Saving the world’s women

When I started reading this piece in the New York Times Magazine, I wanted to scream, “They get it! They finally get it!” Well, they’re close enough anyway and I’ll take this as a very positive step forward.

Saving the world’s women is a 7-page article written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

Traditionally, the status of women was seen as a “soft” issue — worthy but marginal. We initially reflected that view ourselves in our work as journalists. We preferred to focus instead on the “serious” international issues, like trade disputes or arms proliferation. Our awakening came in China.

After we married in 1988, we moved to Beijing to be correspondents for The New York Times. Seven months later we found ourselves standing on the edge of Tiananmen Square watching troops fire their automatic weapons at prodemocracy protesters. The massacre claimed between 400 and 800 lives and transfixed the world; wrenching images of the killings appeared constantly on the front page and on television screens.

Yet the following year we came across an obscure but meticulous demographic study that outlined a human rights violation that had claimed tens of thousands more lives. This study found that 39,000 baby girls died annually in China because parents didn’t give them the same medical care and attention that boys received — and that was just in the first year of life. A result is that as many infant girls died unnecessarily every week in China as protesters died at Tiananmen Square. Those Chinese girls never received a column inch of news coverage, and we began to wonder if our journalistic priorities were skewed.

A similar pattern emerged in other countries. In India, a “bride burning” takes place approximately once every two hours, to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry — but these rarely constitute news. When a prominent dissident was arrested in China, we would write a front-page article; when 100,000 girls were kidnapped and trafficked into brothels, we didn’t even consider it news.

Finally, an awakening!!!

The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls and women are now missing from the planet, precisely because they are female, than men were killed on the battlefield in all the wars of the 20th century. The number of victims of this routine “gendercide” far exceeds the number of people who were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.

I’ve also read that 1.5 to 3 million women and girls are killed each year (the source was the Economist). That’s a Holocaust every 3 years….It’s about time the media started to pay attention.

For those women who live, mistreatment is sometimes shockingly brutal. If you’re reading this article, the phrase “gender discrimination” might conjure thoughts of unequal pay, underfinanced sports teams or unwanted touching from a boss. In the developing world, meanwhile, millions of women and girls are actually enslaved.

Well, sadly the authors are not as up to date about the conditions of women in the USA – sexual assaults on campus, rape in our communities, low prosecution rates of rape and high rates of not reporting, misogyny in music and media, gender-based violence as a form of entertainment, dating violence, domestic violence, becoming homeless due to violence, losing custody of children to a batterer, the use of pseudo-science in family court, low credibility of women and children, homicide of pregnant women, homicide of prostitutes, mutilation of bodies, porn culture, facial abuse, stalking, etc. etc. etc.

We may have it better than women elsewhere, but we still don’t have equality in the USA. We face many problems related to poverty and violence. And, on fact, I believe our country ranks #27 on the Gender Equality Index scales. We have a long way to go, baby.

If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries.

We could do the same in America and we can call this program, “Porn to Poverty.” Come on, fellas, will you give up your prostitutes and porn to help alleve poverty?

I have to say I believe  a man had to be one of these writers, because when women say things like this, while it can be the truth, we are labeled man-haters. (Strange how those working on child abuse are not adult-haters and those working with the poor are not rich-bashers).

It has long been known that a risk factor for turbulence and violence is the share of a country’s population made up of young people. Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor; the reasons aren’t fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys’ locker room.

Is that why I feel like I’m living in the O.K. Corral here in the US – with all our guns rights folks, violence on TV and in movies, and violence in our communities? And why we have to have highly sexualized women in the media but not men? It sure does feel like a boys locker room.

The article ends by giving recommendations on how to incorporate women into aid programs. 

Over at Shakesville, Melissa McEwan wrote a great blog on this NY Times article. I wholeheartedly agree with her that the writers never say “who” the oppressors are, but that’s common. Many of us are still not able to boldly state that men have committed violence towards women. No way, then they’ll brand us as man-haters. The media, ever so careful and ever so male-dominated, have always used this passive construct as well. If you think about it, writers are taught to use the active voice not the passive one – yet, writers continue to write about violence towards women in the passive voice.  

Here’s Melissa’s blog:   

Here’s your big chance to ask: What about the men?