Archive | January, 2014

The Implied Existence

26 Jan

This quote by Barack Obama has been making its rounds on FB:

“The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women. If it’s educating its girls, if women have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. But if women are oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they’re going to fall behind.”  BARACK OBAMA, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sep. 2008.

I think this quote is true, but there is an implied message here by the use of the words “girls and women” that we need to investigate.  If you read between the lines you can see that its logic is dependent on a societal status quo, that women and girls are by default not considered human beings and therefore are not equal to men.  If we replace “women” with “men” and let the quote stand, what happens?

“The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its men. If it’s educating its boys, if men have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. But if men are oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they’re going to fall behind.”

By switching the pronoun to “men” we can see that the quote is stating the obvious. The message in the quote seems redundant because our society already considers men to be human beings and because of this there is nothing to be equal to. They just are. If we replace “men” with “human beings” what happens?

“The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its human beings.  If it’s educating its human beings, if human beings have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. But if any human being is oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they’re going to fall behind.”

When we replace women and girls with “human beings,” we get a glimpse into a way of thinking that still does not exist in patriarchy regarding women. Women and girls are human beings. Women and girls are 50% of the human population in developed countries. Women and girls are a part of the 100% of the human population; however, this basic fact for some reason is not the status quo in patriarchy. Instead, women are not seen as human beings, like men are. They are instead seen as a part of men, or the property of men, etc…. This quote implies this by using the words girls and women instead of human beings. This is why sexism is a more insidious problem than racism. Sexism is invisible, because women are invisible, obscured within the default identity of “men.”  Men of minority races are considered to be autonomous human beings; whereas, women are not and women of color are the most discriminated against of all human beings, because not only do they have racism, they also have sexism, to contend with.

Because females are obscured within human males, they must be surgically removed and placed outside of males in order for us to see them. Either way women are invisible as human beings and in trouble because when we remove females from  males, we remove them from the status of human beings and place them in the “other” category because males are the only people who are considered to be human beings in our society.  In this quote Obama does this without knowing he is doing it. The implication is there but not seen because the implication and this mentality is a part of patriarchy and woven into all of our psyches. The only way to extract it is through knowledge. The knowledge acting like glasses that can see the hidden meaning written in invisible ink.

Obama is correct that if  human beings are not treated equally, countries will fall behind, but he did not use the words “human beings” and this in and of itself is telling. Our constitution states that All Men Should be Treated Equally and we women are reassured that when they said “Men” they meant women too, but women know that this is not true. And even if it were true, what does it mean? Is it any consolation to women? Is it better that we are assumed to be included in the term “men” or is it worse?  Are we supposed to take solace in this obscurity? Should we thank our forefathers for the wink and dismissal? At the time that the constitution was written and still today, women were not considered to be men in that they weren’t considered to be autonomous human beings like men, and simultaneously, they were also considered to be under the umbrella of “men” or a part of men absorbed into the category of men, absorbed into men. Women had to take on the identity of their husbands or of men and were told they could have no identity of their own. This mentality still exists today in between the lines of quotes like these like ghosts haunting graveyards.

Michele Braa-Heidner