Sharmilla Ganesan writes: When the Tunisian revolution of 2011 opened a path toward democracy, the activist Ikram Ben Said saw an opportunity to include women’s voices in the country’s emerging political landscape. At 30, Ben Said was already a vocal advocate for social causes. She was a senior program manager with a peacekeeping organization called Search for Common Ground, and volunteered with several nonprofits that worked with single mothers and abandoned children.
Shaped by these experiences, she founded the organization Aswat Nissa (“Voices of Women”), an effort to cut across Tunisia’s political party lines to unite women in seeking equal political and government participation. In Tunisia, men are still considered the legal head of a family, and until last November, a woman could not legally travel abroad with her minor-aged children without permission from her husband. It is in this context that Aswat Nissa is trying to get women both the opportunity and the confidence to take part in the political process. At the moment, roughly a third of Tunisia’s parliament is made up of women.
Aswat Nissa trains female candidates to stand for election and organizes widespread programs around the country to encourage women to vote, reaching beyond activists to ordinary citizens. In 2014, Aswat Nissa was awarded the Madeleine K. Albright Award for its efforts.
Ben Said is no longer president of Aswat Nissa, but she continues to be involved as a member and voluntary adviser. For the past year, she has been a Hubert H. Humphrey Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs, focusing on public-policy analysis as well as women, peace, and security.
I recently spoke to her about her life, her work, and how women in her country are making their way into positions of leadership. [Continue reading…]
Trump stands by Roger Ailes, casting doubt on motives of women accusing Fox chief of sexual harassment
As allegations against his old friend piled up, Trump told NBC’s Chuck Todd on July 24 that, “Some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he’s helped them…And when they write books….and say wonderful things about him….[N]ow, all of a sudden, they’re saying these horrible things about him.”
Without passing judgment about the specific allegations, which are currently under investigation by 21st Century Fox, one should be able to accept that a woman could both have been promoted by a boss and harassed by him. Women are often forced to maintain good relations with men who abuse them precisely because those men have power.
When I mentioned this to Trump in a phone interview last Tuesday, he doubled down on his retrograde take. “There was quite a bit of fabulous things said [about Ailes by Gretchen Carlson],” he told me. “It would be easier for me and more politically correct for me to say you are right. But you would think she wouldn’t say those things.”
I pointed out that it wasn’t just Carlson who had made allegations. “I didn’t know it was more than just her,” Trump told me, even though his comments to Chuck Todd referred to women, plural.
What if someone had treated Ivanka in the way Ailes allegedly behaved?
His reply was startling, even by Trumpian standards. “I would like to think she would find another career or find another company if that was the case,” he said. [Continue reading…]
After a campaign lasting more than a year and taking in all 50 states, Hillary Rodham Clinton has delivered a speech that will go down in history. As the first woman to secure a major party’s nomination for president of the United States, her address to the Democratic National Convention was a milestone for women’s leadership in the US and beyond. As she put it: “When any barrier falls in America, for anyone, it clears the way for everyone. When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.”
Clinton came to the stage under monumental pressure, charged with delivering a historic piece of rhetoric. This was a moment in world history – and it was always destined to be mercilessly dissected.
But as ever, Clinton’s popularity (or lack thereof) and the reception of her speech have been coloured by criticism of her speaking style. As the conservative website the Daily Wire headlined its reaction piece: “Hillary Accepts Nomination, Immediately Bores Americans Into A Coma Before Startling Them Awake With Her Cackle.”
Ever since she entered the national arena in 1992, media commentators have ripped Clinton’s vocal delivery apart. It has been described as loud, shrill, grating and harassing. No aspect of her oratory is beyond derision – her laugh is branded “the Clinton cackle”, and her speech derided as shouting, screaming and shrieking – inartfully substituting volume for expression.
Many may claim that Clinton isn’t one of history’s greatest orators, but there’s something more insidious going on here.
The criticism that greets her is a classic example of what is called “gender congruence bias”. This theory explains that people expect women to act in certain ways – and that if a woman’s behaviour isn’t congruent with expectations of femininity, people won’t like or accept her. The double bind that female politicians face is augmented by the deep sense that leadership is a male domain and politics in general is a domain of power – power that we are not culturally comfortable to have women wield.
Qandeel Baloch, the Pakistani social media celebrity, was murdered by her own brother on Saturday. Imaan Sheikh writes: I noticed Qandeel Baloch for the first time in 2013 on an episode of Pakistan Idol, where she came to audition, and threw a baby fit when she didn’t qualify. The whole thing was over-the-top, and seemed staged to build hype. Some were annoyed, others entertained. Either way, it was one of the most memorable auditions in the programme’s history.
