Tag Archive: Feminism

Let’s be clear, even with our withdrawal “strategy” from Afghanistan and Iraq, we are still very much in the middle of a war. The attackers: righteous conservatives. The weapons: misguided legislation. The victims: everyone with a set of boobies.

Back in elementary school, I remember playing a curious computer game where a player’s wits were challenged against those of an international woman of intrigue – a woman who by all accounts, outsmarted every law man, every godfather don, and every thieving foe she came across. And in doing so, she garnered a notable (albeit reluctant) respect from all of them. As fantastical as it was within the scheming [not so] make-believe world of global espionage, Carmen Sandiego helped set the bar for what women can do on a planet where men rule. At least she did that for me.

It seems that most recently, with all the political limelight on women’s health issues like banning contraception (since population control is of course no longer a problem) and requiring pre-abortion vaginal probes (which sounds eerily like what aliens impose on the abducted citizens of the mid-west), it’s no wonder that the role of women in the 21st century should also be examined with the same gusto. Sadly, this subject is usually viewed in one of the limiting two ways:

1) through the biased and often ignorant eyes of a male dominated society (ex. all-male panel testifies before a congressional hearing on the right to allow employers to deny insurance coverage of contraception for their female employees – which clearly makes total sense); or

2) through what would be construed as the ultra-feminist perspective – where the pro-woman/anti-man sentiment gets inevitably plastered on a bumper sticker and chants of “I am woman, hear me roar!” get hurled left and right. Who are we kidding; it’s mostly left.

Still, amid the penis-enthusiasts’ attempts to take our nation’s progress back a century, there are strides being made to bring the message of women’s issues to the fore-front of social discussion without being so callously tied to either of the above mantras. Though I’m still anxiously waiting for the next true Million-Woman March to plow through Washington (or perhaps ‘The W.O.W. Walk’ is more catchy?) I realize that this war is more global and far-reaching than just our apple pie-loving shores. While female ethical leaders like Burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi are fighting for women’s rights – and the rights of ALL her people for that matter – it’s a wonder that there are others, like former First Lady of Egypt Suzanne Mubarek [dubbed the ‘Mean Queen’] who are using their powerful positions to maintain corruption within their failing existing systems. Even Asma al-Assad, the wife of [who is now considered] Syria’s ruthless President Bashar al-Assad, has taken a back-seat role; setting aside her initial portrayal of a strong-willed, Western-loved democratic female mind, and replacing it with that of the ever-obedient Middle Eastern wife. As a woman in a position of power – a position to make a difference in the lives (and well-being) of her people – al-Assad is an example of one who has chosen to recede into the shadows and turn her cheek as Syrian civilians, including women and children, mercilessly suffer.

And so, the remarkable women who are leading the world in advancing justice for the female are fighting an uphill battle for sure: against men of power that wish to hold the heads of women submerged beneath the freezing water of inequality, and against the women who are not only content in their subordinate positions, but who desperately desire to maintain it as a sense of security.

Just yesterday, April 28th, UniteWomen.org,  supported by non-profit organizations, rallied a series of marches throughout the country and garnered some much-needed grassroots media momentum for this War on Women. A focused, energized base of those who oppose the retractive direction women’s liberties are heading spoke loud and very clear. With a collectively vocalized power, it made a good-sized dent into the broken-down Vega that the GOP are haphazardly clucking down the road to gain the women’s vote. So there’s at least that.

Other campaigns like the annual 3-day Women In The World Summit, an international conference hosted by Newsweek & The Daily Beast, also serve as a beacon of hope within this frustrating crusade. It has emerged as a potent assembly focusing on women who live in between the news; ones who are taking extremely productive initiatives to make changes in the lives of women everywhere — and oftentimes under peril circumstances. This summit celebrates 150 specific global leaders who have proven unflinching in their pursuit of gender equality, and offers a platform to voice their stories and solutions to the public. Commencing each year on March 8th, International Women’s Day, the worldwide televised event (on TheDailyBeast.com) has become an avenue for riding the wave that attempts to maneuver between those two presentation perspectives I spoke on earlier. Though certainly a valiant effort, it begs the question: what exactly – or who – are we fighting? And what are we trying to ultimately and specifically accomplish?

With the advent of the Arab Spring and other uprisings occurring around the world, voices of the oppressed are collectively gaining amplification. What other countries are struggling with in the vein of not just women’s rights but the basic rights of all human beings, we as Americans sadly take for granted – which is precisely why we can not revert back to the bridled suffocation the current neo-conservative movement is trying to place upon us. Newsweek’s Editor-in-Chief Tina Brown thoughtfully wrote:

“It is ironic that American women now need to be fortified by the inspiration of the women of the Arab Spring, who risked so much to win basic human rights.”

