July 5, 2009

I believe that the world’s most critical human rights struggle is the struggle for gender equality.

That’s why Michelle Goldberg’s book The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power and the Future of the World means so much to me. I think this book is a must-read for men and women who care about basic human rights – whether the civil rights of people of color, marriage equality, reproductive choice, or women’s liberation. Goldberg gives us the history of the population movement, which morphed into the women’s health movement, which fostered the women’s liberation movement.

And don’t kid yourself…Women do not have the power over their own lives. Just listen to the anti-choice rhetoric. Just watch the growth of HIV/AIDS due to men dominating women with sex. Pay attention to the feminization of poverty and the low numbers of women in elected office and the unequal pay for equal work.

Listen to the vicious sexist rhetoric of conservative religious movements and anti-feminist politicians and radio hosts. Keep in mind that this happens in the United States of America, my home, not just other countries.

The world has so many problems…poverty, hunger, environmental degradation, war… And every documented experience shows that women can help fix these. That women’s liberation is critical to fixing the worlds problem. And without women’s liberation, these world problems don’t get fixed.

As Michelle Goldberg notes, “There is no force for good on the planet as powerful as the liberation of women. There are also few things as radical. “The liberation of women…through reproductive choice, which affects a woman’s access to education and economic autonomy. The liberation of women…through election to public office, because women pay attention to issues of education and economy and peace when in office. The liberation of women…through pay equity.

The liberation of women has enormous impact on the health of the world. And yet, the liberation of women is radical, still too radical for the world.

Goldberg notes, “The history of our species is, by and large, a history of male domination. The subordination of women, and their reduction to their reproductive function, has been such a constant that it can appear somehow normal and right, while the upending of old roles seems to cause a disorienting chaos…. Emancipated women become a symbol of everything maddening and unmooring about modernity. To tame [women] seems a first step to taming an unruly world.” And so those conservatives – religious and political and social – just keep trying to control women.

Goldberg says at the end of her book, “But the oppression of women doesn’t create order; it creates profound social deformities. It is universal the way violence is universal; both are atavisms that successful societies must contain and transcend. Liberty, ultimately, is something women in every society will have to win for themselves…. It can…be either supported or thwarted by international forces, which is why we all share some responsibility, some stake. Women’s rights alone will not solve our massive problems, but none of them can be solved unless women are free.”

Unless women are free. And women are not free now. Not in Rhode Island where I live. Not in Michigan where I was born. Not in the U.S. anywhere. Women are not free, even in the U.S., this supposedly leading, most special, very advanced country. Women are not yet free.

What’s your role? Do you understand this? Read Michelle Goldberg’s book. Think about gender, power, and the future of the world.Then do something. Speak out. Vote. Do something for women’s liberation and the future of the world.

Filed under: Social Commentary

About Simone Joyaux

A consultant specializing in fund development, strategic planning, and board development, Simone P. Joyaux works with all types and sizes of nonprofits, speaks at conferences worldwide, and teaches in the graduate program for philanthropy at Saint Mary’s University, MN. Her books, Keep Your Donors and Strategic Fund Development, are standards in the field.

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