License

Blogroll

Search

Archive for Sexism

Patriarchal Immunity

February 3, 2013 by and tagged , ,

Against atrocities:

A Saudi cleric who raped his five-year-old daughter and tortured her to death has been sentenced to pay “blood money” to the mother after having served a short jail term, activists have said.

Fayhan al-Ghamdi, an Islamic cleric and regular guest on Islamic television networks, confessed to having used cables and a cane to inflict the injuries, activists from the group Women to Drive said in a statement on Saturday.

Lamia was admitted to hospital on December 25, 2011 with multiple injuries, including a crushed skull, broken ribs and left arm, extensive bruising and burns, the activists said.

They said the father had doubted his daughter Lama’s virginity and had her checked up by a medic.

She died last October.

Randa al-Kaleeb, a social worker from the hospital where Lama was admitted, said the girl’s back was broken and that she had been raped “everywhere“, according to the group.

According to the victim’s mother, hospital staff told her that her “child’s rectum had been torn open and the abuser had attempted to burn it closed.

The activists said that the judge had ruled the prosecution could only seek “blood money and the time the defendant had served in prison since Lama’s death suffices as punishment.”

Three Saudi activists, including Manal al-Sharif, who in 2011 challenged Saudi laws that prevent women from driving, have raised objections to the ruling.

The ruling is based on Islamic laws that a father cannot be executed for murdering his children, nor can husbands be executed for murdering their wives, activists said.”

Posted in Gender, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

Horror Feminism

February 2, 2013 by and tagged , , , ,

So, the other say, I made the claim that American Horror Story is a feminist series. Let me explain, based on the two seasons we have so far. As a disclaimer, I should add that AHS is one of my favorite shows on TV right now and I am a big fan of the concept of keeping most of the same cast from one season to the other while completely changing the narrative so that each season is a self-contained mini-series.

When I started watching AHS, I was instantly reminded of the original title of the Stieg Larsson’s Millenium series: Men Who Hate Women.  Both seasons have that theme, along with the theme of women who fight back, not always appropriately, but that is patriarchal distortion for you.

The first season revolves around men’s transgressions (mostly sexual through infidelities) and how women related to them cope with that. Almost every woman in that season was subject to masculine degradation and reacted – not always well, and not always against the right target – within the constraints of a patriarchal system. See how Ben Harmon pretty much decides on his own to transplant his family across the country after his infidelity and constantly hectors his wife about trying to get over his transgression.

This theme of men who get to hate on women with abandon because the patriarchal system makes it easy and brings to bear no consequences for them is even clearer in the second season, whether it is former Nazi doctor Arden, Father Timothy Howard, or serial killer Dr Oliver Thredson. In response, women try to fight back with the weapons they have or make for themselves, as do Sister Jude and journalist Lana Winters. Again, sometimes they strike wrong (against each other as the patriarchal context distorts relationships and prevents solidarity), but they do strike. And not unlike Lisbeth Salander, they do end up punishing the men who hate women.

I do hope this theme continues in the upcoming seasons.

Posted in Gender, Mass Violence, Media, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

American Horror Story – Feminist Show

January 26, 2013 by and tagged , , ,

Seriously. Think about it. I was half-convinced of it at the end of the first season (“Murder House”). I’m even more convinced now.

I hope they keep it that way into the next seasons.

I may have more later on this.

Posted in Gender, Media, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

40 Years

January 22, 2013 by and tagged , , , ,

Via The Economist, this is why the only “pro-life” position is to be pro-choice, that blue line below:

Also note that the abortion trend was upward before Roe (I wonder if the graph includes back-alley abortions, if not, then the pre-Roe level of abortion would be higher, invalidating somewhat the claim that Roe increased abortion rates. Roe might have instead increased legal abortion rates), went higher after Roe for about a decade, then plateaued in the early 80s, followed by a slow but steady decline.

Let anti-choice advocates argue against the blue line.

Posted in Gender, Health, Health Care, Patriarchy, Politics, Sexism | No Comments »

The Walking Dead – Feral Season

January 12, 2013 by and tagged , , ,

I did not watch the new half season of the Walking Dead at the time it aired because (1) I can’t stand commercial breaks, and (2) I was saving it for the Holiday season and an 8-hour transatlantic flight. I have now watched the whole eight episodes back to back and I am pleased (and by pleased, I mean, disgusted) to report that this season is that of the feral misogyny. The same misogyny as the previous seasons, except without any of the social restraints (such as they were) from the previous seasons.

The unfaithful slut gets her comeuppance

… By dying in a bloody and painful childbirth, butchered by Maggie and with a coup de grâce administered by her son. I guess it was worth it not having this first-term abortion after all. The baby, of course, is fine (except infected, like everybody else).

Carl and his stupid hat. 

The young actor has obviously considerably grown up over season break (supposedly a Summer season in the show timeline), but somehow the ridiculous hat still looks way too big on him and somehow, this new found maturity (as materialized by his full ownership of a gun as well as protective attitude towards the females in the herd) has not made him realize the ridiculousness of the hat. Oh well. I’ll leave it up to you to get all Freudian on the mercy-killing one’s mother.

One old patriarch out, one old patriarch in

Out with Dale, in with Hershel. Since Andrea was left behind, there was no need for Dale to lecture and patronize her all the time. Hershel is still around although now that everybody has submitted to Rick’s alpha male status, he is relegated to subordinate patriarch. However, patriarchs still have their special relationships. After his amputation and near-death experience (saved by Lori), the first hand he squeezes his Rick’s (not his daughters’). The alpha male gets first recognition in the clan.

