International Women’s Day is a day generally geared towards celebrating the social, political, and economical achievements of women the world over. And in observance of this day to celebrate women, L’Osservatore Romano, the Vatican newspaper, chose to run a story extolling the virtues of household technology in changing the life of women.
The question was “What in the 20th century did more to liberate western women” and the answer came in an article entitled “The washing machine and the emancipation of women: put in the powder, close the lid, and relax.” “The debate is heated. Some say the pill, some say abortion rights and some the right to work outside the home. Some, however, dare to go further: the washing machine,” it reads.
While there is little doubt in anyone’s mind that technology in the home has drastically changed the lives of women, freeing them from some of the drudgery so often considered woman’s work, the article comes off as blithely ignoring the issues that were at the forefront this year for International Women’s day, which primarily focused violence against women. According to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, “In some countries, as many as one in three women will be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Women and girls are also systematically and deliberately subject to rape and sexual violence in war.” Surely this is a topic the Church can address in some fashion?
Coming so quickly after the publicity surrounding the excommunication of those involved with an abortion for a 9-year old girl in Brazil and the Pope’s remarks about condoms and the spread of AIDS, it is astounding that anyone associated with L’Osservatore Romano thought the washing machine was the thing to extol in changing the lives of women.