“Congratulations, it’s a girl,” are welcome words in only a few societies. Even in this day and age, the United Nations reports a disproportionate number of boys born in China, Pakistan, India and in other Asian countries; a boy preference prevails.
We continue to read about how females are atrociously victimized for transgressing against certain religious and/or cultural customs – by stoning, acid disfiguration, “honor” executions and so on. These time-honored traditions have historically been none of our business, especially when the offending society does not contribute to our GDP and it’s all taking place “over there.”
Too many girls are prepared from birth to become victims – by law, custom, religion, ruling groups, and, often, by other women (sometimes their own mothers or other women holding onto slim margins of authority for themselves). Conspiratorial alliances abound. For example, how else can female genital mutilation continue without the consent and collusion of other females?
“Congratulations, it’s a boy” heralds the other half of the victimization duet. The baby boy born into a “closed” society is going to be prepared to victimize his “sisters.” There is collusion and consent abounding here, too. Surely the boys’ mothers watch them become acculturated and/or brainwashed into brutalizing girls, maybe even starting with herself. What’s a mother to do when she is dependent on a father or brother who himself probably perpetuates this hatred?
Where does it stop? How to begin?
I have always believed that all human beings should have an equal chance for survival and optimal development and should be given basic, universally humane treatment. I continue to find it difficult to wrap my mind around how entire societies continue the wholesale dismissal of the “other.”
But has female status ever been on par with that of males? And what can be done to enhance our status and make us more valuable to society at large?
Just recently, I listened to an interview given by the author of a book about modern India and the phenomenon of New Delhi. He talked about how, despite the new wealth and rapid modernization of the society, the more “Western” and wealthy the society was becoming, the more families were returning to traditional customs, in growing fear of losing their ties to what made them essentially – (fill in the blank). And then he talked about his daughter. …
Is this part of what is happening in Nigeria? The backlash against Western education may, in part, be a statement of fear of loss. But what is being lost?
Let’s not be fooled for a minute into believing that Americans are free from narrow attitudes and violence against females. Just look at how the Warren Jeffers Latter Day Saints religious cult treats its girls and young boys. The girls and women are held hostage by home-grown terrorists to be used for the pleasure of older white men; the young boys are banished once they reach a certain age (brainwashed about their role in society). Look at what is happening in your own homes. Your neighbors’.
We call it ‘’domestic violence.”
And as I look at what is happening in Nigeria, I see how beliefs about the status of girls adversely affect the entire society; boys must suffer too. Much, if not all of this disparate treatment of females is done in the name of somebody’s interpretation of what God said. Oh, let me meet those gods.
The world is rising up in protest against the recent kidnapping of the hundreds of Nigerian school girls (reportedly there are hundreds of thousands of slaves in Nigeria), and, yes, I am as outraged as the next person about this type of violence. It has been going on for many years: female “enslavement,” chattel status, denial of humanity and all their inherited rights as such. Unfortunately, this type of practice is all too common and pervades every sector of every society.
Why? The Nigerian girls are at the mercy of a crazed group of fanatics who claim to be following the commands of Allah (God). But this group is not religious; it’s a group of thugs. And, yes, Western education is bad for the victimizer who clearly understands that an educated female cannot be as easily victimized. Clearly, it would be difficult for an open-minded man to believe that women are only chattel, one result of that “Wwestern” education.
A warning to those who would turn the kidnapping into an opportunity to debate the vagaries of Nigeria’s political, economic, military or warring religious factions. All these factors may be important on the geo-political front and, perhaps, will have some serious implications for the presidential elections next year.
Women around the world are watching and no longer just waiting to see how this incident ends. The demand for resolution has moved across the boundaries of nations and continents, crossing oceans, and has been taken up as a universal cry to #bringbackourgirls.
I think the cry should be #bringbackallourgirls. Bring them back from the crippling jaws of ignorance. Bring them back from the knife of the genital mutilators. Bring them back from the retributions of angry fathers, brothers and society elders. Bring them back from the brinks of insanity that springs forth from religious zealots. Bring us all back to equilibrium.
And bring back the boys who, from birth, should only be entitled to the same 50-50 chance of survival.
#bringbackourhumanity #bringbackourbrotherlylove #peacetoallonearth.
Antonia Williams-Gary may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org