Women’s Improved Role—A Mixed Blessing?
“IN SUM, women in the eighties are better educated, healthier, and live longer, fuller lives.” With those words, a magazine concluded its article: “The Way We Were; the Way We Are Now.” But could it be that women’s improved role has actually been a mixed blessing because of its side effects?
Effect on Marriage and the Family
For example, there is the common clash between wholesome family life and pursuing a career. One report stated: “Women executives are far less likely to give their home life high priority than are their male peers, and they’re twice as likely to be divorced.” You might wonder why. A management professor at California State University explains: “Males look at their home environment as a support system, while women see it more as a burden. A guy comes home and he relaxes; that’s what he’s been working for. But to women it represents an added workload.”
This does not apply just to executives. Russian women have been in the work force a generation longer than have women in Western lands. They still find caring for a job and a family to be a burden. A Russian editor of Working Woman says: “Women are the heart of the family and must be warmer to create the atmosphere of warmth and love.” So they face a double load, while many husbands fail to share domestic duties.
Another cause of conflict is illustrated by one of Wall Street’s most successful women. She boasts: “Work to me is recreation,” and adds, “I like what I’m doing, and I make very few concessions”—even for her family. Its well-being depends upon the husband who looks after their two children, even though he is a businessman. Her associates describe her consuming interest as “clearly not good for family relationships.”
It is similar with one of the modern prime ministers. Her family did not get much attention because of her political ambitions. While growing up, her children often stayed at the home of their uncle because, we are told, “one of the things [they] liked best was simply sitting down to meals as a family, something that was never easy to arrange” at home.
In a recent interview of four of Europe’s top female executives, one revealed that her 12-year-old daughter was being reared almost entirely by her husband. Another executive stated that only on weekends was she able to care for her children. According to news reports, the audience noted that three of these women tended to lack the human touch.
Of course, some women hold secular jobs out of sheer need, perhaps because a husband died or left the family. So for such women, being able to find employment may be a partial blessing, but like it or not, they have to contend with the negative aspects.
That women’s changed role has been a mixed blessing is clear from the common effect when wives outdistance their husbands in earning power or professional status. According to therapists, this trend is “becoming a significant and recognized crisis point in more and more marriages.” One husband’s complaint is typical: “I know intellectually I applaud her success. But emotionally I feel badly. I feel I’m being abandoned. And I feel guilty because I am so upset.” If both Christian mates presently have to work, loving discussion and consideration can help to minimize such negative feelings and effects.—1 Peter 4:8.
Another factor indicating that the progress made by women is a mixed blessing is the emphasis that many feminists put on what is primarily to their advantage. The Coming Matriarchy points to the time when the world will be run by women who are self-centered and who ask, “What’s in it for me?” Interestingly, the successful woman financier previously described put it just about that way; she was not interested in helping others up the corporate ladder unless she stood to profit by it. She admitted: “I’m too profit-oriented.” How wise is that, in view of Jesus’ counsel? In the Sermon on the Mount he said: “You must always treat other people as you would like to have them treat you.” “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries of its own.” (Matthew 7:12; 6:34, American Translation) Certainly, Christian women strive to maintain Jesus’ view on such matters.
Biblical Morality Expendable?
No doubt the most negative aspect of the changed role of women is the erosion of moral values. References by feminists to God and religion are rare and usually critical. Women who postpone marriage because of their careers often hold that marriage is not essential before having sex relations.
A negative trend of the feminist movement is its support of lesbianism. In 1971 the annual meeting of NOW (National Organization of Women) resolved: “That NOW recognizes the double oppression of women who are lesbians, That a woman’s right to her own person includes the right to define and express her own sexuality and to choose her own lifestyle, That NOW acknowledges the oppression of lesbians as a legitimate concern of feminism.” Compare, though, God’s judgment at Romans 1:26, 27. Often going hand in hand with the feminist view on lesbianism is espousal of having abortions on demand. Tulane University law professor Billups Percy well stated: “To regard the destruction of the fetus as just another surgical procedure is to disregard centuries of criminology, theology and moral philosophy.”
One report tells that in the past decade serious crimes on the part of women have increased far more rapidly than among men. Between 1974 and 1979, the number of women in the United States arrested for fraud increased almost 50 percent, but the increase was only 13 percent among men. Embezzlement by women increased similarly about 50 percent but only 1.5 percent for men. Forgery and counterfeiting arrests among women rose 27.7 percent but less than 10 percent among men. Evidently the changed role of women has not resulted in full contentment.
Use of tobacco has also increased among women. Lung cancer due to smoking is replacing breast cancer as the number one cause of cancer deaths among women. In one recent year it accounted for 25 percent of all cancer deaths among women and is increasing at the rate of 7 percent each year.
A Satisfying Future—How?
Can a job or a career give most women complete satisfaction in life? Apparently not, as more and more are finding out. Hilary Cosell, author of Woman on a Seesaw: The Ups and Downs of Making It, addressed this problem in an article, asking: “If women had erred before on the side of marriage and motherhood and housewifery, might they be erring again on the side of professionalism, career and success?” She also asks: “Can we really do everything our mothers did, and everything our fathers did as well?”
Similarly, in The Cost of Loving, Megan Marshall revealed that “the facade of professional competence only thinly concealed the private wounds: disappointed loves, compulsive promiscuity, lesbian experimentation, abortions, divorce and just plain loneliness.” She tells how the women’s movement gave birth to the “Myth of Independence,” but for most, this is not working.
Marshall concludes that “we must believe in the long-term love that a good marriage protects,” that “the human self does not exist in isolation,” and that “we must find others to care for, and who will care for us.” This calls to mind the words of the greatest Teacher ever on earth, Jesus Christ. “There is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.”—Acts 20:35.
Truly, humans are prone to go from one extreme to another. That modern woman’s improved role is not an unmixed blessing underscores the prophet Jeremiah’s words: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) Christian women, by knowing what changes have occurred (with attendant blessings and problems), can better appreciate the value of following God’s counsel. Experience has shown that it is “more to be desired than gold.” ‘In the keeping of it there is a large reward.’—Psalm 19:7-11.