Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Solving the world's problems at their root

An idea has been festering in me. I've been reluctant to show it the light of day, cause it's not fully formed and I don't want to look like I don't have my ducks in a row, but somehow the darkness isn't causing it to ripen and allows me to simply ignore it. So I'm bringing it out, half-baked so to speak, in the hope that discussing it will enable me to move my thought process forward.

I have been thinking that virtually all the world's most vexing problems can be advanced by empowering women. What sorts of problems? Oh little things like overpopulation, terrorism, world hunger, human rights abuses, you know, little stuff like that.

So how might that work?

One of the biggest obstacles to stemming overpopulation is lack of access to birth control. In a large swath of the globe, women lack any self-determination in the execution of their reproductive rights. Globally speaking, I maintain that women want control over the timing, spacing and number of children they bear. I maintain that no woman wants to bring children into a world where their chances of survival are slim, where they will starve or suffer needlessly. And yet, they are forced to do so by dispassionate husbands and a perverse social structure that supposedly "values" children. Women are not baby factories.

Freedom to pursue economic independence. When women are economically dependent on their husbands, they have little to no ability to carve a better life for themselves. They have little say outside the home. They are mere chattle. Money is power. Power is a voice. The power of many voices can change the world.

Equal rights. In Saudi Arabia, women cannot drive. King Abdullah has said that he is willing to lift that ban sometime this year. Not sure whether he has or not, but it's clear that it is meant to stave off calls for larger scale calls for equal rights and women's sufferage. Where women are prevented by modesty laws, social convention, and threat of death from full participation in society, men rule with impunity. And as they say, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Delusions of superiority, an unyielding sense of entitlement, fundamental religious beliefs are a breeding ground for terrorism. I believe that women, fully participating in society, would offer a balance. I doubt any woman wants to raise sons to go off on kamakazi missions for Allah. In any event, I think there would be fewer of them if their mothers were respected as full members of society.

Anyway, don't know where I'm going with this, but it seems that just about all these problems could be improved by ensuring that women have the same rights as men around the world. I know it is all jammed up right now, but it seems to me that when you get right down to the root of the problem, it might be improved exponentially by improving the lot of women.


  1. I certainly agree that empowering women is one of the most fundamental things that can be done to improve the lot of the world. (For one thing, they're a slight majority of the world population, so by definition...) And while I think overpopulation is a problem, I don't think it's the degree of problem its often considered to be. Population growth is highest among the poorest, yet the rich countries consume ~4X their share of resources and produce ~4X their share of wastes. I don't know how much empowering women will do about that... Population growth among the poor is also, contra Malthus, not usually the cause of their poverty but rather an often rational response to it. (Kids = workers and "insurance" for their parents.) But of course, yoou're right and most women don't want an endless uncontrolled series of pregnancies. Free access to contraception is a big part of "the solution," though political equality and access to education are, if not primary to contraception, necessary accompaniments.

    I assume you were aware that the reason population projections have been decreasing is because of the effects of increased rights, education, and equality for women in the world? And did you already hear about the women mayors in India? There was a whole raft of them, and on average their governance improved city conditions more than male mayors in the same period... sadly, they were almost universally ranked as less competent nonetheless =[ I wonder how this type of phenomenon can be addressed in future...

  2. I recall reading that article about female mayors in India. As I recall, they were seldom re-elected. In any event, I was aware that in areas where women are given even a rudimentary education, population declines follow.

    On the other hand, I'm done begging men for equal rights. Fed up doesn't begin to cover my sense of disgust for discrimination, marginalization, and violence against women that we are supposed to accept due to "cultural differences". Fuck. That. Shit.

    But back to the women mayors. It is clear that it is not just the men who believe the women are less competent. Women are buying into that, too. And it can take generations (if the US is any indication) to reverse the idea--even among the marginalized group--that people are less competent based on any demographic value other than competence. *shakes head*

    Some changes come too slow.