Sunday 12 November 2017

Later Life Learning Week Nine: Challenges faced by Women in Public and Private Life

Alice Paul
 American suffragist Alice Paul (1885-1977) was born into a prominent Quaker family in New Jersey. While attending a training school in England, she became active with the country’s radical suffragists. After two years with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), she cofounded the Congressional Union and then formed the National Woman’s party in 1916. Drawing on her experience, Paul led demonstrations and was subjected to imprisonment as she sought a voting amendment, but her actions helped bring about the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Paul continued to push for equal rights and worked from National Woman’s party headquarters in Washington, D.C., until her later years.
Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy stands on two pillars. She was an unabashed feminist, refusing to be silenced in the traditionally male world of politics. And she became a symbol of what caring for the downtrodden in society — including the poor, minorities, women, youth, and refugees — should look like. Through these two pillars, Eleanor transformed the role of the First Lady from ornamental to activist....

Eleanor faced a lot of public backlash during her time as First Lady. When she wrote magazine articles and expressed her opinions, she was likely to cause uproar. The Los Angeles Times newspaper called for her to be forced to retire from public life, because of her public criticism of the discrimination that Japanese Americans were facing. She was outspoken on the issue of racial discrimination and declared her support for civil rights. She invited hundreds of African American guests to the White House during her time as First Lady — another controversial move at the time. Her stance on racial discrimination created angry ripples across the country, especially in the South. But the critics never deterred her. Eleanor Roosevelt spoke out for those whom society cared less about at a time when women were not supposed to be speaking out at all.
Franklin D. Roosevelt died in 1945, and his successor, President Harry S. Truman, appointed Eleanor Roosevelt as a delegate to the United Nations General Assembly. She became the first chairperson for the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and played a key role in helping to form the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Against a backdrop of sex, politics and race, Academy Award winning filmmaker Freida
Mock's Anita reveals the intimate story of Anita Hill, a woman who dared to speak the truth. This powerful documentary traces Ms. Hill's life from her early years through her legacy today, offering fascinating insight into her experiences testifying before the Senate just over 22 years ago in the weekend of shocking television that made her a household name and smashed the door open on the issues of sexual harassment and gender equality.
Anita Hill

The New Yorker asked Anita Hill what has changed since she contended in 1991 that Clarence Thomas was not fit be a Supreme Court judge because he sexually harassed her.

Read a shocking article in The New Yorker   about how Harvey Weinstein  used private security agencies to discredit the women who accused him of sexual improprieties and to ensure their stories never became public. Individuals posing as journalists or human rights activists for women sought to gather information on these women

I recommend two pieces a strong   op ed in The New York Times  on the culture of complicity and a historical profile of sexual harassment from The Times

“In 1991, I testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Clarence Thomas, who had repeatedly harassed me when he was my boss, was unsuitable to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Hill. “The outcome of my testimony was not what I’d hoped, but in no way was it the final word. In the five years after I testified, sexual harassment complaints filed with the EEOC more than doubled. Legislation against harassment slowly but surely began to pass. And I saw that we had a chance to shift this narrative.”

Maya Angelou at President Clinton's Inaugural

 The film Maya Angelou and Still I Rise from co-directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack does have the credit of being the first documentary made about Angelou's life. That sounds hard to believe at first, given Angelou's popularity and importance to American art, but also makes more sense when one considers that she also wrote seven autobiographies, along with numerous amounts of personal pieces. The film seeks to become the ultimate biography, while offering Angelou on camera, sharing her side of life stories that have become American lore in books like I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Told in mostly chronological order, the documentary touches upon many chapters of Angelou’s life, starting with her upbringing in Stamps, Arkansas. While painting a picture of her upbringing in a poor, racist part of the country, it focuses on the growth of her voice, particularly when she was mute for a long time after a traumatic event. As a clue to her later brilliance without intense schooling, Angelou shares how she memorized full Shakespeare plays and read everything she could get her hands on during her formative years of silence. But as she says herself, “When I decided to speak, I had a lot to say.” 
As the documentary charts the course of how her creative voice blossomed across mediums, Angelou is a fascinating open book, with her perspective coming in between smiles during a talking head interview. In an incredible journey, she started as a dancer then singer (known as Miss Calypso), and then went onto write songs and short stories, before getting to personally know the like of Langston Hughes or James Baldwin. She established an importance that spread to other areas, like political activism, which led her to friendships with Malcolm X and Dr. Martin Luther King, among many others. “Maya Angelou and Still I Rise” provides an in-depth picture of how prolific she was, the connections that led from one artistic opportunity to the next, and strong examples of how those she interacted with influenced her work. Hercules & Coburn’s film celebrates the importance of others on our creativity, and with a brilliant example; a woman who gave back a voice to numerous communities, while helping the life of a black woman become more visible on a cultural scale. 
What the documentary adds to the Maya Angelou legacy can be found in various little gems, as it covers nearly every major form of artistry that she tackled, including songwriting (with Quincy Jones) and directing (the 1998 film “Down in the Delta”). Its talking head interviews are in particular a great find, including some beautiful words by Alfre Woodard and Cicely Tyson, or figures like President Bill Clinton, who speaks about why he chose her to write a poem (On the Pulse of Morning) for his presidential inauguration, which hadn’t happened since Robert Frost: “I knew she would make an impression. She was big and had the voice of God.”

"Ask social scientists how to end global poverty, and they will tell you: Educate girls. Capture them in that fleeting window between the ages of 10 and 14, give them an education, and watch a community change: Per capita income goes up, infant mortality goes down, the rate of economic growth increases, the rate of HIV/AIDS infection falls. Child marriage becomes less common, as does child labor. Educated mothers tend to educate their children. They tend to be more frugal with family money. Last year, the World Bank reckoned that Kenya’s illiterate girls, if educated, could boost that country’s economy by $27 billion in the course of a lifetime.
Whether an emerging nation likes it or not, its girls are its greatest resource. Educating them, as economist Lawrence Summers once said, “may be the single highest-return investment available in the developing world.”
Nowhere is that lesson more evident than in the story of Malala Yousafzai, a Pashtun girl from Pakistan’s Swat Valley who was born of an illiterate mother, grew up in her father’s school, read Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time by age 11 and has a gift for stirring oratory. And nowhere did that lesson go more rebuffed than in the verdant Swat Valley, where hard-line jihadists swept out of the mountains, terrorized villages and radicalized boys, and where—one muggy day last October—a Taliban fighter leapt onto a school bus, shouted, “Who is Malala?” and shot her point-blank in the head for speaking out about her God-given right to attend school.

Malala tells of that life-shattering moment in a riveting memoir, I Am Malala...a book that should be read not only for its vivid drama but for its urgent message about the untapped power of girls.
The story begins with Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, the son of an imam (a preacher of Islam), who was instilled from boyhood with a deep love of learning, an unwavering sense of justice and a commitment to speak out in defense of both. Like Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, Ziauddin was convinced that aside from the sword and the pen, there is an even greater power—that of women — and so, when his firstborn turned out to be a bright, inquisitive daughter, he raised her with all the attention he lavished on his sons...."
 —Marie Arana in The Washington Post

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