Women always go through the door first. Even ardent feminists would admit it’s nice. It’s not an acknowledgment of women as the weaker sex; it’s perhaps an acknowledgment of women as the stronger sex. We follow.
Brilliant blog post explaining why housewifery is not an acceptable choice, not only for feminists but for anyone who believes in equality. (A lot of it applies to my rejection of women changing their last names to those of their husbands.)
In any comment section on the internet where feminism comes up, someone will pipe up and cry, “But feminism is about CHOICE!” No. Feminism is not about choice – at least not insofar as it’s about saying “Any choice women make is a feminist one and so we can’t criticize or judge it.” Feminism isn’t about creating non-judgmental happy-rainbow enclaves where women can do whatever they want without criticism. Feminism is about achieving social, economic and political equality for all people, regardless of gender. It’s not about making every woman feel good about whatever she does, or treating women like delicate hot-house flowers who can’t be criticized.
The Norwegian Nobel Committee decided today to award the Nobel Peace Prize to three prominent women peace leaders: President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, her compatriot Leymah Gbowee, and Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, for their non-violent struggle “for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work”. They were the first women to win the prize since Wangari Maathai of Kenya, who died last month, was named as the laureate in 2004.
Although the decision to give the award to the currently unpopular Johnson Sirleaf while she’s struggling to be re-election is being critized back in Liberia, and although much unworthy recipients haven’t had to share the award (ie Barack Obama), I was still thrilled to hear the news. After all, most of the recipients in the award’s 110-year history have been men (only 15 women have won during that thime). As Dan Moshenberg wrote at Africa is a Country, I’m thankful the the Nobel Committee decided to increase the pool of living women Nobel Peace Prize winners by a whopping 50%. Where there were six, now there are nine.
In October 2000, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1325. The resolution made violence against women in armed conflict an international security issue for the first time. It also underlined the need for women to become participants on an equal footing with men in peace processes and in peace work in general. I mean, why is half of the population still typically excluded of peacemaking and peacebuilding processes when women have had to deal with all sorts of conflict at home and outside since the wake of history? Leymah Gbowee puts it best in this article on Open Democracy:
It is time women globally start making the connection between sexual violence and the unequal treatment of women in economic, social, and political context, and devise strategies for tackling these inequalities in a holistic manner. It is time to make men and boys see what they stand to lose when women are ill treated – and what they stand to gain when women are treated well.
For those who don’t know, Leymah Gbowee mobilized and organized women across ethnic and religious dividing lines to bring an end to the long war in Liberia, and to ensure women’s participation in elections. She has since worked to enhance the influence of women in West Africa during and after war. She’s also the protagonist of the documentary “Pray the devil back to hell“, which will be aired on PBS on the 18th and which I highly recommend to everyone.
Last week a group of French feminists launched a campaign to end the common usage of the word ‘Mademoiselle’ in forms and transactions. Equivalent to ‘Miss’ in English, and ‘Señorita’ in Spanish (which are thankfully almost extinct officially), its usage is still very widespread in France. And not just in day-to-day talk in the street or shopping, when younger women and/or not wearing bands are automatically called ‘Mademoiselle’ or asked the odious question ‘Madame ou Mademoiselle?’ (which I fucking hated having to answer every time I interacted with anyone in Francophone Africa). But also when filling up forms at the bank, doctor’s office or school. Naturally, men are automatically ‘Monsieur’ (Sir or Mister) and their marital status is never requested for things like signing up for cable.
Fortunately in English someone invented the wonderful non-disclosure term of ‘Ms’, which is usually the one I choose here in the US. Like the people behind this initiative, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business whether I’m married or not (I don’t even have my marital status on display in the temple of over-sharing, FB). But in addition to the intrusion of privacy, the bigger issue I have with this prevalent ‘Miss’ o ‘Mrs’ question (whether it’s in France, the US or wherever) is that it constantly links a woman’s worth to her marital status. As in, a woman is not fully a lady (ie a Mrs) until there’s a man in her life. And at the same time it also links her ability to make business decisions to whether she’s married or not, automatically assuming that the man is the higher authority in the house. For example, here in San Francisco (political correctedness central) I’ll often get phone calls soliciting services and when I tell them we’re not interested they refuse to give up until I pass the phone to the “decision-maker” in the house (ie the Mr).
