Feminism

Error message

  • Deprecated function: The each() function is deprecated. This message will be suppressed on further calls in _menu_load_objects() (line 579 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/menu.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Notice: Trying to access array offset on value of type int in element_children() (line 6600 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).
  • Deprecated function: implode(): Passing glue string after array is deprecated. Swap the parameters in drupal_get_feeds() (line 394 of /var/www/drupal-7.x/includes/common.inc).

Headscarf Games

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/10/2022 - 2:59am in

Another victory for a celebrity television feminist.

Iran Protests Against Compulsory Hijab and State Violence

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/09/2022 - 5:27am in

Tags 

Feminism

At this time, international solidarity with women in Iran is critically important in order to help the continuation of the current courageous wave of protests in defense of women and against state brutality.

Read more ›

The post Iran Protests Against Compulsory Hijab and State Violence appeared first on New Politics.

Our Given Body: Roe v Wade

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 23/09/2022 - 1:54pm in

Second wave feminism shines a long beam still on the question of abortion. Wherever young feminists and other activists sit vis a vis arguments about the ‘assignment’ of sex and gender at birth, both something of the passion born specifically of women’s connection to abortion, and second wave feminism’s modern raising of abortion to the status of a woman’s right, seem to have fuelled the recent demonstrations and massive outpourings around Roe v Wade.

The slogan ‘We won’t go back’ meant clearly enough that ‘we won’t go back’ to before there were open and safe abortion services, where women wouldn’t bleed to death at the hands of backyard abortionists; which effectively means before second wave feminism. Abortion visibility and rights were an achievement of that diverse movement, an issue around which both the liberal feminists of old and social feminists would readily join together in political demand, even if their analyses of women’s position and of the sexual ‘economy’ between men and women differed significantly. They even jointly used the notion of ‘right’, even if, again, it meant something rather different in the hands of liberal individualists and those others who sought to trace out histories of women’s relationships to systems of social positioning, if not systematic abuse, or the social relations of ‘oppression’, in the old lingo.

The slogan ramifies further: we won’t go back to being that kind of woman; the woman who had no rights; whose body was shrouded in ‘mystery’ and relegated to the private; to a realm where ‘freedom’, or discourses of freedom, were a practical and logical non-starter, because everything pointed to women’s bodies being in the realm only of the given. How to lift the body into the realm of discourse has in fact been a key focus of social theory throughout the whole post Second World War period, in a sense framing the second wave, and amplified in every wave since.

‘We won’t go back’, then, indicates a history of successful abortion struggles, perhaps a Progress narrative in terms of rights, while the passion, it might be surmised, still relates to women’s given bodies, as well as to the process of psychical embodiment—here figured in the relationship, actual or potential, of women to abortion. Indeed if the abortion debate is especially impassioned on the side of the feminists, and considered in Manichean terms by (some) pro-life advocates on the other, it is arguably because women’s bodies—which bleed and get pregnant—and the specific passions lived through them—pain, fear, death, joy around the reproductive complex—set some basic structure, context or force-field that in key ways grounds women’s experience of their bodies and their selves, and in turn the terms of the abortion debate.

This is an unpopular notion in today’s culture of radical choice, individually driven and offered in various technologies, where bodies are said to mean nothing (not to hold presumptive meaning). But while it may be true that bodies never mean anything purely, and are never only biological entities, and certainly of themselves never simply authorise right forms of conduct—for example God-given femininity or a notion of natural motherhood, as if it is not always enculturated—they are both always-already symbolically present in the culture as potential frameworks of meaning and an unavoidable substrate of individual personhood. Love them or hate them, women’s bodies shape elements of common life, if varied experience, among girls and women.

We can trace some of this force-field in the typical ways in which second wave feminists and anti-abortion advocates have figured the body in different but equally visceral images and narratives. That these still reach into the public arguments today, a setting in which scientific technologies confirm quite new realms of radical ‘freedom’ around sex and gender and undergird new disciplines around chosen identities, suggests still that there is something unable to be fully elided in woman’s body.

