Barbara Kingsolver writes: When I was a girl of 11 I had an argument with my father that left my psyche maimed. It was about whether a woman could be the president of the US.
How did it even start? I was no feminist prodigy, just a shy kid who preferred reading to talking; politics weren’t my destiny. Probably, I was trying to work out what was possible for my category of person – legally, logistically – as one might ask which kinds of terrain are navigable for a newly purchased bicycle. Up until then, gender hadn’t darkened my mental doorway as I followed my older brother into our daily adventures wearing hand-me-down jeans.
But in adolescence it dawned on me I’d be spending my future as a woman, and when I looked around, alarm bells rang. My mother was a capable, intelligent, deeply unhappy woman who aspired to fulfilment as a housewife but clearly disliked the job. I saw most of my friends’ mothers packed into that same dreary boat. My father was a country physician, admired and rewarded for work he loved. In my primordial search for a life coach, he was the natural choice.
I probably started by asking him if girls could go to college, have jobs, be doctors, tentatively working my way up the ladder. His answers grew more equivocal until finally we faced off, Dad saying, “No” and me saying, “But why not?” A female president would be dangerous. His reasons vaguely referenced menstruation and emotional instability, innate female attraction to maternity and aversion to power, and a general implied ickyness that was beneath polite conversation.
I ended that evening curled in bed with my fingernails digging into my palms and a silent howl tearing through me that lasted hours and left me numb. [Continue reading…]
Masoud Kazemzadeh writes: Although for many Americans, [Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei’s words [in a recent speech in which he described Donald Trump as a truth-teller] may appear as straightforward recitation of Trump’s words, they are perceived by the Iranian public as unusual words of praise of Trump. Khamenei usually uses terribly harsh words for the officials of the U.S. whom he regards as “the Great Satan.”
For example, in this very speech, Khamenei refers to American officials (e.g., Secretary John Kerry and President Obama) who are involved in negotiations with Iran in the following words: “The other side is a liar, is a deceiver, is a breaker of agreements, is a back stabber, while is shaking your hand with one hand, in their own words is holding bunch of stones in the other hand to hit the head of the other side.”
Why is Khamenei, who has been using terribly harsh words for President Obama, making such relatively complimentary remarks about Trump?
First, Khamenei hates Hillary Clinton. The ideology of the Islamic Republic and its constitution are explicitly and extremely misogynist. The fundamentalist constitution has enshrined de jure discrimination against women: top leadership positions are explicitly reserved for males only.
A female as the President of the sole super power, poses a terribly powerful threat to the ideological justifications of the fundamentalist regime. The fundamentalist regime already suffers from serious legitimation crises, particularly among women. A female president of the U.S., particularly one who has said “Women’s rights are human rights, human rights are women’s rights,” presents a serious threat.
Second, Hillary Clinton, while Secretary of State in 2009-2010, publically supported the pro-democracy Green Movement. This stood in stark contrast to the almost total silence of President Obama, who privileged his open and secret outreach to Khamenei to the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people. [Continue reading…]
What Donald Trump could learn from Israeli journalist Ari Shavit on facing allegations of sexual assault
The Times of Israel reports: American Jewish reporter Danielle Berrin said Sunday she was “grateful” that Israeli journalist Ari Shavit, whom she has accused of sexual assault in a 2014 encounter, published a statement taking full responsibility for his actions.
“I’m grateful for Ari Shavit’s powerful, honest statement,” Berrin wrote on Twitter. She had rejected a previous statement from Shavit, who she said assaulted her and tried to persuade her to come up to his hotel room during an interview in 2014.
“His resolution to do ‘heshbon hanefesh’ — an accounting of the soul — is admirable,” she wrote after Shavit issued his mea culpa and resigned his posts at the Haaretz newspaper and Channel 10’s news program.
Berrin, a senior writer and columnist at the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, published an article last week detailing how an unnamed Israeli journalist, whom she described as a husband and father, assaulted her. Shavit later acknowledged he was the man in question.
Danielle Berrin wrote: I remember staring at his scotch glass.
The swirling, caramel-colored liquid caught the dim light of the hotel lobby, reflected it back to me. The light was a relief from the glare of his dark eyes, his black hair, the lecherous look on his face.
I’d agreed to meet him, an accomplished journalist from Israel, at his hotel around 10 p.m. He was in the United States only for 48 hours, and told me he was completely booked during the daytime. I believed him. Back then, the book he’d written was among several titles having an impact on the Jewish conversation, and many local community leaders wanted to meet with him. If I was going to be a part of this conversation, this was my opportunity.
But almost as soon as I arrived and placed my recorder on the table between us, he put our interview on hold.
