“The IFAB agreed to unanimously approve – temporarily during a trial period – the wearing of headscarves. The design, colour and material permitted will be defined and confirmed following the IFAB Annual Business Meeting in Glasgow in October.”
As the article in Nouvelles / News notes, the issue was brought to FIFA by other men to keep women veiled on the pitch even though this goes against FIFA regulations that equipment should be free of political, religious or personal elements. For the women, it was a lose-lose situation: veil or censorship. As Isabelle Germain notes, so much for the universal values of sports and women’s rights. This introduces a form of inequality between female players and it puts Muslim players who wouldn’t otherwise wear the veil in a precarious position. It also implicitly endorses a sexist religious symbols that stigmatizes women’s bodies.
And on this subject, I disagree with Laurent Dubois (who is otherwise one of my favorites sports social scientists… y’all should subscribe to his blog) especially on the example he chose to illustrate the point that the hijab should be ok on the pitch. The situation of a player in Quebec or Canada is not the same that of Asian or Middle Eastern players who may face real threats on the issue of the veil. Dubois also criticizes the French Football Federation for jumping in after the FIFA decision and indicating that, in the name of secularism, veils would not be allowed in competitions held on French soil (which goes along with the whole veil policy in France, which, for the record, I supported).
Of course, I am divided on this. I want as many female football players as possible, from all over the world. Women in sport is good for women and girls, and it is good for society. And I understand very well that, for women in certain parts of the world, no veil means no game. And this is what happens at the convergence of multiple patriarchal institutions where, in the end, older men get to decide on what women can do with their bodies. The result will always be bad for women.
Also, please, can I be spared the “what if women choose to be veiled?” argument? That does not change the inherent meaning of the veil. Why do you think that Jordan Prince wants women veiled? To support their choice to be so? Not really. This decision is NOT about women’s choices (which is why I think Dubois’s example is not good here), it is about caving in by one patriarchal group to the demand of another patriarchal group and individual.
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?
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.”“
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.
The truth is an irrelevance here; women do not plead for special treatment, begging to enter the workplace so they can buy pretty things. It is established wisdom that working women benefit the economy, their families and themselves. Just last week it emerged that depression is more widespread in non-working women and, in the long-hours macho working culture that thrills business because it enables men’s psychological dominance, what is the cost to them? Even the prime minister acknowledges the benefit of working women as he legislates to make them unemployed, in that strange childish way he has of wishing for something with one hand, and demolishing it with the other, which brings to mind the rage of Shulman’s tiny son: “If we fail to unlock the potential of women in the labour market,” he said, “we’re not only failing those individuals, we’re failing our whole economy.” He said it and forgot it because the budget came – £10bn more in cuts.
So, some facts that won’t make it into Vogue, with or without topless actresses and birds: this is a perfect storm of growing inequality. Last month, there were 1.13 million unemployed women in Britain, a 19.1% increase since 2009, and the highest figure for 25 years. (In the same period, male unemployment has risen by a mere 0.32%). According to data collected by the Fawcett Society, in the last quarter 81% of those losing their jobs were women; in some local councils 100% of those fired were female and, as ever, the poorest are hit most: black and minority ethnic women and those in the north-east are the first to go, and in the greatest numbers.
Many women are leaving work due to the cuts in child tax credit and child benefit. Unable to pay for childcare, they cannot afford to work, which is senseless and destructive, and will keep alive the dogma that women should not work into the next generation and beyond. A survey conducted by the charity Working Mums last year found that 24% of mothers have left employment and 16% have reduced their hours to care for their children; this is regressive, poverty in poverty, depression into depression.
These cuts should be overturned, but how to pay? With the 50% tax rate a historical anomaly, who knows or cares? A strategy for women’s employment is necessary, encompassing women’s security in the workplace, decent provision of childcare and the scandal of occupational and gender segregation, which, together, bring forth the pay gap.
The private sector will boom, says the government, and employ (some of) these women, although it doesn’t have the nerve to promise more. Well, maybe. Was it Emma Harrison, the jobs tsar (now tarnished), who said: “There are always jobs” – adding, as is customary, the scent of blame to the welfare claimant? If they are lucky, women can look forward to their time in the private sector, with its disgraceful full-time pay gap of 20.4%, its inflexible working hours and, of course, its smiling walls of Alexandra Shulmans, telling them “it’s hard”. Down at the TUC last week, all was misery; we are walking, too swiftly, into the past.”
It is funny how forms of inequalities are usually ignored when they put women at a disadvantage and maintain patriarchal privilege (like the wage gap or the greater impact of economic recessions on women and are attributed to something other than patriarchal structures (like women’s individual choices). But when a situation benefit women (like the larger number of women college graduates), then, it is a crisis and we must do something about it (implicitly, to restore male supremacy… you can find the many garbage books on the subject of how schools have become feminized institutions, what with all the “political correctness” that prevents men from being men). Conversely, look at how much traction the concept of “mancession” got despite being a mirage.
