A critical view about the path took by the West, regarding the issue of “women and family” and its implications for our society

An article by Dr. Hossein Ramezani, Director of the Institution’s Center of Development and Civilization Studies.

How to form the identity, dignity and function of women in the society is a subject on the same level as “civilization”. In order for a subject to be civilizational, there must be at least three basic characteristics. First, it must be rooted in the history of a people, religion, or nation, and therefore it is the fruit of scientific and practical experience of people throughout history; Second, it has to cover all aspects of individual and social life; Thirdly, the way of its objective realization affects the future of the society. The matter of defining the identity, dignity and function of women in society is a long-standing and historical issue, very broad in scope and has deep and direct effects on the future of society.

Also, this is a fundamental element in the process of development and progress of society; Because the key components of development and progress, including the creation of a healthy population, sense of belonging, affection and mutual emotional dependence, good and righteous education, spreading sublime culture and the stability of the social structure, depend on the realization of the individual and social functions of women within the institutions of family and society.

Generations and the formation of a population that receives a good education and upbringing and a great culture and a continuing growth, as well as the stability of social structures, all depend on the natural and educational role of women; Because women, as half of the human society, have an irreplaceable role in the birth of the generations and the preservation of the population, education and protection of culture, the formation of the home community and the family, consolidation of emotional bonds and the consistency of social structures in a society (Syed Mohammad Hossein Tabatabai; Al-Mizan fi Tafsir al-Qur’an; Vol. 16 , p. 166 ).

The origin of the realization of these basic functions, on which the survival and continuation of the life of a society, and the development and progress of the historical path of a civilization depend, is “family”. In contrast to men and children, women are the central pillar in the formation of the family. Therefore, paying special attention to the matter of women’s identity, dignity and function plays a fundamental role in the formation of a healthy and righteous family; It is one of the most important social issues, the realization of which requires institutional management, regulation and social planning.

A society that loses “family” and its natural and human functions is doomed to degeneration, decline and collapse. On the other hand, a society that can create a healthy and righteous family by making the necessary preparations provides the main condition for its own survival, preservation, growth and promotion .

A healthy family is a family that fulfills:

  • the natural and human functions of marriage, love and mutual affection between men and women,
  • emotional bonding between parents and children,
  • the birth and emergence of a healthy and righteous population,
  • education and training,
  • guidance and social leadership (socialization) of the emerging generations in order to play an active role in the social system.

All these functions can only be realized when the women of the society are established in their natural and human dignity and are committed and loyal to their duties as wives and mothers.

Unfortunately, in the new era, as a result of the changes took place in the historical and civilizational path of the West, the identity, dignity and functions of women in the institution of the family suffered a huge damage and deviation. This is an event that many contemporary thinkers have mentioned and discussed. For example, Will Durant, referred to this event as a “great revolution” and wrote :

” If we assume that we are Christians in the year 2000 and we want to know what was the biggest event of the first quarter of the 20th century, we will realize that this event was not the Great War or the Russian Revolution, but it was the “transformation of the status of women”. History has rarely seen such a shocking change in such a short period of time. The “sacred house” which was the basis of our social order, the marriage system which prevented lust and the instability of the human condition, and the complex moral code which had brought us from savagery to civilization and social etiquette, are all stuck in this turbulent transition that overshadows all customs and forms of life and our thinking. (Durant; The Pleasures of Philosophy ; translated by Abbas Zaryab; Scientific and Cultural Publications, p. 148 ).

Later, Will Durant introduces the basic cause of this great revolution or event in the objectified formulation of the political economy governing the modern society and writes: “… because the factories are replacing the fields and the cities and the natural and human resources of the countryside have been drawn towards them” (ibid.) .

This historical, civilizational and social analysis from the point of view of political economy did not appear only in Will Durant’s statement, but many researchers and political economic thinkers have stated it. Among others, Karl Polanyi also refers to this matter in his book “The Great Transformation”. As a result of this incident, women became cheap and obedient workers in the factories; And naturally, from the point of view of the capitalists dominating the free market system, they were preferred over rebellious and high-priced men. In fact, the utilitarian logic of the modern society discovered women’s cheap labor and employed them in order to maximize the profit of the economic enterprise.