“First,” he said, “I want to get to know you better.” He asked me a series of personal questions — about my Jewish background, my family, my personal life; he wanted to know if the man with whom I’d attended his book event the night before was my boyfriend. His questions made me uncomfortable, but they weren’t all that surprising, actually — I’ve learned that if you’re Jewish and younger than 35, your relationship status is typically the first thing another Jew will ask about. Besides, the man was married, with children, and a public figure. I figured I was safe. But after I answered one of his questions in a way that moved him, he lurched at me like a barnyard animal, grabbing the back of my head, pulling me toward him.
I turned my face to the left and bowed my head to avoid his mouth. “I don’t understand,” I told him. “Last night, in front of everybody, you spoke so lovingly about your wife.”
“We have an arrangement,” he responded.
“Don’t you have children?” I asked, trying to wedge conversation in front of contact.
He looked at me with a sly smile. “Yes,” he said, “and I’m not done yet. … ”
Even in the midst of such a profoundly awkward situation, I remember thinking that this was the first time any man had made a pass at me by suggesting we procreate.
“Let’s go up to my room,” he suggested. “Just for a minute.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I said.
“We don’t have to have sex,” he countered. “I just want to give you a hug.”
The fact that the suggestion we’d have “sex” was even uttered during a professional meeting — by another journalist, no less — is insane. I remember how ridiculous his pickup line sounded, even as it filled me with dread. Even as he continued to pull and paw at me.
Confused, I found myself feeling paralyzed. Earlier that day, this man had been someone I deeply respected. I’d read his book voraciously and underlined passages; I’d even read every review, and recommended the book to friends. And this was supposed to have been a really important interview — one I was lucky to get. My editors were expecting something good. Could I just walk away? From someone so prominent?
Today, it would be an easy choice. But at the time, several years ago, I felt beholden to the man in power. [Continue reading…]
Trump should not only consider following the example of Shavit in taking responsibility for his own behavior — he should also reflect on the fate of former President Moshe Katsav who as a man in power thought he could get away with rape. At the same age as Trump he now sits in jail.
Mona El-Naggar reports: “We’re not allowed to even go to the supermarket without permission or a companion, and that’s a simple thing on the huge, horrendous list of rules we have to follow.” — DOTOPS, 24
“The male guardianship makes my life like a hell!! We want to hang out with our friends, go and have lunch outside. I feel hopeless.” — JUJU19, 21
“I don’t mind taking my dad’s approval in things he should be a part of. These very strong social bonds you will never, ever understand.” — NOURA
These are three of the nearly 6,000 women from Saudi Arabia who wrote to The New York Times last week about their lives.
We had put a call-out on our website and on Twitter in conjunction with the publication of “Ladies First,” a Times documentary I directed about the first Saudi elections in which women were allowed to vote and run for local office.
Saudi Arabia is an incredibly private, patriarchal society. While I was making the film, many women were afraid to share their stories for fear of backlash from the male relatives who oversee all aspects of their lives as so-called guardians. We wanted to hear more about their fears, their frustrations, their ambitions.
Saudi Arabia has one of the world’s highest rates of Twitter use, and our posts rocketed around. We were overwhelmed by the outpouring.
Most of the responses focused on frustration over guardianship rules that force women to get permission from a male relative — a husband, father, brother or even son — to do things like attend college, travel abroad, marry the partner of their choice or seek medical attention. Some women talked about the pride they had in their culture and expressed great distrust of outsiders. But many of them shared a deep desire for change and echoed Juju19’s hopelessness. [Continue reading…]
The National Law Journal/Law.com reports: The anticipation of meeting a U.S. Supreme Court justice for the first time turned to shock and distress for a young Truman Foundation scholar in 1999 when, she says, Justice Clarence Thomas grabbed and squeezed her on the buttocks several times at a dinner party.
On Oct. 7, a night dominated by the disclosure of Donald Trump’s audio-recorded boasts about grabbing women, Moira Smith posted on Facebook a memory of her encounter with Thomas. “He groped me while I was setting the table, suggesting I should sit ‘right next to him,’ ” Smith wrote. Smith, now vice president and general counsel to Enstar Natural Gas Co., in Alaska, was 23 at the time of the dinner party at the Falls Church, Virginia, home of her boss.
Smith’s claim came amid the outrage and ongoing national conversation about inappropriate sexual treatment of women by powerful men, male acquaintances and strangers. The disclosure of the Trump tape has spurred women in startling numbers to come forward publicly with old memories of unwanted touches.
