Womanhood-Motherhood (by Roya Monajem)

Chapter Four

THE NEW AGE OF

 WOMEN’S LIBERATION MOVEMENT

NEO-FEMINISM

 

The life and further development of any movement depends on periodic examination and analysis of its process and evaluation of its future goals and perspectives.  Without a realistic view of the positive and negative consequences the movement in question has brought about, any further development may mislead us from the right path.

The most positive and fruitful aspect of Women’s Liberation Movement (W.L.M.) is that it refuted all the various humiliating and dehumanizing views about women and established their fallacy and sophistry in deed.  It helped women to show their real potentials and efficiencies in all spheres of life from politics to sciences.  In one sentence, it gave women the opportunity to prove to the world that they are not in any ways ‘inferior’ to men.  Now women’s equality in mental powers and potentials is a reality and ‘bitter truth’ for all those who held a different view.

But women and men are different; a fact based on biological and natural factors, which actually leads more to a difference in over-all attitudes and world-views rather than to a difference in mental faculties and abilities.

In the last two chapters I tried to show the probable implications of this difference.  I showed that this natural or biological difference, which has been the basis for the first division of labour in human community, is also the basis for the ‘non-presence’ of women in artistic and mystical (including philosophical) creative activity.  I showed that the prevalent socia-economical and psycho-religious explanations for this ‘absence’, are not only insufficient, but would imply that we have been ‘lesser’ than slaves and all other oppressed classes, for staying silent toward this ‘outrageous, imposed’ way of life for so long.  This could not be the case for the simple fact that no human being--in fact perhaps no living organism--can live in a totally oppressive situation without any kind of satisfaction for long.  What brought (and still brings) women out of their houses has primarily always been the hungry stomachs of their children.  The engineers of the Industrial Revolution probably took advantage of this very quality of women, which ever since has remained the target of all exploitative powers in societies.  Modern world of advertisement and propaganda aim at the same quality, too.

The natural biological sexual difference is a very important fact overlooked by W.L.M.  The main reason for such negligence is that equality in potentials and mental powers was extended to cover all aspects of personality.  We will come back to this subject later.  Now let us go back to our analysis of actual consequences of W.L.M.

Thus the main positive outcome of W.L.M. was the refutation of the theory of women’s inferiority.  Its main negative consequence is debasement and deprecation of housework and child-raising.  Many years ago in a little book I wrote in my native language, I showed that the economic basis of ‘secondary status’ of women is that they are the ‘unpaid labour force’ of the society.  Housework, although an essential and indispensable part of social production, but is an unpaid job.  Now in our materialistic world where money determines the value and worth of everything, a job, no matter how vital it might be for the society, if it is not paid, it would be regarded ‘worthless.’  It will not find its appropriate position in the society.  All the human power used in carrying out the housework is taken for granted in the same way and as much as the air we breath; both are vital, but at the same time worthless. 

Depreciation of housework and child-raising is thus the outcome of capitalistic way of evaluation of the worth and significance of  the goods produced.  Let us resume this approach for a time and look at a product called human being.  There is no question that an immense amount of work power is used to produce this good.  Forget about the amount of money actually spent in this process.  Just consider the quantity of work power used to bring ‘it’ to the ‘finished’ state.  Now since the ‘worker’(s) who carry out this job do not receive any salary, so the product  is manufactured for free.  It is thus worthless from this aspect.  Its value amounts to the money spent on it and also the social demand for it.  In the case of other products, their price is calculated not only on the basis of the social demand and the capital required for their production, but also of the price of the work power used.  In our case however, since one of the most important price determining factors--work power used--is not taken into consideration, therefore its final price will be much cheaper than it actually is.  Let us not forget that overpopulation and the consequent decline in  the social demand for this good, has decreased its price even more.  Now can this not be one of the reason--if not the real reason--for why life is nowadays not considered as valuable as it used to be?  Can this not be the reason for why we do not see it as a gift anymore?  Can this not be the reason for why killing  and suicide have become so easy and so prevalent.  The ‘good’ that is being destroyed is not very precious according to capitalistic approach.

