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10The Alienist

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“And the Nobel Prize goes to…A MAN”

Should I be surprised? Or should I scorn at my own optimism, that, in the old boys’ club, women will be granted entry on more than the exceptional occasion? My very own friend expects his girlfriend - a Harvard graduate, working currently as a management consultant - to quit her job and put her professional aspirations aside, to be his wife and mother his children. And my friend is an educated American (we have always been led to believe that the Western ideology/education grants equal opportunities to men and women). I fail to identify only a single person who said that; there being so many; CEOs, prime ministers, presidents, heads of international trade associations/ policy frameworks… For them, numbers are crucially important, everything is quantitative – have not they seen a copy of a United Nations Report? In Canada, statistics reveal, that women make up only 5% of skilled trade, 10% of fire and police and 21% of senior managers. And even now, women’s income is only 61% that of men’s. I quote, “Women continue to be marginalized and underestimated – glass ceilings are alive and flourishing” Dr. Hadley (And we still aren’t’ satisfied: Gender inequality in Canada: 2001).

Across the Atlantic:
“She was only 11 years of age when her parents gave her in marriage to a brutal man. She eventually fled with the help of her lover, only to be captured by men of the ‘upper class’. They killed her lover and repeatedly raped her. She escaped and returned a few years later to embrace revenge. For this, she was jailed for 11 years.”
This was the life of India’s Bandit Queen, Phoolan Devi – a victim of India’s class
system and of gender inequality in the midst of poverty. So many more suffer the same
fate as her, “missing women” as the Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen labels them.

Both consciously and otherwise, women continue to be mistreated, in both, the developed and underdeveloped world. And in our current existence, our forward thinking, all our innovations and creativities; we have not yet resolved this problem. Or have we? How could I forget, we have– FREE TRADE - the answer to all our problems. Free trade has increased openness and created jobs for women as well as men. It has increased monetary assets, however, only meagrely, in a world with increasing taxes and inflation, but an increase nonetheless. And with a touch of the magic wand – voila - the problem of gender inequality has evaporated into thin air. If only…

Globalization of markets and trade has affected all in many different ways. Jobs have been created through export processing zones (EPZs) for both men and women. Compared to local jobs, salaries are higher, but what about working conditions? The stories of the maquilladoras still haunt. Women are not allowed to take breaks, work inspite of illness and/or injury and at times are raped. But ofcourse, a blind eye is turned on this, since; jobs are created and salaries increased, earning barely to meet the PPP bar. We have achieved our goal.

Logically speaking, the UNIFEM argument holds weight. Please do not make the mistake of allotting this to the fact that I, myself, am female. Their argument goes - globalization has brought with it both benefits and drawbacks. The inadequacies are more difficult to see; because they occur behind close doors (sounds fishy, does it not?) or/and they occur in the ‘unpaid’ care economy, or/and because those who make the trade policies are spatially distant. The power of spatial distantiation should not be undermined. It is easier to make policies when you cannot personally experience the catastrophic effects of your decisions.

However, in some parts of the industrialized world, the discrepancy of equality between men and women has become narrower; in the sense, that women are more career oriented and are working, not because they have to earn money, but because they want to. Free trade has improved the lives of these women. Similarly, in LDCs, women have always worked in agriculture; but trade bringing with it leading edge technology and financial barriers such as access to credit, has barred and squeezed out women from the agricultural sector; even those who need to grow to sustain livelihood. The exploitation of cheap labour by TNCs in the LDCs has increased income in the manufacturing sector, but this has led to a simultaneous decline of women employed in the industrialized nations.

Incomes have increased to protract the demands of increasing prices and taxes; women have had to find ways in increase their earnings. However, their responsibilities at home have not decreased. The ‘unpaid care economy’ is growing with the disadvantages of free trade. Women bear a double burden; they lose the social safety net, as governments empty their coffers to meet the conditions of TNCS, and so they also have to increase the hours of unpaid labour to make up for the short fall. Furthermore, free trade and the mobility of labour has encouraged sex trafficking. Millions are shipped to America – the land of the free – to satisfy the desires of white-collared men.

The situation cannot improve only if NGO’s and other groups produce reports and illicit suggestions. Trade policy makers have to see the ‘human face’ of globalization. As Nilufer Cađatay (2000) puts it “Trade must be re-evaluated – going beyond the social impact of trade, based on growth and market access to look at the social content, that is the social relations across and within nations (class, gender, race) that form the context in which trade policies are enacted.”







Comments

The following comments are for "Free Trade - How 'free' is it ?"
by nisreenzain

'Free' is the great misnomer of our day
Free Trade, as they call it, means freedom for THEM to trade. Just as capitalists call their system democratic - because it gives THEM greater voice although virtually none for working class people, they use the great misnomer 'free' to fool us but to apply to them in their own minds, their own field of discourse (jargon), their own community of wage slavemasters.

I've been reading and hearing for some time now about the multitudes of women being shipped as slaves from third world nations to western nations - to whites and to previous immigrants from the same nations - for purposes of prostitution and as cruelly-treated domestic servants. The descriptions I have read of these peoples' lives makes the indentured servitude system of the colonial Americas sound like an internship.

( Posted by: the alienist [Member] On: July 16, 2004 )

It is only 'free' for those who coined the term
the alienest,

Thanks for your comments. I concur with you that it is only free for THEM, at the expense of others.

Not only have the rights of women and children (child labour) been violated, but their means of sustenance have also been eroded. With 'free' trade, numerous microfinance enterprises have gone into the red.

Organizations like the WTO, IMF and the WB do not assist in equalizing the playing field, but instead exacerbate the powers of a certain few. It's something like an American economic colonization.

( Posted by: nisreenzain [Member] On: July 17, 2004 )





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