Posts Tagged ‘women’s rights’

Catherine of Siena


Italian Saint, mystic, activist

Like many female saints, Catherine of Siena had visions of the heavenly kingdom, but she was also influential in earthly ones. A consecrated virgin since the age of seven and a Dominican lay-affiliate at sixteen, Catherine began to see images of Christ, Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory in her late teens. Many medieval women were inspired by visions to withdraw from the world, but not Catherine. Her visions first told her to aid the sick and poor, and then to enter the political arena. Catherine wrote many letters to powerful individuals, begging for peace between the divided territories of Italy and for the return of the papacy to Rome from its location in Avignon. She had a long correspondence with Pope Gregory XI regarding the ladder, and was sent as the Florentine ambassador to make peace with the Papal States. Though the process failed, Catherine so impressed the Pope tht he agreed to return to Rome, ending the infamously corrupt Avignon Papacy. In addition to being canonized, Catherine became a patron saint of Europe and the first woman to be honored as a Doctor of the Church.

Florence Chadwick


Long-distance swimmer

Florence Chadwick swam the English Channel four times, making history each time. On August 8, 1950, she bested the record set by Gertrude Ederle (the first woman to swim across the channel), crossing from France to England in 13 hours, 20 minutes and managing an amazing sixty strokes per minute in the first part of the swim. “I lost five pounds during the crossing,” she told reporters, adding that it was “a good way to lose weight fast.” In 1951, Chadwick swam the more difficult England to France crossing in 16 hours, 22 minutes, becoming the first woman to complete the passage both ways. She would swim the English Channel the hard way two more times, setting records both times, and also successfully swim the Catalina Channel, the Dardanelles, the Bosporus, and the Straits of Gibraltar.

Versatile in the use of her talent, Chadwick was featured in the movie Bathing Beauty, taught and coached swimming, and encouraged young women to become athletes. When she retired from professional sports, she became a stockbroker and a business executive.

May Craig



War correspondent, founding panelist on television’s Meet the Press, and iconic hat-wearer, May Craig spent nearly four decades as one of the most prominent personalities in the Washington, DC, press corps. Craig began reporting on the nation’s capital in the 1930s, and by the end of her career she had covered five presidential administrations. The little woman with the ostentatious hats was known for asking tough questions. Adlai Stevenson prepared for an appearance on Meet the Press with a written plea to Craig: “Please be merciful.” Craig advocated famously for a larger female presence within the male-dominated world of news, securing the installation of a women’s restroom in the congressional press gallery and becoming the first female correspondent allowed aboard a naval ship at sea. President Kennedy once quipped that the establishment of the Commission on the Status of Women was simply an effort to placate her. In 1962 Eleanor Roosevelt paid tribute to Craig in her “My Day” column: “No other lady of the press has waged a longer or more persistent battle for the rights of women than has May Craig.”

Ruth Elder


Aviator, Actress

When Charles Lindbergh became the first person to fly across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, Ruth Elder determined that she would be the first woman. Assailed by critics who felt the “gentler sex” was not fit to pilot a plane- one German newspaper called her plan “over-whelming presumptuousness” and “crazy sensationalism”- Elder and copilot George Haldeman nonetheless took off from Long Island on October 13, 1927, in the American Girl. They survived some 2,600 miles of stormy weather before the plane’s oil pressure failed and they were forced to land in the ocean 300 miles off the Portuguese coast. During their rescue, the American Girl went up in flames, inspiring a popular song of the times, “Flaming Ruth.” Although she did not reach her goal, Elder’s feat was celebrated; a ticker-tape parade awaited her in New York. The publicity also garnered her the lead in the 1928 silent movie Moran of the Marines. Elder continued to fly, participating in air races and joining a group of licensed female flyers, the Ninety-Nines, who proved that women in aviation were here to stay.

