The Political System Is Behind The Times

Nearly all of President Barack Obama's measures in the United States were done without the approval or permission of a Republican-controlled Congress, where climate change denial (and unwillingness to accept fundamental geophysical truths) has become a political litmus test. 

Obama's measures include a June 2014 directive from the Environmental Protection Agency requiring significant emissions reductions from coal-fired power facilities. Former US Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson (a Republican) linked the climate catastrophe to the 2008 financial crisis: 

  • We are accumulating excesses (debt in 2008, greenhouse gas emissions that are trapping heat now). 
  • The policies of our administration are faulty (incentivizing us to borrow too much to finance homes then, and encouraging the overuse of carbon based fuels now). 
  • Our specialists (first financial experts, now climate scientists) attempt to make sense of what they observe and predict potential futures. And the enormous dangers have the potential to be disastrous (to a globalized economy then, and the global climate now). 
  • We barely averted an economic disaster at the last minute by using government intervention to save a failing banking system. 
  • Climate change, on the other hand, is a more intractable issue. We are releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, which will stay there for millennia, heating up the planet. 
  • That means the choices we're making today—to stay on a nearly carbon-dependent path—are locking us into long-term repercussions we won't be able to alter, but only adjust to, at great expense. 
  • It is estimated that protecting New York City against rising oceans and storm surges would cost at least $20 billion in the short term, and much more in the long run. And that's only one of the coast's cities. 2014 (Paulson) 

The Prince of Wales, who also believed that the biggest financial collapse since the Great Depression of the 1930s would be overshadowed by ecological concerns, particularly climate change, echoed Paulson's view. 

  • “This [the financial crisis] we can solve pretty easily,” Prince Charles said as he accepted an honorary degree from the London Business School. 
  • But there is another systemic risk that, in my opinion, is far more serious in the long run: the threat of increasing and accumulating environmental collapse, with its devastating consequences not only for us as a species, but also for the countless others who shape this planet alongside us and on whom we rely for our survival. 
  • Our blind resolve to disregard the realities and go on as normal, I believe, is increasing the danger of a collapse that will be much more spectacular and difficult to recover from than anything we have seen in recent years. (2011, Prince of Wales) 
  • In 2014, Paulson collaborated on an economic study of climate change costs called Risky Business with Michael R. Bloomberg (former New York City mayor and investment company owner) and Tom Steyer (retired hedge fund manager). 
  • They support a carbon price and the phase-out of fossil-fuel subsidies. “The greatest lag is in the political system,” said Princeton University geoscientist Michael Oppenheimer. 
  • He believes that the severity of the danger has been debated for the last two decades, and that another 20 years may pass before a global diplomatic response is in place. 
  • In the meanwhile, the window of opportunity for feedbacks to take control is shrinking. “We can't afford to take a wait-and-see approach,” Oppenheimer added. “The most pressing issue is when will we commit to [limiting global warming to] 2 [degrees Celsius].” 

There isn't a whole lot of headroom left. We'd best go to work.” According to Roger Pielke Jr. of the University of Colorado in Boulder, the present pace "isn't going to accomplish it" (Kerr 2007).

You may also want read more about Global Climate Change here.

Climate Change Politics And Diplomacy Outstripped By Geophysics

Global warming is a deceptively backhanded problem in which thermal inertia produces consequences half a century or more after we cause it by burning fossil fuels. 

Our political and diplomatic discussions are triggered by outcomes. 

Political inertia, combined with thermal inertia, offers a challenge to the human species and the planet we govern: design a new energy future before sheer necessity—the hot wind in our faces—compels action. 

Global warming is hazardous because it is a stealthy, slow-moving catastrophe that requires us to recognize a fact decades in the future with a past-tense system of private, legal, and diplomatic response. 

  • Two scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California–San Diego published research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in September 2008 that showed that even if greenhouse gas emissions were completely eliminated by 2005, the world's average temperature would still rise by 2.4°C (4.3°F) by the end of the twenty-first century. 
  • The latest carbon dioxide statistics and study, according to Richard Moss, vice president and managing director for climate change at the World Wildlife Fund, indicate that “we're already locked into greater heat than we thought” (Eilperin 2008; Ramanathan and Feng 2008). 
  • These estimates have been around for more than a decade. These have been wasted years in terms of global diplomatic reform. 

A second key factor that affects climate change, in addition to thermal inertia, is feedback, which includes albedo (light reflectivity).

  • In the summer, when the sun shines at the top of the globe, melting Arctic ice reveals open ocean. 
  • Because dark ocean water absorbs more heat than lighter ice and snow, it heats up and melts faster. 
  • Meanwhile, permafrost on land surrounding the Arctic Circle melts, releasing even more carbon dioxide and methane, hastening the natural process that feeds on itself. 
  • When you add the trigger of rising human emissions to these natural processes, the situation becomes much worse. 

Climate change is a cumulative phenomenon. 

Many of the feedbacks that contribute to increasing temperatures tend to speed up with time, reinforcing each other. 

  • For example, increasing human-caused emissions cause permafrost to thaw, releasing even more carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere. Melting ice darkens surfaces, allowing more heat to be absorbed. 
  • Meanwhile, rising seas are soaking coastal soil, destroying crops, and polluting fresh water sources in low-lying island countries like the Marshall Islands. The Marshall Islands' foreign minister, Tony deBrum, stated, "The groundwater that sustains our food crops is being flooded with salt." ‘The green is becoming brown,' says the narrator. (Davenport et al., 2014). 
  • “Runaway growth in the emission of green house gases is swamping all political efforts to deal with the problem, raising the risk of ‘severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts' over the next decades,” wrote Justin Gillis in The New York Times (2014, August 26). 

