Obama on Women’s Rights

Once again I loved Obama’s speech [full text here]. I liked everything he said. I liked what he said about women’s rights too.

I know many of us are going to disapprove of his refusal to disapprove of women being made to cover their hair. But he has simply given the women the right to choose, and with that he has won over a people while still insisting that women be allowed to get out of their homes to get an education. I call that brilliant diplomacy.

You disagree?Β  It’s like this, we cannot not tell women to stop wearing white when their husbands die, but we can make sure they do have the financial power to buy coloured clothes and good food if they wish to.Β  If they have that choice then that’s a beginning!Β  That’s a brilliant first step. That’s what Obama has done.

I have no doubt Osama is green with envy.

Osama stands for violence and hate, and Obama stands for Polilo drops for babies.

Here’s what Obama said about women’s rights: (I have highlighted the parts I loved)

The sixth issue — the sixth issue that I want to address is women’s rights.

(APPLAUSE)

I know…

(APPLAUSE)

I know, and you can tell from this audience, that there is a healthy debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal. But I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality.

(APPLAUSE)

And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well- educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear, issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead.

Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life and in countries around the world. I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.

(APPLAUSE)

Our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity, men and women, to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal. And I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice.

That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim- majority country to support expanded literacy for girls and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

(APPLAUSE)

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53 thoughts on “Obama on Women’s Rights

  1. He’s an outstanding Orator… at least πŸ™‚

    Hope he’s a doer as well!

    Yes he is a brilliant orator! You are right Rakesh, even though some jobs are started best with diplomatic oration, he will have to follow it up wih some concrete action!

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  2. Politics in this country have been so transparently NOT for the people for so long I have a tendency to disbelieve everything any president says. My gut reaction to Obama has been mistrust, because of this. We’ve got a history of politicians doing for the corporate overlords while acting like they give a s**t about the electorate.

    So I’ve been very reluctant to like Obama. I’ve done my level best to ignore him, truth be told. One of my favorite sayings about politicians is “same guy, different suit.”

    But then Obama “gave it” to the auto manufacturers, who IMHO had it coming in a huge way. The day of this speech I was actually busy online and couldn’t be bothered getting up to change the channel when they re-capped it on the world news. So I actually heard some of what he said.

    I still mistrust him, because as far as I’m concerned anyone attracted to power shouldn’t have it, but he’s better than most of the idiots we’ve had in office in the past century. However, that speech was political genius.

    If nothing else, my cynical self now sees Obama will at least do what he can to repair our tarnished image in the world with sane international policy.

    The news interviewed Muslims from around the Middle East and the reaction to the speech was overwhelmingly positive (though there were one or two people who mistrust my government and its motives as much as I do).

    I am curious what the reaction of Muslims in India has been to Obama’s speech, and what the general public opinion of America is now that he’s spoken like this.

    Gorigadhaa I agree with everything you have written, and I am also suspicious of all politicians and those who are in positions of power πŸ™‚
    And like so many of us, I also feel he is making na effort to build bridges. He is for peace and tolerance and ‘do unto others what you’d have them do unto you’… makes me like him
    πŸ™‚

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  3. I agree with Obama – women should be allowed to choose whether they want to cover their heads or not…Who am I to say it is wrong…I may not like it but it’s not my life…The point is whatever a woman does should be out of her own free will…

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  4. Education comes first and this will naturally give confidence to women, automatically. This will help them to take the correct decision in life whether to cover their heads or follow tradition or wear coloured clothes, if they want to.

    This speech of him is good. But I did not like his decision to grant billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan. That was a blunder. Hillary’s too.

    As women, we can glorify him for his speech, here, IHM.


    Yes Sandhya, that bothered me very much too. But if you see the speech he has included Pakistan with Afghanistan…I will take another look and get back.