Feminism, itself the legitimate offspring of capitalism,  has naturally adopted the same view.  It has fallen in a trap.  On one hand, it is defending the interests of women, on the other hand it looks at the situation in the same way as those who violate the rights of women.  Depreciation of housework and child-raising is in conformity with the capitalist materialistic approach to life, and cannot be in line with the ideals of Feminism.  Why should women feel ‘ashamed’ if they are full-time housewives and do not even have a part time job?  Why can they not  be proud of their job which, no matter what the economic laws say, is the most vital part of social production? The whole human existence on earth depends on it.   The world’s present economic situation cannot do without it since it cannot afford to pay for it.  Such an attempt would lead to a total shift of wealth. Just imagine what would happen if a capitalist had to pay two salaries--one for the worker and the other for his wife at home--for every one that he/she pays now.  Nothing much except that our poor capitalist will become bankrupt over the night!

The important point here is the realization and acknowledgment of the true value of housework and child-raising by women themselves.  The price we are paying for this negligence is very high.  When we are not aware of the true value and significance of the work we do, we cannot have a realistic view of our own worth and value.  We cannot be happy with what we are, since ones’ value and worth is usually judged by the work one does.  As long as we do not consider our work important, we stay confused about our personal value.  We cannot enjoy our womanhood-mother-hood, i.e. our life as much as we should.  Unfortunately such an attitude has many grave consequence and is the major cause of many sex-related diseases among women.1

In my over a decade of clinical experience, again I have not yet encountered even one female patient suffering from some kind of sex-related diseases from breast and uterine cancers to simple infections of the reproductive organs, from overweight around breasts and abdomen to mild or serious mental disturbances, and yet being happy with herself as a woman.  None of these patients can recover totally from their ailments without first solving their conflicts with their own sexuality.  This is in fact my main motivation for writing this book; help ourselves to realize the virtues of womanhood -motherhood.

We must learn to celebrate our sexuality.  With the traditionalist feminist view we cannot achieve this goal.  First let us define Feminism.  It is the theory of political, social and legal equality of women. For that we first needed to prove our equal capabilities in all spheres of human activity.  So we unconsciously started to compete with men.  (It is only in a competition that the real capabilities of the two sides are expressed.)  We also had to adopt their views, their way of doing things too, for as repeated over and over in this book, we started to participate in ‘man-made’ socio-economic relationships.  We had no other choice than to conform ourselves with those already existing relationships. The rules and regulations of the Game were set before our new form of involvement in it. We had to obey them.  We had no other alternatives than to imitate men.  Any socio-economic studies of the nature of matriarchal societies would reveal how differently they were organized, itself an evidence for the fact that men and women have different world-outlooks and approaches.

The entrance of women into the labour market, thus alienates them from their own ‘self’ and forces them to adopt men’s attitudes and manners, while at the same time brings them economic independence, which leads to the discovery of their equal potentialities and talents.  This in turn leads to the struggle for acquisition of equality and thus the birth of Feminism.

Even though we are still very far from the ideals of Feminism, but the time is ripe for some necessary reformations in our approach.  For as mentioned before, loss of our own ‘identity’ and the ‘split existence’--being physically a woman and mentally or intellectually a man are among negative outcomes that require immediate attention, for they are the prime etiology of our sex-related physical and mental disorders.

It is now the proper time to seriously look at ourselves and try to discover our true nature, our uniqueness.  Scientifically, we should look into our specific hormones and the probable effects they exert on the personality.  Psychologically, we should find the courage to face with our own reality, without any lies and self-deception.  These will be the immediate goals of Neo-Feminism, or Post-Feminism.  If the aim of Feminism was to prove our social, political and legal ‘equality’,2 the aim of Post-Feminism will be to discover our ‘differences’ (from men) and unfold the virtues of womanhood-motherhood.

For this purpose, we must first try to give a definition of ourselves--i.e. of woman--.  Definitions  based on simple physical characteristics will not be sufficient,  for one of our problems--as mentioned before--is that we are only physically a woman; we do not feel our femininity, most of the times.  In other words, this is an example where form does not fully reflect the content.

