Archive for April, 2006
Female leaders sure have been busy lately in the Caribbean. In Trinidad, Kamla Persad-Bissessar was appointed as the new leader of the opposition party, United National Congress (UNC) after the former Prime Minister, Basdeo Panday, was imprisoned for not being as forthcoming as possible to T & T’s Integrity Commission.
Also in Trinidad recently, Jamaica’s new female Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller, made her first official visit since assuming her new position last month. She and Trinidadian Prime Minister, Patrick Manning, reached an agreement that Trinidad will supply Jamaica with a long-term supply of natural gas.
Meanwhile, back in the states, a former baseball player for my favorite team, the Cardinals, let his mouth move faster than his brain. Keith Hernandez, who is now a sport commentator for the New York Mets, was seriously upset when he saw a woman in the San Diego Padre’s dugout last Sunday.
He said, “Who is the girl in the dugout, with the long hair? What’s going on here? You have got to be kidding me. Only player personnel in the dugout.” Little did caveman commentator Keith know that “the girl with long hair” was the Padres’ massage therapist and a legitimate part of the team’s training staff.
In an attempt to apologize, Hernandez only fell further into the misogynistic hole. He said, “I won’t say that women belong in the kitchen, but they don’t belong in the dugout. You know I am only teasing. I love you gals out there — always have.”
Sure Keith, as long as we don’t step a foot anywhere near your precious boys club sanctuaries, right? It is a good thing that the new female Prime Minister of Jamaica and the new leader of the opposition party in Trinidad didn’t have to ask Keith for permission before they decided to become political leaders.
Should we blame Keith for being a caveman? Or is he merely a product of a sexist environment? Did he learn this behavior from his fellow teammates or did it start much earlier at home? A book entitled, “GenderSpeak” by Diana K. Ivy and Phil Backlund, explores such behavior and its origin.
The book maintains, “The family is by far the most significant agent of socialization. Gender differences in treatment of female and male children begin before birth. For example, parental preferences for one sex over the other is strong.” In fact, the book says that most couples prefer to have a male child to a female child.
How the family treats the different genders is very obvious too. Studies have shown that boys are expected to be independent and develop wings to explore the world while girls are to be interdependent and develop roots to stay at home. I suppose this is why Keith had such a difficult time coming to grips with a female in a baseball dugout.
Poor Keith, it seems no one has told him that women have wings now too. In fact, women have always had wings, but society just kept them clipped so the more restless ladies couldn’t fly the coop while their husbands were off exploring the wonders of the world.
My daughter just finished her final paper for an English class at college. She decided to write on Infanticide in China. Her ten-page paper explained the need for China to institute a policy for population control if it wanted to be able to feed and clothe all of the people.
I don’t think anyone could have foreseen the outcome of China’s One Child policy, but once again it was the females who paid a very hefty price. Male children are valued very highly in this culture since they are the ones who carry on the family honor and support the family when the parents grow old; therefore, since the family can only have one child, many females are killed before or at birth. Some are shipped off to orphanages too.
When a female child does get to grow up in China, she will take her husband’s name and all the money she earns will go to his family. This is why female children are not as desirable as male children. GenderSpeak quoted a Chinese proverb that resonates this socialization, “Raising a daughter is like weeding another man’s garden.”
However, after killing so many baby girls, China now has another very serious problem. As I read my daughter’s paper I found that China now has far too many men and far too few women. It seems young single men with no hopes of getting a wife and starting a family are now forming gangs and wreaking havoc in the nation.
Further, men from rural villages are kidnapping women from the cities and taking them back to their village as a wife. Some women are even being sold. Therefore, women are suffering at every stage.
First they are treated as insignificant in a patriarchal culture that was imposed on them, then they are killed at or before birth simply because they were born a female, and then when society realizes it needs women to reproduce, they are stolen away from their families and friends to be the wife of some stranger from a village.