Diplomats and climate scientists gather every year in an attempt to arrange a global pact to halt the rise in greenhousegas emissions, despite a growing chorus of warnings that the results will be too little, too late. 

  • As temperatures rise and raging weather becomes a staple of daily headlines, diplomats and climate scientists gather every year in an attempt to arrange a global pact to stall the rise in greenhousegas emissions amid a rising chorus of warnings that the results will be too little, too late.
  • By 2015, global diplomacy's attempts to deal with climate change and its impact on everyday weather had fallen behind. 
  • As wind and solar expanded throughout the globe (Germany, the world's fourth biggest economy, drew one-third of its power from renewable sources by 2016), a renewable energy infrastructure emerged, but it was too sluggish to keep up with the increase in temperatures. 

The fundamental issue is: can mankind alter its energy paradigm fast enough to prevent irreversible environmental damage? 

  • While James Hansen believes the 2°C goal is overly ambitious, some experts believe it will never be met due to the global momentum of greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • In Nature, David Victor (a professor at the University of California–San Diego) and Charles Kennel (of the Scripps Institute of Oceanography) stated, "The objective is essentially unattainable" (Kolbert 2015, 30). To meet the target, global greenhouse gas emissions would have to decrease to almost zero in the second half of the twenty-first century. 
  • Even if all diplomatic recommendations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions made in 2015 were implemented, global warming by the end of the twenty-first century would be restricted to 6.3°F, compared to 8.1°F if emissions remained at current levels (“Climate Scoreboard” 2015). 

If all countries fulfilled their commitments, global emissions would begin to decline within a decade or two, but only slowly and insufficiently to prevent thermal inertia from increasing temperatures, melting glaciers across the globe, raising sea levels, and wreaking havoc on flora and wildlife. 

  • Countries' commitments made before the global climate conference in Paris at the end of 2015 were "a significant step forward, but not enough—not even close," according to John D. Sterman, a management professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Gillis and Sengupta 2015). 
  • In 2014, the US and China signed their first-ever agreement, which included a joint statement that the US will reduce emissions by up to 28% by 2025 and China's emissions would peak by 2030. 
  • The government of India, the world's third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases in 2014, does not anticipate emissions to peak until at least 2040. 

As carbon dioxide and methane levels continue to increase, every action to decrease emissions is “on speculation”—in the future. And as long as these levels increase, humanity will lose the fight against global warming.

You may also want read more about Global Climate Change here.

Consequences of Climate Change


Given current emissions, scientists predict that ice would melt much quicker than previously anticipated. 

The scientists were taken aback when their model predicted that half of Antarctica's (and, by extension, the world's) ice would melt within 1,000 years, causing sea levels to rise at a rate of a foot per decade for centuries, a rate that "would almost certainly throw human society into chaos, forcing a rapid retreat from the world's coastal cities." 

  • To put it simply, if we burn it all, we melt it all, according to Winkelmann, a researcher at Germany's Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (Gillis 2015, September 12). 
  • London, Berlin, Paris, Shanghai, Sydney, Rome, Tokyo, Miami, New York City, Boston, New Orleans, Houston, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Venice, Buenos Aires, Beijing, and Washington, D.C. are just a few of the coastal cities that may be flooded. 
  • Caldeira said, “This is mankind as a geologic force.” “We [humans] aren't having a subtle impact on the climate system; we're hammering it with a hammer” (Gillis 2015, September 12). 
  • An average global temperature increase of around 20°F would cause ice melting, with more at higher latitudes and interior regions and less in the tropics and near shorelines. 
  • According to Justin Gillis of The New York Times, “vast sections of the Earth will certainly become too hot and humid for human habitation, causing food production to fail, and driving much of the planet's plant and animal life to extinction” (Gillis 2015, September 12). 
  • “The effects of human-induced climate change are being felt in every corner of the United States,” scientists reported in 2014. 
  • “Water is becoming scarcer in dry regions, torrential rains are increasing in wet regions, heat waves are becoming more common and severe, wildfires are becoming more severe, and forests are dying under attack from heat-loving insects” (Gillis 2014, May 6). 
  • “Summers are longer and hotter, and prolonged spells of exceptional heat persist longer than any living American has ever experienced,” according to the National Climate Assessment released by the United States Global Change Research Program. 
  • Winters are usually milder and shorter. Rain falls in torrential downpours. People are noticing differences in the duration and intensity of seasonal allergies, the plant varieties that flourish in their gardens, and the types of birds they observe in their communities in any given month.” Richard B. Alley, a climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University who was not involved in the report's drafting but saw a late copy, said, "Yes, climate change is already here."
  •  “However, the expenses thus far are still modest when compared to what will be standard practice by the end of the century” (Gillis 2014, May 6). 2016 was by far the warmest year on record, marking the third year in a row of record temperatures. 
  • The only places with colder-than-average temperatures in 2015 were the seas off Greenland and Antarctica, where fast melting ice was cascading into the oceans, cooling the air above. 
  • The margin of error for the new record was astounding—0.23°F (0.23°C) (according to NASA) and 0.29°F (0.16°C) (according to NASA) (as measured by NOAA). 
  • New global highs and lows are often recorded in tenths of degrees. A powerful El Nio had a role, but so did long-term global warming driven by human greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Gerald A. Meehl, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, stated, “The entire hole system is persistently warming” (Gillis 2016). 2016 continued 2015's hot trend, with the largest deviation from the average of any month on record. 
  • The Arctic saw the most extremes, with some places exceeding 6°C (13°F) over the 1951–1980 average. 
  • The Arctic as a whole was 4.0°C (7.2°F) warmer than it was over the same time period. Global warming is more than just a matter of temperature rises. 
  • Warming temperatures alter the hydrological cycle's behavior, increasing the severity of storms as well as the frequency and intensity of droughts and deluges. 
  • Because warming also increases evaporation, a warmer atmosphere may retain more moisture, enhancing the explosive nature of precipitation. 
  • As a consequence, drought and flooding may occur at the same time in different parts of the country—or even alternate in the same location. 
  • Changes in precipitation patterns may vary dramatically over time and location, according to theory and an increasing number of daily weather reports. 
  • Temperatures appeared to be shifting faster than the hydrological cycle. Such shifts will be uneven, episodic, and often unpleasant. 

