This morning I read a headline that current Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai has proposed a law that legalizes rape within marriage and that prohibits women from leaving their homes without permission from their husbands. As if the Taliban wasn’t bad enough, denying education to women and girls, the president of the new regime now wants to legalize rape. I’m not so sure we’ve come such a long way, baby.
Whether it’s nine year old girls being sold into brothels or rape as a war crime, women in many parts of the world aren’t doing okay. Playwright and activist Eve Ensler has coined the systemic raping of women and girls in places like the Congo “femicide”, making it akin to genicide. Yet like with many issues of tragic proportion, we as a culture tend to turn a blind eye, either out of ignorance, lack of compassion or simple overwhelm by the magnitude of it all.
But whenever I read a headline such as the one this morning, featuring extreme injustice to women in countries outside of my own, I still evaluate the status of females here in America because patriarchy is patriarchy – whether subtle or blatant. And I think we have a long way to go here. While women may have “shattered the glass ceiling” in some areas, how evolved are we really in a culture that exploits women sexually in the media ad nauseum? And when many of the young women I have encountered in my work over the years have been molested as children and/or raped at some point in their lives? This has become such a common occurance, we just start to assume it as the norm.
Every night when I turn on the television news I seem to hear of yet another child abduction, rape or murder and nine times out of ten, it’s a little girl that has disappeared as opposed to a boy (that is not to negate the plight of innocent boys who suffer from abuse and exploitation). And then don’t get me started on the crime shows. How many of them seem to depict the FEMALE crime victim in almost tintillating fashion?
In my opinion, the women’s movement is going backwards when I see young girls aspiring to the likes of Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. Young girls who just want to be celebrities – loved and adored and sexualized because they don’t have any internal sense of worth. Or, when I work with girls who think they are so sexually liberated without realizing half the time they are being pimped out by their supposed boyfriends. How much power do they really have, sexual or otherwise? Oh, we have “miles to go before we sleep.”
The other day a male friend of mine made a very mild, innocuous yet slightly sexist comment. It was a joke and I totally took it at that. Yet I was surprised at a kind of knee jerk anger I felt brewing within me when I heard it and how it put me right back on the playground where boys thought they were better than girls. Better at sports. Better in general. I remember the thrill I had when I could beat them at running or out-swim them not because I’m a competitive person but because I couldn’t stand the engrained assumption that somehow they were better by nature of being blessed with an xy chromosome. The comment also put me right back to when some of the smartest girls I knew in high school started acting like bubble brains and I watched as that sky-rocketed their popularity with the boys.
The other night I was watching the news and saw a clip from some of the recent political summits occuring. There sat Hillary in a bright blue suit amongst a sea of men dressed in black suits. Where were the other women? Whenever the Oscars roll around, it’s always male directors nominated. (I think only one woman in the history of the Oscars has been nominated and no woman has won). And I don’t see many female teaching pastors that minister to the ENTIRE congregation (vs. just women and kids). This makes me sad. Not that all women need to have public lives; I’m also very pro the stay-at-home mom. But no ladies and gentleman, we haven’t come such a long way. And we should be more outraged because the personal is political.