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Archive for the ‘women's rights’ Category

Mary Richards and Newsroom Sexism

In media, women's rights on May 12, 2010 at 11:07 pm
When Mary Richards asked Lou Grant if she didn’t get a promotion because she was a woman, Lou Grant unapologetically replied “Yes.” The 1970s show poked fun at the very serious subject of sexism in the newsroom. But more than 30 years later, a still gender-biased media is no laughing matter.

To be sure, women have made major strides in the predominately male field. But 20 minutes spent watching the evening news and one begins to wonder if mainstream media still operates under the “good-old boys club” pretense.

From FOX to CNN, women are either portrayed as sexy bimbos or serious bitches. Take, for example, FOX News. The network boast an impressive list of female co-anchors and guest commentators — most of which are beautiful and blonde. Apparently, everything, from these women’s skirt-lengths to their hair lengths, makes them unmarketable as hosts.

Of course, there are a few female hosts such as Greta Van Susteren and Rachel Maddow who command their own shows. But notice how these women are marketed: Short hair, masculine attire and zero sex appeal. The message is clear: To be taken seriously, a woman must become a man.

According to the Women’s Media Center, women hold only 3 percent of clout positions in the mainstream media.

In the words of feminist founding mother Gloria Steinem, “Any woman who chooses to behave like a full human being should be warned that the armies of the status quo will treat her as something of a dirty joke.”

Iran’s fearless female revolution

In protest, women's rights on April 26, 2010 at 3:26 am

When Americans hear the words “Iran” and “women” used the same sentence, images of long black veils and public floggings are probably what come to mind. But what western media does a poor job portraying is the quiet, but bold, feminist movement that is taking place in Iran.

For example, Americans would probably be surprised to learn automobile racing is a popular sport in Iran. They’d be even more shocked to discover one of the nation’s top competitors is a women.

Meet Iran’s Dana Kirkpatrick, Zohreh Zatankhah. Ms. Zatankhah is a nationally ranked racecar driver who has taken first in races against her male competitors. In all 40 of her last races, she has placed in the top three.

“When I started this job, the men would laugh at me, Zatankhah  said. “They aren’t laughing anymore.”

But sports isn’t the only male-dominated field Iranian women are making headway in. Tahmineh Milāni has been testing the limits of the her nation’s film industry for years. In 2001, she was arrested and jailed for her controversial film, “The Hidden Half.” Her most recent film, “Payback,” tells the story of a group of women who pose and prostitutes and then seek their vengeance on accepting men.

“A society that reduces women to mere sexual objects, would have to pay a very high price for it,”  Milāni said.

While Milāni’s and Zatankhah courage and accomplishments are more than impressive, it’s the activism of the granddaughter of the Islamic Revolutions’ leader that is most shocking. Zahra Eshraghi’s grandfather was none other than Ayatollah Khomeini. Khomeini is still revered by Iranians as the father of the 1979 Iranian revolution. His strict interpretation of Sharia law imposed on women is something his granddaughter is trying to reverse. And although she wears the traditional chador, Eshraghi has become famous for her recent campaign against requiring women to wear headscarves.

”I’m sorry to say that the chador was forced on women,” Eshraghi said of the long black garment. ”Forced — in government buildings, in the school my daughter attends. This garment that was traditional Iranian dress was turned into a symbol of revolution. People have lost their respect for it. I only wear it because of my family status.”

It’s been almost 100 years since the United States gave females the right to vote. Should American women ever grow complacent or forgetful of their revolutionary past, perhaps their sisters in Iran can offer inspiration.


Watch Iranian filmmaker Tahmineh Milāni talk about her latest controversial film, “Payback.”

Watch Matt Lauer’s report on Iranian female racecar driver, Zohreh Zatankhah.

Veils, headscarves and religious intolerance

In Individual Sovereignty, liberty and rights, women's rights on April 23, 2010 at 12:40 am

“The level of hypocrisy in this debate beggars belief – while we criticize countries who force women to put clothes on, we can force them to take them off for the sake of ‘liberation.’ ” — Intissar Kherigi

Belgium is looking to be the first European country to ban the niqab — a traditional head scarf-veil combo worn by Muslim women that covers the entire face except for the eyes. Lawmakers say the niqab hides the identity of women and creates a barrier between them and society.