We can define woman as a person who when faced with a man, the latter would feel his masculinity, and by the same token, man is a person who when confronts a woman, she would feel her femininity.  In other words, the reference point for the definition of man or woman is the opposite sex. 

One of the easiest way to infer the properties of an entity is to compare it with its opposite.  This is how we understand the meaning of good and evil, day and night, etc.  None of them can be conceived and recognized without the other.  The only problem with this logical law is that it simultaneously bring some kind of antagonism to mind which can be true for some opposites, like good and evil, but not for all, like day and night, or man and woman.  Thus it can be said that antagonism exists only in those opposites who may have a separate existence without the other, although it is the other -- i.e. its opposite --that makes its existence known.  On the other hand, when opposites are components of a single entity, then no antagonism in the sense of war, may exist between them, since that would result in annihilation and extinction of the whole entity.  Something that nature can not afford unless it is a natural part of the process.  In other words, death by itself is a natural phenomenon that evidently should happen one day, but not as a result of some sort of outside force.  This may be one of the main differences between the ‘logical’ thinking of the East and West.  In the former, antagonism in the sense of war, does not exist in their concept of opposites.  For example the Taoists define Yin and Yang--the core of Chinese philosophical thought -- as two mutually inter- dependent and interrelated principles of the universe.  “The principle of Yin and Yang is the basis of the entire universe.  It is the principle of everything in creation.  It brings about the transformation to parenthood; it is the root and source of life and death.”  Literally, Yin means, “the shady side of a hill” and Yang “the sunny side of the hill.”3 Accordingly, sun, light, warmth, stimulation, movement, activity, excitement, vigour, exterior, upwardness, outwardness, increase, masculinity, etc, are classified as Yang, and moon, darkness, cold, rest, responsiveness, passivity, interior, downwardness, inwardness, decrease femininity, etc, are classified as Yin.  There is no preference, nor good and bad here.  It is no place for a moral judgement.  The existence of each entity is related and dependent on its opposite.  It is a mutual relationship that result in birth, growth and transformation of the two sides (see chapter 11).

To see man and woman as a category of Yin and Yang may help us to discover their natural properties if we succeed to leave out the moral evaluation and judgement, which otherwise can act as a hindrance to reach any solution in this regard.  It is indeed a difficult job, for morality has become such an integrated inseparable element of our thinking that we no longer are capable of any form of reflection without it.

Now let us go back to our definition of man and woman and look at it in the framework of Yin-Yang principles – i.e. as two mutually interrelated and interdependent elements of a single entity -- human being --.   Now we can see that it makes sense to define one in respect of and in relation to the other.  A woman can feel her womanhood only when faced with its interrelated interdependent opposite and vice versa.

When first viewed, such a definition may seem very ‘sexual’, and brings ‘sexy’ men and women into mind; for nowadays, the only time most of the ‘intellectual women’ are aware of their ‘sexuality’ is when they are sexually aroused i.e. during ‘love-making.’  In other words, this is the only time that they recover their true ‘self’.  It is the only time they are purely -- physically and mentally--a woman.  Any deviation from this state would make the act of love-making incomplete.

 When we do not know how we should be in order to express our true self, and love-making is the only time we actually are our true self, then we can use it as a guideline to teach ourselves that quality of being that we should always be.

It is this feeling--whatever it is, it cannot be a purely sexual feeling, but rather a collection of different emotions, difficult to differentiate at this stage--that should expand to all moments of our lives; the feeling that we--men and women-- are different.  During the act of love-making we put away all our competitive, conflicting, controlling feelings4 , i.e. all those feelings that we have developed in ourselves since our participation in social production after the industrial revolution, and allow ourselves to relax and be in deep real peace and harmony with our partner.