So, the Kony 2012 campaign is trending like nothing else. The campaign has been roundly and thoroughly and rightfully critiqued in various places, so, I have nothing to add to yet another example of “white people save Africans from their own savagery” film and campaign with a touch of cyber-utopianism so dumb I initially thought the beginning of the 30 minute video was an ad.
Thanks for hijacking International Women’s Day, guys, whether through your filling up our Facebook and Twitter timelines or because a lot of people had to take time out to explain why your campaign is questionable.
And I am not the only one who is cranky on International Women’s Day, so is Marie Duru-Bellat, about all the little forms of androcentrism as micro-power and how these penetrate into women’s conscience at all times.
On a more macro side of things, let’s not forget this:
“The ‘feminisation of poverty’ is now an undeniable reality. Worldwide↑, women are more likely to be poor, employed in precarious, low-paid labour, and less likely to have access to land, credit and education. Not only do they suffer disproportionately from the effects of poverty itself and the human rights denials that accrue↑from it, but also from the increasingly heavy-handed way in which poverty is governed across the world. Being female and poor subjects you to unique forms of stigma and control, as well as forcing you to bear the brunt of supposedly gender-neutral policies.
The gender-specific and demeaning measures of control and containment that are applied to women overwhelmingly focus on their bodies and reproductive capacity. In many countries↑in the world, including most of Latin America, Africa and the Middle East abortion remains illegal except in very proscribed circumstances. Prohibition does not deter women from seeking abortions, but forces them submit to more unsafe abortions, putting their health, fertility or even life at risk. Planned Parenthood estimate↑that 19 million women and girls worldwide resort to unsafe abortions every year; 70,000 of them will die as a result, more than 96% of them from the world’s poorest countries (in many of which abortion is illegal). For example, in Argentina, each year↑, between 460,000 and 600,000 women have an illegal abortion; abortion complications are the main cause↑of maternal death, with an estimated↑400 deaths each year. Clearly, it is poor women, without any hope of access to a private doctor or international travel who are most exposed↑to these risks. Thus such policies, targeted to control female reproductive capacity (as if men were not involved), promote a selective penalisation of the poorest women.
To be female and poor in itself attracts a unique stigma. The 1980s saw the remarkable rise of the ‘welfare queen’↑as popular bogey (wo)man of choice in the USA. This was fuelled by Reagan↑’s ideological crusade against an ‘excessive’ ‘soft’ welfare system and driven by racist and sexist↑stereotypes of ‘lazy’ African-American women, often single mothers. Indeed, the single mother is a recurring motif in the rhetoric surrounding welfare and benefits across the Western world. The idea that single women ‘churn out’ babies in order to generate more income or obtain free housing is commonplace in the UK↑and was a core part of the vivid American ‘welfare queen’ stereotype. Attacks on the integrity of single mothers are common; they are portrayed as less capable parents - despite evidence↑to the contrary - and are improbably blamed for a host of social ills, including, predictably, the riots↑that took place in the UK in the summer of 2011. The prevalent stigma borne by poor females in many societies is viscerally illustrated by British newspaper columnist James Delingpole who described several of the “great scourges” of contemporary Britain: “aggressive all-female gangs of embittered, hormonal, drunken teenagers; gym-slip mums who choose to get pregnant as a career option; pasty-faced, lard-gutted slappers who’ll drop their knickers in the blink of an eye” (The Times newspaper, April 13, 2006 ). Disturbingly, the stigma of female poverty and single motherhood has become embedded in public policy↑in many different countries: women are all too often the ‘accidental’ victims of supposedly gender neutral measures, such as budget cuts and welfare reform.”
And then, there is Turkish sociologist Pinar Selek, living in exile in France, wrongfully accused of terrorism, three times acquitted by Turkish courts, verdicts that always get appealed by the prosecutor who want life imprisonment for her (even though the supposed terrorist attack of which she is accused was shown to have been an accident). This is political, of course: her work focuses on the underdogs: homeless people, street children, LGBTs, Kurdish minorities and antimilitarism. The police wanted her to give them her sources and she refused, even after torture. So, she has already spent two and half years in prison. Sociology is a combat sport indeed.
And one more reason to be cranky, this should be trending, not Kony 2012. I just watched it on HBO and it is short but very powerful.
This should be going viral.
I hope this one goes to DVD quickly so I can put my hands on a copy to show my students.
So, the second half of Season two is now on the way and it is getting from bad to worse in the misogyny department. Everything I wrote in my previous post on the subject still holds and I would not retract anything. And last Sunday’s episode was especially awful in that respect.