It is worth noting that throughout history, women have participated in the provision of lives as well as men. This meaning cannot be doubted in the atmosphere of rural and nomadic life, which was the main structure of people’s lives in the pre-modern era. However, in the pre-industrial era, women’s work was always in the service of home management and livelihood; and other women’s affairs, especially the birth and upbringing of children, were in line with women’s works at home and family. Another thing is that women’s work at home and with the family implied freedom, a sense of self-sacrifice, love and kindness, along with security and safety, and most importantly, it was voluntary and caused self-fulfillment and the development of women’s capabilities .

In the new era, the system of factory employment and exploitation separated women from the free, affectionate, safe, safety-creating and nurturing space of home and family, and they were subjected to the mechanism of commodification and seeking the maximum benefit from work in the form of a capitalist system; A work that had a harsh and masculine nature. As contemporary critical thinkers in the West have pointed out, the institutional mechanism of the capitalist system considers not only women but also men as an object and a commodity (Habermas; theory of communicative action ; translated by Kamal Poladi; p. 712). But surely the negative effects of this mechanism and institutional system are more harmful for the identity, dignity and natural and human functions of women in the society.

With this incident, the sense of self-sacrifice, love and affection associated with working for the family turned into the feeling of receiving wages in return for the work paid by the factory owner and capitalist. Also, the freedom of action along with work at home and family was imprisoned by the factory bureaucracy, and women’s spending time in the monotonous and repetitive production line of the factory did not leave any room for experiences that nurtured female capabilities along with work. As a result, according to Hegel’s interpretation, women in the factory work space were more and more self-alienated and prevented from performing the natural and human functions of women, especially the birth and upbringing of the future generation .

This chain of events caused the destruction of women’s identity, dignity and natural and human functions. As Karl Polanyi also points out, the important point is that the destruction caused by this event, was more cultural and social than economic; Because the lifestyle and the natural and human paths that create existential, value and emotional links in the society, suffered severe damages. The effects of the economic exploitation of the capitalist system were gradually moderated by the enactment of some laws, but the deviant paths opened on the lifestyle and the destructions on the identity, dignity and functions of women continued in the contemporary era (Polani; The Great Transformation; translated by Mohammad Maljo; Pardis Publishing Danesh, p. 299 ).

The most important damage inflicted on the social identity, dignity and social function of women and consequently on the institution of the family in Western societies, is the change in the identity and meaning of human and social institutions that regulated the relationships of women with men, and women with society over many centuries; In this way, the natural, human and religious values governing the structure and system of social relations, which were the foundation of women’s identity and dignity, were shaken or collapsed. In particular, the institution of “family” and the value system establishing family relationships were seriously damaged; Because women were drawn to obligations outside the home for various reasons .

The pathological analysis of the factors causing this incident and the evaluation of women’s activities regarding the new value and normative system promoted by the capitalist models, is an independent discussion. For example, the institution of marriage in the human society changed from the joint commitment of men and women for mutual affection and fulfilling the human responsibilities in raising the future generation, to merely the participation and togetherness of men and women to enjoy from each other and make a living. These two meanings of the institution of marriage have two different biospheres and originated from two different cultures. From a natural and human point of view, the family is the path and means of achieving existential excellence and also worldly and hereafter happiness; But in the modern and contemporary view, the family is a path and a place for participation and commodification, and men and women are together as long as the possibility of mutual enjoyment and material benefit is assured .

Along the chain of cultural, social and economic developments of the new era, with the family ties broken or loosened , women were drawn to commodification, marketization and eventually “Tabarroj” meaning “showing off using sexual characteristics”. As a result, modesty and chastity and religious and moral boundaries in the social relations of men and women became less. With the loss of modesty and chastity, women’s social status declined; Because what prompts men to respect women is to refrain from “Tabarroj” and showing off. As Will Durant has pointed out, “the young man is looking for eyes full of modesty, and without knowing it, he feels that this subtle self-restraint tells of great grace and pity” (Will Durant; Pleasures of Philosophy, p. 129 ) .

