HuffPo: Saudi Arabia’s Female Olympic Athletes

“One of the things I love about Islam is that it tries to value the transcendental and not the material. This belief is applied culturally in many ways — for example, by covering the body with loose clothing, to avoid revealing your sexy self.

By de-emphasizing the human body — a value applied to women AND men in Saudi Arabia — this philosophy states that the body isn’t important. Physical beauty isn’t important. The matters of the spirit should reign supreme. I don’t think you can find anything that more clearly opposes the core values of the Hellenic Olympics if you tried.

What’s frustrating is Saudi Arabia often seems to impose this value on women alone. The restrictions that prevent women from driving cars, taking buses and even walking through their cities alone are based on a religious code that preaches modesty for both genders, yet none of those restrictions on physical freedom are enforced on men.”

Article: Saudi Arabia’s Female Olympic Athletes (Huffington Post)


Jim C. Hines Cancels Reddit AMA

Jim Hines, author of a whole bunch of fantasy novels I have never read, recently decided against participating in an “ask me anything” session on Reddit, an online community known as much for narwhals and bacon as misogyny, rape apologia, and men’s rights activism. Oh, and Anderson Cooper. And memes. Lots and lots of memes.

I was initially distraught at the idea that an author, even one I am personally unfamiliar with, would deprive the generally good-natured Reddit community of an opportunity to ask what sort of operating system Mr. Hines uses, but after reading his explanation, I side with Mr. Hines.

I read the Reddit thread in question last week, before various blogs (like Shakesville — a blog you should be reading) picked up the story, and couldn’t bring myself to write my thoughts on the subject simply because they were so complicated. Mr. Hines writes very clearly what I liked and did not like about the thread in question and why he cannot participate in his scheduled AMA.

From his post:

“It is important that we understand why people rape. But there are other ways to find that insight. Books, essays, research, and more. I’ve spoken with rapists and batterers, and it did give me a better understanding as to how this crime happens. But the circumstances of those conversations were very different. They were controlled, with people who had been convicted and held accountable for their actions. People who, as far as I could tell, appeared to genuinely regret what they had done. In situations where excuses were not tolerated.”

And from Shakesville: “If one in twenty guys (or more) is a real and true rapist, and you have any amount of social activity with other guys like yourself, then it is almost a statistical certainty that one time hanging out with friends and their friends, playing Halo with a bunch of guys online, in a WoW guild, in a pick-up game of basketball, at a bar, or elsewhere, you were talking to a rapist. Not your fault. You can’t tell a rapist apart any better than anyone else can. It’s not like they announce themselves.

…It’s very likely that in some of these interactions with these guys … someone told a rape joke. …[Y]ou laughed.

Or maybe you didn’t laugh. …[M]aybe you just didn’t say anything at all.

And, decent guy who would never condone rape, who would step in and stop rape if he saw it, who understands that rape is awful and wrong and bad, when you laughed? When you were silent?

That rapist who was in the group with you, …he felt validated, and he felt he was among his comrades. ”

Is the Reddit thread in question, as Hines suggests, a “how-to guide” for rapists? Possibly. Or is it a way for some rape survivors to gain closure? Definitely a possibility. Could it be, as I felt when I read the thread, a way to gain insight into the minds of criminals? Yes. It could. But the risks far outweigh the benefits.

Someone reading this thread could think rape is okay. Someone could feel he is “among his comrades.” And I applaud Hines for not only walking away, but stating clearly and effectively that he will not participate in this community and this thread is not okay.

But go read it for yourself. And maybe buy one of his books.

Blog: Why I Cancelled my Reddit Q&A

LA Times: Iran’s birth control policy sent birthrate tumbling

An excellent article about female agency within traditional (er, patriarchal) family structures from LA Times.

“As women became better educated, their influence within the family grew.

Without intending to, Iran’s clerical leadership helped to foster “‘the empowerment of Iranian women,’ said Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, an Iran expert at Virginia Tech. ‘The mullahs may be winning the battle on the streets, but women are winning the battle inside the family.'”

