Can the world know lasting peace without equality between men and women? “Sex and World Peace,” by four acclaimed scholars (Valerie M. Hudson, Bonnie Ballif-Spanvill, Mary Caprioli, and Chad F. Emmet) makes a compelling case that it cannot. Throughout most of the world, women are viewed as inferior and therefore poorly treated, not just in Asia, India and Africa, but in liberal Western Cultures, including the United States. The question is to what degree.
The book covers the gamut of ill treatment, from the extreme practices of much of the world (sex selective abortions, honor killings, purdah, female genital cutting) to what is commonly accepted in western societies (unequal pay, fewer job opportunities and career advancements, sexual harassment ranging from spousal abuse and date rape, to uninvited and inappropriate touching and kissing). Throughout the world the message is the same: men are superior and therefore entitled to do what they will to women, ranging from the extreme of femicide in Guatemala, to sexual harassment in the halls of the United States Congress.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that this behavior is not inbred in the human species, but is learned. According to a number of studies, men and women were equal in hunter-gatherer societies. It wasn’t until agriculture and animal husbandry became mainstays of the human food supply, about 10,000 years ago, that generalized male dominance took root in human societies.
In twelfth century northwestern Europe, this began to change. Instead of parents choosing the partner for their sons and daughters to marry, the sons and daughters began to make the decision for themselves. This paved the way for the development of equal rights and individual freedom. In turn, this set the stage for the rise of sustainable democracy in human society. This explains a lot, including why democracy is frowned upon in Islamic nation-states, where the authoritarianism of government reflects the authoritarianism of men over women. This is also true in Russia and China and any number of countries where authoritarianism and tyranny reign supreme. In these countries, women are without rights.
The cost in human lives is overwhelming. According to the authors, more lives are lost through violence against women “from sex-selective abortion, female infanticide, suicide, egregious maternal mortality, and other sex-linked causes than were lost during all the wars and civil strife of the twentieth century.” This includes the nearly one-hundred million women that are missing from the populations of China and India due to similar sex-related violence. “We take this to mean,” say the authors, “that the true clash of civilizations in the future will not be over religious or cultural differences but along the fault lines between civilizations that treat women as equal members of the human species and civilizations that cannot or will not do so.”
Add to this the financial costs of holding women down. According to UNIFEM, the unpaid labor of women, if valued monetarily, would translate into about 40 percent of the world’s gross product. Furthermore, salary analysts in the United States consistently value the unpaid work of wife and mother at between $120,000 and $280,000 per year. In some parts of the world, women are the primary growers of food, especially subsistent crops. In addition, women are the providers of nearly all caring services such as elder care, and care for the ill, which are invariably priced very low in the marketplace. According to one source, women do two-thirds of the world’s work.
Add to this two crucial points: (1) with reproductive freedom, women tend to have fewer children, children that are healthier, better educated, and live longer and lead more productive lives, and, (2) according to an Inter-Parliamentary Union survey of 187 women holding public office in sixty-five countries, women’s presence in politics increases the amount of attention given social welfare, legal protection, and transparency in government and business, and 80 percent of respondents said that women’s participation restores trust in government. Indeed, the old-boy club of alpha males (where women’s input is not valued or welcomed) is more likely to take risks that bring down businesses and lead nations into war. In other words, men need women on the management team to lead businesses and governments more effectively and thereby insure better decisions in both the marketplace and in national and world politics. In order for this to happen, macho has to go.
“Sex and World Peace” is a call to action, and offers a variety of measures than can be taken now, from “Effecting Positive Change Through Top-Down Approaches” (chapter 5) and “Effecting Positive Change Through Bottom-Up Approaches” (chapter 6).
Finally, the politician who has spoken out consistently on men-women equality has been Hillary Clinton, who, ironically, lost the 2016 presidential election to Donald Trump. She has said: “Give women equal rights, and entire nations are more stable and secure. Deny women equal rights and the instability of nations is almost certain. . . . The subjugation of women is, therefore, a threat to the common security of our world and to the national security of our country.”
“Sex and World Peace” was published in 2012. It’s well-footnoted, contains charts and graphs and, at 212 pages is not long. The writing is scholarly but relatively easy to read. Dealing with the personal accounts of women who have suffered abuses at the hands of men can be difficult to take, but is necessary to understanding the evils of inequality throughout the world.