The earlier post is reproduced below.
The latest episode - 18 Miles Out - was neatly gender segregated with two highly gendered storylines. In the first one, Rick reasserts his alpha male status against Shane. Apparently, Jon Bernthal has such an infinite range of submissive postures, I expected him to roll on his back and expose his belly at some point while Rick was browbeating him. Said browbeating was only interrupted by a bunch of walkers. Then Rick saves Shane and Shane accepts his lower status in the wolf pack the group.
The other storyline consists in Lori reasserting her alpha female status against Andrea. At this point in the series, Lori is pregnant with no choice thanks to the fact that Glenn betrayed her trust, affirming his loyalty to the men of the group. In this episode, she browbeats Andrea for not properly fulfilling her gender role. Andrea has been taking shifts guarding the farm, something the men usually do, because it involves handling guns and rifles, which, as we all know, women can’t do (and as Andrea has already proven). Lori lectures Andrea, telling her that she is not needed in these shifts. The men can handle it. She should be doing women stuff: washing, cleaning, keeping things together, you know, the whole homemaking and nurturing thing.
The other reason that Lori is complaining to Andrea is that Andrea thinks women and girls should have choices whereas Lori thinks they should not. Young Beth has decided that, after the barn slaughter, she does not want to live. A rational position to have in this context. Andrea thinks it should be her choice. Lori does not think so and berates Andrea for even suggesting otherwise. Andrea then makes that choice available to Beth. Beth does not kill herself. The other women yell at Andrea.
I swear, why don’t they get Tony Perkins and Michelle Bachmann to play Rick and Lori.
Why do I keep on harping about this. Well, (1) those amounts of rank sexism and misogyny are just vile, and (2) this is a show that could / should be great and it sucks instead because of terrible writing and character development.
Seriously, people, I really wanted to like this series. I like horror stuff, I like zombies and end of the world kinda themes. It’s like this series was made for me… except it is a gigantic pile of sexism and misogyny so far. I have watched all the episodes so far and let me share with you what I learned.
1. Bitches are bitchy
They are. I learned that in the very first scene, after the intro, where the two main cop dudes share their mutual doodly pain inflicted upon them by women. Rick, the future alpha male of the series, knows his marriage is collapsing and the bitch is SO cruel.
And you know why bitches are bitchy? Because, as Glenn helpfully explains to us, they have their periods. And he read somewhere that when many women get together for a long time, their cycles get in synch and they all get crazy at the same time. Because there can’t possibly be any other reason why he, lil’ virgin, no-date, Glenn can’t figure them out.
2. A collapsed world is a world where men can, finally, be men again
This is a trope I have discussed multiple times already. I was hoping this series would be different but no. In The Walking Dead, as with many collapsed world movies and series, once institutions that push men down, to the benefit of women and minorities (like education, workplace that equalize relationships), men can reclaim their “natural” leadership positions and women have to accept this leadership for their own good. The main group we follow is initially led by Shane. Once Rick finds them, he becomes the alpha male (which leads to conflicts of masculinities as the two of them compete for who gets to be the most hegemonically masculine). Of course, such leadership can only be exercises by white men (so, sorry T-Dog… because all black men have funny names like that, and sorry Glenn… or “Asian boy” as another hegemonic white male - Hershel - calls him).
And so, it is back to a natural order of things: men carry the big guns, stand guard and protect the groups while women wash clothes and cook.
BUT, there is such a thing as bad masculinity in The Walking Dead, and it is illustrated by white supremacists Daryl and Merrill and especially Ed Peletier, all of them get their comeuppance. All of them pushed hegemonic masculinity too far, through domestic violence and racism. So, when Merrill beats up on African-American T-Dog and forces Glenn (Asian American kid) and two women to submit to his authority, Rick shows up puts him back in his place and puts himself in leadership position.
3. Uppity women need to know their place
Look women are good at washing clothes but you always get one that gets all uppity. Take Andrea, for instance, college-educated Andrea (but that college education is now worth nothing, of course, as only masculine skills are useful… except cooking and washing clothes), who, after the death of her beloved younger sister, wants to learn to use a gun and to the protecting thing. Well, she cannot be allowed to even have a gun, as Dale makes a point in enforcing. But the bitch does not know her place. She gets a shotgun, uses it, and, of course, makes a terrible mistake (almost killing Daryl).
If only she had waited for one of the men to teach her, then she would have realized how great she would be once she accepted her subservience to more competent men.
4. Women’s ideas are irrelevant
Watch as almost every time a woman makes a suggestion, it is swiftly discarded. Lori does not like the idea of young Carl starting to use a gun. After all, if the men are so reluctant to let grown women use a gun, surely, they would not want a child using them either, right. WRONG! Carl is a boy, he can be taught to use guns, learning to respect the weapon. Which is opposite to Andrea who gets good with guns once she stops being emotional (cuz that’s how bitches are). So, Lori relents and later comes to see that the men were right, as they always are.
