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NY Times Calls for Another Crusade

August 19th, 2009 · 16 Comments

Nick Kristoff, a NY Times opinion columnist who writes like a Unitarian minister and pens self-serving articles urging liberals to give more money (his wife is in the philanthropy business), has come up with a long piece advocating a “Crusade” on behalf of women all over the world.

In the article, Kristoff and his Chinese wife, Sheryll WuDunn, give us a glimpse into the minds of international power brokers:

There’s a growing recognition among everyone from the World Bank to the U.S. military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff to aid organizations like CARE that focusing on women and girls is the most effective way to fight global poverty and extremism. That’s why foreign aid is increasingly directed to women. The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.

So what we have is a concerted global effort to help “women and girls,” probably along the lines of the decades-old campaign to do so here at home, which has resulted in the collapse of traditional marriage and boys being increasingly marginalized in school and the workplace.

One of the tools used to promote women in less developed parts of the world is “microfinance” — essentially small scale credit extended to women through World Bank programs and such. An example Kristoff gives is that of a Pakistani housewife with an unemployed husband (who is, naturally, described as a deadbeat and a wife-beating villain):

Saima took out a $65 loan and used the money to buy beads and cloth, which she transformed into beautiful embroidery that she then sold to merchants in the markets of Lahore. She used the profit to buy more beads and cloth, and soon she had an embroidery business and was earning a solid income — the only one in her household to do so. Saima took her elder daughter back from the aunt and began paying off her husband’s debt.

So here we have a success story, in which wealth is being created through light industrial production of apparel.

Of course, we should all cheer the change in circumstances for Saima, who has now turned the tables and become domineering toward her husband:

Today, Saima is a bit plump and displays a gold nose ring as well as several other rings and bracelets on each wrist. She exudes self-confidence as she offers a grand tour of her home and work area, ostentatiously showing off the television and the new plumbing. She doesn’t even pretend to be subordinate to her husband. He spends his days mostly loafing around, occasionally helping with the work but always having to accept orders from his wife. He has become more impressed with females in general: Saima had a third child, also a girl, but now that’s not a problem. “Girls are just as good as boys,” he explained.

OK, microfinance works in some cases, but the real question is whether the following statement is really accurate:

Perhaps the lesson presented by both Abbas and Saima is the same: In many poor countries, the greatest unexploited resource isn’t oil fields or veins of gold; it is the women and girls who aren’t educated and never become a major presence in the formal economy. With education and with help starting businesses, impoverished women can earn money and support their countries as well as their families. They represent perhaps the best hope for fighting global poverty.

No, I don’t think so. Countries that successfully raised themselves out of poverty following WW II did not do so through small businesses run by women. Certainly, they put women to work, particularly in Asia, but these jobs were part of a state-planned emphasis on light industry that exploited country girls by making them the low-wage workhorses in factories, i.e. sweatshops. For Korea, China and Thailand this has worked out pretty well, but it didn’t have anything to do with “liberating” women; in fact it was all about control and exploitation. And once the sweatshop model outlived its usefulness, countries like Korea have switched to higher value-added products rather than footwear. These high-end products are manufactured and designed overwhelmingly by men.

Kristoff (who is actually a supporter of sweatshops) is getting it wrong. The countries that most successfully lifted themselves out of poverty did so through patriarchal authoritarianism and strict control and exploitation of women. Of course, once the hurdle was cleared, women were given increasing freedom and opportunity, after which most voluntarily switched from production to service jobs.

So Kristoff’s crusade is doomed. Any effort that encourages female independence and dominance as a means to lift a society out of poverty is working against its own stated goal, as we can see from our own ghetto failure here in the US, where women are clearly socially dominant, and yet have not managed to lift themselves out of poverty without paternalist carrot and stick type incentives from above.

We should beware of crusades advocated by pompous elites like Kristoff, who think they can solve the world’s problems despite having only a contrived understanding of the world, honed to very narrow specifications in detached, exclusive institutions.

Tags: Politics

16 responses so far ↓

  • 1 novaseeker // Aug 19, 2009 at 3:15 pm

    Kristoff stated several months ago (maybe earlier, can’t quite remember) that he thought the main focus in the coming decades had to be women.

    Kristoff is basically a male misandrist. He hates men. He sees men as the problem. He wants women to rule over men (see the article). He is a very, very deeply feminist misandrist person, and the evil nonsense he spews in his articles are venom to men everywhere. He only rarely has anything good to say about men, and when he does it’s almost always in the context of a woman.

    I suspect he has some serious Daddy Issues.

  • 2 BeltainAmerica // Aug 19, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    I was very close to investing a few hundred bucks on microfinance about 6 months ago or so. First thing I noticed were that almost all of the “funds” were exclusive to women and all the ones which advertised 6% return were women that I could find. Not that the return was that important but their bias showed.