One of the most startling results of the National Climate Assessment was the increasing frequency of heavy rainfall. 

For decades, scientists have predicted that more water would evaporate from a rising ocean surface, and that the warmer atmosphere will be able to retain the extra vapor, which will subsequently fall as rain or snow. 

Even the most seasoned specialists were taken aback by the severity of the impact. 

  • The National Climate Assessment concluded that “the eastern half of the [United States] is getting greater precipitation in general,” according to Justin Gillis of The New York Times on May 6, 2014. And the percentage of precipitation dropping in extremely heavy rain episodes has increased by 71 percent in the Northeast, 37 percent in the Midwest, and 27 percent in the South during the last half-century.” Such developments are taking place all across the globe. 
  • In the summer of 2010, for example, floods ravaged Pakistan, but an exceedingly unusual downpour flooded the town of Leh in Ladakh, India, which is located in one of the world's driest deserts. The hamlet is located in a high-altitude desert that is shielded from the majority of precipitation by neighboring mountains. 
  • In August, the average rainfall is 15 millimeters, or a fraction of an inch. However, a half-hour downpour on August 6, 2010, washed most of the town away, killing 150 people and left hundreds more missing. The storm was so powerful, yet so remote, that it missed a meteorological station in the valley and remained unnoticed. 
  • In 2013, significant sections of Nashville, Tennessee, were flooded by almost 20 inches of rain, while parts of Colorado got a year's worth of rain in a single week. As much as two feet of rain fell in as little as 24 hours in parts of the Florida panhandle. 
  • At the same time, sand dunes erupted over most of the Navajo reservation in New Mexico and Arizona, which is normally dry, as precipitation dropped from meager to virtually none—except for a brief but intense rainfall. Early in October 2015, parts of South Carolina got two feet of rain in three days. In some parts of southern Texas, 20 inches of rain poured two weeks ago.

You may also want read more about Global Climate Change here.

Climate Change Bills Are Over-Due

The bills for our fossil fuel use are finally being paid. In 2015, experts concluded that “burning the presently available fossil fuel resources is sufficient to destroy the [Antarctic] ice sheet” (Winkelmann et al. 2015). 

Although this research is focused on Antarctica, all other ice would melt at the same time. How much time will it take to create an ice-free planet? 

No one knows for sure. 

  • The actual combustion of fossil fuel reserves may happen within a thousand years if present rates of growth continue. 
  • Taking into account thermal inertia delays, complete melting of the ice might take thousands of years—but the momentum of this inertia would be irreversible. 
  • “The legacy of what we're doing over the next decades and centuries is really going to have a dramatic influence on this planet for many tens of thousands of years,” Ken Caldeira, a researcher at Stanford University's Carnegie Institute of Science and one of the study's four coauthors, told Chelsea Harvey of the Washington Post (Harvey 2015). 

As the world's carbon dioxide pollution from humans continues to increase, the geography of generation has shifted. 

  • Since the beginning of the Industrial Age, the relative proportions of carbon dioxide emissions have shown the rapid growth of China and India, as well as the continuing importance of the United States and Europe. 
  • This is significant because CO2 is released and stays in the atmosphere for hundreds of years.

 According to data collected by the Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and revised by BP in 2014, China accounted for 25% of global CO2 fossil fuel emissions, the US 15%, and Europe (including a tiny portion of Eurasia) 13%. Europe and a tiny portion of Eurasia have a combined stake of 29 percent (1751–2014); the United States has a share of 20 percent; China has a share of 10%; and India has a share of 3%.

You may also want read more about Global Climate Change here.

Fossil Fueling Climate Change Disaster

The fossil fuel era began as the United States grew to become the world's most powerful economy, with a growing territory and rising immigration (mainly, but not entirely, from Europe). 

  • Between the mid-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, the extraction of coal, oil, and natural gas brought machine labor equal to one billion horses (or 3 billion human slaves). 
  • Human slavery, maybe not coincidentally, became economically and politically outdated. Consider how much human work was shifted to fossil-fueled machinery between 1800 and 1970: the number of human hours of labor required to produce an acre of wheat decreased from 56 to 2.9. The same number fell from 185 to 24 for an acre of cotton. 
  • Food production has become as automated as any other industry: in 2014, seven calories of energy (mostly fossil fuels) were needed to create one calorie of food ( Johnson 2014, 14, 19, 39). 
  • The production of heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere surged as a result of this energy revolution.

The greenhouse effect (also known as "infrared forcing") is essential to life on Earth as part of the planet's natural cycle. 