Not only are women’s ideas irrelevant, but their ideas about their lives also are. Take Andrea, for instance. After her sister’s death, she is quite despondent (which is, you know, normal). So, when the group gets to the CDC and the doctor them offers a painless suicide as opposed to a permanent race against time and walkers and ultimately a very possible painful death or becoming walkers, Andrea, decides to accept that. So does Jaqui, but she’s black, so, she does not count.
So, Dale takes it upon himself to convince Andrea to not kill herself and blackmails her into helping him get out. Jaqui, though, he is not interested in. So, her character dies in the explosion of the CDC. So long, black lady, we hardly knew you. Dale, incidentally, takes it upon himself to try to control everything about Andrea, treating her like a teenager in need of guidance and surveillance (and chastising Dale for their quickie in the woods because he’s also in charge of Andrea’s sexual life, apparently), but all in the name of caring about her.
5. Women’s trust is irrelevant
Once at Hershel’s farm, two women confide in to Glenn. Lori needs him to get her a pregnancy test (because the slut had sex with Shane when she thought Rick was dead, and, as we all know, the punishment for sluttiness is pregnancy). And Maggie Greene needs him to keep secret the presence of her relative and friends (who have now turned into walkers) in the barn. But Glenn decides, with the helpful advice from patriarch Dale, that these women’s trust is irrelevant and men can do what they want even if it involves betraying such trust.
5. Patriarchs make all the decisions, otherwise, bad things happen
It is in the order of things for alpha males and patriarchs to make all the decisions. If other group members accept it and let it happen, then, everything is fine. It is when some of them get it into their heads to do what they want that bad things happen. Which is why, throughout season 2 (so far), Rick (the alpha male of the transient group) spends quite a bit of time in negotiations with Hershel (the Bible-reading patriarch who is in absolute charge of his flock and has especially a bee in his bonnet about his stepdaughter getting it on with the “Asian boy”). All the important decisions are made between these two.
And the terrible ending of the last episode is because the other group members decide to override the decision progressively being worked out between hegemonic males and do what they want. Slaughter ensues, leaving it up to Rick to make the hard decision, because that is hegemonic man’s burden. And FSM knows that Andrew Lincoln’s (over)acting never lets you forget what a BIG and painful responsibility it is to be in charge. It’s lonely, at the top of the patriarchy.
And then, there’s Lori’s pregnancy. Sure she gets the morning after pill. And someone needs to tell the writers that the morning after pill is NOT an abortion, which is why it is so stupid when Rick, upon finding the pill box, yells at her “you’ve known for days, weeks??” Geez, If she had known for weeks, the morning after pill would have been useless, wouldn’t it. But this is the US, so, of course, Lori will go through the pregnancy. And you can bet that she will be lectured by one man after another regarding what she should and shouldn’t do. Heck, she has already been lectured by Glenn who was still a virgin until a couple of episodes ago.
I can’t wait for the rest of the series. But you gotta keep a sense of humor about the absurdity of certain scenes:
And in Kashmir, girls are just things to stick their penises in (if they can) along with domestic servitude:
“Sakina, 22, was a teenager when she was sold by her family for 1,200 rupees (£15) to a stranger over the age of 60. Her sister, who organised the deal, had duped Sakina by presenting a “young good-looking” chap before the marriage ceremony. She was shocked at seeing the elderly man on the wedding night. Rendered helpless by youth and poverty, there was no escape for the bride. “Nobody helped me,” she said.
Uprooted from her home in Kolkata, Sakina was sent to live far away in Pakharpora, a small village in the Budgam district of the Kashmir valley. The journey 1,200 miles from east to north meant getting used to an entirely different culture and climate.
Time has passed but Sakina cannot reconcile herself to a husband who fails to emotionally or sexually satisfy her. “For the last two years he has become totally impotent,” she said.
The young woman still dreams of marrying someone she loves. But the fear of being torn apart from her two children prevents her from leaving.
There are more stories like Sakina’s in Pakharpora and the surrounding villages nestled in the Himalayas. Muslim girls have been given away by their families to Kashmiri men for amounts ranging from 500 to 20,000 rupees. These girls, who are barely educated, belong to poor families from different parts of the country. “I have heard heartbreaking tales and this practice should be stopped,” said Lubna Khan, a female doctor who makes a weekly visit to the rural outback, which is seldom visited by outsiders.
“What is wrong with these old men?” asked Khan, the sole confidante to many of the sold brides in the area. Local activists say the selling of brides became prevalent in rural areas during the past decade. They attribute it to the rise in poverty due to the 20-year conflict between the Indian army and the militants, who want Kashmir to be independent.”