*               *             *

Photographs of dead foetuses make this visceral connection of women to their bodies and given sex plain.  Such photos were and remain a standard of anti-abortion protests and the pro-life imaginary, and it is indeed hard not to have a visceral reaction to them. Of course this is part of their purpose. They are disturbing, gross and frightening. They set you back. They are a powerful visual ‘outing’ of the literally visceral and abject products of women’s bodies, constructing an ‘obvious’ evil in their apparently unmediated presentation of the aborted foetus. Sitting as such representations do against conceptions of motherhood and babies as pure gift and natural guide to womanhood, they are a radical tactic. Their own violent representation is meant to propel shame for a gruesome, hidden violence done against the child. Feminists have always reacted to these images as being in radically bad taste; as an insult and menace to the women seeking abortions who might have to pass protesters on the way to a clinic; and as scare-mongering generally thanks to out-sized images of otherwise tiny entities. It’s not as if feminists are not also in touch with the visceral and the abject. It’s not as if they do not know what abortion entails practically. Indeed they believe themselves to be better in touch with blood, bodies and their ‘products’ than both men generally and those who profess ‘life’; feminists face up to it. They also see themselves as in touch with much worse in the related bloody violences practised on women’s bodies, such as in rape.  

One of the things that has always left feminists dumfounded about the typical pro-life outlook is that while ‘life’ is held as paramount, this commitment has done little apparently to counter this same constituency’s support of death-dealing in other quarters, most notably in the United States—gun ownership, the murder of abortion providers, the violence of the US imperium generally, and sparse compassion for the women who historically, and still feel they must, put their lives at risk in seeking abortions.  This last image, of the distressed woman pushed to seek an abortion by oppressive circumstances—poverty, rape, incest; for emotional and even physical survival’s sake—remains a key trope on the ‘choice’ side of the debate, as resonant in the recent US protests as at the beginning of second wave feminism. Young women, women of colour, poor women, rape victims all figured in ample media coverage of the Roe v Wade reversal as just such women, and providers were in tears as they were forced to shut their doors on girls and women in distressed circumstances. The violence to be done by closing abortion clinics was worse than any such represented in images of aborted fetuses.

 *                                  *                                *

Of course ‘We won’t go back’ was chanted in defiance, because feminists of all ilks are now caught in the headlight of a vicious reaction, a culture war in which one side is looking like vanquishing that redolent evil, the woman intent on ‘child murder’, and her modern accomplice in state-supported abortion services. In Australia’s much more pragmatic culture, and where the legitimate role of the state is much broader, the culture war around abortion is very much subdued. The philosophical divisions remain, but the institutional reaction could be nowhere near as powerful or the struggle as fraught as it is in the United States. There we are witnessing a crumbling legal and social edifice—possibly the demise of fifty years of institutionalisation of the feminist revolution—in the hands and hearts of the ‘originalist’ jurists now in power. In the American context, abortion has only increasingly become a ‘master category’, pointing to an ultimate value around ‘life’ but also condensing the meanings and anxieties that are fuelling the radical Right’s larger political struggle—offering ordinary folks a visceral connection to overcoming something ‘rotten’ in the established liberal system.

We have had five decades of the abortion struggle defined according to the typical divisions described above: arguments from the social, and for women’s autonomy in decision making about their bodies, and a counter in a moral argument that starts from an absolute principle and ends in an absolute sanction against abortion. It is possible to argue some intervening position that recognises that abortion cannot be wholly reduced to a ‘health’ or social issue, that questions about the moral status of the foetus, especially in late-term abortions, should be taken seriously, even if not in the terms of the radical Right. But today the problem seems that we may all be rather missing key elements of a larger setting, of social and cultural change, that play back on what it means to be a woman and whether we can count on social programs that are intended for them. These changes include new forms of capitalist organisation and development; the long-emerging counter revolution in the conservative reaction already mentioned; a radical shift in understandings of the body and new forms of governance of it; and the role of science in facilitating a culture of radical choice. All of these surely crisscrossed the pro-abortion consciousness of the various constituencies of women who participated in the US demonstrations, as they do feminists in Australia.