  • The planet's average temperature would be - 2°F without it. The additional heat caused by human burning of fossil fuels creates a concern. 
  • A little, like chocolate, is OK; too much is harmful to the body. Fossil fuels provide us with comfort and ease, and changing their usage fundamentally offers the century's—and, most likely, many centuries'—challenge. 

Unless we rapidly wean ourselves off fossil fuels, the major difficulties will emerge after the middle of the twenty-first century. 

“We are nearly to the threshold of irreversible collapse, and will cross it shortly if we are not careful,” Sir John Houghton, one of the world's top experts on global warming, told The Independent (London) (Lean 2004, 8).

You may also want read more about Global Climate Change here.

Women's Rights ARE Human Rights

Countless modern feminists are dedicated to the advancement of women's rights. 

Indeed, feminism is frequently connected with women's equality, with the struggle to achieve and protect reproductive rights frequently at the forefront. These rights provide women some control over when and if they get pregnant. 

With the title of her book, Are Women Human?, Catharine MacKinnon, on the other hand, urges us to return to the opening question. The essential argument here is whether women have human rights or are protected by them. Human rights are often seen as fundamental responsibilities that mankind owe to one another. 

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) by the United Nations is the most commonly acknowledged statement of human rights, with the first article asserting the freedom and equality of all human beings. 

Nonetheless, the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights may be criticized for its Western bias - even the word "rights" shows a uniquely Western perspective on human responsibility. Many nations disagree with certain of the document's contents because they are incompatible with their cultural beliefs or traditions. 

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights is difficult for women since women are not yet recognized as fully human or deserving of human rights protection in all countries, and they do not yet have equal political position with men everywhere. Furthermore, it does not address challenges that are unique to women. 

Women's rights infractions, according to MacKinnon, are frequently disregarded because they are considered gender-specific concerns rather than violations of women's fundamental rights. 

The problem now is to persuade the UN and the rest of the international community that gender-based concerns like rape are deserving of human rights attention. 

The UN has published a number of following papers and agreements that aim to address gender specific concerns, at the insistence of feminists and women's activists all around the world. 

The United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (1993) strives to extend to women the rights outlined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Global feminists advance the cause of women's human rights by forming cross-border coalitions of feminist organizations and pursuing shared aims for future alliances. 

The activism around female genital cutting, also known as female circumcision or female genital mutilation depending on one's point of view, is an example of feminist attempts to secure human rights while simultaneously acknowledging the gendered dimension of a violation. 

Female genital cutting (FGC) is a term that refers to a group of activities that the World Health Organization has divided into four categories. 

  1. The first is clitoris removal, often known as clitorodectomy. 
  2. The clitoris and labia minora are removed in the second procedure (and possibly the labia majora). 
  3. These excisions are included in the third version, which additionally sews up or plugs the vaginal orifice. Infibulation is a condition in which just a tiny hole allows urine and blood to flow through. 
  4. The fourth category, according to the WHO, is a catch-all for various types of ceremonial genital cutting, such as piercings, which may or may not involve the loss of flesh. 

Female genital cutting, in all forms, is a cultural practice that takes place on females from infancy to maturity, but most typically between the ages of five and thirteen. 

Those who contend that genital cutting is a human rights violation point out that it is frequently done without the girl's or woman's permission and in unclean settings. 

They portray it as a form of violence against women that is often accompanied by a general disregard for women's human dignity, hence the term "female genital mutilation," which distinguishes it from male circumcision. 

Activists who oppose FGC see it as a blatant infringement of women's rights. 

FGC, in particular, infringes on the rights to physical integrity, sexual expression or enjoyment, and personal security

In addition to physical scars, it is reported to leave a plethora of psychological scars. 

Nonetheless, FGC remains a contentious issue within feminism. 

Some societies maintain it as a traditional ritual with important meaning, with the help of women. Some feminists even support the practice, claiming that those who oppose it are imposing their own cultural norms or human rights notions. 

Those who advocate FGC point to religious and cultural freedoms as justifications, claiming that while some female genital cutting occurs in harmful settings, the majority does not. 

This argument exemplifies some of the challenges that many women face in obtaining full human rights protections. Because the issue or act is not considered a matter for human rights talk, because women are not the subjects of human rights, or because of conflicts between cultures, traditions, and approaches to justice – the very nature of human rights is, after all, rooted in a Western ethos – efforts to bring about change can become much more complicated. 

The French prohibition on religious attire and other symbols in schools is another recent instance that has drew the attention of feminists concerned with human rights problems. 

This restriction, which the European Court of Human Rights deemed to be in conformity with human rights, is intended to promote a form of secularism that is seen to contribute to a feeling of national community. However, the restriction places an excessive hardship on Muslim girls and women who prefer to wear the head scarf as a symbol of their faith or are required to do so. 

The scarf, worn at school, has been ruled to be in breach of the prohibition, despite the fact that little Christian crosses are permitted. The reasoning is based on the perception of conspicuous religious symbols as disrupting social cohesiveness or detracting from school lectures. 

This topic raises questions of sex and gender inequality, but it may also be viewed in the context of France's colonial past. 

Human rights activists and feminists underline the intersection of problems here. On the one hand, there is the freedom to openly express one's faith in public or private as long as it does not endanger others' rights. 

The ability to openly express one's religious views does not appear to be upheld by a clothing prohibition that looks to be focused especially at Muslim girls and women. 

It also doesn't appear to treat everyone equally, considering that the effects are most noticeable among schoolgirls. On the other side, there is the right to equal protection and security in one's person (particularly in educational settings), as well as the state's responsibility to provide it. 