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    • “We would gladly bring every single one of our troops home if we could be confident that there were not violent extremists in Afghanistan and now Pakistan determined to kill as many Americans as they possibly can. ”

      You are correct IHM, he has included Pakistan with Afghanistan but notice that he has also mentioned extremists killing only Americans…You and I may not like the billions he’s giving Pak but remember, he is the President of the United States and not India and therefore, he has to think of his country first…The truth is without Pak, the US and NATO cannot fight in Afghanistan…Yes, the decision to give our saintly neighbour so much money may be myopic but what is the alternative? Also, the US has always backed Pak and they always will…

      And that is a cause for serious concern too Bones. This I find difficult to understand… how can someone so wise not understand how myopic they are being? Maybe there’s more to it than we see?? 😦

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      • Yes, even I don’t understand it…I mean, Pak has continuously flouted laws, has diverted US money for other uses (nuclear) etc. and yet the US continues to support them…What secret does Pak know about the US?

        Exactly my feelings Sraboney. Just don’t get it

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        • I admire the views expressed by Obama on the issue of “Women’s Rights”. Very beautifully put across by a great orator, the President of the USA, with a seemingly balanced world view.

          However, on the issue of, “You and I may not like the billions he’s giving Pak but remember, he is the President of the United States and not India and therefore, he has to think of his country first…The truth is without Pak, the US and NATO cannot fight in Afghanistan…Yes, the decision to give our saintly neighbour so much money may be myopic but what is the alternative? Also, the US has always backed Pak and they always will”.

          I call the US as a ‘solution finding society’, and solutions are always fast and quick, like funding Pakistan to groom and train the Mujahideen/ Taliban to overthrow the Soviets and now funding them to overthrow the monster created by them about 30 years ago, through their own support and funds.

          American Presidents only work for American interests, irrespective of international opinion – attack on Iraq was a case in point – “either you are with us or against us”. Have no illusions, Obama is also an American President and will only work for American interests, and why not? Only thing is, America as the most powerful nation on earth has the added responsibility to ensure that American policies are not destabilising in other parts of the globe. We are directly affected by American funding and need to protect our own national interests.

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  5. i just love what he says. come to think of it I am great fan of his.

    Yes I love what he says too Anjugandhi, what politicians and leaders say really mattes, I am so glad we have someone like him on the scene! And when someone says they are Obama fans it implies that they too are for peace, tolerance, live and let live, Treat others like how you’d like to be treated… πŸ˜†

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  6. That is the difference between Indian politicians and american politicians πŸ™‚ …….Lets hope our politicians also come up with something like this in near future…..

    Yes Anish so do I!! And I think we will see some such changes, newer faces are being seen, and that’s a positive sign. Also these elections did show that Indian voters want peace and stability first. Don’t you agree?

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    • yeahh obliviously πŸ™‚ …..Lets wait and see whether they will fulfill our expectations or not

      …but we mustn’t expect wonders either, We voted for stability and tolerance and progressive government, for now that is also a relief!

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  7. Ayyooo! me not first! 😦

    Well, Loved the post as usual!
    I think he is a powerful orator and he actually believes in the changes he proposes to bring in.

    I loved his acceptance speech as well πŸ™‚


    Yes I loved his acceptance speech too!! I blogged about it too!

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    • yea.. I remember now! πŸ™‚

      Very powerful orator na? very motivating…

      Pixie I am a fan! He is motivating, and he can cheer me up with his sensible, balanced talk!And like Smitha says, he is a JKG!!

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  8. The man should have been an inspirational speaker. What speeches! What powerful orations!

    After his presidency comes to an end, I think he should write inspirational, motivational books.

    I agree M4, he is inspiring, I read the whole thing, thinking I will mark my favorite parts, but I liked the entire speech, it was difficult to chose a favorite part!

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  9. Yes, indeed very nice to hear from the POTUS. Also he did speak about giving Billions of dollars to Pakistan to build schools and hospitals…(which perhaps Taliban will pull down)…nevertheless, the US is realising that the money is being spent on fighting imaginary enemies like India, while the real enemy is the Taliban and Al Quaeda, who are preventing girls from getting education there.

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  10. Very candid speech indeed..

    Why can’t Indian leaders show such passion towards the perils that Indian society faces even today??

