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!





Tomorrow marks the 8th Anniversary of the War in Afghanistan

6 10 2009

Tomorrow, Wednesday October 7th, marks the 8th Anniversary of the War in Afghanistan.  Earlier this year, President Obama announced his 10 year plan for Afghanistan which entailed of adding 21,000 more U.S. military forces deployed in Iraq and diplomatic engagement of Pakistan.  This is misguided – the way to Peace in Afghanistan will not come through more military force.  That will only lead to more civilian casualties and inner turmoil.  The war in Afghanistan will only end if the public keeps demanding it.  It is time to tap into the political momentum for peace.

If you are in the Boston area, the United for Justice with Peace (UJP) Coalition will be having Stand Outs against the War at T stations:

Wednesday, October 7th is the 8th anniversary of the war on Afghanistan, a war which UJP was formed to oppose.

To mark this date, the Cambridge and Somerville/Medford UJP community groups will be standing out at T- stops from 5:30 to 6:30 PM. We will be distributing information about the costs of the war, for Afghans, for  US troops and for our communities, and alerting people to the Oct. 17th anti-war rally at Copley Square.    We will gather at the Central Sq., Harvard Sq., and Porter Sq. T-stops in Cambridge and at Davis Sq. in Somerville.

At Harvard Square, the Raging Grannies will sing at 5:30pm, and there will be a creative action in addition to vigiling and leafleting.    We invite all to join us there, or at one of the other T-stops, if that is more convenient.
Dorchester People for Peace will also leaflet at the Ashmont T-Stop on Wednesday morning from 7:30-9am.
Milton for Peace will stand out on Blue Hill Ave. near Mattapan Square from 7-8am.
The tide is turning away from further escalation of the war on Afghanistan.  It’s time to bring the troops home now and end this war which is bad for Afghans and bad for Americans.  It’s a time when we can make a difference.  Come stand with us on Oct. 7th.




Monday Blogaround

5 10 2009

Here are some things that popped up on my feminist radar:

What Counts as Real Rape? – More from Gwen on the Roman Polanski case

Concerns About Racism Are “Weird” – The trivialization and dismissal of racism by saying “it’s weird”

US Fence Causes Increase in Border Deaths – Today marks the 15th anniversary of the poorly misguided border strategy known as Operation Gatekeeper

Childbirth at the Global Crossroads – The implications of surrogacy and assisted reproductive technology on women in the “developing” world

End the War in Afghanistan – Peter Rothberg’s lists ways you can help end the war in Afghanistan

Fiona Pilkington inquest: how ableism can lead to suicide – ableism has been instituted and normalized in our society, thus marginalizing and erasing certain existences

Woody’s To Face Boycott – The Fairness Campaign is calling for a boycott of Woody’s Tavern at 4 PM Tuesday

My Weight – Stomp out weight bigotry and fatism. As Joy Nash says, “Tell people how much you weigh. It’s just a stinking number.”

Reclaim the Night (For Cis Women Only) and the London Cis Feminism Network – Feminism is not fully functional if it excludes trans people

Activist Modus Operandi: Methods of Communication – a great post from Genderbitch on activism for marginalized groups and tips on how to be an effective activist





Guido Westerwelle – soon to be the first openly gay Foreign Minister of Germany

1 10 2009

GuidoWesterwelle

Guido Westerwelle is going to be the first openly gay Foreign Minister of Germany, a position that is basically equivalent to the Secretary of State in the United States.  He heads the minority Free Democrats Party and has a reputation for being an exhibitionist, but what seems to get him the most attention is the fact that he is gay. Why do people care more about a his sexual orientation instead of his politics or policies that he’s committed to?

Some are worried that the prominence of Westerwelle and his partner, Michael Mronz, and the publicity they garner will “undermine the security and support of Germany within the international community”.  Pessimists and pundits claim that leaders of nations with anti-gay laws like Iran will have less than great relations with Germany now with the appointment of Westerwelle.

Why the negativity though?  This is definitely a step forward.  Westerwelle can lead by example.  He has already used his publicity and high profile to encourage LGBTQ youth.  He told a popular magazine geared towards gay people:

I can only tell all young gays and lesbians to not be disheartened, if not everything goes their way. This society is changing for the good in the direction of tolerance and respect … though slower than I would wish.

Well, Congrats Westerwelle and Hurray Germany!





Happy Peace Day!

21 09 2009

Today, September 21st, is International Peace Day. In 1999, filmmaker Jeremy Gilley started Peace One Day to find a starting point for peace. He was on a mission to document his efforts to establish the first ever fixed day of global ceasefire and nonviolence. Two years later, all 192 member nations of the United Nations unanimously adopted September 21st as an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence and thus September 21st became Peace Day.

