March is Women’s History Month. Yet there are few promos on the various networks reminding viewers of the remarkable achievements of the honorees as compared to Black History Month.
On the tube, women are still often relegated to the role of eye candy and, recently, to titillation with bisexual dalliances.
But in the real world, the lives of women are extraordinarily fraught, and very little of what women and girls face is being broadcast.
Paris Hilton may be the norm on tabloid TV, but women with her privilege and choices — she recently discussed her eight birthday parties in four international cities on late night — are far from the norm.
Far too often, the norm is a 9-year-old Brazilian girl who was raped by her stepfather from the age of 6.
That in and of itself is not news, alas. What makes this particular Brazilian incest survivor’s story news is that her mother and her doctors were excommunicated last week from the Catholic Church.
Their crime? The girl had been impregnated by her rapist stepfather and her mother sought an abortion to save her daughter’s life. Doctors agreed the girl would likely die if she attempted to carry the pregnancy to term.
Archbishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho insisted, “God’s law is above any human law. So when a human law … is contrary to God’s law, this human law has no value.”
Hence the excommunication.
Brazil is far from alone in ignoring crimes against women and girls. On March 9, Amnesty International called for an immediate response to the proposed stoning deaths of eight Iranian women for the crime of adultery.
In our own hemisphere, rape has become the tool of “change” to address lesbianism in Jamaica. Known lesbians have been gang-raped. Others have attempted to flee the island nation and come to the U.S. to avoid the constant verbal, physical and sexual harassment they get for being queer in Jamaica.
In August 2008, a Jamaican lesbian was granted asylum in Florida when a judge determined that deportation might result in severe injury or death in her native country.
On March 6, Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the guest on “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” One of the issues Tutu discussed was the use of rape as a tool of war in the conflicts in Darfur and Congo.
On the March 5 episode of “Oprah,” award-winning journalist Lisa Ling gave a follow-up report on her earlier investigations of Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints compounds in the Southwest. Women and girls in these plural-marriage Mormon sects are often required to be married as young as 12 to middle-aged men. Ling interviewed one man whose seven wives and 19 children watched in silence.
The Feb. 8 beating of pop singer Rihanna by her boyfriend Chris Brown was initially reported as a tiff — until “TMZ” released police photos of the badly beaten — and bitten — Rihanna. Last week, Brown was charged with two felonies. The two are reportedly trying to work it out.
While TV ignores the myriad accomplishments of women like Jane Addams, Susan B. Anthony, Harriet Tubman and others of equivalent importance and gives only passing attention to news of women being brutalized worldwide, it’s vital to remember Women’s History Month. Maybe next year the networks will remember that there’s more to women’s lives than celebrity birthday parties.