No Gurlz Allowed.
Once upon a time, you might’ve seen a sign that said that, or hung one in spite. Girls had cooties then. Boys were dumb. It was a part of childhood, but you’re an enlightened adult today and we’ve come a long way.
Or have we? Author Jimmy Carter says 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 he was, early in life, somewhat oblivious to the “ravages” of discrimination in the South. When he was “about fourteen,” he became quietly, 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 has noted that, “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 black 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 benefiting women, these actions benefit men, too.
It’s hard not to feel ineffectual while you’re reading “A Call to Action.” Author and former President Jimmy Carter presents huge problems in this small book — ones that occur overseas as well as domestically, and that encompass 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 didn’t see much on how one individual can effect change.
And yet — there’s 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 books’ title asks?
That’s 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.
“A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power,” by Jimmy Carter, copyright 2014 by Simon & Schuster, is 213 pages and sells for $28.
Contact book reviewer Terri Schlichenmeyer at www.bookwormsez.com or at firstname.lastname@example.org.