“What would happen if one woman told the truth about her life? / The world would split open.”
Poet Muriel Rukeyser

Monday, September 07, 2009

Why Women's Rights Are the Cause of Our Time

A week ago the NY Times Magazine, which has taken to focusing the majority of the magazine on one topic, focused on the status of women in the world. Well, the third world, primarily. The lead article was written by a husband and wife team, 1990 Pulitzer Prize winners for reporting on China's Tiananmen Square democracy movement, a couple who have documented the crimes and cruelties of women and girls. This couple, Nicholas Kristof and Sheyl WuDunn have written a new book, to be pulished next month by Knopf, titled "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. The editor of the NY Times Magazine, Gerald Marsorati, upon reading the manuscript of the book, was struck by the notion that this is the manifesto for our times, ergo an entire magazine devoted to it. You can read it here, if you haven't already.

Today, while riding the exercise bike, I read the Letters to the Editor from this weeks NY Times Magazine, letters that responded to the articles on the status of women. I was struck by two letters in particular: One that reminds us that micro loans are not a long term solution, there needs to be a consumer demand for product and industries and jobs (government created according to the letter writer) that enable women to rise, with greater stability, above the subsistence level.

The second letter asks us to point our lens not only at the status of women in developing nations, but to also point it directly at ourselves and expose the ongoing sexual harassment, assault, rape, and domestic battery.

I would also add, focus the lens on the continued gender inequality in the workforce. Any working woman knows that on some level men are still the preferred gender for whatever position the woman holds, except perhaps teaching in daycare centers, grammar school, and high school, nursing, and housekeeping. In those traditional positions women are still preferred, but highly underpaid.

On some level women, even in positions of leadership, are seen as "daughters who are supposed to be obedient and do what they are told." Women who truly have their own voice and strong leadership qualities are often viewed as, well that same term we use for female dogs.