dear reader, don't ask us why dowd had to include what the male media is saying women want (again), but, overall, the article is good. don't know about you, but we still think sexual objectification is not a good thing. maybe she had to assuage her editors in order to get another piece about women in the nyt.... maybe she should visit jackson katz's site! ... insite

The New York Times
November 28, 2001

Hunks and Brutes


Women used to get in a snit when a hardhat with a flag decal wolf-whistled at them.

Now women get in a swoon when a hardhat with a flag decal wolf-whistles at them.

In three decades, feminism has done a back flip. Once men in uniform were the oppressors. Now they're trophy mates. Once cops were pigs. Now they're foxes. Once firemen were the guys you brought home if you couldn't snag a doctor. Now they're the most sizzling accessory.

Bad news for the Dockers generation. "The Hunk Factor," blared the headline in Monday's USA Today. "Manly men and their uniforms muscle onto the scene."

Women looking for "knights in shining helmets" say they are now turned off by effete investment bankers and dot-commers in blue button- down shirts, khakis and designer glasses.

So American women now ogle the macho men they once spurned.

Meanwhile, half a world away, the fledgling feminists of Afghanistan grumble that the brutes with guns are oppressing them. (And those guys really are brutes.)

The heady mood last week, when the Taliban fled and women threw off their veils and offered shy, radiant smiles, has been replaced by a more cautious mood.

Most women are still wearing their burkas, and most are not yet returning to work. They tell reporters they are dubious about how much better life will be under the Northern Alliance or Pashtun tribal leaders in the south.

The U.S. is trying to jolly along the Northern Alliance to modernity, but the warlords seem content with their patriarchy. The interior minister in Kabul twice forbade women to walk in unison to the United Nations compound, and policemen shooed a few women trying to rally in the street back onto the pavement.

"They said it was for security, but that is just a pretext," said Soraya Parlika, the head of the newly formed Union of Women in Afghanistan. "They don't want women to improve."

The warriors taking over are not yin to the Taliban's yang, by any means. The Taliban rose because they seemed to be more gallant toward women than the other warlords. Muhammad Omar came to power after he pursued a Kandahar commander who had kidnapped two teenage girls, shaved their heads and taken them to a military camp where they were gang-raped. But it turned out that the Taliban's idea of protecting women was obliterating them.

So women in the land of cavemen are right to hope that the U.N. and U.S. will step in to make sure that the new leaders do not revert to their old rapacious ways.

Asked whether the administration would take a stand on the Northern Alliance's refusal to let women march, Ari Fleischer demurred.

"We're talking about different regions of the world where people have their own cultures and histories," he said, adding, "We cannot dictate every day's events to everybody all throughout Afghanistan. . . ."

Perhaps Mr. Fleischer missed Laura Bush's recent radio address, when she said, "All of us have an obligation to speak out" for "the rights and dignity" of Afghan women.

Mrs. Bush hit that note again yesterday, meeting at the White House with 11 women exiled from Afghanistan. "I hope that one principle of that new government will be human rights, and that includes the rights of women and children," she said.

The first lady was asked by Charlie Gibson on "Good Morning America" why the administration wasn't pressing Saudi Arabia to give women the right to drive and Kuwait to give women the right to vote.

"Well, at least one good thing is that women are educated in that country, and we all know how important education is for the success of any country," she replied.

Just because you can recite Shakespeare to yourself in the back seat of the car doesn't make being relegated there any easier.

If the U.S. can bomb a path to victory for the Northern Alliance, we can lay down some terms for what women can attain in the new Afghanistan. And if the U.S. can go to war to protect Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait, we can move up the bar a notch for women there, too.

So why on earth don't we?

Copyright 2001 The New York Times Company | Privacy Information