GRAND TOURISMO

Tourists

Image source: The New Arab

AN OPINION PIECE

Around the world, from the dingiest village to the most bustling city, from the poorest African countries to the most well-off European principalities, one word strikes disgust and condescension into everyone’s hearts: tourists. Admittedly, in poorer areas that disgust is typically overwhelmed by greed for the potential wealth they bring, but it’s there all the same.

It’s easy to see why. Tourists have a reputation for bad behavior, for being obnoxious and inconsiderate, as if they were at some sort of playground instead of a place where people actually live. Residents of big, busy cities like New York hate tourists because they don’t know where they’re going and take up way too space on the sidewalk and in the subway stations and don’t know local customs like standing on this side of the escalator.

Certain nationalities have their own stereotypes and their own varieties of bad behavior. Americans are loud, boastful, arrogant, ignorant despite being arrogant, and picky. (The whole imperialism thing doesn’t help.) French are even more rude and arrogant but add a twist of condescension, expecting everyone to speak their language and disdaining foreigners, even on foreign turf. Japanese are obsessed with taking photos, travel exclusively in groups, and can’t speak any foreign languages. Chinese, the new major tourist sector, apparently combine all these stereotypes: loud, inconsiderate, rude, incomprehensible, ignorant, picky, and photo-obsessed. They also travel exclusively in groups and represent an imperialist country. They add the stigma of being fierce hagglers.

Tourists can be shockingly disrespectful of the places they visit. They climb on ancient monuments and sometimes try to appropriate parts of them as souvenirs. They laugh and joke around in holy sites. They take flash photos during performances. They refuse to learn even a few words of the local language (and when they do, they butcher it). They talk constantly about how great their country is and how bad yours is. The most egregious examples go all-out and break the law, either out of ignorance or a feeling that laws don’t apply on vacation. Young tourists are party animals who somehow never have enough money yet splash out on alcohol and drugs and sex and noisy techno dance parties.

Tourists can distort economies and cultures. As areas become more and more touristed, local businesses bend over for the tourist hordes, altering their products and services to cater to their tastes. Ancient performance arts are translated to English and simplified for the benefit of short attention spans. “Exotic” stereotypes are perpetuated and exaggerated because it’s what tourists expect. Outdated and impractical tools are favored over stuff that might actually help locals. Distinctive cuisine gets watered down and tweaked so foreigners will actually eat it. In certain cases even the narrative at historical sites gets altered so that tourists from certain countries won’t get offended by it.

Despite the Chinese and Japanese tourists, the majority of tourists internationally are white, which has led anthropologists to argue that tourism is a second form of colonialism. Tourists expect locals to serve them and do whatever it takes to put their minds at ease because they’re on vacation. Resort areas in places like the Caribbean have a permanent leisure class waited on by a permanent servant class. Deeply ingrained habits of deference to whites are perpetuated: in his autobiography Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama relates how a black waiter in a restaurant in Kenya was desultory when he and his sister came in, but rushed to serve a (picky, whiny) white tourist family.

Despite all the trouble locals can go to to make them feel at home, a lot of tourists are unappreciative and complain about their experiences. They realize that foreign countries aren’t exactly like where they came from. They complain about the humidity, the language barrier, the food, the touts, the long distances and boring bus rides, the monotonous succession of churches and temples and museums. Some of them (usually the kids) would rather lounge in air-conditioned hotel rooms and use their smartphones or handheld games or TVs. They have only a hazy idea of where they are and often limited interest in what they’re visiting. Sometimes they realize they don’t care about their destination in the middle of the trip.

These are all valid points, and it should be easy to see why people groan when they see a crowd of approaching tourists or hear about their impending onslaught. But I still think tourism has more benefits than drawbacks, and locals should be more considerate and understanding in tourist areas.

The main advantage to tourism, quite simply, is greater understanding. Yes, some tourists just barricade themselves in their hotels or resorts or cruise ships all vacation long, but most of them will go back home with a greater perspective on the world and their destination in particular. They will have met new people, experienced a new culture, and seen emotionally, spiritually, or intellectually enriching sights. Even if they stay within their own country or cultural sphere of influence, their horizons, knowledge, and perspective will have deepened. The experience of “culture shock” can be unsettling at first, but it usually makes for interesting stories later.