We might look to feminism itself, then, for some clues as to how these larger issues have been missed by many in the movement, or arguably have been misunderstood. Another way to put it would be to ask why we are prone to contradictions, logical and cultural, in our thinking that we stand for women.

The terms of the historical struggle over abortion have been boiled down to ‘pro-life’ versus ‘pro-choice’, and both sides seem still to take up the question within this truncated framework. Certainly the liberal media do. Whether these ever accurately described more complex actual positions is one question. The other is whether they adequately even pointed to where the apparent choice between contending frameworks came from, or, in particular, why choice as an ideal emerged from within feminism as an overarching value. Indeed, in hindsight, within the feminist movement what did ‘choice’ really refer to? What did autonomous decision making over one’s own body encompass? Were any of the distinctively modern frameworks for wresting woman’s body into visibility and discourse—rights (social or individual), the righting of a ‘social ill’ like an unwanted pregnancy through humanistic medicine, arguments for ‘equality’ against patriarchal power structures—really able to grasp the nature of the emergent society in which those demands were being put?  

In the old conceptual breakdown of second wave feminism there was a third force of argument, named ‘radical feminism’, neither liberal-individualist nor social-collectivist in its primary formulations. In the hands of authors like Shulamith Firestone it struck one of those discordant notes, speaking a certain truth about second wave feminism’s generative context whose implications were nevertheless unsettling. One might even turn a blind eye to it. Early second wave feminism barely talked about the Pill as a condition of women’s new ‘liberty’ from the 1960s on. Firestone most famously advocated for industrial-scale out-of-body gestation, not as a sci-fi scenario but as a modus operandi for women’s liberation—from their bodies. It helped to plant seeds of a culture and ethics of radical choice facilitated in scientific/technological interventions. Today, Donna Haraway’s ‘cyborg feminism’ is no longer metaphorical; technological surrogacy in Third World countries is carried forward in apparently socialist-feminist arguments for ‘Surrogacy Now’; artificial wombs are being constructed in laboratories. Such interventions are way beyond any humanistic assistance a good doctor might provide a woman in poverty and distress, or even one who has made a bad choice, and knows it, and needs a ‘low-tech’ abortion to set her life back on track. The abortion argument has lingered in this latter humanistic realm, with both social and liberal arguments for abortion as a woman’s choice attached to some notion of women’s right to autonomy from husbands, fathers or brothers in making decisions about their reproductive bodies. Revolutionary, still, no doubt, but rather lagging in a rising context that suggests much more than that kind of freedom. Women may be caught in what might be called a ‘cultural contradiction’, believing their hoped-for autonomy means one thing while the culture draws them into a field of choices whose scope and terms are much more far reaching than they realise.

In this issue of Arena Quarterly, some of the lineaments of an accelerating techno-scientific, politically unstable world are explored. Several point to how in this culture, technoscience, together with consumption capitalism, is undoing the ground of human being and security that has been underwritten in some large degree by the schemas and experiences afforded by our given bodies, in human community—see especially Richard King’s ‘Zero Gravity: Floating Towards Posthumanism’. The abortion debate sits somewhat uneasily here. On the one hand pro-choice feminism argues for women’s capacity and right to rationally choose, but, unbounded in a culture today that doubts the specificity of woman’s body, ‘pro-choice’ tends towards the transcendence of embodied being, including women’s. On the other hand, abortion, in all its visceral reality, and the pity for life it engenders on both sides of the modern debate, absolutely reminds us that women’s bodies are a reality to be contended with.

From the Vault: Labor Pains

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 14/09/2022 - 2:00am in

Since I hadn’t been able to get Angela to talk about what trial lawyering may have done to her sense of herself, her “identity” as a woman, I shifted to a different lens: Did she feel, I asked, that the presence of more women lawyers was humanizing the criminal law?...

Read More

On Barbara Ehrenreich

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 10/09/2022 - 12:44am in

Tags 

Feminism


Ehrenreich’s work has always acknowledged that power operates at the intimate level, and that this is part of what makes it difficult to resist. To engage in political struggle is not just frightening, it is painful, because power is not just out there: it is also a voice in your own head—projection, inner fear. This is a distinctively feminist insight and not by coincidence.