There is no doubt that the efforts of women in US history have been wrought with suffering and pain as our freedoms have come at an incredibly dear price. As women are fighting for their rights and aim for their voices to be heard in countries abroad – countries with no where near the sophisticated system of pseudo-democracy in place as we enjoy here – our fight is seemingly weakening; turning its cheek to take another hearty slap and claim “we fell down the stairs”.

If women aren’t in positions to make policy changes and influence legislature, there is no wonder the gender gap is not closing nearly as fast as it should be. A rather harrowing statistic comes again from Newsweek, who have found that America ranks 71st behind Bangladesh, Sudan and United Arab Emirates in female legislative representation worldwide. Additionally, according to Ranking America, the US ranks 60th in women’s participation in the workplace. (Burandi ranks #1. How many people in the US would even know where Burandi was on the map is another sad statistic, but I digress.) Even though young women now earn more college and graduate degrees than men do, they soon fall behind professionally, especially when vying for positions within management. One of my journalistic idols, Rachel Maddow, recently spoke on this particular issue on Meet The Press (watch the interview here). Explaining – and being constantly interrupted while doing so – that presently, American women working full time earn 77% of what men do, Maddow boldly combated [what appears to be] the Republican notion that women simply are not equal to men, in capacity, performance or intellect. What’s discouraging is with all the statistics, all the stories of trials and triumphs in the lives of women around the world – again, for even the most basic of women’s rights – Americans are still gluttons for taking advantage of our current freedoms. So much so, that those very freedoms are at risk of being snagged out from under us faster than we’d even know it.

My questions are simple: Where are our internationally influential women? Angelina Jolie? Who are our powerful female leaders? Oprah? What forceful representatives do American women have on their side? Elizabeth Warren*? (*Although I do commend her efforts on many social philosophical fronts) Come on, people. Compared to the unbelievable display of strength and perseverance put forth by other women of the world (the 150 honored by the WIW Summit for example) our ‘leaders’ don’t even come close.

To explain this seemingly harsh statement further: Although females who’ve led the way in the War on Women within other countries have had to struggle within systems that are fatally unfair, I’m certainly not saying that their strength and efforts are of a higher value than that of the women in our own country. Or that simply because the political and social corruption of the infrastructure within which they must operate makes the pain endured by them for the sake of women’s rights more precious than that of US women. What I am saying is that we [fortunately] have a system in place where compared to other countries, the status quo can much more easily be challenged – without the real threat of being gunned down for voicing opposition. [not counting the South’s backwoods. Kidding! Kind of.] That threat indeed exists elsewhere, and so that fact alone should shed a bit of clarity upon our present WOW. (As the 2nd time I’ve dropped this, I can only imagine the multiple uses for that acronym if it were actually introduced. I take full responsibility). This clarity should invariably produce more effectively potent women leaders; leaders who can truly pave the way for actual change to occur.

Since 50.8% of the US population is female (2010 US Census Bureau finding), there really is no valid reason why women shouldn’t make up 1/2 the Supreme Court, 1/2 of the House and Senate and 1/2 of basically everything else. What we need are leaders; ones who will actually play the kind of hard ball that the fearless women of other, much more oppressed countries are courageously becoming star-hitters at. For example, while the fight by the GOP right against Planned Parenthood has produced some notable leaders, stepping out to support and keep alive the almost 50-year old program, I still believe that 2 more things are needed:

1) more aggressive women in positions of higher government to make a real legislative difference, and 2) the united voice of all American women, heard as that of the new age female leader.

We need the kind of leadership that unites; it’s the only way to make tangible change – which, let’s face it, is still quite a ways away at this rate, even for a supposed ‘advanced’ country/society as ourselves. Hawkish politics has always worked for men, why not utilize that same methodology for our female government? Steering through the male mist of policy-making will take a special set of goggles, but I believe Google is working on those. Until then, using the currently available technological resources to socially unify, instantaneously organize and most importantly focus on navigating through the present system, we can actually challenge it – and transform average citizens’ demands into true manifested action. The War On Women is simultaneously the newest craze in political crusades and one of the oldest battles still being fought, but Carmen Sandiego is still running around in this world. As a child, I enjoyed trying to find her amid a sea of powerful men; as a young woman, I realize finding her is the only way my own kids will truly know equality.


I’ve never really considered myself a feminist, in the traditional sense. I believe in equal rights across all spectra: gender, race, religion, hair type, skin tone, you name it. But I’d also like to think I live in a time [and place for that matter] where being a woman doesn’t translate into a constant struggle for that equality. But alas, (that word isn’t used enough – it’s got a dramatic yet poignant effect), we simply do not live under the utopian conditions that most of us naively assumed the 21st century was to deliver. Hell, I’m still waiting for my electro-laced pair of Nike’s and hover-converted DeLorean.

