It must be what they're wearing.
That's the number between ZERO and TWO. Plus a "%" symbol behind it.
There must be a good reason for this startling fact. Especially since, according to UN gender reports, women perform 66% of the world's work, produce 50% of its food and earn a whopping 10% of its income. Could it be that Occupy Wall Street really is a feminist movement camouflaged to make it palatable?
Nah! Besides, I know; women don't want to own property, it's a hassle. They know intuitively that property is overrated. It can't help that women aren't as good at math and find it harder to calculate closing costs. And it really doesn't help that clothing standards are dropping. If women would just dress for success, banks will take them seriously. Besides, their husband's provide everything they need and they shouldn't worry their pretty heads about crass things like property. In addition, if they're liberated, which we all know they pretty much are these days, they need to work harder and stop expecting things to be handed to them on a platter like the princesses they all secretly want to be. Phew, all done.
But, maybe it's because girls and women:
- Don't get to go to school when their brothers do
- Get married off (don't worry, at a good price)
- Are deprived of food when it's scarce
- Aren't allowed to own anything themselves
- Don't inherit
- Aren't paid for their labor
- Are property. Duh.
How much poorer do we want women to get in the world? It's really hard to imagine. They already make up the overwhelming majority of the world's poor. And, despite the successes of feminists (yes, men and women) during the past century, even in the U.S. we have a persistent and growing feminization of poverty.
If you doubt what I'm saying just because you have to then look at Half The Sky, or We Are Equals or The Girl Effect or any number of readily available sources. These organizations are not fly-by-night hobbies for people with not enough macrame to occupy them. These are big, serious international movements created by thoughtful, kind and empathetic thinkers and doers dedicated to changing the world.
I know, I know, Oprah and the Queen are both on the Forbes List. I love Travie McCoy, too. It just bums me out that he had to point those two out in particular. Because then I had to, sigh, explain catchy women-rule-the world agitprop to my patient children. Oprah and the Queen are the only two people mentioned in his song, even though out of the top 100 Richest People in America only 10 are women. Neither O. or HRH are on that one.
But there are several lists, one for Women and another for the real people (there is no "Richest Men's List"), which is just called the Forbes Rich List. On that list there are eleven women in the Top 100, including one self-made woman, Wu Yajun, whom I imagine might be in possession of underwear enhancing prosthetics of some sort. Half of the women are listed by their name followed by "& family" which sounds like Forbes Code for "see, her dad/husband/brother did it). Of the top 50 men listed, only seven are listed "& family." Do the other guys not have families? If you took away the "& family" would these women be on the list at all? In any case, it's seems awfully lonely to be a billionaire male. And yes, I know, American and European women have made pay and income gains during the last 50 years. Although every Tuesday I say a pay equity prayer because that is the day that women's salaries catch up with the previous week's salary earned by their male peers.
Which goes to show, money isn't everything. Why does it matter if women aren't earning, saving and investing it? It doesn't make you happier.
It does, however, make you healthier, make you safer, mean you live longer, you don't die in childbirth, you don't work til you die, you aren't subjected to the constant threat of violence or violence itself. It means you are an agent in your own life.
I understand that lots of people feel that women have enough and that men are now getting the short end of the stick. If that's the case why NOT let women spare men the onerous task of being workhorses in charge of their own destiny and having responsibility for the women and children around them. Men should stop paying for brides, educate their daughters, let women do paid work and allow them to inherit property. I say, throw out the stick. Look at the frigging mess we're in.
But, before I go to worship at the foot of my Marilyn Waring statue we should consider Dominant Forces of Behavior. The societal rules, formal and informal, that continue to enslave and oppress girls and women, and by logical extension the men and boys they "belong" to, are hard to change.
It's important to mention here that I'm a serious Trekkie (not so serious that I dress up, but serious enough that most of fourth grade was spent perfecting raising one eyebrow). What does that have to do with anything? I really actually believe that, on this planet, we're all the same. It's hard to keep in mind as we obsess over the duration of Kim Kardashian's marriage or the final score of Sunday's game (pick a game, any game). As long as one more female child gets sold into marriage, one more girl gets stoned for being raped, one more mother dies giving birth for lack of hot water, one more widow goes into hiding to save her own life -- we, women, all do.
And we, men and women both, get to live with that. It's why I sometimes can't bear to read Nick Kristof's column and why I don't have much patience for the male right's movement this morning. And, since I always say this, to be clear, this is not an exercise in male-bashing. I know that it's been a downer for guys growing up in the past 50 years to learn that maybe men do bad things to women because they're essentially taught to. This is a description of poverty and inequality, of worldwide, gender-based social injustice based on traditions and laws that are archaic and hard to change. And, the fact that they overwhelmingly benefit boys and men is not the same as being good for them.
If the rules are hard to change, do we stop trying? So, my real question isn't how much poorer can women get, it's if we don't radically empathize and stop confusing gender with destiny, who will?
Oh, and one last thing, the idea that the Occupy Wall Street movement is feminist at it's core is just not something we're comfortable with. It's a lot more acceptable if we just keep hiding those people. As Daphne Muller points out: "Men's visits... have been consistently reported -- just perform a basic internet search for Michael Moore, Russell Simmons, Kanye West, Cornel West or Chris Hedges. But what about Naomi Klein, Barbara Ehrenreich, Eve Ensler and Susan Sarandon, to name a few?" Except for articles about sexual assault being a problem, that is. But, that's not because mainstream media is way into highlighting women primarily for being sexual and vulnerable. I'm going now.
Follow Soraya Chemaly on Twitter: www.twitter.com/schemaly