Not Appointing a Women’s Minister Reflects Truss’ Approach to Equalities

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/09/2022 - 9:45pm in

For the first time since Harriet Harman took on the role in 1997, there will be no minister responsible specifically for women – with a man becoming Equalities Minister

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

Despite Liz Truss using her first Prime Minister's Questions to mock Labour's lack of a female leader, she has chosen not to appoint a Minister for Women and Equalities and has instead put a man in charge of a broader equalities agenda. 

Nadhim Zahawi has been given the job of Minister for Equalities, alongside his role as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster – with the word 'women' dropped from the brief.

According to the Prime Minister’s spokesperson, “the equalities brief has not changed".

"You've heard the Prime Minister talk during the campaign about her focus on women's rights," they said. "The policy areas related to [the Equalities Minister] still apply to women... The title has changed slightly.”

Shadow Women and Equalities Minister Anneliese Dodds observed that “women are always an afterthought for the Conservatives" and that "erasing the role for women in Cabinet confirms this”.

Her Labour colleague, Karin Smyth, expressed her concern, saying that she remembered “meeting Jo Richardson in the 1980s campaigning for Cabinet level post for women" and this was a "very worrying development... to row back”.

Tony Blair created the role of Minister for Women in 1997 to ensure that women’s interests were served by the government, with Harriet Harman the first woman to hold the brief. It evolved into the position of Minister for Women and Equality under Gordon Brown, with Harman again at the helm, before being given the name Minster for Women and Equalities by David Cameron.

Up until becoming Prime Minister, Liz Truss herself held the role alongside her duties as Foreign Secretary.

"The decision to remove explicit reference to 'women' from the equalities portfolio is an alarming indication that Liz Truss will not prioritise women in her plans to address the cost of living crisis," Mandu Reid, leader of the Women's Equality Party, told Byline Times. "I urge the new Prime Minister to prove me wrong.”

Jemima Olchawski, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, said "we have a long way to go before this Government really addresses deep-seated gender inequalities that harm and hold back women" and "now not is not the time to be de-prioritising our needs".

Women in Crisis

The decision not to have a Minister for Women and Equalities comes at a time when women’s equality is under pressure. 

While symbolically, women’s representation is on the rise – the UK now has its third female Prime Minister, fourth female Health and Social Care Secretary, and fifth female Home Secretary – substantive change for women’s equality has been declining. 

This is evidenced across three major policy areas: economy, crime, and health. 

More than a decade of austerity has disproportionately impacted women’s economic security. Early analysis of austerity measures by Labour found that more than 80% of the cost of the policies came from women’s purses, not least because women are disproportionately likely to use or work in public services, or be in receipts of benefits – all in the Coalition and Conservative Government’s firing line. 

Now, the pandemic and the cost of living crisis has further impacted women’s incomes. While women were less likely to lose their jobs or be furloughed during the pandemic than men, the Institute for Fiscal Studies found that this was reversed for parents: by May 2020, mothers were 1.5 times more likely than fathers to have either lost their job or quit since lockdowns began, and were more likely to have been furloughed.

Women are more likely to be in poverty than men, meaning that they are hit first and hardest by the cost of living crisis, with rising energy bills set to push more than three million additional households into poverty. Half of all single-parent households are already in relative poverty – and 90% of those households are headed by mothers. Meanwhile, rising costs of childcare, and the collapse of social care, has led to increasing numbers of women exiting the workforce.

“We urgently need an approach to the cost of living crisis that recognises its gendered impacts, which includes addressing staggering childcare costs, rising rates of violence against women, and increasing poverty – for example amongst single mums,” said Reid. 

When it comes to crime, rape prosecutions continue to be at an all-time low, with only 1,557 rape-flagged cases going to prosecution in 2021/2022. An average of 85,000 women are raped every year in England and Wales. Those who do see their case prosecuted can face long waits of three years before going to court. The failure to prosecute rapes has led to experts saying sexual violence is de facto decriminalised in this country. 

