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Former President Carter Details New Book, Gender Inequality At Yale

President Jimmy Carter

Former President Jimmy Carter spoke about his latest book, which touches on the issue of gender equality, at Yale University Tuesday afternoon.President Carter’s new book is titled A Call to Action: Women, Religion, Violence and Power. The 90-year-old Nobel Peace prize winner says the societal status of women today reminds him of the separate but equal standard that applied to blacks and whites in the U.S. for a century.

“People who were white and I would say quite liberal went along with this economic and political benefit silently because the white folks didn’t want to change their privilege status,” Carter said. “The same thing is taking place now around the world including in this country in the derogation or subjugation of women and girls.”

President Carter — who has had the longest post-presidency in history — is known today for his humanitarian work around the globe in the decades since he left office in 1981. Much of the work has been done through The Carter Center, which he and his wife started in 1982. In describing his latest book, President Carter says female inferiority is found in beliefs central to one’s life, such as religion. He does not criticize religion, but instead those teaching it, often men.

“If an employer was to hire men and women in his business, knowing that God looks upon women as inferior, he feels much less guilt if he pays men more than women,” said Carter.

President Carter described other parts of the world where girls face genital mutilation, while the number of people sold into slavery, often for sex, exceeds the levels in the 18th and 19th centuries. Carter says every month 200 to 250 people pass through Atlanta, home to one of the world’s busiest airports, and are sold into slavery. Gender inequality affects America’s universities and its military, the nation’s two most respected institutions, according to President Carter.

“One out of 10 girls who enter an American university will be raped before she graduates,” Carter pointed out. “One out of five will be sexually assaulted, that is, approached in a suggestive sexual way without her permission. But most university administrators, deans, presidents and others don’t want it to be known that on their campuses these things take place. And when it comes to a choice between an effective football player and a freshman girl, the football player is more valuable to keep on the college campus.”

President Carter says 90 percent of campus sexual assaults are committed by four percent of the student body, while 41 of American universities have not reported a single case of sexual assault in the past five years. He says that creates a sense of impunity for serial rapists.

President Carter says there has been progress with 15 percent of Congress comprised of women compared to three percent when he was in office. He says ending gender inequality is a challenge to a longstanding tradition, just like slavery.

“This is a problem for us to face,” Carter said. “The question is do we have the courage to do it? Do we men want to give up the special privileges that we have of having the most tenured professors, the most presidents of colleges, the most chief executive officers, the highest salaries and so forth?” 

During the question and answer session, President Carter brought up a Huffington Post article reporting that six Yale students were found guilty of nonconsensual sex in 2013, but not one was expelled.

“You can just warn a boy and chastise him, that doesn’t help,” Carter said. “Expulsion is a very difficult thing for a university to accept as a policy,” said Carter, answered by applause from the crowd.

Yale President Peter Salovey, seated next to President Carter asking him questions, responded.

“I think our policies and procedures have changed over the last year or two,” said Salovey.

“I bet they have,” Carter responded. “I’m not surprised.”

“See different outcomes,” added Salovey.

Hear President Carter speak about his latest book on WAMC's The Roundtable.

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