By MUSHTAQ SOOFI

Anyone who wants to be politically correct while talking about the issue of gender invariably points to an irreversible process whereby woman is gradually being empowered in the face of hideously concealed opposition that she faces.
Statistics are flaunted as an irrefutable proof of the progress that is being successfully made towards the goal of her achieving equal rights as a human being.

Well, woman empowerment doesnít necessarily imply her emancipation from what plays a crucial role in keeping her a sort of pampered halfwit. The way out of deceptively enslaving comfort of hearth and home is paved with seemingly good intentions of dragging her towards workplace which has traditionally been the domain of male.

Itís surprisingly amusing to see so many apparently liberal thinkers and well-meaning rights activists with all their academic shenanigans to declare work as the panacea for the end of female slavery from the chains that bind her to perpetual domesticity.

Work may be a necessary but not sufficient condition for woman emancipation. Work no doubt is manís self-objectification i.e. concrete realization of potential. But unfortunately in a hierarchal society where division of work and appropriation of what is consequently produced is based on class distinctions, productive act becomes an act of alienation. The product of a producer appropriated by someone else or not shared emerges in real life as producersí negation.

Hence negation of negation becomes necessary which we frequently come across way back in sixteenth century in the verses of Madho Lal Hussain, a rebellious but self-effacing mystic poet. ďWhat a happy sight to have my spinning wheel smashed/it freed my life from the curse of tormentĒ, he says employing female voice.

Recent times have seen a relatively large scale induction of women into workplace which on the one hand has given them a measure of economic independence and on the other has enhanced their consciousness as social beings. But thatís not the end of this ever unfolding story for which man and woman have visceral like.

The rarely mentioned flipside of the narrative shows that work despite providing some socio-economic muscle to woman has added to her woes.
This is especially true of middle and upper middle class women who are relatively new entrants in the job market. Women from working classes are a somewhat different case as they have been an essential part of productive process since the emergence of stratified society.

New working women from middle strata despite enjoying some perks workplace offers are not a happy lot. Veneer of a smile at the reception desk hides a scowl and a grin at the uptick of companyís profit is a concealed grimace.

Home is no longer much different from her office at the end of the working hours as there are many chores she is supposed to do for her family, assisted or unassisted.

The burden she must carry has been doubled. She now makes extra effort to do what she has to. To be more concrete, she now has to bear children, look after kitchen and keep her spouse/partner in good humour. Before she is done with household chores, itís time to reach the workplace where her employer wants the best of what she can offer as an employee.

Isnít it a double whammy for her? She is charged with the responsibility of keeping her family unhinged and providing optimum work output to her employer.

Improvement in her economic and social status is hard earned as it is a result of her fierce struggle in a world where she has to compete with man who has the advantage of historically transmitted long experience of handling what is generally described as work.

Domestic responsibility coupled with job adds considerably to her workload leading to a drastic reduction in the leisure time she has at her disposal.
An increased presence of woman at workplace may not necessarily be potent sign of her emancipation or empowerment if we scratch the surface of the phenomenon that deceptively appears as a welcome social transformation.

As long as woman performs her procreative function in a traditional manner, she will continue to groan under the combined weight of tradition and contemporaneity.

This is especially true of female from any segment of middle classes. In view of fast advancing scientific knowledge, we can hope that child bearing will no longer remain an awful ordeal and excruciatingly painful experience for woman in near future.

Advanced technology will ensure perpetuity of human species through means other than natural. Such a development could be a quantum leap that would radically change male female equation.

Woman could only be empowered and emancipated when both child bearing and work are no longer what they are at the moment; exacting and extractive.

The former is relatively easier to achieve than the latter. Making child bearing detached and less cumbersome could be lucrative commercial enterprise and thus a real possibility in not a distant future.

But transforming the nature of work is a dreadfully threatening proposition in a society that thrives on tangible and intangible surplus produced in a social structure where producers get much less than the actual value of their products.

Thatís why producerís output triggers a process of alienation: whatís oneís own becomes its opposite when appropriated by other than him or her. Work loses its affirmative power.

How it alienates instead of humanizing is expressed by our dancing poet and mystic Madho Lal Hussain who juxtaposes playfulness against dehumanized work with the recurrent metaphor of play that stands for life with all its pleasures.

ĎA laugh and playfulness are our destiny as ordained by the Lord himselfĒ, he declares. What the poet said has been further elaborated by Herbert Marcuse in our times while exploring the pleasure principle. Woman will not be fully woman unless work becomes fulfilling like pleasure and pleasure becomes rewarding like work. But thatís only possible if we build a society in which work doesnít dehumanize humans and pleasure doesnít debase them. ó

Source: https://www.dawn.com