As for health, Byline Times has reported on the new Health and Social Care Secretary's anti-abortion views, but concerns for women’s healthcare goes beyond access to terminations. Half a million women are currently waiting for gynaecological care, while data from 2021 found that, during the pandemic, only 66.7% patients with breast cancer symptoms were seen within two weeks – the target is 93%. The recent scandals in obstetric care is also caused for concern, as is the racial disparity when it comes to deaths in childbirth. The women’s health strategy had many positive signs, but there is work to be done. 

"Women make up over half of the population; we are still paid less than men, face horrific levels of gender based violence, do the bulk of unpaid care, and have been hit hardest by the pandemic and the cost of living crisis," said Olchawski. "It's simply unacceptable that with this backdrop of disadvantage women's representation is being downgraded within Truss's Cabinet."

Who Are Equalities For?

While it is clear that women have specific needs in the ongoing crises our country faces, a decision to roll-back the focus on women’s rights is in keeping with Liz Truss’ attitude to equality. 

During her time as Minister for Women and Equalities, she gave a speech that set forward an equalities agenda which would be “based on the core principles of freedom, choice, opportunity, and individual humanity and dignity” and move away from “the narrow focus of protected characteristics” as a basis for tackling inequality. 

Sex is a protected characteristic and women face discrimination and violence due to their sex. Protected characteristics exist for the reason that women and minority groups face oppression and discrimination on a systemic level.

Truss’ expressed desire, then, to move away from recognising that women experience oppression as a sex-class and focus instead on individual character could help to explain the decision to erase women from the ministerial brief.

A similar issue was expressed by the Sewell Report, which examined racial and ethnic disparities and concluded that the country did not have an issue with systemic racism – instead the issue was localised to individuals and families. Doing so erased how black and ethnic minority people experience oppression as a class, due to the way society is structured. 

But there is also something deeper going on here. While Truss and her Conservative colleagues appear to believe the solution to inequality does not lie in systemic change, but in “individual character”, they hold one specific exception: white men. 

The 'Left Behind White Pupils From Disadvantaged Backgrounds' report argued that teaching children about racism and white privilege is exacerbating white pupils falling behind. This shows how, when it comes to white men experiencing disadvantage, the causes are no longer individualised but externalised. The external forces identified as causing the crisis in white maleness are anti-racist, anti-sexist movements, rhetoric and policies.

This exposes a deep hypocrisy in the Government's approach to equalities that blames external factors for white male disadvantage, and individual character for the disadvantages experienced by women and minority populations.

The Prime Minister's spokesperson told Byline Times: "I believe that the people of the United Kingdom will be focused on the actions the Government takes to protect women, including introducing a national domestic abuse register. I think it will be on our actions that we will be judged."

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

‘It’s Targeted, It’s Deliberate’: The Demonisation of Some Women In Power

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 07/09/2022 - 7:30pm in

As Downing Street welcomes its third female Prime Minister, Rachel Morris reflects on social and media expectations of certain women leaders

GET THE CURRENT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES

SIGN UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

It’s a warm summer night in a liberal country in the northern hemisphere. A group of friends, many in their 30s, hold a party in a private venue, some of them celebrities and ‘influencers’. They hug, dance, drink and pose for selfies, which spread across social media with a particular focus on one woman.

A Social Democratic Party MP since 2015, Sanna Marin has served as the Prime Minister of Finland since 2019. She grew up amid familial struggles with divorce, finances and alcoholism, and worked in service jobs while studying at university, the first in her family to attend.

Marin was 34 when she took office, the youngest leader in Finnish history. She led her country through the pandemic with only 5,577 deaths (one of every 992 souls lost, compared to one of every 327 in the UK).

You’d think that a young woman enjoying a party would be entirely normal, but it caused a furore.

There were some questions about who she was with – the claim that high-profile invitees make her an elitist. But most of the criticism was directed at her partying. She felt compelled to make a tearful public apology and do a drugs test, which came back negative.

Compared to Boris Johnson's ‘Partygate’ scandal, the fuss seems absurd. Finland wasn’t under any Coronavirus restrictions, everyone involved was a consenting adult, and there was nothing untoward about the event.

