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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Obedient Wives Club

I just watched TalkIndonesia at MetroTV, episode 4 Sept, 2011 and one of the topic is something that talked a lot both in Indonesia and International world, Obedient Wives Club. Its motto is to make wives obey their husband in bedroom, every time, if they don’t want them to go to prostitute.

As an educated person, obviously I fell this is ridiculous. Because this insulted both women and men. It’s clear that this suggest an idea that men is any a beast that couldn’t even control their lust so in order to prevent them go to a whore, they need their wife to be a whore herself. Personally, if I have a husband like that (God help me so it won’t happen), I better kick his ass out, or if that’s not an option, let him whore himself with whoever mistress he had so I can do whatever I want.

However, one thing that quite surprising here is that many women join the organization. Here’s come the question, is that what they want or that is because they are lack of education? And seeing the situation, I think the latter is more possible (not that the first impossible). Most of them are either lived in rural area or someone who is so fanatic that made them blind of reality. And it sadden me thinking about someone like that. Before I though women in developing country needs more education, but apparently so does the one that life in developed country. Education and respect (both to themselves and opposite gender) are the biggest problem here. Women, so they respect themselves more, and know they are not a weak creature that doesn’t has right to have opinion and say it. Men so they proud themselves as a gentleman that has enough charisma and ability to love and respect women and made them give themselves to you (rather than (half) forcing it). And they proud themselves also as someone that doesn’t ruled by mere lust and can keep their promise of being faithful. Not blaming their fault to their wives…  I think this way wives could love and respect the husband much more easier.

I’m a Special Woman

Several days ago, I read an article titles ‘Helen Castor on Queens and Power’. It’s an interview about powerful woman historical role in politic, especially in Britain. There, she chose several books as the topic of discussion. The first one is a biography of the 12th-century Empress Matilda by Marjorie Chibnall which is (as she said) a wonderful piece of authoritative medieval history. Here she stated, “we often imagine that historical developments are more linear than they really are”. And I have to agree. For me history is always like curve, there had to be time when one civilization reached their golden era where art, beauty, literature, and other knowledge were well known by the people. Then at that time, they were no barbarian anymore and started to leave their military power. Consequently, when people from other civilization that still in the barbaric mind-seat attacked, it was conquered easily. So then the high civilization fall apart, and they have to start again from the bottom. However, the ‘attack’ doesn’t always has to be physical, it could also be concept, particularly religion.

The second book she chose was John Guy’s My Heart Is My Own. This is about an even better known queen, Mary, Queen of Scots. And the third one is the queen of historical biographers, Antonia Fraser, with The Weaker Vessel. Here she told us why she chose this instead of The Warrior Queen, which is much more obviously about queens and power, and is a great book as well. Also then the question lead us to two powerful British women, Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth I. And I found a beautiful statement that made me have to rethink what I always believe:

People often say, “Well, these problems can be overcome – look at Elizabeth I or Margaret Thatcher.” But what those two women both did was not say, “Women can rule, women can hold power.” They both said, “Yes, OK, most women are pretty feeble, but I am a special woman.”

See what I mean? That sentence really hit me right as a feminist. And here I also adding the interview about a soon-to-be-released book titled Erotic Capital: The Power of Attraction in the Boardroom and the Bedroom by Catherine Hakim. It’s about why women should be using their sex appeal to get ahead. (http://www.slate.com/id/2302762/pagenum/1).

The forth book is Monuments and Maidens by Marina Warner, which is more about the symbolism of women than actual historical figures. Here she was asked about how does this feed into her idea of power. This is her fabulous answer:

What’s so interesting is the way in which, in our culture, female figures become a vessel for abstract ideas. It’s interesting, too, that Antonia Fraser’s book has that word in its title. So the figures of justice, victory and liberty, for example, are all female. And Marina Warner comments in her conclusion that, “Meanings of all kinds flow through the figures of women, and they often do not include who she herself is.” In other words, the difficulty for women is agency; it’s doing something and being an actor in the narrative. Being an abstract embodiment is what women can do much more easily in our culture, which is why I think having queens now works quite well – because monarchs are required to be, rather than to do. But if you go back to the 16th century, monarchs had to rule – and that was where it became much more difficult for women to take that role.

Last book is Ernst Kantorowicz’s The King’s Two Bodies, which is all about medieval political theory and explores the idea of the divine right of kings. This time she said about the different between the impression we get from female and male body. “The male body is politically neutral, but the female body is sexualised, whether as sinful Eve or the Virgin Mary. It’s very difficult for a queen, as a woman – who’s constructed after all in biblical terms as the lesser being – to find neutral political ground to stand on.”  Which lead the question to how Elizabeth I dismiss her body as this weak and feeble thing but sometimes she would also harness it in ways that going to bolster her.

Of course at the end we arrived at the question about her latest book, She-Wolves, that tells the stories of the medieval and Tudor queens who ruled England before Elizabeth I. It was selected as one of the books of the year for 2010 in The Guardian, The Times, The Sunday Times, The Independent, The Financial Times and BBC History Magazine.

I think you can read the rest of the interview by yourself at (http://thebrowser.com/interviews/helen-castor-on-queens-and-power?page=1)