Nick Kristoff, a NY Times opinion columnist who writes like a Unitarian minister and pens self-serving articles urging liberals to give more money (his wife is in the philanthropy business), has come up with a long piece advocating a “Crusade” on behalf of women all over the world.
So what we have is a concerted global effort to help “women and girls,” probably along the lines of the decades-old campaign to do so here at home, which has resulted in the collapse of traditional marriage and boys being increasingly marginalized in school and the workplace.
One of the tools used to promote women in less developed parts of the world is “microfinance” essentially small scale credit extended to women through World Bank programs and such. An example Kristoff gives is that of a Pakistani housewife with an unemployed husband (who is, naturally, described as a deadbeat and a wife-beating villain)[.]
So here we have a success story, in which wealth is being created through light industrial production of apparel.
Of course, we should all cheer the change in circumstances for Saima, who has now turned the tables and become domineering toward her husband[.]
No, I don’t think so. Countries that successfully raised themselves out of poverty following WW II did not do so through small businesses run by women. Certainly, they put women to work, particularly in Asia, but these jobs were part of a state-planned emphasis on light industry that exploited country girls by making them the low-wage workhorses in factories, i.e. sweatshops. For Korea, China and Thailand this has worked out pretty well, but it didn’t have anything to do with “liberating” women; in fact it was all about control and exploitation. And once the sweatshop model outlived its usefulness, countries like Korea have switched to higher value-added products rather than footwear. These high-end products are manufactured and designed overwhelmingly by men.
Kristoff (who is actually a supporter of sweatshops) is getting it wrong. The countries that most successfully lifted themselves out of poverty did so through patriarchal authoritarianism and strict control and exploitation of women. Of course, once the hurdle was cleared, women were given increasing freedom and opportunity, after which most voluntarily switched from production to service jobs.
So Kristoff’s crusade is doomed. Any effort that encourages female independence and dominance as a means to lift a society out of poverty is working against its own stated goal, as we can see from our own ghetto failure here in the US, where women are clearly socially dominant, and yet have not managed to lift themselves out of poverty without paternalist carrot and stick type incentives from above.
We should beware of crusades advocated by pompous elites like Kristoff, who think they can solve the world’s problems despite having only a contrived understanding of the world, honed to very narrow specifications in detached, exclusive institutions.