WTF did the writers do to Andrea? 

Good grief, Laurie Holden does not deserve this. Seems to me the writers have had it in for Andrea since the beginning, what with the character being constantly shown as the uppity woman, who wants to be like the guys, only she can’t because she’s got girl cooties, and everybody has to remind her of her lowly status (Dale, Lori, etc.).

So I initially had some hope when she was separated from – and left behind by – Grimes’s group. I even had higher hopes when she partnered with Michonne! Tough broads together! Ugh. No, as soon as they find the Potemkin village, Andrea falls under the spell of the other alpha male, The Governor. Her character goes all lame. Of course, he puts her in her place at the slightest trace of uppitiness.

Also, kudos for reducing Michonne to the stereotype of the angry black woman, barely socialized and fit for human company. Ugh.

Feral patriarchs

As I mentioned in the title, this season is the season where survivors go feral. Grimes is more advanced down that path than the Governor but he’s getting there. This first half season was especially bloody. Under the guise of saving ammunition, we get treated to a lot of hand-to-head bludgeoning, blood splattered all over people’s faces.

That is especially the case when Grimes (who had been a brooding dick to his wife) goes apes*it when he realizes she has died in childbirth. So, he disappears for a while and goes on a rampage, because, never mind the newborn that needs taken care of, that’s a woman’s job. And he’s gotta do a guy thing.

The killing thing, of course, extends to other survivors (same for the Governor who massacres a bunch of soldiers for supplies). It is actually uncanny how the two groups resemble each other: one alpha male with BIG dominance issue, a black guy (interchangeable, in Grimes’s group… so long T-Dog, we hardly knew ya), one Asian guy, one lame female, one neo-nazi brother (from the same family), one creepy doctor experimenting / keeping walkers.

The Governor does not go on rampages as savagely as Grimes, but he does some pretty creepy stuff, like the zombie head collection he keeps in his man cave, along with his now-turned daughter (VERY creepy stuff there).

Where Grimes has crossed the line into savagery and feral clan protectiveness, even if it means killing other survivors, the Governor is not quite there yet, but I suspect he will in the second half of the season. We can expect a Big Confrontation with the Grimes group. I’m guessing it’s too much to hope for for both Grimes and The Governor to die.

This progressive turn to savagery for the whole Grimes group is materialized with their physical degradation. They’re all filthy, with dirty and torn clothes. There is not much left civilized in them and their solidarity does not extend past their limited (and dwindling) group.

Oh, and there’s another group showing up at the end of the last episode of the half season, and within five minutes of showing up, a woman is told to shut up as a grown man thinks a boy with a stupid hat has higher status.

But they’re black, so, don’t you all get too attached here because black people are disposable on this show.

The only saving grace: Glenn and Maggie, apparently, the only characters who care about diapers and baby formula.

Seriously.

Posted in Gender, Media, Patriarchy, Sexism | 1 Comment »

When Religious and Patriarchal Obsession with Controlling Ladyparts Leads to Atrocities

January 3, 2013 by and tagged , ,

I did not know about this, but it is truly horrifying:

“One 86-year-old woman, Rita McCann noted, “I came on the Luas and I didn’t know if the cinema was on this side or the other. Then I spotted two women and said, ‘I’m sure they are heading for it’. When you see the limps going you get the message.”

The limp is a common ailment in women who have suffered through symphysiotomies, a painful surgical procedure used in maternity hospitals across Ireland in the 20th century. Other problems include chronic back pain and incontinence.

Often performed in the place of the more commonplace Caesarean section, symphysiotomies involved breaking the woman’s pelvis during childbirth. The Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) group claims that the operations were carried out without prior knowledge or consent “mainly for religious reasons, by obstetricians who were opposed to family planning.”

SOS continues to fight for justice, calling for recognition of the suffering they have gone through as a result of unnecessary procedures, and asking for compensation. The women, many of whom are in their 70s and 80s, want the statute of limitations waived so they can seek damages from the State. The request has received cross-party support in recent months but action has been slow. So slow, that many are preparing for a long-drawn out legal process.

Between 100 and 150 survivors travelled to Dublin yesterday for the first screening of a documentary which examined the barbaric practice and compared it to methods used in Kenyan hospitals today.

The women travelled from all over Ireland and overseas, each with their own stories. As Rita pointed out, there are plenty of limps but there are also canes and wheelchairs.

Another survivor Claire Kavanagh said: “Put fifty of us in a room and you’ll get different stories but the same ending. We are all cripples.”

Among the women – a lot of whom seem to know each other well – there are supportive husbands, sons, daughters and in some cases granddaughters.

Many navigate the large, wooden staircase in a slow and careful manner but others seem grateful when an usher cries out directions to the lift.

(…)

That history is slowing being uncovered by the women featured in the film.

On screen, former midwife Laura Mann explains that when she was working in Dublin hospitals in the 1950s and 1960s, “the big thing was to have children even if you dropped dead.”

She discussed Catholic Church influence, and even interference, in maternity hospitals.

Survivor Micheline Gilroy remembers being “held down” and a strange man looking annoyed at the end of her bed. “I thought this was the way,” she said. It was her first and only labour.