Article: Iran’s birth control policy sent birthrate tumbling (LA Times)

The Guardian: Why is India so bad for women?

I’m often caught in the strange nexus of having lived in developing countries and, at least for a little while, in most time zones in the continental U.S.

Misogyny experienced in Shanghai is totally different than, say, what I have experienced in Costa Rica — which is, again, completely different from what I have experienced living in Denver versus a small town in Wisconsin. All of which is completely different from living in the D.C. metro area. Sufficed to say, my ideas of what is permissible behavior in public spaces, and permissible behavior of public figures and lawmakers, are a little complicated.

The morning commute, however, kinda universally sucks:

“Every Indian woman the Guardian spoke to for this article agreed that harassment was part of their everyday lives. Mahanta revealed that she always carries chilli powder in her handbag if she ever has to take public transport and needed to throw it in the face of anyone with wandering hands.”

Article: Why is India so bad for women? (The Guardian)

Foreign Policy: Head of State

“Still, the Chinese did not give in. At one point, an advisor who was present recalled, Clinton finally seemed to catch their attention by mentioning what a political circus the case had become — with Chen even dialing into a U.S. congressional hearing that Thursday by cell phone from his hospital bed to say he feared for his safety if he remained in China. The Chinese team was visibly surprised. Eventually, Dai agreed at least to let the negotiations proceed. A few hours later, exhausted U.S. officials announced a deal.

By the next morning when we met, it was already clear this had been the most intense high-stakes diplomacy of Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. She had worked hard to rescue Chen without blowing up the American relationship with China, but it was not yet obvious whether she had accomplished either goal. The Chinese were furious about the embarrassing attention to their human rights abuses. Clinton and her aides were being pilloried at home by everyone from Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to the human rights community for abandoning Chen at the hospital. And the secretary was still worried about the deal. ‘Until he’s actually out and up with his family,’ she told me, ‘it’s still touch and go.'”

While I am not in 100% agreement with our policy toward Syria, Russia, and the subsequent intersections in Central Asia where rampant and ongoing human rights abuses are so often an afterthought to lucrative resource deals, this is nevertheless an excellent article about Hillary Clinton.

Article: Head of State (Foreign Policy)

“And I think…wow, how different their lives are from mine.”

I have some pretty incredible friends. They’re off climbing mountains, running marathons, publishing papers, fighting terrorists and escalefters, and … curing cancer one wrap skirt at a time?


My Facebook feed is sometimes a scary place, since “news” for my particular set of acquaintances often relates to drone strikes, major natural disasters, and famines, but I’m often reminded of what an exciting time we live in. I am reminded of the power of advocacy and the ability of one person to make a world of difference. And with the above quote from an acquaintance from graduate school, I was reminded of today’s article about women learning to drive in post-Taliban Afghanistan. How different their lives are from mine, indeed.

Article: Afghan woman pushes for rights from behind the wheel (Reuters)

Reuters: U.S. Air Force staff sergeant gets 20 years for rape, sex assault

“Staff Sergeant Luis Walker, found guilty by a military jury on Friday of 28 charges, was ordered to be reduced to lowest rank in the Air Force, to forfeit all pay and allowances, and given a dishonorable discharge. He will also have to register as a sex offender.”

Sexual harassment and gender discrimination remain volatile issues in the U.S. Armed Forces. It is sobering that it is more likely for a woman in the military to be raped than killed by enemy fire in Iraq. From Feministe: “Also reported is the ugly truth that of 2,280 cases where victims provided full accounts and evidence, only 317 cases were referred for courts-martial and 247 were referred for nonjudicial punishment.”

It should not be remarkable that Walker was found guilty by a military jury. For more about sexual abuse in the Armed Forces, here is a link to a 2009 blog from Feministe about rape statistics in the military.

Article: U.S. Air Force staff sergeant gets 20 years for rape, sex assault (Reuters)