The Most Important Human Rights Issue: Women

Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger

Sometimes an idea hits me leading to an epiphany. Epiphanies for me usually take the shape of the realization that a Woman_Montage_(1)belief I’ve held for a long time, is actually more important in the scheme of things than I had previously thought about. This happened with me some few years ago when the opposition to gay marriage defeated a voter initiative. I had been a believer in the need for equality for Gay men and women since I was a teenager. After all the bullies who were beating me up kept calling me a “fag, or “queer” and while I wasn’t, I got insight into what it must be like to be homosexual. In life you have the choice of identifying with the bully, or those who are bullied. I’ve always chosen the latter. So as a young adult I cried tears of joy when “Stonewall” happened and the police found that Gays would no longer be easy targets. Working for NYC’s Human Rights Administration and then living in Manhattan gave me the privilege of meeting and befriending Gay people of both sexes. When AIDS hit the scene I had many friends die and I worked to help the Division of Aids Services as a Budget Director. Yet while I always completely supported LGBT rights, for a while I believed the focus on Gay Marriage, shouldn’t be in the forefront of the movement. The argument over Proposition 8 in California  gave me an epiphany that led me to see that not only was the right to marriage an essential part of ensuring the Constitutional Rights of Gay people, but it was the key element. Being unable to assist in the health care choices of long term partners, in some cases even being barred from the funerals, or participating in ones’ partners Health Plan are important Constitutional issues and the essence of the battle.

Last night my wife and I saw and were very moved by Stephen Spielberg’s “Lincoln”. There was a scene in it during a congressional debate where one congressman said in effect “If we grant Blacks freedom, then we’ll have to give them the right to vote……and if we give them the right to vote we will have to give women the right to vote. In truth it was another six decades before this country bestowed upon its’ women the basic Constitutional Right of voting as my wife pointed out to me. Later in the evening we watched the Bill Maher Show and during the discussion reference was made to the frequency of abuse and murder of women throughout the world and suddenly my epiphany. While I’ve always supported women’s rights, it is so easy in a world where so many wrong things occur daily to not place the abuse and murder of women particularly at the top of an agenda decrying unjust war, drone attacks, racism, economic disparity and torture, to name a few. As it became clear to me last night, the murder, rape, bondage and the degradation of women is part and parcel of all these issues of evil and not merely one aspect of them. Considering that women comprise at least half of humanity, the mistreatment of women worldwide is actually the most important issue humanity faces. We must solve this before we can even hope to solve any other great issue. Because I’m not really a great thinker, many of my “epiphanies” are ones that are obvious to many. However, when they do occur I am willing to reconsider the hierarchy of my beliefs. Unlike my other guest blogs I will not tire you with the evidence of what to me is self-evident. Do you agree, or do you have other world problem solving priorities?

184 thoughts on “The Most Important Human Rights Issue: Women”

  1. Tony C.,

    Dancing and singing are self-indulgent acts?

    Your last comment? Rubbish. Period. (I won’t go back any further than that.)

  2. Tony,

    And I forgot to include that designating Warren as a leadergoal would violate the entire “leaderless” premise of OSW … remember no microphones and no speeches longer than 5 minutes.

    The whole point was that all the 99.9% had to do was show up and the .1% were f*cked. The 99.9% didn’t have to loot, didn’t have to bludgeon … just show up. Certainly laws would be broken but the law breakers would be the police trying to force confrontation. Film it, show it, move on to the next block.

    Leaders would emerge on their own and sure enough … one did.

  3. AP: All of the acts that you describe are necessary in order to provide the very best care for others.

    No, all of those acts are necessary, period. Not “in order” to do anything other than survive, which means a psychopath engages in those acts just as much as a caregiver. Justifying self-indulgence (dancing and singing) as a necessity in order to care for others is just silly; it is just as much an abuse of language and common sense as the justifications used by the beaters of women, who also claim their acts are “necessary” to maintain order and piety.

  4. National Women’s Law Center

    5 Reasons Why We’re Part of the One Billion Rising in Protest Against Violence Against Women

    Posted on February 14, 2013

    By Shari Inniss-Grant, Fellow

    “As individuals willing to give voice to troubling problems and struggle towards difficult solutions, we rise on behalf of women.

    As partners, advocates, family and friends, we rise in collaboration with survivors.

    As a global community, we rise through women’s progress.”

