I believe the cost of childcare one of the most significant issues facing women in the USA, if not the most significant. Watch the video above or read some of Lisa Dodson's work to learn more. Women now work outside the home and often have to raise children on their own. Women have taken on the extra burdens that are historically masculine and they are still the main child raisers. Women women are labeled "bad workers" when they must care for unpredictable children. Childcare is so obscenely expensive lower income mothers are trapped in the poverty cycle with extra financial burden of children. Childcare is now above the cost of public universities in 39 states. The average cost of one year of childcare for an infant in Minnesota is $14,000. Childcare needs to be heavily subsidized and the workplace needs to be more accommodating to parents if women ever want to truly level playing field.
This article from The New York Times looks at women's condition in Egypt. Women work, but the work is more often an unfair burden with few rewards for hard work. These jobs promote traditional life instead of empowering women. Is my dear Egypt moving backwards?
I wrote two papers for my Feminist Literature Class last spring. One was titled "Defense of the Treatment of Women in Egypt" and the other "Attack of the Treatment of Women in Egypt". In each essay I took a radical position based on research and my personal experiences living in Egypt. This New York Times article would have been an excellent resource. These reports showed how complicated women's roles in cultures are because the western ideal of equality might not be what the women want or even fit into the culture. The question of feminism in developing countries often becomes one of cultural pluralism vs. westernization. When does an outside nation have the right to intervene and when is it simply the way the culture is? This New York Times article seems to suggest that integrating women into the work force has not been handled well and is leading to regression. Maybe forcing western ideals on a eastern culture is to blame? But then again it seems inhumane for western society to just sit back and watch while women in other countries are not treated equally. My personal opinion is that educating women should come before thrusting them into the work place. The article says " 47 percent of rural women and 23 percent of urban women could not read or write." It seems to me women lack to resources to really make their way in the workplace. Unfortunately educating half the population is a large investment while opening the work force to women just increases cheap labor.
I am a slow reader, but I read "The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq" by Helen Benedict in two days. I could not put it down. The book profiles five difference women from all different walks of life and their service in the US military during the Iraq war. Being a civilian, I found the details of war startling and I am glad I never enlisted. The discrimination and sexual assault these women were faced with from their comrades while will serving our country was even more disturbing. Current US policy says women are banned from combat. This policy is not enforced and a mockery to the women on the front lines providing "combat support" and doing the exact same jobs as the men.
The cover of this book boasts, "Benedict's brilliant reporting is neither left nor right..." but I would argue the book is quite left. At times it seems as though she imposes her emotions on the women profiled. All five of the women profiled were against the war by the end. I wonder if this is Benedict representing the majority in her reporting, or Benedict choosing the most dramatic stories that support her view? It is probably a mix of both, but I assume due the nature of the Iraq war that women in support and happy with their service were in the vast minority.
Here are some stats for you: "In 2003 a survey of female veterans from Vietnam through the first Gulf War found that 30 percent said they were raped in the military. A 2004 study of veterans from Vietnam since, who were seeking help for PTSD, found that 71 percent of women said they were sexually assaulted of raped while serving." Many military numbers say differently because only those who report offenses are counted. Due to the culture of the military "80% of military rapes are never reported a all. "a one-in-three rate still means a majority of female soldiers are not assaulted, nor do they feel persecuted. Yet, if that many soldiers were dying of AIDS it would be considered an epidemic."
The healthcare provided for women in the military is blatantly discriminating. They are forcibly given birth control shots with some crazy side-effects, while men are never made accountable for any kind of birth control. Unsanitary conditions led to many bladder infections, but gynecologists were not adequately provided. One of the women profiled actually had to have her uterus removed! Whenever any of these women came forward with an illness they are accused of just trying to get out of the military.
Another striking aspect of this book was utter disorganization of the military. It leads me to wonder if this is a characteristic of the US armed forces or the just operations in Iraq. The soldiers were ill-equipped and not trained for desert conditions. Unorganized management lead to reckless endangerment of US citizens in service. KBR/Halliburton, the sole company supplying the military (because Bush sold is soul to them), profited most from sloth and waste because there was no competition and their contract insured the government would pay them. Soldiers were provided with broken Vietnam-age military equipment unsafe conditions and payed less than the KBR civilian employees who didn't know what they were doing This "chickenshit" follows the soldiers when they become veterans where few are able to receive the support they were promised upon recruitment because of the piles of ridiculous paperwork. Aid is even more difficult for women to receive, because few respect their service and no resources cater specifically to how women are impacted by war differently than men.