Once such a feeling pre-dominates our lives, the ‘war’ between the sexes--that according to Nietzche is ‘the true definition of love worthy of a philosopher’5 --ends.  The root of all wars is the lack of understanding between the two sides.  In the aforementioned quotation, Nietzche continues: “love -- in its methods war, in its foundation the mortal hatred of the sexes”.  Nietzche reaches this conclusion, because he believes that “nature, puts her in a superior position by far.” But if we leave out this superiority view, and just concern ourselves with the idea of difference, (different biological make ups, leading to different world views, or different responsibilities in life), then the present deep--rooted resentment, will wane and disappear.  The “war” ends.  We would know--as we  already know during love-making--that without each other, we are just half of an entity.  It becomes a whole only when it merges with the other half.  We would know that the most we can achieve alone is only ‘half the truth.’ The other group possesses the other half, and the ‘whole truth’ is known only when we put our halves next to each other. Instead of struggle, rivalry and competition, an unprecedented cooperation starts to take shape between the sexes.  This kind of relationship must have probably existed before -- among primitive people--but it is the first time that it will occur consciously i.e. on the level of awareness.  So it will not be really a ‘regression’.  It is said that history cannot be repeated.  But is this really true? Are we not, in this country, at this very moment, ‘repeating’ the European ‘Dark Ages’? We are ruled by religious autocracy--essentially similar to the Christian Church during those ages--that when it came to power twenty years ago, tried to impose an ‘outdated’ socio-economic-political structure upon the country.  We can now say, totally in vain.  In reality what happened was the opposite.  It was them who were forced to constantly reform their original theories. It was them who were forced to realize that the bitter truth is that if they want to stay in power, they have no other alternative than to reform many of their religious principles. 

History can be defined as the record of the process of human progress, the process of moving away from ignorance to gaining knowledge and awareness, but it is not a single integrated entity and consists of many components, as many as the life itself. Every one of these components has its own history with its own rate of progress.  So while one component may progress at a fast rate, another may lag behind by far. So in situations where the smooth overall progress is interrupted and it appears that as though a kind of regression is taking place, what in reality this state of affairs implies is that some components have been progressing at a very rapid rate while others have been lagging behind so much so that a gap, an abyss is being developed leading to some devastating results for the whole society. Let us use our country as an example.  During Shah’s regime, the rapid rate of westernization in some aspects of the life of the society gave rise to a profound abyss between a small educated minority and the majority who were not yet ready for all these rapid changes in the super-structure of the society. The White Revolution of Shah was a way to prevent peasants’ revolts workers’ uprisings and women’s liberation movement (just name the most important ones) that could threaten the foundation of his rule as they had done in the West and Russia in the past.  It was the best strategy to restrain the threat of communism in the country. The worse part was that all this was carried out irrespective of our traditions, values and culture and far exceeded the general level of our peoples’ tolerance. There was absolutely no harmony in different aspects of social development.  To make it short, a process that in the West took place in a time span of nearly two centuries, in this country was enforced in twenty years.  The result of Islamic revolution was to slow down the rate of that reckless progress of those components, giving time to the general population to digest all those rapid changes.  Yes it is true that technology-wise we regressed, but at least now the general population has realized the significance of the technological progress and the fact that it is not possible to survive without it.

So history is being repeated only on the surface.  Even in the case of women, who are forced to wear, if not Chador, at least that dark coloured outdoor uniform of trousers, a long coat and a scarf, and are no longer allowed to enter certain fields of sciences and engineering in the universities, and are not allowed to appear in court as judge, etc, the rulers were compelled to make many conciliation. Polygamy, without the wife’s consent, is no longer allowed for men, although it is among their specific religious rights (up to four legal spouses and as many temporary ones as they wish).  As for the right of divorce for women, the rulers’ expedient solution was to make it as one of the conditions of the marriage contract.  The bride agrees to marry only on the condition that she would be allowed to ask for a divorce if she decides so.  The last important privilege that women acquired was the right to keep their children in cases when the husband dies.  This right used to belong to the man’s parents.  One important point to make here is that women of this country lost some of their privileges as the result of the Revolution easily because they never fought to acquire them in the first place.  It was given to them --as mentioned before--just to prevent the rise of a liberation movement similar to what had started in the west one and a half century ago.  The truth is what is gained easily is lost easily.

Worse is still happening in Afghanistan now, particularly in regard to women’s status.  The ruling powers, not only have deprived women the right of education, but have also forbidden them, to leave their houses.  Windows must be painted black, lest the outsiders see women inside, etc.  But we can be sure that this is not going to last long;  time can never run backward.  And Karl Marx was right to say that history happens twice, the first time as a tragedy and the second time as a comedy. 

