Saturday, June 19, 2010

Why don't men just stay at home?

Thanks to Evan Harris on Twitter for pointing me in the direction of this speech to the UN by Magali Prince of the International Humanist and Ethical Union.

She got a laugh when she suggested that it might be more appropriate to ensure men learned self control rather than force women to completely cover themselves when out in public in case they provoked men's lust.

A simple point, well made! And it also goes to show that an effective speech doesn't have to be very long. Here it is in full:

Mr President,

Women’s enjoyment of their human rights, including the right to education, is denied in much of the developing world. And nowhere is this more apparent than in societies where women are obliged to cover themselves from head to foot when they venture outside the home.

Women are trained to believe that this type of dress code is necessary for "modesty". Apparently, the sight of any part of a woman’s body, including her face or hair, is considered sexually provocative in some cultures, and likely to inflame men’s lust.

But surely a more appropriate solution to this problem would be to educate men to stay indoors until they learn some self-control.

The holy books teach both men and women to dress modestly, so why do we not see men covered from head to foot? The answer of course is that this is not about modesty; it is about men controlling women, and denying their right to education is part of this.

We hear much talk of the dignity of women, yet very little of women’s right to autonomy. But, Mr President, women can have no dignity without autonomy. Men do not own women.

We have heard much talk in this Council of Islamophobia, Judeophobia, Christianophobia and homophobia, but what of gynophobia, which is enslaving women in much of the developing world, and sees women merely as a source of temptation and evil?

We urge the international community to recognize its responsibility to women as autonomous members of the human race, and to wean the most patriarchal and authoritarian societies away from their deeply rooted misogyny.

Until this happens, Mr President, there can be no progress towards the full enjoyment of our human rights.

Thank you sir.


Although it was a good speech, your typical woman in Afghanistan, denied education and with an 80% chance of being on the receiving end of physical, emotional and sexual abuse from her husband will not hear it.

I've written before that I'd like to see more pressure put on the Afghan Government to do more for women's rights in that country, but this very rarely gets mentioned by politicians. I wonder if that's partly because there aren't enough women at the highest levels in Western politics.

It's not just Afghanistan, either. Magali said:

We urge the international community to recognize its responsibility to women as autonomous members of the human race, and to wean the most patriarchal and authoritarian societies away from their deeply rooted misogyny.


What's it going to take for the international community to pay more than lip service to this?

1 comment:

Jennie said...

Women have to want to fight for it, and too many don't. But at some point, men have to realise that the patriarchy hurts men too, and stop each other from enforcing it.

No amount of shouting at the oppressor ever ended oppression; the oppressors have to decide to stop oppressing.

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