Myrlie Evers-Williams

(b. 1933)

Civil Rights Activist

“You can kill a man but you can’t kill an idea,” said Myrlie Evers-Williams, a tireless advocate for civil rights both before and after her first husband, Medgar Evers, was assassinated in 1963. Medgar had been Mississippi field secretary for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and Myrlie was his secretary. Together they worked for an end to segregation in the southern United States. After Medgar’s murder, two trials against his killer, Byron de la Beckwith, ended in hung juries, but Myrlie’s persistence persuaded Mississippi state attorneys to reopen the case nearly thirty years later; Beckwith was finally convicted in 1994. Evers-Williams also forged her own identity, notably as the first African American woman to serve on the Los Angeles Board of Public Works. From 1995 to 1998 she served as the NAACP’s board chair-person- the first woman to hold that position. “I…battled mightily to preserve Medgar’s memory,” she wrote in a 1999 memoir, “and, at the same time, to be seen as myself, as Myrlie- as a woman and not simply as ‘the widow of.'”

Trixie Friganza


Actress, Suffragist

As a young girl, Cincinnati-native Delia O’ Callaghan, known to her friends as Trixie, worked as a cashier to help support her family. Convinced she could be a breadwinner in a more compelling career, she successfully auditioned for a chorus role in The Pearl of Pekin in 1889, adopting her mother’s maiden name, Friganza. An enthusiastic and gifted thespian, she progressed from the chorus to feature roles and was best loved for her musical comedies and vaudeville acts. Friganza was famous for her crowd-pleasing comic styling, which often centered on her portly, “perfect forty-six” figure and turbulent love stories. Although she poked fun at herself onstage, she was considered by her contemporaries to be a self-assured and confident woman. She used her celebrity to champion social issues, such as women’s suffrage and access to art for the economically depressed. Shown in this 1908 photograph, when she spoke at a suffrage rally in New York City, Friganza proclaimed, “I do not believe any man- at least no man I know- is better fitted to form a political opinion than I am.”

Source: Women Who Dare, from the Library of Congress



Do we want the vanilla iced latte or vanilla bean frappuccino? The new Coach purse or next month’s rent? Heels or flats? Highlights or lowlights? America’s Next Top Model or Project Runway? Single or get married?  Let’s look beyond the shoes, the purses, the jewelry, and the clothes. Look beyond the surface.

The reasons women started a revolution for themselves many decades ago are still true today. However, the extraordinary change and growth we have achieved in a single generation is astounding. In a 2009 study the Rockafeller Foundation did, in collaboration with TIME magazine on the battle of the sexes from the 1970’s to the present, Nancy Gibbs describes not only how far women have come, but also how our wants and needs have changed over the years.

In 1848, when Elizabeth Stanton first spoke up about her discontent with the American government and the limitations being placed on women at that time, including their freedom, thus began the movement where women would fight to no longer look to a man for approval. Women would take matters into their own hands, instead of asking for power, they took it themselves. The movement for social, political, and economic equality for both men and women has seen many changes since then, so where are we now?

Gibbs reported that “it is expected by the end of 2009, for the first time in history the majority of workers in the United States will be women. The growth prospects, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, are in typically female jobs like nursing, retail and customer service. [However], more and more women are the primary breadwinner in their household (almost 40%) or are providing essential income for the family’s bottom line. Their buying power has never been greater- and their choices have seldom been harder.”

The question that is posed and consistently remains the theme of this article is: is the battle of the sexes really over? Other questions raised about this topic include:

How do men now view female power?

How much resentment or confusion or gratitude is there for the forces that have rearranged family life, rewired the economy and reinvented gender roles?

And, what, if anything, does everyone agree needs to happen to make all this work?

Some of us might know the answer, some of us could see part of the answer in reading this article, and yet the rest of us may never find the answer. But the point is that we agree these aren’t just issues we can sweep under the rug. We need to acknowledge that these issues are real and affect men and women each day.

Remember when you were little and you got all dressed up to go over to grandma’s house for the christmas family reunion? Everyone sat around eating cookies and telling stories about how things used to be “back in the day.” Grandma would say things like “take your education seriously, when I was your age I never had the opportunity to go to college” or “we were never allowed to wear those outfits anywhere, at school our uniform skirts were always measured to our knees, and elsewhere we always wore dresses that covered our arms and it was unheard of to show cleavage. Even at church, we wore dresses, stockings, gloves, and always had to have our heads covered with a Sunday hat or a small cloth that looked like a doilie.” For years and years we heard how our grandmothers, our aunts, our mothers, never had the same opportunities that you and I have today. If you’re like me, you always just responded with “yeah, yeah we know, you had to walk 10 miles to school each day, up hill both ways.”

