A Discouraging Reality Check


 

On May 15, 2009 Bill McKibben wrote an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times talking about need for a worldwide grassroots action on Oct. 24 for meaningful climate change legislation and action. The web address is www.350.org because 350 parts per million of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere is considered by scientists to be the safe level. The current level is 387.

 

I quote: “The environmental movement isn’t big enough. It’s one of the most selfless of advocacy efforts. But the movement has been sized to save whales and build national parks, and force carmakers to stick catalytic converters on exhaust systems. It’s nowhere near big enough to take on the fossil fuel industry. It’s like sending the Food and Drug Administration to fight the war in Afghanistan.”

 

The feminist, women’s rights, reproductive health movement is not big enough. The movement has been sized to win small victories, a little more money here, a little law there, an RHREALITYCHECK web site here, a little less impunity for rape and honor crimes there. This most selfless of advocacy efforts is minuscule compared with what is necessary. It’s nowhere near big enough to take on the ignorant, the indifferent, and the foes consisting of individuals, governments, religions, cultures, and customs. Indeed the subject of gender inequality is so enormous that the brain can not get around the mind boggling implications. It’s like sending Raggedy Ann against a juggernaut.

 

Think about the words of Hillary Clinton at her hearings to become Secretary of State: “Of particular concern to me is the plight of women and girls who comprise the majority of the world’s unhealthy, unschooled, unfed, and unpaid.” Shouldn’t this be banner headlines?

 

There has never been a human being on this earth who has not come from the womb of a woman. A good start in life, and indeed health throughout life are critically dependent on maternal health. How much a baby weighs at birth is a strong indicator of future potential. In large measure, the mother’s level of education foretells the child’s future. In millions of developing world households, mothers and girls eat last and least. And the trillions of dollars worth of female care-giving is unremunerated and has no formal recognition in GDP.

 Change is coming, too slowly, by fits and starts, not nearly enough to meet the future challenges to people and the planet. Profound discouragement is my mental reality check as I’m sure it is for many of you. Yet, we will continue our selfless, noble advocacy efforts. That’s all that we can do.

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  • invalid-0

    Like Jane, I agree that the women’s rights and reproductive health movement is not big enough to take on the sincere ignorance and, yes, perhaps indifference, surrounding the plight of women and girls in the poorest countries around the world. I often wonder if it would be possible to disagree (as many do) if everyone were made more aware of the kinds of horrors and inequities Jane is writing about. After all, look up any current statistics on reproductive health and mortality and you’ll see for yourself that the bare bones of this issue reveal millions of unwanted and mistimed pregnancies every year, abortions, and spiraling levels of maternal death, illness and disability. Look even deeper and you’ll begin to see the indisputable links between maternal and child health and survival, overpopulation and the environment, extreme poverty, death and cyclical violence and instability. Jane is right—the implications are mind-boggling and warrant a much stronger global response; especially when the practical solutions to saving women’s lives are always just within a government’s reach.

    When all is said and done, beyond the complex statistics and the back-and-forth debate that slows progress, there are real women with stories that we can all relate to. These women are our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends, but we forget this when we go to war on issues as divisive as sex, abortion and women’s rights. Too often the compassion, urgency and responsibility that we feel for ourselves or those close to us is totally absent for women in the developing world whose plight is muted by distance.

    I hope that our actions and decisions will play a more significant role than time does in bringing about needed change. For what it’s worth, I’d like to add to Jane’s vision of a bigger movement the idea that it should also be a more non-lateral movement. As much as we all hate to dive headfirst into uncharted ideological waters, I hope we will explore new ways to bridge the critical gaps that divide us on these issues, and never lose sight of what’s to be gained from coming to the table and trying to find ways to move forward together.

    Eve Reinhardt

    Artist, Writer, Producer

  • invalid-0

    Like Jane, I agree that the women’s rights and reproductive health movement is not yet big enough to take on the sincere ignorance and, yes, perhaps indifference, surrounding the plight of women and girls in the poorest countries around the world. I often wonder if it would be possible to disagree (as many do) if everyone were made more aware of the kinds of horrors and inequities Jane is writing about. After all, look up any current statistics on reproductive health and mortality and you’ll see for yourself that the bare bones of this issue reveals millions of unwanted and mistimed pregnancies every year, abortions, and spiraling levels of maternal death, illness and disability. Look even deeper and you’ll begin to see the indisputable links between maternal and child health and survival, overpopulation and the environment, extreme poverty, death and cyclical violence and instability. Jane is right—the implications are mind-boggling and warrant a much stronger global response; especially when the practical solutions to saving women’s lives are always just within a government’s reach.

    When all is said and done, beyond the complex statistics and the back-and-forth debate that slows progress, there are real women with stories that we can all relate to. These women are our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends, but we forget this when we go to war on issues as divisive as sex, abortion and women’s rights. Too often the compassion and urgency and responsibility that we feel for ourselves or those close to us is totally absent for women in the developing world whose plight is muted by distance.

    I hope that our actions and decisions will play a more significant role than time does in bringing about needed change. For what it’s worth, I’d like add to Jane’s vision of a bigger movement the idea that it should also be a more non-vertical movement. As much as we all hate to dive headfirst into uncharted ideological waters (and for good reason), I hope we’ll continue to explore new ways to do so; to bridge the gaps that divide us on these issues, and not lose sight of what’s to be gained from coming to the table and trying to find ways to move forward together.

    Eve Reinhardt

    Artist, Writer, Producer

  • invalid-0

    That would be “non-vertical” movement.

    Once again – for posterity!

  • http://allperiodictables.com invalid-0

    Concern for reproductive health is after the fact.
    Conception needs to be avoided in all cases where reproductive health might be at risk.
    In countries and places where proper care is unavailable every woman should have given to her as many condoms as needed – at no cost.
    The need for reproductive health care would be greatly diminished if condoms were universally used where pregnancy is not desired.
    Reducing the birthrate of unwanted children will reduce food and water crises as well as financial burdens on families.
    Overpopulation can be prevented, and must be to reduce the pressures that lead to so much suffering, meanness, and war.
    Roy