“Use your power to empower girls” was the headline of the e-mail. Now, I have no issues with empowering girls but the body of the e-mail brought back an old debate for me. A few years ago Oprah started a series of schools in sub-saharan Africa that educated girls and only girls.
I have a huge issue with this practice and the whole concept behind it. Now, if the boys were all educated and that problem was a done deal I could see it… but the boys aren’t actually any more educated than the girls and society might even have more need for them to be educated. See, the boys are the leaders of most societies in that part of the world, and they tend to be sexist as hell. Basically they often view women as little more than chattel. Now, in the west where there are jobs that require education, education allows girls to get out of the home, to develop values that aren’t based on their ability to have sex and bear children. In many third world nations those opportunities don’t exist… meaning that the educated girl is still living in the village with all the boys who have not been educated. Those boys are likely to resent her education and still have an attitude that is based in a different time (I have seen this in action). These boys, as they become adults, will marry these girls who become women… and they will not all treat them kindly due to the resentment over the special privilege. Again, I have seen this in action. If you start by educating both the boys and the girls you open them all up to a larger world, to a world where the boys do not feel that you are excluding them (and believe me, nothing is harder to bear for someone used to privilege than discovering someone else has what you do not).
So fuck empowering girls, empower people regardless of gender, give them all the magic of the world, not just one gender or another.