Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Sex and the Arab Spring

Good girls go to heaven, bad girls go everywhere. Helen Gurley Brown

Burning bras, 'Maude', and Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King are my strongest memories of the second wave feminist movement. They weren't THE movement, but, like a less tragic version of a burning Mohamad Bouazizi launching the Arab Spring, they provided powerful symbols which invited the commoner to the debate.

These symbols were powerful motivators, but they left the motivated wanting for an action to take. By definition, these were people with no individual political or economic power and they lacked an education for self directed action. They knew what they wanted, but lacked the knowledge of how to get it.

In the Arab Spring, Gene Sharp's 'From Dictatorship to Democracy' provided these actions. In general, these were simple things that required no resources and minimal coordination.  Boycotts, sit ins, strikes and other actions focused on attacking the establishments weakest points and shifting control of power. Perhaps most importantly, he gave those who followed his advice confidence and a feeling of power over their own lives.

The feminist movement had its guide too. Helen Gurley Brown's 'Sex and the Single Girl' with its follow on monthly guidance provided by 'Cosmo'. Like Sharp, Brown pointed out to her readers the weaknesses of the establishment and provided mostly simple steps that could be taken to exploit the weakness and shift the control of power.

Just as Sharp's guide was not accepted by the more militant minded, Brown's guidance was (and still is) scorned by factions of the feminist movement.  Whether owing to the peaceful methods of Sharp/Brown, or militant efforts, or most likely a combination of the two, the efforts ended with shifts in political power that enabled the lawyer/politicians to codify change.

And so, today, in the shadow of Helen Gurley Brown's death, it's worth acknowledging her contribution to humanity, and that she knew it could BE different.

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