Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Women in the workplace?

So, there is someone who is posting some very long and obnoxious comments on my blog (for real, man, write comments not essays, don't post 5 pages of fatwas, nobody wants to read that!) many of which I am refusing to publish for a number of reasons. Some of what he said does require a response however.

He's insisting to prove to me that women have no place in the workforce, and their presence outside the home is harmful to Islam and a family-based society. In the instances where women have no option but to work to support themselves, he gives two very bad alternatives.

So let me say, Islam very clearly honors the role of the mother. Children are taught to respect their mothers even as they grow into adulthood, to care for them as they were themselves cared for. The importance of being a good mother is stressed as well and I don't mean to belittle that at all.

On the other hand, this poster lives in what seems to be a very naive world, where nobody is impoverished and where women who strive (in anything, including educating themselves in deen) are in competition with men and have abandoned their roles as wives and mothers. As if feminism were the sole source of evil in the world. As if. Feminism, particularly in the Western sense, was a reaction to a particular kind of oppression of women that prevented them from pursuing their own independent interests. Today, it has evolved into the expression that women and men are equally capable of intelligent endeavors outside the home. Moreover, that a woman has the choice on how to raise her children and establish her home. She can stay home for her children if she wants without being frowned on by society, and she can work if she chooses. To say that the only reason a woman works is to "shop and drop" (which is what the poster said actually) is unfair. So many women who work do so to advance themselves and to advance society. Many are teachers, overworked and underpaid--if women weren't teaching those children, who would? There's a shortage of teachers as it is! There are households that seek two incomes for financial largesse, that is true, but to say that all Muslim women who work do so for that reason is decidedly unfair.

Many women also do not have the advantage of a society or family that caters to single women. Nor should they be dependent upon it. I think the poster has forgotten that Khadijah, the wife of the Prophet saws, was employed and earned money for herself. To "shop to drop?" I think not. Not to milk a bone or anything but I'm in a situation where I have nobody to support me, so I work. The poster provided two very foolish alternatives.

The first was to seek government assistance. Honestly, I question the legal permissibility of doing that. I'm sure it's legal to take it, but I can't see that as a preferable option. In this society in particular, (and I am in America), any amount of government assistance is barely enough to support a single person much less children. I also attach a negative stigma to it, but that could be only from my own perception. So anyway, chances are good that the assistance would not be enough, and it makes a person a ward of the state and completely dependent upon it--not in a position to care for herself in the event of any emergency at all. The government, as we have daily proof, is a poor caretaker. Working, for a woman who is capable of it, is a far better option. Not to mention that without attempting to work, nobody is likely to get much aid from the government at all. The state is not designed to support people that way, or else nobody would work.

The other alternative was to marry a rich man. So the poster assumes that rich Muslim men are all benevolent and desiring to take multiple wives in order to help women in need? Yeah, right. Far be it from me to question the permissibility of polygamy, but to suggest marriage to a man based on wealth alone instead of Islamic principles like his character and manners seems foolish and disingenius. Dare I say that not all women make desirable wives, either.

Working is the natural and simplest solution, and there are many situations where a woman causes no harm to herself, family, or society, and in fact is even forced to do work for her own maintenance. I am not suggesting that women should work and leave their children without a caretaker, not at all. But I'm neither married nor have children, and have no other means to provide a roof over my head and food on the table than my two jobs. I like working, that's true, but not so I can go shopping. I'm sad to say I can't even remember the last time I was able to go shopping for anything more than bare essentials like toilet paper and deoderant. Clothes? Yeah, right. Shoes? Forget it. The reason I like to work is it can stimulate me intellectually and also provide some purpose, something to do. I would like to be a teacher actually (am currently doing engineering drafting) because I think teaching is a rather noble profession. To abandon my children? Certainly not. But when they are old enough to not need constant care I would absolutely like to use whatever skills I have gained in life to prepare other children to take on the world, to take it on and improve it inshaaAllah.

So it's pretty rude to say that women only work so they can shop incessantly--suggesting they receive no satisfaction from the work itself. It's also rude to suggest that a woman abandon her hopes of a happy marriage and motherhood by marrying for money alone. It's frankly vile to suggest that a woman capable of working would benefit at all by relinquishing her independence to rely on assistance from the government. So, it's insulting in a number of ways.

There is not anything inherently wrong with a woman working. It's a means for them to take care of themselves and their children when a husband/father is not available. It is a means for her to preserve her dignity and her deen by maintaining independence from a corrupt government and shallow marriage.

Any other problems you brought up cannot be blamed on the woman at all, but rather ills of society to which both sexes have equally contributed. Just because a woman is working does not imply she will enter into impermissible relationship with coworkers--if that were to occur, the blame on the man is equal to that on the woman. I know many women who have never and would never consider a relationship from work--I'm one of them. It's gross to insinuate that if a woman is ever around men that she would immediately be falling into zina.

I wonder why I even took the time to reply. I don't have to justify myself to you or anyone else. I feel no guilt whatsoever being a single Muslim revert woman employed, studying, and supporting myself. And I won't stand for being accused of anything unlawful on account of that either.


Leena said...

Great post! Sometimes it's useless to try to refute these weirdos, but when you have an excellent response, it's definitely worth the time.

It makes me very upset that there are people who hate and mistrust women to such a degree that your blogtroll does and that they use "Islam" as their defense... !! :-\

Amy said...

Thanks for the comment. I was actually considering removing the post. Sometimes remarks like the ones made by the "blogtroll" or even an imam who was visiting my masjid not long ago... I can't help but think "Are you for real?"

It is hate and mistrust of women--misogyny, yes? Islam raised and honored the position of women, and there is dignity and righteousness in being a wife and mother, in being a daughter and a sister. I would never dispute that. But when anyone would like strip women of the dignity of that position, which is precisely what happened, someone needs to stand up and rebuke it.

There's no room for tolerance of the opinion that a woman seeking employment is a tramp, an adulteress. When the wife of our Prophet saws was a businesswoman, the person who suggests as much is not trying to preserve deen at all, merely his own pride.

brnaeem said...

Salaam Amy,

"I wonder why I even took the time to reply."

I wonder have better things to do with your time than waste them on trolls....

Get on welfare or Marry a rich Muslim??? Too funny!

"I feel no guilt whatsoever being a single Muslim revert woman employed, studying, and supporting myself."

Glad you feel that way...May Allah strengthen you in ways which bring you closer to Him.

Thanks for the post!

Amy said...

Wasalaam Naeem--thanks for the comment.

The "troll" commented again, telling me that men exploit women. I think it's worthwhile to tell him that men will exploit women whether or not they work, and women have been exploited for centuries and the blame does not lie on the woman. Locking women in their homes is not a solution, it does not save them, and like I said, it's a naive view to think it would. In fact, there's a word for that in this country--house arrest. Taking away rights does not ensure protection--a classic story. You think it might but there's always a way for trouble to slip through. Imprisoning women won't save them from reckless exploits or anything else, merely prevent them from making any worthwhile contributions to society.

And Naeem, you were right, maybe it was a waste to reply. He has sent me like 6 comments now though... it's getting pretty annoying. Thanks for reading.

Wings said...

Assalamu Alaicum.

Interesting discussion. Such discussion is also available in this webpage.

Anonymous said...

Muslims Against Sharia condemn treatment of women by the State of Israel. Government-sanctioned polygamy is unbecoming of a country that claims to be the only true Democracy in the Middle East. We call on Israeli Knesset to immediately enact a law prohibiting married men to marry more women. No civilized society of the 21st century can permit this medieval practice. No civilized society treat its women as less than human beings.

Source: JTA
Original statement