But what was really going on at that time? What changes were women making, if any? Gibbs brings back the history for us in saying,

“At a time when American society was racing through change like a reckless teenager, feminism had sputtered and stalled. Women’s average wages had actually fallen relative to men’s; there were fewer women in the top ranks of civil service (under 2%) than there were four years before. No woman had served in the Cabinet since the Eisenhower Administration; there were no female FBI agents or network-news anchors or Supreme Court Justices. The nation’s campuses were busy hosting a social revolt, yet Harvard’s tenured faculty of 421 included only six women. Headhunters lamented that it was easier to put a man on the moon than a woman in a corner office.”

A lot of people have said, around this same time is when feminism started to die. That, it was no longer “cool” to be a feminist in our American society. The rallies and riots in the streets and the scenes of women on Capitol Hill burning bras were a thing of the past. (Ah! I so wish I could have been a part of that!) Many said, and still say that the Women’s Movement was a joke, that it was just a bunch of angry women who were constantly PMSing for a couple years and wanted everyone to suffer for it. Men and women, including feminists, have said that there is no movement. That a movement means there is progress, that the cause is “going somewhere,” but the women’s movement won’t accomplish anything, it is not and will not go anywhere.

“[Well] that was a cranky exaggeration; many changes were felt more than seen, a shift in hopes and expectations that cracked the foundations of patriarchy. ‘In terms of real power- economic and political- we are still just beginning,’ Gloria Steinem admitted. ‘But the consciousness, the awareness- that will never be the same.'”

 If we’re being honest here, I agree that the awareness of feminism will never be the same as it was in the 1970’s. However, one stereotype we gladly fulfill, is that we will never go silent. Feminism still lives on, and we’re certainly not about to shut up about it! To all those that say feminism died a long time ago, and to those who constantly reep snobish remarks at women who publicly voice their thoughts of feminism- you may silence few individuals, but you will never silence the movement. Furthermore, as history has shown, we have the cold hard facts to shatter the thoughts and words of all those who said WOMEN CAN’T. The truth never lies my friends.

Today 57% of college students are women. In 1972, 43% were.

In 1972, there were 7  female TV-news correspondents at ABC, CBS, and NBC; out of 153. As of 2009, there 95 out of 252.

21—The median age at which a woman got married for the first time in 1972.

26— The median age at which a woman married for the first time today.

39% of all births are to unmarried mothers. 12% were in 1972.

There were 18,000 women who held a membership with the National Organization for Women, in 1972. As of 2009, the memberships have jumped to 500,000.

There are now 3.3 million married couples in which the wife is the sole earner. That’s 2.4 million more than in 1970.

                                1972: 13%                              2008: 23%

             Percentage of children living with a single mother.

 Exactly 89% of women and 89% of men both agree they are comfortable with the woman in the household earning more money than the man.

40% of women say they are the primary breadwinner in their household

More men (60%) than women (50%) are convinced that there are no longer any barriers to women’s advancement in the workplace.

Forty years ago, 1/3 of all workers were women; now nearly half are. 76% of adults view this as positive for society. AND 80% view this as positive for the economy.

29% of men agree that female bosses are harder to work for than male bosses. 46% of women disagreed.

71% of men are more comfortable than their fathers with women working outside the home.

70% say women are less financially dependent on their spouses than their mothers were.

Men have lost the battle of the sexes. 58% of women disagree and 62% of men disagree.

And as a personal side note: To my fellow sisters, feminazis, and all those in between…don’t ever let someone else take power over you to the point where you feel you cannot speak your mind. Everyone has a voice. Including the really pesky misogynists…if they have a valid argument, bring it on. If they just want to piss you off…I really don’t give a f*** is sometimes the most liberating response. Finally, to all those “closet-feminists” who are sometimes afraid to speak up…this is for you. I hope you join the rest of us soon!

Rock on.