Peace Day is  not just about creating and sustaining peace between nations, but it is also about creating and sustaining peace on a more local and interpersonal level. This means observing nonviolence in our homes, our friendships, our relationships, our schools, our communities, our workplaces, etc. As most peace activists already know, peace is more than just the absence of war. Peace is also the absence of structural violence.

Structural violence can often be invisible and harder to detect because it is so normalized and ingrained in society. It is a term that was coined by Johan Galtung to denote violence that is perpetuated by the systematic ways in which a given social structure or social institution oppress people and violate their basic humanity. Examples of structural violence include racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ethnocentrism, etc. Structural violence is linked to and interdependent with direct violence because it creates the foundation from which direct violence can manifest seemingly justifiably.

His Holiness The Dalai Lama has said, “We must make every effort for the promotion of peace and inner values.” Peace One Day has suggestions for how you can take action on Peace Day. One simple way is to make a commitment to take action on Peace Day. Go throughout the day with this elevated intention. Taking action does not have to be a grand gesture. It can be small (afterall, the personal is political), like apologizing to someone who you may have wronged, making a donation to a nonprofit organization that you support, taking some time out of your day to volunteer, etc.

Gilley, the Chair and Founder of Peace One Day, says:

We want to reach 3 billion people with the message of Peace Day by 2012, and we are working with governments, the UN system, non-governmental organisations, schools and corporations to achieve that; but ultimately it is your support that will help make it a reality. As Ahmad Fawzi (now Director of News Media at the UN) said at our launch in 1999, “It is the peoples of this world who can create peace.”





How NOT to write about Africa

19 09 2009

This is really well done and totally worth watching.





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.





Stop Trans Pathologization – 2012 Campaign

29 08 2009

The European Transgender Network “Transgender Europe” (TGEU) has expressed its support for the Stop Trans Pathologization – 2012 (STP – 2012) campaign, which has a pretty self explanatory mission of advocating for the depathologization of trans identities and removing Gender Identity Disorder (GID) from the American Psychiatric Association’s DSM and the World Health Organization’s CIE. A revised version of the DSM is due in 2012 and a revised version of the CIE is due in 2014.

TGEU recently released a statement calling upon their member organizations and allies worldwide to join the campaign and organize in their regions. The main demand of the STP – 2012 campaign that TGEU is endorsing as well is to remove GID from international diagnostic manuals. TGEU also has these additional demands:

– The creation of an alternative non-pathologizing category in the ICD 11, recognizing that our gender identities are not mental health disorders while still enabling hormonal and surgical medical assistance to be provided for those trans-people who seek such assistance.

– The funding of hormonal and surgical medical assistance for trans people by national health insurance.

– The creation of processes for changing legal name and gender without compulsory treatment or any form of diagnosis.

October 17, 2009 is the established date for demonstrations in cities worldwide this year, so save that date! TGEU is collecting information about planned demonstrations in cities and so far, over 80 trans organizations and allies from over 40 cities in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe have expressed their support and solidarity, and/or confirmed their participation. Hopefully that number will just soar in the next couple weeks.

If you would like to confirm the support and/or participation of your group, email research@tgeu.org with the subject JOIN STP 2012 before September 5th. Be sure to include your group/organization’s name, logo if there is one, country, city, and the message: We want to join the campaign “Stop Trans Pathologization – 2012”.





A Closer Look at “The Women’s Crusade”

27 08 2009

Earlier this week, I wrote a post about “The Women’s Crusade”, the leading article in last weekend’s New York Times magazine by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn. The first time I read the article, there were several things that irked me but I chose to ignore them because I was just so excited that the Times, a prominent and well regarded mainstream publication, was dedicating an entire magazine to international women’s issues. Emblazoned on the magazine cover was of the magazine was “Why Women’s Rights Are the Cause of Our Time”. Seeing this thrilled me because it was exciting to see women’s issues being brought to the forefront instead of shoved aside, like what typically happens.

But after mulling over the article over the past few days, I decided that the things that irked me originally should not be ignored. While it’s phenomenal that Kristof and WuDunn wrote a compelling article about the need to elevate the status of women across the globe, it is also important to approach it with a critical eye.

The first thing that I noticed that was bothersome was right in the first paragraph where it says:

In this century, [the paramount moral challenge] is the brutality inflicted on so many women and girls around the globe: sex trafficking, acid attacks, bride burnings and mass rape.

Kristof and WuDunn discuss these brutalities as they occur in Asian and African countries, but for all of the international rhetoric used, shouldn’t the focus then be truly global instead of just limited to Asia and Africa? Sex trafficking occurs in wealthy western nations as well, including the US. According to the Polaris Project, each year an alarming 200,000 American children are at high risk for being trafficked into the sex industry.

