"What you do to your women, you do to your nation-state.”
— Valerie Hudson
Wednesday evening, the Utah Women and Leadership Project sponsored an event on The Worldwide Status of Women with two phenomenal speakers: Valerie Hudson, Ph.D., distinguished professor at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University, and President Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities and a member of the General Relief Society presidency for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Hudson is an expert on international security and is the author of multiple books, including “Sex and World Peace,” “The Hillary Doctrine,” and her newest one, a 616-page tome titled “The First Political Order: How Sex Shapes Governance and National Security Worldwide.”
The first political order is the sexual political order between men and women, and we first see it displayed at the household level. How much say does a woman (or often, girl) have in when and who they marry? Is domestic violence against women and even “femicide” considered normal and perhaps even expected? What property rights does a woman have, if any, or is she considered property, resulting in rape being considered a property crime?
Hudson and her fellow authors have built an exhaustive data set looking at 122 variables and through multivariate regression have found statistical significance at the 0.001 level, which is to say there is a one-tenth of one percent chance that the results can be explained by random occurrence.
The bottom line is this: What you normalize in your homes, you normalize in your communities, your nation and the way you approach the global community. If you normalize violence and subjugation at home, you will see the normalization of violence and subjugation played out on national and international stages. If you normalize the muting and discounting of women at home, they will continue to be muted and discounted at all layers of society.
Eubank, who spoke next, pointed to World Bank reports on World Governance Indicators (WGI) and noted that “Voice and Accountability” is one of the most important indicators in moving economies out of poverty.
She spoke of three distinct levels of becoming a global citizen and, as you might expect, each has its advantages and disadvantages. Broad, multinational organizations can get aid into areas where other organizations can not, including active war zones. Big organizations can also aggregate small donations and small actions into large effects.
Latter-day Saint Charities is one of those large organizations that works in 189 countries, partnering with organizations that range from the United Nations down to small midwife organizations in 2000 projects a year.
However, smaller grassroots organizations are nimble and can adapt quickly. Channeling Gandhi, Eubank said do not wait for “someone else” to organize efforts. Just get started and be the change you seek.
She also quoted Utah’s Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon: “Let us not waste our talents in the cauldron of modern nothingness but strive to become women of intellect and endeavor to do some little good while we live in this protracted gleam called life.”
The third level of being global citizens is to work at the individual level. Working locally means that we know the culture, speak the language and can personalize the help that we provide, fitting the solutions to the problem.
Her challenge to end the evening was to “Go and Do,” for each person in that audience to choose something specific they could do to affect a cause they care about.
The consistent message from both presenters is that women need to find and use their voices and their actions to influence change. We cannot sit back and wait for “someone else” to do something and for the love of all that is holy, women need to stop believing that it’s not our place to use our voices. Preach on, sisters. Preach on.
Holly Richardson is a regular contributor to The Salt Lake Tribune.