Monday, April 29, 2013

I’ll bet you never thought that “men not picking up their dirty underwear” and widespread environmental destruction were connected, did you? Well, they are.

The first one is annoying on a personal level and the second one is disastrous on a planetary level, but the attitude behind both behaviors is exactly the same. It’s the arrogance of the Manplan that says “I’m superior, I’m privileged, there are others to worry about and clean up the messes I make.” The Myth of Male Superiority (the Myth) told men that they were superior beings who didn’t need to be bothered by the ancient values of fairness and personal responsibility. So self-centeredness and thoughtlessness have shaped the way too many men think about the world around them (both their personal space at home and their place on the planet) for a very long time.

Dirty underwear left on the bathroom floor (Somebody else will pick it up) and oil spills in the Arctic Ocean (We got our profit, future generations be damned) are worlds apart in scale but driven by the same beliefs. The values of the Myth and the attitudes of the Manplan say that men are superior, privileged individuals who don’t need to be bothered or limited by the “rules” that apply to others. Women and lesser individuals are meant to serve their needs and clean up their messes, and the planet’s resources were given to men by god to do with as they wish.

That mindset began to be seriously challenged in the 1960s by the modern women’s movement (Pick up your own mess!) and the environmental movement (We can’t just stand by and let them ruin our planet!). But if we want to continue changing those attitudes of irresponsible privilege, we must recognize and change the thinking behind them. We must stop excusing and tolerating the Manplan attitudes of selfishness and conceit. Instead we must encourage and call for values of fairness, equality, and long term social responsibility.

Values that say men should not only clean up their own messes, but should do at least half of the daily work of keeping families and households running smoothly. Values that say men must stop treating the planet like their personal cash cow and trash can, and actively support an environmentally sound plan for long term stewardship of our limited resources.

All people, but especially men, must truly recognize that their life is but a minute on this Earth. We must fulfill our responsibility to create and preserve a society and a planet that will be there for the trillions who will come after us hoping for their minute, too.

Monday, April 22, 2013

What does it mean to be conservative? Well, the classic definition is “one who is disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., and to limit change.” And that definitely applies to those who consider themselves political and social Conservatives (with a capital “C”) and resist or actively oppose changes to the status quo in America today.

But if the status quo is based on sexual and racial inequality and unfair treatment of the poor and the powerless, why would anyone want to maintain it? Basically, for one of two reasons:

1. the current status quo benefits their group (the wealthy, whites, men) and change could undermine their social and financial advantages, or
2. the current status quo actually harms their group but questioning the beliefs they grew up with is frightening or uncomfortable.

Getting the first type of Conservative to consider and support cultural changes that give more respect and opportunity to powerless groups is extremely difficult. Because it’s a tough sell to get someone to champion social policies that reduce their power and their prestige by spreading it around a little more.

But it can also be difficult to get the second type of Conservative to support change, because it feels like a sin or a crime to question “traditional values.” Because if you don’t believe in the complete package, no matter how terrible parts of it may be, you won’t have anything left to believe in at all. But where is it written that a thinking person can’t hold strong beliefs on many issues and still support progressive change on others? Values are not mutually exclusive!

To accept the basic equality of all people and support a system that truly offers equal opportunity and equal protection for all regardless of one’s sex, race, religion, or age should not require any lessening of one’s values. Believing in strict rules, hard work, honest dealings, commitment to family, church attendance, etc. should never keep one from also considering that there are some “traditional values” that aren’t right and need to be changed. If traditional values require sexual inequality in home or workplace, racial segregation, lack of access to contraceptives, a workforce that can barely make ends meet, etc., then those particular values definitely need to be reexamined.

We Americans pride ourselves on our independence, but too may are unwilling to step outside their comfort zone when it comes to considering social change. We pride ourselves on our generosity of spirit, but are unwilling to listen to the other side of an issue or find a middle ground that benefits the most people. But I think Americans are capable of great things! So maybe it’s time to understand that we CAN be both conservative and progressive. We can hold tightly to the values that encourage us to be better people (honesty, kindness, hard work, fair play) and still support progressive values of equality for all at home, at work, and at play.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Our EVE BLOG items come from the United States today.

Where we’re making progress:

It’s usually EVE who denounce violence against us. But our calls for an end to domestic violence were recently joined by what may have been the first large, male-led event in America on this issue. On March 23rd a diverse group of men joined their voices in front of City Hall in Dallas, Texas (of all places) to pledge an end to domestic violence. One important reason this rally took place in Dallas was because Dallas Cowboys players used their celebrity to raise awareness.