For the locals, tourism almost always delivers an economic windfall. Some places depend on tourist revenue and have people trained to show tourists around and cater to their needs. Only the proudest and snootiest businessmen would turn back tourist money. Yes, tourists’ tastes can be different from locals’, but that’s how market demands work. Without tourist interest, many traditional handicrafts and artistic techniques would be on life support. People who whine all the time about “authenticity” need to remember how culture works — it’s an evolving process shaped by different influences and tastes. Sometimes syncretism and creativity can lead to interesting new art forms or new contexts for old styles.

I sometimes get a whiff of xenophobia behind some complaints about tourists. Yes, the national stereotypes I wrote above have truth to them. But obnoxiousness and disrespect aren’t limited to certain nationalities. A lot of tourism comes from domestic sources — that is, tourists aren’t necessarily foreigners. As anyone who’s been on or around a school trip knows, it’s not just foreigners who can be rowdy or rude.

Also, I’d like to point something out — how many of you have gone on a trip before? Tourism is almost universal among people with decent incomes, to some extent; don’t be a hypocrite and complain about tourists in your own city but indulge in it elsewhere.

That being said, it’s true that the worst kinds of tourism don’t really help cultural understanding or intellectual advancement. While I get that some people just want to relax and take long naps on a sunny beach, I prefer tourism with a more active component. Do what you can to learn more about the place you’re visiting. Learn some of the language. Visit a history museum. (Even if it’s not entirely accurate, you’ll at least see how that place sees its own history.) Try to interact with some locals. Step outside of your comfort zone a bit — who knows, you might actually like it.

I personally enjoy going off the beaten track a bit. In many places it becomes predictable where tourists will go. Famous places and big cities are no-brainers. Places mentioned frequently in ads, on TV, or through word-of-mouth are probably big tourist destinations. If you’ve heard of it, chances are others have too. While there’s usually a good reason why certain places are popular — beautiful scenery, lots of stuff to do, a hospitable culture — sticking to the well-trod tourist route limits your horizons and increase the likelihood that you’ll be hanging out with other tourists and locals used to them. Try going somewhere unusual sometimes. It can be amazing how different countries can be if you visit someplace that’s not listed in the ubiquitous Lonely Planet guidebooks (or even has a brief listing).

Above all, show some respect and consideration for the place you’re visiting. Learn the local customs before you go, and try to pick up local behavior when you’re there. Remember that people live there too. Party if you want, but don’t trash the town for no reason. Do what you can to minimize your carbon footprint and waste. Avoid perpetuating negative stereotypes and there’s a greater chance locals will stop living up to theirs.

It’s hard to deny that tourism has its drawbacks. Sometimes tourism inevitably leaves you with a superficial understanding of your destination. (You can’t do much about that in North Korea.) Very fragile environments like Antarctica are hard to visit without straining the ecosystem. The touts that spring up in tourist destinations are a pain. You will never gain the kind of appreciation or understanding as a tourist that you would as a resident who deals with day-to-day issues. Although they can give you valuable perspective, save hassles, deal with language barriers, and offer unique and amazing experiences, group tours can also offer watered-down narratives and isolate tourists from interaction with locals, which I see as a crucial part of the experience (for good or ill!).

But travel is still a great thing, and with booming air travel, the spread of the Internet and new services like Couchsurfing and AirBnB, it’s easier and more tempting than ever before. As countries like Mexico, Turkey, Nigeria and India rise on the world stage, more and more tourists will head from the non-white world to the white world, reversing some old stereotypes and relationships. And at the end of the day, no matter how many books you read or movies you watch, you’ll never really get a feel for a foreign country unless you go for yourself. (That goes for this blog too — take my observations with a grain of salt because chances are I haven’t been to the place I’m describing!)

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GO EAST, YOUNG MAN

AN OPINION PIECE

The US is a Pacific power. This was suggested in the mid-1800s, when it expanded onto the Pacific coast, and confirmed at the end of the century when it annexed Hawai’i in the middle of the ocean and conquered the Philippines on the other side of it. America began to play an active role in East Asian affairs, calling for an “open door” in China (equal-opportunity exploitation) and brokering peace between Japan and Russia after their war of 1904-5.

East Asia mattered a lot to America in the 1900s — it intervened in Japan’s imperialist escapade to make sure 1 country didn’t dominate the whole region. Asians settled in Hawai’i and on America’s West Coast, and Asian culture became more familiar to Americans. But American interest in the region gradually weakened. Partly it was the disappointing result of intervening in the Korean War and (much more so) the Vietnam War. Partly it was discouragement after China went Communist, which was a major setback for American foreign policy. Partly it was the result of disengagement from the Philippines after 1946 and Japan after 1952.

