The Price of Oppressing Your Woman

Just reading an article about the price of oppressing woman in one country. In her writing, Naomi Wolf (a political activist and social critic whose most recent book is Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries), wrote about how a recent Newsweek arcticle listed the best and worst places to be a woman, and explained the disadvantages of the oppression. First we are showed that there seems to be two different world in woman’s world. The first is the “Best Places to be a Woman”, which is Iceland and the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Canada. And in those countries; plus several other like US (women are out-earning men in college degrees), Turkey (domestic abusers are being banned from their homes and tracked with electronic monitors), Denmark and Australia (female prime ministers are being elected); woman can life comfortably, or at least not have to fear too much about their life and thus they can develop themselves. This means, they can give something to their family and also their country, resulting in economic and education growth.

On the other hand, there are still “The Worst Places in the World to be Woman“. In Chad, the worst of the worst, women have “almost no legal rights”, and girls as young as ten are legally married off, which is also true in Niger, the seventh worst place for a woman. Most women in Mali – the fifth worst – have been traumatised by female genital mutilation. In Democratic Republic of Congo, 1,100 women are raped every day. In Yemen, you are free to beat your wife whenever you like.

I have to say that this is not something new to most of us. Many people and organizations already working on the issue. But one thing that have to make us think is this:

But the data in the Newsweek list show that we need to frame this issue in stronger, more sweeping terms: When poor countries choose to oppress their own women, they are to some extent choosing their own continued poverty. Female oppression is a moral issue; but it also must be seen as a choice that countries make for short-term “cultural” comfort, at the expense of long-term economic and social progress.

It is not politically correct to attribute any share of very poor countries’ suffering to their own decisions. But it is condescending to refuse to hold many of them partly responsible for their own plight. Obviously, the legacy of colonialism – widespread hunger, illiteracy, lack of property or legal recourse, and vulnerability to state violence – is a major factor in their current poverty. But how can we blame that legacy while turning a blind eye to a kind of colonialism against women in these same countries’ private homes and public institutions?

Even though I’m a huge fan of culture (especially since I live in Indonesia where there is so many amazing culture that are wasted), I couldn’t really say this is what culture is. My love to culture is based on my greediness (or some call it stinginess, haha) that I feel poking me when seeing something so beautiful and have no substitute began to decease. But, this thing, this is not only ugly, but also very stupid. As Hilary Clinton, US secretary of state said, “The world needs to think more strategically and creatively about tapping into women’s potential for growth. Studies show that helping woman access trade and grow businesses helps create jobs and boost incomes.

After all, like Naomi Wolf said:

If you are not innumerate, you can start a business. If you are not living in mortal fear of rape and beatings at home, you can organise your community to dig a new well. If you are not subjecting your daughter to traumatic genital injury at three and marrying her off at ten, she can go to school. And, when she does marry and has children of her own, they will benefit from two educated, employed parents, which means twice as much literate conversation in the home, twice the contacts, and twice the encouragement to succeed. Educated, pushy mothers make all the difference

The “surprise” on Newsweek list confirm that educating woman costs economic prosperity. Many countries with histories of colonialism and other forms of tyranny, as well as countries without abundant natural resources, have chosen to educate women and grant them legal rights. Some continue to struggle economically, but none is abjectly poor – and some are booming. Think of China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brazil, South Korea, and Turkey.

The low status of women on Planet Worst cannot be blamed on cultural stasis: Many of the “surprise” countries – Romania, Portugal, the Philippines, and India – treated women far more unequally a mere 50-100 years ago. In Pakistan, marital rape is not illegal today, and there are 800 honor killings a year. What kind of economic boom might stagnating Pakistan enjoy if patriarchy relaxed its grip?

But on Planet Worst, forcing terrified, uneducated women to remain at home is more socially acceptable than facing the fact that this means choosing to drag down incomes for everyone. It is time to stop tiptoeing around the poorest countries’ responsibility to do something essential about their own plight: Emancipate their women.

Note: In the article, Naomi Wolf and several commentators make comment about Islam and veil, but I won’t go there because I do not see religion as culture. Though I have to agree if someone told me that sometimes religion “forced” the native culture fading away. Something that happened a lot in Indonesia and I have to cry upon that.

Here is the Naomi Wolf’s article: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/10/2011102133713539233.html

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2 thoughts on “The Price of Oppressing Your Woman

  1. Interesting article. I just happen to visit this blog randomly and was surprised that i’m indonesian as well. Feels nice to meet fellow indonesian online! I agree some people in the name of Religion tried to force native culture away. But globalization also taking part of the blame why the influence of native culture slowly diminished. Educational failure. Anyway, when a culture meet with another, it’s either assimilate or one slowly perished.
    But in the last decade, there are significant attempts to preserve our cultural herritage as well. A good example would be Batik. It’s far more popular in recent days, you can get batik everywhere, and we also have celebrated Batik Day. Probably because i live in Jogjakarta where i saw a lot of people, from students, artists, businessmen, government are trying to showcase the thick javanese culture in certain places.
    Last, just to make sure, when you mentioned in pakistan, marital rape is not illegal today. Did your statement mean it is legal?

    • Hi, nice to meet u too! I’m quite surprise that someone still read this blog of mine, as I have not update it in a long time (I even hide it from featured blog coz I have no heart to close it completely. Hahaha).

      I do agree with globalization has its own share of wrongdoing in diminishing the local culture, but I also recognize its role in spreading and enriching the culture, when it left to flourish naturally. For example, by adopting open society attitude, more immigrants coming and going from their countries and thus a whole new culture emerge from the lifestyle. I do not think this is a ‘diminishing native culture’, I would rather treat it as ‘evolving the cultures’.

      In this case, I would rather pick politic as the villain. The sense of superiority, the fear of other major party, business and economy crazy decision, resentment, hate, and intolerance all mixed together into a very dangerous sickness that can turn quickly into plague when power (in this case politic) act as the catalyst. In modern day, more often than not, globalization and religion are used as a tool to wide spread this sickness.

      This is one of the biggest change in my point of view since 4 years ago when I wrote this article. I used to think that religion is a poisonous thing that can brainwash people into craziness. Now, I stand corrected. Religion is part of the culture itself. Most of the time it’s the root of the society which help the people to build how they think, what they wear, where they life, what kind of art they are going to make, who they worship, and so on. Without religion, no culture will exist.

      Politic and power (not just government power and politic, but also the one inside the religion itself), however, can use anything as its tool to spread the disease and religion is an easy and cheap (& seems not too barbarian) way of conquering. Human are capable of cruelty and racism despite their religion (or the lack of it).

      As for the marital rape in Pakistan, when I wrote this article, it is not illegal. Which does not means it’s legal. They simply do not recognize it. After all, the subject of marital rape leaves many people uncertain there, can the act really be termed marital ‘rape’? We know here, that rape is rape, but different culture different way of thinking. And even in the normal case, penetration is sufficient to constitute the sexual intercourse necessary to the offence of rape. It might be different now, but I have to do more research on that topic.

      I think I better stop here. My comment has become too long and I should probably wrote a whole new article for it. Hahaha…

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