Women and Human Rights

12/28/2011 09:52 pm ET | Updated Feb 27, 2012

Last night I had an interesting exchange with a smart NYC high school senior, who challenged me on the notion: if you think women don't mind walking around with black blankets over their heads in 120 degree heat, then you need to reexamine whether you think women are like you, that is, human.

I said the treatment of women is a human rights issue, not a "cultural" issue.

And this very smart young man called me out on this.

He said, well, do you think a global "monoculture" is a good idea? And should we "police" these cultures?

I had never heard the term "monoculture" before, must be a concept that entered the high school history/sociology classes since I graduated, but I get it: What would the world be like if every culture in the world was the same? Like eradicating fermented yak milk, blowfish sushi, Peruvian flautists, colorful Indonesian textiles, Irish jigs, Ukrainian folk dance... .

What would be the point of bringing cameras on adventure travel, right?

I also never suggested "policing" to bring universal human rights to women. I'm just suggesting that women have them.

Because we all DO agree that if a society practices slavery, or the systematic discrimination against (or murder of) an ethnic group that includes men, then that behavior is best discouraged, if not policed. No one has suggested recently that the eradication of those behaviors has produced a monoculture.

Would global cultures be less vibrant if women had universal human rights?

Are we losing cultural value when societies stop forcing women to cover their flesh for fear of inciting male lust and God's displeasure? Do we risk becoming a monoculture when women are no longer being denied education, the right to drive, the right to choose when and whom to have sex with or marry, the right to divorce, and run for public office?

I am almost getting why our right wing idiots complain about morally relativistic teacher/philosophers. Almost, but... not yet. I believe in tolerance and debate and not making judgments about people who are different than I am.

But I do think that kid was wrong.

Read more on women and religious oppression at Under the Black Blanket.