Is contemporary culture anti-feminine? How can work and family be reconciled?


Anne Girault – Femina Europa

The difficulty of being a woman in developed countries is related to the progress of science and the decline of transmitting knowledge within the family.

In contemporary society the family is often reduced to a working mother and her children. Before the woman was dependent on her husband, now she depends on her boss. Before the transmission of culture was done as a family over three generations, now it's television and school that shape minds.

The family unit as a stable and sustainable life learning place was pulverized and crushed by industrialization that brought work out of the family context and made it first lose its meaning, then its value.

Work outside the home is a recent phenomenon

During the nineteenth century, the end of craftsmanship and the arrival of industrialization had an impact on society, families and also on women. Before the industrial revolution, the family was the unit of production and the workplace. The industrial period destroyed craftsmanship. The artisan worked with his hands and saw the fruit of his labor. Inside the family man and woman could exercise their complementarity in their work.

Then, in the twentieth century, divorce and abortion have revolutionized the family and particularly the woman, wounding her deeply in her mission and her nature. Women have acquired their sexual and domestic independence but have lost the sense of their mission toward the child and toward men. The current challenge for married women in society is to maintain her place in the family as a mother and as a wife while working away from home.

In parallel to this breakdown of the family sphere, the fragmentation of labor hinders transmission of knowledge from one generation to another. Before the industrial revolution, the family was organized for the common work at home, in the complementary skills, children and adults. Their craft was based on a know-how that was transmitted from generation to generation. The craftsman saw the fruit of his labor. His work connected him to nature. His work respected the cycle of the seasons and required knowledge of the natural elements. There was no real specifically female work but the woman was respected and valued in her work as housewife. Through industrialization the human dimension and contact with nature has been lost, the elements have been separated through fragmentation of work.

Now financialization and technology threaten to completely dehumanize us and make us lose our human identity, male and female. The border between the animal, man and machine has become permeable. All this is done on behalf of our security and our well-being but in reality we become removed from what makes us human and our personal abilities diminish.

The woman who works at home for her family is creative. Domestic work appeals to the intelligence of the heart. The woman contributes through her work to the development of her children and her husband. She builds her family with her daily work because beyond the ‘doing’ there is the dimension of ‘being’. Her expertise helps the child to grow, to be alive. Infants raised by nurses who did not touch them and do not look at them eventually died.

For example: when she makes a cake she kneads the dough with her hands, she touches it and puts all her love into this work that will feed her children, satisfy their hunger but also fill their desire to be loved. It will be a food for the body and mind. Now women are told: leave your house and go outside to earn money that will enable you to pay the person who will keep your children and buy the cake you were making yourself before.

Should we prohibit women from working outside of the home and force them to stay at home?

No, obviously, but mothers must be given a real choice and give maternal work its dignity and value. How? Here are some ideas:

  1. Revalue maternal work, domestic work, manual labor, the intelligence of the hand. The hand is at the service of the heart.

  2. Request respect for Sunday rest so that families can live a moment together.

  3. Give a place to the invisible and non-profit work done by the family, the family invests for the future. The state must support the stable and lasting family with children.

  4. Promote flexibility of female careers that includes times when the mother stays at home and times when she works outside of the home (study of MMM 63% women wish to reconcile work and home, and 26% want to devote themselves to their homes, 11 % to career only)

The legalization of surrogacy: a new threat, a job like any other?

International institutions are seeking to legalize surrogate motherhood before the States prohibit it.

At the European parliament in Brussels, Femina Europa presented the Women of the World Platform’s statement in favor of policies respecting maternity, the universal recognition and respect of the feminine identity, it’s dignity and true equality entre men and women, ask asking for international year legislation of the value of the silent apparently and invisible women's work inside their families, an international frame of policies of protection for working women, and a universal prohibition of surrogate motherhood.

The Declaration contains 10 claims and 5 requests concerning female identity, gender and motherhood. Translated into seven languages, it is supported by 140 ONGs worldwide. You can find and sign it here:

The woman who is expecting a child knows that the link that connects her to this child is unique and eternal. She knows she is responsible for him his whole life. Surrogacy cuts this vital link, it's a loss, a dehumanization. This loss also concerns the man, the father, who is no longer connected to his child by the mother but by a contract. The woman no longer plays her role vis-à-vis the father. She no longer gives the child to the man to become a father and thus assume his role of protector.

Already a single woman can become a biological mother "outside of her body" by means of in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. It suffices to pay.

Women are told: your safety depends on your salary, your financial independence is essential and then you can start a family with all the guarantees. But it is an illusion when diplomas no longer give the guarantee of employment and we have become dependent on technology to the point of not being able to do without it.

Where is the progress?

Open our eyes and choose Human Ecology

We must be aware of what we have lost and have the courage to take a different path. We have choices to make. Either we sink into the inhuman world of techno-economics, or we choose human ecology, evoked by the last three popes, with the man and the woman at the center and summit of creation.

What is human ecology? How important is it for women? and eternal life in all that?

Human ecology is the integral ecology that integrates and respects all human dimensions, because everything is connected and nothing should be left out. Human ecology should enable people to be connected and thus reunite families, to find a balance, to reconnect. Families need to spend time together, grow and live together.

This requires a political resolve and an education, a pedagogy that intelligence and reason, supported by faith, are facing this opening, this future that will allow us to live in hope and joy, with the hope of resurrection to eternal life with our Creator.

Who will do this? It is we, the women, who must! It is a question of survival of our human generation. Saint Pope JP II called us the "sentinels of the Invisible" (August 15th, 2004, Lourdes) Pope Benedict XVI reminded us of the non-negotiable principles, of woman’s “capacity for the other” (On the Collaboration of Men and Women in the Church and in the World, July 31, 2004) and Pope Francis has asked us to act for a human ecology indicating that he hopes for a more visible theology of women. This does not mean that we must work for ourselves but this means that it is for us to work for humanity because we have been created for it, to teach men to live and love.

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