Thursday, February 13, 2014

"Valuing" Women

I heard something startling on MPR yesterday. As part of a story, a friend of the main character involved in the story was describing somebody's family, saying he had children, "an 18-year-old, a 16-year-old, and a daughter."

It felt like a slap in the face for the daughter, somehow not important enough for her age to be noted. The gender of the sons was assumed: they were countable, describable. Valued. She was just a cipher, a place-holder, nothing more than part of the count.

Does my reaction seem a bit harsh? Could he just have misspoken? Perhaps not been quite so close to the family and he just forgot her age? If I try to be generous, that almost flies, except for one thing. I immediately leap to the thought that it's a cultural thing. After all, the story itself was about the father who was believed to be a suicide bomber in Syria, and the speaker was using the family to describe his responsibilities at home, reasons why he shouldn't have been the accused bomber, why they didn't believe he could have been involved.

Ahah! Muslim. Already knowing that piece at the start of the story is the reason my mind skipped immediately to the devaluing of the female child. She would have been hidden away, covered head to toe aside from part of her face, not allowed out unescorted, somebody's addendum. What would be the point of knowing her age? Even knowing of her existence is probably an indication of the speaker's closeness to the family.

I don't place the value of the religion itself either as better or worse than any other main religion. All teach the same basic values, serve the same two basic societal purposes: worship our way, and behave in spociety. But I do criticize the culture - or any culture - which so devalues half its members. And don't try to feed me that hogwash about how "special" females are and how they need to be protected. How about simple respect?

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