Tag Archive: United States

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.

Ethnic composition of American Muslims, accord...

Image via Wikipedia

So after all that’s happened internationally over the past 10 years, it looks like American Muslims are bouncing back – and polls are showing that they’re happier than they’ve been in awhile (post-911 discrimination anyone?)

Stats are showing that Muslims’ standard of living and optimism is reported as having improved since the last survey done in 2008. What does that say? Mainly that the Bush Era of right-wing extremism is beginning to wear off* from when the “blame-the-crazy-Arabs-for-all-our-problems” mantra was in high fashion. (Our combat boots and camouflage hunting outfit was completed by this oh-so-essential accessory). Crazy part is, even though they’re reporting that things are improving, Muslims are also saying that the discrimination has pretty much hovered around the same level – between crappy and a little less crappy. Even though predictions of Obama taking office were widely anticipated as potentially having a positive impact on Muslims worldwide, his gracious** world tour at the start of his term clearly didn’t help Americans ease up as much on their misinformed and ignorant treatment of Arab Muslims. Clearly some things are harder to change than others.

The good news: this same polling is revealing that American Muslims and their Jewish counterparts are actually agreeing on things – can I get a Salem!? how ’bout a Shalom?! – primarily their views on resolving the unrest spanning generations in the Middle East that. These two groups have long been at odds on a great many things, and to have a united footing on such a fundamental issue as attaining peace in arguably the most chaotic part of the world, is progress indeed. I just wonder how long it will take for the next group of Americans to be pulled out of our boiling melting pot and thrown on the back burner to be singed and isolated. We have a knack for that unfortunately, and as our history has shown, we like to spread this honor amongst all our fine minorities. Hey, at least we don’t discriminate in the way we discriminate.

Still, I do hope things continue to improve for American Muslims, and American minds become more and more open to learning about a culture and a religion that has been greatly misunderstood for so long. (and peace in the Mid-East would be super cool too!)

I recommend reading the LA Times article here


*at least a little. Still could use significantly more work I’d say.

**the word ‘gracious’ is being used with a thick layer of sarcasm here people.

I happen to adore Felonious Monk in a musical sense, but now I have a whole new-found respect for him politically. Refreshing is an understatement people:

The [not so] Mighty Dollar

I read online this week in the Los Angeles Times that China is “demanding” that we (the glorious U.S. that is) begin to live within our means, since our recently decreased credit rating by Standard & Poor is apparently a bad sign for our #1 creditor. [You mean our government will finally know what it’s like to be denied a car loan?] I find this rather comical, since it is exactly the mentality of ‘spend more – live large‘ that has been our M.O. since our country’s inception, and precisely what has gotten us into the massively dismal crater (dare I say it, depression?) that we’ve been moronically digging up until the prodigal bubble burst in 2008. Unnecessary wars? Unprecedented unemployment? Unethical infringement of our rights? But why stop now when this is all sounding so good?

As I gear up to take the plunge in the next chapter of my life (the water is refreshingly brisk!), I realize that now more than ever, the value of the dollar has taken on a far different role for me than ever before. I currently live in the bustling epicenter of California – Los Angeles – where the cost of living is unquestionably higher than most other places in the country. Understandably, since we Los Angelians have to sport a dope ride and fresh digs, yo. But as I prep for my move back to Florida, I do the conversion in my head of how much more I’ll get for that very same dollar back in the land of gators and pastel art deco. (translation = it’s a lot, especially when you factor in the amount of places you can get affordable wicker furniture). Point being, I have a new found respect for the Chinese: they finally grew a pair [albeit tiny and hairless] and told us exactly where to shove it. Bravo for them.

Granted, the warning – however timid – hasn’t appeared to make much of a difference in our spending habits. All around me, I see no indication of any change; except if you count the “Hybrid” luxury cars that pretend to help the environment at $60K a pop. I have no doubt that the owners of such vehicles consider their purchase “noble”. Those dirty tree-huggers. Still, I for one, am taking the cautious message supremely seriously:

1) Only go grocery shopping every 2 weeks, making it a point to cook every night (and by “cook”, I mean “apply heat to mostly ready-made concoctions that border on edible”).

2) Limit my consumption of alcohol and entertainment. Those two go hand in hand most times, so I figured I’d wrap them both up in a tidy one-liner. I do, however, get Netflix, so that there is some semblance of normalcy in the entertainment department. Ok, so that was more than one line, so sue me.

3) Try not to go shopping for clothes, shoes or makeup. Good thing I work from home. That’s all I have to say about that.

4) Try to walk to stores to avoid filling up my tank. Plus, it’s exercise. At least that’s what I tell myself on the way there. Granted, on the way back, I’m cursing at myself the whole way, which I’m sure makes me look like a bi-polar vagabond having a hearty convo with my 6 alternate selves and possibly God. So, you know. That’s attractive.

5) I try to avoid running my AC, and instead, open up all my windows. This works for the most part – except that my unit happens to be the one everyone has to pass to get to the garage. So I get to not only hear all the stimulating (?) conversation about how noxious the baby’s diapers were that day [this invariably happens on volume level 11], but I’m also graced with the long uninhibited gazes from perfect strangers as they decide to make a comfy stop conveniently in front of my window, supposedly on the way to their cars. I decided to start waving at them when this happens, which startles these jokers from their frozen glares and gets them to move along. Usually.

My strategy, I believe, is helping; I am noticing I have a few extra dollars every paycheck that I like to let myself think are going into what I’ll call my 401K. It’s just my savings account, but 401K sounds better in my head.

I just wish we all could take a hint from our Chinese sages and buckle down on spending so much. They already own our debt, and one day when they decide – and they will – to cash it in, I for one would like to be prepared enough to say….”are you still taking applications for citizenship?”

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