By Hwaa Irfan
The liberty that has been given to women as a march towards equality has been enjoyed by some, but not all women. Rather than see women like men, having different needs, areas of interest, and talents, the push towards forcing all women into the categories that demarcate a country as being progressive according to U.N. definitions continues. It has been ignored that the system under which this is being done, i.e. capitalism-cum-globalization is in fact a European male-orientated system, being forced upon developing countries as willing citizens mistakenly believe that this is what progress is all about as conveyed by feminist, Laurel Bossen:
However the above was a promoted as a means to liberate women from the traditional family structure for the state in terms of production. Even Bossen acknowledged that in the West, despite the right to vote, and to own property, and to enter paid employment outside the home, the egalitarian view of the west versus and the perception of inferiority of women in developing countries reflected reality.
Disregarding the fact that women are not a homogenous group, not all women want to be feminist, and women of developing countries who have not fallen for the myth have something left valuable to offer, which has been entrained out of many Western-Westernized women. Not all women participate in development in the same way as men, as is apparent by the many Western women who do not identify with the feminist-U.N. goals for womankind. It is tantamount to declassifying the rites of womanhood, and the constructive ways in which non-Western women have and do participate in the development of their own countries without donning the accepted behavioral patterns of the Western male.
Women and the Workplace
Women like men want to make the most of their lives. One of the ways of achieving this with some degree of surety outside a marital relationship has been the workplace. Today, if one was to tell a young woman ready to take her place in the world today that she should think twice about a career one would be denying her right to discover for herself what is best for her. In Islam, it is one’s duty to contribute to the betterment of one’s society although it is questionable that some of the professions available today do anything to contribute to the well-being and betterment of society as a whole.
One of the ways in which the equality of women has been measured has been the workplace (non-traditional to women), which one hastens to add continues to perpetuate a gender gap in terms of the decision-making process, recruitment, and pay. New research looking at the impact on women themselves confirms previous research on the issue, especially when that high-flying job lacks creativity, a prerequisite to anyone’s personal development, but especially the creative principle that is intrinsic to being a woman.
It has been found that high-flying jobs that by nature are riddled with stress, do have a long term negative impact on women. Carried out by Harvard Medical School in Boston, U.S. the study found that women in these types of jobs were more 40% more likely to have high blood pressure, cardiac arrest, and a greater risk of having a stroke than those who had a more relaxed career. These risk factors have been traditionally male, but as women are too suffering from the same risk factors, this highlights the burn out factor that goes with such occupations where insecurity and the drive to outperform is high. Added to this for women, is the task of raising the family in many, but not all cases.
We are not always aware how much male-female hormone level are affected by what we do – environmental factors. For instance, an aggressive environment increases both the hormone testosterone, and adrenalin, which in turn increases the level of aggression we think we are in need of. Stress is natural when it is in reaction to a fight or flight situation, i.e. danger, but if the body behaves as if there is a perpetual fight or flight situation, the health of the body and the mind becomes compromised because we were designed to respond instinctually to danger. When adrenalin is constantly called upon in women, it brings out the worst in her. She becomes more aggressive, manipulative, tired more easily, and she is less able to develop emotional ties. It can even reach the point of becoming what has been referred to as an “adrenalin junkie,” i.e. one becomes addicted to the rush of adrenalin, and therefore carries out activities that keep stimulating that adrenalin rush. The stress hormones thus remain active in the brain, which in turn kills valuable cells pertaining to memory and the ability to learn, which is why, after being in a highly demanding job, it is very difficult to maintain one’s initial performance. When one is in a state of stress, in order to respond to danger quickly, parts of one’s biological system go on hold temporarily: the immune system, and reproduction for instance, which is why career women tend to menstruate earlier.
The research was quite comprehensive as 17,400 women aged 40 – 50 were surveyed. Such high pressured jobs are equally highly competitive, which in turn undermines natural self esteem. These types of careers are only sustainable if the individual takes serious steps to have a balanced life which includes exercise, relaxation, and some creative activity, and sometimes that is not even possible for a woman who also has a family to raise. It is all well and good to argue that men should take greater responsibility in the home, but it is not men who are asking to do two sets of jobs. Even still, the added burden of working both inside and outside the home, takes away from the marital relationship, reducing family life to one of duty the benefit of which is spread thinly for all family members. By viewing a high flying job as an achievement when one’s personal development is on hold, allows one to be blind to the fact that it is another form of slave labor/wage slave as it excludes the creative participation of the individual. The system perpetuates itself without the active and creative involvement of the individual limiting options to a range of careers that one might still be employed in 5 – 10 years time. Yes, stress is natural, but as we all know long term stress deteriorates the body as well as the mind, the immune system becomes vulnerable, and the ageing process quickens. It is advisable with whatever career choices one makes, to have a range of interests that can act as a balance in one’s relationship with one’s self and with loved ones. This becomes even more apparent in an economic crisis when one cannot guarantee that the career one has trained for will always be available.
Borland, S. “Career Women ‘Are Twice as Likely to Have Heart Attacks’ Than Those With Relaxed Jobs.” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1329741/Career-women-twice-likely-heart-attacks.html#ixzz15XTd4RHh
Brettell, C. and Sargent, C. “Gender in Cross-Cultural Perspective.” Prentice-Hall, U.S. 1993.