Friday, May 14, 2010

On Breadwinning

Yay! I get to post a blog after forever ... well, I just remembered about it, I mean. I wrote this about a year ago, but here goes it.

The male, usually husband, is generally considered to be the breadwinner of the family. Men get higher salaries than women most likely for the same reason, and many men deny their wives the right to work for the same reason as well. But who decides who the breadwinner of the family should be? Should it be based on gender – that if you are born a male, you must provide for your family whether you like it or not – or should it be based on financial abilities, leadership skills, or just ability in general?

I am starting to believe that when religion (i.e., Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) mandated that the man is the breadwinner of the family, followers of these religions interpreted it to mean that everything must lie in the hands of the man, that he is the head of the household, that he is dominant to the female sex, that the ultimate say is his regardless of everyone else’s opinion. This, of course, is also relevant when keeping in mind the question of who is doing the interpretation in the first place, in which time, and in what sort of a society. Perhaps it is a misinterpretation, or just a strict and biased interpretation and certainly not the ONLY interpretation. The societies that this guideline must apply to are those in which women are forbidden to work (though, of course, that is because men believe their women have no need to work. Why work if the men are available to fulfill their obligations of providing for the second-class citizens?); perhaps it applied to most, if not all, societies until women started being educated and discovered their ability to work and succeed without the male’s help. But today’s world is a whole new and different arena. Or it should be, anyway.

This notion of the man’s being head of the household may be a personal idea – one most heavily influenced by religion, as mentioned earlier. There are some women who have no problem with letting husbands have full control over their household matters, but then there are also some others who think that women should have an equal say in everything and that marriage doesn't have to be considered a "kingdom" in which the head or king is the husband while the female, the wife, is his subject. If a woman chooses not to work and depend entirely on her husband, she should be allowed to do so and not judged by anyone as a "weak" woman who "lets her husband make her decisions for her." Perhaps she just chooses that lifestyle for herself because she is confident that it’s best for her.

But not all women want to live such a lifestyle; some want as equal a say in their household matters as their husbands do. Some – not all – men make better leaders, better providers than women, and the woman should be allowed to provide financially if she so chooses to and not be condemned for doing so. This lifestyle unfortunately does not seem to be encouraged or appreciated by religions, or at least by Islam, which promotes patriarchy and commands that the man be the sole provider for the family unless the female wants to join as well. In some cultures, it is women who do all the leading. There's only one community that I know of in the whole wide world that's maternal rather than paternal; it's the Indonesian island of Sumatra. There have been many more throughout the history of humanity, of course, but unfortunately they're dying out gradually as patriarchy continues to dominate each society. An interesting observation is that Sumatrans are Muslims, which proves that we can have a successful matriarchal society and be Muslim at the same time. It works for them, and it's worked in the past for other societies as well, so why do most of us refuse to even consider the idea and in fact condemn such a social system?

This whole breadwinning deal would work perfectly if every member of a society did what he or she was supposed to do, according to their social guidelines. For instance, there would be little to no objections, at least from me, if the man agreed to always work and adhere to his family’s social and financial needs, without feeling the need to abuse his wife and/or children when things did not turn out the way he had expected or planned them to, and if the woman agreed to always take care of all her household duties, without feeling the need to willfully submit to her husband and other male members of her family. Practically speaking, unfortunately, we have not been successful enough to construct our society to work in such a faultless manner. Yet?

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