Parliamentary member Daniel Bacquelaine introduced the bill. He says such a garment isn’t acceptable in a “tolerant society.”

“We cannot allow someone to claim the right to look at others without being seen,” Bacquelaine said. “It is necessary that the law forbids the wearing of clothes that totally mask and enclose an individual.”

The move toward banning traditional Muslim veils and headscarves is a trend spreading across Europe. In 2004, France cited the principle of “secularism” as reason to outlaw headscarves in its schools.

The argument that such laws are necessary is a weak one. The argument that such laws promote “secularism” and “tolerance” is downright ridiculous. How can a law promote tolerance by being intolerant of individuals’ beliefs and choices?

Forcing Muslim women to remove the niqab is like forcing orthodox Jewish men to shave their beards. Both are worn because of deep, religious convictions.

To be sure, some Muslim women have no choice and are forced to cover themselves. As a feminist woman, I could not be more opposed to the wearing of garments such as the hijab, niqab and burka. To me, they are symbols of religious and patriarchal oppression. But my convictions do not give me the right to force Muslim women, or men, to forsake theirs.

As researcher for Human Rights Watch Judith Sunderland points out, the debate about whether or not to ban the niqab is really one about individual liberty:

“It’s really fundamentally about the proper role of the state in matters relating to religion and personal autonomy.”

Lady of liberty: Allison Gibbs

In women's rights on April 20, 2010 at 2:07 am
“As free women, we demand and will exercise the right of self defense, freedom of movement and the entirety of the fruits of our labor which cannot be abridged by any man, collective or state.” — Ladies of Liberty Alliance
Meet Allison Gibbs: director of outreach for Ron Paul’s Campaign for Liberty and founder and executive director the Ladies of Liberty Alliance (LOLA). Gibbs is a microbiologist who worked on AIDS/HIV research and Antibiotic Resistance/Bioterror for the Department of Defense. Although she is a fervent libertarian now, Gibbs admits to her former “inclination toward socialism.”
It was her time spent simultaneously working for the Department of Defense and Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign that led to her conversion.
“I found that there where a lot of problems within the system of government,” Gibbs said. “I decided to drop what I was doing because of all the atrocities I saw with the FDA, DOD, things I was doing … So I decided I would jump in with Campaign for Liberty.”
Gibbs is still serving as Campaign for Liberty’s director of outreach. However, it’s her most recent venture, LOLA, that is truly revolutionary. 
“LOLA’s main mission is to be able to help women feel like they can get into these leadership roles as well as bring more women into the fold,” said Gibbs. “The underpinning of our organization is that each individual is autonomous up unto the point where they inflict force or violence against another person”
LOLA’s website reflects Gibb’s libertarian rhetoric:

“We, the women of Ladies of Liberty Alliance, recognize the natural right of all women to ownership of their property — their bodies, minds and justly acquired possessions. As free women, we demand and will exercise the right of self defense, freedom of movement and the entirety of the fruits of our labor which cannot be abridged by any man, collective or state. As such, we recognize and respect the same negative rights of others and advocate consensual rather than coercive interactions.”

It’s exciting to see such impassioned young women joining the liberty movement. Thanks to Gibbs and others like her, the revolution is gaining a distinctly feminine voice.

Feminist: Reclaiming the f-word

In women's rights on February 10, 2010 at 3:53 am

I remember my Grandpa turning to me with disbelief in his in his voice and asking:

Jess, are you a feminist?

It was as if the word feminist was some horrible, four-letter language. To this day, I still get flak from brothers, friends and boyfriends for identifying myself as a feminist — a word they associate with man-hating bra burners.

This misconception is prevalent in todays society. A recent comment made by a fellow Joplin Globe blogger is evidence of the strong, negative connotation most Americans associate with the word. Anson burlingame, commenting on Johnny Kajes post celebrating the sentencing of an abortion doctors murderer, had this to say:

Or, we could have a womens rights day when some wife kills her husband for whatever reason.

I still cannot figure out how murdering ones husband has anything to do with feminism.

