“My thesis is simple. You can’t have peace on earth unless you have peace between men and women.” Valerie Hudson is not inclined to call herself a feminist. However, this Mormon mother of six and author of Sex and World Peace, (a title provocative enough to get an interview request from Playboy magazine) makes the case that equality between the sexes is fundamental to economic, political, and social balance.
Valerie is a security studies scholar. “In my graduate courses, you would not know there were any women on earth.” She spent 25 years as an academic in Utah. Four years ago she accepted the George HW Bush Chair at the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University. Valerie supports the ideology behind the Bush School. “George Bush wanted to establish public service opportunities at minimum cost. The tuition is approximately $11,000 per year, much less than comparable programs. He put his finger on a need.
“I realized that security studies was a cockeyed perspective. I wrote Bare Branches to explore societies where having XX genes is the most awful death sentence. Cultures with abnormal sex ratios are more violent, less stable.” Valerie began the Woman’s Statistics Project, which is both a research initiative and database. It has collected data on the situation of women and their relationship to the state in 176 countries. “There are two wings of any society: men and women. You attack one wing and it cannot fly. When we stop attacking women and achieve the peace that comes with equality, the bird will fly.”
When their first child was born, Valerie and her husband Dave discovered they each carry the recessive cystic fibrosis gene; their offspring have a one in four chance of manifesting the condition. Of their four biological children, three have cystic fibrosis. “Most of what goes on in your body is electrical. One of the charges in each cell is GFTR. It allows a flux. In cystic fibrosis, this is impaired or missing.
“People with cystic fibrosis used to die before age one. We learned that the bile ducts were blocked. We now provide enzymes to increase digestion but most people with cystic fibrosis still die by lung failure. However, we don’t use cystic fibrosis as a death sentence.”
Their son Tommy is now in ninth grade. He greeted me at the door when I arrived at the Hudson home. Throughout our afternoon together Tommy asked insightful questions and offered thoughtful perspectives on his life and my adventure. Although he struggled with language, the boy made a Herculean effort to be an integral part of our conversation.
Tommy illustrates how individuals can transcend other’s expectations and their own limitations. Ultimately, Valerie’s work is about releasing the limitations shackled upon 50% of the earth’s population. “FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations says if women had equal access to planting, it would decrease malnutrition by 17% immediately. The long-term gains would be even greater. But, as long as boys will be boys we’ll continue to suffer.”
How will we live tomorrow?
“We all interact with each other every day. How we do that in our daily lives is how we will redefine self-interest and re-create society. The first otherness, man versus woman, is there for all of us. Feminism is about getting that first relationship right; respect and equality versus subordination.”
“In some areas we are making progress, in other areas we are regressing. We have seen a huge reduction in maternal mortality. In the past decade it has been cut in half. In most nations there is no difference in the number of boys and girls graduating from school. In some countries more than 50% of elected representatives are female. This is stunning progress.
“Still, problems with sexual exploitation, violence against women, and family law that subjugate women persist. Ten years ago, five countries had abnormal sex ratios: the number of boys who survived infancy far exceeded the number of girls. Now, there are nineteen countries where that is true.”