Women and men all over the world agree. Many, including former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, shared supportive messages and images of themselves dancing. US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote: “Elected officials who dance? We’re here for it.”

Others expressed frustration that a woman leader can attract so much flak for partying when there are male leaders breaking the law and worse with impunity.

There has been the suggestion that most online attempts to discredit Marin were a campaign engineered by Russia, disgruntled at her petition for Finland to join NATO following Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. But people elsewhere on the right wing, including women in Britain, have also piled on.

Ruth Dudley Edwards wrote in the Telegraph that it isn’t sexist to criticise Marin in the circumstances, accusing her of “a blatant dereliction of duty at a time of war”.

Baroness Karren Brady wrote an article for the Sun, saying that “the booze-soaked antics of the Finnish Prime Minister were more akin to a teenager raving it up on Mykonos after their ‘A’ Level results than a serious world leader... now that’s what I call a Partygate”. She compared Marin to vacuous 1990s ‘It Girls’ and posited: “Perhaps it’s a lifestyle that just isn’t compatible with being taken seriously as PM?... the party may soon be over.”

This from a woman whose own workplace, Parliament, has problems with drugs, alcohol and sexual assault, and who belongs to the party of Partygate; one of whose MPs stood down from the Commons after being caught watching porn in the chamber. It isn’t just men who inflict double standards on women.

‘Worse Than it Ever Has Been’

British sailor Tracy Edwards developed and skippered the first all-female crew in the Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race, creating a British racing record unbroken since 1977 and becoming the first woman awarded Yachtsman of the Year.

That journey was chronicled in the 2018 documentary film Maiden, the name of the boat they restored and raced. Edwards has deepened her leadership experience since and now skippers Maiden in another way: the boat is a global ambassador for the empowerment of girls and women through education, both mascot and classroom of the Maiden Factor Foundation.

For Edwards, women have always been leaders, always had the capacity for it – a fact largely missing from history, meaning that women still aren’t always seen as natural leaders.

Maiden more or less begins with Edwards being told by a man to smile, then being told she’s not doing it properly. She says now that the sexism faced by her and her crew at the time wasn’t pleasant or easy, but it was open and easier to challenge, stemming mainly from ignorance rather than hatred. She says this has now changed.

“The misogyny now is worse than it ever has been in my lifetime," she told me. "I think it’s on purpose. I don’t think it’s ignorance anymore – I think it’s fear. There’s an edge, a nastiness to it. There’s a more calculated side, it’s targeted, it’s deliberate. What young women have to deal with now really scares me.”

This also appears to be the approach of some media outlets, which are perfectly able to avoid misogyny in their coverage on certain subjects or in relation to certain women, but will let sexism soar when it suits them.

Edwards faced significant sexism from the media decades ago and believes the press is “better and more careful” and “more aware of themselves” now.

Women jump hurdle after hurdle to gain power and influence, intending to use it for the greater good, then must expend yet more time and energy pushing past irrelevant and unfair barriers once they have it. Some of this is the clickbait cut-and-thrust game any politician faces, but misogyny provides additional weapons, sharpened over millennia, for this purpose.

This isn’t just a problem for those on the receiving end. Every minute spent dealing with the outcomes of such violence is a minute less spent making the world better. New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has pointed out that fear of such pile-ons could put women off seeking leadership roles.

SUBSCRIBE TO FEARLESS, INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM FOR AS LITTLE AS £3 A MONTH

The Marin party saga is only the latest episode in the targeted misogynistic harassment of the Finnish Government since 2019, when all five parties in its centre-left coalition were led by women, mostly under 40. According to research, the abuse was aimed at “attacking their values, demeaning their decision-making skills, and questioning their leadership abilities”.

Magdalena Andersson, who heads the Swedish Government, also suffers attacks from a misogynistic far right, weakening her position.

Finland under Sanna Marin’s leadership leads the world in its sustainable development, business environment, strong rule of law, and remarkable education system. In one sense, the scandal around her partying reflects the high standards expected of the country’s politicians.

However, women are held to an even higher standard (at least those on the left or centre of politics). Boys will be boys, but girls must be good girls.

