Rights: Don't Take Them for Granted
by Richard Prasad
While we ponder some of the many alarming crimes of the Taliban,
we must realize that chief among these crimes is their mistreatment
of women. But we must also ask ourselves, are women's right
being taken for granted in the United States, and will they
slowly erode in an era of do-nothing complacency?
Many people became familiar with the plight of Afghan women
when they saw an excellent documentary by Saira Shah called
"Beneath The Veil" on CNN. This documentary showed Afghan
women, covered from head to toe in burqas, restrictive garments
that only allowed the women to see slightly from tiny holes
in the veil of the garment. These women were routinely beaten
by the Taliban for something as innocuous as wearing makeup.
Many of these women were reduced to begging on the street.
Some were even shot in front of cheering crowds in a soccer
For those who think that these women were not well educated
and always begging for food, think again. They were doctors
and nurses, professional women who were forced from their
positions by the Taliban. 70% of teachers in Afghanistan before
the Taliban were women, 50% of government workers before the
Taliban were women, and 40% of the doctors before the Taliban
The behavior of the Taliban has been roundly criticized by
the US, as well it should. Just recently First Lady Laura
Bush chastised the treatment of Afghanistan characterizing
it as "brutality against women and children." The question
now is, can a similar situation occur in America, where women's
rights have been atrophying for the last 20 years. And has
it already begun?
After years of gains in the 60's and 70's, feminism began
to suffer a backlash starting in the 80's when voices like
Camille Paglia were first heard. In her book Vamps and Tramps,
Ms Paglia says the following: "Let's get rid of Infirmary
Feminism, with it's bedlam of Bellyachers, anorexics, bulimics,
depressives, incest survivors, and rape victims." "Feminism
has become a catch-all vegetable drawer, where moldy sob sisters
can store their neuroses." The vitriol of such a statement
is self-evident, and it becomes the mantra of the anti-feminist
backlash. Women are claiming victimization, and much of their
suffering is caused by their own delusional thinking.
Politically, the anti-feminist movement took hold with the
likes of Ann Coulter et al., writing scathing views of former
President Clinton. They hid their true sentiment behind male
bashing, President Clinton was an adulterer, he was a womanizer
and so on and so on. The sentiment of these right-wing women
would have rang truer if they did not also routinely attack
Hillary Clinton. The conservative women's siren song goes
like this: That Bill was a womanizer and that Hillary only
played a victim to gain political advantage. That she used
her position as First Lady and now Senator to espouse militantly
feminist dangerously liberal views.
The truth is this: Hillary is an incredibly smart and courageous
woman who hearkens back to the early feminists of the 70's,
like Bella Abzug. If the voters of New York state did not
think she was intelligent and strong-minded they would have
sent Hillary packing. But she beat Rick Lazio soundly.
Hillary Clinton aside, there is no one to pick up the mantle
of feminism, and so it sits dormant being bashed by right-wing
pundits of both gender. And much of the gains of modern-day
feminism hang by one vote in the Supreme Court. Is anyone
paying attention to the judicial appointments of George W
anymore? If he sent up a conservative Supreme Court judge
for approval by the Senate, would anyone oppose him or her?
If a conservative Supreme Court Justice was approved, what
would this mean for Affirmative Action programs, many of which
have aided women? What would this mean for Roe V. Wade? Would
women again seek back alley abortions and therefore be relegated
to secondhand citizenship again? And who would speak out against
such a nomination in a nation striving for national unity?
Things are not nearly as bad for women in the US as they
are for women in Afghanistan, but the lack of a group of strong
voices speaking strongly FOR women's rights in America does
not bode well. There is a feeling that the major victories
have been won, and that we can never go back to American society
the way it was before the 60's. That kind of thinking is naive
at best and dangerous at worst.