Smith spoke with The National Law Journal/Law.com multiple times by email and phone after she revealed her allegation on Facebook. Her three former housemates during the spring and summer of 1999 each said in interviews they remembered Smith describing inappropriate contact by Thomas after she came home that night from the dinner or early the next morning. They also remembered their own shock and inability to advise her about how to respond. Another Truman scholar that summer, whom Smith would later marry and divorce, said in an interview he “definitely remembered” her sharing with him what had happened soon after the dinner party. [Continue reading…]
Emma Green reports: Depending on your perspective, it’s either Hillary Clinton’s great misfortune or incredible luck to be matched with an opponent who believes men like him can simply grab women “by the pussy,” who has been accused of making unwanted sexual advances against colleagues, and who made a sport of sizing up all the beauty queens in the pageant he owned. Because Donald Trump represents the worst version of how powerful men treat women, the symbolism of Clinton can seem uncomplicated: Her White House victory, if it comes, will be a win for women.
What that means, though, is that women have been twice silenced in this election: Once by Donald Trump and his allies, who have dismissed his demeaning behavior toward women as “locker-room talk,” and the other by Clinton and her supporters, who have pushed a narrative that she is both the symbol and champion of women’s progress. The second is subtler, and in no way equivalent to Donald Trump’s comments on women. But for some women who don’t feel represented by Clinton — specifically those on the left, along with women of color — this experience has been alienating. Just as it’s important for women and feminists to resist the downward suck of Trump’s vulgarity, so it’s important to entertain the limits of what Clinton’s presidency might mean for women’s advancement.
“If you criticize HRC, it looks like you’re endorsing fascism,” said Catherine Liu, a professor of film and media studies at University of California, Irvine.
And “the tone of some of this has been: If you are anti-Hillary, you are anti-woman,” said Naomi Christine Leapheart, a non-profit worker in Philadelphia who is seeking her ordination in the United Church of Christ. “I have, as they would say, receipts in that department.”
At the beginning of October, Clinton held a 20-percentage-point lead over her opponent among women surveyed in a Quinnipiac poll. But even women who intend to vote for Clinton don’t necessarily see themselves in her. Lots of women in the U.S., like Leapheart and others from around the country whom I spoke with in phone interviews, are not enthusiastic about Clinton, even if they’re horrified by the possibility of a President Trump. As the language used to refer to women has somehow become even more ugly and sexist during these final days of the election, a strong majority of women voters have signaled their intention to vote for Clinton. But the real divisions among them have largely been overlooked as a result. [Continue reading…]
Dahlia Lithwick writes: This past Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of Anita Hill’s devastating Senate testimony accusing then–Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of workplace sexual harassment. In light of the most recent accusations against Donald Trump, it’s hard to miss the almost perfect synchronicity between these two October explosions of gender awareness. In a deeply personal and visceral way, America is having another Anita Hill moment.
In one sense it’s depressing: It’s been 25 years, and yet here we are, still talking about whether a man who allegedly treats women like lifelong party favors, should perhaps be disqualified from our highest governmental positions. But to despair that it’s gender Groundhog Day in America is to fundamentally miss the point: A lot has changed since October 1991, and American women are reaping the benefits of having gone through this looking glass once before. The nearly universal and instantaneous outrage at Trump’s comments and behavior — from the press, from GOP leaders, from really everyone outside of the Breitbart bubble? We have Anita Hill to thank for that.
It’s almost impossible for women like me, who came of age during the Thomas Senate battle, to miss the parallels between the two episodes. In both cases, powerful men allegedly mistreated and shamed women with less power than they had. In both cases these victims came forth reluctantly, and sometimes years later. In both instances, supporters of the man accused of misconduct argued that it was “just words,” or that it was all “years ago,” or that he was merely joking, or that it never happened at all. They argue that if the subordinate was soooo offended, why did she wait to complain? [Continue reading…]
Leslie Bennetts writes: Lashing out at his accusers this afternoon, Donald Trump attacked all the women who say he has groped, kissed or inspected them naked without their consent. He called them “horrible, horrible liars” and vowed to sue the New York Times for reporting their accounts.
Minutes before the Florida rally where Trump declared war on women and the media, Michelle Obama offered a diametrically opposite view of reality and morality at a campaign appearance in New Hampshire. Condemning Trump’s conduct as “intolerable”, she forcefully argued that no woman deserves to be treated this way. The contrast between the two couldn’t have been more dramatic.
“This is not about politics. It’s about basic human decency,” the first lady said, urging her listeners to vote for Hillary Clinton. “It’s about right and wrong. Now is the time for all of us to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough’.”
Her words echoed the thoughts of millions of women who watched last Sunday’s presidential debate and heard Trump deny he’s ever sexually assaulted women, even though he himself has publicly described having habitually done just that. What Trump didn’t realize was how many of his listeners were thinking about all the times that men had done such things to them.
By midweek, even before Michelle Obama voiced that thought, the floodgates had opened as a rapidly expanding array of women described various forms of sexual assault they said Trump had inflicted on them – and told their stories, on the record, to the Guardian, the New York Times, Buzzfeed, People magazine, and the Palm Beach Post, among a growing list of publications. [Continue reading…]
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.