WaPo: Consider the case of the angry white woman

Cartoon published in the Melbourne version of ...

Cartoon published in 14/04/1887: "Some foolish people imagine our ladies will neglect their family duties. Quite a mistake. 3 am. That dear good old creature, Mr. Speaker, is kind enough to take the blessed infant while the Hon. Member addresses the house." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WaPo: Consider the case of the angry white woman

From Washington Post, Comment by Juliana Jimenez

This is one amazing article on the intersection of sexism and racism. Damn. Impressed. Goes beyond the reporting.

Some commenters, men of course, were outraged, saying that “there’s not assault on women’s rights.” It’s actually kind of funny that these men go to forums like these, bristling with male entitlement, and end up showing off their willful ignorance. Have they not been following the news? Do these men have any idea what it’s like to not be able to decide when and how you have a baby, a.k.a when your body, your mind and the rest of your life are completely transformed from that moment on? Oh, they don’t? Ok, thought so. Now, shush.

More analysis on this issue to come later.

Woman rowing a boat for tourists in Lugu Lake, Sichuan Province, China..

Why I Hate Women’s Day, or Every Day is Women’s Day

A 1932 Soviet poster for International Women's Day

A 1932 Soviet poster for International Women’s Day. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yeah, yeah, Happy Women’s Day. I appreciate the thought, but it still feels condescending to me. Limiting appreciating or even noticing an entire group of people to only one day, or to only one month a year (Black History Month, looking at you), seems a bit short-sighted. Though it seems very tolerant and liberal and appreciative, it may in fact be saying that we can dedicate this one day a year to doing this so that we can move on to the other 364 Man Days.

We can of course take advantage of it to highlight causes that are worth fighting. I’ve seen great posts by people on Twitter showing different NGOs that help women, and if people will only donate one day a year to those, then that’s better than no days at all. Maybe they will look at it today, get hooked on it and keep donating. It’s worth the shot.

But we also very much risk losing our souls to mindless cheezyness and pandering. I heard, a year ago, a radio commentator on Colombian radio say “so when you go home today, kiss your wife or girlfriend on her special day”, and everything they talked about that day was very much in the same vein. Well, that is not what Women’s Day should be about, at all. It’s not about doing something that should come natural to you anyway, or doing it in a condescending way: a kiss, a pat on the head, a “Good Girl!”.

It’s about acknowledging that the work that women do is real, that it is important, that they matter. Governments should use this day to demand women quotas in Congresses around the world, to rewrite rape laws, to fucking STOP the insane outlawing of contraception, stop the attacks on abortion rights, stop humiliating women in more creative ways than necessary to bully them out of choosing what they want to do with their bodies.

Nobody talks about maternal mortality, this blight on modern civilization, or the booming sex trafficking industry  — no, people today were all about “women are like flowers”, or whatever. Bu the pressures, the horror that some women go through just to make it alive in this fucked-up patriarchal douchebag world, even just to make a decent, or indecent, 76 cents on the dollar, are very real, and happen every day, not just today, the only day the world fails to notice.

If you want to be inspired by women who are badasses, if you want to do something about this, and really celebrate International Women’s Day as it should be celebrated, go here or read below

National March Against The War On Women: 4/28/12

Early 1900s postcard on birth control: "And the villain still pursues her".

Early 1900s postcard on birth control: "And the villain still pursues her". Credit: Wikipedia Commons.

From The ObamaCrat:

United Against The War On Women:

Has local, national and international Facebook group links with dates and places. Check it out! We’ll keep an eye out for this event as well.

By Juliana Jiménez

Google Search Screenshot

But It’s Their Culture…

By Juliana Jiménez

Many men are quick to get outraged by racism. It’s now considered common sense to at least oppose racism in theory, even when a lot of people remain unconsciously racist in practice. But when confronted by sexism, these same, ostensibly sensitive men will have no second thoughts about dismissing feminism. “Oh, but this is different.”

Sexism comes in many shapes, permeating all the way into academia, in areas like anthropology or sociology, where it’s not just about the practices of its members, but the actual theories and tenets that are held and taught. Some cultural relativists out there feel certain misogynist practices belong to the sacred realm of culture, or of religion, and should therefore be respected above all else. This stems from the fact that how women are treated is seen as part of cultural practice — and from the fact that women are seen as cultural objects themselves.

Think, for example, of how many travel guides promote places for their “delicious food, pleasant weather, and beautiful women.” Colombia, for example, is an expert on this.

Google Search Screenshot

I could not have done it better than Lonely Planet describing the city of Cali, Colombia:

“While the city itself isn’t breathtaking, Cali famously claims to produce the most beautiful women in Colombia.”

One word: produce. Like sugar cane or fucking cholaos.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a travel guide praising a city for “producing the most handsome men” in wherever. See how ridiculous that sounds? Who writes, edits, supervises these travel guides, and who do they write them for? The answer might not just be “men”, but a specific type of men, and it might also be women, who are accustomed to this type of thinking and embrace it as the accepted worldview.