Of course, widows are used goods, so, who wants them anyway. They can just die alone and poor.
And in Afghanistan (where we, Westerners supposedly liberated women from the patriarchal Taliban):
“Shakila, 8 at the time, was drifting off to sleep when a group of men carrying AK-47s barged in through the door. She recalls them complaining, as they dragged her off into the darkness, about how their family had been dishonored and about how they had not been paid.
It turns out that Shakila, who was abducted along with her cousin as part of a traditional Afghan form of justice known as “baad,” was the payment.
Although baad (also known as baadi) is illegal under Afghan and, most religious scholars say, Islamic law, the taking of girls as payment for misdeeds committed by their elders still appears to be flourishing. Shakila, because one of her uncles had run away with the wife of a district strongman, was taken and held for about a year. It was the district leader, furious at the dishonor that had been done to him, who sent his men to abduct her.
Shakila’s case is unusual both because she managed to escape and because she and her family agreed to share their plight with an outsider. The girl’s father’s reaction to the abduction also illustrates the difficulty in trying to change such a deeply rooted cultural practice: He expressed fury that she was abducted because, he said, he had already promised her in marriage to someone else.
The strength of the traditional justice system and the continuing use of baad is a sign both of Afghans’ lack of faith in the government’s justice system, which they say is corrupt, and their extreme sense of insecurity. Baad is most common in areas where it is dangerous for people to seek out government institutions. Instead of turning to the courts, they go to jirgas, assemblies of tribal elders, that use tribal law, which allows the exchange of women.
”There are two reasons people refuse the courts — first, the corrupt administration which openly demands money for every single case, and second, instability,” said Haji Mohammed Nader Khan, an elder from Helmand who often participates in judging cases that involve baad. “Also, in places where there are Taliban, they won’t allow people to go to courts and solve their problems.””
Such a progressive father.
“During her de facto imprisonment, Shakila and her cousin were allowed out of their dark room after three months and then only so that they could haul firewood from the mountains and lug pails of water from the river. For the entire year or so that they were kept, neither girl was given a fresh set of clothes. For the first six months they were not even allowed to wash the ones they arrived in, making them into dirty-looking urchins who were that much easier for the family to hate. They were fed bread and water every other day.
”They tortured us in a way that no human being would treat another,” Shakila said.
She spoke softly and hid her face when a reporter asked her about the white scars on her forehead. “When they threw me against the stone wall,” she said.”
Sociologist Anthony Giddens reminds us of one central fact: “all traditions are invented traditions. No traditional societies were wholly traditional, and traditions and customs have been invented for a diversity of reasons. (…) Moreover, traditions always incorporate power, whether they are constructed in a deliberate way or not. Kings, emperors and priests and others have long invented traditions to suit themselves and legitimize their rule.” In other words, when people invoke traditions, they imply certain things that are significant from a sociological point of view:
they refer to ideas and practices that apply to groups and collectivities. Traditions are always collective concepts;
they mean to strengthen power arrangements they feel are threatened by modernity;
they invoke tradition to defend practices that are questionable but that they do not want questioned.
This is why invoking traditions is at the heart of conservative thinking even though they refer to “ways we never were”, to paraphrase the title of Stephanie Coontz’s brilliant book on this subject in relation to family structures. In this context, it is not surprising that traditions are always marshaled in defense of patriarchal rule and social structures.
As Giddens indicates, traditions have guardians who are supposed to be the only ones able to interpret the truths perpetuated by traditions. Such guardians can be clerics interpreting sacred texts for their followers or self-appointed “experts” on the family in the United States, for instance. Consistently, such guardians of tradition oppose the ultimate modern and cosmopolitan value of autonomy and individual freedom. Religious fundamentalism, which we examine below, is “beleaguered tradition” as Giddens puts it.
In other words, what the elders above are doing is no different than what the elders below are doing, and they all use the same “traditions” to sustain their power:
Elders: defending and promoting the patriarchy everywhere. It’s a hard job but someone has to do it.
See? (Not that anyone who is interested in reality and data would be surprised by this):
The policy implications should be obvious to anyone, including people who do not like abortions. But we all know this is not about abortion per se, it is about patriarchal control and denial of women autonomy. Therefore, women in poorer countries will continues to have more numerous and unsafe abortions while the antichoice crowds will continue to make access to safe abortion less and less likely in the US. None of this will reduce the number of abortions but that is never the goal.