Rape, while utilized as a weapon of war in conflict ridden countries like the Congo, is also a brutality that women and girls endure in America as well. Let’s not forget the 68 page report released by Human Rights Watch in March 2009 that put Los Angeles to shame by revealing that at least 12,669 untested rape kits have just been sitting in police storage facilities and crime labs in Los Angeles. (But the good news: yesterday L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yarovslavksy announced that the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department will 100% fund the testing of every single rape kit in the backlog within the next two years. Furthermore they will expand their staff to ensure that rape kits will no longer be just languishing on the shelves.)

Read the rest of this entry »





I Heart Nicholas Kristof

24 08 2009

Nicholas Kristof frequently writes great pieces for the New York Times about different feminist issues in a global context. This weekend’s Times featured a pretty lengthy excerpt from a book called Half the Sky: Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide written by him and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, a former Times correspondent, that will be published next month. The piece is called The Women’s Crusade and it is an engrossing read that left me eagerly anticipating the book’s release.

Kristof and WuDunn make several critical points. In the second paragraph, they make the point that in order to help a country, you must first help out and elevate the most marginalized of the population. In other words, you are only as strong as your weakest link:

The world is awakening to a powerful truth: Women and girls aren’t the problem; they’re the solution.

They go on to discuss how educating women and girls and providing them with microfinance opportunities are two simple ways to uplift the status of the female population for many countries worldwide. The piece is laden with personal stories that humanize gender oppression and the plight of many women and girls worldwide. Later on, Kristof and WuDunn write:

WHAT SHOULD we make of stories like Saima’s? Traditionally, the status of women was seen as a “soft” issue — worthy but marginal. We initially reflected that view ourselves in our work as journalists. We preferred to focus instead on the “serious” international issues, like trade disputes or arms proliferation.

The mainstream media consistently dismisses gender issues as not important enough and often casts them off to the side. This is why we seldom get coverage of women and gender related issues, like how thousands of infant girls die in China because their parents didn’t think it necessary to give them quality medical care or attention simply because they are female, or bride burnings in India which occur about once every two hours, or sex trafficking. Even in the New York Times, “All the news that’s fit to print”, doesn’t feature such stories.

Kristof and WuDunn also suggest realistic foreign-aid policies to help further women’s roles in economic and societal development, such as allocating $10 billion over five years to fund education for women and girls worldwide, sponsoring a global drive to eradicate iodine deficiency across the globe, allocating $1.6 billion over twelve years to eliminate obstetric fistula and a childbirth injury that affects many women in less wealthy countries.

Read the whole thing here.





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.





Laura Ling and Euna Lee Pardoned!

4 08 2009

President of North Korea, Kim Jong II, has pardoned U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee after talks with former U.S. President Bill Clinton.  Clinton arrived in North Korea yesterday to meet with Jong to appeal for the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee.  This meeting was the first meeting Jong has had with any prominent Western politician or figure since his stroke last year.

According to the country’s Korean Central News Agency, the release of Ling and Lee is an example of North Korea’s “humanitarian and peace-loving policy”.  I am sure that many, including myself, will dispute the claim that North Korea has a “humanitarian and peace-loving policy”, but at least Ling and Lee are free now!

For more, click here.





Homophobic hate crime in Tel Aviv

2 08 2009

In Tel Aviv Saturday night, a masked gunman burst into the basement of the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association and opened fire on a support group for gay teenagers.  He sprayed the interior with automatic rifle fire, killing 3 people and injuring 11.  Of the 11 injured, 6 are “badly hurt”.  Witnesses have described the scene to the media as a “bloodbath”.

Nitzan Horowitz, an openly gay Knesset lawmaker, said that Saturday night was “without a doubt the biggest ever attack on the Israeli gay community, we are all in shock.”  What is especially saddening and tragic about this violent hate crime is that the targets and the victims were all young people.

For many of them, the basement of the Tel Aviv Gay and Lesbian Association was a safe space where they could meet others who were struggling like they were to come to terms with their identity.  It was a safe space for them to retreat from the homophobia they faced in the outside world and find themselves in a community where they were supported.  Unfortunately on Saturday night, their safe space was infiltrated by a violent and bigoted man.

These are human lives that were lost, the lives of young people who were stripped of their opportunities and right to live their lives and pursue their hopes, dreams and desires.  The price of hatred and intolerance is too high.  May those three young people rest in peace.





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.





Sunday Catch Up

26 07 2009

Here are a few things we missed:

This Is What Rape Culture Looks Like.

A woman walks into a rape, uh, bar…

New laws help domestic violence victims.

Human rights violations in U.K. jail.

Women and the Minimum Wage.

Women don’t ask for nasty voyeurism.

Complimentary.

On Gendered Language.

On the word “transition”.

Perhaps Silverton is Not Completely Accepting of their Trans Mayor.

Banning Cesar Chavez: Whites “Sanitizing” US History Again.

Same crap, different day.

Marketing Asian Women to Anti-feminist Men.

When the Outside Looks Like the Inside.