From the TIME magazine cover featuring a young girl without a nose, to a New York Times article profiling Afghan women racked with fear for the future, to a Marie Claire story on an honor killing, the reality of  women in some areas of the world is heartbreaking. It might be because I also just finished Reading Lolita in Tehran, but I have started noticing these stories everywhere and am chilled by what I read, by trying to put myself in the place of these women and realizing it’s completely beyond my ability to fathom.

The stories are full of horror, of despair, of women scared to death of what may happen. And of quotes like this:

“Why are people focusing on education and sending girls to school? Boys walk three, four, five kilometers to their school. How can a girl walk two, three, four kilometers? During a war you cannot send a girl beyond her door. No one can guarantee her honor. So it is hard to send your daughter to school.” [NYTimes]

That really struck me. How can you guarantee her honor? What about her rights?

It’s not just the women I feel so sad for — it’s the men and boys, as well. If you denigrate an entire gender, a full half of the population, and start describing natural human wants and needs and behaviors in the stark terms of evil, no one could possibly know how to act.

(I’ll point out that this view isn’t limited to far away away lands…I came across a survey of some American boys who believe girls are being immodest and provoking temptation when they bend over, stretch or wear a purse strap diagonally across their chest. Which is the girls’ fault, naturally.)

It’s incredibly easy to take for granted all the rights and privileges I enjoy, and to complain about trivialities along the way. My life is blessed.

I just wish I knew how to help.