    The second thing I noticed were the womens funds (I can’t remember what they called them so I use funds) were almost all small scale production of quaint consumer goods. Some actual clothing production but by and large nothing to actually help a nation except for a little bit of family income.

    All the funds that included men were agricultural in nature.

    Which do you think helps a struggling nation more?

    I eventually wrote to microfinance and told them that their bias towards women only funds meant I must decline any investment with them.

    I never heard back from them in anyway.

    I have been thinking about doing a post on my blog dedicated to their bigoted ways.

    As for Kristoff I have read some of his stuff and the sick feeling his words bring up are too uncomfortable. Personally I would like to see him and a few other manginas thrown in a female supermax general population and see what they think of women afterwards.

  • 3 Welmer // Aug 19, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Nova, having attended a fairly exclusive private school for a number of years, I have known several guys like Kristoff. Almost all of them are privileged, and many, to their credit I suppose, are high achiever types.

    Having grown up without my father, I can’t really relate to them. Perhaps they have do have some daddy issues — I never considered that, and I think it is a good observation on your part. Maybe some of these guys actually have an inferiority complex vis-a-vis their fathers, and can never get over it throughout their entire lives.

    This is something we should think about, especially if we have sons.

    For my part, I was very close to my grandfather and my stepfather, and I loved my own father, even if his life has been somewhat tragic. None of the men in my life are perfect, but I can’t imagine hating them. Could it be easier to hate men who contemptuously look down on others, like Kristoff does? Probably, and so he perpetuates a dysfunctional cycle. It would be interesting to see how his own children feel in twenty years or so.

    For Kristoff, it seems at times that he suggests that it is alright to hate the men in one’s life and men in general for small failures even as the women can do no wrong. Could this be one of the roots of misandry?

    You’ve really hit on something here.

  • 4 Welmer // Aug 19, 2009 at 3:55 pm

    Beltain, I would go so far as to argue that microfinance is predatory lending. It most certainly does not increase the prospects of developing nations.

    The success stories that Kristoff highlights are the exception. As I highlighted, Kristoff’s wife is in the “philanthropy” business. However, it would be more accurate to say she is in the usury business if she supports this kind of practice.

    By encouraging women to take out loans in economically and politically unstable countries, Kristoff et al are simply siphoning wealth out of these countries on the one hand, and skimming cash from well-meaning investors and donors on the other. It is a pretty disgusting scam.

  • 5 Puma // Aug 19, 2009 at 3:57 pm

    Yes it is tragic that adultresses in many parts of the world still don’t qualify for receiving lifetime alimony from their cuckold ex-husbands.

    This injustice must be resolved in each and every country; through the blood and sweat of our troops if necessary.

  • 6 whiskey // Aug 19, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Good point on consumer goods. They are not price-competitive with cheap imports from China, which WILL come in one way or another.

    A better bet is co-op agriculture, getting farmers a better price on the global marketplace, including a guaranteed yearly income. That’s not sexy however or female-targeted to play to the virtue card.

  • 7 novaseeker // Aug 19, 2009 at 6:38 pm

    For Kristoff, it seems at times that he suggests that it is alright to hate the men in one’s life and men in general for small failures even as the women can do no wrong. Could this be one of the roots of misandry?

    This could very well be, Welmer. It could be that he despises the men in his own circles and therefore feels justified in his crusading for women (and by proxy, therefore, *against* men). I’m also pretty sure his wife has a huge influence, if not control, over him at this stage.

  • 8 Lukobe // Aug 20, 2009 at 12:54 am

    Wow, there’s some interesting stuff in the rest of the “Saving the World’s Women” issue —


    ‘Nor does a rise in a woman’s autonomy or power in the family necessarily counteract prejudice against girls. Researchers at the International Food Policy Research Institute have found that while increasing women’s decision-making power would reduce discrimination against girls in some parts of South Asia, it would make things worse in the north and west of India. “When women’s power is increased,” wrote Lisa C. Smith and Elizabeth M. Byron, “they use it to favor boys.”’


    ‘In general, women give differently than men. They are less likely to want their names on things and more likely to give as part of drives (large ones, like Women Moving Millions, and smaller ones, like living-room “giving circles”) that include other women. And they tend to spotlight different causes (women’s health, microfinancing of businesses owned by women) and for different reasons. A study of more than 10,000 large donors by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University suggests that while men describe their giving as practical — filling in the gaps that government can’t or won’t — women describe theirs as emotional, an obligation to help those with less. Behind all this giving lies the theory that helping women and children is the way to change the planet. “Seventy percent of people living in poverty around the world are women and children,” says Christine Grumm, president and C.E.O. of the Women’s Funding Network. “If women have a roof over their heads and a home free of violence, and good and affordable health care, then so do children. In the larger picture, it’s not just about women, but entire communities. Women are the conduits through which change is made.” ‘

    And then there’s this interview with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, president of Liberia:

    If women ran the world, would wars still exist?

