Time magazine’s recent special edition: “100 Most Influential People of 2015” featured Malala Yousafzai and Pope Francis together side by side on the last page (152) of the Icons section.
It is truly a telling contrast on a number of levels:
Young vs. old, female vs. male, East (Pakistan) vs. West (Argentina), Muslim vs. Xian. These comparisons are largely superficial at first glance, but most intriguing and enlightening is the contrast in titles given to the short bios accompanying their images.
This young female is heralded as a “Champion of Education” and this old man as “The Humble Pastor”.
Education vs. religion. New ideas vs. old ideas, Female vs. male.
It is no accident that a male, an old male represents religion and a young female though also raised in a religion herself represents education, especially education for girls and women all over the world.
Malala stands in stark contrast to her religion, about as stark as one could get, as a survivor of a religiously motivated assassination attempt by a male committed to a religion that not only condemns women to second class citizenship (like the Pope’s) but to ignorance and subservience: she was shot by the Taliban for going to school and for being a very visible and outspoken activist for women’s education.
Malala’s activism goes far beyond promoting education of women and girls worldwide. In talking to another old male world leader of some influence, Malala attempted to educate him as well to a pressing situation in her home country:
“Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
(Yousafzai expressing her concerns to Barack Obama that drone attacks are fueling terrorism).
The Pope on the other hand stands for his very old patriarchal church, an organization that ensconces misogyny and less than equal rights for women. Women can’t be priests, bishops, cardinals, or Pope. They can’t rise to run the organization, they can’t control it. Worse still, they are denied their reproductive rights by the Catholic Church’s ridiculous dogma condemning the use of birth control which may be one of the most heinous commands of any religion, responsible for more suffering and deaths than even the religion which needed Malala killed.
Both Malala and Pope Francis are heralded as Icons of our modern age by Time magazine, yet one is pushing for modernity and the end of millennia old thinking that restricts women to religiously approved behaviors in dress, sexuality and status as formulated by men centuries ago and the other is head of the largest institution on earth that maintains those repressions. Education eradicates those restrictions. Worldwide the more women become educated they take back their reproductive rights and gain status and economic power and leave the religious restrictions on their behavior written and enforced by men behind. Educated women in even predominantly Catholic countries utterly ignore the Pope and his Church’s absurd ideas about birth control.
Malala represents new freedoms for women and change, the Pope represents old repressions and the status quo.
The fact that it is time for a change with women coming to the forefront and finally becoming equal to men in access to all endeavors is most eloquently stated by the anthropologist Melvin Konner in his new book:
Konner’s “Women, After All: Sex, Evolution and the End of Male Supremacy”
From the introduction:
“…women are fundamentally pragmatic as well as caring, cooperative as well as competitive, skilled in getting their own egos out of the way, deft in managing people without putting them on the defensive, builders rather than destroyers. Above all, I mean that women carry on the business of a complex world in ways that are more focused, efficient, deliberate, and constructive than men’s, because women are not frequently distracted by impulses and moods that sometimes indirectly lead to inappropriate sex and unnecessary violence. Women are more reluctant participants in both. And if they do have to be drawn into wars, these will be wars of necessity, not of choice, founded on rational considerations, not on a clash of egos escalating out of control”
Science tells him this. Konner makes a rather strong case in 310 pages of data and findings from anthropology, sociology, psychology and biology that women and men are not the same and the differences women bring to the table may be superior to many of the predispositions of men and that those skills are just what is needed to make a better world. It is great read and a scientific tour de force, do give it a look.
And I could not agree more. We need more women senators, representatives, business leaders, scientists, world leaders and champions of education like Malala. We do not need any more Popes, imams, ministers, monks, pastors (however humble) or priests of any kind. We need less of all these bastions of male rule- making and phony authority that keep the world divided and women repressed.
Malala represents the changing of the guard that Konner argues for.