But I think it was mostly because stuff in other parts of the world mattered a lot more. Europe has traditionally been America’s main area of fixation — it’s where most Americans come from, after all. The world wars and Cold War ensured that Europe would be its top region of priority for the 1900s. And then there’s West Asia, which was of only marginal interest to America until the 1970s, when first American involvement in Egyptian-Israeli peace negotiations and then the Iranian Revolution captivated America’s attention. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, no American president could afford to ignore West Asia, and both George Bush and Barack Obama have been fixated on it, whether by invading and occupying countries or by infiltrating terrorist networks based in the Arab world.

I think it’s time for America’s fixation to shift eastward. East Asia is a far more consequential part of the world on many levels, and it presents America (and the rest of the West) with bountiful opportunities in the years to come — as well as several tricky challenges.

First of all, it’s important to realize that East Asia is big. Taken together, it makes up 52% of the world’s population. Even ignoring the Indian subcontinent — which is sort of midway between West and East — it makes up 32% of the world. North Africa and West Asia, in contrast, include more like 10% of the world. East Asia is simply the arena where the world’s future will be decided. Population trends show that the area will only grow more populous in the future. It’s where most people live and will live.

Big numbers are one thing, but they wouldn’t mean as much if the area didn’t have a robust economy. But East Asia is probably the most dynamic part of the world, too. Most of the countries there are growing at a rate of 6% or more a year. The “Asian Tigers” — South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore — roared their way into the First World in the ’80s. Malaysia has recently joined them. Other countries — China, Indonesia, Thailand — are still pretty poor, at least by Western standards, but have growing middle classes and thriving consumer economies. For all its economic stagnation since the ’80s, Japan is still the world’s 3rd-biggest economy.

As a result of its tortured involvement in West Asia, America has a low reputation among Muslims. Despite concerted efforts by Obama to fix this, America’s preference for military intervention, its alliance with Israel, its Islamophobia, and its awkward reaction to the Arab Spring mean it still has a lot of work to do. But almost half of Muslims live in East Asia. It’s not usually thought of as a “Muslim” region, and Islam has played a marginal role in the area, but some of East Asia’s biggest countries (Bangladesh, India and Indonesia) have huge Muslim populations. They are by and large moderate and well-disposed towards America. The US would do well to get over its fixation with testy Arabs and prove to Muslims in East Asia that it’s not biased against their religion.

And it’s not just Muslims in East Asia that have favorable opinions of the US — compared to other parts of the world, where opinions of America range from lukewarm to outright hateful, many East Asians have positive opinions about America. It is widely admired as a model for development and political liberty and its culture is familiar to many thanks to its globally influential media. Its occupations of Japan and the Philippines for the most part were benign and fondly remembered; knee-jerk contempt is lacking. I have traveled all over the region and seldom encountered overt anti-Americanism, even in war-ravaged Vietnam.

This being said, East Asia also presents a few challenges to America and shouldn’t just be dismissed as an easy region.

East Asia is a wildly diverse and sprawling region. Unlike places like West Asia, Europe or Latin America, its countries and cultures have minimal common histories. Even within its more culturally coherent subregions, there are frictions and squabbles. Northeast Asia is a classic example: China hates Japan for its imperialist past and the challenge it poses to its own domination. The Koreas hate Japan too for similar reasons. Taiwan mistrusts China and fears an eventual takeover attempt. North Korea menaces both Japan and its southern neighbor with nuclear weapons and bombastic threats. Elsewhere, India has an ongoing rivalry with Pakistan and a nervous attitude towards China. Luckily, these conflicts aren’t urgent crises demanding immediate international attention or anything, but they still need careful and sustained diplomatic attention, preferably from an outside power less weighed down by historical rivalries and nationalism.

The central challenge to East Asia is posed by China. China is the rising power and by far the most important country there. Although I think fears of China aspiring to superpower status are overhyped, it does seem to aspire to regional hegemon in East Asia. Although this is basically inevitable (for starters, China outnumbers Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Southeast Asia combined), it still makes the other countries nervous. China is big, scary and sometimes overbearing. The South China Sea dispute is a good example of the kind of Chinese behavior that keeps Asian leaders up at night. Yet China’s generous and helpful infrastructure investments and economic centrality make it a vital partner for pretty much everyone.

