Jimmy Carter Proves Old White Men Can Be Feminists, And Great Ones At That
Jimmy Carter, former leader of America, Nobel Peace Prize winner, and peanut farmer, can now add one more line to his resume: kick-ass women's rights activist. In his newest of 28 books, A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power, former President Carter states, "The world’s discrimination and violence against women and girls is the most serious, pervasive, and ignored violation of basic human rights." Bravo, Mr. President, bravo.
His claim is far too true. In their Global and Regional Estimates of Violence Against Women, the World Health Organization found that approximately one in three women worldwide survives sexual violence at some point in her life. In many areas, women fail to receive necessary health care and adequate education.
A shocking 14 million young women are married away as children, and it is estimated that at its current rate, by 2030, 15.4 million girls a year will be subjected to child marriages. An additional four million women and girls are bought and sold into slavery, and a UNICEF report estimates at least 125 million girls in Africa and the Middle East are victims of genital mutilation.
And while we must bemoan the atrocities women are subjected to around the world, it's also of paramount importance that we take note of the issues in our own backyard regarding female inequality and discrimination. Of the Fortune 500 companies, a mere 4.6 percent of them are headed by female CEOs. The United States, a country that prides itself on fair representation, has a Congress that is comprised of only 18.5 percent women. The United States as a whole is comprised of 51 percent women.
We're also the only one of 34 countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that lacks a formal maternity or paternity leave policy. Whereas the average maternity leave for women in the States is 12 weeks, Swedish women enjoy up to 60 weeks at 80% of pay.
And the discrimination seems to stem from a myriad of sources. In a recent interview with NBC News , Carter pinpoints misinterpretations of scripture as a major roadblock to gender equality. Said Carter:
Religious leaders say women are inferior in the eyes of God, which is a false interpretation of the Holy Scriptures. When [people] see the Pope, the Southern Baptist Convention, and others say that women can’t serve as priests equally with men, they say well, I’ll treat my wife the way I want to because she’s inferior to me.
This, Carter says, represents an egregious departure from the teachings of Jesus Christ, who never "did anything except to exalt women." Take that, conservative religious leaders.
But even outside of the church, it seems that women, even in developed nations, are socialized from a young age to expect less. Women still make 77 cents on the dollar when compared to men, and perhaps the root of this inequity goes beyond discrimination in the workplace. Perhaps it starts in the home, in schools, and in church, and then manifests itself as a pay gap or unequal representation.
Recently, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz of the New York Times found that parents are less likely to search "Is my son overweight?" than "Is my daughter overweight?" but more likely to search "Is my son gifted?" than "Is my daughter gifted?" Moreover, a recent study has found that female math teacher anxiety has remarkably adverse effects on girls' math achievements. In fact, according to this study,
"The more anxious teachers were about math, the more likely girls (but not boys) were to endorse the commonly held stereotype that “boys are good at math, and girls are good at reading” and the lower these girls’ math achievement. Indeed, by the end of the school year, girls who endorsed this stereotype had significantly worse math achievement than girls who did not and than boys overall."
Even young girls' toys profess the same attitude, with the ill-conceived and ill-fated "Math class is tough" Barbie still sending shudders down feminist spines everywhere. Don't believe me? See for yourself.
With problems like these, President Carter's promise to "focus on women's rights for the rest of his life" is a major victory for women everywhere. And with his incredible wife Rosalyn Carter, we can't wait to see what they'll do.