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Carter writes on women prejudice ‘Call to Action’ documents price of male dominance

NEW YORK, March 26, (AP): “A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence, and Power” (Simon and Schuster), by Jimmy Carter In his new book, “A Call to Action,” former President and longtime Baptist church deacon Jimmy Carter says prejudice and discrimination against women and girls is perpetuated in America and around the world by religious authorities who twist holy texts to assert male dominance.
Carter famously broke with the mainstream Southern Baptist Convention in 2000, denouncing it for drifting into doctrines he called sexist and racist. He now worships at a New Baptist Covenant church in his hometown of Plains, Ga. The 89-year-old Carter recalls how in his Deep South childhood the Bible was cited to justify white supremacy and asserts that patriarchs now twist the Bible, Holy Quran and other Scriptures to denigrate and control women. As a Bible teacher for more than 70 years, he tackles some of the passages cited by male supremacist Christians, notably St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, which preaches: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church ...”

Carter contrasts this and other Old Testament writings that consigned women to male-property status with the four Gospels that “never report any instance of Jesus’ condoning sexual discrimination or the implied subservience or inferiority of women.” While Carter’s case that Jesus’ example in the New Testament demonstrated fairness and equality is persuasive, Christians who cling to chauvinist Bible passages are unlikely to listen to his interpretation of Scripture. After assigning the cause of much of today’s discrimination to religious intolerance meant to preserve male dominance, Carter documents the vast array of effects. In one of his shortest, but perhaps most chilling chapters, “The Genocide of Girls,” Carter notes that prenatal screening has enabled parents in patriarchal societies to “select” the sex of their children by preventing the birth of girls. Amartya Sen, a Nobel Prize laureate from India, estimated in 1990 that more than 105 million female infants worldwide had been aborted or killed in a practice called “femicide” or “gendercide.” Carter says laws against the practice in China, India and South Korea have been ineffective.

Other chapter titles offer a bleak summary of the price that women and girls pay for patriarchy: Sexual Assault and Rape, Violence and War, Slavery and Prostitution, Spouse Abuse, “Honor” Killings, Genital Cutting, Child Marriage and Dowry Deaths, and Politics, Pay and Maternal Health, in which Carter focuses on problems of economic and health care inequality in the US Carter admits that outsider groups like his Carter Center cannot parachute values in “without the support of the entire community, especially including traditional chiefs and other male leaders.” But he cites hopeful efforts by a group the Carter Center has worked with called Tostan (“breakthrough” in the West African language of Wolof), which has made inroads against genital cutting and child marriage in African communities. And he writes that by bringing men into the discussion with women and enlisting fair-minded religious leaders, progress has been made against obstacles that had seemed insurmountable.

For at least one day, publishing’s annual national convention is going pop. The organizers of New York Comic Con, ReedPOP, announced Wednesday they will launch BookCon during BookExpo America, a weekend gathering in New York in late May. The “massive pop culture” event will feature author John Grisham, actress-author Amy Poehler and other well-known guests. BookExpo will have its own celebrity guests, including Lena Dunham and Anjelica Huston, but it’s primarily a trade show held for booksellers, librarians and others in the industry. BookCon will be open to the general public.

According to ReedPOP, BookCon will take place May 31 at the Javits Center and include panel discussions, podcasts, interviews and trivia contests — programming also common at BookExpo. “We want to bottle some of that energy from Comic Con and use it for the book world,” said Lance Fensterman, global senior vice-president for ReedPOP and a former show manager of BookExpo. Fensterman called the launch of BookCon a circular journey, saying that New York Comic Con (unaffiliated with Comic-Con in San Diego) was conceived as an offshoot of BookExpo America and now is the basis for a new feature at the publishing convention. He didn’t rule out BookCon becoming a separate convention, but said the focus now is on establishing a “critical mass.” “We want to get to 10,000 fans this year, that would be a success,” said Fensterman, who noted that New York Comic Con drew more than 100,000 fans in 2013.

BookCon will replace and expand on the “power readers” program introduced two years ago at BookExpo, when hundreds of non-industry attendees were permitted. With sales at best flat in recent years, publishers have been trying to engage readers directly, whether through social media or by authors participating in book club discussions. “Fans are looking for new ways to get involved, share their passion and participate in the publishing world,” Liz Perl, senior vice-president for marketing at Simon & Schuster, said in a statement. “This is the perfect time to expand upon BEA to provide the kind of behind-the-scenes access to talent, trends and works.” ReedPOP is “a quirky offshoot” of Reed Exhibitions, a leading event organizer that has been running BookExpo for nearly 20 years.

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