Daily Archives: November 29, 2005

God(dess) forbid, we should consider ourselves more enlightened when it comes to women’s rights…

Sunday’s New York Times ran a wrenching front-page story on child brides in Africa — girls as young as ten given, or rather sold, in marriage to men who are decades older (often as second wives). The main focus of the article is a story with a sort-of happy ending: 12-year-old Mwaka Simbeye, whom her father married off to a neighbor in his 70s to settle a debt of $16, eventually escaped and was taken back into her parents’ home (partly because her father had heard that he might get arrested under a new policy cracking down on forced marriages of young girls). Others are not so lucky:

Uness Nyambi, of the village of Wiliro, said she was betrothed as a child so her parents could finance her brother’s choice of a bride. Now about 17, she has two children, the oldest nearly 5, and a husband who guesses he is 70. “Just because of these two children, I can not leave him,” she said.

Beatrice Kitamula, 19, was forced to marry her wealthy neighbor, now 63, five years ago because her father owed another man a cow. “I was the sacrifice,” Ms. Kitamula said, holding back tears. She likened her husband’s comfortable compound of red brick houses in Ngana village to a penitentiary. “When you are in prison,” she said, “you have no rights.”

The article notes that in Ethiopia, about a third of the girls are married by age 15. It concludes with another look at Mwaka and her family:

Mwaka’s mother, Tighezge Simkonda, looks like an older version of her daughter and is no less shy. “I did object,” she said softly, glancing nervously at her husband chatting nearby. “I said, ‘My daughter is very young.’ “

“But the control is with the man,” she said. “The daughters belong to the man.”

But, of course, it would be most deplorable if any American women were to read that and conclude that they’re liberated while the women in those Third World countries are oppressed. After all, it would be “culturally insensitive” to suggest that the West is more enlightened when it comes to women’s rights, and besides, it’s important to understand that American women are really silenced in similar ways. Or so as a lot of women’s studies professors would tell us.

There’s also Dr. Edwin Nichols, a psychologist who has conducted “diversity” and “cultural awareness” workshops for numerous colleges, government agencies, and corporations, and who teaches in those workshops (among other things) that women in Africa are treated as equal to men.

Personally, I think the case for cultural imperialism has never been so clear.


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Hurricane Katrina and the media (old and new)

At Reason, Matt Welch spanks the media for spreading hysterical rumors about the chaos in New Orleans after the city was struck by Hurricane Katrina. Armed thugs shooting at rescue helicopters, rampant gang violence, murder and rape inside the Superdome and the Convention Center where people took refuge from the flood — respected news organization took these stories and ran with them. (All these stories turned out to be untrue; it should be added that Matt questioned them from the start.) As a result, the rescue effort was hampered, and the residents of New Orleans were unfairly maligned; one might add, too, that the reckless news coverage became fodder for America-bashing around the world. This was a Media Hall of Shame moment, no doubt about it.

However, those who like to pit “citizen journalists” against the “MSM” shouldn’t get too smug. The blogs did their share of reckless rumor-mongering. The worst instance, perhaps, was this account by Lisa C. Moore of her aunt Denise Moore’s alleged experiences at the Convention Center, posted at Daily Kos on September 6 under the headline “What Really Happened in New Orleans” (and widely picked up by other blogs). ch2, who posted it at Daily Kos, gravely noted, “The accounts rang true to me, and I’m a professional skeptic (a scientist).” Well, I don’t know what kind of science “ch2” does, but my B.S. detector went off the moment I read the Lisa’s claim that “the first day (Wednesday) 4 people died next to her [“her” being the aunt]. the second day (Thursday) 6 people died next to her.” If every person inside the Convention Center saw ten people die next to them in two days, the place would have emptied out pretty soon. (Of course, we now know that there were a total of 10 deaths inside both buildings.) The claim that “yes, a few men shot at the police, because at a certain point all the people thought the cops were coming to hurt them, to kill them all” reeked of B.S. as well, though probably not to the Daily Kos crowd.

(Interestingly, the only place where I saw the “Denise Moore” story questioned skeptically was in this thread at Reason’s Hit & Run blog, where it was posted by a reader.)

So, what’s the verdict? None of the media, old or new, covered themselves in glory during the Katrina disaster. Except my colleagues at Reason, of course.

Update: My own Reason column on the Katrina response can now be found here.


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