Even though they now know they underwent symphysiotomies, there is still mystery and unanswered questions around the childbirth experiences of these women.

“‘I’m going to give you a symphysiotomy’,” Marie Cowly’s doctor told her. “Sure I didn’t know what it was,” she says. “He could have danced a jig at the end of the bed. I’d never heard of it. I still have no explanation.”

The nurses looked sick, some even got physically sick, begins Nora Clarke.

“I saw the hacksaw, I know what hacksaws are. He started cutting my bone and my blood spurted up like a fountain.” She remembers how the doctor looked annoyed that he had gotten her blood on his glasses. Until she spoke to her son Wayne about it many years later, Nora believed she had gone through a C-Section.

“You’ll never get rid of [the pain] until you’re not living anymore,” she says during the film.”

Let’s all remember that this is the same Catholic Church that started covering up the abuse of children around that time.

Posted in Gender, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

Let’s Make 2013 The Year We Tell The Patriarchy To GFI

December 31, 2012 by and tagged , ,

Because, seriously, last November:

“Pressure mounted Thursday for the Irish government to draft a law spelling out when life-saving abortions can be performed – a demand that came after a pregnant woman who was denied an abortion died.

Activists protested Thursday night in Belfast a day after thousands rallied in London, Dublin, Cork and Galway in memory of Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist who died a week after doctors said she was starting to miscarry her 17-week-old fetus.

Despite her rising pain, doctors refused her request for an abortion for three days because the fetus had a heartbeat. She died in the hospital from blood poisoning three days after the fetus died and was surgically removed.”

She was miscarrying. She was in horrible pain. And they let her die to make the Catholic Church happy.

And then, of course:

“Her boss found her too irresistible. He complained that if she saw his pants bulging, she was dressing inappropriately. He texted to ask how frequently she experienced orgasm. He said that, for a woman with a body like hers, not to have sex often was like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.

(…)

All of this may seem ridiculous. Indeed, it seemed sufficiently ridiculous for Nelson to take her former boss to court with the intention of suing him for sex discrimination. But the all-male panel of seven judges in the Iowa district court, which threw the case out on 21 December, saw nothing amiss. As far as Judge Mansfield was concerned, to allow a case for sex discrimination in this instance would stretch the definition of discrimination.

The judges’ rationale was that the employer was motivated by emotions, above all by his commitment to his marriage, and not by gender prejudice. “Ms Nelson was fired not because of her gender but because she was a threat to the marriage of Dr Knight,” the judgment says – thus identifying the blameless employee as the problem, rather than the wayward behaviour of Dr Knight.

The assumptions and the nature of the inferences made in the court’s judgment all reinforce patriarchy in its dominant “family values” register. It consistently identifies the victim as the problem. It alludes to allegations by Knight’s wife that Nelson flirted with her boss. Yet all the specific evidence it describes shows that Nelson put up with, rather than instigated or encouraged, flirting.

(…)

Despite acknowledging that the situation as such can occur only in a relationship between male employers and female employees, that gender does indeed occupy the key determining place, the court refused to “stretch the definition of discrimination” that far. Essentially, even if an employee is at no fault, as long as she is female this is just one of the burdens she has to bear. The responsibility is on her, not her male employer, to safeguard against eroticism – on pain of being fired.

At each step, Knight, his pastor and, to an extent, his wife – and certainly the Iowa district court – fell back on and fortified a particular knot or intersection of power (business, family and church). This knot might be called capitalist patriarchy. And its full arsenal – political, moral, legal, cultural – has just been placed behind sexist employers.”

And then this horrifying story:

Can we talk about rape culture now? Yes, we can, because it’s India. But here are the 1o factors identified as part of the rape culture there:

  1. Few female police
  2. Not enough police in general
  3. Blaming provocative clothing (whatever the f!@# that means)
  4. Acceptance of domestic violence
  5. Lack of public safety for women
  6. Stigmatization of the victims
  7. Encouraging the victims to compromise (marry your rapist!)
  8. Sluggish court system
  9. Few convictions
  10. Low status of women

How many of these would apply to our enlightened Western societies? After all, we do have a rape culture as well. It may take different forms but it is there all right… and forcefully denied as well. If you don’t believe it, go read this. The whole thing. And then, look at popular culture and media. It’s not hard to find.

And how can we not end 2012 with some Papal homophobia and misogyny?

“The pope is a social issues guy, more interested in themes like “traditional” family values, gay marriage and abortion than, say, helping the poor. And the Vatican is quick to slap down anyone – but especially any women, and particularly women who have the nerve to think of themselves as equal to men – who focuses on helping the most in need, instead of crusading against abortion and gay people. As far as the Church is concerned, advocating for the equal participation of women is “radical feminism” worthy of condemnation; pushing for legislation that kills gay people is worthy of a blessing.

Yes, that’s correct: just around the same time the pope was drafting his first tweet, he met with Ugandan parliamentary speaker Rebecca Kadaga, who had earlier promised to level the death penalty for gays as a “Christmas present” to the Ugandan people (minus, one assumes, the Ugandans who will be murdered because of their sexual orientation). She received a private audience with the pope, and a blessing.

(…)

As society has progressed, the Church has responded by digging its heels in to maintain outdated, misogynist social norms. And it has long used women’s bodies as a tool through which to exercise control in the face of waning influence. Now, gay people are being subjected to the same treatment. As the Church continues to recover from the international pedophilia scandal that its priests perpetrated and the entire institution covered up, and as the world’s population increasingly flees from formal religionthe pope is saying that two men or two women falling in love threatens world peace.