How ironic that the very man who has to steal a woman from the city because there are not enough women, will then turn around and kill his daughter because he wants a male child to carry on the family honor. If you ask me, there is no honor in any of this.
Has anyone else picked up on the fact that women are being treated like a piece of property instead of the intelligent and capable beings they really are? Women! You can’t live with them and you can’t live without them. I bet that is something like what caveman Keith Hernandez would say.
Meanwhile, back in the Caribbean, women are taking their rightful place in society as leaders. I would just love to see caveman Keith try to tell Jamaica’s new Prime Minister that women do not belong in politics (traditionally, another boys club). And I would love to serve as the commentator for that competition. I bet I know who would win that game.
Last week I received an email from Sean Adams, who is a frequent letter writer to a South American newspaper in which I have a regular column. Adams pointed out that although several countries around the world are voting women into high (if not the highest) governmental positions, America has yet to vote a woman into the office of President.
Adams feels this is a double standard by the United States – and quite frankly, I agree. The U.S. loves to talk about women’s issues and encourage other countries to protect women from the many atrocities the gender has suffered (and is still suffering). However, when it comes to electing a woman to lead the country, America is – to some degree – still in the Dark Ages.
While there has been significant progress made for women in the last few decades and a healthy majority of the population view women as intelligent and capable, there is still a sizeable group of Americans who believe a woman should be barefoot and pregnant. Translation: Keep the ignorant woman out of the man’s way while he makes all of the important decisions.
I grew up in this type of environment, so I know all too well the means by which this group keeps its women under the masculine thumb. Most of these thinkers are religious people, hence one of my biggest issues with the church. The primary reason for the continued survival of this type of thinking stems from the fact that the dominant religions in the world still practice their archaic belief systems that practically enslave the female gender.
It seems to me that the men alone have not been doing such a good job in these leadership roles. Yet they still refuse to ask for help anymore than they will ask for directions when they are lost. But help is exactly what they need from the women. The good news is that I believe America may very well have a woman for its next president.
Mr. Adams is right that there is a double standard in this regard, but the hypocrisy is not an American issue – it is a man issue. I would venture that the same percentage of men worldwide who resist the notions of feminine leadership probably closely mirror that of American men.
Therefore, the question is how do we help these last few cavemen move beyond their archaic thinking and into the 21st century? The answer is simple – we don’t. This is not the kind of lesson that can be imposed on any culture; it is a matter of allowing them the time to evolve their belief system to catch up with the rest of the world.
Meanwhile, it seems that some men are making huge strides in their thinking about women. In another letter I read this week from Wendell P. George said, “All the women heads of states over the years have shown they were and are quite capable of making decisions that their male counterparts would have shirked.”
While we have gained a lot of ground on the issue of equality, we still have so very far to go when it comes to protecting its women. Just recently, I read about how even the wife of a police officer is not exempt from brutality from her husband. When I think about all of the women who trusted this officer to protect them, it makes me furious to think about what allegedly happened to this lady by a sworn protector of society.
What is the conclusion then? More women need to take their rightful leadership place in society and reject the notions that men are somehow superior to them. Women should not wait for people like that allegedly abusive officer to change, they should make the changes in themselves and if the guy doesn’t like it, then he is history – just like his archaic thinking.
The world cannot help but take notice of the scores of women leaders who have recently come to the forefront of the international community. It is true that the gender of these leaders alone is news since women have long been relegated solely to the position “housewife” for thousands of years – whether she wanted this position or not.
However, it is not only the fact that women are stepping out as world leaders that is catching the world’s interest. It is the finesse and quality of their leadership abilities that is wowing those who serve with them and the constituency of their respective countries.
Israel’s newest centrist party, Kadima (which means forward), won the elections after putting the very popular female Foreign Minister, Tzipi Liyni, out in front of the public in the campaign ads for the party. Kadima took 32 of 120 seats, with the next closest party only taking 22 seats. Maybe this is the year for new parties with feminine leadership and new visions?
