Tag Archives: misogyny

If men could get pregnant….

24 Oct

When I was in high school, I remember this bumper sticker:

I didn’t really grasp the strength of the rhetoric, nor did I know that it was a quote from an amazing African American feminist–Florynce Kennedy:

The point is, I was thinking about the statement today, as I heard about the most recent remark in favor of complete abortion bans, this one by Indiana republican Richard Mourdock. He expressed the following gem at a recent debate: “The only exception I have to have an abortion is in the case of the life of the mother. I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize life is that gift from God. I think that even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”


This extremely profound expression of compassion and empathy sounds even better when put to the trauma test. Tsunamis, genocide, child abuse, earthquakes, rape–all are events that God wanted to happen, and must therefore be considered gifts. But we’re not talking about the Biblical parable of Job here; specifically, something that will most likely never happen to Mourdock, is something that he insists a rape victim must consider to be a gift.

Think on this: Rape has been used as a weapon of war, as an instrument of torture and soul-killing, in the Serbian rape camps, by Congolese paramilitary soldiers, and in thousands of other examples across the centuries. Specifically, in the case of the former Yugoslavia, Serbian soldiers corralled Bosnian women into camps wherein they were raped for months on end. The goal was not just to torture the women, but to impregnate them, sowing their seeds for a future Serbian generation (and ensuring a life of shame for the raped Bosnian woman). Whether one believes in a God or not is an obfuscation here: these acts do not take place in a sphere where gifts–as such–occur.

Mourdock’s remarks, prefaced as they are with his admission of having “struggled over it for a long time,” clearly reveal his complete inability to look, feel, see, envision, guess, at what another person might be feeling after such trauma.

But I misspoke. It isn’t “another person,” it’s a woman. Mourdock’s description of “struggling,” very clearly and sadly emphasizes his complete, presumptious disconnect. The ongoing tragic irony of these incessant and ridiculous declarations concerning rape and abortion have all been made by men, about women’s experiences. The fire, fury, and righteousness of their mandate occurs in the vacuum of their sex and gender. In 1998  the artist Barbara Kruger produced this poster for the New York subway system:

 14 years later, what’s changed? (Perhaps the former percentage is now higher?)

Back to the notion of “sacrament.” Arguably, the two most famous mothers are the Virgin Mary and Mother Theresa. Hmmm, both were virgins! So, two of the most historically revered mothers in the Western world were not literally mothers at all. Maternal, submissive, self-sacrificing. But nothing went into their vaginas and nothing came out, they remained pure of defilement, empty vessels. This is relevant because, in all this talk about abortion and rape, there’s been little talk about the woman and the mother herself. And, as usual in the anti-abortion argument, near zero talk about the child once s/he’s born. Further, in all the ranting about rape and its “gifts” I haven’t heard a single politician mention rape counseling and support groups, or the funding for such. In this blog I have often ranted about the anti-abortion movement’s obsession with the fetus as a kind of figment, an abstraction encapsulating the movement’s fervor; but I think that the woman herself remains a figment in a similar fashion, what’s done to her body seen solely hypothetically. Also, the movement’s recent emphatic shift to the eradication of the “rape or incest clause” previously allowed by the right, drags the abstraction of pregnant woman even further into the absolutist mire of Christian fundamentalism. It’s not about the woman, it’s about the embryo/zygote/fetus. It’s not about the woman, it’s about (my) God.


Another awful Republican rape statement

13 Sep


As the crisis over the amateur anti-Muslim video spreads across the Middle East, its effects on the presidential campaigns here continue to gain in intensity. Romney’s premature statements criticizing the White House’s response (which had not yet occurred), have been widely mocked and ridiculed.

So in turn, Romney’s backers gathered around him, crowing about the American value of free speech, while happily ignoring the very real convergence of hate speech. As the haters manned the defenses: of Romney, of American values, of America’s never-having-to-say-we’re-sorry, Arizona Republican Jon Kyl had this to say:

“This is like a judge telling the woman that got raped, ‘You asked for it because of the way you dressed,’ ” he said. “O.K.? That’s the same thing: ‘Well, America you should be the ones to apologize. You should have known this would happen.’”