They cited the grim reality that domestic violence leads to three American EVE being murdered every day by their partners and the majority of injuries to EVE 15-44 years of age in America every year. The rally of hundreds included men of many colors, many faiths, and many walks of life who took a five-point pledge to:

1. never hit a woman
2. speak out against abuse whenever they see it
3. hold other men accountable
4. teach their daughters to never accept abuse, and
5. teach their sons to respect women.

EVE around the world are becoming much more vocal and insistent on ending the scourge of domestic violence and the cultural attitudes that accept or deny it. So when men hold rallies and take pledges to end it we are definitely making progress. (1)

Where we’re losing ground:

It seems like a no-brainer, common sense approach to stopping sexual assault. It seems like a statement that would be hard to disagree with. But when Zerlina Maxwell (rape survivor, progressive African-American writer, and political analyst) told Sean Hannity on a March Fox news segment, “I don’t want men to be telling me what to wear, how to act, not to drink. And I don’t, honestly, want you to tell me that I needed a gun in order to prevent my rape” she instantly became a target of the bizarre blame-the-victim thinking that still rules in the Manplan.

That’s because “she had the nerve to suggest that rape is the responsibility of rapists, not their targets” and that instead of arming EVE with assault rifles we should change the culture that makes rape so pervasive in our country. For having the audacity to place the blame for rape on a violence-riddled society that still demeans EVE, Ms. Maxwell’s Facebook and Twitter accounts have been inundated with hundreds of people calling for her to be raped, killed, and more.

But she’s definitely right! EVE don’t need more guns – they need more respect! (2)

(1) Starita Smith, Ph.D., The Ledger, Lakeland, Florida, April 2, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A second installment of “looking at where we’re making progress and where we’re losing ground” takes us to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Where we’re making progress:

The bravery, the sheer bravery is amazing! I’m referring to the gutsy, life-on-the-line decision by a 40-year-old housewife who has declared herself a candidate for the Pakistani Parliament. Badam Zari lives in the deeply conservative tribal region of her country that borders Afghanistan, but she wants “to reach the assembly to become a voice for women, especially those living in the tribal areas.”

Most EVE in Ms. Zari’s part of the world are not allowed education, rarely hold a job, and must strictly adhere to rules about covering every inch of their skin in public. But, despite these restrictions and social attitudes she is claiming her right to run for public office. Even if that will almost certainly bring her under personal and physical attack from Islamic militants who vehemently oppose any changes that threaten their stranglehold on society. This is especially true where she lives – a poor, isolated region in northwest Pakistan controlled by Pashtun tribesmen who follow an ultra-conservative brand of Islam.

Ms. Zari announced her decision at a news conference in Khar this week with only her eyes visible through the covering wrapped around her head and her body. I am truly humbled by her courage! (1)

Where we’re losing ground:

It’s such a simple thing. To get in a car and drive somewhere – work, a movie, a friend’s house. But in one of the richest nations in the world it is still taboo for EVE to drive, and they are accosted and punished if they try. This was made very clear to Manal al-Sharif when she defied the taboo and drove around Khobar, Saudi Arabia in 2011 while a friend recorded the event for YouTube.

This act of defiance brought her great personal satisfaction and a first ever award for Creative Dissent from the Oslo Freedom Forum. But it also brought death threats, arrest, and the need to leave her home country. The second time Ms. Al-Sharif drove her car she was stopped and surrounded by members of the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice – the Saudi morality police. She was released after six hours, but rearrested the next day and held for a week until her father pleaded for a pardon and pledged that his daughter would never drive in the kingdom again.

These morality police hold great sway in Saudi Arabia and have the power to punish anyone they think is violating social customs. This was made horrendously clear to Saudi citizens when 15 young girls died in a schoolhouse fire because the morality police prevented their rescue saying they were improperly dressed. An appalling example of how no injustice is too ghastly if it protects the Manplan status quo.

Ms. Al-Sharif was pushed out of her job as a computer-security consultant, and now lives in Dubai with her second husband. But she must revisit the fear and uncertainty every weekend when she travels to Saudi Arabia to see her 7-year-old son. Her ex-husband will not allow the boy to travel outside the kingdom, so she is subjected to surveillance and monitoring whenever she goes to visit him. Such a simple thing. (2)

(1) The Ledger, Lakeland, Florida, April 2, 2013
(2) Sohrab Ahmari, The Wall Street Journal, New York, New York, March 23-24, 20113