  5. 5 Reasons Why We’re Part of the One Billion Rising in Protest Against Violence Against Women

    Posted on February 14, 2013

    By Shari Inniss-Grant, Fellow

    “As individuals willing to give voice to troubling problems and struggle towards difficult solutions, we rise on behalf of women.

    As partners, advocates, family and friends, we rise in collaboration with survivors.

    As a global community, we rise through women’s progress.”

  6. Tony C.,

    As you might have deduced by now after a couple years of trading posts, I am more of a social science (sociologist), political science person than a political activist. I’m interested in groups more than specific individuals and the influence and impact of happenings upon groups.

    I tend to take a wider, more long-term view of events.

    I would agree that OWS lacked an observed leadership who stated goals but I believe that was intentional because the nature of the complaints required fluidity and anonymity when city leaders tried to serve orders. That same city leadership was soon forced to order their police forces to start trouble in order to justify shutting the whole thing down. This played right into the hands of the unobserved leadership within OWS.

    They disrupted the economy of each city in which they gathered much as Wall Street had disrupted the entire world’s economy. It was an object lesson done with extreme group discipline.

    My fear is that the OWS event will be dismissed, the lesson umlearned and the next time around the group discipline will be absent.

    As I said … a long term view.

    The election of Ms Warren was an unintended consequence but a consequence never-the-less which should not be ignored.

  7. “The fact that one has to engage in maintenance acts like eating, rest and hygiene in order to provide care for others is completely different from the idea of pleasing oneself by dancing, singing, or having fun.” -Tony C.

    No, it isn’t. All of the acts that you describe are necessary in order to provide the very best care for others. Watch a few episodes of “Mash”… Compare Hawkeye and B.J. to Frank.

  8. “You seem to be intent on missing the point, but that is fine, you can deny basic human psychology all you want, the truth is simple…” -Tony C.

    Projection, on your part, IMO.

  9. If they are in it for themselves to be treated equally or to correct an injustice, that is acceptable, and can gain supporters and advocates for a good cause. If it looks they are in it for themselves to have a good time, that is another thing, and nobody cares one way or another, and when the novelty wears off the movement fizzles out, usually having changed nothing.

  10. AP: Taking care of oneself isn’t “a selfish act” — it’s quite the opposite.

    Not in this case it isn’t.

    The fact that one has to engage in maintenance acts like eating, rest and hygiene in order to provide care for others is completely different from the idea of pleasing oneself by dancing, singing, or having fun. That is what I meant by a selfish act, acting solely to please themselves, and that is what I mean by “being in it for themselves,” they are not protesting to accomplish change for others, they are dancing to feel good about themselves.

    Dancing as part of a protest is not literally restorative or healing, it is at best an enjoyable form of exercise for some, but it is the exercise, not the “dancing” component, that has any chance of doing any literal healing or restoration; the same effect can be had in physical therapy (and faster and more thoroughly if done scientifically) without having any fun at all.

    You seem to be intent on missing the point, but that is fine, you can deny basic human psychology all you want, the truth is simple: Protesters having fun protesting dilute the impact of their protest, it is counter-productive. People do not mind other people partying and having fun, but they also do not believe such people are really trying to accomplish anything serious besides having fun.

    You can make all the excuses and arguments for justification you want here, but when it comes to the videos of people dancing and laughing, which is all the 99.99% will see, they make their assessment and immediate dismissal based on what they see: People partying.

  11. idealist:

    Layers of Deceit

    Why do recipe writers lie and lie and lie about how long it takes to caramelize onions?

    By Tom Scocca|Posted Wednesday, May 2, 2012, at 7:12 AM ET

    “If you added all those cooking times together end to end, you still wouldn’t have caramelized onions. Here, telling the truth about how to prepare onions for French onion soup, is Julia Child: “[C]ook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Blend in the salt and sugar, raise heat to moderately high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes.” Ten minutes plus 25 to 30 minutes equals 35 to 40 minutes. That is how long it takes to caramelize onions.”

    Food and dance. Great “uniters”…

  12. A genuine brown sauce made after hours of stirring and cooking of a melange (mainly onions and some carrots) will produce the most incredible “french” sauce base. No way to hurry it up. Hours needed.
    Caramelizing the sweet onions? Who knows. Am not a chemist.

  13. “…what I get is the dancing women are in it for themselves.” -Tony C.

    I would contend that most are “in it for themselves”, as well as others.

    Rabbi Hillel’s words come to mind.