However, men arent the only sex guilty of such skewed misconceptions. On the contrary, women seem to be equally convinced of the words ugliness.

The other night, as I was playing the game Apples to Apples with one of my good girlfriends, I was painfully reminded of this fact. Offering a definition for the word heartless, my friend decided to lay down her card with the word feminist inscribed on it. I was shocked.

Contrary to popular belief, feminists are not heartless, bra-burning witches bent on the destruction of the male sex. To understand what a feminist actually is, one only needs to look it up in Merriam-Webster:

Feminism: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.

There you have it. Feminism is actually humanism, concerned with the equality of both sexes. Feminists desire equal rights for women not because they are women, but because they are human. And the word feminist is not sex-specific. Men can also be feminists.

So why the persistent negativity associated with the word?

To a small extent, I blame the extreme feminist movement and those feminist who are, indeed, sexist toward men. However, it is impossible to be a true feminist while at the same time being a sexist. The two are contradictory.

But to a larger extent I blame the sexist, male-dominated culture that insist on seeing feminism and feminists as a threat. Americans need to reclaim the word feminist and restore its original intent. Until that time, women, men, atheists, Christians, granddaughters and grandfathers should proudly bear the title of feminist.

Language and sexism

In women's rights on January 27, 2010 at 2:58 am

The first day of my gender communication class, one of the male students dropped the c-word. But, to be fair, he was quoting a female musician.

Some of the students giggled while others gasped. Our teacher, however, remained cool.

“I’m glad you brought that up,” she said to the male student. “We’re going to be talking about  language and its effects on gender in this class.”

She then proceeded to divide the class into a sexist, boys vs. girls formation. Both sides were given the same list of gender-related words and told to define them as a group.

It was encouraging to see both male and female students come up with relatively similar definitions for many of the same words. However, when it came to the definitions of derogatory words such as femme, dyke and butch, the sexes differed.

The boys’ side defined the words accurately, minus the negative connotation. For example, the word dyke was defined by the males as only meaning “lesbian” while the girls took much more offense to the word.

So why the difference? Are the sexes not equally educated on gender and sexist language? Are girls, by nature, perhaps more sensitive to the feelings of others? It’s unlikely.

A more plausible explanation is that the words themselves were created by males for a male-dominated language. Sex-specific insults are almost always in reference to the fairer sex. To make an insult masculine, it’s usually necessary to add the word man, as in “man-whore.”

For this reason, It’s important for both men and women to refrain form using words such as slut and whore. Not only are the words cruel and derogatory, they are rooted in an archaic sexist mindset.

A mindset we would all be better off without.

Newsweek cover exposes Palin’s legs, media sexism

In media, politics, women's rights on November 17, 2009 at 10:59 pm

I’m not a big fan of Sarah Palin — in fact, I’m not a fan at all. Palin, like Bush before her, is a neo-con, hell bent on spreading democracy by military might while at the same time ridding the world of evildoers. The fact that Palin is a neo-con is no secret. She’s openly declared support for the Bush Doctrine and has suggested a national “Loyalty Day” to reaffirm loyalty to America. She is a big-government, neo-con nationalist, make no mistake.

However, there was one issue I did often agree with Sarah Palin on: Her unfair treatment as a female politician by the media. Let’s face it, during the 2008 presidential race the media was more concerned about Palin’s measurements than it was with her male counterparts’ voting records. Being an attractive female hindered Palin. I’m sure it was difficult for voting males to focus on her message while staring at her (insert body part).

Of course, the sexist treatment wasn’t limited to the GOP. On the flipside, Hillary Clinton was made fun of for what was considered her unattractive figure. Her hips were the butt of many jokes accompanied by her pantsuits. And who could forget the hilarious Hillary “Nut Cracker” doll. Funny perhaps, but insulting. Evidently, a strong woman is an oddity and something to be made a spectacle of.

If little girls across America learned one thing from the 2008 race, it was that they can either be the attractive bimbo or the not-so-attractive other b-word.

But unlike these women’s campaigns, the sexism hasn’t ended with the election of President Barack Obama. His wife, Michelle Obama, shocked the world by donning a sleeveless dress and exposing her arms in her first official photo as first lady — proving that sexism exceeds both ideological and racial boundaries.

