5 women won Nobel Prizes this year

13 10 2009

This year there are five female recipients of a Nobel Prize, which sets a record for female winners throughout the Prize’s 114 year long history.  Who are the winners?

1. Elinor Ostrom, 76, an American political scientist from Indiana University who made history by being the first woman to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for her research that examines how common resources–such as forests, fisheries, oil fields, and grazing lands–are more efficiently managed by local communities than by private corporations or the government.  She was awarded it alongside fellow American Oliver Williamson for their work in economic governance.

Ostrom was constantly discouraged from being an economist because she was a woman, but her accomplishment in being the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for Economics shows that she broke through a glass ceiling.  It serves as an inspiring reminder that girls and women can succeed in historically male dominated fields.

2. Elizabeth H. Blackburn, 60, and Carol W. Greider, 48, who were both awarded the 2009 Nobel Prize in Medicine with Jack W. Szostak for their work in figuring out how chromosomes protect themselves from degrading during cell division.  Blackburn is American and Greider has dual US-Australian citizenship.

3. Ada Yonath, 70, an Israeli, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Americans Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Thomas Steitz for their work on atom-by-atom description of ribosomes.

4. Herta Mueller, 56, a Romanian-born German writer who won the Nobel Prize in literature for her writings on life behind the Iron Curtain.

Ever since the conception of the Nobel Prizes, only 40 women around the world have been awarded them.  It’s excellent that women are finally getting more recognition for the significant work that they’ve done.  Congratulations to all of them!





The Dalai Lama is a self-proclaimed feminist!

25 09 2009

dalai_lama1

I hold The Dalai Lama in great esteem and I deeply respect his peace activism.  When I read in the Daily Mail that he identifies as a feminist I wasn’t too surprised:

“I call myself a feminist,” said the Dalai Lama. “Isn’t that what you call someone who fights for women’s rights?”

He elaborates:

“Whether you believe this religion or that religion, we are all the same human beings. We all come from the same mother. That creates the basis for compassion.”

The article also says:

The Dalai Lama went to on say that women are more prone to compassion, since they have the responsibility of bearing children.

While I am more than thrilled that the Dalai Lama identifies as a feminist, I find the claim that women are more prone to compassion because they bear children highly problematic. Not only is this an essentialist idea, but it also confines women to their bodies and their ability to bear children. This essentialist imperative: prescribing women with the role of motherhood and concluding that their fulfillment of that role must mean that they are more compassionate is a perpetuation of gender stereotypes that rest on essentialist notions of womanhood, and a socially constructed gender binary.

Conflating motherhood and compassion is dangerous because it places an onus on women to behave a certain way because of their biological capabilities. Furthermore, women are not solely responsible for bearing children. Clearly there are many other influential people involved as well (it does take a village).

This being said, I do not mean to diminish the Dalai Lama’s statement that he is a feminist, but instead I mean to simply take everything with a grain of salt and to retain a critical eye. I think it’s great that the Dalai Lama publicly declared that he is a feminist and I would love to see more prominent people (be they celebrities, politicians, writers, activists, etc.) publicly align themselves with feminism as well. After all, the more the merrier! We can never have too many feminists!





Congratulations, Hilary Lister!

1 09 2009

According to The Guardian, Hilary Lister, 37, has made history as the first quadriplegic to sail solo around Britain. In 2005 she also set the record as the first quadriplegic to sail solo around the English Channel. We salute you, Lister!

Hilary-Lister-001

Lister is an Oxford-educated biochemist who has a rare, progressive neurological disorder, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, that has left her paralyzed from the neck down. Last night at 6:45 pm she sailed into Dover, completing the final leg of a marathon journey undertaken in a series of 40 day-long sails that started in June last year.

She used advanced technology (her “sip and puff” system) that enabled her to steer and control the sails by sucking and blowing through plastic straws. She embarked on and completed her voyage alone, except with a support team that helped her get in and out of her boat.

Says Lister of her amazing feat:

It’s a privilege to be back in Dover. The killer was when the wind died just east of the entrance to the harbour but unbelievably it picked up just as I sailed in.

Asked of the highlight of her journey:

Just seeing whales 35ft long fully breached out of the water was incredible. Two of them jumped like dolphins, it was amazing.

All in all:

I’m so relieved to be home but looking forward to the next challenge. One thing I’ve learnt is that you can’t predict the future, we couldn’t even predict tomorrow’s weather so I’m not ruling anything out or anything in.





Weekend Reads

22 08 2009

Dana Goldstein on the need for a public health insurance plan to provide reproductive health coverage.  Over at The Nation, Sharon Lerner has more on why women need health care reform.

An interesting photo essay that questions and explores what it means to be masculine.  It’s accompanied with an interview with the photographer, Chad States.  The subjects of some of the photos include trans men.

The children’s books industry is a very much white run industry and often children’s books are embedded, subtly and not-so-subtly, with racist undertones.  Read this post on Racism Review about children’s books are very much white-framed and whitewashed.

Here are some thoughts on 18-year old South African runner Caster Semenya whose female-ness was being questioned because she doesn’t conform to traditional western standards of femininity.  Bird of Paradox has more.

Michelle Obama should be allowed to wear shorts without coming under such scrutiny by the media and the public, especially while vacationing at the Grand Canyon.

Being careful with language is very important, especially since language is used to normalize.  There has been much discussion online about language and privilege.  Deeply Problematic takes on being blinded by privilege in these two posts: “Blinded by Privilege”: ableist language in critical discourse and For the Uninformed: Privilege, Perspective and The Little Things That Jab.  Hoyden About Town also has a post on unexamined privileges and unconscious behaviors.