Olive Ann Beech


Aircraft Manufacturer

Born in Kansas, Olive Ann Beech grasped finances at such an early age that she had her own bank account by the time she was seven years old. She began managing her family’s checks and bills at age eleven. When Beech got a job at the Travel Air Company, she studied airplane diagrams to school herself on the company’s product and quickly earned a promotion. In 1932, she and her husband opened their own company. Beech Aircraft, with Beech in charge of most of the company’s finances. She helped the company grow from a handful of employees to thousands of workers with hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales. When her husband died in 1950, Beech was elected president and chairman of the board, leading the company into further expansion, larger profits, and even space ventures before finally stepping down in 1982. Beech’s numerous accolades- the Wright BrothersMemorial Trophy and inclusion in the National Aviation Hall of Fame and the National Business Hall of Fame-earned her the title of First Lady of Aviation.

Violet Asquith Bonham-Carter


Politician, Orator, Diarist

Precocious and intellectual, Violet Asquith Bonham-Carter was steeped in British political culture from an early age. Her father served as prime minister from 1908-1916, bringing about many progressive social changes while in office, and in 1920 he enlisted his brilliant daughter to help with his campaign for election to Parliment. Her powerful speaking skills, sharp intellect, and pull with women voters led to a resounding victory, opening the door for Bonham-Carter to achieve great things, including the presidencies of both the Women’s Liberal Federation and the Liberal Party itself. She warned against the rise and dangers of German fascism during the harships of the Great Depression, and she forged a lasting friendship with Winston Churchill, who would soon lead Britain through the devastation of World War II. A patron of the arts, Bonham-Carter became a governor of the BBC (in 1941) and of London’s Old Vic Theater. She was later granted entrance to the House of Lords and despite ill health, worked hard to end numerous social injustices, including apartheid in South Africa, until her death in 1969.

Helena Bonham Carter, actress and wife to director Tim Burton, is her grand-daughter.

Hattie Wyatt Caraway (1878-1950)


“Arkansas needs another man in the Senate” read the campaign slogan of Mrs. Hattie Caraway’s opponent for the 1938 senatorial election. The public, however, did not agree, and granted her a second term in the Senate. Caraway had been a devoted housewife and mother with little inclination toward politics before being chosen to fill in for her late husband, Senator Thaddeus H. Caraway, who died abruptly in 1931. She became the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate in 1932, refusing to step down as expected to make way for the Arkansas governor’s candidacy that year. Reflected in 1938, she was a quiet but firm advocate for farmers going through the severe hardship brought on by the Great Depression. Caraway was later appointed to the Employees Compensation Appeals Board. As a lifelong, staunch supporter of women in politics, she said: “There is no sound reason why women, if they have the time and ability, shouldn’t sit with men on city councils, in state legislatures, and on Capitol Hill. Particularly if they have ability!”

Source: Women Who Dare, from the Library of Congress


“Feminism is the movement of social, political, and economic equality of men and women” (Baumgardner). This basic definition of such a strong organization of the female gender in our society has undergone years of history; filled with dilemma and triumph. Women such as Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, and Dorothy Day were some of the great pioneers of the feminist movement. These empowered women helped create the basis of the withstanding feminist code. So when the women of our society find themselves divided by matters of opinion on life issues, especially abortion there is always controversy. Since the majority of persons who call themselves feminists are pro-choice, it is said that women who are pro-life, are not true feminists. I advocate that feminists who possess pro-life views are true feminists, and I intend to prove that based on the strong convictions many women, civilian and celebrity, have changed public policies because the basis of their acts is with regard to the equality of women and political consciousness. The best way to understand how far pro-life feminism has come, we must look into the actions taken by the founders of such a movement.

Before her life began the world was ignorant to such a revolution that would change the lives of women and men alike, this revolution began with the birth of Susan B. Anthony in 1820. Susan began her miraculous work with her fellow citizens during the temperance movement, which was one of the original feminist movements in the United States. Anthony then moved into working for the American Anti-slavery society and soon after published the New York Liberal Weekly called “The Revolution.” “Susan demanded that women be given the same civil and political rights that had been extended to black males under the 14th and 15th amendments…She led a group of women to the polls in Rochester to test the right of women to vote.” After being arrested for her efforts Anthony adopted a fire that burned to fight for the rights of all women in the United States in order to pass the federal woman suffrage amendment. With the alliance of fellow feminists around the nation who weren’t afraid to stand up to general societal beliefs set in stone by the government and what was said to be men’s better judgment, the 19th amendment was established and thereafter began the race for better and equal rights for every citizen in the United States.