    If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am not for others, what am I? And if not now, when? -Rabbi Hillel

    “She has confused taking care of herself (a selfish act) for effecting change for others (a selfless act).” -Tony C.

    Taking care of oneself isn’t “a selfish act” — it’s quite the opposite.

    A common thread in the curricula of various healthcare professionals is “self-care” — the recognition that taking care of oneself is essential to the practice of effectively caring for (and healing) others. Again, as is the case with work and play/”fun”, the two go hand in hand. Women (and men, as well) nurture, care for, and empower themselves, in order to be able to be at their best, in their efforts to help nurture. empower, and heal others.

  14. One Billion Rising: Watch LIVE

    Laura Flanders on February 14, 2013 – 10:41 AM ET


    “The action began at dawn with indigenous women in Papua New Guinea. It is sweeping through Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe to the Americas. The Prime Minister of Australia and the President of Croatia are rising. Migrant workers, domestic workers, nurses, doctors, even the Dalai Lama. Solidarity pledges have come in from movie stars and Dalit women and the president of the United Steelworkers.

    By this time tomorrow, what will OBR have achieved? It’s not like some Mayan Calendar prediction of world transformation overnight. Some organizers have taken advantage of the rising to give momentum to legislation. In the US, in Washington, the One Billion Rising Rising will be calling for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. In London, Stella Creasy MP, has introduced a bill to demand more comprehensive sex education—and she’s calling it the One Billion Rising Act.

    But OBR’s greatest impact may have to do with borders. Not only has the mobilization brought women from all over the world together into an organizing effort that puts a whole new spin on internationalism, but it has also shone a spotlight on the intersections between so-called “social” and “economic ” issues.

    The women and men now working in jobs typically held by women have been the shock absorbers of our economy, said labor leaders on a panel sponsored by One Billion Rising held at Cooper Union last fall. There, National Nurses United co-president Karen Higgins made the point that “the issues women face as workers as well as healthcare providers are very personal to us.”

    Please support our journalism. Get a digital subscription for just $9.50!

    NNU is one of a slew of labor groups supporting OBR in this country and abroad, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Restaurant Opportunities Centers, The United Steelworkers, the American Federation of Teachers and Working America. The largest unions in the Philippines and UK, Kilusang Mayo Uno and UNITE, are also participating. Said Higgins this November: “We’re seeing more and more the fallout from this economy. Violence against us is rising, not just against nurses, but all healthcare workers, and we’re having to fight with employers who don’t want word to get out that we’re facing that much violence. That silence hurts us too.… Among our patients, heart disease in women is becoming more of a killer than cancer. And we’re watching women, responsible for welfare of family, choosing between their own welfare and those of kids.””

  15. AP: I do not find that inspiring in the least. She is certainly entitled to dance for herself, heal herself, restore herself. For some people that would be healing and restorative. But for people like me reading that statement, what I get is the dancing women are in it for themselves.

    Some people think laughter is healing and restorative; some people think music is healing and restorative. Would protests organized around laughter or a concert gain any traction? No, because outsiders think the “protesters” are just there to hear the stand-up comic, or just there to listen to the band. They don’t think they are protesting, they think they are having a good time.

    She has confused taking care of herself (a selfish act) for effecting change for others (a selfless act).

  16. What makes One Billion Rising’s invitation to dance a radical move

    What’s political about dancing? The global campaign to highlight violence against women asks us to reclaim public space with joy

    by Jill Filipovic
    Thursday 14 February 2013 10.34 EST

    “One of my favorite feminist quotations – “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution” – is widely (and probably wrongly) attributed to feminist and anarchist Emma Goldman. Accurate quote or not, the quote is a feminist mainstay, printed on t-shirts and bags, memorialized in tattoos and on Facebook profiles. Now, activist Eve Ensler has turned it into a movement called One Billion Rising, focused on ending the violence that impacts more than 1 billion women around the world. Its apex is today, and the action is simple: go out and dance.

    I’ll admit: I was initially a bit nonplussed by OBR. Dancing? That’s all we’ve got to combat the systematic, worldwide oppression and violence that 70% of women (pdf) will face in their lifetimes? It struck me as too silly, too 70s. Too much about feelings, more “raising awareness” than much-needed concrete action.

    But the truth is, violence is tragically one of the ways women around the world are united – regardless of our age, nationality, race, religion, class or culture, our very existence as women in the world is dangerous. We may speak different languages, have different belief systems and face different and intersecting oppressions, but physical and sexual violence against women is sadly universal.

