Though a staunch defender of the First Amendment, I’ve experienced moments of discomfort because of it. While in politics, I questioned the legitimacy of Rap lyrics that encouraged the brutal treatment of women, for example. If the subject were race, I pointed out, the writers could have been charged with defamation. But, according to some legal minds, women are exempt from that protection because they’re not a minority but represent half of the world’s population. Rappers and their verbal abuse of women is protected speech under the First Amendment.
These thoughts come to mind as 2016 marks the 20 year anniversary of the U.N. Women’s Beijing conference where 17,000 delegates from around the globe gathered to speak in defense of women and against child marriages, female circumcision, trafficking, domestic violence and rape. The Beijing Platform for action was signed by 189 countries and was thought to provide a benchmark for progress. (“A Landmark Event for Women,” by Myna Blyth, AARP Bulletin, 9/2015 pg 32.) Since that conference, gender equality has been written in to the constitutions of many nations.
As wonderful as that record seems, in reality progress is slow. In the United States Rappers go on with their aggression; women have no Equal Rights Amendment and they continue to earn wages below those of men. In other countries, the violence against women continues. Child brides still die of sexual abuse on their wedding nights, and female circumcision remains common. (Blog 11/15/14) Some may even be surprised that in the United States between 18,000 and 20,000 people are slave trafficked here annually. (Click)
A new book, Paid For by Rachel Moran attempts to open our eyes. She urges us to understand women don’t choose lives of sexual degradation. Prostitution is not, as some would chose to characterize it, a matter of commerce and free enterprise. It is a matter of desperate necessity.
That prostitution exists and society turns a blind eye, Moran argues, is because “the sexual pleasure it affords men is deemed more important than the duty to treat women equally in humanity.” (Modern Magdalenes,” by Sara Marshall, New Republic, Sept/Oct 2015, pg. 75.) She estimates that 10% of British males use prostitutes. In Italy “nine million men are believed to be engaged in the same practice. (Ibid, pg. 75)
Objectifying women in games, films, and music shows a continuing disrespect for them. But how do we change the paradigm? Many men are with us but as yet, even though we know the goal, twenty years after Beijing, no new women visionaries have emerged to lead us there. I hope one will arrive, one who will see that being the head of a large corporation is a sign of progress but not the paradigm shift we need.