A Twitter feed can’t modernize an institution so out of touch with reality, with progress and with widely-accepted human rights norms.”

So, let’s make 2013 the year we tell patriarchs in all shapes and forms to GFT, shall we?

Posted in Gender, Patriarchy, Sexism | 2 Comments »

Tradition = Patriarchy in Disguise

December 11, 2012 by and tagged , ,

I have blogged before about the highly patriarchal practice of bride-kidnapping, especially in Kyrgyzstan, but here is a reminder from Al-Jazeera English.

Part 1:

Part 2:

The government of Kyrgyzstan has decided to toughen the penalties for the practice and guess which excuse is trotted out to protest the change? Of course: tradition.

“Kyrgyzstan’s parliament is poised to vote on legislation that would toughen the penalty for bride kidnapping.

The bill has caused heated debate, splitting parliament and society into those who defend it as a tradition and those who see it as a violent crime.

The practice of bride kidnapping is widespread in Kyrgyzstan. According to the ombudsman’s office, some 8,000 girls are kidnapped for forced marriage every year across the country.

The Women’s Support Centre (WSC) in Bishkek puts that figure even higher at almost 12,000 cases a year. Most of these cases happen in poor and rural areas.

WSC is part of the network that campaigns against bride kidnapping. Zabila Matayeva, 38, became a WSC volunteer last year after a family tragedy. Her sister, Cholpon Matayeva, was kidnapped for marriage by a husband who beat her frequently.

When she finally demanded a divorce after a decade of marriage, he stabbed her to death. He has been jailed for 19 years.

(…)

Under the existing law, a man faces a fine or maximum of three years in prison for abducting a woman for marriage against her will. The new bill proposes increasing that to seven years, after an initial suggestion to make it 10 years.

(…)

Not all legislators support the bill though. Some claim that it goes against Kyrgyz tradition and may have serious implications for society.

“We will put all men in Kyrgyzstan in prison if we increase the punishment for bride kidnapping,” said MP Kojobek Ryspaev, during a discussion of the bill at a parliamentary session earlier this year.

Opponents of the changes claim bride kidnapping plays an important role in society.

Parents and relatives relentlessly pressure young men in Kyrgyzstan to marry after they reach a certain age. For many, especially for poor families, this is the cheapest and quickest way to marry their son.

If the new law is passed then all relatives who are somehow involved in the process of kidnapping may face a prison term.

“This is a tradition that existed and will exist no matter what law you adopt,” Bishkek resident Bobek, 48, said, voicing an opinion that appeared to be shared by many. He said the law would only fuel corruption, as men would bribe their way out of trouble.”

It’s like everybody’s a bloody functionalist, all of a sudden.

I have said it before, and I’ll say it again. There is no such thing as “tradition” understood as long standing practice, so deeply and objectively embedded in the culture that it cannot be extirpated without great damage to society and disturbance. The reality is less dramatic: traditions are narratives that justify power arrangements, especially of patriarchal nature. These are socially and discursively constructed devices designed to protect hierarchies and oppression from questioning and social change. To  invoke tradition is to us it as a joker card that shuts down discussion and gives the holder an automatic win in favor of maintaining the status quo.

In addition, on top of the social disruption justification used to keep an oppressive practice in place, note that there is another layer of justification used: fighting the tradition won’t work. The idea is that a tradition is so deeply ingrained throughout the social structure that individuals will not be able to evade it and will find ways around the law. In this model of the social structure and culture, men (as only men are discussed as actors) are traditional dopes (in the same sense of “cultural dope” in Harold Garfinkel’s sense) and women are just objects to be grabbed, as dictated by tradition.

Posted in Gender, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

Cruel and Usual – Enforcing Patriarchal Rule

November 28, 2012 by and tagged , ,

1. Acid and remarriage:

“Nurbanu divorced her husband of 18 years eight days before he returned and threw acid in her face in Shatkhira in south west Bangladesh. She had originally ended the marriage after she found him with another woman.

“My husband went into hiding. After 10 months he was caught and jailed for a year,” she told The Huffington Post.

Nurbanu’s husband spent 12 months in jail for disfiguring her. He had been on the run for ten months before authorities caught up with him, but after his release his family coerced her into re-marrying him.

“His mother paid for his release on bail,” she said. “She made me sign an affidavit to have him released. She used my sons to convince me to marry him again.”

The acid attack has left the 36-year-old mother with horrific facial injuries. She is now blind and unable to even prepare a meal for herself.

“People would think a husband would take care of a blind wife. But this doesn’t happen,” she said adding that her husband still regularly beats her. “This is how my days go by,” she said.

Nurbanu  is one of thousands of women in Bangladesh who have had acid flung at them by a relative or partner due to domestic arguments, financial woes or even rejected marriage proposals.”

Incidentally, people, this is one of the reasons why conservatives and religious fundamentalists hate welfare systems and any kind of social assistance, not because it breeds dependency, but precisely because it fosters independence, especially for women who then have more options to walk away from a bad marriage even in the absence of professional prospects (hence the opprobrium thrown at single women as the cause of all social problems). Conservatives pay lip service to charity because it allows them to distinguish between those they deem deserving of it, based on their own “moral” criteria, and those undeserving. Charity also allows them to attach strings to their charitable deeds (there’s your dependency, right there). Social assistance, in its most powerful form, is either universal (health care, education), or based on economic criteria (income), not “moral” and do not divide the population between the deserving and the undeserving.