India is the other rising power and an important factor in regional politics, but it’s more concerned with its internal affairs and is hesitant to get involved in foreign relations, especially further east. Japan is a committed enemy of China and an economic and technological powerhouse, which makes it well-positioned to organize countries against China. But neither of these countries can realistically play the role of regional power-broker.

I think it’s obvious that America has a big role to play and should step into it. It has guaranteed the security of the region since World War II, and other than China, East Asia welcomes this. Obama and his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, realized this and proclaimed a “pivot to Asia” in America’s foreign policy in 2011. As part of it, they have championed a far-reaching trade pact, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that brings together North America, a few forward-looking countries on Latin America’s Pacific coast, Oceania, the developed economy of Japan, Southeast Asia’s star performers (Malaysia and Singapore), and the developing economy of Vietnam. Given how central economics is to East Asia’s agenda, a big part of this is boosting trade links in the region and across the Pacific, but it’s also primarily a way to project American power and enforce American standards. (It’s called a “partnership,” not a “trade agreement,” after all.)

Obama has done other things to pivot to Asia — redeploying the American military to the Philippines, for example, and taking more trips to East Asia — but for the most part I find the rhetoric hard to take seriously. America is still fixated firmly on West Asia. American media coverage of foreign affairs skews heavily westward. A White House insider estimated that 80% of Obama’s National Security Council meetings focused on West Asia. The foreign policy debate in the 2012 presidential election mostly revolved around West Asia. Most discussions of things like East Asian power politics or the TPP are confined to media sources focused on international relations or academia, not the kind of news most people read/watch.

Foreign affairs is not a zero-sum game. I am not suggesting that America somehow drop North Africa and West Asia from its agenda altogether. (I mean, c’mon, it can’t.) America can play a similar firefighting role in West Asia as it does in East Asia. Because West Asians and Africans are more likely to be terrorists, it is understandable that security experts would focus there. The wars in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq are more urgent than anything in East Asia. This region is also fiendishly complex and incendiary and demands careful diplomatic attention.

But as I argued in an earlier article (which this is sort of a counterpoint to), America spends too much time worrying about terrorism, Arab insurgents, and Islamic fanaticism. In a certain sense, I think because a lot of these flare-ups originated from anger at American intervention, American disengagement makes sense as a corrective. But America tends to blow events in West Asia out of proportion. Why do Americans fixate so much on Iran, which has no nuclear weapons and swears it doesn’t want them, when North Korea has them and threatens to use them? Why does Israel and its interminable, hopeless conflict get so much attention, when India and Pakistan have been fighting for as long, have nuclear weapons, and are plausibly trying to get over it?

As the only superpower, America basically has to pay attention to the whole world. Maybe that’s the UN’s job, but it’s not fulfilling it. Managing West Asian conflicts is important and will divert America’s attention, but it’s time the US finally acted on its words and pivoted to East Asia. It is a demographically, economically, and politically crucial part of the world. It also demands a subtle touch and nuanced diplomacy: slow alliance-building and influence-spreading, so as not to alienate or frighten China more. It’s not the kind of thing that lights up the nightly news, but it’s just as important as firefighting Arab wars — and in the long run, probably more so.

Also, if you’re an ordinary person just wondering which part of the world to study in, travel to, or do business in, consider East Asia. Not only is it a banquet of opportunities, but it’s also the coolest, funniest, weirdest, and most exciting area of the world. Can’t really beat that!

[NOTE: While I wrote this post fixating on America throughout, most of what I wrote can also apply to the rest of the West. Europe has much to gain from strengthening its ties with East Asia too. But Europe, given its geographical position, is much better-placed to deal with crises in Russia and West Asia, and indeed is dealing with them right now. That means it’s hard for me to advocate a reorientation for Europe quite as strongly. Also, Europe is not a Pacific region.]

HALF THE WORLD

女

Our world might be startlingly diverse and eclectic, but there a few standard features of society that are reliably repeated over and over again everywhere, from urban jungles to tropical jungles, from icy backwaters to humid, thickly populated lowlands. Here’s one of them: in most societies, women are relegated to a subordinate position. And by “most,” I mean “almost all” – the ones with egalitarian relations between the sexes are few and far between, and even then, it’s debatable whether women are truly treated equally. Anthropologists have yet to find any society where women are dominant.

