women hold up half the sky


In case anyone missed this Sunday’s New York Times magazine, it is totally worth reading cover to cover. The Kristof/WuDunn article, “The Women’s Crusade” which offers a number of inspiring anecdotes about how micro-finace can help women, especially got me thinking about feminism. (Thank you Nicholas Kristof for your unwavering commitment to women’s issues)

I’ve always struggled to find a definition of feminism that felt right to me — I actually never took a women’s studies class and my feminist education is rooted in anarchist pamphlets that I poured through in my early 20’s. These pamphlets argued for an Emma Goldman-style feminism, the kind that strives against patriarchy and hierarchy in all of its forms.  As dreamy as that sounds in a made-up world, in THIS world, I’m actually pro-suffrage (gasp!) — (Emma Goldman was cold towards suffrage because it aspired to patriarchal goals)

Anyways, leaving behind my anarchist roots a bit, I’ve struggled to find a definition that goes beyond that bumper sticker — you know the one, that reads: “feminism is the radical notion that women are people” —  This bumper sticker is in line with a more traditional definition of feminism, one that centers around equality. Of course equality is exactly what I want, but I think this definition is ultimately too passive.

Below is a quote from the The Women’s Crusade by By Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

Yet another reason to educate and empower women is that greater female involvement in society and the economy appears to undermine extremism and terrorism. It has long been known that a risk factor for turbulence and violence is the share of a country’s population made up of young people. Now it is emerging that male domination of society is also a risk factor; the reasons aren’t fully understood, but it may be that when women are marginalized the nation takes on the testosterone-laden culture of a military camp or a high-school boys’ locker room. That’s in part why the Joint Chiefs of Staff and international security specialists are puzzling over how to increase girls’ education in countries like Afghanistan — and why generals have gotten briefings from Greg Mortenson, who wrote about building girls’ schools in his best seller, “Three Cups of Tea.” Indeed, some scholars say they believe the reason Muslim countries have been disproportionately afflicted by terrorism is not Islamic teachings about infidels or violence but rather the low levels of female education and participation in the labor force.

This gets at what I’m landing on as my new personal definition of  feminism. The idea that empowering women is not only the right thing to do, but that it’s actually a solution we might start looking at as we decide how to approach the world’s problems, that the world would be a vastly better and more balanced place if women were contributing more. And that women and men should be working together to help the world realize the yet, untapped potential of women.   I love the idea of women in the privileged, developed world, supporting/sponsoring a woman who needs help in the undeveloped world. Kristof mentions this organization which will help you do just that. Book club — maybe someday we could do this together?

1 Response to “women hold up half the sky”

  1. 1 tigress d
    August 27, 2009 at 1:14 pm


    really nice post… and when i read about womenforwomen, i *also* thought of the book club and how it’d be pretty awesome if we could go in together to help support a woman in another part of the world. i am all for this. and i’m going to look at the website and see what’s involved.

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