    The ‘anti-American’ sentiment is far too entrenched within the Islamic world, but this should be a good start towards suppressing those sentiments.

    The beauty is there was something for Israel too..

    “Six million Jews were killed, more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless. It is ignorant, and it is hateful”

    But chikki I liked this frankness, he made it clear that some things are not debatable…

    He seems to be trying to take everyone on the same boat.The result can be chaotic as well, but lets hope for the best.

    Yes Chikki this is a tough, very tough job, but really let’s hope for the best!!

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  11. Wish there was an Indian Obama…

    Yes Dhanya really!! We need someone who can make the right statements and sensible statements and strong statements like he does!!

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  12. Fantastic Speech! And it is so true as well! True empowerment comes from education… And the choice of whatever a woman wants to do should lie with her. The possibility of a woman having greater choices is also higher when she is educated!
    And while that speech might be written by political speech writers – I like to believe that Obama has a huge amount of say too.
    Also, having read his books – I think he is a very forward thinking person!
    And IHM, on a lighter note, I think he perfectly qualifies as a JKG too:) His affection, love and admiration for his wife is so very obvious πŸ™‚

    Smitha you made me laugh so much, so suddenly, I started coughing!! πŸ˜† Of course he totally ‘perfectly qualifies as a JKG too:) His affection, love and admiration for his wife is so very obvious’!!! πŸ˜†

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  13. as always Obama is good in delivering speeches.. πŸ™‚ and the way he has said it must be an eye opener for politicians in every country πŸ™‚

    Kanagu I wish we had someone like him too !! But if we vote sensibly, we will get the leaders we truly deserve.

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  14. I agree IHM…this was EXACTLY the part of his speech that I loved too…

    And who better than you to discuss his speech? πŸ™‚
    Remember the countless discussions on your posts where all of us have talked about how important education is for women?

    And he just said it out loud and how!
    Kudos to him for saying it so eloquently ..

    If he is serious about this and as capable as we are hoping he is ,then it will be great to see some positive efforts towards empowerment of women.

    I like the fact that he was not judgmental about women of a particular religion and was trying to settle ruffled feathers and all that.

    Indyeah we can make no difference if we just keep ruffling feathers, a friends will listen to us, an enemy will behave like an immature or disgruntled opposition, i.e. disagree with all that we do or say, good or bad. So it does matter that he is making this effort, it shows his goal is to make a difference not to prove a point. Criticism makes no difference, meeting half way does.

    But I really hope he does not believe all that he said..by which I mean that he glossed over so MANY inequalities in the world..all of which have to be borne by women..
    so that seemed a cause of concern to me..that he made it all sound very simplistic ( and very doable )which is good) and (which is proof of how brilliant an orator he is)

    Anyhow when all is said and done, I have my money on Obama and hope that he does manage to bring about some positive changes

    He makes me believe …
    and thats a good start πŸ™‚

    Yes he makes me believe too… in fact I can’t think of a better way, what he is doing is a lot and how he is doing it practical and very possible… the biggest thing I approve of is he says he does not claim to now what is good for others. I also agree, we can preach, we can debate endlessly, we can present our point of view but we can never be right if we force our choices on others. He understands that.

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  16. Yeah, it was a brilliant speech! And didn’t you just love the passion with which he spoke on women’s rights? πŸ™‚ Of course his words were perfect too.

    And you know his insistence that women should have the freedom to choose is not just a first step I think… it is exactly what we need. A choice. For to impose modernity on a woman who prefers the traditional role is wrong too, isn’t it?

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  17. I just hope that all there speeches are the starting point and not the point where we say and forget everything else.

    Yes I hope so too, though he does seem to mean what he says Amit, one has to see the word being kept before gushing .

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  18. I think a Government cannot do much about these things anyway. The change has to come from personal level. So, instead of having a leader like Obama, we ought to have many many mini Obama’s around us.

    But sometimes he sounds too diplomatic. To the level that we are not able to gauge which side he is in. I asked a friend who lives in the US as to why he has appointed Hillary Clinton for such an important cabinet post, as she was his rival. He said, “Keep your friends close and enemies closer”! I never thought in that direction. But looks like when you are in politics, you need to seriously think!!