And remember, for conservatives, the solution to all social problems is marriage (well, except for gays), even if it has to be done out of necessity, as the case above, or forced down people’s throats:

“Afghan police have arrested two men accused of beheading a teenage girl with a knife in northern Kunduz province, officials say.

Prior to the attack, the girl’s father had rejected a marriage proposal for his daughter.

“Our investigation shows those who killed her were people who wanted to marry her,” police told the BBC.

Earlier this month, four policemen were jailed for 16 years for raping a young woman in the same province.

In the latest incident, the girl, who was about 14 years old, was carrying drinking water from a nearby well to her house in Imam Sahib district when she was attacked on Monday.

“People were harassing the family and asking for her hand. When she refused, they did this to her,” a police official told the BBC.

Senior Afghan officials and local tribal elders said the two suspects were close relatives of the girl.

The father had not wanted his daughter to get married because she was “too small to be engaged”, he was quoted as saying by the Pajhwok news agency.”

Marriage, from this perspective, is a masculine entitlement. The only acceptable discussion is then the terms of acquisition of a bride but always within the context that the groom and his family are entitled to a bride. Refusal is not an option.

Posted in Gender, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

Patriarchal Violence Never Takes A Break

November 3, 2012 by and tagged , , , ,

Patriarchal cultures (and that’s pretty much all of them) have all sorts of creative ways of enforcing their norms on those who defy and resist them. They never run out of violent and publicly degrading way of punishing women and girls, especially, for their deviance, enlisting all social institutions to do their work of social control and sanctioning.

Item 1 – schools:

“A teacher in southern Egypt punished two 12-year-old schoolgirls for not wearing the Muslim headscarf by cutting their hair, the father of one girl said on Wednesday.

The governor of Luxor province – where the incident occurred – called the teacher’s actions shameful and said she had been transferred to another school. But rights groups say that some Islamic conservatives have been emboldened by the success of groups like Muslim Brotherhood and the ultraconservative Salafi trend in parliamentary and presidential elections and have been increasingly brazen about forcing their standards on other Egyptians.

The incident follows a surge in legal cases against Egyptians, mostly Christians, who allegedly showed contempt for religion.

It also comes amid a fierce debate over how the role of religion will be defined in the country’s new constitution. The preponderance of Islamists on the panel drafting the document has alarmed liberals and religious minorities.

In the village of Qurna in Luxor province, 300 miles south of Cairo, father Berbesh Khairi el-Rawi said the teacher forced the two girls to stand with their hands above their heads for two hours and then cut their hair in their school.”

Item 2 – families:

“The scourge of acid and “honour” has claimed another victim in Pakistan where a teenage girl was reportedly murdered by her parents after she was apparently seen talking to a young man.

Police in Pakistan-administered Kashmir said they had arrested Mohammad Zafar and his wife after they allegedly confessed to dousing their 15-year-old daughter, Anvu Sha, with acid. Police were alerted by the teenager’s married, elder sister who demanded they investigate.

The precise details of the teenager’s purported offence are unclear. Some reports said her father saw her talking to a young man, while others said he merely saw her looking at two young men who drove past their house on a motorbike.

Either way, police claim that at some point on Monday Mr Zafar became enraged with his daughter, attacked her in the house and then poured acid on her with the assistance of his wife. They did not take the young girl to hospital until the following day, when she died of her injuries. “Zafar beat her up with the help of his wife,” police officer Tahir Ayub told Agence France Presse, adding that the couple had confessed to their actions. “She was badly burnt but they did not take her to hospital until the next morning, and she died on Wednesday.”

Acid attacks, especially those  relating to cases of so-called honour, are commonplace in Pakistan and elsewhere in South Asia and campaigners have struggled for years for the authorities to tackle the issue more forcefully.”

Posted in Gender, Mass Violence, Patriarchy, Religious Fundamentalism, Sexism | No Comments »

Who The F!@# Cares? – Ordinary Sexism

October 10, 2012 by and tagged , ,

Oh look, she has so many blazers that they cover the entire color palette…

Because, of course, there is nothing more important to cover when it comes to Angela Merkel. There is nothing new to the fact that women politicians, heads of state or public officials do stand out from their masculine counterparts with their dark business suits, like this:

But there is no doubt that this Merkel thing is another way of scrutinizing women’s bodies. After all, have we ever seen something equivalent done about a male politician? President or whatever?

I remember when France got its one and only prime minister, years back, we got treated of news report regarding the couture house where she bought her clothes. Again, nothing equivalent for men. When it comes to women, it allows for the speculation and evaluation regarding what women are showing or covering.

Either way. Who cares. It reduces powerful women to a shallow and superficial attribute.

Posted in Gender, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

The Patriarchy Continuum as Non-Stop War Against Women

October 9, 2012 by and tagged , ,

And the war against women can take many forms. In the US and UK, it focuses on reproductive rights and access to safe contraception and abortion. But it can take many other forms, along the patriarchy continuum.

It can take the form of insults hurled at a Prime Minister (and she deals with it masterfully):

“Australian prime minister Julia Gillard “played her best hand with a brilliant attack on the Conservative opposition leader, Tony Abbott, accusing him of being sexist and a misogynist,” the Telegraph reports.”