If France perceives religious symbols as representing a possible threat to a person or a group, and believes that prohibiting them is the best way to safeguard those persons, it may be argued that the state has every right to implement the prohibition, even if it looks to be targeting Muslim females.

Furthermore, feminists disagree on whether the head scarf and other kinds of veiling constitute signs of sexual inequity or otherwise dehumanize women. Some say that wearing a head scarf or veil is liberating because it shields women from at least some of the objectifying gaze of men. Others believe that in some cultural and religious traditions, the veil is a sign of women's servitude and lack of autonomy. 

Regardless, despite the challenges in defining what that means, feminist attempts to achieve human rights worldwide are significant extensions of feminist efforts to achieve the legal, social, political, and economic rights of women inside their own country. 

Women have made significant progress around the world, but there is still much more to be done. 

Women continue to be more likely to be victims of abuse, to care for babies and children disproportionately, and to be underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts. 

Some legislative changes now need to be accompanied with cultural shifts that impact how laws are executed. Furthermore, not all forms of oppression can be addressed by changes in laws, economic structure, or even social and political shifts. 

Internalized oppression is when oppression is ingrained in one's thoughts about oneself and others. Beyond inequality, second-wave feminism examines some of the ways oppression is constituted. 

We still need to examine how oppression impacts agency, identity, and embodiment, as well as feminist recommendations for changing how we act, think about ourselves and others, and feel our bodies in the world.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Feminism and Activism here.

First Wave of Feminism

The first wave of women's social, legal, and economic rights. All of the feminist schools as well as many more that I haven't named or that are still forming, start with the same premise: women are oppressed.

They disagree considerably in how they comprehend or explain oppression, what reform or revolution techniques they recommend to end oppression, and even who counts as a "woman" or if such a category exists at all. 

I examine several types of ongoing oppression of women in our global human society here, including social, legal, political, and intellectual inequality. 

The focus of feminism's first wave is oppression of these kinds. 

The first wave focuses on human rights, civic, social, economic, and intellectual/educational equality, as well as women's political and legal standing. 

It allows us to look at a variety of topics that are still relevant to women and men today, as well as part of the historical evolution of feminism in the Western world. 

Because of the cultural importance of rights found in Anglo-American feminism, this essay is centered around and devoted to it.

The first wave still prevails across several regions of our collective global society.

Along with the second and third waves, the first wave is a parallel struggle that is staggered and ongoing till every last Woman and Girl is accounted for.

Please click on the links below to learn more about the First Wave of Feminism in detail:

  1. Women are Rational, Autonomous and Equal
  2. Social and Political Rights for Women
  3. Legal Rights for Women
  4. Economic Rights for Women
  5. Women's Rights ARE Human Rights

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Feminism and Activism here.

Women are Rational, Autonomous and Equal

What exactly does it mean to be a human being? This subject encompasses anything from whether or not a culture or society views women as completely human to whether or not women are thought to be logical. 

Although these concerns may appear silly, it was not long ago in our collective history that women were not considered completely human or rational, and in many parts of the world, women are still seen as inferior creatures in comparison to males. 

There is ample evidence that women are viewed as less than fully human even when a society purports to value equality. We may examine the educational options available to women once we have established that women are actually human and that they are and should be regarded complete moral beings (with all the rights that come with that status). 

For a long time, feminists have been concerned about the right to an equitable education. 

Some early feminists believed that females should be educated in the same way that males are, rather than at 'finishing schools,' which primarily taught females the skills they would need as bourgeois housewives. 

Furthermore, women have just lately gained access to higher education institutions. More recent feminist interpretations of equal intellectual and educational rights address issues like as classroom behavior, course content, and the predominance of positive role models. 

We may start with the most basic of questions: who is a human? 
Women are still battling to be accepted as fully human in various parts of the world and at various times in our own communities. 

There are clear statements to the opposite in the Western philosophical tradition. The philosopher Aristotle (384–322 BCE), whose philosophy pervades much of Western dogma, notably stated that the female is a malformed male. 

Despite the fact that his message was far more complex and subtle (and should not be divorced from his philosophical theory of reproduction), this single remark continues to carry disproportionate weight in many situations. 

Aristotle inspired Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274 CE), who understands this passage to signify that females are misbegotten in their particular nature rather than in their universal human nature. 

One interpretation is that women are essential to the species, but that as individual representations of the species, they are at best inadequate. Because he supplies semen in the process of reproduction, Aristotle and Aquinas believed that the male is the more perfect of the two. 

The ovum was not identified until the late nineteenth century, and it was assumed to be the catalyst and maybe the location of the soul. 

Aquinas could not have realized the degree of the female involvement to conception when he wrote over 700 years ago (though he did know about the female role to gestation). 

Throughout history, moral and political thinkers have neglected to incorporate women in their views of society. This was despite Plato's Republic (428/27–347 BCE) setting the tone. Plato maintained that women should train alongside males and that everyone should discover their position in society based on their own particular natures rather than preconceived notions about the nature of the sexes. Plato, on the other hand, makes a completely different assertion in a later book. 

Women are produced from the souls of the most vile and illogical males, according to the Timaeus. Regrettably, this later feeling fared better in political theory than the Republic's gender equality. Augustine of Hippo (354–430 CE) was a Christian theologian who tried to combine Platonic philosophy with Christian religion. Augustine's opinions on women are a little hazy. 

On the one hand, he supports women's complete humanity, claiming that both men and women have the image of God (which separates humans from other creatures). 