Such a process practically destroyed the identity and social status of women in modern society. Of course, misunderstanding the identity and dignity of women in the history of Western civilization has a historical background. The identity and dignity of women in the historical and civilizational ideas of the West has two fundamental characteristics: firstly, influenced by the philosophical literature of the Greek and Hellenic periods, women are considered to be equal to servants and children, as a tool for managing the home, i.e. economy and family livelihood (Aristotle; Politics ; translated by Hamid Enayat; pp. 33-34); The other one, which is influenced by the religious literature of the Old and New Testaments, is that women are considered to be secondary creatures in comparison with men .

In the Old Testament and from the Jews view, in accordance with the last paragraph of the ten commandments of Jehovah to Moses, women are mentioned in the ranks of cattle and immovable property. The Jewish people considered women to be the cause of misfortune and disaster. The ancient Jews did not light candles when a girl was born; A mother who gives birth to a girl should bathe twice (Will Durant; Pleasures of Philosophy ; pp. 149-150). In the New Testament and in Christian theology and culture, this deviation was institutionalized during many centuries. It is stated in the Bible: “And man was not created for woman, but woman for man” (Corinthians, 9:11 ).

In any case, whether due to the mentioned historical roots or due to the destruction caused by the cultural, social and economic formation of liberal capitalism, currently, the identity, dignity and natural and human function of women in modern Western societies and some Eastern and South American societies is in a chaotic and miserable state, and has gone out of the natural and human path .

In the meantime, feminist egalitarian approaches that defend women’s rights by words and expression, in practice led to the destruction of women’s identity, dignity and natural and human functions. Feminist approaches emphasized the equality between men and women without being able to disrupt the institutional order created by the liberal capitalist system. Although this incident in practice helped to moderate some material, social and economic inequalities in favor of women, but in practice women were deprived of the safe and secure environment of home and family, and the mutual obligations of men and women towards each other and especially men towards women. As a result, the institution of family and its stabilizing values were weakened; And as a result, the functions of the family institution in its transcendental meaning for the society were also weakened .

The obvious sign of this matter is that the two basic functions of the family, i.e. the birth of a generation and the raising of children and the proper upbringing of them, have been disturbed in modern western and eastern societies. Thus, modern societies have mainly faced the problem of population and the loss of family ties that are effective in birth, upbringing and socialization; And for this reason, they have turned to the policy of accepting immigrants.

In addition to the decrease in the replacement rate of the population, the purity of births and genuine(halal) births have also decreased; Because with the weakening of the normative and value system that leads to marriage, the rate of legitimate and legal marriages has decreased, and on the other hand, the rate of sexual relations outside the legal custom of marriage has taken an increasing trend. As a result, the rate of children born from sexual relations outside the value and normative system and legal custom has increased sharply. To the extent that the latest data from the “Eurostat” website shows that in a country like France, more than 60% of births registered in 2018 were not the result of marriage! In the website, a bar chart of statistics related to children born outside of relationships resulting from religious and legal marriages is presented in European countries .

This situation has many unfortunate consequences for the human society. One of the direct consequences of this situation is that the upbringing of these children, who are a huge part of the future generation, takes place without the presence of maternal and paternal concerns and regardless of the precisions appropriate to the physical, mental and spiritual conditions of each child; And practically, education is carried out in a homogenized form and without the possibility of individual and family specialization, in the form of protocols of public institutions in charge of education and mainly by public media educational institutions .

This will cause the variety, depth and stability of upbringing to decrease drastically; And in social reality, we witness the emergence of a huge population that is not only not responsible, but avoids commitment; Because they have been brought up in a social environment where they either have not experienced maternal and paternal committed love and unreserved kindness, or at least have not  continuously experienced them.

Such conditions cause many harms in the mental and emotional development of this part of the future generation. For example, such children will be irritable, short-tempered and psychotic; Because they have not been reminded of the nuances and details of upbringing in the conventional situations of everyday life, along with tolerance and maternal and paternal love in their conditions. Of course, such a generation will not benefit much from the autonomy and independence of a positive personality; Because in their upbringing, there were no unique maternal and paternal considerations and sympathies that would enable the emergence of a person’s unique self; In the upbringing of such a generation, there will be no differences and variations caused by family that lead to meaningful richness in the public space of society; Because their training is in accordance with the universal educational and training protocols such as the 2030 agenda for sustainable development .