     The women’s suffrage movement continued on for many years after the ratification of that amendment, and modern feminists today, pro-life or pro-choice, say that it still continues today. In 1920, because of the efforts of women striving for a better environment and society, the Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor was formed. This bureau worked to collect information of all working women in America and helped to create better conditions for women.

     In furtherance to the rise of the strength and equality of women in society, the late 1960s produced the National Organization for Women (NOW). “The largest women’s rights group in the U.S., NOW seeks to end sexual discrimination, especially in the workplace, by means of legislative lobbying, litigation, and public demonstrations” (Imbornoni). 

These historical landmarks were the building blocks that allowed the everyday, independent woman to live her lives without limitations set forth by authoritative male influence. When branching off into the opinionated groups of pro-life and pro-choice feminists, there is still room to grow. It has been made aware of all persons in the U.S. that the pro-choice feminists won their first battle during the trials of Roe v. Wade in 1973. Since this legislation, pro-life feminists have relentlessly put out the stops to overturn such a devastating decision that allows our country to take lives and the matters of life and death into their own hands. Jennifer O’Neill who is now the spokesperson for the Silent No More campaign that gives real testimony from men and women who have personally dealt with abortion, as well as, nurse Jill Stanek from the Chicago suburbs who single-handedly brought forth attention to Congress of babies who were being born and left to die because they were unwanted. Stanek got Congress to pass the Born Alive Infant Protection Act in 2002. Norma McCorvey, who was the plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade landmark Supreme Court case, is now an avid pro-life feminist, alongside Congresswomen Illeana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla. and Melissa Hart, R-Pa. All these women and many more have single-handedly worked to change society based solely on their pro-life beliefs. Although pro-life advocates haven’t won the war of getting legislation passed to overturn Roe v. Wade, we have come a long way from just baking blueberry pies in the kitchen all day.

Pro-choice feminists say that the main reason women who are pro-life do not make the cut for the “true feminist code,” is that they are lobbying for a huge decision that would no longer allow women to have the choice to even consider not keeping their child. Pro-choice advocates say,” It is taken today as a truism that in order to be a feminist you must be ‘pro-choice’. The right to abortion is often deemed to be the most fundamental right of women, without which all others are said to be meaningless. Gloria Steinem, the self-appointed matriarch, holds that ‘pro-life’ feminism is “a contradiction in terms”. At ‘pro-choice’ rallies, banners have been held up stating that “a woman’s right to abortion is equivalent to her right to be”, while the US-based Fund for a Feminist Majority has defined a feminist as one who is ‘pro-choice’ and ‘pro-ERA’” (Hoskings).

What is hard to understand is that yes, we all have different viewpoints and opinions on each and every issue that affects our lives, but how can all women who are feminists as a whole, simply abandon the original feminist goals and teachings. Are we putting ourselves right back to where we started?

All of these events and actions opened up a whole new world for women that allowed them to explore beyond the “Pleasantville, white-picked fence” in which we would still be confined. Although I believe it is crucial for all feminists to stick together on the basic issues our foremothers worked so hard for, it is our right to stand up for what we each believe in. Since both sides of the spectrum, involving life issues, have this right, the core resolution to this argument is that pro-life feminists are still as tried and true to the “feminist code” as the pro-choice feminists.

Alva Belmont (1853-1933)

Suffragist, Reformer, Philanthropist

“I have been crying in the wilderness for wealthy women to give up their leisure and do something to justify their existence- in vain- no reforms appeal to women who have everything,” bemoaned Alva Belmont, who, unlike the rich she criticized, was a major benefactor of the women’s suffrage movement. Belmont, a divorcee, then widow, of two affluent men, gave of herself as well as her fortune. She was a founder of the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage and it’s successor, the National Women’s Party.

In 1912 she led a suffrage march in New York City, and five years later, she gave her Washington, DC, house to the NWP as its headquarters, serving as the organization’s president from 1921 until her death. Belmont campaigned for decent working conditions and fair wages for laboring women, supporting the 1909-1910 New York shirtwaist-maker’s strike. She not only raised funds for the cause, but personally went to court to bail out strikers. The owner of several lavish homes, the untiring Belmont also pursued an interest in design, becoming one of the first female members of the American Institute of Architects.

