Women perform 66 percent of the world’s work, produce 50 percent of the food, but earn 10 percent of the income and own 1 percent of the property.
Sometimes I get so self-absorbed in my own little dramas (usually self-induced) that I forget to stop and think about how privileged I am in the grand scheme of things: I’m a white, well-educated American with a full-time job in a heated/air conditioned office, whose idea of being oppressed is not being able to afford to go back to school and get a second master’s degree. (And I probably *could* afford it if I gave up discretionary things like guitar lessons, cable TV, yarn, and fabric.)
Further fueling my fire: I stumbled across the book “Half The Sky”, written by two (married) Pulitzer-prize winning journalists. It’s all about how women across the globe are being oppressed (though truly, “oppressed” seems too sanitized a word for what is going on out there). I’m telling you: if you are a woman, or if you have a mother or a daughter or an aunt or a sister or a niece, you have to read this book. It is at once heartrendingly depressing and oddly hopeful, impossible to read and impossible to put down. By page three of the introduction I was in tears (and truthfully, there were a few sections that were too difficult for me to read and I skipped over them; I can be unreasonably squeamish). [Also, let me just say I completely disagree with the Amazon commenters who claim the book is anti-conservative; I personally found it quite balanced. Yes, the authors criticize abstinence-only programs but also give props to a school in India heavily supported by the Catholic Church. Continuing to frame these issues in a western political context is part of the problem, which the authors address early on in the book.]
I’ll warn you, though, that I think it would be hard for anyone with half a conscious to read this book and NOT want to take some sort of action. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do myself. On the plus side, I work for a nonprofit that helps low-income women start their own businesses, so in theory every day I go to work is a contribution. And there are plenty of other organizations I can contribute to financially (and there is an extensive list here). But there’s an itching to do something more, and I’m not sure what that it is. I can tell something is percolating, though, as evidenced by the 3 am wake ups. Plus, a good part of this year was focused on my Happiness Project, and while that’s been a valuable experience I’m thinking that the next thing is to focus on something external. (As Gretchen Rubin points out, making others happy makes you happy.) Stay tuned…
Also, on a completely different note: for you fellow cat people out there, make sure you read this.