There's a show that airs Fridays on HBO called Real Time with Bill Maher. I would say that I watch this show religiously, but then Bill Maher would come to my house and hit me with a large, heavy book. Bill Maher is known for being exceptionally politically aware, not pulling any punches in his commentary, and asking difficult questions to both left AND right-wing party members. The bulk of Mr. Maher's show on HBO is taken up with a panel discussion going over relevant topics for the given week in a wide arena of topics.
In this past Friday's panel discussion, Mr. Maher made a statement that the emerging democracies in the middle eastern Muslim nations won't really take hold until they reassess their attitudes toward women. At which point, panelist Tavis Smiley argued that we (meaning the U.S.) are not free of sexism against women in this country. The debate then went into a question of the degree of sexism and I find myself agreeing more with Bill Maher... up to a point.
Where the US has succeeded is in taking the gender discrimination out of the system of law. For example, Mr Maher made the point that in the middle eastern nations for a woman to divorce a man she has to take him to court. For a man to divorce a woman, he has to make a statement 3 times. In this country, if you want to get divorced you go to court, man or woman. For the most part, the system treats both sexes the same. So, the bulk of the sexism in this country lies in the hearts and minds of the people. And that's the trick since the system is enabled by the people who work in it. So while our laws may not be sexist, that doesn't mean people won't run into a sexist cop, or politician. And that's where we still have work to do.
But I don't really think we as a country have a right to really comment on what issues the emerging democracies have to tackle in order to succeed. We won our freedom in 1783. That gives us the benefit of being 228 years into a democratic government. A country that's turning to democracy THIS WEEK still should be given some time to iron out the wrinkles, don't you think?
Not to mention that after the U.S. won the Revolutionary War in 1783 (which I'm using since that's when the British Empire gave up all rights to the US in the Treaty of Paris) , it took us 137 YEARS to give women the right to vote (in 1920)! Granted, we did have other issues to cover: Slavery, the Civil War, and WWI; but the point is that re-assessing the legal status of women in this country was not exactly a priority.
The nations of the Middle East are evolving. The ongoing turmoil & protests are proof of that. Yes, they do need to really update their attitudes towards women. But they aren't on a specific time table for that. Give them time to straighten out their own political issues, before asking them to also make massive social changes. Real change always takes time.