nicholas kristof

kbster's picture

Caring about Women and Maternal Health

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times focused his column yesterday on the need to attend to women and maternal health on a global scale. He has an excellent way of calling attention to the social barriers that exist for women everywhere — as well as the limitations and levels of societal control placed over women’s lives — by writing about topics such as rape as a weapon of war, sex slavery, and other pertinent issues.

Kristof adds an interesting twist to his writing yesterday: rather than simply advocating for better maternal health, he captures attention by speculating on the vast differences in care that would exist "if men had uteruses." 

I’ve thought similar things while studying women’s issues. Would sexual violence be such a pervasive social problem if men were predominantly the victims and survivors? Would we even have to fight to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act if men were the ones who were paid less?

Even though Kristof’s column was written to highlight the problems that exist within the realm of maternal health, it inspires one to think even more broadly about what makes women’s issues less important. Perhaps pondering this will help motivate more and more people to become champions for women and girls everywhere.

This entry has been cross-posted; it originally appeared on AAUW Dialog on July 31, 2009.

kbster's picture

Starting off on the Wrong Foot

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has been a champion of women and girls by bringing issues that affect them to the forefront; he has devoted much of his column space to everything from rape as a weapon of war/conflict to acid attacks to microfinance and women’s economic development. He and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, have embarked on a great journey to bring these issues even more attention by conducting research and writing Half the Sky. I had heard about this book long ago and waited months for its release. I started reading it the other night, excited about the prospect that crimes committed against women would become something that more people would hear, read, and talk about. Perhaps more people would even do something in support of the world’s population of women and girls, because I believe in the purpose of Kristof and WuDunn’s book and what their goals seem to be.

That said, I started reading the introduction, and on page xv, I came across this quote:

“In the wealthy countries of the West, discrimination is usually a matter of unequal pay or underfunded sports teams or unwanted touching from a boss. In contrast, in much of the world discrimination is lethal.” (Kristof & WuDunn, 2009)

I am so dismayed by this quote that I don’t even know where to begin. I understand the sentiment, but those two sentences are a gross simplification of issues affecting women in the West. Sure, unequal pay and the like are not “lethal” manifestations of gender discrimination, but they’re still discriminatory practices that are systemic indicators of a social order in the West and across the globe. Even beyond that, there are plenty of women and girls in the United States and the West in general who die at the hands of gender discrimination. Hate crimes against females are not limited to developing countries and rural areas — they’re a reality everywhere.

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