The Year of the Woman?

The cover of the Atlantic issue featuring Slaughter’s article

Malala Yousafzai. Image via the New York Time’s Adam Ellick’s short documentary about her last week in school

There is a narrative to be woven about 2012 being the year of conversation about women–really important conversation, despite  evidence that there is still so much going horribly wrong.

In the media arena, there was  Anne Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” Atlantic article, and the movie Brave, for starters. (The movie is getting slammed as a disappointment in the year-in-review list-icles, but its messages about women’s strengths in diplomacy and more generally its “you go girl” vibe were clear and important). In the political arena, it was the year when a female Michigan legislator was banned from the State House floor for saying “vagina,” when Congress debated birth-control legislation, and when both parties tried to court the female vote in the presidential election (then there was the “binders full of women” comment, the meme, and the much more interesting discussion about hiring practices).  And that’s just what comes to mind right now.

Much of the conversation was enlightening and exciting (though I was surprised to see the number of people who appeared to have read only half of Slaughter’s article; reacting to the “can’t have it all” part but not to the solutions she suggested in the second half of the article). It’s easy to sit in the Ivory Tower and have lofty conversations about the issues, to get excited about the record number of women sworn in to the Senate and talk about how to keep that number rising. But the conversation seems so futile and disconnected from the world at large.

A record number of women in the Senate seems like a marginal accomplishment when a girl is shot by the Taliban for daring to advocate that she be allowed to attend school, when a woman in India is gang raped and left to die, when the women who want to protest in response to the crime are afraid of being groped. 

It was a smaller thing that reminded me of the differing levels of conversations about women (click image below to enlarge).

Photo from MissRepresentation Facebook page, captioned as "The 113th Congress, officially sworn in today, is the most diverse in American history - including a record-breaking number of women."

Luckily, we have capacity to have conversations about tragedies and accomplishments; to push for progress in ensuring safety of women all around the world while also pushing for the ( not entirely unrelated) election of more women. But conversations like the one that was had  on this (public) Facebook wall, reminds me that while we are having those conversations, while Biden points out a record number that is far from a representative number of Senators, we also still need to go back to the basics, to talking about WHY women should be serving in elected office. This David guy (whose post will get way more reads on Facebook than on this blog, so I don’t feel any concern about leaving up his name) might be a troll, and I know, I know. Don’t feed them. This is a snapshot of an online conversation about one issue–women in office–and doesn’t touch on the other issues at all. I don’t know any of the people in the snapshot, and I don’t know their views outside of what they expressed here.

Still, I can’t believe that this is still a conversation, let alone believe that in the 21st century, women’s safety is still so fragile.

Here’s to more conversation, and more progress, in 2013.

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