Women's Lives Matter

by Phyllis Zagano

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Last week in the middle of the night, fifty villagers murdered five women accused of witchcraft in east India. 

And you thought I was going to write about Donald Trump.

As so-called presidential "debates" compete with reality shows and candidate-baiting becomes the favored indoor sport of TV journalists, world news takes a back seat.

So connecting the dots actually gets easier. A straight line runs from the disrespectful mouths of more than one public figure to the fields of Kanjia in the state of Jharkhand, India, where the five women were beaten to death.

In case you missed it, however, a ruckus began during a televised FOX News presidential candidates' debate when Megyn Kelly asked Trump about his calling women he dislikes "fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals." Trump demurred, saying he only meant Rosie O'Donnell. As the exchange continued, he issued a veiled threat against Kelly's insistence: "I wouldn't do that," he said.

Then things got nasty.

The next day, Trump complained on CNN that Kelly (who he called a "bimbo") had "blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever." Most humans on the planet took that to mean he thought Kelly was menstruating and her anger was hormonal.

Forget the dead women in India. The airwaves and Twitter-verse exploded with Trump-bites.

Jumping to her boss' rescue, the co-chair of Trump's Iowa campaign volunteered that she indeed had her period every single month and did not for one minute think that is what he meant. However, Trump's senior political strategist, seasoned professional Roger Stone, knew exactly what he meant and resigned.

So, what happened to the political discussion? Newscasts around the world focused on Trump's foot, firmly planted in his mouth, and pretty much ignored the intelligent subtleties of the rest of the candidate field and pretty much anything else.

The main issue: genuine news is lost in the circus and the barker in the center ring continues to ward off serious discussion. Folks get out the popcorn and watch the "debate." Meanwhile, women are beaten, raped, murdered, disfigured, and, in a milder evocation of these, belittled.

Memo to the men of misogyny: stop calling women "fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals." It is a short distance from your mouth to the village or town where women are abused, to the field or desert where they are stoned, hanged, or hacked to death.

The story in India is not a new one. During the past twelve years, Indian government statistics count over 2,000 women branded as witches murdered at the hands of mobs. If crops failed, or a young child died, some simple person in the village was dragged out of bed by neighbors swinging sticks and knives. A few were stripped naked and burned alive. Once in a while a man was blamed. But the evil eye is feminine.

Part of the problem is what lies unreported. Women around the world are disfigured, starved, pummeled, and sold into marriage or slavery as the media's eye stays focused on one or another circus. Nobody knows, so nobody cares. The few male journalists who write regularly on women's issues are branded Johnny One Notes and eventually ignored. As for the women journalists, well, why listen to women?

The Trump debacle aside — he says the millions who understood exactly what he meant are deviants — it is increasingly harder to find genuine world news or intelligent political discussion. Both international events and serious discussion on policy matters sink beneath the weight of competing insults.


Without question, turning the political process into a circus act wins ratings and sells newspapers. But the deficiencies of media fairly reflect and magnify the deficiencies of a society that could care less about five poor women in east India.

[Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. She will speak Sept. 19 at the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown. Her books include Mysticism and the Spiritual Quest: A Crosscultural Anthology and On Prayer: A Letter to My Godchild.]


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