face far greater sex.” you are implying that the solution to this is for women not to enter the workplace. It’s not. The solution is for men to behave differently, and for those who do not behave differently to be dealt with by legal means (after all, the kinds of behaviour you mention are all illegal). It is patriarchal society which allows me to behave like this and get away with it, and women should not have to change their behaviour for fear of what sexist, stupid men do.

    • First of all, the article does not deal with the question whether women should seek professional careers or not, it’s just analysing the (negative) effects and consequences of the women’s exposure to what used to be supposed the “men’s world”. Secondly, it wants to show that the notion of women liberation, empowerment and gender equality brought about by the west is just an illusion. It has rather burdened women with extra responsibilties and demands instead of liberating them or bringing them to an equal pedestal. It could have been justified as having achieved these hitherto hollow claims if there would have been a proportional shift in the duties and responsibilities of men as well. To think that one has become better off by sharing other’s burden, without having shared one’s own can only be called a ‘make-belief’.

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