    Destination Infinity

    DI atleast he watches what he says. Every statement hey make is significant, but I hope he says all this straight from his heart!

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  19. Nice thoughts IHM. I admire Obama for his thoughtful speech and his clarity. Having said that I will have to disagree with this:

    “I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal. But I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality.”

    Here in the US there are so many families from the Muslim countries where the women are ‘forced’ to wear the hijab(atleast a scarf). Do you think women from an entire community covering their heads is out of choice? I think it is out of either compulsion or fear of dissent!

    Shilpa I agree too. This did bother me. I think he said this only to get them over to his side. Once women have education and independence, they will be in a better position to defy such forcing, specially in America, where legally nobody can force them. He did not say he was in favour of women wearing hijab. He said they have a right to choose. He also stressed on education for women, and even offered support to female students, that would never be accepted if he tries to talk of equality. It’s like what would I say to my maid if I want her to let her daughter go to school? Sometimes we must go step by step I feel, or else there will be no movement …He is being extremely tactful …what do you think?

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    • Agreed that he is being tactful and he HAS to be tactful and not steamroll other countries like other US presidents have done in the past. But somewhere down the line some of the muslim countries HAVE to listen to the cold truth that they make their women’s lives unlivable with their barbaric rules. I think it is not even about democracy etc. It is about human rights. I guess I really digressed here!

      I totally agree with you Shilpa. I strongly agree in fact. I just feel he cannot make any difference if he starts with criticism. He as an outsider can only initiate some changes, have you read ‘Princess’ by Jean Sasoon? When someone is denied even education, will they think of asking for anything else? And the worst part is the conditioning is so strong that the women believe they are luckier and better protected than the Western women who get pregnant at 13.

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  20. Obama is the master of diplomacy. I wonder what he actually feels in his heart.

    I can imagine Nita! But he has the responsibility to say the right things!

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  21. Would you expect Obama say – I am not in favour of Womens equality. Women never be treated at pat with Men!!!!!!!!
    He can’t speak the above lines. So he is bound to speak what he spoke.
    And tell me one Prime Minister or President from the entire history who has not spoken GOOD words at such large gatherings. But then why is the world so unhuman till date?

    Obama is delivering what he was expected to do at the gathering. What is yet to be seen is whether he actually remember what he said, once the gathering and the clapping sound is gone!

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  22. Yes. I totally agre..Women’s reservation bill will go a long way in helping the positive growth of the society.

    Yes Raghav, it will. But I hope it does pass!

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  23. “I know many of us are going to disapprove of his refusal to disapprove of women being made to cover their hair.”
    We cannot force a woman not to wear a hijab. That is her choice. What we need to ensure is if a woman does wear a hijab it is due to her own choice and not due to coercion.

    The remaining speech , riddled with half truths and needless pandering of Muslim world, was as expected but very disappointing.

    He spoke about education of girls , which is a very safe topic. Only the Taliban would dispute that. But there are far more serious issues such as the status of women in Sharia Law system and the honour killings and he did not say anything about it.

    RGB he would have been very unwise if he had discussed anything UNSAFE. he had gone their to build bridges. Once there is trust and goodwill we can begin to talk about what we find unacceptable. Don’t you wish some Indian politicians would also start talking about education instead of worrying about ancient places of worship?

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    • Can any bridge be built on the foundations of lies and without accepting the truths? Every issue can be raised diplomatically.

      He also said ” Now let me be clear, issues of women’s equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, we’ve seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead.
      Meanwhile, the struggle for women’s equality continues in many aspects of American life and in countries around the world.”

      RGB if we truly care to make a difference we have to extend a hand in friendship, if he had started with telling them all that is wrong with them there would only go on the defensive.

      Is he really serious? Can you really compare the few gender disparities prevalent in US to the oppression of women in Islamic countries?

      Again I think he is being very wise. He is not being superior, by admitting faults that could common he is making it possible for those faults to be freely discussed.

