Last month, the Washington Post cited a new study by UCLA political scientist Michael Ross, that claims oil-rich, impoverished nations are more likely to oppress women than poor nations that do not have a booming oil industry. Ross gives what appears to be a proven link between higher levels of oil production and lower levels of civic engagement among women.
His study, which was based on more than four decades of data from 169 countries, claims that an economy based primarily on oil and construction oftentimes cancels out the growth of industries that women in poorer nations dominate--namely, textile manufacturing, where women greatly outnumber men.
In communities where women are not able to work outside of the home, they are not able to socialize with other women. They are also not able to value a quality education, because it may seem pointless. In turn, they will never go on to becoming community leaders and organizers, and their government will have little incentive to protect their rights.
This study is ground-breaking in that it shatters what the World Bank and others have long asserted: social development and gender equality are obvious results of economic growth.
Now of course, the crazed Islamophobes and wingnuts had a field day with this, reducing Ross to nothing more than an "Islamofascist apologist." How, then, do they explain why oil-poor Tunisia and Morocco have a higher percentage of female legislators than oil-rich Algeria?
Of course there are social parameters associated with Islamic tradition. No one can dispute this. But c'mon people, wake up. Stop relying on foreign oil from economically underdeveloped nations. Not only does it breed tyranny, tribal and global warfare, environmental and economic devastation, but engenders the oppression of women as a byproduct.
Linda J. Bilmes of Harvard University is a former assistant secretary of commerce, and co-author with Joseph Stiglitz of *"**The Three Trillion Dollar Wa...
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