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Wednesday, March 30

Women keep out of politics, or why Soccer Moms need to be in charge of US foreign aid

Dear Pundita, I've started doing research on the issue you raised about the link between physical exhausting labor and low interest in political involvement. From what I've been reading, this issue falls hard on women in the poorest countries. I was shocked to learn that there's still considerable gender bias in Europe, in particular Eastern Europe. It seems to be a cultural attitude toward females. Do you know anything about this issue?
[Signed] Jan in Reston"

Dear Jan:

Pundita has not studied the subject as applied to East Europe; I doubt it's easy to get good data, for the same reason it's hard to get good data on racism in those regions. As soon as an American with check-writing power goes near such questions, the lobbies for those countries produce polls to demonstrate that racial and gender prejudice are not a problem and that their government enforces laws to prevent discrimination.

I do know there was a seminar that took place in 2000 in Dubrovnik, and which produced a book comprised of 10 papers presented by women from Armenia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Italy, Poland and Slovenia. The book, Women and Politics: Feminisms with an Eastern Touch was reviewed in 2001 by Olivera Jokic, who notes
...several of the articles try to recapitulate the changes within the last decade in eastern Europe as they affected women’s rights, and find that the benefits of ‘democracy’ were not necessarily meant to be enjoyed by women. Even in Slovenia...which is usually taken to be a token of successful decentralization and smooth transition of institutions, women are discouraged from political activism and exposed as intruders in a strictly male sphere.
But when you ask pointed questions of East Europeans you can get the same defensive replies, even from women, that you hear from Saudis who defend their practice of treating women like brain-damaged parakeets. They say America didn't have equality for women for much of its history, so have a little patience with their slow progress.

Who's talking about patience? We're talking about money. For the love of Larry, it's hard to blow trillions of US dollars. You have to really work at it. But now we have The Arab Problem to deal with. How could there be an Arab problem if Arabs have been rolling in oil money for half a century? The Saudis click their worry beads then reply, "Petroleum is Allah's curse. It made us crazy."

Well maybe ya'll would have been a little less crazy, if Saudi women had some say these past 50 years in the way their government was run. Same applies to endemic corruption in East European governments. They wail and throw clouds of ashes when you bring up the topic. But you can graph the fall of corruption in American government, the police forces and judicial systems with the rise of American women voters having their say and women in politics, business and law. That's because females tend to be skinflints if they don't think it's right to pay for something and they are rule oriented. Men will pay bribes just to get on with things and not disturb the ecosystem of 'codes.'

In 2000 Zbignew Breziznski told a bunch of Ukrainians, "Much of the money we [US government] have given to Russia has been misappropriated -- and we don't like to talk about this. The U.S. officials who worked closely on this are embarrassed about it."

Embarrassed? Every morning Bill Clinton gets out of bed and the first thing he does is look out the window: Whew; they're not there yet. Same ritual at the White House and in the parking garages at Foggy Bottom and Congress: "Anybody smell tar and see bales of feathers yet?"

US officials are not embarrassed. They live in fear that the American public will discover that zillions of US tax dollars were given to gangsters who had the Democracy Rap down pat. Of course Breziznski singled out Russia but that country stands in a long line. It's not just the amount of stolen money that would send the American public through the roof. It was the way the stolen money was used. Soccer Moms should be in charge of the US foreign aid checkbook. And East European women and Saudi women--and come to think of it, women all around the world--need to wake up and get serious about grabbing more power. The problems are so huge and complex these days that all countries need all the brain power they can get. It's not just a matter of equal rights. It's also a matter of two heads are better than one for solving tough problems.

Arab Muslims have been yammering for decades that the end of the world is coming. Darn tootin, if more women don't exercise more of their brain cells. Yet too many women are waiting for men to give them power. Men are not going to give them power because men are human and because that's not the way men get power. They don't sit around and say, "Where's my power? Somebody give it to me."

If you want power, ladies, step up to the plate.

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