America having to apologize to ANYONE is as ridiculous and horrific as a judge telling a woman she deserved to get raped. America is akin to a woman in hot pants walking down a dark alley and getting attacked….it’s like the First Amendment in an up-to-there mini-skirt getting jumped on an un-lit socialist cobblestone path.  Well, I hope that America as rape victim does not get pregnant, because America as Republicans will sure not pony up for an abortion.

France’s female housing minister

20 Jul


This is the dress that Cecil Duflot, housing minister of the governing Socialist party, was wearing this week when she addressed the French parliament. This is where she stood, speaking on an architectural project, as hooting and catcalls echoed through the chamber.

The incident was later  released on video, creating a mini scandale, French ministers clamoring all over themselves to justify their hoots:

*She “probably put on that dress so we wouldn’t listen to what she was saying.”

*She “put on that dress so we would listen to her.”

*(The extraordinarily demeaning and diminishing) shouts were “in homage to this woman’s beauty.”

Duflot states that she has worked in the businesses of housing and politics for years, and has never encountered such treatment. She is one of the 17 female members of government appointed by Hollande, who appointed his cabinet according to a policy of gender parity: 17 women and 17 men.

In May, Duflot received a similar share of attention when she appeared at a cabinet meeting in jeans:

This undue and insane amount of attention paid to the attire of a politician cannot be linked to anything other than extremely reactive, ridiculous and outmoded sexism. It’s not the bright-colored dress, it’s not the wearing of jeans to a government building, it’s the female politician. Drawing attention to her clothes draws attention away from her political personhood–her ideas, her policies, her actions, her intelligence, her position. Insisting that she remain linked to how she looks disallows her from being otherwise; if she responds to the absurdity she only becomes more embedded within it.

Duflot is trapped in the middle of a patriarchal French cul-de-sac.

The Muslim Brotherhood and the female anatomy

19 Jun

Despite the fact that former authoritarian ruler Mubarak banned the archaic and brutal custom of female genital mutilation throughout Egpyt, there are recent reports that the Muslim Brotherhood has organized a mobile “medical” van that has been travelling through southern areas of Egpyt, with female genital mutilation as one of its principle “surgical” procedures.

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has been a subject of intense controversy and condemnation for decades now. At first, defenders of the practice referred to its “cultural” importance, decrying those western imperialists who sought to preach to others. Now, it’s being justified as a religious practice, which in turn renders those who attempt to curb its practice as Islamophobes.

But religion’s got nothing to do with it. And, even if it was a cultural practice, a tradition–who cares?! Traditions and cultures change and evolve as do their peoples. The slicing off of 1/4 to 1/3 of a female’s genitals do nothing other than lead to constant, chronic pain for the rest of a girl’s life. Intense pain during urination, sexual intercourse and childbirth; an increased susceptibility to disease and infection; an inability to feel anything other than throbbing, searing agony during sex: these are the after-effects of slicing off the external front area of the clitoris and lips of the vagina.

The tools: a few razor blades.

The Muslim Brotherhood’s commitment to the practice might mean that those knives are a little cleaner, but it must be demanded as to why they are propagating such brutal, hateful, torturuous practices? Why have The Faith and Justice Party members of parliament (including a female politician) denounced the existing law which criminalizes fgm, and stated their support for its continued practice?

The Muslim Brotherhood runs an extensive community outreach program, providing health, education and other social services. This benevolent arm of the party undoubtedly also serves as terrific propaganda for it, enabling its politicians to claim greater understanding of Egytian citizens’ needs and desires. So, if female genital mutilation is being done via the Muslim Brotherhood’s medical vans, this means that fgm is considered part of the party’s community outreach. Slicing off parts of a young girl’s body is part of the community outreach in which it is engaging.


