Read this

“A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power” by Jimmy Carter (Simon & Schuster, 2014),

213 pages, $28

Courtesy image

Once upon a time, you might have seen a sign that read “No Gurlz Allowed” or hung one in spite. Girls had cooties then. Boys were dumb. It was a part of childhood, but you’re an enlightened adult today and we’ve come a long way.

Or have we? Former President Jimmy Carter says that worldwide cultures of violence and economic disparity still perpetuate abuse of women and girls. In his new book “A Call to Action,” he examines the issues.

Because he grew up in an atmosphere of relative racial tolerance, Jimmy Carter says that he was, early in life, somewhat oblivious to the “ravages” of discrimination in the South. When he was about 14, he became aware of segregation in his community. Today, he says that “the most serious and unaddressed worldwide challenge is the deprivation and abuse of women and girls” — a situation he says that is “largely caused by… false interpretation” of religious tenets and tracts, and by violence and warfare.

The prevailing situation for many women and girls in China, India, the Middle East, and some African countries is well-known: female circumcision, child marriage, dowry deaths, “honor” killings, rape in warfare, lack of freedom, and genocide of female infants are things we have nightmares over. But Carter says Americans also are partly to blame for the worldwide lack of equality for women.

The Carter Center has noted: “Almost everywhere … women are relegated to secondary positions of influence and authority.” Many religious leaders continue to interpret Scripture in a way that pushes women into subservient roles in church and at home. The number of incarcerated black women has “increased by 800 percent” since Carter’s presidency. More women graduate from college, but colleges hire a low number of female professors. Sexual assaults are under-reported and often unpunished in colleges and in the military. Sexual slavery continues in cities. And women still trail men in their pay. So what can be done?

Carter offers 23 “actions” to take, but first, we need to change the language of change: start using “human rights” instead of “women’s rights” because, by benefiting women, these actions benefit men, too.

Carter presents huge problems in this small book — ones that occur overseas as well as domestically. They range from the irritating to the downright deadly, and though Carter offers his end-of-book “actions” to rid society of inequality,

I didn’t see much on how one individual can effect change. But there’s enough food for thought here to keep your mind working overtime.

Carter’s words stick like proverbial glue. Is that enough to spur readers to do what his book’s title asks? That’s something to ask yourself as you read this timely discourse on gender issues.

“A Call to Action” isn’t for gurlz only.

Terri Schlichenmeyer has been reading since she was 3, and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

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