Female Voter Suppression

I probably shouldn’t have been as surprised by this as I was, especially in a state that has been one of the most active in recent months in anti-choice politics.

Starting this November, Texans must show a photo ID with their up-to-date legal name instead of IDs like a birth certificate. That’s not a problem for single or married men — but it leaves a third of Texas women scrambling in a state with just 81 DMVs in its 254 counties. 

(occupydemocrats.com via watchdog.net)


No Woman, No Drive

A friend sent me this great video about women driving in Saudi Arabia.

I wonder if we might expect other feminist memes/snowclones like this one?
No woman, no buy (financial independence, or shopaholic/profligacy stereotypes)
No woman, no eye (hijab covering eyes)
No woman, no thigh (fat shaming)
No woman, no pi (discouraging women from pursuing STEM careers)
No woman, no fly (women in Air Force or requests for sex-segregation on airline flights)
No woman, no pie (also fat shaming)
No woman, no bi (anti-bisexual, or also anti-lesbian)
No woman, no guy (virginity, virginity tests)

Most of these are a bit of a stretch, but I still think it’d be cool to see them.

Women to protest driving ban in Saudi Arabia tomorrow, October 26


Tomorrow, October 26, 2013, Saudi Arabian women are set to stage a massive protest against the ban on women driving. It is currently the only country in the world in which women are not allowed to drive.

FMI, follow Eman Al Nafjan, @Saudiwoman, and Madeha Al Ajroush, @madehaAlajrous on Twitter. Al Nafjan’s YouTube channel has lots of videos posted recently of women defying the ban. One of the videos even shows other cars giving the driver thumbs-ups as they pass by, beginning at about 40s.

Dr. Madeha Al Ajroush, who took part in the country’s first protest in 1990, posted a video of herself driving a couple of weeks ago.

A transcript of the English subtitles in the video reads:

It is now time for Saudi women to drive.
I’m ready.
My daughter is ready.
And also society is ready.
For how much longer can we live in an oppressive society that prevents us from our full rights.
I drove in 1990 to demand my right and now, twenty three years later, we still have not gotten our rights.
How much longer?

The website www.oct26driving.com has been widely reported to be a petition that gathered over 15,000 signatures before it was blocked by Saudi authorities.

NPR ran a story this morning in which Deborah Amos interviews Dr. Madeha Al Ajroush from Riyadh. Al Ajroush describes the feeling of the first protest as “exhilirating. It was great”. However, she has lost her job twice, after defying the ban in 1990 and again in 2011. The 47 women who took part in the 1990 protest were denounced by name in the newspaper, lost their jobs, and suffered a government travel ban. She was ordered to stop work as a photographer and officials confiscated and burned 15 years of photographs and documents, but the punishment wasn’t as bad as she feared, since she wasn’t jailed. In the story, Deborah Amos explains that there is no law against women driving, that it is an unofficial ban that is supported by conservative clerics. Al Ajroush describes what the ban is like for women:

It’s like a person being cut off–they’re legs are cut off and the wheelchair has been taken away from them and you are completely dependent on one gender.

Women have to be driven by male relatives or hired drivers, who are “part of an army of imported labor” in Saudi Arabia.

Every time I’m in the car with a stranger that hears all my phone conversation, that knows every single detail of my life. He knows what I like. He knows if I had a fight with my husband. He knows everything. It’s worse than the CIA in United States. [laughter] He knows everything about me.

Al Ajroush’s also describes how she will react when women finally get the right to drive:

I would be relieved and crying and the tears will be about the dedication and the years, and the losses, for such a simple thing–the right to drive.

Dr. Madeha Al Ajroush’s name sounds like “Madeeha Allagoosh” or “Madeeha Allagroosh”, and might be easily misspelled as Madiha, Medeeha, or Mediha and Allaghoush, Al Agoosh, Alla Goosh, Allagoush, etc.

Rape in Asia

IRIN describes a UN report today with the results of a survey in Asia on rape and GBV.* The study was also published in The Lancet. The survey interviewed 10,168 men in 6 countries from Jan. 2011-Dec. 2012: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Papua New Guinea. The study found the country with the highest prevalence of men who have raped women was Papua New Guinea:

“with 62 percent of the men interviewed there indicating they had raped a woman.” (IRIN)

The study probably found higher rates of rape than previous surveys in part because it never used the word “rape” in the questionnaire, asking instead (about non-partner rape) about having “forced a woman who was not your wife or girlfriend at the time to have sex” or having “had sex with a woman who was too drunk or drugged to indicate whether she wanted it”. Novel concept, that (that rapists might not think of the rapes they committed as rapes or that they’d show social desirability bias if the word “rape” were used).