I liked this part when one of the women is discussing how life is different and difficult when one returns from war: “I remember this girl I grew up with was talking about how she wanted some new designer purse, and I said, ‘Yeah, I know what you mean. There was this one time in Iraq when these kids wanted some food, and I felt really bad because I wanted to give them some but we didn’t have enough. I hate it when you can’t get what you want’...”
Here is the article from The Atlantic magazine that was spoken about at the Big Ideas Festival of the last post. The world is changing. One of the most fascinating points in the article is that this shift towards female dominance isn't just coming from western nations. One doesn't usually think of Africa as extremely progressive but Rwanda is the first country with a majority of women in their parliament. Women seem to be the key to a successful and stable economy as well. There is some fascinating information about the Great Recession in this article. Maybe the stereotype of women being more nurturing and flexible is in fact true, but society is changing so that those traits are more desirable, productive, and sustainable. Women now hold the majority in the US workforce. This article is so wonderful it even acknowledges the discrimination still in place against women. Read it.
I like this quote: "Katie Roiphe explains in her essay “The Naked and the Conflicted.” Instead, she writes, “the current sexual style is more childlike; innocence is more fashionable than virility, the cuddle preferable to sex.”"
Check out these opening speeches at the Big Ideas Festival in Aspen, Colorado. The video is long but the speeches start 20 minutes into the video. The most relevant speeches (with regards to women's issues) are Kim Bottomly's at 24min, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's at 47min, and James Bennet's 60min, but all are well worth watching. James Bennet's is the most femtastic. Now it is women's turn to run/ruin the world. I hope you're excited. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a very impressive woman. I plan on reading her material soon. She was raised Muslim but instead of taking an Islamic approach to feminism, she condemns her past religion for being as a whole oppressive to women. See her film Submission that caused the death threats she discusses in her speech below.
This film written by Ayaan is very moving. It is a work of fiction, which leaves me wondering how much of this story is based on Ayaan's personal experiences and encounters. Several dramatic choices in the film leave me confused. Why would a veiled woman wear a sheer burka? Is this costume used for mere dramatic effect or is it meant to symbolize how she is only valued for her physical virginity and child baring capacities? The film is so literal is seems strange the director would use such symbolism. The whipped woman on the ground is covered in tattoos of Arabic script presumably the Qur'an, but it is against the Qur'an to get a tattoo or any kind of bodily modification (and yet every girl I met in Egypt had pierced ears, and Female Genital Mutilation is a problem in many Muslim countries). These tattoos create very dramatic imagery, but isn't really a Muslim thing. I believe this film is rare and valuable resource because it comes from a woman who was raised Muslim, but at the same time it must be taken with a grain of salt.
Rihanna says, "Come here, rude boy, boy; can you get it up? Come here rude boy, boy; is you big enough? Take it, take it baby, baby Take it, take it; love me, love me
Tonight I'ma let you be the captain Tonight I'ma let you do your thing, yeah Tonight I'ma let you be a rider Giddy-up, giddy-up, giddy-up babe Tonight I'ma let it be fire Tonight I'ma let you take me higher Tonight, baby, we could get it on, yeah, we could get it on, yea"
Jay Sean says, "So baby don’t worry, you are my only, You won’t be lonely, even if the sky is falling down, You’ll be my only, no need to worry, Baby are you down down down down down, Down, Down, Baby are you down down down down down, Down, Down, Even if the sky is falling down"
Lil Wayne adds, "Even if the sky is falling down like she supposed to be, She gets down low for me..."
These two songs played on the radio station I was listening to within 10 minutes of each other. I thought it was pretty interesting that boys go up and girls go down. While Jay Sean's song is a bit more romantic than Rihanna's "Rude Boy" it seems to me that in both of these songs the singers are expecting the men to take control in sexual situtations. I recently heard the "bottom" (or partner being penetrated) in a homosexual male relationship refered to as the "submissive". This was upsetting for me because it suggested that women are then innately submissive since all they can do in sex (traditionally) is be penetrated. So does this mean that by nature women are passive and the weaker sex? Are women who are assertive in bed really just aggressively passive? I would consider this greater societal problem. One would hope that sex is a team sport that brings two people closer together, not just one dominating the other (unless you're into that, in which case both people involved should have good communication, know what the interaction means, and set safe boundaries). The assumption that one gender is supposed to dominate (sexually or otherwise) is the problem. It starts at home, more specifically the bedroom.