Friday, March 11, 2011

The F-word

What do I think is feminism?

I see feminism as gender justice. For example, if a woman wants to work then there must be support for the reproductive work (or the care economy) that goes on at home like giving birth, and taking care of children and family members. Practically, this translates to maternity leave with pay, child care facilities or allowances, and fair share of domestic labour between family members.

This equally applies on the other side. If a man wants to stay at home then there must be support in the labour market in terms of women receiving equivalent wage pay for the same work that men do, no glass ceiling so women are also in high (paying) positions like CEOs of companies. Attitudes should also be more positive towards men who wish to stay home and do care work.

In Singapore, a lot of the discourse (especially religious) is that yes, we highly value the work of women. Being a mother and taking care of children is the best thing that a woman can do. This is great because it shows the value that Malay/Muslim society places on care work.

But, sometimes what happens is that a woman in such a situation has no material backup. If something happens like divorce or the death of the husband, suddenly she has to depend on someone else to survive because although her work is culturally valued, there is no material value in it.

I promote women working not to ape liberal feminists 'from the West', but because you can't rely on someone all your life. Granted, women have not yet achieved wage parity in the labour market but at least do something to ensure your material safety.

I also have a big problem with the liberal feminist concepts of freedom and sexual liberty. It bothers me when professors say yes, you should be able to have sex with anyone at any time in any manner for 'bonding', and you have the right to do so safely and happily. It's funny though how despite how this seems permissive, it still speaks in the framework of monogamy. Polygamous arrangements are not part of their 'happy healthy sex' for bonding.

I live in a framework of Islam and my feminism has to be reconciled with that too.


sham b said...

Hi, Sya!

It's Shamiah, and I found your blog via facebook. It's been a lovely read (with lovely photos!) and your parodies of election videos are especially entertaining, haha, so keep them coming.

Had to comment on this particular post because reconciling feminism and Islam has always been an issue with me too, and I wonder if you've read this: Boys will be boys, by Abdal Hakim Murad?


For me, that particular paper has been the best piece on gender issues and Islam, period, and gave me some peace of mind with regard to the value of women. Because ultimately, the only value is one's value in the eyes of God, and God only prefers one over the other in terms of taqwa, not gender. As long as we measure worth by worldly means, women are wont to fall short. It's really something to mull over; this world is but a stopover. :)

Sya said...

Hi Shamiah,
Thanks for your comments!
When I mention 'material safety', I see it as part of the effort one has to make before 'tawakkal' - tie your camel up before praying to God to take care of it.
I just read the article - I'm not familiar with Greer or Gilligan's work so I can't fully comment.
The bits about biology seem a bit deterministic since various social contexts do affect our social roles, but I do like the 'story of salvation' towards the end.(:
Do forward me other links or readings that you find worthwhile - would love to read more.


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