So often, we focus on the wars (which are mostly the result of men acting violently) and gang violence (again, mostly men). But there are other types of violence and abuse that affect the way the world works, and perhaps the most insidious and pervasive is the way women are treated as second-class citizens (or worse) in many places.

The United Nations has a Division for the Advancement of Women which highlights the work that is being done to establish the right of women to the same safety, opportunities and legal recourses as men.

Throughout history, women have been the standard-bearers for cultures, the ones who care for children, the teachers, the field workers, the nurses… occupations that are poorly paid and low-status. Throughout history, women have had to ask men’s permission to receive an education, to travel, to own property, to vote. In the United States, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, guaranteeing women the right to vote in federal elections (some states had done this decades earlier), was passed only in 1920… a mere 88 years ago. In many countries, women still do not have the right to vote.

Women who don’t have the right to earn a decent living, to participate in their governments, to challenge men who trample on their rights are more likely to live in poverty, to be abused, to be killed.

Along the lines of recent posts, I urge you to consider how you treat women. Yes, even if you are yourself a woman! Do you prefer to consult with a man “out of habit?” Do you assume that a man will be more capable of doing repairs on the house or car, or more likely to know the full details? Do you assume that women only can nurture young children? Do you assume that men can’t take care of a household — or that a man who does is somehow not truly “manly?”

On the other hand, if you are a woman who loves to stay home with the children, don’t think you MUST go out and become a mechanic! If you are a man who really doesn’t enjoy baking, don’t decide to provide the treats for your kindergartener’s class party (unless you buy them from a bakery).

The best way to honor women — and men — is to support their abilitities and interests, without the overlay of “shoulds” that come with cultural indoctrination. Without the limits of second-class status. With the full legal backing of rights that are explicitly written in to the laws and constitutions of nations.

Yes, we can make a difference. We can raise people up. We can establish equity. For everyone.

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