Prime Minister Liz Truss should be confronted on any idiocy, dishonesty, gaslighting, cynicism, and far-right links and beliefs. Not because she’s female, but because it’s time the UK was led by people with higher ethical standards who can produce better outcomes for every sector of society and the environment.

Not weaponised sexism, but good old-fashioned accountability. Remember that?

ShareEmailTwitterFacebook

SIGN-UP TO EMAIL UPDATES

OUR JOURNALISM RELIES ON YOU

Byline Times is funded by its subscribers. Receive our monthly print edition and help to support fearless, independent journalism.

SUBSCRIBE TO THE PRINT EDITION OF BYLINE TIMES FROM AS LITTLE AS £3.75 A MONTH

SUBSCRIBE TO BYLINE TIMES & GET THIS MONTH’S DIGITAL EDITION IMMEDIATELY

Get the Bylines App for iPhone and iPad

SIGN UP TO BYLINE TV PLUS

There Can Be No Nonviolence in Human Gestation

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 31/08/2022 - 3:00am in

Even if all the people who currently “mother” in society were suddenly magically treated with respect by courts and medical doctors, left alone by cops and social workers, supported and assisted to become parents, and lavished with strings-free checks courtesy of the state, it would still be necessary to deprivatize care....

Read More

When Will Tunisian Women Be Granted Equal Inheritance Rights?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 18/08/2022 - 10:30pm in

Tags 

Feminism, Tunisia

Tunisia is famous for granting women more rights than any other country in the Arab and Muslin regions. On 13 August  2022, the North African country celebrates its National Women’s Day. However, until now, Tunisian women and men have not had equal inheritance rights. A focus on the most important aspects of the gender politics scene in post-revolutionary Tunisia helps us understand this ongoing problem.

Article 1 of Tunisia’s 2014 Constitution says that ‘Islam is the religion of State’, while Article 2 states that ‘Tunisia is a civil State’. Article 1 of the 2014 Constitution also states that ‘All citizens, male and female, have equal rights and duties, and are equal before the law without any discrimination. The state guarantees freedoms and individual and collective rights to all citizens, and provides all citizens the conditions for a dignified life’. However, although the 2014 Constitution guarantees equality between the sexes, Tunisian inheritance laws, which are based on Islamic jurisprudence, entitle a woman to inherit only half of a man’s share.

On the occasion of Tunisia’s 2017 National Women’s Day, President Beji Kaied Essebsi proposed reforming inheritance law. Hence, he created an Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee comprised of human rights advocates, legislators and academics. This Presidential Commission tried to bring the legal code in line with the 2014 Constitution. The Commission unveiled its report and a series of proposed reforms in June 2018. Opponents of the proposed changes argued that the proposals were part of a coercive secular strategy to change society’s lifestyle. Imams stressed that the proposed law contradicted God’s decree and that applying it would amount to disobeying God and his Prophet. They argued that the holy texts must be preserved without any changes, and that human beings cannot interfere with divine law. Conservative and religious people considered the project to be a way to question the country’s religious foundations. Religious leaders and a federation of religious associations slammed the proposals as ‘intellectual terrorism’. Imam Sabri Abdelghani railed that the changes ‘would eradicate Tunisian identity, by leaving the people without religion’.

The National Coordination for the Defense of the Quran, the Constitution and Equitable Development organised a demonstration against the proposals included in the Presidential Commission’s report. Thousands of religious and extremist people accused the committee of acting against traditional values and protested in front of the parliament to decry the proposed reform. The protesters insisted that a handful of secularists could not cut the Tunisian people from their roots. Participants in the demonstrations underlined their opposition to the destruction of their moral values. They expressed their rejection of what they saw as the report’s hatred of Islam. Some protesters even held copies of the Quran and shouted, ‘We will defend Islam with our blood!’

Although the report addressed multiple issues, inheritance law was the main problem on which conservative Tunisians fixated. Opponents of the Bill said that men should inherit more than women because they have maintenance duty. Other observers questioned whether the report was a priority given the tense political and economic context. Proponents reiterated that the current inheritance law was no longer suitable for today’s society and called for renewing religious discourse. They underlined the role women play nowadays in covering household expenses, especially as many Tunisian women work. The office of the official Mufti of Tunisia backed Essebsi’s proposal for reform.