Also part of this campaign to remove the term ‘Mademoiselle’ from forms is the request to change the question about one’s maiden name (‘nom de jeune fille’) that usually follows. Interestingly, though, I learned that this popular question is also inappropriately worded since the French have had a law since 1794 establishing that the name of a French citizen is the one given to him/her at birth and that any other name adopted later in life is simply a ‘name of usage’. So instead of ‘maiden name’ forms should simply ask for birth names.
All of this just smacks me of good old common sense, so I’m obviously all in favor of this campaign. For fuck’s sake, we’re in 2011. Although reading the comments in a lot of the articles in the French media no one would guess.
Through my network of lady friends who are struggling with the painful process of dating, I discovered the Diary of a Disillusioned Dater. The whole blog is very entertaining to read, but I especially enjoyed his latest post in which he flips off those single men out there behaving like jackasses on dates. Here’s an excerpt:
To the guys who insist on ordering for their dates in restaurants, stop taking your dating cues from movies from the 1930s. “The lady will have the lemon pepper shrimp ” is not something you should be saying unless the lady has told you that’s what she wants, and has given you the okay to order for her. Otherwise, let them order their own damn food. They’re your dates, not your three year old daughters.
And while we’re at it, I’ll add my own complaint about for those servers out there who only bring one wine list and hand it to the man at the table: I can order my own fucking wine, thank you very much, and I probably know more about wine than all of you together.
There’s been a bit of a flurry in the internets over VS Naipaul’s latest, in which he keeps insisting on showing the world what a pompous ass he is:
In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the “greatest living writer of English prose”, was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match.
He replied: “I don’t think so.” Of Austen he said he “couldn’t possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world”. He felt that women writers were “quite different”. He said: “I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me.”
The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women’s “sentimentality, the narrow view of the world”.
“And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too,” he said. He added: “My publisher, who was so good as a taster and editor, when she became a writer, lo and behold, it was all this feminine tosh. I don’t mean this in any unkind way.”
His views on women (and blacks, for that matter) are so dated that they become laughable and not something to get angry about. His stupidity speaks for itself (especially because he probably wouldn’t pass this test).
That’s why I enjoyed Ta-Nehisi Coates’ comment about the pointlessness of trying to “educate” someone like Naipaul:
I frequently mention that I am a product of black consciousness. One of the better lessons of my faith is that you don’t waste your time trying to win over people who do not like you. I deeply believe in black people’s right to ponder themselves and their place in the world, minus the burden of educating white racists. Likewise, I am convinced that people who construct their canon based on what is, or isn’t, swinging between the author’s legs must confront themselves.
This is what I was driving at in my comments about women’s lit being something more than a tool for convincing men to be less sexist. I’m looking to avoid a subtly demeaning subtext which holds that reading, say, Jamaica Kincaid is something you should do–like flossing or taxes or laundry. I don’t want to speak for women writers, but I recoil at the idea of someone reading my book because they really should read a black author or two. I don’t want to be an icebreaker at your corporation’s Kwanzaa gathering.
This prompted a response by a female commenter named Hilzoy who said that he’s still a writer “deeply worth reading” as he’s one of the writers she’s learned the most from and so she would “hate to have been deprived of that”. To which Coates agreed, pointing at the “the crucial importance of not becoming a shallow reactionary”. I tend to agree, especially with the way he phrased it in an older column:
Ty Cobb was both a great baseball player and a bigot. The notion that we must choose between the two, that one mitigates the other, that good people don’t do deplorable things, that deplorable people don’t do great things, emanates from our own inability to understand that bigotry is not strictly the preserve of orcs.
However, I also agree with the points made by Zunguzungu chiming in the debate:
The problem with Naipaul isn’t that there is no profit in reading him, if you read nimbly and carefully and thoughtfully. The problem is that another world is possible and inevitable, one that he has never known and which you will not know better from reading him. And there are so many writers who see so much more clearly than him — so many writers who will challenge your inheritance of passed illusions, in ways he never will — that to spend your time with him is to close your eyes to a great deal that is within your grasp.
I have read less than a book by Naipaul (A bend in the river, and didn’t finish it because of reasons that had nothing to do with the quality of the book), so I can’t say whether I find his writing really is that gorgeous, or to know if I agree with Zungungu when he says that he’s famous mainly because he “didn’t challenge the myopic blind spots of a world long been confused by the humanity of brown people”. But I do tend to avoid biographical details about authors (or filmmakers for that matter) that I enjoy. Because at the end of the day, there are too many people out there with questionable views. And many assholes with talent.