Helen Gurley Brown (born 1922)

Writer, Magazine editor

In 1962, after nearly two decades spent navigating the worlds of white-collar office work and single womanhood, forty-year-old Helen Gurley Brown penned the best-selling self-help guide Sex and the Single Girl. Her book raised the confidence and encouraged the independence of unmarried professional women everywhere, helping to inspire the feminist movement.

Three years later Brown, who had no editorial or journalistic experience, became the editor-in-chief of the fledgling literary monthly Cosmopolitan. She infused the publication with style and bravado and introduced the phenomenon of the modern-day cover girl. Cosmo quickly became one of the country’s most popular magazines, its circulation, under her leadership, increasing from eighty thousand to over two million readers in just a few years. Brown remained Cosmo’s editor for over thirty years, coaching a generation of women to achieve success in love and at the workplace. In 1997, when she took a new post as editor of the magazine’s fifty-nine international editions, the New York Times wrote: “Rarely has a magazine been so strongly identified with one editor for so long.”

Get it girl! Xoxo

Jane Austen (1775-1817)

British Novelist

Her countless complex, silly, endearing, shameful, and inspiring characters remain dear to readers today, but Jane Austen hardly grew up expecting to become one of the most highly regarded authors in the English language. Daughter of an English clergyman, Austen received a casual education at home and enjoyed a close relationship with her sister, Cassandra, while surrounded by six brothers and the young boys enrolled in the Austen’s boarding school. She began writing at an early age, developing a light, satirical voice while expertly delving into human nature in depictions of daily life and human interaction.

Source: Women Who Dare, from the Library of Congress

In this world, women and men have fought for centuries to understand one another. Our societies and governments will always have issues and will always foster different views of what is valued. However, we are all people above everything else. We all deserve the right to live the life we were given without forcefulness toward action and violence to which there is no choice to deny participation. The act of Female Genital Mutilation is an act in which women of our world have no choice but to be subjected to the trauma of having their own bodies violated. The act of female genital mutilation is a violation of human rights and is discrimination against women. Actively working to bring awareness of this issue and taking steps to end this violation is the highly advocated purpose of this research.

            Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is carrying out a procedure in which health care providers intentionally alter or permanently injure a female’s genital organs. The procedure is always performed on girls between the ages of infancy and fifteen years old. It is estimated that one hundred to one hundred and forty million women and young girls throughout the world are currently living with these devastating consequences and approximately two million undergo FGM each year. In Africa alone, it is estimated that ninety-two million girls from age ten are subjected to FGM. Female Genital Mutilation is classified into four major types of procedures which include clitoridectomy, excision, infibulations and other harmful methods like scraping and cauterizing the female genital area. This practice has been constantly persisted for years in more than twenty-five African countries, parts of Asia and the Middle East, and in numerous African immigrant communities living in industrialized nations. Many international organizations have been at work to research and prevent FGM and “change against FGM has already been underway for more than a century in some areas of the world, a clear challenge to any deterministic view of culture.”

Socio-cultural dynamics and justifications for performing these torturous surgeries are based upon societal tradition, religion, and notions of women’s sexuality. Efforts to promote change in female genital mutilation practices originated in the late nineteenth century, among the indigenous women’s organizations, religious leaders, and missionaries in Africa. Sociological researchers say that when understanding the cultural meaning of FMG, symbolic vitality and social consequences for marriagability were two major ideals.  In other studies, it was found that in several cultures female circumcision is a gender identity marker, “making a woman more fully female by cutting off her ‘male parts.’” Furthermore, examination of these cultures’ thoughts and values on gender identity and femininity point to the main ideals of what being female means and the different meanings of beauty and sensuality. Female Genital Mutilation is believed to make one fully female and fulfill their femininity.

“Femininity ideals are reinforced by aesthetic values. Tissue removal often eliminates what are thought of as masculine parts, or in the case of infibulation achieves smoothness considered beautiful. Where infibulation is the established practice, the uninfibulated state can seem repulsive to women themselves and/or to their sex partners. The infibulated state also is reinforced by symbolic values, such as ‘enclosure’ of body, to be ready for future socially-approved reproduction.”