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      • “if he had started with telling them all that is wrong with them there would only go on the defensive.”
        If you don’t want to tell the truth , at least do not lie about female empowerment in Islamic countries. Electing woman leaders has nothing to do with female empowerment as all of them were elected due to nepotism. Sure, gender inequality is not confined to Islam only. But it has by far the worst record. Don’t compare it with the much fewer disparities in the US.

        “He is not being superior, by admitting faults that could common he is making it possible for those faults to be freely discussed.”
        It is a travesty to even compare the two. US society is much superior than Islamic countries with respect to gender equality. This is the truth. And if we want to discuss the faults present in US society then we should also be able to discuss those prevalent in Islamic countries as well.


        The aim should remain to help – not a match in finding faults with each other’s cultures. Ever heard of meeting half way and accepting that no culture is all grey or all black or all white RGB?

        P.S.Also, put yourself in that position, how willing would you be to think of changing after someone has listed all that is wrong with your culture?????

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        • “Ever heard of meeting half way half way and accepting that no culture is all grey or all black or all white RGB?”
          What is the middle ground with respect to the women rights in Islamic countries? And even if you attempt to find middle ground , is it possible without the Islamic countries accepting the faults present in their society? Why cannot one culture be superior to other? In what way is the Islamic culture better than the contemporary US culture?

          And as an aside would you also try to find middle ground with people like Muthalik and their viewpoints?

          “Also, put yourself in that position, how willing would you be to think of changing after someone has listed all that is wrong with your culture?????”
          If someone points out legitimate faults of my culture, why would I object to it? Living in denial does not help. Period.

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    • “Don’t you wish some Indian politicians would also start talking about education instead of worrying about ancient places of worship?”

      I guess you allude to the BJP. The fact is they not only talk about girl education but also implement it. I am sure you must have read about the ‘Ladli Lakshmi Yojana’. It was introduced by the BJP government in MP. It aims to reduce drop out of girls in school, encourage girl education till Standard 12 ,improve the gender ratio and encourage family planning. And by all accounts it has been a success. The NDA would have extended the scheme to every state. Did the media give any attention to this scheme? Why don’t you raise awareness about this through your blog?

      Did you read the BJP manifesto for 2009 elections? It had devoted 9-10 pages for education and women empowerment as opposed to 4 lines pertaining to the temple. And still the media and you say they should start talking about education rather than the temple. Why do you ignore the 10 pages elaborating education schemes and harp about the 4 lines relating to the temple?

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  24. 2 other things I liked in that speech An American President for the first time acknowledged USA’s role in throwing out democratically elected govt in Iran in 1953 Also he never called Iran a rogue State and admitted Iran’s legitimate need for nuclear energy for peaceful purposes I felt there were many things he wanted to say but did not because it would not have been good politics and diplomacy

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  25. The speech was also important because of what he said abt Iran For the first time an American President owned up its role in the coup that thrown out democratically elected Iranian Govt of 1953 Will he own up other US backed coups? Let us wait and see It was significant that Obama did not call Iran rogue State and acknowledged its need for nuclear energy for peaceful purposes I felt Obama did not tell everything he wanted to say because of the constrains of domestic politics and International diplomacy

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  26. WoW! He did give a great speech.
    And hats off to him.

    If only asians believed in the same thing. I mean you know how the indian politisian see things and even asian parents (not all parents though and times are changing).

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  27. Reformist writer Dr. Abdelwahab Meddeb, a professor of comparative literature at the University of Paris X in Nanterre and author of the books The Malady of Islam (New York: Basic Books, 2003) and Counter-Preaching (Contre-PrΓͺches, Seuil, Paris, 2006)[2] wrote: “Obama’s pertinent speech in Cairo was wrong in at least one respect. Let us say [for the sake of the argument] – though I find it difficult to do so – that women should be free to wear the veil. [Still, Obama] should have added that they must [also] be free to remove it.”[3]

    Read more here, http://islamineurope.blogspot.com/2010/06/france-muslim-intellectuals-criticize.html

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