By Loubna Flah
By Loubna Flah
Morocco World News
Casablanca, November 29, 2012
The status of women in society was entrapped for decades in the shackles of male dominated systems that bolstered a purely chauvinistic world view. Despite the strife for equity and the several attempts to dismantle archaic beliefs on women’s aptitudes, the pace of their emancipation was rather slow.
The long absence and later the latent presence of women in the public domain, wherein the process of decision making, law promulgation and governance take place, had detrimental effects on the cadence of their social and political empowerment .
In her book The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir ascribes this delay to women’s lack of solidarity. She asserts that women throughout history were unable to “herd themselves together” and construe themselves as members of an oppressed community.
Subsequently, they “failed” to bring about a sustainable change. She also concludes that “women have gained only what men have been willing to grant. They have taken nothing. They have only received.”
Women made their official entry to the public domain through their access to education and their emancipation in the professional realm. The former gave them the mental impetus to face prejudice and redress archaic stereotyping, while the latter gave them more control over their lives.
Nonetheless, the materialization of women’s financial independence has disrupted the old social model wherein the husband is the legitimate “breadwinner” and the wife is the child-rearer who is entrusted with domestic chores as well.
Despite this change, the expectations cast on women remained unchanged. The image of women, feeding children, cleaning and cooking remained intact not only in the conscience of men and women but mainly in the collective psyche of modern societies.
Women found themselves compelled to fulfill opposite and demanding promises. On the one hand, they have to show an unwavering commitment to their families typically reminiscent of Aristotle’s idea of family as “an association intended to supply man with his daily needs.”
On the other hand, they have to display unfluctuating dedication to their work. Needless to say that working women in particular find themselves inexorably bound to contribute financially to the household’s budget at the risk of marital conflicts.
How can women assume all these uncompromising demands on their physical, emotional and intellectual abilities?
“Women should assume their choice” is often the blackmail argument advanced whenever women complain about their back breaking burden. As matter of fact, the classical labor division within the Moroccan family for instance does not exempt women from paying their share of the household expenses.
Yassine Elkaryani, an Information Systems Consultant based in New Jersey, considers that “Money in martial relationships should be shared within the family.” He adds “For marriage to succeed, both partners have to do what they are good at without exclusivity. If the husband knows how to do house chores, then why not?” Nevertheless, Ahmed considers that women’s priority should be “The prosperity of her household.”
Adil, an MBA holder from Al Akhawayn University, considers that women are not bound to contribute to the household. He asserts “The wife is free to contribute if she wants. But if she does not, this should not be a problem.”
Adil believes that there is no order of priority for women “Women should seek success both in the private and public realms.”
On the other hand, Othmane, an economics graduate from Hassan II University believes that “The division of domestic chores should be congruent with the nature of men and women. For men it is matter of dignity but for women it is a matter of physical ability.”
Surprisingly, Sanaa, a hair stylist based in Boston Massachusetts, makes it clear: “Women are stronger that what you think. If they know how to organize their time, they can be able to juggle with both responsibilities.”
Though many Moroccans hold modern views about women’s position in society, working women are still perceived as occasional participants rather than being a part and parcel of the public domain. Unfortunately, the old model of labor division among genders still perdures in the deep recess of the collective psyche.
Ironically, women themselves have internalized these sclerotic representations of their own role in society to the extent that they cannot perceive themselves out of this pre-sketched frame.
Denying women’s inherent tendency to nurture children and provide care for their husbands is certainly improper. Nevertheless, these natural traits should not be mischievously diverted to hamper women’s empowerment and progress in society. Both genders may have different tendencies and world views, but reciprocity and empathy can narrow considerably the chasm between high expectations on women and their own aspirations.
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