Women should be restricted to work connected with the home and children. They should not engage in politics, commerce or industry. How far do you agree with this statement?

Before I begin with my opinion of the statement, let me analyze the statement itself. The word “work” should not be taken to mean doing something for a salary but rather to engage in an activity. To agree with the first sentence would be to say that women can only obtain jobs such as teaching, since they would be dealing with children then, if they were teaching, lower levels, or jobs like being domestic servants, seamstresses, cooks or interior decorators, since they would then be doing something connected with the home. The statement implies that women should not engage in charity work, literary work, nursing, acting, singing and dancing and many other activities which they do remarkably well and have received critical acclaim for, for example Lady Edwina Mountbatten for her charity work, Jane Austen for her perceptive writing on Victorian society, Anna Parlova and Margot Fonteyn for their breathtakingly beautiful ballet dancing, and Florence Nightingale for the new hospital hygiene rules she established in nineteenth century in England and which we inherit today. Obviously, the whole idea behind the statement is that women should not engage in activities unconnected with the home and children because they are not capable of doing them at all, especially in politics, industry and commerce.

This idea is not necessarily true. For decades and centuries women have been involved in activities not even remotely connected with the home and done them well.

In the fifteenth century, the famous woman Joan of Arc led the soldiers of her country to war, to the admiration of many. Queen Elizabeth I ruled England in the sixteenth century, using her own wisdom and never allowing the decisions of her ministers overrule her, nor did she ever marry. England did not see ruin during her time and in fact, it flourished, especially in arts and culture. The famous and revered works of William Shakespeare, among those of other equally famous writers, were produced in that period. Queen Victoria of England ruled almost half the world, the great British Empire, at the peak of her reign in the nineteenth century. Even in contemporary times there existed Golda Meir of Israel, Indira Gandhi of India, etc. The remarkable thing about these women is that the people voted that they do such work, and they have performed on par with their male counterparts.

With regards to industry, a tour of any factory today will yield the sight of rows of women along the assembly lines, working to produce consumer products which are the basis of today’s civilization. In Singapore, women contribute largely to the economy in this way and have helped fill the labor shortage in this area. This is a vital contribution since Singapore is a country based very much on industrialization. Women are needed in industries and should engage in them, either at the assembly department or even at the top of the company as administrators.

Commerce is one area where women are not a rarity either and where they can succeed. Women today do set up their own businesses and make huge successes of them. Take for instance the cosmetic business with big names like Helena Rubinstein or Elizabeth Arden, or even the fashion business. True, these are businesses largely directed at women, but the fact is that women are also running them and doing it well.

Another reason why the statement restricts women to the home and children would be that if a woman was to engage in something so diversely different from the home, she may neglect her own family and home. This is a cynical approach because, in fact, if a woman were allowed to broaden her horizons and outlook, she would make an open-minded approach towards her family and home. She would make an interesting conversationalist, relate better with her children since she could better understand what they face daily outside home and be a source of knowledge and inspiration to them and also relate better with her husband since she would understand how taxing a job or demanding activity outside the home could be. With today’s modern appliances and gadgets, she would have no excuse for neglecting her housework either, and in fact, it is about time that the family helped women out with the housework.

Therefore, I feel that women should be encouraged and trained to venture into any field of activity if they feel capable of handling it.

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