Next week marks the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Betty Friedan’s book, “The Feminine Mystique,” about women’s unhappiness, a book credited with starting the “feminist movement” among bored housewives. But as many have pointed out, to be a bored housewife requires a certain level of privilege. So their angst, then and now, is embarrassing when the world is filled with women still struggling for basic human rights.
Many in this country continue the “stay-at-home moms” versus “working moms” debate, forgetting that it remains a “problem” only of those who can afford to make a choice.
Meanwhile, in world we can’t imagine, a brave Pakistani girl has become the face of a global “education movement” over the past few years. Malala, now 15, survived an assassination attempt on Oct. 9 when Taliban gunmen forced their way onto her school bus and shot her in the head and neck for her outspoken advocacy of education. They also wounded two other girls. In its perversion of Islam, the Taliban believe girls should not be educated, or be seen outside the house, and closed hundreds of schools accordingly.
Malala’s father, who ran private schools for boys and girls, educated his daughter. (Nowhere in the Quran, Malala told an interviewer, does it say that girls should not be allowed to go to school.) Her blog for the BBC made her a world-wide figure as the Taliban issued a formal edict in January 2009 banning all girls from schools.
“I have the right of education,” Malala said in a 2011 interview with CNN. “I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.”
And she continued to speak up, and out. Right up until the assassination attempt. A Taliban spokesman vowed they would come for Malala again if she managed to survive.
Against the odds, Malala did survive and is now living and recovering in the United Kingdom with her family. She is in the final stages of the procedure to reconstruct her skull. Last week, doctors implanted a cochlear device to restore hearing to her left ear.
On Feb. 3, Malala released a short video statement (“you see I am alive”) recorded in English and Urdu. She encourages supporters of women’s education to donate to the Malala Fund, an organization she expects to one day run.
The U.S.-based international organization, Vital Voices, administers the fund, which plans to provide “grants and partner collaborations with civil society organizations” to help “every girl, every child to be educated.”
Malala’s message contains no mystery: Education is the key to equality.