Thursday, April 16, 2015

What To Read Today on Gender, 4/16/15

1.  This article about feminist foreign policy is worthwhile.  A quote:

Last month, Saudi Arabia abruptly cut ties with Sweden, recalling its ambassador and announcing that it would issue no new visas to Swedish business travelers. The cause, according to Saudi Arabia, was some remarks made by Margot Wallström, the foreign minister of Sweden.
On February 11th, Wallström, speaking before the Swedish parliament, stated what may appear to be a few facts about Saudi Arabia: she said that women are not allowed to drive, that their human rights are violated, and that the country is a dictatorship in which the royal family has absolute power. Like representatives of several other European countries, she also criticized the public flogging of the blogger Raif Badawi and later called it “medieval.”
Wallström, whose government recognized the State of Palestine last year, had been asked to deliver a speech at an Arab League summit in Cairo in late March, but Saudi Arabia intervened, and Wallström was disinvited. On March 9th, Saudi Arabia withdrew its ambassador to Sweden, saying that Wallström had “unacceptably interfered” in the country’s internal affairs. The United Arab Emirates followed suit a week later. Due to Saudi Arabia’s diplomatic wrangling, Wallström was also condemned by the Gulf Cooperation Council (which consists of Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the U.A.E.), The
Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which includes fifty-seven countries, and the Arab League itself. Finally, Saudi Arabia leveled a more serious charge against Wallström: that by commenting on the punishment of public flogging, the Swedish foreign minister had criticized Sharia law and Islam.

There are similar pressures in writing.  How does one criticize beliefs and not people?  And are other people allowed to tell us not to criticize their beliefs?  Should Western feminists be silent about ISIS, because criticizing ISIS so easily is viewed as criticizing Islam, given the discrimination and labeling of Muslims, especially in the West? 

But if Western feminists are silent about ISIS,  what remains of feminism?  How can a feminist write about the forced-birth policies of US conservatives and not write about this?

I'm on Wallström's side in this, and that's why I worry about the argument that her comments are somehow the same as criticizing Sharia law (which is deemed to have a divine origin).

2.  Female chimpanzees are more likely than male chimpanzees to fashion weapons and use them in hunting, according to one study.  I have not read the study, but note the framing, especially in the last paragraph.  Then check how often this particular study is disseminated, compared to the earlier study about how female chimpanzees appeared to shape branches into dolls.  That one was widely disseminated and discussed, along the lines that "we all know the gender roles in humans are innate.  Just look at the chimps!"

I bet this one won't get the same amount of publicity, because it doesn't serve to prop up human gender roles.  As Terry Pratchett states in one of his books, people don't want news, they want "olds:" reinforcement for what they already believe to be true.

In any case, I've written about the gender politics in this field earlier.

3.  Martha MacCallum really really dislikes the idea of a woman's head on US paper money.  There's a movement to get a woman on the twenty-dollar bill, and Bill O'Reilly and Martha MacCallum ruminated on that at Fox News.  O'Reilly asked why everything must be so damn politically correct*, and MacCallum disliked the idea that this movement is all about women.  It would be more interesting, I guess, if it was about melons or papayas. 

Sigh.  The movement wouldn't have to be all about women if the US had had the same number of male and female presidents and if the Founding Fathers had been joined with some Founding Mothers, dear Martha.  Context matters.

MacCallum stated that for her the heads on money are US presidents and a few Founding Fathers, and that statement creates an infinite loop with my previous paragraph.  Or put Abigail Adams on the money.

4.  As many people say on Twitter:  "I can't even..."  That's the term describing utter exhaustion with the silliness that goes on in American politics.  Now that Hillary Clinton has stepped into the ring we are going to have several years hilarious sexism.  And I have this feeling I should write about it. 

Perhaps I will, perhaps I won't, but I can't help lifting up the skirt on the particular commentary of a Texas marketing CEO Cheryl Rios, who believes that women are too hormonal to run a country (even though apparently not too hormonal to run a marketing firm) and that this is why we shouldn't have a female president.  Imagine her hand on the switch which rules nuclear weapons!  She might start a poorly thought-out war!  Gasp!  And gasp!

Enough exclamation marks for you?  In any case, Hillary Clinton probably has calmer hormones, given her post-menopausal stage, than any of the younger guys joining the race.  And quite possibly calmer hormones than the older guys, at least based on what I've observed of her in the public eye over the years.

But if that isn't enough to convince you not to vote for Hitlery** (a conservative pet-name for Clinton), there's also the Biblical argument which is very very logical Rios tells us.  (I've read the Bible and can't recall where the logic in the statements are.  They just tell us that men should rule over women and that women should shut up.)  And if even that won't make you face the facts, well, what will all those sexist countries think of the US if it is run by a woman?  How can we possibly invade them or start reckless wars against them if they won't even respect us because of our gender equality policies?

OK.  That last bit was me pretending to be inside the head of Cheryl Rios.  I got all dizzy and hormonal.

*  That term is a euphemism for "let's ignore large classes of people" in politics and in business.  It's also shorthand for "here comes the bit where we dis women and/or minorities."  It's a marvelous term!  And a boring one, because it doesn't say WHY the utterer finds something politically correct but in reality completely false and unnecessary and trivial.  It's right-wing code-speak.

**  This post is not about Hillary Clinton as a candidate.  Voters have their own reasons for voting or not voting for a particular candidate.  My focus here (and in the future) is in the kind of statements which are not about Clinton at all but about all women or all women of a particular age etc..  In other words, about sexism and misogyny and the use of extreme stereotypes based on gender.