It also found that:

“The most common motivation perpetrators gave for rape was a sense of sexual entitlement – the belief that men have a right to sex with women regardless of consent (73 percent of respondents). More than half said it was for entertainment (53 percent), while alcohol, often assumed to be a common trigger for violence, was the least common response.” (IRIN)

It’s interesting, though not surprising, that entitlement is the top motivation. Entitlement and entertainment. I just watched the first half of “Half the Sky” today and the focus seemed more on shaming rape victims and extending that shame to family members, who then turn on the victim. It’s just depressing how far there is to go, how difficult it is, and how easy it is to regress in encouraging cultural change that empowers women and teaches men to treat women as equals and not as objects they are entitled to use for their sexual gratification.

I wonder what the reasons could be for alcohol being the least common response. Would that be evidence in favor of or against the oft-cited adage that “alcohol doesn’t make you do anything you wouldn’t want to do when you were sober–it just gives you the ‘courage’ to actually do it (i.e. it disinhibits you)”? While I was in India this summer, I got into a bit of an argument with some friends about the statewide ban on alcohol instituted under Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi. They seemed convinced that such a policy had all-but-eliminated domestic violence in the state. Needless to say, I am not convinced. I’m not even convinced that, individual liberties aside, the policy is actually a net benefit for the people of Gujarat. Alcohol deserves its bad reputation as possibly the first or second most harmful drug on earth, but I wonder if anti-alcohol-abuse campaigns that focus on DV aren’t obstacles to DV prevention in the long term.

*The IRIN site crashed and was giving 503 errors at the time of writing this article. The website for Partners For Prevention (who conducted the study) was down, too, according to NPR. Paranoid me wonders if it wasn’t sexist hackers angry about the study. Let’s hope I’m wrong.

Trans teacher in UK kills herself after being attacked in the press

A trans teacher killed herself this week after being bullied by a major paper, as reported by Zinnia Jones at FreethoughtBlogs.

The run-down:
Late last year, a UK primary school teacher, Lucy Meadows, decided to begin presenting herself as a woman for the spring term. She had the support of the school, which sent a letter to parents in December. It read simply,

“Mr Upton has made a significant change in his life and will be transitioning to live as a woman after the Christmas  break. She will return to work as Miss Meadows.”

St. Mary Magdalen’s Church of England Primary School’s Letter to Parents

The Daily Mail (think of it as a cross between HuffPost and the National Enquirer, but for the UK) ran an article by Richard Littlejohn that attacked Miss Meadows (note: original article removed, see below), referring to her as “he” or “he/she” and using her former name. The alleged problem, of course, is that we need to “protect” children:

“But has anyone stopped for a moment to think of the devastating effect all this is having on those who really matter? Children as young as seven aren’t equipped to compute this kind of information.”

It’s condescending to assert that children are too stupid to ‘make sense of’ a transgender person. I’m sick of people projecting their own ignorance, insecurities, and intolerance onto the minds of children, who are probably much better equipped to understand these things than their parents whose views on gender and sexuality were formed in a different era. Why do we tolerate arguments like this, which boil down to “X is bad, because children”? Why do we tolerate their use to silence debate and oppose progress? The ignorance behind their intolerance is exemplified by another quote from the article, this time from a parent with a child in Miss Meadows’ class:

“My middle boy thinks that he might wake up with a girl’s brain because he was told that Mr Upton, as he got older, got a girl’s brains.”

The article treats this as though it’s a legitimate reason to keep her out of the classroom, to take away the career she no doubt worked hard to build.

Littlejohn concludes by calling Miss Meadows “selfish” and suggests that the best solution would have been to “disappear” Miss Meadows by sending her to a different school where the students would be none the wiser (kind of reminds you of the strategy-of-choice of another organization that promotes intolerance of people like Miss Meadows, for dealing with its employees who actually are a danger to children, doesn’t it?). The coup de grâce of Littlejohn’s character assassination is his assertion that

“if he [sic] cares so little for the sensibilities of the children he [sic] is paid to teach, he’s [sic] not only trapped in the wrong body, he’s [sic] in the wrong job.”

This week, Miss Meadows committed suicide. In response, The Daily Mail has removed the hatchet job about Miss Meadows without declaring the change. Fortunately, I found a site with Littlejohn’s original article. If this weren’t a CYA move and the Daily Mail’s editors were actually sorry, wouldn’t they have said so?

I wonder if the UK’s notorious libel laws are loose enough to charge Mr. Littlejohn for his role in this tragedy. It might be the best way to discourage Mr. Littlejohn and others like him from bullying LGBTQ people in the papers.