See also here.

It can take the form of daily harassment, as in Russia:

“The activists of RosNakhal, a newly formed movement, say that it is difficult for women to escape the attention of predatory men in the Russian capital, and want the Russian parliament to act. The campaign was started by Yulia Kolyadina, a presenter on a fashion-based television channel, who says she was so irritated by being harassed by men as she went about her daily business in Moscow that she decided to make a film to highlight the problem. A friend followed her around the city with a hidden camera for two days and filmed various exchanges.

“I want to show everyone, and especially men, how your attempts to chat up women can turn into the worst kind of rudeness,” Ms Kolyadina says at the start of the video, which has received over a million views since it was posted a fortnight ago on YouTube.

What follows are a number of clips of men sidling up to her at cafés, bus stops, or simply on the street and making clumsy chat-up attempts. When she says she does not want to talk to them, some of them attempt to touch her, while others suggest going back to their place to “get to know each other”. One man does not even say hello, but has as his opening gambit: “Ooh, what a nice juicy arse you have!”

“It’s a real problem and we want men to realise that women should not be treated like objects, but with respect,” says Olga Boltneva, a 20-year-old journalism student who is one of the campaign’s organisers. “I often go to the park to read and men appear and just won’t leave you alone. When I heard about Yulia’s idea I knew straight away that I wanted to help out.”

After the video went viral, consultations have already begun in the Russian parliament over whether or not some kind of penalty could be introduced and many MPs are supportive.

“However strong Russian women are, it’s very unpleasant for them when their personal space is breached,” Maria Maksakova, an MP from the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, told Izvestia newspaper. “We are going to look into all the aspects of this problem and develop a solution.” The main issue is how any kind of law against sexual harassment could be enforced, but Ms Boltneva points to Brussels, where a €250 (£200) fine for “sexual intimidation” has recently been introduced after a similar amateur video of everyday harassment was put online by a 25-year-old film student earlier this summer.

But many Russians have a different attitude towards the issue. In 2008, a woman attempting to bring charges against a lecherous boss had her case thrown out after the judge ruled that predatory sexual behaviour was a normal part of life. “If we had no sexual harassment we would have no children,” the judge ruled.”"

Seriously.

It can be the extra shame heaped upon women victims of rape, adding insult to injury, first in Tunisia:

“Tunisian civil society is rallying in support of a young woman who was raped by police officers in what they say is part of a broader assault on women’s rights by religious conservatives.

There is widespread outrage after 27-year-old victim was summoned by the investigating judge on Wednesday to face chargers of “indecency” from the two men accused of raping her, in what many argue is an attempt by the authorities to intimidate her.

Leading human rights, feminist groups and other prominent members of civil society have formed a committee evening to co-ordinate a campaign in support of the woman, including the Tunisian Association of Democratic Women and the Tunisian League of Human Rights.

Faïza Skandrani, the head of the Equality and Parity organisation, told Al Jazeera that the case was an important one for two reasons: it marked the first time a woman allegedly raped by the police had taken the case to court, and it was the first time the authorities were trying to publicly shame a woman into dropping such charges.

“The investigating judge is turning her from the victim to the accused, to help the police officers get away with it,” she said. “I’ve heard about similar cases in Pakistan, but this is a first in Tunisia. Next they will be charging her with prostitution.”

And in Indonesia:

“Une école indonésienne a expulsé une adolescente de 14 ans, l’accusant d’avoir“terni l’image” de l’établissement après avoir été violée, a indiqué, mardi 9 octobre, une organisation de protection de l’enfance.

L’écolière était retournée dans son établissement lundi et participait à une cérémonie de lever du drapeau quand, devant des centaines de ses camarades réunis pour l’occasion, un enseignant est venu lui annoncer qu’elle était“expulsée”, selon Arist Merdeka Sirait, président de la Commission de protection de l’enfance, une organisation non gouvernementale. Le professeur a indiqué à la fille qu’elle avait “terni l’image de l’école”, a-t-il précisé. “L’école a aggravé le traumatisme en l’humiliant en face de centaines de camarades. Cette fille a été la victime d’un réseau de trafic d’enfants. L’école aurait dû l’aider”, a-t-il ajouté.

Une plainte officielle a été déposée par la commission auprès du ministère de l’éducation afin de demander la révocation du permis de l’école privée, située dans la banlieue de Djakarta, a indiqué le président. L’adolescente était entrée en contact avec un “ami” par l’intermédiaire du site de socialisation Facebook. Elle s’était rendue à un rendez-vous qu’il avait fixé mais avait alors été enlevée par un groupe qui l’avait maintenue en détention pendant une semaine, période durant laquelle elle avait été violée à plusieurs reprises.”

Quick translation: an adolescent meets a guy on Facebook. They agree to meet. She gets kidnapped by a group of men who hold her hostage for a week and rape her repeatedly. Now, she has been expelled from school because it is bad for the school’s image to have a “tainted” student. And for the stigmatization to be complete, she was called out by school officials during a flag raising ceremony in front of the student body.

And last but not least, the Taliban are always reliable in their hatred of women:

“A girl of 14 who gained worldwide acclaim for speaking out against the Pakistani Taliban’s ban on education for girls was shot in the head on her way home from school yesterday,

Militant leaders said the attack on Malala Yousafzai was a warning to other “secular” youths. The teenager was sitting with other pupils in a bus ready to leave the grounds of their school when gunmen approached and asked which one was Malala. They opened fire, injuring her and two other girls in the vehicle.