All this is to ensure women, that talking about the virtues of womanhood-motherhood does not mean that they should resume their traditional role.  It is not like those ‘capitalist’ plans and tactics that whenever the economy is faced with the problem of unemployment and as such, start preaching about the advantages of breast-feeding, etc, to send women back home (by misusing their motherly feelings) in order to take them out of labour market.  On the other hand, when the situation demands the opposite—e.g. during the scarcity of labour work -- preach exactly the opposite.

What makes resumption of the traditional role by women even more unfeasible is the overall increasing educational and intellectual level of the society that demands women to be as much educated, in order to be able to establish a loving familial relationship--both with their husbands and their children.  Also, the mere presence in a highly advanced society, too, requires increasing knowledge and awareness.  An uneducated woman, on one hand cannot raise competent children, who are supposed to run the future society. On the other hand, as we will show in the next chapter, love is in fact sharing our existence with another person.  The more we might have in common, the more we can share.  The more we can share, the higher is the chance of establishing a successful marital relationship and a happy healthy family.  And finally, if we find the present societies, still full of injustice and prejudices against women, and we wish to transform it, as we have already done, we need to keep pace with the outside growth and development.  One of the known distinguishing aspects of matriarchal societies, had been relative lack of violence, aggression and war.  It is quite possible that the growing Nature-loving and Nature-protecting movements -- such as the Green Revolution and similar  actions--are the direct result of women’s more active role in the societies.

But let us not forget that healthy societies need healthy individuals.  Healthy individuals need healthy parents, healthy familial life.  How can this state be achieved, when women cannot enjoy their true self--their femininity--due to their situation both in the society--with all the mentioned prejudices, insecurities, etc, and in the house -- with all the depreciation of housework and child-raising--.  When she cannot be happy with herself, she is  unable to establish happy relationships with others.  A vicious circle is thus formed, leading to the situation we are faced now, i.e. failing of marriages and the consequent unstable conditions that our children grow in.  And since role-modeling is still the major method of learning, how can our children possibly learn about the nature of a ‘healthy’ relationship, when they do not have the proper role-models.

Let us not forget the fact, that it is mainly the women who have been the subject of a radical transformation during the past century.  It has mainly been us losing our self-identity and suffering from a ‘split personality’.  It is us suffering more from our sex-related cancers and other disorders, showing that we actually do have problem with our sexuality.  Again as mentioned before, when female patients, suffering from some sort of gynaecological disorders, are faced with the question whether they are happy with their sexuality or not, they never give an unconditional and resolutely positive answer.  Even in the cases when they say that they prefer to be a woman, a deeper look into their views, soon will always show that despite what they think they believe, they still feel that men are more privileged--to say the least--.   And it takes me a long time to convince them that despite all these legal, socio-culturo-religious prejudices, they still should celebrate their sexuality.  It took myself, a long time to see the reality as it is, and accept our direct role in the prejudiced situation, facing us.   For let us not forget that all these ‘law-makers’ and ‘sex-discriminators’ are born on our lap and are raised and educated first by us.  Thus the situation can change almost overnight if we decide so.  When we do not will it that way, it means we have some important gains in it as it is. 

To summarise, Neo or Post--Feminism can be defined as the theory based on the propositions that men and women are different in Nature, but equal before Law.  Its aim would be to discover the nature of these differences; and the effects they exert on our world-views and the paths we follow in our search for Truth, which is the ultimate goal in life.

However, it should be remembered that the truth each attains alone, is only half the Truth.  The whole Truth is accomplished only through integration of these two halves.

Another aim of Post-feminist movement can be to unfold the so far hidden virtues of womanhood-motherhood.  The last two chapters of this book were in fact a preliminary attempt in this regard.

In reality, we cannot recover from our ‘inferiority complex’, without remembering the fact that women are ‘the creators on Earth’, and our ‘unpaid labour force’ at home, is paid through the spiritual growth we go through as the result of child-bearing and child-raising.

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