Archive for July, 2010
At any given time, I am likely to be reading two or three books at a time. I love to read. I read for entertainment, I read for information and sometimes I read just to read because it is so relaxing. However, I recently read a book that I would classify as one of the most important books I have ever read.
In fact, I believe every person in every country should read this book. It is entitled, “Half the Sky,” by Nicolas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. I have bought this book many times over and given it away to many a friend and acquaintance.
The title of the book is based on a Chinese proverb that says women hold up half the sky. The book itself provides the reader a glimpse into the lives of women around the world. It tells stories of women recovering from rape in South Africa, of teenage girls kidnapped and sold into prostitution and of women in India who finally take a stand for themselves against patriarchal social expectations.
Every one of the stories included in “Half the Sky” inspired me, even the ones that did not have a happy ending. This book, more than any other I have read in my life – and I’ve read a lot of books – boldly showcases feminine power and spirit.
Here is a sobering excerpt from the book, “The global statistics on the abuse of girls are numbing. It appears that more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the battles of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine ‘gendercide’ in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.”
The book maintains, and I certainly concur, that for “this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality around the world.”
I have long advocated education as the single most important act for women to ensure themselves a safe and financially secure life. This is also a constant theme throughout the book. From chapter three, “Education and empowerment training can show girls that femininity does not entail docility, and can nurture assertiveness so that girls and women stand up for themselves.”
My stomach drops when I hear a young woman say she does not need to go to school because she will get married and her husband will take care of her. Life does not guarantee pretty packages such as that. There are a million reasons why that line of thinking is faulty.
What if the woman gets married, but the husband finds something or someone else that makes him happier? What if the husband dies at a young age? What if the husband’s salary alone cannot support the family? What if the husband is abusive and the woman is forced to leave the home for her own safety? What if marriage never comes at all? These reasons and many others are why a woman should be able to provide for herself.
Education also helps women move beyond the role of being discounted humans. From chapter two, “People get away with enslaving village girls for the same reason that people got away with enslaving blacks two hundred years ago: The victims are perceived as discounted humans.” Education helps to remove the docility that allows women to be discounted. Educated women understand their value to society and voice their opinions on matters of governance.
Moreover, when women are educated and contributing to the work force, there is great potential for enhanced national economic health. Here is a quote by the World Bank found in the introduction to the book, “The question is not whether countries can afford this investment, but whether countries can afford not to educate more girls.” A more blunt way to put it is, “Gender inequality hurts economic growth.”
China has the injection of women into the work force to thank for their recent economic explosion. It is also good to see other governments around the world making progress on this point.
As women contribute to every part of society, another important communal aspect is affected – security. “Some security experts noted that the countries that nurture terrorists are disproportionately those where women are marginalized. The reason there are so many Muslim terrorists, they argued, has little to do with the Koran but a great deal to do with the lack of robust female participation in the economy and society of many Islamic countries.”
In this light, one cannot help but draw correlations between the way women are maltreated in certain countries and their broader national security issue. Yet even bruised and battered, abused and misused, women are finding their way into positions of industry, law and governance.
All is not a silver lining though, if female leaders succumb to the status quo of the long-held male traditions, we will see society become even more entrenched in death, poverty and corruption.
However, I have faith in female leadership. In fact, in my opinion, leadership that truly works is one that is led by a female and have many females in high positions.
If I could, I would pass this book out to every person I met each day. If there is one overall theme I took away from this book, it is, “Women are not the problem but the solution.” That’s what I’ve been saying all along.
I have tried to stop myself several times from writing this column, if for no other reason than because I have already written twice in as many weeks on the Catholic Church (see ‘Power, Priests, Pedophilia and Corruption‘ and ‘I will continue to judge pedophile priests‘). However, anyone who knows my stance on women’s issues also knows I would be compelled by conscience to write about the Vatican’s most recent misogynistic tirade.
On Thursday of last week, the Vatican tried to make a move to show it has a small grip on the reality of the pedophile priest situation. According to the Washington Post, “The new rules extend the statute of limitations for handling of priestly abuse cases from 10 years to 20 years after the victim’s 18th birthday, and the statute of limitations can be extended beyond that on a case-by-case basis. Such extensions have been routine for years but now the waivers are codified.”
In other words, nothing has really changed. Why is it so difficult for the Vatican to just tell its priests “If you rape anyone you will be defrocked, kicked out of the church and turned over to the local authorities.” There, I said it. It wasn’t difficult at all to say. Yet the Vatican cannot seem to utter those same words. Moreover, there is still no mandate for Bishops to report all cases of clerical sexual abuse to the police.
Be that as it may, the subject of pedophile priests is not my theme for today’s column.
Instead, I want to highlight the rest of what was said last Thursday, which some maintain was the Vatican’s main business. It is now a “grave offense” to ordain a woman. In other words, a priest can be defrocked for ordaining a woman. (Sigh)
As I just typed that last line, a myriad of emotions and images flowed through me. A Catholic man recently accused me of having a vendetta against the Catholic Church. What is so ironic is that it is quite apparent to anyone with an open mind that it is the Catholic Church which has a vendetta against women.
Let us just look at the evidence and make a logical assessment of the situation. For decades, maybe longer, male priests throughout the world have been raping young boys and the Church has been protecting those priests from the legal ramifications of such an atrocious act.
Yet we hear nothing of nuns raping children. On the contrary, there is a recent story of a nun in Phoenix, Arizona, Sister Margaret McBride, who spent her entire life helping sick people get well, yet she was excommunicated for allowing a procedure that saved a woman’s life.
Here is how an Associated Press article told the story, “Sister Margaret McBride was on an ethics committee that included doctors that consulted with a young woman who was 11 weeks pregnant late last year.
The woman was suffering from a life-threatening condition that likely would have caused her death if she hadn’t had the abortion at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center.”
The Sister had to choose between allowing both the mother and unborn fetus to die, or to save the mother’s life by removing the fetus.
Sister Margaret chose to save the life of the woman who is a mother of four. When Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, head of the Phoenix Diocese, heard of this situation, he said Sister Margaret was “automatically excommunicated.”
In other words, a priest can savagely rape a boy for multiple years, as the recent Belgium case reveals, and he is still afforded the protection of the church. However, a nun saves the life of a young mother and she is not just removed from sisterhood, but removed from the church completely.
It has been said numerous times that Sister Margaret worked her entire career to help others. Yet she was excommunicated.
I do not have a vendetta against the Catholic Church, what I have is common sense. I ask all good people, who better represents God to the world – the good-hearted nun or the rapist priest?
I would follow someone like Sister Margaret to the ends of the earth, but I would never follow a rapist priest even if he does call himself a representative of God. Yet, the Vatican remains stubbornly sexist and last week proclaimed women to be unworthy of priesthood yet again.
If there is a gender unworthy of priesthood, I vehemently declare it is not female and history would be on my side.
It is a “grave offense” to ordain a woman? Allow me to give my own list of “grave offenses.” It is a grave offense for a man to sexually abuse a little boy.
It is a grave offense to care more about the welfare of that wicked man than that of the little boy.
It is a grave offense to tell women it is a sin to take birth control and instead insist they should procreate where there is war, famine, rape, etc.
It is a grave offense to believe one gender of the human race is superior to the other and thereby subjugating the “lower” gender for millennia.
It is a grave offense to demean homosexuality while it is obviously practiced within the very walls of the Church – and with small boys not yet of the age of consent.
On second thought, maybe women should not want to be ordained in the Catholic Church.