Monday October 4, 2019 By: Lara Ahmed
The role of the modern woman has the unique ability to take many shapes. In developing countries, the first image to come to mind is of the stereotypical housewife. In western nations, we immediately think of career women. But cultural shifts are rising everywhere, and our views of what a modern woman should look like have formed into a question mark.
Most of the western world applauds working women and pity homemakers; but Arabs’ preference differs according to social class and religious background. In Egypt specifically the socioeconomic line is often blurred, and you don’t have to listen too hard to hear the biting gossip across it. Daughter turning against mother, and sister against sister- each confidently stating her definition of the idle woman and shaming anyone who doesn’t fit in it. But is this really a war between feminism and stable households?
Egypt is a patchwork of different opinions, some sewn by choice and others by necessity. Traditionally, conservative households hang more tightly to the fading idea of the obedient and perfecthousewife. Those who break this norm often only do so to survive financially. Whenever money isn’t a factor, however, some housewives may turn against working women, claiming that they’re destroying families. Misunderstood religion, faulty logic, and so-called scientific evidence are all used to shame career-driven women.
One argument often made is that women are biologically better at raising children. Though women do tend to have more emotional intelligence and are natural caregivers, it doesn’t mean that a wife should be confined to the house, while her husband makes his mark on the workforce. A man can just as easily take equal part in raising his child- and be good at it too.
Another argument housewives make against the working woman is that if she has children, then they’d grow up to be unhappy and unsuccessful. However, a recent study cited in the New York Times across 25 countries looked at 50,000 adults and found that quiet the opposite is true. Daughters of these mothers were more likely to be employed in managerial roles and earn higher incomes, while sons of working mothers grew up to commit more to child care and housework.
Of course, many modern housewives have nothing against career women and a lot of them don’t even fit the mold we’d expect. These housewives are often accomplished in their own right while many career women fail to see that.
A homemaker usually sees the need to get away from the money-hungry, fast-paced modern world, often with a child’s best interest at heart. Many housewives even follow schedules as rigorous as any businesswoman’s. Not to mention, a housewife can use their surprisingly limited sparetime at home as an opportunity for self-reflection and growth. They may pick up new hobbies or expand their general knowledge. Tossing in children to the mix only adds to the challenge, yet a lot of housewives choose to stay home to be as present as they can in their child’s life.
Criticizing a homemaker for not entering the workforce canresult in her feeling as if she has failed modern women somehow. She may end up feeling as if her loved ones view her as someone who lies in bed all day watching soap operas instead of doing actual work when, for all they know, she could be privately bettering herself at home and raising her children to respect women as equals.
What further complicates matters is that career women are often feminists, even if they don’t always call themselves that. They see choosing to be a housewife as a betrayal to gender equality because financial independence is a key part of the cause.
Career women also may see that some housewives are abusing a luxury many can’t afford, as a woman might not even be a mother but choose to stay at home because her husband is making enough money for both of them.
This case may be more controversial than that of the stay-at-home mother. These are the more sensitive details that typically concern a woman and her husband before anybody else. However, this type of housewife can find other ways to contribute to the gender equality cause as well as the wider community.
In no way are career woman necessarily worse mothers or homemakers weaker women. As with everything in life, balance is key. If a woman wants to play her part both at home and in the workforce, cautious choices and creative decisions can always be made to ensure she builds a stable household and still contributes to the gender equality movement.
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