Tag Archives: Women Rights

The Biden Trap

In the world of political reporting on the presidential race, two seemingly divergent stories are taking shape and blowing up, respectively. And it’s the stuff of feminist nightmares.

The first is about the “veepstakes”: Because the world is topsy-turvy and former vice-president Joe Biden cleared the Democratic field in March, we’re in an earlier-than-usual frenzy of speculation about who his running mate will be. Biden, who has long been dogged by criticism on feminist grounds (stemming from his history of bad stances on abortion, his having permitted the ill treatment of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas hearings, and allegations that he has spent a career touching women in ways that have made them feel uncomfortable), has promised that his running mate will be a woman. (Will she be short or tall, big or small, black or white, left or center? Who is to say, really. She will be A Woman™.)

Meanwhile, Biden’s shaky past behavior around women and their bodies isn’t staying in his past, despite his having worked to overcome it via passage of the Violence Against Woman Act, improving his views on abortion and the Hyde Amendment, sort of apologizing to Hill, and promising to pick A Woman vice-president and appoint A Black Woman to the Supreme Court.

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Posted by on May 11, 2020 in North America, Reportages


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‘Younger feminists have shifted my understanding’

As you grow older you become an immigrant from a vanished country, a country some of your peers may remember but the young may find unimaginable or incomprehensible. You could call it the land of before; before some great change, before we did things this way, before we decided that was unacceptable, before we shed new light on an old problem. I was shaped by a world that no longer quite exists, so I can’t imagine myself at, say, 18 in the present moment, because to do so is to imagine someone utterly different. She does not exist, and I – as we all do – exist as the cumulative effect of my experiences, opportunities or lack thereof, and ideals.

So much of what shaped and scarred my younger self, and made me a solitary feminist, and then much later one among many, was the unspeakability of violence against women and all the denigration, harassment and silencing that went with it. It was epidemic, and yet every incident was supposed to be an isolated incident, and nobody was supposed to connect the crimes to the culture that relished violence against women as entertainment, and denied it existed in any significant way as fact, and made sure that prevention and prosecution were as feeble as they were rare. All those forces still exist, but something else does alongside them: a vigorous conversation, speaking and naming and describing and defining; rejecting the excuses and cover-ups and justifications.

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Posted by on March 11, 2020 in Uncategorized


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The Harvey Weinstein Verdict Is a Watershed — and a Warning

When I was young I had no words. I read voraciously, I loved books, stories, language. I was trying to become a writer, and so I lived for words and by words. I poured out my thoughts and some of the hopes and fears that were beginning to take shape in long conversations with friends. But words failed me when I needed them most.

I was a young woman in the 1980s, long before all the contemporary conversations about consent and believing victims began, before terms like acquaintance rape and workplace sexual harassment were in regular circulation. I lived in a time when it seemed so unlikely that the men who menaced me on the street and sometimes elsewhere would respect my words if I said no, leave me alone, I’m not interested that I despaired beforehand and tried instead to slip away, evade, dodge, shrink, disappear.

I was mute in those moments. I knew that speaking was more likely to make things worse than better for me, though women in the situations I found myself in were often rebuked for not speaking up. The pleasant story behind that rebuke was that we were all equal rational beings, and we all had the power of language at our command, and anyone who didn’t use it chose not to, and it was all on her.

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Posted by on March 4, 2020 in North America


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Latin America’s Radical Feminism Is Spreading

During the jury selection process for Harvey Weinstein’s criminal trial this month, dozens of women gathered outside a Manhattan courthouse to perform a version of the dance/chant known as “Un violador en tu camino,” or “A Rapist in Your Path.” First in Spanish, then in English, they sang: “Patriarchy is our judge that imprisons us at birth/And our punishment is the violence you don’t see.”

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Posted by on February 21, 2020 in South America


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Is Patriarchy Too Big to Fail?

The screaming twenties have barely drawn breath, and already we’ve been wallowing through the show-trials of white capitalist male supremacy’s largest and most untouchable adult sons: Donald Trump and Harvey Weinstein. The similarities are more than circumstantial. Both are rich, powerful men outraged at being held to account for even a fraction of the crimes they’ve been accused of. Both have allegedly enjoyed a full curriculum of moral corruption, from rape and sexual assault to blackmail and intimidation to the use of foreign powers to undermine their enemies and lube their way to hectic impunity. And both spent many, many years grooming allies. Weinstein and Trump bet heavily on creating complicity—so much complicity that the institutions they occupied cannot hold them to account without damning themselves by association. Both of them bet on being too big to fail.

In Trump’s case, he won the bet. The doomed attempt to impeach the president drew to its inevitable end last week, as Washington and the world were forced to acknowledge that, as California Rep. Adam Schiff put it, Trump “has compromised our elections, and he will do so again. You will not change him. You cannot constrain him. He is who he is.” Directly addressing any remaining Republicans in the Senate chamber with an inch of backbone, Schiff insisted that “you are decent. He is not who you are.”