Cultures that perform mostly infibulation have the main justification that it is an act in preserving a woman’s virginity. Virginity before marriage is a highly respected goal among the people of these countries and especially Muslims. Being a virgin symbolizes that the woman has obeyed the code of Judeo-Christian-Islamic teachings and that her moral strictures are intact. Therefore, these men and women believe that infibulation is necessary and respectable because by creating a barrier to penetration or by reducing sensitivity, this reduces a girl’s interest in sex. With this reputation the woman is also believed to be protecting her morality and preserving her family honor. Although the beliefs of these people and their societies should be respected, we must continue to stress that mutilation practices are aimed at depriving women of their sexuality and that these issues are due to male dominance over these women.

The alarming part of this argument from a scientific and medical perspective is that there are absolutely no health benefits to these women. There is no reason for these surgical procedures other than the traditional beliefs of how women should act, and the women have no choice in the matter. Most importantly, the procedure is extremely painful and traumatic, it is removal of healthy, normal genital tissue, which therefore interferes with natural functioning of the female’s body and it causes several immediate and long term health consequences. These women suffer a wide range of damaging consequences which include: psychological trauma, hemorrhage, HIV infection, complications during child birth and death. Furthermore, “babies born to women who have undergone female genital mutilation suffer a higher rate of neonatal death compared with babies born to women who have not undergone the procedure. In stillbirth or spontaneous abortion and in a further twenty-five percent the newborn has a low birth weight or serious infection, both of which are associated with an increased risk of prenatal death” (W.H.O).

In looking at this practice as a whole, including all the cultural reasoning, it is still an infringement upon human rights. Women’s health and human rights advocates have broadened the debate over female genital mutilation to include considerations of power and women’s subordination- considerations that preclude women and children from knowing and exercising their rights to health, bodily integrity, and freedom from violence. It reinforces inequality and discrimination that has become a united issue paralleled through several countries. These women do not know the severity of the larger issues at hand because they have always been socialized and raised to believe that their place in this world, in their society, is at the expense of a man. More urgent attention should be paid to women’s inequality of opportunity and power, as well as the conditions of war, famine, high rates of disease and infant and child mortality, and lack of educational opportunities. Violence against women in these countries and around the world has become commonplace, murder masked as “honor killings” in the Middle East, human trafficking run like a business between governments, and female genital mutilation masked as a coming-of-age ritual to become a woman; this silent war is outrageous. We must work to create more awareness of these issues and come to an agreement that our brothers and sisters in every country, and every society deserve the same rights that allow them human dignity and preservation of life.

If there has been constant research and studies of this issue for hundreds of years, what is being done right now? How much progress has been made regarding the issue since investigation was started? Since an international women’s rights movement has gained strength in recent years, support for efforts to stop violence against women has made enormous progress. There has been more effort to pressure governments and law-makers to pass protective laws in their countries. “In addition to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations has adopted several conventions aimed specifically at protecting women and children. Last year, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was set up and for the first time in history legally designated rape as a war crime” (Stencel 356). The conviction that female genital mutilation is a violation of human rights and discrimination has made substantial progress in raising awareness. Research efforts says the main challenge is to determine how to get governmental and nongovernmental organizations to determine how the declaration of human right and human dignity can be agreed upon and applied in the local context of these countries. Community participation, strength and understanding are the basic theories needed to start more severe prevention. Collaboration of governments and world leaders like the United Nations must come to an understanding and theory about how human life is fostered and treated in all communities, because we must keep moving forward from where we are now. Human rights activism and women’s rights movements and awareness have conquered success, but there is much more work that needs to be done.

            All people of the world have different values, thoughts and opinions. We all live within separate societies and our socialization from birth varies from household to household. Yet, the one thing we have in common is that we are women and we are men above everything else. Personhood comes first, and extreme measures must be taken to preserve the rights we all deserve without turmoil, trauma, war or despair. Female Genital Mutilation is but one issue in this world, but that does not mean we can push it aside and wait to get around to it. Once people become aware of this issue they must be obligated to move forward and search for agreements and disagreements to call for awareness and a resolution to stop violence against women, discrimination, subordination, and powerlessness of a person.

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