Friday, March 8, 2013

Thoughts on International Women’s Day

Today is International Woman’s Day. This is not a day I celebrate; it is a reminder to me that, while “Baby” (Wow! Remember that patronizing Virginia Slims ad slogan?) has come a long way, there is still a huge distance that needs to be crossed before there is anything remotely like equality among genders, let along among races. This kind of recognition day seems a hollow sort of political lip service, not a day of genuine respect and honor.

Here is brief rundown of a few of recent international news items that prove the dream of gender equality and mutual respect is still a dream:

  •  Todd Aikin, former republican member of the House of Representative, serving Missouri’s second district declares that women who are “legitimately raped” do not get pregnant.
  • A female medical student in South Delhi is gang raped, her male companion beaten. This woman died of her injuries. In Delhi, incidents of rape are reported to authorities every two hours.
  • Rainer Bruderle, a pro-business Free Democrat in Germany reportedly commented how well one female journalist could “fill out a dirndl.”
  • An Indonesian high-court judge, interviewing for a position on the Indonesian Supreme Court, suggested that women might "enjoy" being raped. (He did not get the appointment he sought.)
  • A Vatican assessment found that The Leadership Conference of Women Religious, whose members represent 80% of Catholic nuns in the United States, have fallen under the sway of radical feminism and needed to hand control of their group over to a trio of bishops.
  • Malala, twelve-years-old student and education activist from Pakistan is shot in the head.
  • Ireland has only just acknowledged and officially apologized for governmental complicity in consigning women who had been labeled as “fallen women” to prison-style laundries run by Catholic nuns, where they labored for no pay. More than 10,000 women worked in 10 laundries from 1922 to 1996.
  • Medical research tends to focus on male research subjects.

I could report more, but I think that is unnecessary. Women of today, if they are allowed to work, earn between 20% and 30% less than men for the same work. Women are frequently denied reproductive, as well as other, health choices and resources. There are governments and religions that do not allow women to work outside the home, to receive education, to show their faces in public, to be seen in the company of men other than male relatives. The women are told that these policies are made out of respect for them, that men were made to serve women; however, if disputes occur where there is a woman involved, it is always alleged to be the fault and responsibility of the woman, and the woman is made to suffer abuse and punishment at the hands of spouse or other male family members that is either condoned or ignored by officials. Millions of women and their children, worldwide are endangered by domestic abuse, war, trafficking, slavery, pollution, political and financial inequity.

The celebration of the beauty, strength and bravery of women should happen everyday. Likewise, men need to be celebrated, too. I am grateful for the many women in my life, starting with my own mother, who have shaped me as a person by being strong role models, pioneers and trail blazers. And I am grateful for men who have been role models, pioneers and trail blazers.

I would rather see all such recognition days fade away into the kind of world community that offers mutual respect as a primary motivating force within a Commonwealth of Humanity.