Though they differ radically in their emphases, both articles in this assignment delve into salient women's issues, and focus on data relating to women's health, maternal mortality, and why women and men differ so dramatically in so many ways. In that, the articles have real social and psychological value. It is unfortunate that Sen's article is so dated, but on the other hand there is value in knowing and understanding the tensions associated with the health of women in distinctly different cultures, and at dramatically different locations. It is also unfortunate that so many women suffer in so many developing countries, but at least the United Nations' MDG has brought women's issues to the attention of the world. More needs to be done in that regard.
Amartya Sen's Article
When a reader first notices that the Sen article was published in December, 1990, twenty-one years ago, a red flag goes up. That is not to say that an immediate suspicion pops up that the material will not be wholly relevant 21 years later. Rather, it is to suggest that a close eye should be kept on how the world and women's role in the world may have changed subsequent to the publishing of the article. For example, on page 4 Sen points to the fact that in the U.S. House of Representatives the proportion of women was 6.4% (in 1990). Today, twenty-one years later, there are 76 women and 362 men in the U.S. House of Representatives (ThisNation.com). That means that women make up 17.35% of the total members of the House of Representatives in 2011, nearly three times what Sen alluded to in 1990.
As to Sen's report that "only two of the 100 U.S. senators are women," that too is well off the mark, since there are in 2011 seventeen female senators (17% rather than 2%). Still, notwithstanding those outdated numbers, Sen uses the narrative effectively, pointing to the fact that women are "more resistant to disease" and "in general, hardier than men," points that likely have not changed in the intervening years. The fact that women outnumber men in Europe, the U.S. And Japan -- and are fewer in number in "most of Asia" (except Japan) and "North Africa" -- is a key point in Sen's presentation (p. 2). That is because it sets up the background as to why women live longer in the U.S., Europe and Japan, and are more prolific in those areas.
The simple reality is that women are hardier than men and resist disease because they have better access to healthcare; even though women are discriminated against in jobs and in educational opportunities in Europe, the U.S. And Japan, they are in better biological shape than men. And the failure of societies in Asia and North Africa -- the blatant neglect of women -- to give medical care to women in the same quantity (and quality) as men receive explains to some degree the inequality.
While Sen's research is for the most part engaging and even compelling, the author bogs down on page 6 by presenting four reasons why women who are gainfully employed "enhance the deal that women get." It goes without saying that when a woman is employed her status improves, she brings resources to the family table, and employment is socially important and enlightening as well. Sen could have used more compelling information than the obvious.
On page 8 Sen is presenting data relative to China's women, and given the many years that have passed subsequent to the publishing of the article, this portion of the article can only be seen as historically relevant. One can be fairly sure, however, the cultural biases are still in place to a great degree in China, hence, the "pro-male bias" in rural China can be assumed to be alive and well twenty-one years later.
Should Sen decide to update this article, certainly the recent vote in the Indian Parliament will be presented as a cogent part of the presentation. To wit, the upper house of parliament in India voted 186-1 to "reserve a third of legislative seats for women" (Burke, 2010). The prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh, said the vote was an "historic step toward the emancipation of Indian womanhood" (Burke). The bottom line when critiquing Sen's article is that much has changed since 1990 in terms of…