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Former president examines roles of women in society
By Terri Schlichenmeyer
Monday, April 07, 2014 4:18 AM
“A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power” by Jimmy Carter
c.2014, Simon & Schuster $28.00 213 pages
Former President Jimmy Carter takes pen in hand for his book, "A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power." COURTESY OF SARAH SAUNDERS
No Gurlz Allowed.
Once upon a time, you might have seen a sign that said this or hung one in spite. Girls had cooties then. Boys were dumb. It was a part of childhood, but you are an enlightened adult today and we have come a long way.
Or have we? Author Jimmy Carter said that worldwide cultures of violence and economic disparity still perpetuate abuse of women and girls. In his new book "A Call to Action," he examines the issues.
Because he grew up in an atmosphere of relative racial tolerance, Jimmy Carter says that early on in his life he was somewhat oblivious to the "ravages" of discrimination in the South. When he was "about 14," he became quietly and fully aware of segregation in his community. Today, he says that "the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls," a situation he says is "largely caused by... false interpretation" of religious tenets and tracts and by violence and warfare.
The prevailing situation for many women and girls in China, India, the Middle East and some African countries is well known. Female circumcision, child marriage, dowry deaths, "honor" killings, rape in warfare, lack of freedom and genocide of female infants are things we gasp at and have nightmares over. But Carter says that Americans are also to blame for a part of the worldwide lack of equality for women.
The Carter Center noted, "Almost everywhere...women are relegated to secondary positions of influence and authority." Many religious leaders continue to interpret Scripture in a way that pushes women into subservient roles in church and at home. The number of incarcerated African American women has "increased by 800 percent" since Carter's presidency. More women graduate from college, but colleges hire a low number of female professors. Sexual assaults are vastly underreported and often unpunished in colleges and in the military. Sexual slavery continues in our cities. And women still trail men in their paychecks.
So what can be done?
Carter offers 23 "actions" to carry out - but first, we need to change the language of change. Start using "human rights" instead of "women's rights" because, by benefitting women, these actions benefit men, too.
It is hard not to feel ineffectual while you are reading "A Call to Action."
Author and former President Jimmy Carter presents huge problems in this small book - ones occurring overseas as well as domestically and encompassing seemingly insurmountable issues. They range from the definitely irritating to the downright deadly, and though Carter offers his end-of-book "actions" to rid society of inequality, I did not see much on how one individual can effect change.
And yet - there is enough food for thought here to keep your mind working overtime. Carter's words stick like proverbial glue. Is that enough to spur readers to do what his book's title asks?
That is something to ask yourself as you read this contemplative, timely discourse on issues that many of both sexes have considered. "A Call to Action," in fact, is not just for "gurlz only."
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