The picture of God can only be found in the portion of the mind that is dedicated to God's contemplation, and both men and women have this potential. However, both women and men have temporal or worldly responsibilities that are prescribed, at least in part, by their God-given natures. 

Women appear to have greater temporal responsibilities (think of childbirth and nursing tasks), and hence are unable to dedicate as much time or intelligence to God contemplation. As a result, women are both equal and unequal. 

Each of these works explores the subject of whether or not women are human in their own unique way. Saying "yes" or "no" is a little too easy, but some early thinkers plainly did not believe that women are human in the same sense that males are. 

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778), a more contemporary character, believed that women were human, but that they possessed a unique set of intrinsic virtues that required them to be trained and treated differently than males. This poses a comparable concern about women's moral personhood rather than their humanity. 

The focus of Rousseau's discussion of a woman's moral behavior is on her responsibility to be a decent wife and mother. He distinguishes between male and female virtues. Instead of being bold and intelligent, women were expected to be meek and lovely. Rousseau thinks that a woman has no responsibilities outside of the house, ignoring the experience of women who are forced to labor outside the house. 

To put it another way, Rousseau's virtuous woman is a lady from the middle to upper classes who has the time to give her entire attention to her husband and children. Rousseau isn't the only classical moral and political theorist who thinks this way. 

The notion of the person as a participant to a social contract is central to classical liberalism. Individuals who adhere to classical liberalism, on the other hand, are thought to be free of domestic responsibilities. 

Furthermore, the individual rights that governments are supposed to defend are nearly invariably mainly or largely the rights of male property owners. 

Women are supposed to be a part of the man's 'person,' who represents the family in all public and political concerns. 

Women of the working class were clearly considered as wage earners in socialist traditions, but the socialists of the nineteenth century had little interest in any contribution from women. 

To call someone a moral person, one must first recognize that they are a human being with particular abilities. These abilities usually involve the ability to create and act on independent judgments. 

In some political and legal circumstances, the condition of moral persons is extremely crucial. Children, for example, are frequently dismissed as moral beings because they are seen incapable of independently determining what is good and wrong and then acting on that determination. 

Whereas ‘human' is the metaphysical category (i.e., the category of creatures to which someone belongs), ‘moral person' is the normative category to which rights, privileges, and duties are often assigned. 

Women as sensible and self-reliant Mary Wollstonecraft (1759–1797) was an eighteenth-century feminist who contended for women's moral individuality as well as their entire humanity. 

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), her magnum opus, pushed for gender equality and reacted to many who argued differently. Wollstonecraft was a passionate advocate for social justice and human rights, and she wrote a number of publications before her tragic death (and is also known for her famous daughter, Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein). 

In A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft argues for women's rational humanity. Of course, she also advocated for women's civic and economic rights. 

Human beings, according to Wollstonecraft, are defined by reason, virtue, and knowledge. Humans are distinguished from other animals by their ability to reason. 

This was and still is a popular perception of humans: that we are rational animals, and that it is our ability to reason that makes us superior or more heavenly (think of Augustine and how the rational mind might be directed toward God). 

What separates one human being from another is virtue, moral goodness, or character. 

Wollstonecraft is obviously allowing for the idea of degrees of perfection — distinctions that distinguish some beings from others. Her argument, though, is that being born female does not define one's goodness in and of itself. 

Finally, knowledge is obtained by experience, but if one's experience is limited by societal mores, one's nature will never be perfected. 

Nature's completeness is required for happiness. As you can see, Wollstonecraft laid the ground for demonstrating that societal norms that prevent women from obtaining experience and knowledge also prevent them from being happy. 

Furthermore, she maintained that the so-called "feminine qualities" extolled by Rousseau and others at the time were just standards of decorum. 

Women were educated to be lovely rather than moral, and as a result, they were doomed to be second-class citizens. 

Women were prevented from acquiring reasoning abilities, and as a result, they lacked the virtue that society required for full citizenship involvement. 

Women were being regarded as less than human, Wollstonecraft reasoned, by excluding them from the formation and practice of logic. Her principal answer was to give women with actual education. She maintained that in order to be completely human, women must be able to act independently. 

She did, however, contend that wifely and motherly obligations were among the mandates of reason and should be properly carried out.

An equal education that provided women with abundant opportunities for intellectual and moral growth would result in marriages marked by camaraderie between equals.

Friendship, not social standing, would be the yardstick for marital success, since a woman might be a friend to her husband rather than merely a pretty decoration in his home. 

Nonetheless, despite the fact that men and women have similar intellectual skills, Wollstonecraft claims that they have certain disparities, the most obvious of which is in their domestic duties. 

One of the convincing points in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman compares women's existence under social propriety limits to soldiers' lives: "Like fair sex, the business of their lives is gallantry." They were raised to please others, and they only live to please others. They do not, however, lose their place in the gender hierarchy.' 

Some feminists eventually found fault with Wollstonecraft's seeming exaltation of reason. They claim Wollstonecraft was embracing a male personality model. Suggestions that women can match that paradigm and should be provided with the social and educational opportunities to do so appear to elevate males by making women more like them. At the very least, emotion appears to be pushed aside in favor of logic.

 But perhaps it is an oversimplification. Perhaps we shouldn't accept the idea that rationality and passion are mutually incompatible. Some recent feminist ethics and epistemology work attempts to reclaim the relevance of include emotion in personhood conceptions. 

Virginia Woolf (1882–1941), another important twentieth-century woman, championed first-wave ideas. A Room of One's Own (1929) by Virginia Woolf explores the obstacles a woman might encounter in pursuing an education at a famous institution on par with a man. 