Further, by providing the service via a “medical” van, the Muslim Brotherhood strives to give fgm legitimacy, supposedly rendering the procedure safe and presumptive. By advertising its services as “surgical circumcision for males and females,” it equates the two, and further attempts to justify fgm by referring to it as “surgery.”

See? It’s done to men too. Except male circumcision doesn’t lead to chronic pain, generally does not welcome numerous infections, and definitely doesn’t prevent sexual pleasure. Female genital mutilation is exactly what it describes: mutilation. A girl’s female parts are scarred for life; she is forced to bear the pain of her sex until the day she dies.

5 most dangerous countries in the world to be a woman

15 Jun

1. Afghanistan

2. The Congo

3. Pakistan

4. India

5. Somalia

Thomson Reuters has just published the results of its survey on the physical, emotional, legal, political and cultural safety of women throughout the world. The survey can be found in its entirety through TrustLaw, its non-profit international organization founded to assist in the proliferation of women’s rights everywhere:                                      


India’s placement at 4th most dangerous country to be a woman is quite shocking considering its billing as the largest democracy on earth, and more importantly, that it remains the only country of the 5 who has been relatively free of violent conflict with both other countries and its own citizens. Its placement here emphasizes that war, starvation, religious turmoil, and a history of inherent violence are not the only precursors for placement on such an ominous list. Extreme poverty must be added to this cycle, and it is due to the ongoing catastrophe of poverty throughout India that the country appears within such an inglorious grouping.

The trading of young girls into marriage, the still-present custom of sati- the burning of a widow on a pyre, rampant female illiteracy, the prevalence of sexual slavery and prostitution in its major cities, the very common and culturally accepted use of ultrasound technology in the serviec of sex selection (i. e. the detected female fetus is often aborted), all of these components coagulate into a kind of unmoveable force against female progress, even in a country struggling to maintain and improve its democratic structures.  And then, even something as simple and overlooked as peeing becomes an overwhelming issue in such a poor and populous place:


It is estimated that in some slums there is one public restroom for 300 people; male restrooms and urinals outnumber female restrooms by anywhere from 35%-90%. The budding Indian “Right to Pee” movement is attempting to revolutionize the public restroom structure, but in the meantime the average urban Indian woman withholds the amount of water she drinks, goes in packs at dawn to defecate, and holds it in as long as she can.

Living in the Western world, it is easy to forget how the simplest parts of daily life have the possibility to become so much more arduous when the structuring element of poverty enters. Not being able to have regular bowel movements, having nowhere safe to pee at any given time, risking one’s health merely by having to crouch over a hole somewhere: these remain daily hurdles for the average Indian female in the 21st century. In addition to everything else…

Offended Greek politician throws water glass and blows at female opponents, thumbing his nose at the real crisis at hand…

7 Jun

During a nationally televised debate on the financial crisis, a member of New Dawn–the far-right neo-fascist party currently expanding its reach in Greek politics–hit a member of the Communist party several times across the face. Lianna Kanelli stood up in protest after Ilias Kasidiaris petulantly threw a glass of water at another panel participant, and was rewarded with several blows to the face.                                             http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/06/07/greek-neo-nazi-golden-dawn-mp-slaps-female-leftist-politician-in-the-face-on-live-television/

Rena Dorou, member of far left party Syriza, cried there is a “crisis of democracy when people who will take the country back 500 years have got into the Greek parliament.” Kasidiaris responded by throwing a glass at her.

Kanelli stood up and threw a newspaper at the violent facist, who then began to hit her across the head. The moderator attempted to intervene, but from the photographs and video it appears that the other panel members remained seated.

Granted, Greece is in a constant, elevated state of political, economic and social crisis, but Kasidiaris’ actions are not that of an enraged, emotional politian but instead those of a hateful, violent misogynist. To engage in throwing things, hitting colleagues and generally throwing a tantrum reveals a man unable to control his emotions during a minor debate. (Further, to direct his acts at female opponents is evidence of much more negative tendencies.) How can such a man produce positive change for the Greek people he was elected to represent?