    The facts are astounding. Most of that violence comes at the hands of intimate partners, or someone a woman knows. And not all women are equally susceptible to violence. Factors like lower levels of education and income, maltreatment as a child and living in an environment where gender inequity is the norm all increase a woman’s likelihood of experiencing violence in her life.

    In many places, including the United States, transgender women, lesbian women and women of color are disproportionately targeted. In the United States, a woman is beaten by her partner every 15 seconds. In Egypt, 35% of women report being physically abused at least once in their marriages; 35% of Turkish women have experienced marital rape. In South Africa, 165 women report being raped every day, many of them targeted because they are perceived to be lesbians or gender non-conforming and the rape is “corrective”; and the number who report their assaults to police are likely a fraction of victims.

    Gang rape is apparently a male bonding experience from Steubenville to Delhi. Victims of violence are little kids and little old ladies; other vulnerable women and girls, like those with disabilities or dependent on a care-taker, are also more likely to be assaulted.

    How precisely to end that violence is a difficult matter, and one for which there is no single answer. Solutions must be multifaceted, vary depending on context, culture, history and legal codes. There’s no silver bullet or magic wand, and what works in Ohio will be different than what works in Oman. But the one universal shift must be in the status of women. We must be equal citizens. We must have a full range of legal, social, cultural, economic and political rights. We must be safe in our homes, on our streets and in our own bodies.

    That basic necessity that so many women lack – being safe in our own bodies – is what made me finally come around to the OBR call to dance. It’s our bodies that are violated. It’s our bodies that are politicized and subjected to laws about what we can or can’t cover or how we can or can’t reproduce or what our families should look like.

    It’s our bodies that are blamed for the harm that comes to us, when we’re told that we were hurt because we’re too tempting, too sexual, too ugly, too loud, too easy, too feminine, too manly, too vulnerable. It’s our bodies that too often feel like the enemy, when our own self-worth is worn down by cultural myths that we’re too fat, too dark, too poor, too awkward, too shy, too sexy, too female, too masculine, too strong, too weak, too big, too little.

    And so it’s with our bodies that we should act. When our bodies have been politicized, targeted and defined for us, there’s power in the simple enjoyment of that body. When women are supposed to be small and inoffensive, taking up public space is a radical act. It’s unladylike. Dance, OBR reminds us, is both free and freeing.

    Will dance save the world? Of course not. And it certainly won’t end violence against women. But any worldwide movement that focuses on the appalling levels of violence that women face and crafts a national day of action to push back against that violence is fine with me.

    Creating mass disruption to force people across the globe to consider violence against women and girls won’t solve our problems, but it is a good first step. The next steps must be more localized and specific. Women may be bound together by the violence we collectively face, but the roots of that violence and its solutions are as diverse as we are.

    That, too, is the power in One Billion Rising: highlighting a shared problem can encourage the sharing of solutions alongside the recognition that a wildly varied world means varied experiences and requires varied strategies. There’s not just room for growth; there’s a demand for it.

    It’s not perfect, but then neither are my dance moves. Sounds like my kind of revolution.””

  17. Blouise: Well, then, we can both be right. I do not doubt that the awareness of financial corruption raised by OWS could have increased donations to Ms. Warren’s campaign, as you say (and apparently know more about than I do).

    My contention is that to my knowledge (and I followed online public news of her campaign, I like her a great deal) the election of Ms. Warren was never a goal of OWS, if they even had actual goals of change to achieve. I suspect their only goal was to express that they were damn angry, which is not a goal of something to change.

    So as I said, we can both be right. Or I can be wrong; I read your post as Warren’s Senate win being something OWS “achieved,” but that is not what you actually wrote.

  18. A protest has to look like work, or suffering, or a sacrifice in order to gain traction with non-protesters. The more fun it is, the less of a sacrifice it is. -Tony C.

    We’re a crisis-oriented lot (Americans), to be sure.

    Generally, in order for Americans to be moved or act on a large scale, people have to die.

    “The guardsmen fired 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

    There was a significant national response to the shootings: hundreds of universities, colleges, and high schools closed throughout the United States due to a student strike of four million students, and the event further affected the public opinion—at an already socially contentious time—over the role of the United States in the Vietnam War.”

  19. “In retrospect, it doesn’t matter.” (Malisha)

    Integrity is what you gave them and that always matters.

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