For most of human history, this was just The Way Things Were. Men made the decisions, ran the households, ran businesses, ran the government, ran the army, ran the schools, ran the temples, ran most institutions, wrote the books, got the best (or only) education, got the highest status, made the important discoveries, and got legal preferences. Languages everywhere reflect this (heck, in English we say you “man” a ship or an airplane to control it). Women were omitted from history (except for a few important queens or concubines here and there), partially because they didn’t write it, but mostly because they were relegated to the background. Both genders accepted this as the natural way of the world – men were stronger and more assertive, so they had the right to do so.

Then in Europe, beginning in the 1700s, things began to change. In what should really be counted as one of the fundamental social upheavals of all time, educated women gradually came to realize how unfair it was. I think the education part of it was most crucial: girls were taught the same subjects and went through similar schooling as their brothers, and the flowering of a scholarly, bookish culture in salons and cafes in the 1700s drew women’s interest – and made more men interested in smart women as companions. But even if they understood politics, steam engines, Immanuel Kant’s central theses, the core precepts of the Catholic Church, whatever, women were kept out of the arena that actually decided these things. The new political ideas coming out of the Enlightenment also fueled their aspirations: if all men were created equal and allowed a voice in society, then why not women too? Why did they just have to rely on their fathers and husbands to make the best choices?

What happened next should be a familiar story: Women took to arguing their case in public, both in lectures and in print. As men ignored and belittled them, they grew more and more forceful and kept pressing the issue for decades. Over time more and more men were attracted to their cause by realizing how hollow old notions of women as intellectual inferiors were given the rise of women as smart and capable as any man. The women’s rights movement spread around the West, and ever since, old barriers to employment, power, prestige, and status fell. Attitudes also changed, slowly but surely: women were infantilized and marginalized less and treated more and more as equals.

Of course, the story isn’t done. It’s doubtful if it ever will be. Men are still stronger and more assertive, and are unafraid to impose their will on women. Women have had to fight for their rights and made themselves heard, pointing out to clueless men how sexist or hypocritical their thoughts and actions are and exposing continued injustices in society. The pay gap between the sexes is one glaring issue right now in the West, but there are many: barriers to women in the army; an ongoing culture of rape and victim-blaming; male domination in politics, business, and science; an entertainment culture oriented around men and male interests; domestic abuse scandals; prostitution; rampant objectification and/or trivialization of women; a lack of guaranteed maternal leave from work; a continuing expectation for women to somehow take care of the kids and household chores while working full-time; a pronounced bias for men’s sports. Some of the issues raised by feminists count as petty micro-aggressions (a current effort to stop segregating toys comes to mind), but they have a point too: By uncovering lurking, sometimes unacknowledged gender biases, they force society to confront the attitudes that continue to perpetuate sexism and that eternal bogeyman, The Patriarchy.

The West is clearly the vanguard of women’s rights as the birthplace of the feminist movement, but women’s status varies from place to place. Scandinavia is usually considered the least sexist part of the world, with its high proportion of women in politics, college, and the skilled workforce, long maternal leaves, lots of househusbands, and strict laws on buying prostitution. There is still work to be done – it’s hard for women to advance to the highest ranks of the corporate ladder, and rape and domestic abuse still flourish in the shadows – but overall, Scandinavia’s feminist-friendly reputation is hard to argue with. On the other side of the coin, Italy keeps on struggling with a culture that fetishizes and humiliates women, that values them more as fashion models and sex objects than as actual people, and that condones groping and harassment in public. To an extent, this is the fault of Italy’s former prime minister, the lecherous Silvio Berlusconi, who enforced his preferences for sexy TV stars nationwide, but sexism in Italy has deep roots, and women in southern Europe have historically been a few steps behind in status compared to their northern sisters.

Sexism in the West is an ongoing and fascinating topic, but it’s hard to argue with where the new frontier in feminism lies – the 83% of the world that lives somewhere else. The rest of the world is a mixed bag, and although it’s easy to generalize it as a chauvinistic swamp, women’s status there has more subtleties and caveats than might be expected. Still, it’s obvious that the notion of women’s equality is still revolutionary and controversial in much of the world, and it’s given feminists a rich opportunity to spread their gospel.

Latin America – as befits a region so influenced by the West – is the second-best region to be a woman. Despite a deep-rooted culture of machismo (extreme masculinity) and a Catholic heritage, Latinas have made great strides in recent decades, with more and more women showing up at the heads of companies and female presidents taking the helm in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. Laws against abortion and birth control are coming down; laws against sexual harassment and domestic violence are popping up. Latinas are increasingly well-educated, and the region has seen a greater rise in women in the workforce than any other in the world. That being said, machismo still rules; sexist attitudes are still commonplace, women are expected to stay at home and take care of the kids, and the brutal gang violence that afflicts many parts of Latin America take their toll on gender relations.

