The Power of Global Networks - Blog Series

Click on the location markers below to read posts from women's funds around the world.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Progress or Regress?

Lately it seems we've seen several instances of women selling their virginity in the media, whether for college expenses or even academic study. Recently The Associated Press reported on a young woman in New Zealand, known only as Unigirl, who is selling her virginity to pay for her college tuition.

Last month, Natalie Dylan of San Diego, CA posted her virginity for sale, and now bidding has surpassed the million-dollar mark.

Dylan has a degree in Women's Studies and insists that she is not demeaning herself.

Both women appear to believe that the ends justifies the means.

On an individual level, one might be able to say that these women are wholly in control of themselves and their desires, which is a wonderful thing. It is empowering to know you may do what you want with yourself.

However, if measured against a broader scale, couldn't it be construed that their actions perpetuate a perspective that is unhealthy toward women? Namely, the perception of women as objects that may be purchased and sold.

These organizations – all women’s funds and members of Women’s Funding Network – fund innovative programs and organizations that improve the lives of women and girls by educating people about human rights and equality:

Global Fund for Women
V Day, founded by Eve Ensler
Equality Now

It's somewhat of a paradox that higher education has led Dylan and Unigirl to sell a portion of themselves on the Internet.

What is your take on their actions? Are they signs of progress or regress?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Measuring Real Wealth: Beyond GDP
by Riane Eisler

The U.S. Commerce Department recently announced a growth in Gross Domestic Product of 5.7 % for the last quarter of 2009 — the fastest growth in six years. This sounds like great news. But it's only a small part of the economic story, which is why GDP is so misleading.

Besides the fact that GDP doesn't measure unemployment or other dire realities facing businesses, workers, and families in the U.S. today, GDP fails to measure what really counts. It tells us nothing about the degree to which a nation invests in its real wealth: people and nature.

Investing in what economists call "high-quality human capital" is essential as we shift to the post-industrial knowledge/service economy. Yet here are some statistics, from even before the "Great Recession," showing how the U.S. has actually been neglecting its most important resource: its people, starting in childhood.
  • Infant mortality: The United States ranks 44th, behind every industrialized nation, and behind much poorer nations, according to the 2008 CIA Fact Book.
  • Childhood Development: The Save the Children "report card" comparing 25 wealthy nations on 10 key benchmarks of early childhood development shows that Sweden meets all ten, Finland, Denmark, France, and Norway meet eight, and the United States only meets three.
  • Child and overall poverty levels: The U.S. had the highest child poverty rate (21.9%) of industrial nations and the highest overall poverty rate (17.0%) of the 17 OECD countries, according to the International Comparisons chapter of The State of Working America 2004/2005. Finland (5.4%), Norway (6.4%), and Sweden (6.5%) had the lowest overall poverty rates.
  • Maternal mortality: The United States ranks 41st according to a UN analysis of 171 countries.
None of this information is shown by GDP, or even by the World Economic Forum's Global Competitiveness index. Nor does GDP reflect whether or not a nation is investing in caring for nature – even in face of mounting environmental threats

Because government and business leaders urgently need more accurate and inclusive economic measures, the Center for Partnership Studies (CPS) has commissioned the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., to survey the current movement toward measures that go beyond GDP – from the earlier United Nations Development reports and the recent Sarkozy report by noted economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen to less – publicized environmental, gender, and children’s well-being indicators – and to make specific recommendations.

One of the concerns of CPS is to ensure that new economic indicators are inclusive, and particularly that the majority – women and children – are not again forgotten. This is not only for their sake, but because data about children and women is essential for any accurate assessment of global economic and social conditions. As was recently posted on this blog, "A healthy global economy needs a strong societal foundation and this cannot be achieved without the contributions and participation of 51 percent of the global population."

There is strong evidence of this. Studies (including the CPS "Women, Men, and the Global Quality of Life” report and the World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap reports) show a strong correlation between a nation’s general quality of life and the status of women. Similarly, Canadian and other studies show that national investment in children, such as in high-quality childhood education, is key to success in the post-industrial economy.

I urge all policy makers and developers of new economic measurements to consider these correlations. Only by taking them into account will business and government leaders have the inclusive and accurate economic indicators they need to develop more effective and humane economic and social policies.

Riane Eisler wrote this post as a guest of The She Change. She is a systems scientist and cultural historian, president of the Center for Partnership Studies, and author of the international bestsellers The Chalice and the Blade and The Real Wealth of Nations.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Welcome to the Bad Girls Club

CBS News recently ran a story about a series of videos that have become the latest YouTube phenomenon. However, this time the innocent interest in videos featuring Susan Boyle or little Charlie biting fingers does not apply. With over 8 million hits, the latest on the YouTube scene is videos featuring teen girls in fiercely violent interactions.

The teen girls in these videos are nothing short of outrageous, but perhaps even more disturbing is that we actually are amused by their behavior! These girls are seen brutally attacking one another with no sign of physical regard or caution. One girl is actually shown sitting on top of another girl attempting to rip her adversaries hair out while repeatedly pounding the teenage skull into pavement.

Parents, children, peers are present in these videos but choose to watch the “show” instead of intervening on the cruelty occurring only steps away from them. Gerry Leone, District Attorney of Middlesex, Mass., said recent reports indicate that 80 percent of physical violence that happens on school grounds occur between teen girls. In fact, recent statistics show 1 in 4 girls have been involved in at least one violent interaction at work or school. What has caused teenage girl violence such an entertaining trend?

My thoughts immediately go to the popular Oxygen channel reality show Bad Girls Club. The series, which just began its fourth season, has a pretty basic plot. The network casts the seven most aggressive, shallow, rude young women they can find (the age group is early 20s), strap them into the most revealing satin mini dress on the market, throw them into a house together and have them fight it out. The housemates of the Bad Girls house frequently resort to violence or verbal assault when faced with any grain of antagonism. These women pride themselves on their vicious nature and sometimes suggest that those characteristics make them more of a woman. The Bad Girls Club is being broadcast on a channel that is directed towards women's interests. The Oxygen channel is promoting this vision of women today.

Now just for a moment, try to see this from a teenage girls perspective. These women are sexy, trendy, popular, and lively, they live in a mansion in Los Angeles, and no one would ever think of crossing a Bad Girl. Now I’m not suggesting that the Bad Girls Club is the cause of the up rise in teenage girl violence, but the hit series is definitely an example of how today’s society is popularizing the image of the violent young woman.

By watching these YouTube videos and reality shows are we promoting violence in our girls? This type of violence does seem to be getting massive attention, and what does a teenage girl crave more than attention? Could it be that the increase in teenage girl violence is perpetuated by our desire to watch it?

I suggest that if a network, such as Oxygen, decides to found their network on the issues of women today, they need to present a more positive outlook. Our teen girls are constantly being pummeled by the media's image of women. Let's give our young women a sense of self-worth by promoting positive attention based on education and intellect rather than negative attention based on trendy viciousness. Contact Oxygen and let them know what you think about the representation that they are giving our young women.