Here's Your Big Chance to Ask: What About the Men?


There's this article, a very big article, as a matter of fact, as part of an entire section called "The Women's Crusade," all about the ladybusiness, in the New York Times Magazine, and that very big article, all seven virtual pages of it, can be read here.

Lots of Shakers have sent me this article, and most of them have mentioned they're very curious to see what I'll make of it. I suspect that's because they have some problems with the article, and they imagined I would, too.

When a Shaker's right, a Shaker's right.

Let's start right at the top.

Saving the World's Women: How changing the lives of women and girls in the developing world can change everything.

Interesting. From whom are the world's women being saved? From themselves? From just the women and girls in the developing world? Or are those the only women and girls who need saving? Everything's peachy in the developed world, is it? And then there is this: Can the lives of women and girls, anywhere, be changed if the lives and men and boys aren't changed, too? Hold onto that thought.

Page One:
IN THE 19TH CENTURY, the paramount moral challenge was slavery. In the 20th century, it was totalitarianism. In this century, it is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape.
Inflicted by whom?
Yet the injustices that women in poor countries suffer are of paramount importance, in an economic and geopolitical sense the opportunity they represent is even greater.
The injustices perpetrated by whom?
"Women hold up half the sky," in the words of a Chinese saying, yet that's mostly an aspiration: in a large slice of the world, girls are uneducated and women marginalized.
Marginalized by whom?

Page Two:
In India, a "bride burning" takes place approximately once every two hours, to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry.
Takes place at the hands of whom?
The implication of the sex ratios, Sen later found, is that about 107 million females are missing from the globe today.
Missing because of whom?

Page Three:
Girls vanish partly because they don't get the same health care and food as boys.
Are vanished by whom?
It appears that more girls and women are now missing from the planet, precisely because they are female, than men were killed on the battlefield in all the wars of the 20th century.
Missing because of whom?
The number of victims of this routine "gendercide" far exceeds the number of people who were slaughtered in all the genocides of the 20th century.
A "gendercide" perpetrated by whom?
For those women who live, mistreatment is sometimes shockingly brutal.
Mistreatment by whom?
If you're reading this article, the phrase "gender discrimination" might conjure thoughts of unequal pay, underfinanced sports teams or unwanted touching from a boss. In the developing world, meanwhile, millions of women and girls are actually enslaved.
Discrimination by whom? Enslavement by whom?
In Asia alone about one million children working in the sex trade are held in conditions indistinguishable from slavery, according to a U.N. report. Girls and women are locked in brothels and beaten if they resist, fed just enough to be kept alive and often sedated with drugs — to pacify them and often to cultivate addiction. India probably has more modern slaves than any other country.
Enslaved by whom? Held hostage and beaten and forcibly addicted by whom?
Money was tight in her family, so when she was about 14 she arranged to take a job as a maid in the capital, New Delhi. Instead, she was locked up in a brothel, beaten with a cricket bat, gang-raped and told that she would have to cater to customers.
By whom?

Page Four:
One hundred years ago, many women in China were still having their feet bound. Today, while discrimination and inequality and harassment persist, the culture has been transformed.
Discrimination and inequality and harassment care of whom?
If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries.
The whole family is spending money on beer and prostitutes, are they?

Page Five:
"Gender inequality hurts economic growth," Goldman Sachs concluded in a 2008 research report that emphasized how much developing countries could improve their economic performance by educating girls.
Gender inequality facilitated by whom?
Yet another reason to educate and empower women is that greater female involvement in society and the economy appears to undermine extremism and terrorism. It has long been known that a risk factor for turbulence and violence is the share of a country's population made up of young people. Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor; the reasons aren't fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys' locker room. … Indeed, some scholars say they believe the reason Muslim countries have been disproportionately afflicted by terrorism is not Islamic teachings about infidels or violence but rather the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force.

SO WHAT WOULD an agenda for fighting poverty through helping women look like?
Surely, based on that last bit, we will not only find the answers to all my questions in the last two pages of prescriptive suggestions but also some recommendations on how to educate men on gender equality!

Page Six:

Get girls school uniforms … help girls with their periods … educate girls … reduce birthrates … eliminate iodine deficiency … eradicate obstetric fistula … give livestock to female farmers …

Page Seven:

Help women identify their dreams and achieve them.



If I'm not mistaken, I just read seven pages that are the philosophical equivalent of "She got raped." Passive. Rape is something that happens to women. Something that gets done to them.

So, apparently, is worldwide institutional oppression.

I don't guess I need to say that I am all for giving women around the world every tool, every resource, every dollar and dinar, every bit of choice and opportunity and access, everything possible to lift themselves up and achieve everything they could want or imagine.

But how can we talk about lifting women up without a serious discussion of, no less without more than the merest passing reference to, who and what has been keeping them down?

Will men just stand still? Will they magically become allies? Will there be no resistance to this fundamental fucking of the unearned privilege they enjoy?

It's just the most amazing thing that the jack-booted enforcers of the patriarchy can't stop demanding, "What about the men?" in every feminist thread on the planet, but when there's actually a place in which it is not only appropriate and useful, but necessary to ask and answer the question, "What about the men?" there's a yawning cavern of silence.

[Note: I am not saying all men are active purveyors of the patriarchy, nor am I saying that there are no women who participate in the conveyance of institutional misogyny, nor am I saying that no men are victimized by the patriarchy. I am speaking in broad and easily demonstrable strokes, and this thread is not the place to challenge my well-established commitment to the idea that the patriarchy is total shit for everyone.]

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