Louisa Peacock in the Telegraph, looks at a survey taken from 'The Unfinished Revolution' by Kathleen Gearson, which states 75% of women would rather divorce their husbands and continue to work and raise their children alone, than become a housewife. Many of the women held a fear about being a 'kept woman'. And like Peacock I would reiterate the same message 'Get a grip, ladies!'
Such a survey really begs that as a society, everyone asks some vital questions. Why are women so obsessed with working? The idea of 50/50 home life, does this really work? Are we more content as a family unit as a result of such thinking?
Such a survey raises the challenges the value of gender equality has brought upon society. Fundamentally gender equality did not just deem women as equal to men, it deemed men become the measure of all forms of value for the woman. Whatever men did, became the golden standard - So to go to work, became the superior role over homemaking. But no one figured out who would then do the homemaking.
The theory of gender equality dictates then that everything in a relationship should be equally split. But the assumption taken, is that splitting down the middle is a simple task. But in so many cases this just does not happen, and one could go further to say in many cases it is near impossible for this to happen. And when it does, like a colleague I once worked with, who told me about the way she and her long-term partner always split the dinner bill after a meal - A relationship can become a constant battle to protect ones' own ground.
So what about Islam?
Firstly, Islam recognises women as of equal worth to men in all actions where there is no difference to the man, and they are rewarded by God in the same way such as praying, fasting, buying, selling, studying, political activity and the list goes on. But where there are differences between the sexes, Islam defines roles and responsibilities which cater for these differences. Thus in a family, the role of a woman is of mother and wife, and the role of a man is of breadwinner. This clarity ensures confusion and conflict in who does what, is eradicated. This is not to say Islam forbids women to have a life outside the home, or forbids men to help out at home. Rather the Islamic view of marriage is one of companionship and cooperation - The Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him PBUH) who all Muslims love to emulate, was known for doing his own chores at home such as mending his own clothes, and women were encouraged by him to be active in society. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) asked men in the society, to refrain from denying their women permission in attending the mosque, which at the time was the hub of all societal activity. But ultimately husband and wife are both clear about their responsibilities, in working together to raise their family in an environment of love and cooperation.
Secondly the job of 'doing the housework'. Reducing the role at home to just housework, undermines the important role of the nurturer that every family needs. The job of maintaining a home that is the stable and secure sanctuary for all those in the family who return to it, tending to the needs of the children and being there to nurture them as they grow, has been marginalised in secular liberal societies. Even though our children are crying out for this type of attention from us. And it's not even the fault of women. Difference in roles between men and women, under gender equality has come to be equated with inferiority or sexism towards women. However in Islam the role of mother and wife is seen as one of the greatest jobs taken on in society, and in no way inferior. The Prophet Muhammad PBUH never failed to elevate the status of mothers and in an Islamic society, whether a woman decides to work or not, it is law that financial provision is guaranteed for her by her husband. This is so no woman needs to struggle between juggling a career and a family, sacrificing the precious life at home as well as her sanity.
Thirdly Islam has no place for individualism where people are out to pursue their own desires and needs to the expense of others. The endless studies on the well being of children, should point towards the fact such rampant individualism of putting first one's own desires first before what children need, has been disastrous. Therefore regardless of how mundane looking after the kids maybe for the mother, or how dire doing a dead end job to make ends meet maybe for the father, both understand that they must fulfil their designated roles defined for them by God in order that the family unit, the microcosm of society, thrives and prospers. And if the family unit succeeds, the future of society is positively secured.
Unfortunately a society which implements Islam in such a comprehensive manner is no where in existence today. But many Muslims across the globe understand that Islam is an intellectual creed which has solutions for the global problems we face today and therefore continue to discuss and debate them - And in the Muslim world, call for them.
So although many may label Islam as backward because of its' viewpoint towards women, one can see that although very distinct, Islam has its' own set of principles and laws which look after men, women and the family unit. And rather than branding them as archaic, perhaps they could start a real debate about gender and family in the West?