Thursday, June 07, 2012
Sending the Woman to Work
Among my latest catch is S.D.Goitein's book on the Cairo Geniza documents. Goitein notes that in the 10th century Jewish women never worked outside of their homes, but in the 11th they started to "uncover their faces" and earn money as seamstresses or tending small shops. This social change is reflected in the marriage contracts (the ketubah) that started to deal with the issue if the wife's income was hers or to be administered by her husband. Goitein finds no signs of an early feminist movement demanding gender equality; the cause of the change is other. Poverty. Jews living in Muslim lands were becoming less prosperous to the point that the taboo of women going out of the home to earn money could not be maintained anymore.
What about our times? Women in the nineteen fifties and sixties rarely worked. But nowadays a couple cannot survive without two incomes! Is this generation poorer that their parents and grandparents? How could that be possible when they have larger homes, more cars, color TVs and spend their vacations in Europe, etc.?
My conclusion is that the current generation is poorer, since they need women to work outside and even so they barely can afford a child. There is no other name for it. Poverty.