A beacon of hope for gender equality

If you hang out in certain corners of the Internet, last week was all about how anti-woman culture has become. First, a video was released of professional football player Ray Rice punching and knocking out his now-wife, Janay Palmer, in an elevator in February. Ray was fired from the Baltimore Ravens, but he had previously incurred only a two-game suspension for the matter, which NFL officials knew about. The video’s release and Rice’s subsequent firing ignited a passionate online discussion about domestic assault, #WhyIStayed and whether one can support the NFL and also support women. My girl Ann Friedman took the New York Magazine’s women’s site, The Cut, to chastise the NFL for setting a “disgusting standard” for ignoring the severity of the situation until public opinion forced their hand.

Then, on Thursday, Los Angeles police handcuffed "Django Unchained" actress Daniele Watts for “indecent exposure” after they found her kissing her partner, Brian James Lucas, in a car outside of CBS television studios. Once the police were able to identify Watts, they let her go, but that did not stop the couple from taking to social media to decry the embarrassment of what they believe was the police mistaking Watts for a prostitute.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Lucas declared, “I could tell whoever called on us (including the officers), saw a tatted RAWKer white boy and a hot bootie shorted black girl and thought we were a HO (prostitute) & a TRICK (client).”

On Friday, Olympic runner Oscar Pistorious was found guilty of “culpable homicide” – the South African equivalent of manslaughter – rather than murder for shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp in February 2013. Writing for the U.K.’s The Independent, feminist activist Joan Smith deplored a system that “rehabilitates” those who kill women while women continue to die at the hands of their partners at an alarming rate.

Between the actual news, the subsequent angry back-and-forth on Twitter and the uninformed Facebook posts, it was a rough week to be online.

But the one beacon of hope last week, at least for me, was this Global Sisters Report column by Sr. Eucharia Madueke, a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. Madueke writes about gender equality in Southeast Nigeria, and it was a refreshing change of narrative.

“People here believe that being a man or a woman is generally irrelevant to individuals’ social roles and relationships,” she writes, adding later that, because of that belief, “the local language lacks gender discriminatory words. Individuals, man or woman, are referred to as mmadu, ‘the beauty of life,’ instead of he or she.”

I won’t spoil the rest of the column for you, but if you were as jaded by the Internet as I was last week, Madueke’s column is the intellectual equivalent of a kitten video in your newsfeed. Which, of course, the Internet can also provide if your heart needs it.

[Dawn Cherie Araujo is the staff reporter for Global Sisters Report.]