But this is of course, only one side of the racist/sexist hypocrisy lines many men traverse daily as professional sport.

When it’s about barbaric treatment of men toward other men, it’s despicable, it’s genocide, crimes against humanity, behavior that should be campaigned against, that should be stopped with an invasion, with state-backed aggression.

Public execution of a woman by Taliban members, Afghanistan, Nov. 1999.

Public execution of a woman by Taliban members, Afghanistan, Nov. 1999. Image via Wikipedia

But when it’s systematic attacks toward women, because they’re women, when they’re starved to death in favor of their brothers, and millions of them die every year in deplorable conditions, then it’s a “women’s issue.” That can wait for later. That’s you being a feminist (queue hissing cat), being hysterical and too emotional, and not focusing on the important things, like human rights.

This is exactly what is happening as we speak with the peace negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, where women’s rights are being bartered for the sake of political gains, on both sides. PBS did a wonderful series, Women, War and Peace, where urgent issues as this one are explored. In the Afghanistan episode, Peace Unveiled, we can hear Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promise Afghan women that “peace and justice can’t come at the cost of women and women’s lives.” Time is running out, and the pressure increasing. Will the world forget these Afghan women? Will we do anything about it?

The Equality Language Lab

By Juliana Jiménez

France’s Laboratoire de l’égalité brings you this awesome video, put together by Pacte Pour L’égalité, or Pact for Equality. Doesn’t require subtitles or translation.

Pacte Pour L’égalité  seeks to put pressure on France’s 2012 presidential candidates to address the obstacles toward equality between men and women.

The scenarios in the video serve mostly as metaphor of what it’s like to work or have a conversation with (some) men. I’ve had that experience many times, even if it’s just talking with friends or family. I never know if it’s “the gender thing,” or if it’s just me, and my ideas are just not that worthwhile and that’s why they get trampled in favor of someone else’s. But just having to ask yourself that question alone though, is definitely a self-esteem bummer and can affect how you contribute to the conversation, starting a vicious cycle of lack of assertiveness.

Now, the fact that that someone else is usually a man might push in favor of “the gender thing” — but again it might also be a matter of statistics, because most heated politics/religion/philosophy discussions I have are with men and not with women.

There are many, many linguistics and psychological studies on the differences between male and female discourse dynamics. University professor and professor of linguistics at Georgetown University Deborah Tannen says, for example, that

“Men grow up in a world in which a conversation is often a contest, either to achieve the upper hand or to prevent other people from pushing them around. For women, however, talking is often a way to exchange confirmation and support.”

Another 1976 landmark study demonstrates this concept by showing the difference between how often men interrupt other men vs. how often they interrupt women

“Early studies on interruptions and related phenomena seem to indicate a larger tendency on the part of men to interrupt in cross-sex conversations while in same-sex conversations no significant differences were found. Zimmerman/West (1975) reported the following results:

Same-sex conversations 1st Speaker 2nd Speaker Total
Overlaps 12 10 22
Interruptions 3 4 7
Cross-sex conversations Male Female Total
Overlaps 9 0 9
Interruptions 46 2 48

(based on Zimmerman/West 1975: 115-116)

Sad, but true. Another finding of a 1998 study shows not only how conversational style affects a peson’s standing in society but how that person’s standing affects the way they talk. This sentence is so packed with truth it almost made me cry/throw-up a little:

Men, the speakers of the dominant style, have more rights and privileges. They exhibit their privileges and produce them in every conversational situation. (Trömel-Plötz 1998: 447).”

These differences can be shown down to the very words we choose. Women will use words like “maybe”, “perhaps”, or qualifiers like “I think”, or “in my opinion.” If these sound like a 5th-grader’s essay it’s no coincidence (infantilization of women, I’m looking at you). Speaking and writing like this makes a person seem less confident, like he/she doesn’t know what she/he is talking about, which in turn could be taken as encouragement to speak over that person.

When I first realized this in a freshman linguistics class, I became very self-conscious about it, and have done pretty well over time in not using these words (although check out the “pretty” in that sentence… under-confident, sure, over-confident, never!)

I wonder what it would be like to have a very heated politics/religion/philosophy discussion with a group of women. I’m not sure everyone would be more tolerant and respectful; if you’re a woman and you’re having these discussions, chances are you started having them with men and learned how to argue like them. But I have a feeling they might just be. But what would be the off-side? Less bold ideas? What do you think? What are your experiences when arguing with either men or women?

Women wearing Muslim veil.

Turkey, behind the veil

By Andrea Alarcón

Women wearing burkas in Afghanistan

Afghanistan women wait outside a USAID-supported health care clinic in 2003.
Nitin Madhav/USAID.

I was lucky enough to visit the beautiful country of Turkey for vacations. I loved Istanbul, the beautiful Cappadocia, stuffing my mouth with baklava, the music…. As I walked around the busy streets of Beyoğlu, I wished I could move to this magical place, so European, yet retaining an Arabesque tone in architecture, music, lifestyle…

and, oh yes, Islam.

