Malala Yousafzai & the ‘Threat’ of an Educated Woman

This week's Evil Mother Lady confession: I am a spoiled parent.

So, now it is time for the next confession: I am such a spoiled parent. Reading the news recently brought home how very spoiled we are in this country. Sure, there are lots of bad things that can happen, real fears for our children, but we don’t question the basics: food, water, shelter, the right to own property, the right to vote, the right to make decisions for ourselves and the right to an education. The last four, fundamental rights in my opinion for myself and my daughters, are especially important, since they are rights we as women have had for such a short time in our country and many countries in the world still do not guarantee them.

Consider Malala Yousafzai, age 14, right between my youngest two daughters. She lives in Pakistan and all she wants is an education. A logical, laudable desire in my eyes; the path to blasphemy to the Taliban, who pronounced a death sentence on her, attempted to murder her, and who vowed to finish the job if she indeed survives. What is so threatening about an educated woman and why in the world is this battle still being fought in almost half the world?

I really don’t understand the need to keep women oppressed and in “their” place. Don’t men understand that by keeping women down they impact the future generations, not just those women? The socio-economic studies that document how a nation’s prosperity, children’s health, children’s education and advancement all rise when women are educated, do they mean nothing? Even trotting out the tired arguments from the American fight for universal education, voting rights, property rights, and the right to be considered a full person, not a half or three-fifths, mean something, for all the paternalism and racism behind them.

Today we stand and look at recent headlines—a world where a 14-year-old fights for her life after being shot for insisting on attending school; where girls in India are raped and self-immolate due to a kangaroo court that would most likely force them into an underage marriage with their rapists; where some women in Africa cannot own property.

I don’t see easy answers here; these battles are fought long and hard. It took American women until 1920 to earn the right to vote, less than one hundred years ago. In my mind’s eye, sometimes I gather up all of the women in these nations where they have no rights. I move us to an island no one can find, wall us up behind tremendous walls and leave the men behind to face the void left by the absence of women. Not forever, just long enough for them to appreciate the tremendous amount of unacknowledged work these women do and the value they have been providing to society, to realize these women have more than earned the rights they are respectfully demanding. I don’t see these women shooting people who disagree with them on the school bus, performing vigilante justice on those rapists, seizing that brother’s property in Africa and casting him out without any of his hard-earned possessions. I see them dignified in their demands, asking for no more than is their due, the right to be treated as a human being in their country, as if they were a man and a citizen of the country in which they reside, instead of the property they are viewed to be.

So, how about you?

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