Right here in the USA, courtesy of the forced motherhood movement and its political allies in both parties and the President:
This has been a thoroughly successful strategy: not attack Roe frontally but chip away at reproductive rights at the state level, one legislation at a time. For all intents and purposes, legal and safe abortions are made unavailable. This reflects the dominance of religious fundamentalist groups with political clout to enforce misogyny. These state measures take several forms, as the report notes:
“Bans. The most high-profile state-level abortion debate of 2011 took place in Mississippi, where voters rejected the ballot initiative that would have legally defined a human embryo as a person “from the moment of fertilization,” setting the stage to ban all abortions and, potentially, most hormonal contraceptive methods in the state. Meanwhile, five states (AL, ID, IN, KS and OK) enacted provisions to ban abortion at or beyond 20 weeks’ gestation, based on the spurious assertion that a fetus can feel pain at that point. These five states join Nebraska, which adopted a ban on abortions after 20 weeks in 2010 (see State Policies on Later Abortions). A similar limitation was vetoed by Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton (D).
Waiting Periods. Three states adopted waiting period requirements for a woman seeking an abortion. In the most egregious of the waiting-period provisions, a new South Dakota law would have required a woman to obtain pre-abortion counseling in person at the abortion facility at least 72 hours prior to the procedure; it would also have required her to visit a state-approved crisis pregnancy center during that 72-hour interval. The law was quickly enjoined in federal district court and is not in effect. A new provision in Texas requires that women who live less than 100 miles from an abortion provider obtain counseling in person at the facility at least 24 hours in advance. Finally, new provisions in North Carolina require counseling at least 24 hours prior to the procedure. With the addition of new requirements in Texas and North Carolina, 26 states mandate that a woman seeking an abortion must wait a prescribed period of time between the counseling and the procedure (see Counseling and Waiting Periods for Abortion).
Ultrasound. Five states adopted provisions mandating that a woman obtain an ultrasound prior to having an abortion. The two most stringent provisions were adopted in North Carolina and Texas and were immediately enjoined by federal district courts. Both of these restrictions would have required the provider to show and describe the image to the woman. The other three new provisions (in AZ, FL and KS), all of which are in effect, require the abortion provider to offer the woman the opportunity to view the image or listen to a verbal description of it. These new restrictions bring to six the number of states that mandate the performance of an ultrasound prior to an abortion (see Requirements for Ultrasound).
Insurance Coverage. Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Utah adopted provisions prohibiting all insurance policies in the state from covering abortion except in cases of life endangerment; they all permit individuals to purchase additional coverage at their own expense. These new restrictions bring to eight the number of states limiting abortion coverage in all private insurance plans (see Restricting Insurance Coverage of Abortion).
These four provisions also apply to coverage purchased through the insurance exchanges that will be established as part of the implementation of health care reform. Five additional states (FL, ID, IN, OH and VA) adopted requirements that apply only to coverage purchased on the exchange. The addition of these nine states brings to 16 the number of states restricting abortion coverage available through state insurance exchanges.
Clinic Regulations. Four states enacted provisions directing the state department of health to issue regulations governing facilities and physicians’ offices that provide abortion services. A new provision in Virginia requires a facility providing at least five abortions per month to meet the requirements for a hospital in the state. New requirements in Kansas, Pennsylvania and Utah direct the health agency to develop standards for abortion providers, including requirements for staffing, physical plant, equipment and emergency supplies; supporters of the measures made it clear that the goal was to set standards that would be difficult, if not impossible, for abortion providers to meet. Enforcement of the proposed Kansas regulations has been enjoined by a state court.
Medication Abortion. In 2011, states for the first time moved to limit provision of medication abortion by prohibiting the use of telemedicine. Seven states (AZ, KS, NE, ND, OK, SD and TN) adopted provisions requiring that the physician prescribing the medication be in the same room as the patient (see Medication Abortion).”
And, of course, abortion is not the issue as the same groups also target contraception, making US fundamentalists even more retrograde than their developing countries counterparts:
“The US is increasingly out of sync with developed and developing countries worldwide on these issues. Others get it: access to birth control is a linchpin in efforts to save lives. But the US continues to treat the issue as a political football. When people can choose whether or when to become pregnant, everyone benefits. Women are healthier, and their babies and children more likely to be fed, educated and healthy. The workforce is more robust; the government spends less on healthcare – study after study says so. The breadth of birth control’s benefits are matched only by the chronic magnitude of unmet need for it. Still today a staggering 215 million women around the world want, but lack, access.
Meanwhile, in October, the US house of representatives advanced a bill to cut $40m in funding from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the largest public sector provider of birth control in the world. The bill was just one part of larger efforts to undermine reproductive health, which included gutting family planning programs in the US and reinstating the “global gag rule” to punish developing countries for addressing unsafe abortion.