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Posted by on February 14, 2020 in Reportages


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100 Women vs. Harvey Weinstein

It is true but incomplete to say that the word of one woman was not enough to bring down the law on Harvey Weinstein. The full truth is uglier; in the spring of 2015, Weinstein’s own admissions of groping a woman without her consent, first overheard by officers and then caught on tape, weren’t enough for prosecutors to bring charges.

Ambra Battilana Gutierrez was 22 when she reported to the NYPD that, earlier that day at a business meeting, the superstar Hollywood producer had grabbed her breasts and put his hands up her skirt. As she sat with special-victims detectives, Weinstein called her and police heard him acknowledge touching her breasts. Gutierrez was distraught, but she agreed to wear a wire to meet Weinstein the next day in the lobby of the Tribeca Grand, where he asked her to come to his hotel room while he took a shower. He said he wanted her to watch him shower. Gutierrez repeatedly said she wanted to leave, then demanded to know why he had groped her breasts. Weinstein replied, “Oh please, I’m sorry, just come on in … I’m used to that.”

He was also used to what happened to him after he was hauled in for questioning, which was nothing. The producer assembled a team of well-connected advocates, from Rudy Giuliani to the former chief of the Manhattan district attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit, Linda Fairstein. Tabloids battered Gutierrez’s reputation. “Page Six” referred to Weinstein as a “married dad of five” and quoted an anonymous source dismissing the case as extortion. Detectives later said prosecutors in Manhattan DA Cyrus Vance’s office grilled Gutierrez about whether she was a sex worker. Days later, they announced they would bring no charges.

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Posted by on January 20, 2020 in North America


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Nigerian Women Say ‘MeToo.’ Critics Say ‘Prove It.’

It was, she said, a secret that burned so badly she could no longer keep it inside. So at age 34, Busola Dakolo, a well-known Nigerian photographer, went on television and finally spoke.

She said she had been raped twice as a teenager by her former pastor, Biodun Fatoyinbo, a church leader whose services draw thousands, and whose fans, admiring his flashy lifestyle, have taken to calling him “the Gucci pastor.” He has denied the allegations.

After years in which silence around rape and sexual harassment have been the norm, West Africa is seeing a wave of #MeToo proclamations.

Accusations have come from a Gambian beauty queen who said the former president raped her; a former presidential adviser in Sierra Leone who said she was sexually assaulted by a church leader; and a Nigerian journalist with the BBC who captured hidden camera footage of university professors soliciting sex in exchange for admission and grades.

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Posted by on January 11, 2020 in Africa


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Will feminism be a crime in Mohammed bin Salman’s Saudi Arabia?

This week, feminism in Saudi Arabia was declared to be a crime punishable by imprisonment and lashing.

The Saudi state security agency’s video announcement defined feminism as an extremist position, imported from the West to assert that men and women have equal rights in economic, social and political matters.

According to this definition, feminists allegedly aim to eradicate differences between the sexes, abolish marriage and family, and encourage same-sex unions. The Saudi definition lumped feminism in with other forms of “extremism”, including atheism, homosexuality and promiscuity.

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Posted by on November 26, 2019 in Middle East, Uncategorized


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A Sexual Assault Memoir Women Deserve

In June 2016, “Emily Doe” read her 12-page victim impact statement to the court before the sentencing of Brock Turner, the Stanford undergrad who’d been convicted of sexually assaulting her while she was unconscious. It was a brilliant piece of writing—frank, angry, straight from the heart—and it seemed to sum up everything about the trauma of sexual assault and the many ways that society, especially the legal process, makes that trauma worse.

Turner’s lenient sentence of six months in county jail and Judge Aaron Persky’s explanation (“I take him at his word that, subjectively, that’s his version of events”) set the public on fire. Within days of being published on BuzzFeed, Doe’s statement had been viewed more than 15 million times.

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Posted by on October 17, 2019 in North America


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The Misogyny of Climate Deniers

Climate skeptic Bjørn Lomborg has built his global brand on keeping his cool. “Cool it,” his best-selling book told those worried about the warming planet. For some reason, however, he seems to have difficulty sticking to the blasé tone when it comes to a 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden.

Lomborg has repeatedly mocked and criticized Greta Thunberg, the prominent young activist who has been sailing across the Atlantic to attend the UN’s Youth Climate Summit and other meetings in the U.S. In June, he tweeted out a cartoon that implied Greta was only useful to climate activists because being young made her unassailable—in four years, it joked, she’d be replaced with someone younger still. Earlier in the year, he’d asked why the World Economic Forum was listening to her at all, and approvingly shared a Quillette article which called Thunberg a fanatic and “absolutist” and which argued adults had a duty to correct her childlike naiveté.

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Posted by on September 14, 2019 in Uncategorized


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