Kanelli has said that she will not be pressing charges, stating that she is an adult who can take care of herself, and whose energies will remain committed towards the restoration of the Greek economy. “I can handle a punch…let the people decide when they vote. I am 58 years old, I just feel pity for his mother, his family and his colleagues.”

P.S. Later that day a commentator noted that, given the fact that Greece remains a male-dominated country with a certain reverence for the traditional woman, Greeks will not tolerate this kind of violent action. This got me to thinking a lot about the notions of chivalry, i.e. protecting the weaker sex. This protection is often considered respect, an upholding of traditional courtesty and regard; but protection is also a form of barrier construction, where those who are deemed not ready, too weak, not suitable for certain activities are kept at bay. I have nothing against courtesy and kindness, but it must be noted that a space where women are revered is often a space where they are restricted. If there were more female politicians and women in exposed areas of power, could it be argued that Ilias Kasidiaris wouldn’t have dared to act out in such a way?

The fatal sin of a singing woman

6 Jun

When the United States first attacked Afghanistan, it claimed that one of its dominant reasons for entering the country was to assist in efforts to liberate Afghani women suffering under massive Talibani prohibitions, oppression and violence. Throughout the U.S. occupation of Afghanistan it has relied on its friend and ally, Pakistan.

But how different is the official and unofficial treatment of women in Pakistan from the obstacles, subservience, religious and tribal laws, sexual violence and prohibitions faced by women in Afghanistan?

http://www.watoday.com.au/world/sentenced-to-death-for-singing-and-dancing-at-wedding-20120529-1zfu3.html                                                                               Last  month 5 women and 2 men were sentenced to death (via throat slit) by a Muslim cleric in rural Pakistan. The offense: potentially singing and dancing together at a wedding. I write “potentially,” because the wedding occurred 3 years ago, and the video has only recently appeared, rendering its provenence suspicious. http://www.jihadwatch.org/2012/05/pakistan-muslim-clerics-sentence-4-women-and-2-men-to-death-for-singing-and-dancing-at-wedding.html

A cursory internet search finds short stories concerning the death sentence, but highly conflicting reports as to whether the women have been killed or not (the men reportedly escaped). The cleric has since been brought into police custody, his authority being officially questioned.

This is not a rare occurence: the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan asserts that at least 943 women and girls were killed last year as a result of “dishonoring” their family.

Lawyer Asma Jahangir, founder of the Human Rights Commission, the first woman to lead the Supreme Court Bar Association, and a fierce fighter against corruption and human rights violations for thirty years now, has become increasingly endangered by tacitly sanctioned government-run military and intelligence groups seeking to assassinate her:                                                             http://www.euronews.com/newswires/1542356-rights-groups-rally-around-pakistan-lawyer-under-threat/

The Human Rights Watch report on Pakistan cites an increasing amount of terror, violence and intimidation against its women: http://www.hrw.org/world-report-2012/world-report-2012-pakistan 

Honor killings, child marriage, acid attacks, lack of access to education, sexual assault by tribal edict: all remain constant and worrying factors for the female Pakistani population. According to the United Nation’s WomenWatch, in 2012 the Pakistani government approved the National Commission on the Status of Women Bill and the Acid Control and Acid Prevention Act, but without proper infrastructure, funding, cultural education and general acceptance how can measures such as these stand against tribal courts and women-hating edicts? And, given the United States’ increasing number of unapproved drone and military attacks, it is unlikely that the Pakistani government would listen to U. S. advice on the treatment of its female population. But then again, I haven’t heard any U. S. government or military official comment on such matters anyway.

P.S. As of the 7th, 2 of the women have been located by human rights activists. And while the 2 men have reappeared in court stating some of the women were killed, the 2 located women claim all are alive.