Thursday, May 10, 2012

It's not SOOO bad...

Women in America are raised well, loved by their parents, allowed to have hopes and dreams, attend free school, hold jobs, get promoted, choose a husband, have children, watch them grow, grow old, receive retirement money from the government, save money with senior discounts, and watch their grandchildren grow. Still, men and women are not treated equally nor considered 100% equal, and American women want more rights and equality. But let’s not forget to count our blessings, everyone. It could be a heckuva lot worse.

When you hear the words, “arranged marriage,” you may think of such fiction as Luis Sachar’s Holes or the classic Princess Bride. However, to many women alive today, these words are commonplace in their culture. In India, marriage is often if not always arranged by the couple’s parents and based on such compatibility details as the couple’s horoscopes, castes, religions, and family backgrounds. Though true romantic love is still celebrated in the media (Bollywood films), they are expected to follow their parents’ decision without hesitation. Arranged marriage is a tradition that has persevered despite the modernization of India, and we are blessed in our country to have such freedom of choice.

Women in China face similar challenges every day. Since the creation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, Chinese women have inconsistently been granted more and more freedoms, rising from 7% of the workforce to 38% by 1992. Despite this improvement, females are still considered second-class citizens. This is evident by the high female infanticide rates since the creation of their one-child-per-couple policy. Chinese couples tend to want sons so that their legacy can live on, and either abandon or kill their baby daughters in order to legally have another opportunity to have a son. This is very illegal in the U.S., both killing your infants as well as limiting a family’s freedom to procreate.

Female genital mutilation is practiced in many parts of the world, but the video I once watched about infibulation pertained specifically to regions of Africa, such as Sudan, Somalia and Djabouti. Infibulation is when, at a young age, the female’s clitoris and vaginal lips are cut off, and, still without anesthesia, the wound is brutally sewn shut, leaving only a small hole for urine and menstrual blood to pass through. After healing closed, the vagina is ripped back open on their wedding night, traditionally by an animal’s horn. This incredibly painful procedure is customary in their culture. God bless America.

So all things considered, America isn’t as terrible a place for women as we’ve been making it out to be all semester. Instead of this half empty glass we’ve been focusing on, after writing this blog, that same glass is looking pretty damn full. Still, why would the U.S. only be ranked #19 on the list of Top Countries for Gender Equality? Clearly, we have issues to address and room to grow. But if you get impatient, ladies, or just don’t have the time to wait, well… you can always move to Iceland!


  1. While I agree things could be worse, that does not mean that we should not keep working towards gender equality in America. I always find it tricky to discuss international women's rights, because culture is such an important and controversial practice that differs in every culture. While female genitalia mutilation is disturbing and oppressive, to what extent to do we as outsiders have any right to disrupt cultural practices? Are we creating cultural colonialism by rearranging the practice of people outside of our own communities? There is such a fine line between making things better for women in other countries, and disrupting the cultural autonomy that other nations reserve, that it makes it difficult to understand what the right thing to do is?

    Does anyone have any thoughts on this issue?

  2. I completely agree with your point, Alex; even though we may have an extremely strong opinion of something another culture does not mean we have any right to assert ourselves or try to change their traditions. I wonder if all women dislike the idea of arranged marriage, or if we just assume they all do because in our culture it seems so wrong. Likewise, I wonder if any woman in any of those African cultures where mutilation is custom has ever questioned the tradition. Do they constantly wish things were different, or is that all they know? Just because we are fighting for female rights and equality in our country does not mean that every country wants to or must follow in our footsteps, at least not at this moment in time.


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  4. After reading you post, America looks like a safe haven for women. The mutilation part almost made my stomach turn. It can certainly be argued that women here do take their freedoms for granted. In certain parts of the world, they wouldn't be allowed to show their faces in public, like in the Middle East for example. In other parts of the world, they can't choose who to marry, like in India, as you point out. The problem with going along that type of thinking is that it allows equality to be relative, but not absolute. If we, as Americans, were to justify that women couldn't vote by saying that they would be treated worse elsewhere in the world, it would be morally wrong. The reason being that we as a nation sets out higher goals for ourselves. So while it true that America does treat women much better that a large portion of the world, it shouldn't be satisfied until women and men are considered equal.

  5. Although I am literally in shock over how horrible that mutilation practice sounds, I do agree with Alex's point that cultural differences make the subject of international gender equality one that is very controversial and difficult to deal with. However, I also think that this acknowledgement of gender equality as secondary to cultural traditions is a contradiction to the emphasis we've been placing on gender equality throughout this course. Because following that logic, then even within our country we would have to respect past cultural traditions of a patriarchal society historically dominated by men, and attempting to change the ways of the past by promoting gender equality would then be a disrespect to the historical traditions of our country—and this would be absurd.

    I do think that each country should probably deal with the issue of gender equality independently so as to be respectful of their own customs and traditions, but I think that, internationally, awareness for the rights of females should be promoted. I think these women in those oppressive cultures should have a right to chose for themselves whether they want to keep their status-quo or rise above the prejudices they've faced throughout history.


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