In a rather revealing Newsweek article published last month, the best – and worst – places to be a woman were outlined; where a rather thorough compilation of data was collected that spanned from how well women were treated within their justice systems to their participation in government. Five major factors were used when categorizing which countries in the world were optimal for women’s prosperity, and which were lacking: Justice, Health, Education, Economics and Politics. Each of these factors were graded on a scale of 1-100, and were evaluated  according to how well women fared when it came to these basic fundamental issues. Not surprising, primarily Westernized, progressive nations made it in the Top 20 where overall scores ranged from 100-85.

What was surprising, however, was The United States’ ranking: 8th overall in the world – something that most Americans might very well scoff at in disbelief. After all, this is the nation where the invention of the phrase “stay-at-home-dad” is considered a benchmark for judging how far the working mom has truly risen the corporate ladder. Sigh.

On the forefront of women’s prosperity in the international community with an outstanding overall rating of 100, was actually just a little fellow: Iceland. Piloted by a female president, this tiny nation leads all others in women’s rights, health, education, financial well-being and political clout. The US’s score is a good deal lower: 89.8 overall. Ouch. Our poorest grade was in women’s participation in government; arguably the foundation for which any improvement – and success – can be given a chance to be implemented into society.

As Kofi Annan, Former UN Secretary-General once said, “There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.” So it seems that without this incorporation and participation of 50% of the world’s population, any growth – economic, societal or otherwise – is bound to be stunted.

I began to then take a look into where the worst places to be a woman were and again, sadly I wasn’t too surprised by what I found: the poorest, most democratically lacking countries took the top ranks. Chad climbed to the No. 1 podium position with an overall score of 0. Yes, you read that correctly. Zero. Health and education were rated as non-existent, as women have basically no legal rights. And this wasn’t the only place with remarkably dismal scores. Countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan and the Sudan where honor killings and arranged marriages are not only legal, but oftentimes condoned by the male-dominated governments filled the top 10 spots. At least they’re winning at something.

It seemed like the more I read about this, the more frustrating it was to realize that the underlying reasoning behind much of the world’s difficulties was the lack of vital, unobstructed female participation in absolutely every aspect of life: from active roles in passing legislation to the incorporation of women in the labor force as equal contenders for jobs, salaries, and the ability to climb the industry ladder. Without establishing the root for which fundamental change may have a chance to grow, no hope can be realistically garnered for any sort of development for women’s rights – in this country or any other.

We [The US] like to think we have it made over so many other places and admittedly, we certainly do have a lot to be proud of. There are private and governmental programs in place that support female-owned businesses, more women with college degrees than almost all other nations, and increased advancements in early breast cancer detection with new 3-D mammogram technology. But the US is still lacking severely in reproductive-health services, maternity-leave policies and the number of women holding political office (thanks Hillary, but we’re going to need a whole lot more assertive pant-suits to counteract the Sarah Palins/Michelle Bachmans that have effectively set back our gender another 30 years).

Still, women in other countries, mostly in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, have it a lot worse. While Egypt didn’t make the top 20 for worst places to live as a female, it certainly didn’t make any where near the top 20 best places either. With its growing political uncertainly – also echoed by many other Arab countries now in critical civil turmoil – there’s no telling where the future of women’s lib is heading. If Sharia law becomes incorporated more stringently into the daily lives of Egyptian citizens, (or any other Arab/Islamic country) this could substantially thwart any progress for women to make their mark in the growth of developing countries. As much as the US would like to believe that Egypt is the Mid-East pillar for democracy, its immensely flawed model obviously revealed an intensely corrupted system as evidenced by the ousted former President Mubarak. Amidst the already mighty reign of men in this and other Arab/Islamic societies, women oftentimes struggle to survive, let alone be heard – or even better: be participant.

Some people would argue that there are many things being done to promote the empowerment of women in business via microfinance programs: lending services that assist natives of impoverished countries. These programs claim to empower indigenous workers to grow their businesses usually based on the capitalist model, and many times use a particular emphasis on aiding women as their common-place tagline. Nevertheless, the impact that these programs have on women – or whole communities in general – have not been accurately measured, and therefore no concrete conclusions can be drawn regarding their effectiveness. It can be assumed however, that if women’s presence is not established in the governmental strata for which these programs are even permitted to be employed, any help derived from them would therefore have no fighting chance to exist.

This may sound bleak. And it is. Understanding where we are as a country, (and where everyone else is), is key in grasping how far we still have to go in the pursuit of women’s equality. But the answer is unquestionably clear: the establishment of women in government is the first and most critical step in moving forward toward progress in absolutely every way. While it is still very much a ‘boy’s club’, for any sort of international evolution to take place the female population must construct an assertive voice at the very base of our society – not just for the well-being of the gender, but for the overall advancement of our civilization.

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