Woolf urges her reader/listener to envision what it would be like to walk across the huge lawns and dine in the big halls of Oxford or Cambridge, originally offered as a series of lectures on women and fiction (referred to as Oxbridge). She asks us to imagine a female Shakespeare – his imaginary sister – and consider the obstacles that might have stopped her from realizing her writing potential. 

A woman in Shakespeare's day was excluded from lectures and libraries, publishers would reject her work, and societal expectations would prevent her from writing for lengthy periods of time. 

Woolf expresses his curiosity on what it would take for a woman to make a piece of art. 

In response, she sends her character to the British Museum, where she seeks to discover the truth about women. She is astounded at the large quantity of novels in every genre published about women, the majority of which are written by males. 

Men of all stripes have solutions to the question, "Why are women poor?" 

These texts claimed to explain why women lacked morality, knowledge, and physical strength. Woolf's amusing portrayal of this journey into women's literature emphasizes a lack of information – but not a lack of opinion – on the problem of women's lower social standing. 

Of course, they all failed because they started with the notion that women are inferior, and their works were full of rage. 

The fight to preserve supremacy is at least partly to blame for the rage. 

According to Woolf, males have exploited women as a kind of mirror in which to reflect themselves in greater terms. 

That is, guys believed they were better than they actually were because of women's adulation. 

Woolf foresees a period when women will no longer be the protected sex, even forecasting that within a century of her work, women will be soldiers and laborers alongside men. 

Her idea was that gender roles vary depending on societal ideals, and that gender stereotypes would shift or vanish if traditionally male social roles were offered to women. Woolf anticipated that women will participate in a wide range of activities, and that the "truth" regarding women's inferiority would crumble. 

The ‘protected sex' is effectively barred from exercising its rights. 

Woolf famously asserted that a woman needed a "place of her own" and enough money to sustain herself in order to write fiction – and indeed to engage in social life as men do. 

As we've seen, Mary Wollstonecraft believed that in order for women to develop their reasoning and moral virtue, they required freedom. Virginia Woolf, in a similar vein, emphasized the numerous barriers that women face in their intellectual pursuits. 

Both believed that humans were independent, and that women were viewed as less than human when they were prevented from acting freely by tradition or societal mores. 

To be self-legislating is to be independent. 

In a broad sense, this indicates that you set your own rules, but it's more usually understood to mean that you determine what you should do in all situations, big and small. 

Women's liberation theorists such as Wollstonecraft and Woolf show how societal expectations, regulations, and economic systems prevent women from exercising their liberty.

So, while Wollstonecraft, Woolf, and others argue that women should have the same education as men in order to prepare them for full involvement in social life, they also realize the need to modify other systems.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Feminism and Activism here.

Social and Political Rights for Women

Social rights are another type of right that is rarely specified in law. This refers to the group of rights that contribute to society's overall structure. 

For the vast part of a person's life, the family is the most important social aspect. 

The organization of a family reveals a lot about who is valued, what is valued, and how society is or should be formed. 

The term "patriarchy" literally means "father's rule," but it has been used to characterize both familial and governmental control. 

The book Patriarcha (1680) by Robert Filmer (1588–1653) supported the divine right of monarchs and maintained that succession is through the fathers of families who have political power over their wives and children. While this is a typical illustration of patriarchy in political theory, the word is commonly used to refer to males having the last word in home life. 

The first of John Locke's (1632–1704) Two Treatises of Government (1689), a response to Filmer and an attempt to argue for all people's equality, is the first of his Two Treatises of Government (1689).

 Even in the family, Locke opposes the father's exclusive authority, advocating instead for "parental power." Although he has been chastised for maintaining this view inconsistently, Locke's work does force us to reconsider the traditional family structure. 

The relationship between the family and society is frequently defined by one of two broad models in political theory. 

  1. The first considers the family to be a microcosm of the larger society. 
    1. The duties in the family are represented in the greater political world as a microcosm of society.
    2. This reflection might be due to the fact that civilizations are built on extended family units. 
    3. The allocation of power in the family is used to mirror political power in the wider community (in its extreme form, this is patriarchy but there are much milder forms as well). 
  2. The second considers the family to be a separate society within a wider civilization. 
    1. The second model sees the family as a separate society with its own set of systems that it shares with the greater political society.  

These differing perspectives on the family-society relationship have huge repercussions for women. If the family is a microcosm of society, and the structure of the family is patriarchal, society will be patriarchal as well. 

In such a society, women's responsibilities would most likely be confined to those that involve mothering or need talents that a mother could possess, such as early childhood educator or nurse. 

Men are more likely to fill societal jobs that include political decision-making or rule in any kind. If, on the other hand, the family is a separate society inside a broader community, a woman may still be subject to patriarchal control (depending on how her family is constituted) or she may have some degree of relative freedom. 

That is, her position in the family and her position in society would be independent and different. When the family is considered as a distinct society, it has its own set of laws or norms, and the wider community or state is advised not to interfere.

Women are more vulnerable to abuse in such circumstances, when the family is held in high regard. 

Another important feature of first-wave feminism shown in this conversation is citizenship. Citizenship has been almost exclusively a male domain from ancient times. Certain women may have had the position of citizen or even ruler at various eras, but they are the outliers rather than the rule.

Citizenship in philosophy refers to being a member of a political community. Being a citizen entails having specific rights and obligations that are related to the community's good functioning. 

Different types of protection (such as protection of property, protection of one's person, and protection of privacy) are usually included, as well as liberties (such as the right to speak freely, the right to gather with others, and the right to practice one's religion) and the right to participate in government according to a set of principles (so, one may vote or run for public office in a democracy). 

