Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Equality of Women


Thinking About Equality of the Sexes

By John Taylor; 2010 March 17, Ala' 16, 166 BE

One of the most important principles of peace is the equality of women. I feel remiss in not writing on the Badi' blog about this principle as often as I should on blog devoted to the Baha'i principles.

Nonetheless, I have been thinking about this principle.

For example, as I was listening to a series of recorded lectures about the history of science I noticed that not only were women allowed into Plato's Academy, but also that of Pythagoras. How many ancient institutions did that? Just the two that happened to be the most famous and most brilliant in their discoveries? Could it be that Plato was influenced by this example, since he was inspired by so many other aspects of the Pythagorean school of mysteries? Any future history of the world should pay attention to this speculation.

Abdu'l-Baha once said that women have been instrumental in every great cause. Let me extend His idea to this postulate: the degree and ease with which any organization integrates both sexes may be the long-term measure of its success. The greater the equality and harmony between the sexes the better its chance at greatness.

For consider this: we know that Abdu'l-Baha said that when women enter into government, the result will be world peace. And what better mark of greatness can there be than peace? The establishment of peace would indisputably be the watershed event in the evolution of the human race. No headline could offer better news than, "Permanent Peace Breaks Out!" Think of the huge funds that would be freed up for social spending when the over a trillion-dollar-a-year military-industrial and weapons industries becomes redundant.

And we know that without equal participation for women in government, peace can never happen. Conclusion? Anything that improves the lot of women is the ultimate investment. Each dollar that we invest on educating and improving the lot of girls will, we know, allow them to grow into women who are fully qualified to participate equally in government. That means that within a few decades for each dollar put into it we would probably earn back a thousand, or a million dollars. It is like buying into I.B.M., or Microsoft, or Google, when they first went public. Or, to use an even more apposite and spiritual analogy, it is like the precious pearl that, in the parable, the householder sell all his possessions to get.

This is why I was knocked on my fanny to hear the report on my favorite newscast, Democracy Now!, of a study finding that while single white women are worth, on average, over 40,000 dollars, single Black women own only $100, and Hispanic women $120. Worse,

"The report found nearly half of all single black and Hispanic women have zero or negative wealth, meaning their debts exceed all their assets. ... About a third of single Hispanic women and one-fourth of single black women have no checking or savings account." ("Lifting as We Climb: Women of Color, Wealth and America's Future," reported at: http://www.democracynow.org/2010/3/12/study_median_wealth_for_single_black)

I do not know what the mainstream media are nattering about now, but I hope this study is dominating their headlines. Elected leaders should be casting about desperately for a solution to this disparity. We must realize that if future mothers of colour or of non-English linguistic tradition are that poor, what hope is there that they will raise a generation of women healthy and educated enough to found world peace?

I have often thought that the first step to equality has to be to make sure that everybody has the basics as fundamental entitlements: air, food, a home, a bank account, a job, a telephone, an internet connection, an email address and other Web services. In this day and age, these are all staples. The bank account should be set up so that anybody can give charity by contributing directly to the bank accounts of the poorest of the poor. No administration fees, no middlemen. That way I could throw a million dollars or a penny into a poor box and it would automatically be distributed to those who need it most, those at the bottom of the financial pile.

As the above study indicates, most of these bottom dwellers are unfortunately women. Such a way of giving would boost the victims of whatever forces are keeping the poor down. I am not saying that this would be the only answer, but it is a necessary first step to actual, rather than theoretical, equality.

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times reported on a more positive development connecting poor women in Africa with those American women who, on average, make over twice the income that our entire family manages to survive upon. How do they connect? By means of a direct deposit to the poor woman's bank account.

"Bead-for-Life, which teaches entrepreneurial skills to impoverished Ugandans, is an example of how Americans can make a difference. Bead makers earn about $200 per month, half of which is deposited in brand-new savings accounts (one huge problem for the worlds poor is that they lack a safe way to save). The women are also encouraged to trade their beads to the program for anti-malarial bed nets, condoms, de-worming medicine and family planning supplies." (Partying to Change the World March 14, 2010, http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/14/opinion/14kristof.html)

One more note about equality of women.

It occurs to me that equality of the sexes is the paragon of all other kinds of equality Why? Because it is based in the institution of the family. Whatever a family is culturally, in its nucleus it is the very model of a fully integrated institution. Family is the ultimate expression of equality, for it is the only known human institution that increases its numbers wholly from within. No bureaucracy, no matter how smart and efficient, can increase its numbers physically. The moment when conception takes place, nature chooses total, exact and literal equality, taking fifty percent from the male's genetic heritage and fifty percent from the female. If a zygote can do it, why can't we, who are much older and wiser?


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