On Educating Girls
I am a feminist.
This post started as a desire to write about the kidnapping of 234 girls in Nigeria. Girls who were kidnapped because they were taking a physics exam. Getting an education.
My physics education was rife with SpongeBob references. (Thanks, Mr. Gundrum!) I may have resented that I was forced to memorise equations instead of being able to reference a book to look them up, but I never had to worry about being dragged out into the bush and sold into sex slavery during finals.
Would it be doing feminism a disservice to suggest castration as a suitable punishment for these crimes?
I’ve often thought that such should be the punishment for a rape conviction. And I’m always left with mouth agape when suggesting such in conversation and being told, ‘Woah, that’s a little harsh and downright violent, don’t you think?’
Yes, I think. Often, and about everything that I can wrap my head around.
But I just can’t wrap my head around this extremist violence against women. Women are arguably the backbone of every society. While men rape, commit most crimes (Wikipedia citation), and otherwise engage in all manner of antisocial behaviour, women are the ones raising crops, feeding families, and providing for the next generation’s education. Quietly, passively. The way that so many of them are forced to out of circumstance or culture.
Did you know that in the slums around Nairobi, secondary-school-aged girls often trade sex for pads because they can’t otherwise afford sanitation during their menstruation? Imagine that. Once a month, selling your body for a fucking pad.
I’m not sure that I can write more, I’m so angry. It will start to be less and less coherent.
There’s no clear call-to-action for this post. The least that you could start with is to sign this Change.org petition to instigate Nigeria or the UN to—I don’t know—maybe get off their asses and take a peek around for over two hundred missing girls.
I’ve been blessed to have been raised in a matriarchal family of strong women. We’re not left-leaning feminists or anything—most of my family is actually pretty conservative—but we’re all well educated and highly intelligent. And we make no bones about the fact that women are strong. It was awesome to grow up in an environment that imbued this in me innately, by example. And which has always supported me in my efforts and endeavours. (Love you, Mom, moment. And Nana, and Aunt Roberta, Aunt Jane, Aunt Lydia, Aunt Elin, and all of the other Welch Women.)
I’m also blessed to be friends with some of the strongest women that I’ve ever met. And what’s more, to be friends with men who don’t see it as a stripping of their masculinity to admit that maybe they’re feminists, too. To display the same outrage at the gender disparities that are keeping so many cultures from being able to advance their standards of living.
Because facts don’t lie. You want to raise economic productivity? Educate girls. The world won’t get any better when over half of the people in it are suffering just for their gender.
I want to have hope. To end on some really powerful positive note and link you to women’s groups and feminine hygiene advocacy organisations that women I’ve met run. But then I come back to girls living in slums trading sex for pads. To girls who drop out of school because there are no toilets there.
To 234 girls who were taking a physics exam, and are now gone.