The Use of Women

May 28, 2012

I just (ashamedly for getting to it so late) finished Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s first memoir, Infidel. Nomad, the second, is still waiting on my shelf.

It is an eloquent and powerful insight into the process of rational examination she went through on her transition away from Islam and the developing world.

And it made me reconsider something that had spoken true to me at an earlier time but no longer seemed to fit my worldview, and showed me why.

I heard a keynote speaker once who had just come back from Afghanistan, in the early years of the ongoing war. She talked about visiting women and children and asking them about “women’s rights”, and said they responded that while they were concerned about violence and clean water, it was foolish to worry about gender equality and the oppression of women.

At the time, it sounded right. But looking at the problems in many developing parts of the world, it started to seem inadequate. And Infidel cleared up my thinking on the subject. There is no way these problems can even begin to be addressed without exploiting the social potential of women. And that’s why the treatment of women is a development issue, as well as a moral one.