The most recent example of media sexism is this week’s cover of Newsweek which shows Palin in a pair of short-ish black shorts and fitted red jacket standing next to an American flag. At first glance, it’s not clear exactly what Palin is wearing or why she is wearing it. Perhaps if Newsweek wouldn’t have cut off her running shoes, it would have been more clear Palin was dressed as a runner.

The photos were originally shot for the magazine Runner’s World. In context, the photos were tasteful and made sense. The majority of pictures showed Palin in less-attractive attire, posing with her son and stroller.

But of course, Newsweek chose the one photo where Palin donned shorter shorts, hair down, legs exposed. And when accompanied with the headline, “How do you solve a problem like Sarah? She’s bad news for the GOP – and for everybody else too” the cover’s intent becomes clear: disrespect. Newsweek’s merger of patronization and female sexuality is nothing new.

In defense of the Newsweek cover, editor Jon Meacham explained the magazine’s choice:

“We chose the most interesting image available to us to illustrate the theme of the cover, which is what we always try to do,” he told CNN Tuesday. “We apply the same test to photographs of any public figure, male or female: does the image convey what we are saying? That is a gender-neutral standard.”

My question for Meacham is this:

“What exactly were you trying to convey and how did short shorts and legs help you convey that message?”

Ladies of liberty increasing in numbers

In liberty and rights, protest, women's rights on November 10, 2009 at 2:24 am

Ultimately, the most feminist thing that can ever be, is a truly independent women. Free mind, free body free spirited.Angela Keaton,

The Republicans have Sarah Palin and the Democrats have Hillary Clinton. But within the liberty movement, a much younger, brighter feminism is growing.

These young women are not content to simply support Ron Paul or follow the lead of their male counterparts. They are grabbing the reigns and directing the pro-freedom spirit spreading throughout their country. They are organizing, educating and protesting all for the sake of liberty.

The Ladies of Liberty Alliance, otherwise known as LOLA, is one such organization. According to its Web site, LOLA’s goal is to “build a community of liberty-minded women who are empowered to achieve their individual goals in the fight for freedom.”

However, LOLA is not a politically driven organization as mush as it is an educational and philosophical one:

“The opportunity to influence the leaders of today and tomorrow is ours. We intend to take it. Note that our goal is not to create ‘politicians.’ We have no desire to lead men in chains or to empower others to do so. The force of reason and an appeal to morality is what we seek to bolster. And we will.”

The majority of LOLA’s 400 plus members appear to be young, educated feminists (men are also allowed to join). Many of them are entrepreneurs with pro-liberty organizations/businesses of their own.

One such example is member Catherine Bleish. Bleish is the co-founder and executive director for the Missouri-based Liberty Restoration Project — an organization whose main focus has been fighting the Federal Reserve system. Bleish was also the Kansas City area grassroots leader for the 2008 Ron Paul presidential campaign and the communications director for the Revolution March.

Another prominent member is creator of ByteStyle TV Shelly Roche. Roche has been a guest on both FOX News “Freedom Watch” and on Russia Today. ByteStyle TV was originally intended to be a podcast but Bleish has grown it into a multimedia blog, covering everything from politics to food issues.

Another semi-famous lady of liberty is the singer/songwriter Aimee Allen. Allen’s dance song “Cooties” contributed to the soundtrack of the 2007 film Hair Spray and her single “Revolution” appeared in the soundtrack of the film Storm and was the theme for the WB Television Network series Birds of Prey.

Allen is perhaps most well known for writing the “The Ron Paul Revolution Theme Song” otherwise known as the “Ron Paul anthem.” On Sept. 2, 2008, she performed the song in front of a 12,000-plus crowd at Ron Paul’s sold-out Rally for the Republic in Minneapolis.

The above are just a few examples of how the other half is taking over the liberty movement. OK, so maybe women aren’t “taking over” the liberty movement, but their numbers are definitely growing.

As is the case all across the political spectrum, women tend to be underrepresented among the pro-libertarians. According to Bonnie Kristian with the Leadership Institute, the ratio of men to women in the liberty movement is about 25 to 1, “and that’s on a good day.”

