Recently a group of international women leaders, which included Gloria Steinem, crossed into North Korea in an effort to begin a face to face reconciliation with the women of that country. (Click) In doing so, the group was criticized for playing into North Korea’s hands, particularly because, during the exchange, they failed to raise that country’s human rights record. Steinem replied the group was taking a small step. By person to person conversations, they hoped a mutual understanding might begin.
Women paving the road to peace has a long history. Liberia owes its calm to them and is the latest example. (Click) Yet, whenever women stand together against violence, they are often ridiculed or worse.
LYSISTRATA: There are a lot of things about us women that sadden me, considering how men see us as rascals. (Lysistrata by Aristophanes, lines 1-11)
Perhaps when women show themselves as leaders; as peacemakers; as powerful, they drift too far from the norm of our cultural perception. Females are best recognized when they are victims. As actress Helen Hunt complains, it is a role too often reinforced by Hollywood. “Take the last James Bond movie. ‘A girl is tied up with her shirt open, shot, with her head down, bleeding, and they make a joke and run off.’” (“People”, The Week, May 29, 2015, pg. 10.) I agree with Hunt’s assessment. If Hollywood were deprived of its story line about serial killers who rape and torture women before murdering them, the industry would fall silent.
Do I exaggerate? Yes… but only a little.
The women who crossed the DMZ with Steinem are to be honored for attempting to create human understanding between cultures where currently none exists. No one can change North Korea’s image but North Korea. The presence of these women in that country gives no cloak of respectability to this brutal regime and those who argue otherwise are sick with mischief. May these brave ambassadors ignite a spark that may shed a little light on a dark situation.