Wednesday, April 30, 2008

you go, girls.

women's basketball in Iraq.

"Aid boom" in Darfur city

El Fasher, the capital city of North Darfur, is experiencing an economic boom from the aid agencies now headquartered there. The changes that the aid agencies prompt in essentially flooding the town with foreign currency range from the content of the market to the expectations of women on gender roles in the workplace.

on importing higher ed

the National (my new favorite news source) ran an op-ed today on the new Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, where the Louvre and NYU will both have a satellite campuses (campi?).

It's an interesting idea that you can import these higher-ed "brands" in order to establish your own system. Is the intent to actually replace them eventually with Emirati names? You have to wonder who ends up getting the credit for things like this ... I can be fairly certain that NYU will take full credit for the success of its satellite campus.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

future is looking bright for women in the Emirates

An op-ed from the new newspaper discussed below on the rise of women in public life.

Here is the editor's response, also encouraging.

Of course, they are both men ... hopefully, if their optimism is warranted, they will find themselves reading articles like these by their female colleagues in not too long.

Update: the National posted a response from an Emirati woman to the abovementioned pieces.

a cure for censorship in the UAE

The ruling family of Abu Dhabi is financing a new newspaper, the National.

Though the government essentially owns the paper, it is not "government run". I would say that's a distinction without much difference.

So many things are interesting about this - why is the paper in English? Why are so many of the reporters lured in from American and British papers? Why is the editor's name Martin Newland? Calling it "the National" when so little of the staff are nationals of the UAE seems ironic. The target audience is, apparently, expatriates. Who, I am guessing, don't care too much about the government as long as their business is not negatively affected.

Is this a triumph for freedom of the press, as the Times seems to insinuate it is? Who knows. But if it is it is certainly in the "trickle-down" model of freedoms. First for the rich, then maybe later on for everyone else.

Monday, April 28, 2008

more on female infanticide in India

India's PM gave a speech on combating female feticide.

There is continued upset at the fact that the law, forbidding ultrasound technicians from telling parents the sex of their babies, is not being enforced. The Prime Minister actually came under some criticism for saying that attitudes, and not law enforcement practices need to change to prevent female infanticide.

Does no one wonder what happens to women whose parents carried female fetuses to term only because it was against the law to abort them? Clearly this is not an isolated problem that disappears if you can get the girls out of the womb!

racism, plain and simple

An article about the defamation of Debbie Almontaser, the intended principal of Khalil Gibran International Academy of Brooklyn.

Almontaser was to be the founding principal for a New York City public school that taught classes in both Arabic and English. (There are 67 other schools in New York that offer bilingual programs in various other languages - but none in Arabic). She was, essentially, attacked for being Muslim and Arab. The school opened with little success this fall and has already had three principals (including Almontaser).

I think it's a little appalling that "the other side", namely those that call Almontaser a jihadist because she .... I don't know why. Because she wears a veil? ... is given such evenhanded treatment. Of course it isn't the job of journalists to critique viewpoints but at the same time it seems very clear that this school was attacked because it wanted to promote a view of Islam and of Arabs as something other than pure terrorist ideology/ethnicity.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"We love Rihanna. It's very cool. Syria is very cool."

On the new "racy" radio talk shows in Syria.

Honey Sayed, one of the show's hosts, is pretty exotified in this article - despite the fact that she's doing exactly what female radio DJs in America do every morning. Is it more ethnocentric to judge her according to "traditional Syrian standards", by which she may be considered exotic, or to treat her like any other female radio DJ?

I guess I think that the story could have been just as good without the emphasis on how "sexy" and "racy" she is. For example, on her signature bubbly laugh:

Her unrestrained laugh is even used for promos. "A guy called me up and said he wished he could make my laugh his ring tone," Honey says, before rushing back into the studio.

dolphin shows in Iran

because who doesn't love this guy.

The Times has one of those "Journal" features on an Iranian island in the Persian gulf (Kish) which is designed to look like Persepolis, the ancient Iranian city. Typically, the American feature focused alternately on the significance that the resort has for historical and cultural preservation reasons and on the fact that there are dolphin shows. Normally this kind of thing would irritate me, but who can hate on dolphin shows? Precious.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Iraqi women taking on new roles

As their husbands, fathers and brothers are killed, women in Iraq try to cope.