Although the final 2012 spending bill allocates more to global birth control than it initially threatened to, it’s still $5m shy of last year’s sum – and even that took heroic efforts to achieve. This year, the US must throw its weight behind ensuring birth control access, both at home and abroad. Other developed countries are wholeheartedly doing so. “You get it right for girls and women – you get it right for development,” said under-secretary of state Stephen O’Brien of the UK’s department for international development (DFID) recently. Last month, DFID pledged £35m in new funds to UNFPA and a day later tacked on an additional £5m for female condoms.
Women in sub-Saharan Africa and south-east Asia, where the vast majority of maternal deaths and unmet need for birth control lies, are struggling. Twin burdens of preventing or spacing pregnancies and dodging HIV risks are compounded by a chronic lack of health services and topped by taboos around sexuality. The US should be striving to do right by women worldwide by supporting their access to birth control. The Global Health Initiative, Obama’s novel effort launched in 2009, gave a modest bump to US global family planning programme, but more is needed. The US secretary of state Hillary Clinton rightly espouses the centrality of women to US foreign policy, yet on the issue of global birth control access the US remains a laggard.
By not prioritising birth control access within US borders or worldwide, the US is sending a message that contraceptive access is not important. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Developing countries – including Muslim nations – know this. In Dakar, dozens of health and finance ministers from across the African continent gathered to extol the virtues of family planning and strategise better ways of delivering it to those in need. Ambition and innovation are palpable, from Nigeria to Ethiopia. More and more developing country leaders are committed to improving women’s lives, and access to birth control is the first stop. Progress is imminent, especially in Africa.
Yet it would be much more so if the US were to fall into line. Other countries, wealthy, poor, and in-between, seem to have got the message: access to birth control is essential for health, rights and economic development. Millions around the world and in the US need access to a range of birth control options and the freedom to choose their reproductive futures. Addressing this should be on the top of the US’s new year’s resolutions.”
This tells you all you need to know about the so-called “pro-life” movement. It is simply a misogynistic and patriarchal movement whose goal it is to control women’s bodies and lives. Period.
you thought I didn’t really notice. But I did. I wanted to high-five you.
Yesterday I had a pair of brothers in my store. One was maybe between 15-17. He was a wrestler at the local high school. Kind of tall, stocky and handsome. He had a younger brother, who was maybe about…
“A 15-year-old Afghan girl who was nearly tortured to death by her husband and his family attempted to escape her attackers more than four months ago but was sent back home by local authorities, it has emerged.
Sahar Gul, a child-bride married off to a soldier called Gulam Sakhi who then tried to force her into prostitution, is being treated for horrific injuries in a hospital in Kabul after she was rescued last week.
During her ordeal several of her fingernails were ripped out with pliers and one of her ears was badly burned by an iron. Her husband is now on the run, and her mother-in-law and sister-in-law have been arrested.
Her case has caused uproar in Afghanistan and Hamid Karzai, the country’s president, has vowed that those responsible will be punished.
But disturbing new details about how the local community and authorities responded to her abuse has highlighted the ambivalence many Afghans have over how far women should be able to exercise the most basic legal rights.
“She ran away to her neighbour’s house and told them that her husband was trying to make her become a prostitute,” said local community leader Ziaulhaq. ” ‘If you are a Muslim, you must tell the government what is happening to me,’ she told them.”
The locals said they did take the case to the authorities. When the police arrived Sahar’s mother-in-law tried to fight them off, screaming all the while that her son had “bought” the girl who therefore had to do what she was told.
She appeared to be alluding to the dowry paid by Sakhi’s family, a sum thought to be around £2,700.
Locals say the family simply promised to stop hurting her. Ziaulhaq also alleged that bribes were paid to government officials to hush up the affair.
Although she emphatically denied money was paid, Rahima Zarifi, the women’s affairs chief in Baghlan province, said she could not remember the details of the case, or why Gul was sent back home.
The abuse resumed and continued for months until a male relative visited. When he found the girl, who had been starved in a locked basement for weeks, Gul was almost unable to speak.
Fauzia Kufi, an MP who campaigns on women’s issues, said that even then local authorities attempted to resolve the abuse through “traditional means. Basically they wanted the relative to sit down with his sister’s abusers and work out an agreement,” she said.”
This is why the idea of the big bad “globalization from above” meme often implies some fetishism of the local, the idea that people know better when it comes to their local conditions, that global rule, global corporations, “world government”, etc. always impose unjustified power. But as I have shown many times over, the fetishism of the local often conveniently forgets that national laws were often passed to fight local tyranny, often based on racial / ethnic or patriarchal rule that oppress a local minority and give it a legal standing. This is especially true for women and girls in extreme patriarchal and religious local settings:
While I was spending the holidays in France, I had the opportunity to go see this blockbuster on the left. Intouchables has been a tremendous success in France. It is largely a feel-good movie. Philippe (the character played by François Cluzet) is a very wealthy, quadriplegic man who hires Drisse (Omar Sy), from the projects, to be his caretaker. The setup involves some very obvious “clash of the classes” where Drisse gets exposed to, and consistently derides, the high culture Philippe enjoys (from contemporary painting, to classical opera and music).