It’s exciting to see organizations like LOLA altering that ratio. My dream is not  for women to take control of the movement but to work side by side with men in advancing its cause.

Gardisal vaccine not so safe?

In health, women's rights on October 12, 2009 at 11:25 pm

Parents faced with the dilemma of whether or not to vaccinate their daughters for HPV and cervical cancer, may first want to consider the story of 16-year-old  Kansas native, Gabrielle.

According to the National Vaccine Information Center, Gabrielle had three shots of the drug Gardisal in 2008, causing inflammation in her brain and body, seizures, weakness in the right side of her body and lupus. Her doctors say she could die.

Although the Center for Disease Control claims Gardisal protects against HPV and cervical cancer, NVIC says there is little proof the vaccine actually does what it claims. Dr. Sarah Feldman with Brigham and Womens Hospital in Massachusetts is also a skeptic.

I feel that we dont have enough information or data yet to be able to say that this will prevent cervical cancer, she said.

Recently, ABC News reported there has been 12,424 adverse reactions to the shot since 2006 and 32 deaths. While the vaccines producers Merck and Co. claim resulting medical problems and side effects are just coincidence, Gardisal has many doctors seriously worried.

Dr. Jacques Moritz, St. Lukes Roosevelt Hospital in New York says he wont be giving the vaccine to his 11-year-old daughter. He says most doctors he knows have stopped giving the vaccine because of the safety issues around it now.

Gardisal has been heavily promoted by its makers. Both my roommate and I received more than one brochure in the mail urging us to get the shot. However, the sense of urgency and use of fear tactics in the brochures has been enough to cause both of us to reconsidered taking the vaccine.

The myth of women’s liberation in Afghanistan

In women's rights on October 8, 2009 at 4:53 am

(Note: The film, “Rethinking Afghanistan,” is showing Wednesday, Oct. 14 at 7:00 p.m. at MSSU’s Cornell Auditorium in Plaster Hall.)

Yesterday marked the 8-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. As support for the war is reaching an all-time-low, I find myself siding with popular opinion.

However, although I view the war as a complete and utter failure, I believed it to be successful in the area of women’s rights — until yesterday.

We’ve all scene the portrayals of the happy, newly-liberated Afghan women. The media has told us they are now teachers, politicians and business women. And some of them are. But a video I stumbled across yesterday shattered the myth I held. I believed that change in Afghan law necessarily meant change in the lives of Afghan women.

On the contrary, it appears existence has worsened for the average Afghan woman.

Sonali Kolhatkar, co-director of the Afghan Women’s Mission, and Mariam Rawi, member of the Revolutionary Association of Women of Afghanistan, stated in an article:

“The U.S. invasion has been a failure, and increasing the U.S. troop presence will not undo the destruction the war has brought to the daily lives of Afghans.

Here are the facts: After the invasion, Americans received reports that newly liberated women had cast off their burquas and gone back to work. Those reports were mythmaking and propaganda. Aside from a small number of women in Kabul, life for Afghan women since the fall of the Taliban has remained the same or become much worse.”

Kolhatkar and Rawi appear to be right.

I, like many Americans, was under the ridiculous notion that the force of law had changed the hearts of Afghan men. On the contrary, it seems to have made many of them more grounded in their sexist ideology. In April, President Hamid Karzai signed legislation legalizing rape in marriage. The law also prevents women from leaving their house without the permission of their husbands.

Many Afghan women and women’s rights groups attribute the increasing abuse to U.S. action. Specifically, America’s support for the mujahideen’s return to power.

The mujahideen were the U.S.-supported predecessors of the Taliban. Like the Taliban, they are radically sexist and oppressive of women — and they are now in control.

My discovery of the true state of women’s affairs in Afghanistan has only further convinced me that an outside force cannot liberate another people. As was the case with the American Revolution, it seems that it is the hearts and minds of the oppressed that must desire for themselves freedom — and then choose to act on that desire.

My sentiment echoes that of Orzala Ashraf with the Afghan Women’s Network:

“I don’t believe and I don’t expect any outside power to come and liberate me. If I can not liberate myself, no one from outside can liberate me.”

For more reading, click here.