*This topic is of such interest to me that it ends my boycott of the Washington Post, which began with the publication of this and ended yesterday.

underemployment in saudi arabia

A conference in Buraidah on employment in the Kingdom brought up some of the obstacles facing women seeking jobs. A particularly interesting bit:

“We see thousands of foreign women working in health care and other sectors while Saudi women await in long queues for jobs,” said Dr. Rafeeqa Al-Dakhil, a delegate attending the forum.

The fact that it's ok for foreign women to work in these sectors but it's so difficult for Saudi women to do so underlines the idea that it isn't about inherent gender differences but about the proprietary way that "our women" are viewed by so many men the world over. It seems like an outgrowth of the virgin/whore dichotomy, or the "girls you sleep with vs. girls you marry" idea. (Though American women do not suffer from the same obstacles to entering the workforce, we certainly do face the challenge of walking the line between "marriageable" and "sexy", or the consequences of rejecting that dichotomy completely).

Lawyer speaks out on child marriage in Yemen

Nojoud, the eight year old divorcee from Yemen, is speaking out for a change in child marriage laws alongside her lawyer, Shatha Nasser.

Another form of sex-selective abortion

Female infant found by stray dogs under leaves and dirt.

Clinton wins PA

Hillary, I love you.

The dangers of democracy

Adam Liptak on the US' sky-high incarceration rates.

Several specialists here and abroad pointed to a surprising explanation for the high incarceration rate in the United States: democracy.

Most state court judges and prosecutors in the United States are elected and are therefore sensitive to a public that is, according to opinion polls, generally in favor of tough crime policies. In the rest of the world, criminal justice professionals tend to be civil servants who are insulated from popular demands for tough sentencing.

Mr. Whitman, who has studied Tocqueville’s work on American penitentiaries, was asked what accounted for America’s booming prison population.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the answer is democracy — just what Tocqueville was talking about,” he said. “We have a highly politicized criminal justice system.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

the Islamic republic vs. women's rights activists

Three women's rights activists have received suspended sentences for campaigning for their cause.

Apparently they received the sentences (lashes and jail time) but will not have to serve them unless they commit other crimes in the next two years.

the trouble with marriage

In Egypt, the combination of financial stress and the high cost of weddings are pushing marriage age back for most citizens.

via Arab News.

Happy Earth Day!

Try to turn off the water while you brush your teeth today (and every day). Here is a piece from Reuters 'Environment Correspondent" (who knew?) on Earth Day around the country. Or at least around the Beltway.

the end of Greenwich Mean Time

Saudi clerics lobby for Mecca time to be at zero instead of GMT in Britain.

Some of the quotes address the colonial symbolism of GMT - it quite literally puts Britain at the center of the world. Others say that Mecca is literally at the center of the earth and modern science thus validates "the greatness of the qibla".


Monday, April 21, 2008

saudi women perpetual children

Human Rights Watch has a report out on Saudi women and their role in society, which is aggressively restricted by laws preventing them from making decisions for themselves or their children. The report is titled "Perpetual Minors".

I haven't yet read the report but I am inclined to think that titling it something like "Perpetual Minors" is more insulting to the women than it is to anyone else. I am sure it makes good copy in New York, but ... ouch.

Nobel prize games!

I didn't do too terribly well on the quiz but I realized the website has a whole games section! Knock yourselves out, those writing papers and those with desk jobs.

Doris Lessing in the Telegraph

Piece from a UK paper on Doris Lessing, winner of the Nobel prize for literature in 2007. (This link is to the Nobel website - they also have a quiz, which I will take later and post, if I do well. If I do poorly expect never to hear of it again).

Anyway, in her interview (or article - this is more of a Reporter-at-Large bit) Lessing sounds, frankly, bad ass. She doesn't seem to care that she won the Nobel and actually denounces the committee as self aggrandizing! Apparently the YouTube clip of her hearing the news that she won is famous. (I had never seen it but really did enjoy it this time).

