Women’s Place in Family and Society Today

Women’s Place in Family and Society Today.
Besides commenting on women’s place in the society vis-à-vis her family and social roles, I’d also like to make a response to Beng’s Problem, flitter’s response to that, as well as Education & Changing Roles of Women. In short, Beng’s Problem asserts that the increase in gender equality ‘amplifies the magnitude of conflight’ in the family. In situations where the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law are in conflict, presumably with the primary goal of vying for the son’s attention, he then needs to stand out and ‘estalish decisions’, i.e. have the final say in things.

Simple Society?
Firstly, I’d like to clarify that Dadi’s family structure is exceedingly intricate and complex, not merely the “simpler societies” which you assume it to be. It is unfair to label it as simple or imply that it is has fewer issues of contention merely because it is more rigid and structured than what we have in Singapore today, as Beng has done. Though they might not fight over keeping a pet, they still quibble over many other things, such as household chores, farming and other miscellaneous things. These, though not present in the modern family unit, should not be discounted as less significant or disruptive to the social order in a family unit. Thus, I feel that the ‘magnitude of possible conflict [being] amplified’ has been wrongly attributed to the decline of traditional patriarchy. Even in a huge, patriarchal family like Dadi’s, the social peace and order in a family is a fragile, tenuous state of equilibrium comprising a delicate web of social relations, and should not be thought of as anything less than the intricacies in today’s modern family. By virtue of this, Beng’s assertion that gender inequality sparks more conflict in the household does not hold.

Women’s Source and Struggle for Power
As flitter has already elaborated in detail about how this is exemplified by the social relations of the females in that family, I shall not delve into it. It is paramount to note, however, that in Dadi’s family, although a woman’s power and social standing is contingent on her husband’s standing in the family, it does not depend on how much attention she receives from her husband. Her husband’s standing in the family merely influences her own standing, by virtue of their marriage. In fact, much of her social standing comes from how much she is favoured by her mother-in-law, her ability to produce male offspring, her education level, etc. All these different factors influence and affect one’s social standing in the family. Hence, I concur that much of women’s concern is how to successfully navigate themselves towards their economic and social goals in a social environment mediated by such patriarchy. This is very much contrary to Beng’s assertion that a woman’s main concern is obtaining and maintaining the attention of the family son. With the advent of feminism and the continual push for equal rights, women have been advancing in the society in all facets – increasing education results in higher employment and influence of women in the workforce, economic independence allows for equal autonomy of both spouses in household decisions, etc. However, just because there are advances made to narrow the gap in gender inequality doesn’t automatically mean that patriarchy is a thing of the past and make us the epitome of gender equality today. Gender inequality and equality is NOT a dichotomy. It is, in fact, still very much a man’s world. Many women, despite their superior capabilities, still face the problem of glass ceiling, lower pay for the same amount of work done by a male contemporary, trivialized in the workplace, fired because they are pregnant, etc. Of course, the most prevalent problem is still the dismissal of the ‘invisible work’ that homemakers do, and its lack of economic worth and significance in the eyes of society. I mean, is your dad ready to pay your mum a salary for cooking dinner and cleaning the house every day? If he isn’t, why then is the domestic help getting paid?

Despite this progress made in gender equality, women are still very much judged and perceived vis-à-vis their family. In today’s society, a highly successful woman with a career to be reckoned with is still considered a failure if she is unable get married, settle down and have children. The perception that ‘without a family, a woman is nothing’ is still very much prevalent today. Hence, maintaining relationships and establishing good family ties is not for the singular purpose of capturing the male gaze – it definitely has much more to do with social pressures, expectations and the maintenance of social capital and standing. With all that in mind, I think you will be able to understand how I, as a female, feel insulted when you conveniently presume that the source of the whole problem stems from their efforts to vy for your attention. I absolutely agree with flitter that it is overly simplistic (and insulting) to presume that females have a singular goal in life – to capture the attention of men in their lives and hold on to it. This implies that a woman’s worth should only be measured according to her success in obtaining and keeping her ‘prize’, which is her husband’s attention. Aside from that, a woman’s self worth is not entirely constructed on continually one-upping other women, even if she is the mother-in-law. As established above, there are many more valid and significant concerns pertinent to a woman’s life besides engaging in a banal cat fight. The assertion that ‘the man has to, more than ever, take a firm stand during conflict and establish decisions’ implies that you would like us to return to a state where the man is the unquestioned and unchallenged absolute authority. I, however, would like to question the motivations and purpose of that assertion. Why should men hold such dominance over women? Is it wrong that women now ‘speak in [a] louder voice’? Does the expansion of women’s role beyond the domestic chores mean that it is a wrongful infringement of male territory? I implore you to reconsider the repercussions, implications and assumptions that such an assertion has.

Taking all this into consideration, it is undeniably that the family unit and structure is facing changes and challenges every day, and is constantly evolving. This reciprocal process is very much hastened by the level of connectivity we have in society today, as well as the many sources of possible ideas. Perhaps a good way to make sense of all of this would be the postmodernist perspective – where one’s identity and social role is really a bricolage of numerous influences, which are continually challenged, revised, and evolving as we go through different experiences in life. I absolutely agree with Caterpillar6 about how family norms are evolving, and constantly adjusting to and are reflective of the greater social evolution at large.

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