Reviewing and paying attention to the historical reality of the loss of identity, dignity and natural and human functions of women due to the change in the context and cultural, social and economic process of modern society as a result of the intervention of the liberal capitalist political economy formulation, can have many normative and political implications for a country like Iran.

The current society of Iran, is a society in the middle of authentic Iranian and Islamic traditions and modernism. The current situation of the Iranian Islamic society in the present day is a very complex situation and in no way can it be fully understood and explained, in the form of Kantian (subjectivity and objectivity / totality and necessity, etc.), Weberian (tradition against modernity) or fragmentary (like the metaphor of forty-piece identity, by Dariush Shaygan and others) .

The current society of Islamic Iran is a Shia Muslim in religious and cultural dimensions, and in political dimensions, it has a distinct and unique cognitive, value, structural and process system, and in social dimensions, it is a structured society, and in economic dimensions, it has an unstable and unformed situation, which after In the first decade of the Islamic Revolution, the predominance of pseudo-neoliberal approaches in its economy over pseudo-neosocialist approaches is evident; And unfortunately, so far, he has not been able to instrumentalize the macro and micro approach of economics in the school of Islam and give it a political advantage so that it can spread widely .

The author, does not agree with the term “society in transition from tradition to modernity” to describe the Iranian Islamic society. The Iranian society after the Islamic revolution, as a society with a long-standing epistemological and historical lineage, has its own historical path; And it is recovering its integrity and Iranian Islamic identity .

However, the concept of “Iranian Islamic society” is in a state of “in the middle”. In the author’s opinion, the state of “being in the middle”, has no quantitative meaning of having part of this and part of that; Although it may seem so at the first glance. The mature and developed Iranian Islamic society is in the process of continuous evolutionary reconstruction through experiencing the achievements of the time and thinking about it and digesting it in its collective mentality. Meanwhile, the role of religion, that is, the heritage of Shiite Islam, is very important in this process.

Regarding the issue of women and family, the Iranian Islamic approach is very clear and enlightening. In the eyes of Islamic heritage and wisdom, women are neither secondary creatures nor, like the ancient teachings of the Greek and Hellenic periods, they are considered in the ranks of slaves and children; Rather, despite the natural and psychological differences with men, women have the same spiritual and existential value as men .

Women’s work has been considered as an intended and voluntary act and a way to expand the freedoms and prosperity of women and their children, in the service of family formation as the basic pillar of culture and social structure. In the Islamic education system, Islamic values and norms, the identity, dignity and individual and social functions of women have been identified and magnified as the cradle of education, upbringing, refinement and excellence .

For this reason, in an unprecedented way, more than 1,300 years ago, very clear and path-breaking jurisprudential and legal institutions and tools such as dowry and alimony were created to support the natural and human rights of women; Institutions and tools that are still progressive and efficient. Specifically, it should be said that Islamic and Shiite jurisprudence, influenced by the teachings of the Holy Quran and the infallible Ahl al-Bayt (peace be upon them), has respected the institution of the family; And he has directed and guided the process of education, upbringing, refinement and individual and collective excellence in its format .

According to these explanations, it seems that it is appropriate for social policy makers, as actors of institutional management of society, as well as educated women of Islamic Iran, to pay attention to some considerations in their social actions :

First, it should be noted that the situation of western societies in matters related to women is the result of the historical path of thinking, religion and culture of those societies. Explanations and depictions of the identity, dignity and individual and social functions of women in those societies which are created by academic institutions or policymakers or executive directors and then reflected in specialized and public media, are in accordance with their own social and civic experiences. Therefore, explanations, theories, ethics and lifestyle, especially the style of employment and social presence of women in Western countries, cannot be adapted, copied and imitated without intellectual, religious and cultural considerations .

It should be noted that although the existential and spiritual value of women is equal to that of men, but physically and psychologically, women have differences with men. These differences are the requirement of God’s mature wisdom, which has created a difference in the physical and mental aspects of women and men. These differences are the natural and psychological basis of the difference between the individual and social functions of women and men .

Contrary to feminist views that consider any difference between men and women to be a form of discrimination and try to define the identity and dignity of women in a masculine way, the natural and psychological difference between women and men does not require discrimination; Rather, it requires differentiation and specificity. Women have different natural and psychological identities compared to men, and the identity and dignity of women cannot be compared to those of men .