Her thoughts on her book the Golden Notebook are particularly interesting - she calls it "the albatross" and says its messages beyond the one regarding women's presentations of their lives was drowned out by feminists claiming ownership over it as a novel about the female experience.

Honestly, I don't know what this says about me, but when I read the Golden Notebook it took me until about page 500 (it's about a 650 pg book) to even hear the feminist message. And I am constantly looking for feminist messages!

By this I mean to say that literature really takes on a life of its own after the author releases it into the world - now, Doris Lessing obviously hears the critics and the establishment talking about her book but she doesn't hear from all the lowly quasi-ignorant bookworms like me who read her book and see all sort of things in it, including but not limited to feminism.

drug use in Iran

on rehabilitation in the Islamic Republic.

sex-selective abortions in India

A piece in the LA Times on the trend in India toward aborting female fetuses. An excerpt:

The statistics tell this story starkly: In 1981, when ultrasound technology was rare here, India had 962 girls for every 1,000 boys. That's about what nature dictates. But by 1991, as ultrasound technology began spreading, 962 had tumbled to 945. Ten years later, it was 927. In some parts of the country, particularly parts of north India where the preference for boys can be traced back centuries, the ratio plummeted.


And furthermore:

Activists say the laws of supply and demand don't apply in the face of such powerful cultural norms -- and the shortage of potential brides has done nothing to make girls seem more valuable. "The girl is like someone else's property -- she's going to leave one day," said Hema Singhal, an OB-GYN who runs a small medical center in Morena with her husband.

Wow, again.

There's mention in the article of laws against sex-selective abortions, which are almost impossible to enforce and have done little to change the trend. It's tempting to see this as a problem with abortion - what kind of a procedure enables parents to reject women wholesale? But to me it just underlines the global problem that women are not valued as highly as men. Change that attitude, and sex-selective abortion goes away. If it continues, women will suffer in other ways. It's so disturbing, though, that the trend of thinking of women as a minority is being translated into numerical reality. If something like this continues, women will be an actual minority.

why I haven't read any actual news this morning

Gossip Girl.

Don't judge.

“Thinking about race is a serious issue, whereas sexism is just something for dumb feminists to think about.”

New York Magazine has a piece on Hillary Clinton and "fourth-wave" feminism. It sounds a little bit like the "fourth wave", as this writer understands it, is a revival of the second wave, but maybe that's just because Hillary's challenges are second-wave challenges. I didn't think her tongue-in-cheek of the word "gendered", like it would open her to mocking, was all that funny but it's a decent recount of "how women feel" about the whole Hillary thing.

Of course, talking about how "women" feel more or less spits in the face of third wave feminism in this case - the author continues to refer in her piece to so-called "water cooler conversations", clearly envisioning a professional woman when she talks about a feminist reawakening. I just hope that any feminist revival that comes in the wake of a Hillary candidacy or a Hillary presidency doesn't push out those groups of women for whom PowerPoint isn't a daily requirement.

Friday, April 18, 2008

the debate over FGM

There's a row in Egypt currently over the fight to criminalize FGM (female genital mutilation - also known as cliterodectomy, female genital cutting, female circumcision and other names). FGM procedures vary widely. (Goes to the WHO fact sheet on FGM).

For a discussion of the text of Quran and hadith on the question of FGM, see Kecia Ali's Sexual Ethics and Islam. Ali really parses the text that Muslims have to contend with on this topic, and discounts both the arguments that it has nothing to do with Islam and that it is a requirement.

The Times did a photo-montage of a circumcision ceremony in Indonesia this winter. (Mild trigger alert; it's all above-the-belt shots but the photos are evocative).

victim blaming

A piece in the Arab News about women in Saudi Arabia and the risks they face by getting in taxis (since they are not allowed to drive).


Col. Yusuf Al-Qahtani, spokesman for police in the Eastern Province, said that women are not supposed to ride in cars without male guardians.

“They should in the least be accompanied by another woman. If the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice sees a woman in a private car with an unrelated driver, they would arrest her for being in a state of seclusion (khalwa),” he said.

So, the understanding is that women are responsible for keeping themselves in safe situations; if they do anything that might compromise their safety they deserve what they get.

