“An extra year of school for girls increases their lifetime income by 15%. Children of women who have completed primary school are less likely to die before age 5 than children of mothers with no schooling. Women invest more of their income in their families than men do. . . . When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they pull themselves, their children and their communities out of poverty. The most vulnerable are potentially the most powerful.” (becauseiamagirl.ca)In developed countries like the US, the more progress we make toward equality, the more unjustified and unnatural the gender inequalities in the rest of the world will seem.
Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined notes that empowerment of women correlates powerfully with reductions in violence in a society. Correlation doesn't tell us which is cause and which is effect. Does women’s empowerment cause violence to decline, or does declining violence cause (create the conditions that allow) women’s empowerment? Plausibly, each contributes to the other, in a virtuous cycle.
Whatever the causal details may be, working either for reduced violence or for women's empowerment would seem to go hand-in-hand with working for the other. Conditions of equally-shared power not only change the overall decision-making body, but produce changes in the men within that body. Men in an all-male context act more from their aggressive, Y-chromosome side. Men in a mixed-gender context think in a more balanced way.
For instance, studies of judge's rulings and rationales discern no difference between the legal reasoning patterns of women judges and men judges. What studies have discovered, however, is that, at the appellate level, where judges sit on 3-, 5-, 7-, or 9-judge panels, the men's decisions measurably shift when at least at least one woman is on the panel compared to being on an all-male panel. The men, become, roughly, more sympathetic to women's points of view.
I don’t suppose there is any grand unified theory. My life, so far, with feminism continues to be a mish-mash of not entirely coherent yearnings – rather like the stacks of magazines on my parents’ coffee table. That there is no grand unified theory is also a point feminist writers have made. Once we have a theory, it tends to function like a Procrustean bed, and we force experience into the the terms of the theory. Instead, let us approach each situation with an openness to possibilities our pet theory might not expect. Our theories For all that, it’s a story, I hope, of slowly learning how to be, moment by moment, on the side of mothers and daughters, fathers and sons -- on the side of the forces that create and uphold life -- on the side of the ongoing dance for peace and justice.
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This is part 4 of 4 of "Feminist Theology"
Previous: Part 3: Never Liberated, Always Liberating
Beginning: Part 1: I Was a Teenage Feminist
Photo by Meredith Garmon