The attack took place not in a wild tribal area but in the Swat Valley, a northern district where the Taliban was supposedly cleared out by the Pakistani army in 2009. Malala was airlifted from her school in the town of Mingora to hospital in the provincial capital, Peshawar, for surgery. She was in a critical condition last night but doctors said the bullet had not entered her brain.

The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – the main faction of the home-grown Taliban – claimed responsibility for the assassination attempt and warned that it would target Malala again if she survived. Earlier this year, the TTP said the teenager was on its hitlist because of her “secular” views. A spokesman for the Taliban said yesterday: “She was young but she was promoting Western culture.”

Malala had resisted the Taliban takeover of Swat with her diary – published in 2009 under a pseudonym by the BBC’s Urdu language service. In it, she told the outside world what was happening in her home district. Early that year, with the Taliban menace still present, she spoke out on television, always sticking carefully to her demand only for schooling.

In one television appearance in Swat, with Taliban sympathisers apparently in the audience, she said: “I don’t mind if I have to sit on the floor at school. All I want is education. And I am afraid of no one.”"

I hope she makes it.

And this was just in the past few days in the war on women.

Posted in Gender, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

Invisible Women

October 1, 2012 by and tagged , , ,

Because one must not offend the delicate sensibilities of religious patriarchs, Ikea erases women from its Saudi catalog:

Here is another example:

Posted in Gender, Patriarchy, Religious Fundamentalism, Sexism | No Comments »

Gender Policing and Degradation Ceremonies

June 16, 2012 by and tagged , , , ,

So we have heard before of virginity testing in parts of the Middle East as well as hymen restoration that happen for fear a woman or a girl, found to no longer be a virgin might be the victim of an honorable murder.

In the same vein of degradation ceremony, meet the anal exams in Lebanon, performed by police to detect homosexuals (homosexuality is illegal in Lebanon). The article is in French. The physical consists of men being forced naked, required to bend over for a physician to take a picture of their anus to determine whether homosexual intercourse has taken place. This physical means absolutely nothing and is proof of nothing and the participating physicians know it.

This is pure degradation ceremony whose main purpose is to humiliate and dehumanize but also to extract confessions of homosexual activity. In many cases, the men are arrested based on what police officers determine to be effeminate behavior or just any subjective assessment about one’s sexual orientation. In other words, these men are arrested based on nothing except pure suspicion and then subjected to what the article and NGOs call the “physical of shame”, for shaming is its main purpose. The broader goal is to police sexual behavior and gender identity in conformity with cultural norms.

But policing gender through degradation also applies more generally, remember the case of Caster Semenya? Well, here is the version 2.0:

“There are female athletes who will be competing at the Olympic Games this summer after undergoing treatment to make them less masculine.

Still others are being secretly investigated for displaying overly manly characteristics, as sport’s highest medical officials attempt to quantify — and regulate — the hormonal difference between male and female athletes.

Caster Semenya, the South African runner who was so fast and muscular that many suspected she was a man, exploded onto the front pages three years ago. She was considered an outlier, a one-time anomaly.

But similar cases are emerging all over the world, and Semenya, who was banned from competition for 11 months while authorities investigated her sex, is back, vying for gold.

Semenya and other women like her face a complex question: Does a female athlete whose body naturally produces unusually high levels of male hormones, allowing them to put on more muscle mass and recover faster, have an “unfair” advantage?

In a move critics call “policing femininity,” recent rule changes by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the governing body of track and field, state that for a woman to compete, her testosterone must not exceed the male threshold.

If it does, she must have surgery or receive hormone therapy prescribed by an expert IAAF medical panel and submit to regular monitoring. So far, at least a handful of athletes — the figure is confidential — have been prescribed treatment, but their numbers could increase. Last month, the International Olympic Committee began the approval process to adopt similar rules for the Games.”

It is puzzling that the very same people who tend to adhere to gender essentialism (biology is everything) all of a sudden wish to “correct” biology when women and intersex people are involved (but not men). After all, wouldn’t it be unfair to have men with lower levels of testorerone compete with those with “normal” levels? Also note the arbitrariness of the rule. What level is the male threshold? The average? What average? Why is it at issue that a woman with higher level of testosterone be forced to undergo treatment to reduce her performance? And shouldn’t men levels be equalized before competition so as to have a level playing field?

 And guess who had to subject herself to this? Yes, Caster Semenya herself:

“Today, Semenya is cheering on her teammates at the South African open championships — for many, their last chance to qualify for the Olympics. There is no need for Semenya to race. She easily qualified weeks ago.

Instead, she stands in the stadium aisle, posing for the camera. In the background, Rihanna is on heavy rotation. “It happens all the time, all the time,” she says of the photo requests, laughing. “I’m used to it.”

She wears a tight turquoise polo over her fit, feminine body. Relaxed, poised and, it must be said, pretty, the young woman with an irresistible smile is almost unrecognizable from photographs taken during the height of the controversy.

“I know she gets treatment. What the treatment entails, I can’t give the details,” says Danie Cornelius, a track and field manager at the university.

“We all accept . . . and she accepts . . . within sports you have to perform within certain guidelines, or else it will be chaos,” says Cornelius.

“She feels it’s something she has to do.”

