Saturday, March 08, 2008

International Women's Day

Today is International Women's Day!

In China, more than 125,000 people have added their names to a UNIFEM online campaign to end violence against women. Nearly 200,000 people around the world have joined in the effort, based on U.N. statistics that show 1 in 3 women suffers physical or sexual violence during her lifetime.

In Britain, opposition leader and Conservative Party candidate David Cameron promised to give one-third of ministerial jobs in his government to women, the Telegraph reported March 2. Currently, 6 of 28 members of the opposition's shadow cabinet are female. And to combat violence against women, the Million Women Rise Coalition is marching in London today, demanding the government develop a national strategy to end gender-based violence.

In South Africa, women marched in miniskirts to protest harassment from taxi drivers, the Johannesburg Star reported March 5. Men joined in the 300-person march responding to the sexual assault of Nwabisa Ngcukana, 25, who was stripped of her clothes and physically and verbally harassed at a taxi stand in Soweto for wearing a miniskirt two weeks ago.

The New York-based Goldman Sachs Group pledged $100 million to pay for the business education of 10,000 women in emerging economies worldwide over the next five years. Schools receiving grants will offer flexible, short-term education programs to women who lack access to traditional business programs for monetary or other reasons.

In the United States, the housework gender gap is closing, according to a March 6 report from the Council on Contemporary Families. Men have become four times more involved in housework and three times more active in child care in the past four decades, suggesting a generational shift in gender roles. Women cut back their average housework load by two hours over the same period.

Heather Baudin, a high school junior in Wasbah, Ind., won the right to play in her school's all-male baseball team after she challenged a state rule that barred girls from playing in the sport if the school also had a softball team. Her lawyers charged that the rule violated Title IX requirements prohibiting gender discrimination. Baudin was a little-league all-star.

Teofila Ochoa and Cirila Pulido--aged 13 and 12 during a 1985 military atrocity in Peru that cost the lives of 69 indigenous peasants, the majority of whom were women and children--were awarded $37 million in compensation from retired army major Telmo Hurtado by a U.S. federal judge in a March 5 ruling. During the incident, Hurtado issued orders to beat the men and rape the women, the Inter Press Service reported. Ochoa and Pulido survived, but many of their relatives were killed.

Pratibha Patil, the first female president of India, greeted International Women's Day with a call to her sisters to shape their destinies. "Our women folk inspired by Mahatma Gandhi came out of their homes to take part in the freedom struggle," she said. "Beginning with their determined efforts in the days before our freedom, today our women continue to strive to transform the social order into a more just and equal one."

At a European Union conference in Brussels this week, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "Justice is thwarted when women are denied the right to play a political role in their nations; disease flourishes and spreads when women's perspectives are not taken into account in terms of disease prevention. In today's modern world, no country can achieve lasting success and stability and security if half of its population is sitting on the sidelines."

Mrs Thatcher (who would not notice the day, I think) is out of hospital. According to the Times,

Those who have met her in recent weeks said that she showed no apparent signs of ill health and she is lucid most of the time but occasionally drifts off in the middle of conversations because of difficulties with her short-term memory.

Last night, thanks to the generosity of a member of our Board of Trustees, several people from the seminary went to a performance of Grace at the Lucille Lortel Theatre with Lyn Redgrave. It was spectacular! Here's a review that indicates the highpoints.

Lyn Redgrave is the atheist (she prefers naturalist) mother of a son who opts to become ordained as an Episcopal priest. She's a professor; he was a lawyer. Her husband, an ameliorating influence between them, asks wittily, who's going to take a priest called Father Friedman seriously? In monologues of the son Tom we see an attempt to articulate faith as intuitive nonrational knowledge of God's existence. He compares this to love of the woman he wants to marry. Can you accept that I don't believe in God, she replies to his offer of marriage. Can you accept that I do, he answers.

The most poignant moments are at the end of the play following Tom's death (we are left to gather that it was in an act of religious terrorism, perhaps the London Underground bombings). How can his mother make sense of this? In a disclosure to her daughter in law when they are attempting a reconciliation (Grace forbade Tom's church funeral and the daughter in law read a Philip Larkin poem at the civic funeral about the way parents can ruin their children), Grace confesses that a shard of her rational self understands Tom's death at the hands of a religious fanatic to be brought on by himself. But Grace's self-justification is at the same time utter anguish and in inarticulate grief she screams out loud. In the silence that follows, when we realize that atheists have come to the limit of understanding, her daughter in law offers a tissue. You're in just as much mess as your granddaughter, she jokes! (The daughter in law was pregnant when Tom declared his desire to marry her).

The play ends later when Grace goes off stage to comfort a fretting granddaughter. We hear, through the loudspeaker in the baby's crib, Grace's consoling words. There, there, its alright, she says. I'll tell you a story about the watchmaker. This is a rational explanation for the creation and empirical ordering of the world. When her husband and daughter in law look in horror at each other, hearing a disembodied voice and thinking of the likely repetition of the animosity that existed between mother and son, we hold our breath in case nothing has been learned. Got you! comes the voice of Grace through the speakers. And we all breathe a sigh of relief...something other than rationalism has begun to be manifest in Grace after all. Something more like Grace.

1 comment:

Julie said...

I'm sorry I couldn't go to the play - I had a phone interview for the job. From your description, the play sounds like it would have been a much better use of my time, since these people surely won't want to hire me.

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