Sounds like a Saudi version of "she was asking for it".

jewish identity in israel

Interesting piece in the NYTimes today about Jewish identity in Jewish law - an Israeli court just ruled that hametz (leavened bread) could be sold during Passover, and some people are unhappy about it.

It's interesting to me because you see the same kind of debate going on in Muslim countries about Islamic law - does being a Muslim state mean you have to follow sharia? Is living under sharia enough to make you a good Muslim?

Worth a read for sure.

on sharing a kitchen with a hippy

This is a hilarious article in Time magazine about what it's like to live with someone who sets a ceiling on flushing the toilet and wants a compost heap.

The message - that hippies, in addition to helping the environment, think they are cool - isn't anything groundbreaking. Just because some people think that conservation is cool doesn't negate the positive impact of treating the environment with a little respect; finding hippies obnoxious will not slow the depletion of the ozone layer.

However, I lived with a hippy. When I was in Jordan I lived with two other girls, one of whom would not use water to wash the dishes. The other girl and I finally asked her not to wash the dishes at all because it was useless. And I had a broken thumb at the time and could only wash with one hand. So, since my friend (the other dish-washer) sent it on to me, I had to post it.

Good luck starting your own compost heap.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Yemeni child bride will return to primary school - thank goodness

Nojoud Nasser, age 8, ran away from her 20 something year old husband and sought a divorce. (There is a picture of her with this article - she looks so tiny!)

A Yemeni court annulled her marriage and she can now return to school.

This brave little girl actually filed for divorce on her own - when I was eight I don't even think I could ride my bike to the bus stop without my mom. Nojoud, you are an inspiration.

seatbelt laws in Baghdad

The NYTimes on Iraqi traffic cops. Poignant piece on the symbolism of following certain laws. My favorite bit:

... brigades of traffic officers trying valiantly to do their jobs have been a constant in an ever-changing landscape of war and chaos over the last five years. And as traffic police officers warned Baghdad drivers earlier this week that seat belt enforcement was about to begin, many drivers said it was probably a good thing.

“It is a symbol of civilization,” said a taxi driver, Ahmed Wahayid, whose 1993 Hyundai Elantra was stuck in a long line of cars waiting to clear a checkpoint. “Western people in Europe and America have it, so we are like them.” Mr. Wahayid said he could not find words to describe the traffic in Baghdad. “It’s a very, very bad feeling, and if I didn’t need to drive in order to eat and live I wouldn’t,” he said. ...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

to veil or not to veil

Pakinam Amer's response to the questions she gets on veiling.

via her blog.

hypocrisy is global

The Iranian Eliot Spitzer.

unhappy news from Pakistan

Can't say I am surprised that religious extremism harms women.

Just a thought, but why is it that 'religious extremists' is always used gender-neutrally? I would love to know to what extent women even participate in different types of religious extremism.

Is it wrong that I love this?

Here are Condi Rice's introductory remarks and Madeleine Albright's speech at Secretary Albright's portrait hanging ceremony. Yeah, Secretary Rice isn't on my favorites list, but I think what she said and what Albright said are really very nice and inspiring. That said, if the words "our sisters" don't do anything for you, you may disagree.

Via the State Dept. website.

on eating disorders

I found out about this phenomenon very recently, and it's pretty scary - women and girls whose goal is to become anorexic or to maintain their anorexia have formed online communities.

Apparently in France they pay closer attention to these issues than I, because they are trying to make these sites illegal.

The article raises some good points about whether getting the law on the side of health really helps. If women are "told" via media outlets, societal expectations, catalogues, etc. to be very thin, then not having chatrooms to talk about anorexia doesn't seem like it will solve the problem.

Though of course I am not going to come out against any law designed to save women's lives (or men's, I guess - I can't imagine male models don't experience pressure to diet), this seems like a classic band-aid remedy to a larger culture of thin-worship worldwide. (Duh.)

Update: Courtney at Feministing doesn't like this idea much.

something i have been wondering for a long time

Rebecca Traister at Salon tackles a tough question: why do men voting Democrat hate Hillary Clinton so much?

... Rebecca, thank you for taking on the new problem that has no name.