East Asia is another nuanced region. The area has also seen great strides recently, with more women in politics and business, more respect for women, more space for women in the public and cultural spheres, and a rise in female literacy and legal status. Bangladesh and South Korea have female leaders, and India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand have had them before. Southeast Asian societies generally accord women a higher status than their Northeast Asian counterparts. Frequent exposure to Western pop culture helps fuel a growing clamor for more rights and respect. But a Confucian and Hindu emphasis on male privilege and power keeps women sidelined; it is much more common for women to be housewives, farmers, or merchants than powerful figures. Legal recognition of women’s rights doesn’t always translate to respect for them on the ground level. Population control measures in China and India take a heavy toll on female fetuses, since couples almost always would rather have a boy than a girl. A thriving sex industry in Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines and elsewhere in Southeast Asia is a strong pull for young women, who can usually earn more money that way than in a more fulfilling line of work.

The most sexist regions are the Muslim world and Africa (which intersect – the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, where Islam meets the black African culture that dominates the continent, are considered the worst places to be a woman). Although making sweeping generalizations here can be unfair (as it is for a region as diverse as East Asia), it’s hard to argue that women are second-class citizens. Islamic dress codes keep women covered up in varying degrees – from a bare head but conservative dress to a full-on body covering (the burqa). Women are treated more or less as their fathers’ or husbands’ property and are relegated to the house for most of the day. Many Muslim countries segregate the genders, either formally or informally; it is rare for someone to mingle with the opposite gender unless they’re related. Girls are less well-educated than boys. They are often expected to help with the housework from a young age and are sometimes married before they even go through puberty. Old practices like female genital mutilation (cutting off the clitoris) and honor killings to wipe out the shame of rape linger despite the best efforts of activists to wipe them out. In public life, women are ignored and are barely even present. Saudi Arabia and Iran are particularly notorious for their laws enforcing the most traditional, sexist interpretations of Islamic law.

It’s a varied scene, but one thing’s for certain – work remains to be done. The non-Western world has a long list of things to do to bring women into the mainstream of society and make sure that it’s reaching its full potential. This means an array of activists, NGOs, journalists, and a few politicians have dedicated themselves to publicizing abuses against women around the world and campaigning against them. Feminists have journeyed far and wide to contact their peers in foreign lands and urge them to take a stand against the many injustices and outrages they have to deal with every day. The UN has 3 different bodies tasked with advising countries on how to promote women’s rights.

Yet here we get into an issue I wrote about recently – where do we draw the line between altruistic intervention in broken, unjust societies, and Western imperialism? Feminism can have a missionary impulse to it, with assertive, powerful women inspired by their own high status and the achievement of their foremothers to venture out into foreign lands to inspire other women to follow their lead. Men obviously feel threatened by a movement that undermines their privileges. Cultures everywhere are reluctant to adopt practices strongly associated with foreign cultures – and women’s liberation is still mostly a Western concept.

It’s a tough question to grapple with, and one I won’t get into now, but even less zealous and less activist feminists can take heart with a few facts. As mentioned above, globalization is exposing more and more women to the Western example of women active in public life and unafraid to speak their mind. The same process that eroded the patriarchy in the West could (and in some places already has) take place elsewhere. Over the generations, men start to expect intelligent, well-educated wives; women grow bolder and more assertive. (Many of them already are active in their households and communities and dominate them from the background.) And countries that give more power and economic opportunity to women thrive – which should be obvious, since more women in the workforce means more people working and therefore more income. Banks that lend money to women tend to see more productive investment than when they lend to men. Women, with their (usual!) emphasis on consensus, harmony, and compromise, are more effective peacemakers than men, who often try to maneuver for the best possible position to resume their war or plunder. The experience of countries like Rwanda or Turkey, which have granted women greater latitude in public life than their neighbors, will undoubtedly have a ripple effect (if a gradual one).

Most of all, though, women make up half of the world. For too long, it has shunted them into the corners, consigning them to bit parts in stories, fond childhood memories, and sexual fantasies. Imagine how much more the whole world would gain if women were truly liberated, and allowed to pursue their dreams and fulfill their latent potential without the threat of marginalization or harassment.