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Sheryl WuDunn


Sometimes, I forget to realize – much less appreciate – just how good I’ve got it. And just like any other female who bellyaches about her lot in life at certain times of the month, I need to be reminded. I need to be reminded that no matter how unhappy I think I am with my lot in life, it could be infinitely worse.

And these are perilous times we live in. Not just interesting, as in the old Chinese curse, but – perilous. All sorts of alarm bells – environmental, political and intellectual, are screaming as I type this, desperately trying to remind us that the Hour is Nigh, as old Gothic novels used to say, time is running out, that humanity as a whole needs to wake up and do – something, not tomorrow, not in twenty years, not even after dinner, but right this minute, or else we will continue to dance our merry little jig on the knife edge of obliteration – and – game over, man. That’s it.

Exit humanity, the greatest viral lifeform this planet has ever known.

Among the staggering challenges that are staring us in the face for the next several generations are: global warming, climate change (self-inflicted, my sorrow to say), overpopulation, pollution, the current economic recession and – poverty. Poverty of a sort most of us in my part of the world cannot even begin to imagine, just as it’s even harder to try to think of some sort of solution that might actually work.

In the early Noughties, in the affluent West, happiness was an It bag, or more than one pair of Manolos. These days – and yes, we’re still in that best of all possible realities, the West – happiness for a lot of people is knowing their job will be there tomorrow, or that the mortgage will be paid this month.

In other, poorer regions, the ones we don’t hear about nearly enough, the ones Fox News would prefer doesn’t exist at all, happiness is a full belly for your children, and the sometimes remote possibility of not being beat up by a male relative or even your husband – today.

If you’re a woman, that is. I’d like to point out, much evidence to the contrary, that roughly half the human population are – women. In an ideal world, that would mean that women should have about as much to say in ruling the planet as men, in whatever relevant field or capacity they choose.

You and I know that’s not the case. We know it in our bones and in the 3 AM sleepless corners of our souls. We know it in our everyday lives, and we know it when a newsflash on TV, a book review, an article in the newspaper, shocks us out of our complacency to remind us what we would prefer – or pretend – not to know.

This is not an ideal world, this is not an equal planet, there is no such thing as “liberty for all”.

Poverty is everywhere a global problem, and everywhere, it is increasingly the women who suffer for it, just as they always have. And why?

Because women are left out of the equation of – education, politics, creating solutions to the problems that are affecting every one of us right this minute. Women are written out of influence for any number of reasons – religious dogma, tradition, or just plain testosterone-induced bloody-mindedness at having to relegate even the tiniest amount of the “power” to control their surroundings.

Well, you know what, guys? You’ve ruled the roost and the planet for this long, and look where it got us!

So when I read an article on the NY Times written by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn some time ago, it was as if someone had planted me on top of a very hot bonfire. I had to check to see if my rattan desk chair was burning. (It wasn’t. )

In their book, reviewed here, Kristof and Wu Dunn show that with small, baby steps, with micro loans and education, there can be hope for the billions of women who need it the most. And in so doing, there might be a glimmering of hope for the rest of the planet.

But this blog is not here to serve any feminist diatribe/harangue purposes. They rarely achieve what they’re supposed to, any way. I’ve been married long enough to know that from personal experience. I’m not here to rant over or harp upon atrocities like rape, genital mutilation or other brands of misogyny benign or malignant.

I would instead like to propose a little mind experiment, to remind you, me, and whoever else might be reading, just what the women in the world are worth, not just in the many roles they are required to play, but their intrinsic worth as sentient, living, breathing human beings who have so much to contribute to their kind, and not just providing cannon fodder for the next epic conflict.

You are – a husband, a father, a lover, a colleague. You have been accustomed since birth to the presence of women, starting with the great Mother Goddess Mom and on throughout your life.

Women! Can’t live with them, can’t live without ’em!

One perfectly ordinary day, a day just like any other day, you wake up. You have the vague disquieting feeling something is wrong, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

Then, it hits you. Your wife/mother/sister/daughter/female cat is missing. Not just missing, but all the odds and ends of female life are missing, too. No clothes in the closets, no lotions and potions in the bathroom, no lipstick or perfume by the vanity in the bedroom. In fact, there is no vanity at all, and you could have sworn you saw it yesterday!

Dazed and confused, you make your way to work. Maybe your shirt is unironed, maybe you had to skip breakfast because there was no one but you and Junior to cook, and you only just managed to master the microwave, if that.

There, you discover that it’s not just you, but every guy you know.

Yesterday, there they were, the ladies in your life, and today, they’re gone as if they never existed. It’s all over the media – in every country, in every city, every village on the planet, and why it happened, no one knows.

But the females are gone, and only the males remain.

How long would it take, for all that unchecked testosterone to implode and explode? How long, before scuffles erupt into skirmishes, conflict or all-out warfare over the few resources we have left? A week, a month, or even a year?

How long would it take, before humanity began dying off, with no hope and less remembrance, and no one to replace them?

How long?

Think about it.

Then, I want you to tell me whether or not women are important, valuable, worthwhile to invest hope and future in.

And if not, if you don’t agree, then think about the alternative – that perfectly ordinary day the world woke up – and we were gone, without explanation or warning.

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