Then, last year, I saw a lot of people sharing parody videos featuring a girl with heavily kohled eyes and a spoilt, slow, bad gal accent. I looked into who was being mocked and found a familiar face. Qandeel Baloch was taking Facebook by storm with phone-shot dramatic videos talking about her daily life. Singing, being brazen and conceited, occasionally proposing to Pakistani cricketers.
Most people cringe-shared Qandeel’s videos. But rest assured, everyone watched them.
Earlier in her career, she had slut-shamed another artist on live TV, which was why I side-eyed her for a long time. But the fact of the matter was: I’d never seen another woman be so bold on the Pakistani internet, without a man running her page or managing her. She was being sexy and sassy of her own volition, cell phone recording the whole thing, and uploading it for millions to see.
In a part of the world where girls are taught to be neither heard nor seen, here she was, demanding she be both.
Many described her videos as “shameless”. She was called an “attention whore”. And even the people who loved her didn’t love her all the time.
But in a country where womanhood has long been defined by varying versions and degrees of enforced shame, her lack of it looked like a revolution.
In a world where family matters are supposed to be whispered about behind closed doors, Qandeel talked openly about how she was forcibly married at 17, and was tortured by her husband who even threatened to burn her face with acid. She escaped with her baby son, whose custody she lost, and took refuge at a welfare centre.
Even her horrifying domestic violence case was called “drama” and laughed at by hundreds of Pakistanis, some of whom I expected to know better.
She was already called a blemish on Pakistan’s sparkling image, a national shame, a shame for the Muslim ummat, but after the recent release of a music video she starred in, the entitled and the self-righteous made it a mission to bring her down. [Continue reading…]
Sally Kohn writes: During the early moments of the Democratic primary, my 7-year-old daughter Willa declared that she wanted Hillary Clinton to win “because she’s a girl.”
“That’s not enough of a reason,” I almost said, but then caught myself. For 270 years, maleness and whiteness was an implicit prerequisite for president. Wanting to vote for a woman candidate isn’t sexist; it’s an act of undoing sexism. It’s a way to symbolically support the equality of women everywhere while substantively putting into office a candidate who personally understands the needs of half of the population who have heretofore not been represented in the White House. That’s not to say that voting for a woman is an implicitly feminist act (see Sarah Palin and Carly Fiorina), nor is it to suggest that not voting for a woman is an inherently, entirely sexist decision. But our democracy has always been inextricably entwined with race and gender. We only notice it when the candidate isn’t a white man.
Women make up more than 50 percent of the American population but just 20 percent of Congress — which, incidentally, is the highest percentage of women in Congress in history. Since the United States Senate was established in 1789, there have been just 46 women senators — 20 of whom are currently serving. There has been just one African American woman senator in the entire 227 years of the institution.
India elected a woman head of state. Liberia elected a woman head of state. So did Britain and Israel and Germany and South Korea and Indonesia. Our supposedly inclusive, equitable democracy has never managed to do what Bangladesh and Chile have done. Now, we finally have a chance.
On Tuesday evening, when it became clear that Clinton would be the Democratic presidential nominee, I looked at my daughter and my eyes filled with tears. She will grow up in a world that is still imperfect, still bending toward justice, but with markedly more opportunity and fairness than my grandmother ever knew. And my little girl, who once looked at the faces of the 44 presidents so far and asked why none are women, may now know not only that the world can change but that there can be a place for a girl like her at the top of it. [Continue reading…]
The Washington Post reports: Out of 32 female members of Israel’s parliament, called the Knesset, 28 say they have been sexually harassed or assaulted, and at least two say those experiences occurred in the Knesset itself, according to a new survey by an Israeli television channel.
The survey comes two weeks after 17 French members of parliament signed a column denouncing widespread sexual harassment and impunity in their workplace. In December, the Israeli interior minister and vice premier, Silvan Shalom, resigned after almost a dozen women, including one of his former employees, came forward with allegations of sexual harassment or assault.
The survey gave the lawmakers a chance to speak publicly about the perils of being a woman in Israeli politics.
“Even today, the fact that I’m a single woman in the Knesset puts me in unpleasant situations,” said Merav Ben Ari, a Knesset member from the centrist Kulanu political party. “Sometimes people make comments. … I don’t want to elaborate, but there was a situation recently in the Knesset, and I took care of it.” [Continue reading…]
Middle East Eye reports: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Monday that Muslim families should refrain from birth control and have more children.
Erdogan said it was the responsibility of mothers to ensure the continued growth of Turkey’s population, which has expanded at a rate of around 1.3 percent in the last few years.
“I will say it clearly … We need to increase the number of our descendants,” he said in a speech in Istanbul.
“People talk about birth control, about family planning. No Muslim family can understand and accept that!
“As God and as the great prophet said, we will go this way. And in this respect the first duty belongs to mothers.”