When asked about her treatment, Semenya demurred. “I can’t really say anything,” she said, looking at the ground.”

Funny how this came up only when a woman performed exceptionally. Exceptional performance from male athletes is never questioned in terms of gender or whether some male athlete had some extra testosterone and therefore some unearned, illegitimate advantage.

I am curious as to what chaos Danie Cornelius is referring to except to the challenge to the persistent phallocracy in the world of sports. And, exactly, how are women supposed to catch up (as they have been) in terms of performance if exceptional individual women are “corrected” to reduce their performance levels?

Posted in Gender, Patriarchy, Sexism, Social Deviance, Social Stigma, Symbolic Violence | No Comments »

Gender Fluidity in a Rigid Patriarchal System

June 16, 2012 by and tagged , , ,

As most of you probably remember, the first feature film to come out of Afghanistan after the US removed the Taliban from power was Osama, the story of a young girl, disguised as a boy by her mother and grandmother so the family (composed entirely of women) will not starve as none of them are allowed to work outside the home by the Taliban. It is an excellent film about the consequences for women of the protracted war that killed many men and left women-led families with no rights under a strictly religious fundamentalist rule.

One of the central aspects of the film is the resocialization the girl has to go through to pass for a credible boy (Osama) and not be found out. This means she has to engage in a lot of body work and re-train her body to lose its feminine aspects (in activities such as walking, running, etc. All activities that we tend to not always consider gendered but are very much so). She also needs to learn basic boy-ness in play and games, knowing that the slightest mistake could have devastating consequences (and ultimately, that is exactly what happens).

That is the film. But this is also the reality still today in Afghanistan:

“For economic and social reasons, many Afghan parents want to have a son. This preference has led to some of them practising the long-standing tradition of Bacha Posh – disguising girls as boys.

When Azita Rafhat, a former member of the Afghan parliament, gets her daughters ready for school, she dresses one of the girls differently.

Three of her daughters are clothed in white garments and their heads covered with white scarves, but a fourth girl, Mehrnoush, is dressed in a suit and tie. When they get outside, Mehrnoush is no longer a girl but a boy named Mehran.

Azita Rafhat didn’t have a son, and to fill the gap and avoid people’s taunts for not having a son, she opted for this radical decision. It was very simple, thanks to a haircut and some boyish clothes.

There is even a name for this tradition in Afghanistan – Bacha Posh, or disguising girls as boys.

“When you have a good position in Afghanistan and are well off, people look at you differently. They say your life becomes complete only if you have a son,” she says.

There has always been a preference for having sons in Afghanistan, for various economic and social reasons.

(…)

Many girls disguised as boys can be found in Afghan markets. Some families disguise their daughters as boys so that they can easily work on the streets to feed their families.

Some of these girls who introduce themselves as boys sell things like water and chewing gum. They appear to be aged anywhere between about five and 12. None of them would talk to me about their lives as boys.

Girls brought up as boys do not stay like this all their lives. When they turn 17 or 18 they live life as a girl once again – but the change is not so simple.

Elaha lives in Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan. She lived as a boy for 20 years because her family didn’t have a son and reverted only two years ago when she had to go to university.

However, she does not feel fully female: she says her habits are not girlish and she does not want to get married.

(…)

In Afghanistan, stories like this have become more common. Almost everyone has relatives or neighbours who have tried this.

Fariba Majid, the head of the Women’s Rights Department in the northern province of Balkh, used to go by the boy’s name Wahid.

“I was the third daughter in my family and when I was born my parents decided to disguise me as a boy,” she says.

“I would work with my father at his shop and even go to Kabul to bring goods from there.”

She thinks that experience helped her gain confidence and helped her get where she is today.

It is not surprising that even Azita Rafhat, mother of Mehran, once used to live as a boy.

“Let me tell you a secret,” she says. “When I was a kid, I used to live as a boy and work with my father.

“I experienced both the world of men and of women and it helped me to be more ambitious in my career.”"

And then, I also remembered the Dancing Boys of Afghanistan:

Watch The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

So riddle me this: a society where gender boundaries are strictly enforced, where girls may get poisoned if they go to school and are otherwise expected to conform to strict gender role and boundaries, but that same society allows for the crossing of these gender boundaries in both directions ( girls → boys, and boys → not exactly girls but highly feminized roles).

Here is my take: patriarchal systems generally establish strict gender boundaries. However, these same systems will allow these boundaries to fluctuate according to patriarchal needs. Also, these seemingly contradictory examples make perfect sense once one goes back to the meaning of “patriarchy” which is not male rule (that’s phallocracy), but fathers / elders rule. Therefore, it is the needs of fathers and elders (as heads of families / clans / tribes) that come first, both in terms of their status as providers for their charge, but also in terms of their needs (sexually speaking). Note that it is not dancing men, but dancing boys satisfying older men’s fantasies and sexual needs.

So even though gender boundaries are strict and strictly enforced, these will be bent as needed to satisfy dominant individuals (elders and fathers), as well as maintain and reproduce patriarchal structure. The consequences of imposing fluid gender norms and roles to dominated individuals (women and girls, of course, but also, boys) are irrelevant. In this sense, fluidity of gender identity is not a source of freedom as feminists have promoted it in Western countries, but another source of gender domination and power because one has no choice in one’s gender role, as assigned by patriarchs.

Posted in Gender, Identity, Patriarchy, Sexism | No Comments »

« Previous Entries