ABC’s news show, Nightline, recently talked about the factors that made this female leader so popular in Israel, a country where old “backstabbing” men dominate the political scene. One Israeli man said, “When she says something, she gives the public the feeling that she means it.” What a novel idea!
Liyni is a mother, a lawyer and a former member of the Israeli intelligence organization, Mossad. According to Nightline, she has quickly climbed the political ladder, serving as Justice Minister and Minister of Immigration without making very many enemies, which many believe has positioned her as a candidate for Prime Minster one day.
Another Israeli said, “I think people are judging her by her qualities, not by her sexual identity because she is very different from all the other people we know in our politics.” Indeed, Liyni’s vision for Israel takes the country out of the ongoing conflict with Palestine so it can focus on building a thriving state.
The new party formed by the now comatose Ariel Sharon supports shrinking Israel’s presence on the land and walling the nation’s borders from enemies. Liyni said she was the architect of this concept that encourages a peaceful and democratic Israel as opposed to a warring and fragmented nation of two people groups.
Innovative leadership like this is refreshing, especially when one considers the state of the do-it-my-way-or-die approach taken by many male world leaders. The masculine strategy has too often led to death, poverty and repression for many generations. Is it any wonder that so many women are being elected into powerful positions throughout the world in an attempt to balance the masculine power struggle with a bit of feminine diplomacy?
Greece has a female foreign minister as well, Dora Bakoyannis, who was mayor of Athens when it hosted the highly successful 2004 Summer Olympics. According to a recent Reuters article concerning Bakoyannis, U.S. President George Bush said a couple weeks ago, “”It is a wise government that relies upon the judgment and advice of a woman as a foreign minister or secretary of state.”
In Liberia, the brave new female President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, recently addressed the nation’s legislators, which included several corrupt and murderous politicians. She looked the allegedly corrupt Speaker of the House straight in the eye and vowed to clean up the public offices.
This is what a Newsweek article from April 3, 2006 had to say about the new Liberian president. “Johnson-Sirleaf’s ascendance is the most dramatic development in a quiet revolution transforming Africa. Across the continent, women’s empowerment initiatives, disgust with male-dominated politics-as-usual and the inspiring examples of a few female leaders are propelling women to positions of clout in record numbers.”
The most pungent part of the article said, “But Africa’s transformation also reflects a growing recognition that the corruption, civil war and decay that have plagued the continent for generations have been largely the work of men. In the past few years, grass-roots women’s groups have been sounding a distinctively feminist message, arguing that the qualities displayed by women at the family level – fiscal integrity, maternal nurturing – may be what Africa needs to lift itself off its knees.”
Give an African woman a loan, they argue, and she’ll spend it on her children’s school fees and food for the family. Give it to a man, and he’ll just as likely fritter it away.”
The world’s dire need for more feminine leadership is acute represented by Israel and Liberia. The sooner we begin to introduce more female leaders in strategic places, the sooner countries around the world will start to heal from decades of maltreatment and ineptitude. Other countries in Africa have even successfully put women into position that men have failed miserably, such as law enforcement and security.
The previously mentioned Newsweek article also talked about how Nigeria’s female led National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control has chased off the drug lords, even after they tried to gun her down. She refused to be bought and instead seized loads of phoney pharmaceutical drugs, raided warehouses and destroyed the illegal drugs in huge public bonfires.
Britain’s Department for International Development said that since 2004 Nigeria has seen a whopping 80 percent decline in the circulation of illegal drugs. Now this is serious law enforcement – and by a woman!
Moreover, the countries where women are in leadership positions, issues like domestic abuse, rape, paternal financial support, etc. are being addressed and new laws created to protect and advance the women of those nations.
The longer women cower in the shadows, the longer they will be subjugated to the dark forces that required them to hide in the shadows in the first place. The world needs her strong women to stand up and take their rightful place as leaders. The sooner the better.