Here is a long but interesting article that contextualizes the use of rape as a weapon of war.  Author Crystal Feimster, a historian at the University of North Carolina, claims that rape was used as a weapon of war way back in the Civil War, which is a new contention.

This one’s more of an uplifting story about a woman in a small West Virginian town, Maria Gunnoe, who took on the coal industry and was victorious.  She was a great community organizer who took action against the coal tycoons and despite threats, harassment and violence, she is not giving up the fight.





Andre Edwards trimumphs over transphobic discrimination

2 08 2009

In the UK two months ago transwoman Andre Edwards, 51, was fired from her job as a cab driver because she was wearing nail polish and skirts on the job.  Leyland Taxis, the company that fired her, claimed that colleagues and customers could not deal with her “unorthodox lifestyle” and “bad attitude”.

Edwards then went to Eco Cabs, another cab company, and was hired as a driver because of her high level of experience and competency.  There, her supervisors and colleagues support her and treat her with respect and dignity.

The article reporting this story is problematic, however.  For starters, it places a lot of emphasis on her transition: her pre-transition life, when she knew she wanted to transition, her current operation status, etc.  This is voyeuristic and objectifies transgender individuals by reducing them to their body parts.

The fourth paragraph of the article starts off with, “Andre, who was born a man but now lives as a woman…”  Doing the whole “she was born a man, but now is a woman” or the “he was born a woman, but now is a man” when talking about transgender people reinforces a gender binary and essentialist notions of gender.

Towards the end of the article, the author writes about how Edwards knew that she was “not like other children when she was just 10-years-old”.  This kind of language continues to otherize and marginalize the transgender community.

I find it also problematic how the article frames the story as Edwards getting a “second chance”.  The title is Transgender cabbie gets second chance.  The issue however is not about Edwards getting a “second chance” but rather, her triumphing over transphobia and transphobic discrimination.





A tribute to the late Dr. George Tiller

27 07 2009

Here is a beautiful piece from the NY Times written in memory of Dr. George Tiller, a true vagina warrior who devoted his life to providing women with a crucial health service despite hindrances, threats, harassment and violence.  It’s a reminder of how tragic Dr. Tiller’s murder was and what a great loss it was for the feminist/womanist community.  Here’s taste of the article:

It did not take long for anti-abortion leaders to realize that George R. Tiller was more formidable than other doctors they had tried to shut down.

Shrewd and resourceful, Dr. Tiller made himself the nation’s pre-eminent abortion practitioner, advertising widely and drawing women to Wichita from all over with his willingness to perform late-term abortions, hundreds each year. As anti-abortion activists discovered, he gave as good as he got, wearing their contempt as a badge of honor. A “warrior,” they called him with grudging respect.

And so for more than 30 years the anti-abortion movement threw everything into driving Dr. Tiller out of business, certain that his defeat would deal a devastating blow to the “abortion industry” that has terminated roughly 50 million pregnancies since Roe v. Wade in 1973.

They blockaded his clinic; campaigned to have him prosecuted; boycotted his suppliers; tailed him with hidden cameras; branded him “Tiller the baby killer”; hit him with lawsuits, legislation and regulatory complaints; and protested relentlessly, even at his church. Some sent flowers pleading for him to quit. Some sent death threats. One bombed his clinic. Another tried to kill him in 1993, firing five shots, wounding both arms.

In short, they made George Tiller’s clinic the nation’s most visible abortion battleground, a magnet for activists from all corners of the country.

Dr. Tiller would not budge.

Continue reading the rest.





Wednesday Blogaround

22 07 2009

Happy Wednesday!  Here’s what we’ve been reading:

Jimmy Carter protests religion’s treatment of women – Thank you Jimmy Carter!  Last week he issued a position paper opening with “Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.”  It’s awesome to see such a prominent man of faith take a stance and speak out on sexism in organized religion.

Lessons for Feminists from Sarah Palin – what the feminist community can learn from Sarah Palin: from the beginning when she first entered the political limelight to her recent resignation speech.

Kansas Attorney Sued After Showing Pictures of Alleged Rape After Refusing to Prosecute – Okay, this is fucked up.  A county attorney in Kansas chose not to prosecute a rape that occurred at a party in 2007, but chose to show pictures of the assault to parents of other people who attended that party to prove that there was underage drinking.

Why the planet needs more non-breeders – a post from fbomb, an awesome new young feminist blog, on Cameron Diaz’s decision to not have kids (for the environment) and how women are caught in a double bind where they are judged for both wanting/having kids and not wanting/not having kids.

Racism in Cambridge: Harvard Professor Gates Arrested (Updated) – RacismReview’s take on Professor Gates’ recent arrest.

Cop Sues Burbank Police Department for Discrimination – Last week, Asian American police detective Christopher Lee Dunn filed a lawsuit against the Burbank Police Department alleging that he was the victim of discrimination and retaliation prior to being unjustly fired.  This is the sixth time that the Burbank Police Department has been sued for discrimination since May.

If You’re Disabled You Cannot be a Customer – People who are differently abled are often treated as second class citizens and “treated like an inconvenience and rushed out of sight”.

On Chris Brown’s Public “Apology” – Or rather, Chris Brown’s non-apology.  “The message [from his “apology”] is clear: beat, bite, punch and strangle your girlfriend, and as long as you apologize, you are a-OK.”