    No. It would be a better, safer and more productive world. A woman would bring an extra dimension to that task — and that’s a sensitivity to humankind. It comes from being a mother.

    But if women had power, they would be more likely to acquire the negative traits that power breeds, like selfishness and territorialism.

    It would take a very long term of women absolutely in power to get to the place where they became men.


  • 9 Kristoff Shilling for his Wife at NY Times | Welmer // Aug 20, 2009 at 3:12 am

    [...] looks like Novaseeker’s comment on Kristoff might be right on the money. It turns out that not only does Sheryl Wudunn (Kristoff’s wife) [...]

  • 10 icr // Aug 20, 2009 at 4:22 am

    “No, I don’t think so. Countries that successfully raised themselves out of poverty following WW II did not do so through small businesses run by women. Certainly, they put women to work”

    For example, in the first few years after WW2 the rubble in W Germany was mostly cleared by women because the men of working age were dead, disabled or in POW camps. But the economic miracle was created by male pro-free-market administrators and the returning POW’s.

  • 11 ray // Aug 21, 2009 at 11:24 am

    Microfinance is like Equality, sounds great in theory (helping the poor/oppressed) but serves evil in practice.

    I wrote a series of articles about microcredit and matriarchy in 2007. Microfinance’s major modern proponent is Muhammad Yunus, whose Grameen Bank won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. (Grameen lends to over 7 million Bangladeshi females. Impoverished Bangladeshi males can eat cow shit.)

    “More than 96% of Grameen loans have gone to women, who suffer disproportionately from poverty and who are more likely than men to devote their earnings to their families.”

    (Note the two sugar-coated lies in their statement above.)

    Microfinance/microcredit is just another New Woman Order shuck. It traces to Templar banking, mercantilism, and goddess-worship.

    But then, I’m just a Conspiracy Nut.

    Yunus is a member of the Global Elders, founded and funded by international matriarchalist and entrepreneur Richard Branson and backstabber Peter Gabriel. Global Elder members are former “world leaders” and upfront New Woman Order shills.

    Here’s a passage from the series, in which the Nobel Prizewinner is quoted:

    Yunus: If you give a small loan to a rich person, that is not categorised as micro credit. We are meaning a small loan to the poorest person.

    Negus: Why do you think that this works particularly well when the people borrowing the money are mainly women?

    Yunus: Because women, we saw all along the way, have longer vision, want to change their lives much more intensively.

    Negus: Just Bangladeshi women or women in general?

    Yunus: I think women in general. If you are born into a poor family, if you are a woman you have seen the worst of poverty. In a cultural way in the families in Bangladesh it’s the women who eats last. So if you have a scarcity in the family

    Negus: She misses out?

    Yunus: She misses out So everything comes in the raw deal for her. So , given a chance she works very hard to make a change to improve her life. And by training she is the most efficient manager of scarce resources. Because with the little resource she has, she has to stretch it as much as she can to look after the children, look after the family and everything else..unlike men – men want to enjoy right away. Whatever he got, whatever tiny bit of thing he got he doesn’t care for much what’s coming up.

    Negus: One of the criticisms, and you’ve got your critics, is that this scheme has changed the relationship between poor Bangladeshi men and women-that it has altered the relationship completely, have you found that? Is that a problem? The men can’t handle the fact it’s the women who are doing it?

    Yunus: The way you describe it, it could be an admiration of what we’ve been doing -that we’ve improved the relationship. It’s changed for the better…. In a kind of Grameen Bank way you get more stability within a family, better relations between men and women. The husband doesn’t see the wife as a kind of dependant person. He starts looking at her now as a kind of partner in the family because she also has an independent source of income.

  • 12 Savvy // Aug 22, 2009 at 2:13 am

    I’ve heard of other micor finance options that empower entire communities–teaching them how to make a fishery or something like that. Usually those come from Christians. Instead of saying she is helping her family, it’s seen as now she thinks she is better.

    So is it really his fault that he can’t find work? Oh, oops, they forgot to address that.

    Oh the other hand, women in 3rd world countries can be treated very badly–to the point of being burned alive if their husbands are displeased for any reason. This certainly isn’t anything that biblical beliefs could ever endorse.

  • 13 Savvy // Aug 22, 2009 at 3:14 am

    off topic–It has occured to me that there are a number of you that are Seattlites–hmm…we should all meet up when I finally get up there.

    Lukobe I was looking to see if you had a blog, couldn’t find that but found you are all over Wikipedia.

    And Welmer we’ve discussed it previously.

    Drop me a line at my email. I know of another blogger who visits Seattle with regularity. Maybe we can make it a mini blog conference.