Turkey is a nation of Muslim people without being a Muslim nation; it is therefore the most gender-equality prone in the Arab world. In the most touristy, “Western” parts of Istanbul, I saw occasional headscarves at the most. But the one day we ventured over to the Western district, the former Jewish and Christian ghetto and now a conservative and relatively poor area, I could only see Burkas. Women walked in the street only if clustered in groups or if going to the market. We also saw them standing outside a mosque while the men prayed inside, listening. The contrast between the two made an impression on me.

The Koran says women are worth half of a man. In many Muslim states that is, therefore, the law. We all know what comes with that: honor killings, forced marriages, weak rape laws… But Turkey is a state of secularism, and a state wishing with all its might to become part of the European Union. Many of us know the contributing factors that keep this from happening, but Turkey’s several human rights violations are the main obstacle impeding the country from gaining membership of the European Union.

According to an Economist article released earlier this year, Turkey ranks with Russia as the worst countries in Europe for violence against women.  A Human Rights Watch report states that

42 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual violence at the hands of their husband or partner, according to a study by a leading Turkish university. While the government can be credited with passing strong laws to protect women, these laws are rarely enforced, and additional protections are needed.

Apparently the country also ranks 126 among 134 countries in the 2010 Global Gender Gap Index; women also account for 80% of Turkey’s 5.7m illiterate people.

On the other hand, in the 1930s, Turkey became one of the first countries in the world to give full political rights to women, including the right to elect and be elected locally (in 1930) and nationwide (in 1934). Article 10 of the Turkish Constitution bans any discrimination, state or private, on the grounds of gender. Turkey elected a female prime minister, Tansu Çiller in 1995.

I read Nobel prize winner Orhan Pamuk’s Snow about a year ago, a story about a journalist sent to cover a suicide epidemic among teenage girls who didn’t want to take off their headscarves in the eastern city of Kars. The real-life epidemic actually took place in Batman. The main theme revolves around the conflict arising from secularism in a country of believers whose faith tells them state and religion are one.

Turkey is a land of contradictions. They wish to be western, European and secular, but their current administration is very conservative. They elect a woman to prime minister while still having an exorbitant rate of domestic violence. Are its people as European as their government wants? Is it a veil to try to give the best impression possible while the international community is watching?

5manual de la buena esposa

What Started It All

By Juliana Jiménez

In January last year, I received a forwarded email from a male member of my own family. It was one of those cheesy email jokes that get forwarded around. The subject line was: “How the world changed when I was born: The Good Wife’s Manual”. The body of the email said “Go back to the basics!” and then a few of these:

"Listen to him. His problems are more important than yours."

The images say things like, “Let him speak first, remember that his issues are more important than yours”, “A good wife always knows her place,” and “Look beautiful.” 

There were about a dozen of these. As I read in disbelief I was expecting – hoping – to find at least a shed of an ironic twist. I tried to find the humor in it, but I couldn’t. I could not get it out of my head. Was there something wrong with me? Why did I feel like there was something else here? If I were black, and someone sent me a slavery manual saying “Let’s go back to the basics! LOL!” was I supposed to take that in jest as well? What if I were Jewish and someone sent me a Nazi manual? If this was different, how so? I felt I just couldn’t ignore this. So I wrote back, asking some of these questions, knowing that there would be a reply, and that it might not be apologetic or understanding.

A few weeks later, I ran across “The Feminine Mystique” by Betty Friedanthe seminal feminist text, perhaps “the one that started it all” back in the 60s, and after that family confrontation, I felt compelled to pick it up.

After that, came “The Second Sex” by philosopher Simone de Beauvior, and then New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof‘s “Half the Sky”, books that have deeply transformed my view of the human experience.

I woke up to a reality much, much sadder than I expected, and that I would’ve liked, for my own sake. Some nights, I sort of wished I hadn’t read them, because waking up to reality, to the responsibility of being human, can be painful. But if I were to accept the fact that before being a woman, I am a human, I had to accept that responsibility, and live up to it. This blog aims to put into words and actions this new view, our new ability to dissect and analyze the underlying and sometimes not-so-subtle reality of misogyny we live in to this day.

I cried with those books. I cried for many women I know who are defined by the men in their lives, for so many women that live as second-class citizens. These are women who die from honor killings, acid attacks, starvation, stonings or preventable diseases, women who cannot drive or own property –but who are themselves seen as male property, women who are sold into prostitution, women who are raped and then blamed for it –women who, in short, live subhuman lives, simply because they are women. To borrow from the words of Nicholas Kristof, “the central moral challenge of the 19th century was slavery. In the 20th Century it was totalitarianism. Now, it is the oppression of women and girls around the world.”

Misogyny and sexism have many different manifestations. We aim to shed light on the problems and solutions around us, and to explore these issues in conflict zones, the media, pop culture, philosophy and in our own lives.

My contribution to this blog I owe to that cheesy email, and to the awakening it spurred.