But ultimately, Drisse’s low class no-nonsense, no-pity attitude grows on Philippe (and the audience) as he treats Philippe like a human being, and not a near-vegetable. Ultimately, the friendship between the men transcends class differences and improves them both. Like I said, a feel-good movie. One can see why audiences would enjoy it. The dialogues are sharp, there is quite a bit of humor in-between a few clichés. But it is a bit à l’eau de rose, as we say in France. And any movie that has Earth, Wind and Fire’s September as its opening soundtrack has won me over right off the bat. Seriously, there is no better song.
It is a theme one has seen many times over: individualization can destroy class differences as people from different background get to know each other individually. That, in itself, is a cliché and the critiques have indeed pounced a bit on the unrealistic nature of the main plot (see here, here, and here, for instance). Most critiques have focused on the “it’s not that easy” aspect of transcending class relations.
However, there is one aspect of the film, that is central to me, and that all the critiques I have read failed to mention: the film is a promotion of hegemonic masculinity. Of course, several critiques have mentioned the casual machismo of Drisse as he flirts more or less seriously with women around him. But the central theme of the film is how Drisse, the hegemonic male, helps Philippe (whose masculinity is gone, nor just because of impotence but because of his paralysis and complete dependency on women and non-hegemonic men - the parade of hesitant, barely competent home health care assistants is both funny and rather obvious) reclaim his masculinity (the movie ends with Philippe finally meeting face to face the woman with whom he has corresponded through letters and phone calls, hiding his condition).
Everything about Drisse is exposing what a “real man” is and does. Drisse bullies his way into Philippe’s office not to interview for the job but get his unemployment benefits, pushing the “real” candidate aside. On the first day on the job, he frets about having to dress Philippe and putting stockings on him (for blood circulation). He very clumsily flirts with the attractive assistant (who turns out to be a lesbian, “bye dudes” - yells Drisse - as he leaves the job, to the assistant and her partner) and we now all understand why she resisted his advances. He makes fun of the unspoken attraction between the other main assistant (who is older, so, he does not flirt with her) and the gardener (another dominated male who has longed for the Yvonne for a long time, in silence).
Rather than pick the minivan equipped for the wheelchair, he picks the Maserati. When he can’t get it out of the driveway because the neighbor always parks his car in front of the entrance, despite “no parking” signs, he drags the offender out of his car and bangs his head against the sign. He roughly does the same with the ex-boyfriend of Philippe’s daughter. In other words, Drisse, by proxy, rebuilds Philippe masculinity by brutalizing other men and boys. He even asks Philippe permission to slap his daughter around a bit (she’s a spoiled brat) because he is Philippe’s arms and legs, after all. Philippe refuses but does give his daughter a tongue-lashing, reclaiming his parental authority. It certainly helps that Drisse is physically more impressive than all the other men in the film and he unashamedly throws his physicality around. He becomes the body that Philippe no longer has.
And, of course, Drisse allows Philippe to get some sexual satisfaction by hiring prostitutes that trigger Philippe’s remaining erogenous points (his ears, while Drisse gets it the usual way). The only reversal of the relationship between Philippe and Drisse occurs in two occasions: the flight in a private jet, and the parasailing. In both occasions, Drisse is reduced to a passive position which makes him insecure (in the plane, he can do nothing about the turbulence, and during the parasailing, he has to leave it all to the instructor who controls the whole thing). But for everything else, Drisse pushes his hegemonic masculinity through Philippe’s (highly feminized) household. He consistently bullies non-hegemonic males. And it is precisely this hegemonic masculinity that Philippe misses when Drisse has to go to resolve a family situation.
So, this is an aspect of the film that most critiques seem to have missed as, again, it is central to the film. Is it because most critique are men or because gender analysis still has a long way to go in France? Probably both.
"While woman’s intellect is confined, her morals crushed, her health ruined, her weaknesses encouraged, and her strength punished, she is told that her lot is cast in the paradise of women: and there is no country in the world where there is so much boasting of the “chivalrous” treatment she enjoys. That is to say, — she has the best place in stage-coaches: when there are not chairs enough for everybody, the gentlemen stand: she hears oratorical flourishes on public occasions about wives and home, and apostrophes to woman: her husband’s hair stands on end at the idea of her working, and he toils to indulge her with money […] her morals are guarded by the strictest observance of propriety in her presence. In short, indulgence is given her as a substitute for justice."
- Harriet Martineau, Society in America, 1837 (via braided)