Global Girls’ Power
After dialoguing with young women and men for a decade, what’s most striking is the courage of Muslim women, as Malala takes on the Pakistani opponents of education for girls despite being shot in the head, Saudi women drive by themselves knowing their jobs could be taken away from them or they could be put in jail, Egyptian women face tanks and police snipers, Libyan women activists face death from extremists who want women to stay home, and Tawakkol Karman ignores her father and husband and death threats to lead Yemen’s uprising. They’re motivated by a sense of justice and equal rights with an international support group on social medias.
The best organized are the student groups with active young women co-leaders in Chile and Quebec. Some of them decided to run for political office in both places. It will be most interesting to see if they are able to change the system from the inside. Some studies show that women leaders do more for their constituents and work more harmoniously in a group, even that they’re less likely to enter warfare. We’ll see.
The fear of “feminization,” or reverse sexism is a reaction to girls’ success in education as the majority of global college graduates. Plus their ability to adapt to the information society with its jobs that emphasize flattened horizontal organizations and cooperative relationships rather than competitive individualism. If young women graduates become the majority of professionals, will they get past the glass ceiling to make a difference? Are they the harbingers of future organizing? The global uprisings that started with the Arab Spring in 2011 all advocate horizontalism, direct democracy and consensus decision making, as advocated by the Second Wave of feminism, as the social system of the future.
The success of privileged educated young women is in sharp contrast to illiterate poor girls who live in rural areas of developing countries or urban slums, represented by the interview with Mashal in Pakistan who has no autonomy and had to turn down an opportunity to be educated in our Open Door Literacy Project. Since over 80% of the world’s young people live in developing countries, this is a major problem. Because of their over one billion populations, India and China are the countries to watch to see if they can overcome patriarchal control of society and government and if they can lift more people out of poverty.
Multinational businesses define “girl power” as the power to buy popular brands and products. Consumerism is bad for the environment, our most pressing problem. In the West, Miley Cyrus feminism has devolved into discussion of “slut shaming” and the right to show a lot of skin, influenced by neoliberal individualism. We need a global feminism that unites around providing education and health care for young people and gets over the fear of being called man haters when women are most of the victims of domestic violence and early marriage and childbirth. Surveys of people internationally show that the majority of humans favor equality with the exception of some Muslim men. The future depends on educating girls, especially about how to protect the environment and stop global warming.