Today I want to talk about feminism and human rights. Not the common sense kinds of rights feminists inherently believe they understand, but the actual human rights of the world and where we are failing.
The UN’s Declaration of Human Rights isn’t complicated, but is never followed by any country. Somewhere, we all fail. But let me help you to understand what we’re dealing with.
The first line of the preamble for this declaration is as follows:
“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,
Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people,”
Let’s stop right there for now. Does not sound like the underpinnings of what feminism should be about? That we, as a group, should recognize the “inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family,”? There is no better place to start. We should do it ourselves before we demand it of others. Ask yourself essential questions about your own feminist beliefs. Do you truly recognize it as the basis for “freedom, justice, and peace in the world,”? Do you dignify everyone you meet, or do you degrade human beings, as groups and even as individuals? Are you mocking others for their beliefs to their face or behind their back? Can you meet them as equals, or do you pity them or even rage against them?
I don’t think there’s one of us who doesn’t think someone is beneath us for their beliefs. There’s a name in your head right now that you want to never think of again, someone who has pissed you off for their addition to the barbaric acts we’re dealing with. Someone who doesn’t treat others with dignity and respect inherent to all of us. Someone you could never reach or change; a person who has power and is wielding it , one who has “outraged the conscious” of your mind. Can you ever look at them as an equal? Can you ask for equality, true, pure equality?
Don’t feel bad about it. None of us are perfect. This Declaration is asking the impossible and isn’t meant for individuals, but for nations. It’s why we have elections, trials that specifically bring people to justice for “crimes against mankind”, prisons for actual, violent offenders. The system isn’t perfect, and we all know it. What I’m asking you is, as a person, when you meet another person, are you judging them? Are you degrading them in your head? Do you turn your head from the homeless, judge others openly on social media to rally others to your judgments, or say things that you know aren’t in line with what should be your beliefs? Do you even make those terrible jokes that you know you shouldn’t but get a great response and make you feel good anyway? I do. And I want to stop.
But let’s end on a high note with some of the articles that are just common sense for all of us.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.
All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.
There are thirty articles in this declaration, and I think each of us know or can easily find an instance where these weren’t upheld by our nation. Maybe it’s because it’s too systematic at this point and we have a long way to go. But we can fight for these basic human rights everyday just by making others aware, signing petitions, or taking a stand where others won’t or just don’t. I’ll get to the rest of it later, but in (late) honor of human rights day, I want to start with you. I want to start with me. Let’s be better feminists.