Based on their physical and mental differences, women are prone to provide their own individual and social functions; Functions that cannot be fulfilled by men on a large scale; Even the fulfillment of physical, mental and spiritual functions of men depends on the correct fulfillment of physical, mental and spiritual functions of women. This fact that “the love and upbringing of women in the role of mother is the cradle of raising children”, is indicative of the same thing; Or the fact that God has called a woman in the Holy Qur’an as “a source of peace for men” and considered it as one of the divine signs (Al-Rum: 21), indicates the same thing .

Therefore, seeking equality between men and women, if it means equal existential and spiritual rights despite the physical and psychological differences that God has placed between men and women based on His mature wisdom, then it is desirable and requires the realization of justice; But if it means the pure similarity of women with men, as the feminist approaches in western countries herald it, it implies oppression of women and the degradation of their identity and dignity; And in practice, it causes the exploitation of women by considering them as commodity. As it was explained, this incident caused the destruction of the family institution and the educational, moral and transcendental works resulting from the existence of a healthy and virtuous family, the loss of birth purity, the decrease of the population, the change of the demographic structure in terms of ethnicity and religion, and many other harms.

Also, pure egalitarianism in the type of jobs and job conditions between men and women is oppression and injustice against women; Because if women form a family, they are practically obliged to perform domestic duties; And if they do not form a family, they are deprived of the possibility of growth and excellence that God’s existence and mature wisdom has provided for them through marriage and child bearing. Such egalitarianism in practice provides the interests of the capitalist system and the walthy .

Justice requires that the type of jobs and the conditions of women’s jobs be in proportion to their identity, dignity and functions expected of them, which is to form a healthy and righteous family, take care of the home and fulfill its educational and population functions .

Emphasizing equality and similarity in the manner and style of customary interactions in public gatherings, both occupational and non-occupational, also causes oppression against women; Because preserving women’s privacy and sanctity requires protection of their beauty and avoiding sexual displays. The appearance of physical manifestations of female beauty in practice, leads to their sexual and commercial exploitation; And not only is it not liberating, but on the contrary, it limits men’s perspective and vision towards them .

Women’s sexual display in the public space actually hinders the emergence of their developed self and their skills, and also intellectual, moral and behavioral capabilities; And even if it doesn’t prevent it, it makes it difficult to develop women’s capabilities. Therefore, chaste covering in practice leads to the development and exaltation of women’s identity and dignity. This is a fact that educated women of our country are well aware of .

Based on this, achieving the freedom and empowerment of women in the light of protecting their identity and dignity to fulfill their natural and human individual and social functions, is only possible through the formation of a healthy and righteous family. This is the path that God’s existence and mature wisdom has set before women and men; Because it is through forming a family and commitment in the family that men find the possibility of individual development and achieving worldly and hereafter perfection and happiness. This matter is clearly stated in the Islamic traditions (Hossein bin Muhammad Taqi Noori; Mustadrak al-Wasail ; vol. 14, p. 154 ).

Another thing is that we should be able to create a positive and uplifting transformation in accordance with the changing conditions of the age and time, in the conventional forms and styles of life along the intellectual, ideological and cultural implications of the Iranian Islamic society. For example, regarding the issue of women’s social presence, we should present an objective and realizable theory and model, in such a way that neither women suffer social and civil isolation, nor the family as a tool and path to the realization of women’s freedom and prosperity is harmed through the channel of educating the next generation. This model should then be objectified and realized through policies, laws and executive regulations

The other thing is that it is appropriate to find out the value of the Islamic intellectual, moral and jurisprudential heritage and the sublime Iranian Islamic culture in relation to the identity, dignity and natural and human functions of women and develop and deepen it; it has to be discussed in our community and then be spread to other communities .

This is possible through dialogue, explanation and existential depictions of individual and social realities. The meaning of existential explanations and illustrations, is that through empathic conversations, explaining and illustrating topics and issues in a reasoned, convincing and empathetic way, the audience of the conversation find themselves engaged in the perception and experience of a common, natural and internal matter. Because Islamic teachings are in line with human nature, they are susceptible to sympathetic and existential explanations and illustrations .


In the hope of the sunrise and reappearance of Imam Mahdi

[ 1 ] commodification