Respecting others' rights and contributing to the community's upkeep and sustainability are among the obligations (like paying taxes and obeying the laws). 

To be a citizen, in short, is to be acknowledged by one's community as someone who matters - as someone deserving of protection and capable of shouldering obligations. The absence of women from the status of 'citizen' is instructive. 

Women were not always seen as completely human as we have seen, which is undoubtedly one of the reasons for their exclusion. Another explanation is because they were seen untrustworthy and unworthy of protection. The feminist movement has worked tirelessly to alter this. 

The major focus of the first wave is on arguments to equalize women's standing with males. 

Different tactics were used in following rounds. Patriarchal ideals are rooted in our conceptions of autonomy, rights, and citizenship, according to feminist social theorists and legal critics. 

To bring about the sort of social transformation that would free women, rights would have to be profoundly rewritten or the basic concept of rights abandoned and replaced with something else (possibly relational theories such as caring and solidarity). 

John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) was a utilitarian philosopher, a member of the British Parliament, and the first person to advocate for women's voting rights in such an official role. Utilitarianism is a moral theory based on the premise that in every given scenario, the ideal thing to do is what would result in "the greatest amount of good and the least amount of misery for everybody concerned." 

According to Mill, granting women citizenship rights would maximize usefulness. Harriet Taylor (1807–1858), another notable nineteenth-century feminist, was a close friend of Mill's. They met in their early twenties and were intellectual companions for the rest of their lives. 

Mill fell in love with Harriet despite the fact that she was married to John Taylor at the time. Harriet Taylor kept at least the pretense of her marriage to John Taylor, despite the fact that the Taylors already had three children. He died in 1849, and she married Mill two years later. 

In his most famous feminist book, On the Subjection of Women (1869), Mill credits her with much of his reasoning, as well as part of what occurs elsewhere in his social and political philosophy. Some broad characteristics of Mill's views on women may be divided into three categories: intellectual, economic, and civic. 

Women have not attained the same level of success as males and hence appear to be less brilliant than males, not because women have a different moral or intellectual character than men, but because women have had less chances and had a lower level of education. 

Women have fewer experiences and have less time than males. 

Women would not be able to participate in the arts and sciences at the same level as males due to these limits alone. 

Women have little desire for the popularity and acclaim that comes with tremendous achievement. 

So, much as Woolf exploited the notion of Shakespeare's sister to indicate that women's possibilities, not their natures, rendered them inferior, Mill blames women's perceived inferiority in society on their limited educational chances. 

According to Mill, the only way to determine if men and women are naturally equal is to provide women with equal educational opportunities. 

In terms of economics, Mill believed that women should be treated equally in the public realm. That is, women must have equal access to all work opportunities. 

He also maintained that women should have a say in policy and lawmaking in the civic realm. Mill underlined the potential benefits of granting women equality in education, civic life, and economic opportunity, in keeping with his utilitarian theory. 

First, he proposed that social equality would result in a more equitable relationship between men and women. 

In other words, Mill believed that societal changes would alter men and women's courting and marital relationships, and that women would be less likely to be subjected to an unfair spouse's dictation. 

Second, Mill recognized that allowing women to participate in intellectual, economic, and civic responsibilities would essentially double the amount of talent available to serve humankind. 

The third significant benefit of gender equality is that women's pleasure would greatly improve. 

Women's liberation is consistent with the utilitarian goal of maximizing pleasure and reducing misery for everyone in society. Mill clearly believed in the ideal of marriage as a life shared by equals. 

Even if one of the couples took the lead when specific choices were to be made, it would not create any form of permanent rule in the house.

Children would be trained to value equality between men and women in the same way. 

Mill was a strong supporter for women's freedom, but while he wanted women to have the same chances as men, he also believed that spouses should not be required to work. It was enough for her to have the choice of working. 

Similarly, the decision to marry or not marry had to be a legitimate option; without the capacity to support oneself financially, marrying could only be a compelled choice based on financial need or social tradition. 

Mill was a vocal proponent of contraception and advocated for men and women to marry later in life, have children later in life, and live in communities with extended families. 

These steps were taken to reduce the chances of divorce and offer some stability for the children in the event of a divorce. Even if the parents divorced, the child's extended family would be a constant in his or her life. 

Harriet Taylor also wrote on women's issues and fought for policies that would achieve social and political equality. She, like Mill, believed that gender inequity stemmed from societal practices and traditions. But, unlike Mill, she believed that women needed to labor outside the house in order to have a financial partnership. 

Taylor also claimed that women should have the option of being single (and equal footing in the economic world is required for that to be a real possibility). 

Women would have a greater say in family matters if they contributed financially to the family. 

Taylor, however, revealed her class bias by arguing that the family should hire slaves to help with the household chores while the wife works outside the home. 

In the event of a divorce, the woman should be solely responsible for the children. 

Taylor claimed that women should have fewer children in order to lessen the potential load under such a strategy. 

Finally, Taylor acknowledged the need of women participating in the public realm on an equal footing with men in influencing legislation and policy. 

But, of course, in order to do so, women needed to have their voices heard, and in modern democracy, the opportunity to vote is the most visible manifestation of that power. 

These historical voices may still be heard in feminist movements throughout the world. Each in their own way, Mill, Taylor, Wollstonecraft, and Woolf sought societal acknowledgement that women are fully human and deserving of all the rights that come with that position.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

You may also want to read more about Feminism and Activism here.