The Question : To Housewife or Not To Housewife

I came across this article at SunniPath. It is an example about how west can influence the entire world, without us realising it and affect our thought process.


To Housewife or Not To Housewife, that is the Question
: Khadija Kandil, Sunnipath

As-salam walaikum wa-rahmatullah wa-barakatu!

There is unrest in the SunniPath office. Or rather, there was when I promised to write this entry a while back. Right now there is work, tea, meetings, a hidden coffee jar, and a looming table tennis (ping pong for the Americans) tournament.

The issue at hand:
We received a complaint to our Helpdesk by a concerned member of the
SunniPath student body as to the free use of the term “housewife” on our website.

He stated:

I am not a woman but I do not like it at all when anyone refers to my mother as a “housewife”. It is the most retarded and demeaning terminology ever used to describe one of the most honoured positions of our communities… I would suggest you use the terminology “Honorable Mothers”… Housewife implies that… the woman is defined by the fact that she is a wife and lives in a house. It doesn’t make sense and just doesn’t belong in an Islamic educational website. And if the woman is not a mother and she lives at home then she is not really “busy”.

My two cents worth:

I assure you, on SunniPath, we use it with no negative connotations in mind. Nevertheless, we are very concerned with how our students understand it.

The problem is with our – meaning the western – view of motherhood and married women who maintain a home. When in the West, everything is measured by the certificates gained and years spent in a formal educational institution, so motherhood and wifehood pales in comparison. Defining a woman by the fact that she in a house and happens to be a wife becomes demeaning. If we ask a woman, “What do you do?” she answers, “oh, I’m just a mum” or “oh, I’m just a housewife”, as if this job requires no job description, no skills, and no dedication.

According to Wikipedia, “In previous decades, there were a large amount of mandatory courses for young women to learn the skills of homemaking.” It was assumed that it is not a natural skill but one that must be acquired, as an engineer must learn how to engineer and a doctor must learn to provide medical attention, a housewife must learn how to manage a home.

The above complaint seems to indicate two things: that this person valued motherhood and thought it the only valid occupation for women at home; and two, that he thought nothing of the skill of housemaking itself. As one who highly values the occupation of a woman at home, this affronts me. If I were to tell any housewife that her effort spent in the management of her home was of no consequence I am sure to get a whack over the head for it. Can it be said that if a woman is not at home rearing children, she has no right to be at home, away from the workforce?

Is a woman who cannot bear children but remains at home of no value and “not really busy”? Do we only measure women by the children that they bear? We do not. Allah does not.

Maintaining the home – regardless of children – is one of the most important duties of a woman because without it, her and her husband’s living space will fall apart. Allah appointed the man with the duty of supporting his family and toiling outside the home, and gave the woman the job to make him a beautiful, serene place to come to home to and to give the most valuable element that he needs to continue. Love.

Why do we fight to be men, when we can be women? Why do we define ourselves by the threshold of masculinity and manhood and ignore our own threshold of femininity? Allah created man and woman to complement each other, outside the home and inside the home, to be perfect together and live in love and harmony, and to aid each other in reaching Him. What is demeaning about that?

Before making this entry, I asked one of our Course Designers what she thought of the term housewife. She said, it implied a high status because the term “wife” implied rights.

I am not arguing for the term housewife per se but for the status of women and mothers who choose to remain at home whether they have children or not. That is a high status and a rose is still a rose by any other name.

What do you think?
I am not defending the word nor are we particularly attached to it and would welcome any other suggestions. I am thankful that this dear brother presented his views and see it as a nima (blessing) from Allah to broaden our horizons and spread the Message irrespective of cultural barriers.

If you feel strongly either for or against my point, please let us know in a comment. We really want to know what you think and consider every comment in reply to our entries worthy of review.

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