This is the cover of the May 30 issue of Time magazine, in connection with the recent scandals involving IMF chief Dominque Strauss-Kahn and former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
And this is the question asked in the article which many of us have been wondering about for a long time:
How can it be, in this ostensibly enlightened age, when men and women live and work as peers and are schooled regularly in what conduct is acceptable and what is actionable, that anyone with so little judgment, so little honor, could rise to such heights?
In attempting to find an answer to this question, Jonah Lehrer discusses what psychologists call the paradox of power. And he concludes agreeing with Foucault:
The dynamics of power can profoundly influence how we think. When we climb the ladder of status, our inner arguments get warped and our natural sympathy for others is vanquished. Instead of fretting about the effects of our actions, we just go ahead and act. We deserve what we want. And how dare they resist. Don’t they know who we are?
Este mapa de aquí abajo publicado en la revist Global Health muestra los porcentajes de mujeres entre los 15 y los 49 años en diferentes países del mundo que respondieron que en algunos casos les parece aceptable que su marido o pareja las pegue o maltrate. Esta tabla incluye algunos países más.
Nótese que los países con los porcentajes más altos de tolerancia hacia la violencia doméstica están en África (como Zambia con un 85%). España no aparece en la lista, pero desgraciadamente creo que porcentaje sigue siendo más alto de lo que nos gustaría pensar. Y lo mismo va para los Estados Unidos. Y si no que se lo pregunten a Rihanna…
Yesterday I wrote about the photography exhibit Still here, still human by Abbie Trayler-Smith on UK asylum-seekers. This reminded me of a recently released documentary that tells the story of a Malian woman and her daughter who are facing deportation in the US. The title is Mrs. Goundo’s Daughter, referring to the two-year-old girl who could be forced to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM) if she’s not granted asylum with her mother and is repatriated to Mali. Using rarely cited grounds for political asylum, Goundo must convince an immigration judge that her daughter is in danger.
Mrs. Goundo’s husband fled drought and ethnic conflict in his native Mali. Mrs. Goundo came to the United States in 1999. Together, they are raising three young children in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. To stay in the U.S., Mrs. Goundo must persuade an immigration judge that her two-year old daughter Djenebou, born in the US, will almost certainly suffer clitoral excision if Goundo is deported. In Mali, where up to 85% of women and girls are excised, Mrs. Goundo and her husband are convinced they would be powerless to protect their daughter from her well-intentioned grandparents, who believe all girls should be excised.
From the production company’s website:
Mrs Goundo’s daugher bridges Mrs. Goundo’s two worlds. In a Malian village, we see 62 girls, six months to ten years old, preparing to be excised just as their mothers, sisters, aunts and grandmothers were before them. The girls are warned they must be brave and not cry, although, as one mother tells us: “The pain is very deep. There is nothing we can do to lessen it.” We hear Malian activists fighting to end the practice, and traditionalists who defend it. We see its deep roots in the largely Islamic culture.
4,500 miles away in Philadelphia, we hear Mrs. Goundo’s friends from West Africa tell how, even though they themselves were excised, they are determined to save their daughters from the pain and the sometimes horrific health consequences of ritual cutting. Mrs. Goundo is the first of her community to seek asylum on these grounds, and in Mrs Goundo’s daughter we join her friends’ anxious vigil as they await the outcome of her asylum hearing.
You can watch the trailer of the film below, and a 6min segment here.
The film was screened at the recent Human Rights Film Festival, but I still haven’t had the chance to see it (hopefully it will come to San Francisco soon). But Dave Bennion of the Immigrant Rights blog at Change.org saw it and here’s what he had to say about it:
This is a film I recommend to anyone interested in learning about asylum law or the practice of FGM (or female genital cutting). At the end of the film, the filmmakers were asked what the audience could do to get involved with this issue, and they recommended supporting the work of Tostan, an NGO based in Senegal that works with local organizations throughout Africa to halt the practice of FGM. I would also say you could support local or national immigrant rights organizations who represent asylum-seekers on a daily basis (ACLU, NILC, AILF, and any number of local organizations).
Read his full review here.