Feminists and women’s and human rights associations highlighted the proposal’s compatibility with the principles of the Constitution. Tunisian Muslim feminists insisted that the report was prepared in accordance with international human rights standards. They reiterated that the proposal did not violate the essence of Islam and that traditionalists could not monopolise interpretation of the Quranic text. The authors of the report argued that the proposals conformed with both the nation’s 2014 Constitution and international human rights obligations.

Despite the turmoil, in August 2018 Essebsi expressed his intention to submit a Bill to parliament through which women and men could be given equal inheritance rights. In November 2018, he expressed his insistence on forwarding the Bill to parliament and said that Tunisia would be a secular democratic state, not a theocratic one, noting that Tunisia was a civil state. Essebsi’s announcement unleashed a wave of outrage from conservative Tunisians. Both proponents and opponents of the reform referred to the 2014 Constitution. On Friday 23 November  2018, after so much tension in the streets and media, the Tunisian cabinet approved the controversial draft Bill. Tunisia became the first Arab Muslim-majority country to approve an inheritance draft Bill and submit it for consideration by parliament. The plan was that the Bill would head to the Assembly of the Representatives of the People, where it would be debated in committee and plenary sessions.

Many Islamists reiterated their rejection of the proposed Bill and condemned the cabinet’s decision. They saw the passing of the Bill as a violation of Islamic law. Islamists argued that changing the inheritance law contradicted both the divine rulings and the successfully transmitted consensus of Islamic scholars. In this respect, the Imams’ Association for Moderation and Rejection of Extremism organised their First National Congress. This congress condemned what its participants described as a selective interpretation of the Constitution that aimed at eroding its Islamic reference. Participants insisted that the proposed law represented an assault on fixed aspects of religion and that it threatened the stability of the family. The participant Imams issued a call for MPs to not approve the Bill and asked Tunisians to not vote for the MPs who supported it. They also highlighted the contact they’d had with some members of the Assembly in order to assert the hazards and violations of this proposal, and to invite them to reject it, revealing that they had found some positive reactions among parliamentarians.

In July 2019, President Essebsi died. Essebsi’s death meant that the proposed inheritance law reform lost presidential support, especially as his successor Kais Saeid holds conservative views on inheritance. The parliament’s Health and Social Affairs Committee suspended discussions on Essebsi’s initiative without providing any explanations for this. The election of Saied, together with the parliamentary scene, which was dominated by the conservative Islamist party Ennahdha, represented a setback for inheritance equality. The result is that the draft Bill did not pass into law.

In March 2022, Saied dissolved the parliament, which he had suspended in July 2021 due to the corruption, criminality and inefficacy of many parliamentarians, including the Speaker. In December 2021, he announced that a constitutional referendum would be held on 25 July 25 2022. On 25 July  2022, the Independent High Authority for Elections organised a constitutional referendum, and Tunisians voted on a new Constitution that weakened the parliament, which had been empowered by the 2014 Constitution. The new Constitution has been approved by referendum. It says that the state guarantees equality between women and men and that it will take measures to combat violence against women and to guarantee women’s representation in elected bodies. However, Article 5 of the new Constitution states that Tunisia is part of the Islamic nation and that the state alone must work to achieve ‘the goals of pure Islam in preserving life, honour, money, religion and freedom’. Feminists fear the misuse of the reference to religion in the Constitution. As we wait to see what will happen regarding inheritance reform in the future, let’s hope that Tunisians do not find themselves in the same impasse regarding the ambiguous role of religion in the Constitution again.


Misogyny and Tunisia’s Parliamentary Freeze

Jyhene Kebsi, 5 Aug 2021

What is the point of having many women MPs if they suffer chronic abuse in parliament?

The Woke Capitalist Attack on Breastfeeding

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/08/2022 - 3:54am in

'Lean-in' feminists go after breastfeeding

Read more ›

The post The Woke Capitalist Attack on Breastfeeding appeared first on New Politics.

Pages