Erdogan and his wife Emine have two sons and two daughters. Earlier this month, the president attended the high-profile marriage of his younger daughter Sumeyye to defence industrialist Selcuk Bayraktar.
His elder daughter Esra, who is married to the up-and-coming Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, has three children.
The Platform to Stop Violence Against Women, which campaigns to stop the killings of hundreds of woman every year, condemned Erdogan’s comments as violating the rights of women.
“You [Erdogan] cannot usurp our right to contraception, nor our other rights with your declarations that come out of the Middle Ages,” the group said in a statement on Twitter. [Continue reading…]
Kacem El Ghazzali writes: When we say that nowadays to call for sexual freedom in Arab and Muslim societies is more dangerous than the demand to topple monarchies or dictatorial regimes, we are not playing with metaphor or attempting to gain sympathy. We are stating a bitter and painful fact of the reality in which we are living.
In Arab and Muslim milieus, sex is considered a means and not an end, hedged by many prickly restrictions that make it an objectionable matter and synonymous with sin. Its function within marriage is confined to procreation and nothing else, and all sexual activity outside the institution of marriage is banned legally and rejected socially. Innocent children born out of wedlock are socially rejected and considered foundlings.
This situation cannot be said to be characteristic of Arab societies only, but we experience these miseries in far darker and more intense ways than in other countries. This is especially so because of the dominance of machismo, which considers a man’s sexual adventures as heroics worthy of pride, while a woman who dares to give in to her sexual desires is destined to be killed — or at best beaten and expelled from home — because she has brought dishonor upon her family. [Continue reading…]
Jessica Winegar writes: The dramatic finale of the FX series “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story” aired this week after topping television ratings for over a month. The Oscar-winning documentary about an honor killing, “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness,” recently aired on HBO to critical acclaim.
One was set in Brentwood, a suburb of Los Angeles. The other was set in Punjab, Pakistan. One is called a domestic violence homicide. The other is called an honor crime.
A round-up of statistics from the Violence Policy Center, Bureau of Justice Statistics, National Institute of Justice and the Center for American Progress found that more than 18,000 U.S. women were killed in this country by intimate partners between 2003 and 2014. In the U.S., more than 22 percent of women will experience an extreme act of violence at the hands of an intimate partner in her lifetime, according to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Why do we not call these acts of violence in this country honor crimes?
Human Rights Watch defines honor crimes as “acts of violence, usually murder, committed by male family members against female family members who are perceived to have brought dishonor upon the family” and defines those family members as “husband, father, son, brother or cousin.” There are 5,000 honor crimes each year in the world, according to the site, mostly in the Middle East and South Asia. In Pakistan alone, there are 1,000 honor killings every year.
But there is a common nefarious defense by perpetrators that links these cases of violence against women in the U.S and those acts called honor crimes in the Middle East and South Asia.
In both arenas, the woman who transgresses the boundaries of what men will accept has to be punished. And the men doing the punishing are from her domestic world.
In both domestic violence and honor crimes, male relatives and/or intimate partners rape, beat, psychologically abuse and kill. [Continue reading…]
All-woman crew just flew us EWR-LHR. This crew flew Royal Brunei to Saudi: they can fly a plane but not drive a car pic.twitter.com/YSmxrvQZBR
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) March 13, 2016
The Washington Post reports: The photograph above may seem relatively innocuous, but to many observers, it shows a rebellion.
The image, which was shared by Royal Brunei’s Instagram account last month, shows the airline’s first all-female flight crew sitting in the cabin of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Royal Brunei announced the introduction of its first all-female flight crew late last month, making it the latest in a string of airlines to mark the milestone.
However, it wasn’t just the pilots’ sex that brought attention: It was where they were flying to.
At the time the photograph was taken, Capt. Sharifah Czarena and her two female first officers were about to fly from Brunei to Jiddah, the second-largest city in Saudi Arabia — a country where women are not allowed to drive. [Continue reading…]
Dylan Collins writes: As young Syrian refugee students celebrated International Women’s Day in the Bekaa Valley this week, education advocate Nora Jumblatt highlighted the increasingly important role of women throughout the refugee community. The war in Syria, despite its chaos and sadness, she said, has given rise to a “little miracle”
The war in Syria has brought about an “empire of women” in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, said civil society leader and education advocate Nora Jumblatt during a celebration of International Women’s Day.
Hundreds of young Syrian refugee girls participated in the festivities held at the Kayany Foundation’s Malala School in Bar Elias, a town equidistant from Beirut and Damascus that sits along the Syrian-Lebanese border. With the help of international organizations, local universities and volunteers, the foundation is empowering a new generation of Syrian women, equipping them with the tools and knowledge they’ll need to rebuild their country. [Continue reading…]