Friday, August 27, 2010


On this day (August 26) in 1920 (just 90 years ago), the 19th amendment went into effect.

For those whose memory of just which amendment is which is a little shaky (as mine is), the 19th is the one that gives women the right to vote.

Ninety years of voting in a "democracy" that is 225 years old.

Meanwhile we expect the rest of the world to conform instantly to our current value system, though it took us two and a quarter centuries to get here.'s my opinion that it took a shamefully long time for women to gain the right to vote. (It's also my knowledge that President Wilson was not, as he described himself in the New York Times on this day 90 years ago, "the biggest proponent of women's suffrage." A visit to his birthplace and library in Staunton Virginia will quickly disabuse anyone of this notion, and highlight just a few of the misogynist things that man did, though he's awesome in some other ways...) It's also my opinion that women both here and around the world are still treated horribly in so many ways--whether it's voting or abuse or being harassed in the streets or being told where/when/with whom they can go or being forced into arranged marriages or being sold into slavery or being paid 70 cents for every dollar a man makes or anything else. We have a long way to go--voting was hardly the culmination of our struggle, though it was a huge milestone to reach.

And it took 135 years to make even that step.

I heard a story on NPR a few minutes ago about the women who sit in or are running for Parliament in Afghanistan.

Women. In Parliament. In Afghanistan. Over 300 women (maybe even as many as 408) are running for office in next month's election there. In Afghanistan. They risk their lives and their families lives sometimes, but they believe the struggle is worth it, they believe they are making a difference, they believe that things are changing for the better and they want to be a part of that movement. One woman they interviewed has been in the Parliament since 2005.

2005. In Afghanistan.

Yet we insist on pushing them (and other cultures too) farther and faster--because we believe it's right, we believe that women deserve equality, that no one should be oppressed...all good and valid reasons. I'm not one to give up or to say "give it time" or even "just wait--the day will come." In fact, I'm much more along the line with Carrie Newcomer's song "If Not Now, When?"

But let's also get some perspective, people. A LOT of the countries in this world are much much younger than we are. And many of them are tribally/culturally/geographically diverse from the outset (which, remember, we weren't...not really, anyway). Some are amalgamations of people groups that have never lived together before but were close enough geographically to be convenient for the UN to make into a country, but they have no idea how to overcome centuries of cultural divides and even flat-out hatred. They are often poor, lack infrastructure, and endure a great deal of other disadvantages and hardship.

And then they look over here, where we haven't even achieved full equality but are full of preachiness about the best way to be a nation.

Meanwhile, 3-400 women are running for Parliament in Afghanistan's second EVER election.


Those women of 90+ years ago may have done more good than they realized...

but we still have a long way to go.

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