  • 14 Savvy // Aug 22, 2009 at 3:14 am


  • 15 Kamal S. // Aug 22, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Damn Welmar, you hit a golden one here.

    I’d argue that the crusades of some cultural elites are actually quite well understood, in terms of their consequences.

    Some readers may call you sexist, on the grounds of this post alone. I cannot speak for you, but I think you hit something that should be soundly contemplated.

    The same readers may call me sexist – they should not blindly call me sexist without doing some real homework and legwork. If anything, the elitist supporters of such schemes often are operating on far more prejudicial assumptions than Carrie, Miranda, and Samantha, sitting in a café reading the article over low-fat lattes may imagine.

    Readers who have an immediate emotional reaction to what I write, I CHALLENGE you to not assume that I am a “crusty misogynistic conservative who wants third world women in the kitchen.”

    Rather, to first, make your own conclusions by being a careful reader, and looking beneath the surface, doing a bit more research on microfinance and its results, positive and negative, giving a FAIR listen to both sides – include the critics of microfinance.

    I challenge those with the most progressive umbrage to consider the possibility of their being wrapped up in very privileged life, and not examining certain assumptions. The set that regularly reads the NY Times, and is most concerned with the plight of third world women and children, is often quite affluent, and has not come close to experiencing grinding poverty, and often rarely examines their assumptions on such matters.

    I supported microfinance for years, when I first read about Muhammad Yunus’s success in Bangladesh.

    As a younger “progressive Muslim” I had concern for rural poverty in and the deleterious effects of poverty, and rigidly patriarchial social orders on women’s opportunities.

    Never dawned on me to consider possible corrosive effects of such “progressive” efforts on the family structure. On doing years of deeper research, on other topics, and years of contemplation, I came to the conclusion that there is a very subtle social engineering agenda at work behind it.

    Consider that whatever the advantages of a consumer society, such a society may be more easily managed and regimented.

    Microfinance helps many escape poverty, but the fact that it is weighted most heavily towards poor women and not poor men both gives massive agency to only one half of the equation. Why not help both ? Why be only concerned with poor women and children?

    Is the subtext the assumption that poor men are simply expendable? Assuming rural poor men scraping by to help feed their families are actually petty autocratic tyrants is a silly Hollywood assumption and is actually quite racist.

    Consider that many progressives and liberals tend to be closet racists, often without realizing it, in that they operate from sets of narrow class induced assumptions and stereotypes about “these people” (and it is always those people, those poor others, so in need of our help, so pass the bloody herbal tea please…)

    Consider that the psychology of debt is very potent in shaping people’s values and choices, this is key in a consumerist society, debt molds us, credit molds us, it regiments us and induces a certain mindset upon us, and it is also true that dumping vast amounts of money (and lets face it, $20 extra a year is a vast amount of cash in rural Bangladesh) into the hands of new spenders and consumers will not always help them make responsible choices

    Consider this link: “Young women ‘lured into bankruptcy by celebrity lifestyle’ ” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/5557493/Young-women-lured-into-bankruptcy-by-celebrity-lifestyle.html

    Really, this cannot be argued against. Anyone who has been to college knows the credit card trap. Imagine something more pernicious, on a lower more grinding level.

    Consider that introducing organizational shocks into the most fundamental of social systems has profound effects Consider that in many cases a woman’s increased agency due to sudden increased affluence creates tensions in the family unit, and that often SHE WILL RESENT HER HUSBAND’S NEW BETA ROLE, dig around, look in your own lives, the flush of new self confidence at being a provider often comes with a certain nagging disgust towards her partner.
    (like go read Penelope Trunk’s old blogs on her own marriage, she lacks a degree of self reflection at times, but she can often be quite clear on some things in her life, in retrospect)

    Consider all of these things up, and really just think about it. Deeply. Consider the possibility that what you know may be wrong.

    Consider hitting your local library for Edward Bernays, his first book Propaganda is seminal (keep in mind that while under government employ he virtually organized the government’s early propaganda machine) but also look for his more rare books, the ones that cost an arm and leg on Amazon (for good reason). Do a YouTube search for Edward Bernays, some videos will be incoherent conspiratorial ranting, just focus on the lucid documentaries (there are a couple good ones). Read Jacques Ellul’s Propaganda. It is a scholarly work.

    Consider very well everything, pro and con, that you have read about microfinance.
    After doing this if certain things are not crystal clear I’d be more than glad to offer a hypothesis or two, with some interesting facts.

  • 16 Welmer // Aug 22, 2009 at 7:42 am

    13 Savvy // Aug 22, 2009 at 3:14 am

    off topic–It has occured to me that there are a number of you that are Seattlites–hmm…we should all meet up when I finally get up there.

    OK Savvy, sounds good.

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