Today the NYTimes devoted much of the Sunday magazine to issues of women. The title article was "Why Women's Rights Are the Cause of OUr Time." I wrote the following letter to the editor.
Can we do abroad what we do not know how to do at home? In 2004 George W. Bush spoke to the Republican convention saying: “Young women across the Middle East will hear the message that their day of equality and justice is coming…I believe in the transformational power of liberty.” Alas, he seemed unaware that most of the men in his administration opposed American women’s civil and economic rights as destructive of family values. Two highly placed officials in his administration (Rumsfeld and Cheney), as congressmen in the 70s , voted against every one of the over 200 bills introduced in Congress related to womens rights. The complexity of the effort to get American women into medical schools, law schools, business schools and thus into the mainstream of the American economy is less than forty years old and is either poorly understood or the object of historical amnesia (perhaps both). The Kristof article, while otherwise excellent in describing the importance of women in global development, continues this pattern by describing gender discrimination in America as "unequal pay, underfinanced sports teams or unwanted touching from a boss." In other words, minor inconveniences in comparison with sexual slavery. History shows, however, that the difficulty America has in helping marginalized women in other countries is that the people in government, foundations, and private nonprofits don't know how we made progress on these goals at home. Do they know, for example, how and why Fannie Lou Hamer started a Pig Bank in Mississippi in the 1960s?