Wednesday, April 30, 2008
In Sweden the Government just decided to allow a new kind of traffic light at crosswalks. As in America, the crosswalk traffic lights in Europe show a man walking when you are allowed to cross the street. But now the government has allowed traffic lights that show a woman walking instead of a man! To ensure gender equality in traffic! Apparently some cities had already started to use traffic lights with a woman and the Government’s decision has now made that legal. The new traffic lights should be ready to be put up around New Year.
I think it’s pretty cool but I couldn’t help but smile when I read it. It’s just so Sweden…
Asylum applicants generally have to show that they have a well founded fear of persecution on account of membership in a particular social group [race, nationality, but not gender]. In Mukamusoni v. Ashcroft, 390 F.3d 110 (1st Cir. 2004), a woman who had fled Rwanda due to persecution wan unfortunately not found by the court to establish persecution on account of her membership of her mixed Hutu/Tutsi heritage and her father’s political activities. The case is worth the blog space though because the court supported the idea that although the applicant filed past the Statute of Limitations, she was not barred from filing her application due to depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)that caused her delay in filing. [The PTSD and depression were a result of the rapes and violence she experienced].
I believe this case is significant because the court in Mukamusoni gave legitimacy to mental illnesses and allowed some leniency for survivors of violence. Illnesses such as PTSD, affecting women and men, are often cast off as “malingering illnesses,” thus affecting credibility. In asylum law, so much of the evidence falls on the applicants’ credibility because they are often fleeing violence and do not have the ability to “preserve the evidence.” When courts support applicants’ claim of PTSD, it also supports their credibility.
The trier of fact, or immigration judge in immigration court, can obviously understand the gaps in theor the applicant’s story of “persecution” because many PTSD survivors can have difficulty recalling a “consistent and detailed story of past persecution.” I am hoping that the law advances so that PTSD is not just a circumstance the tolls the statute of limitations for survivors, but also allows some leeway for survivors in recounting their story so that the court is not retraumatizing victims.
To end on a good note, in 2007, the U.C. Davis Immigration law clinic won a case where the court extended the SOL for a father and two sons with PTSD for Convention Against Torture relief (CAT). The elements for CAT are similar to those for asylum.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
There were virtually no full female bodies "revealed." There was a display in the "reproduction" section where people could see the female reproductive organs. However, out of all the full bodies revealed I only remember seeing one woman, and her body was displayed in half sections. I noticed that women and girls surrounded the display of female reproductive organs with curiosity. One little girl said "did we finally get to the women's section?"
The exhibit should be called "Male Bodies Revealed." The exhibit had so much potential, but to me it was just another example of male dominance.
NOTE: Ethical concerns have also been raised about how the bodies in the exhibit came to be donated. I was not aware of this controversy until after viewing the exhibit!
Friday, April 25, 2008
There was a hit song a few years ago by a group so irrelevant I’ve forgotten their names called “Shake That Ass.” The main lyric went something like:
“Now shake that ass, bitch, and let me see what you got!”
Excuse me? Are you calling me a bitch, and then telling me to shake my ass for your entertainment? Wow, that’s not just offensive, that’s downright degrading. And America’s response? It was a club staple and got massive radio airplay.
Now let’s say I took the same lyrics and applied them to race. Say the lyric was something like:
“Now trim that hedge, Hispanic, and let me see what you got.”
I’m guessing that one wouldn’t have been on every radio station’s Top 10 list all summer. Something tells me the local Mexican-American community probably would have made some noise, and rightfully so. But say something equally as offensive about women, and it's musical gold.
Or take the recent dance craze phenomenon that is the “Soulja Boy.” Perhaps the only intelligible lyric in the entire song involves Soulja Boy telling everyone to “superman dat ho.” This, of course, was accompanied by an adorable flying motion mimicked by awkward white people, college mascots and 5 year-olds nationwide. And what, exactly, does “supermanning dat ho” entail? It is a rather disrespectful sexual act which I won’t go into, but the point is that Soulja Boy is telling his audience to essentially disrespect a woman, perform this disgusting act on her, and call her a ho. And they’re playing it during timeouts at the Kings’ games.
But say the lyric was “punch that homo?” Somehow I don’t see Slamson (the Kings’ mascot) doing a punching motion that mimicked gay-bashing to help entertain the crowd.
The videos are no better. I can’t think of a popular rap video that does not feature women in thongs dancing around, having champagne poured on them, and being treated as property that the “flossin’” rapper has earned. And again, nobody bats an eyelash. They volunteer for it, they’re there for the money, so let them be property, the argument goes.
My point is that today, nothing in popular culture can denigrate racial, ethnic, or even sexual minorities without setting off controversy. Only when it involves putting down women is it ok and acceptable. And nobody, unfortunately, including myself, lets it stop them from consuming more.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Most of the readers of this blog probably don’t know much about the European Convention on Human Rights or the European Court of Human Rights. Therefore I will start with some background knowledge.
The European Convention on Human Rights was adopted in 1950 under the auspices of the European Council (which has nothing to do with the European Union). All the member states of the Council of Europe have (and have to) ratify the convention. As of today, 47 states have ratified the Convention.
The Convention established the European Court of Human Rights to enforce the Convention. A person in a ratifying state who thinks that his or her rights under the Convention have been violated can take a case against the state to the Court. The decisions of the Court are legally binding upon the member states. The Court has 47 justices, one from each ratifying country. In the last couple of years the Court has decided between 700 and 900 cases a year. In the last 20 years or so the Court’s decisions have had great influence on the development of human rights in Europe.
The Court has decided a couple of cases regarding abortion. These cases have been decided under article 2 (right to life) and article 8 (right to privacy) of the Convention.
The wordings of these articles are as follows:
Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.
Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:
(a) in defense of any person from unlawful violence;
(b) in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent escape of a person lawfully detained;
(c) in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.
Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.
The European Court of Human Rights decided a case on abortion for the first time in 1977 in the case Brüggeman and Scheuten v. Germany. In this case the Court upheld a German statute criminalizing abortion after the 12th week of gestation. The Court recognized that the right to have an abortion was a right protected under the right to privacy and family life in article 8, but that not every restriction was a violation of that right. It also found that an absolute prohibition on abortion would interfere with the woman’s life to privacy and family life. But no one has ever brought a case before the court arguing that an absolute prohibition on abortion violates the Convention. This means that the Court has not yet had a chance to hear such a case.
In the case Paton v. The United Kingdom (1980) the Court held that the termination of a pregnancy by an abortion did not violate the fetus’ right to life under article 2 of the Convention. This is because the fetus’ right to life does not outweigh the rights of the pregnant woman. The word “everyone” in article 2 does not include fetuses. The Court said that the fetus is inseparable from the pregnant woman and that the life of the fetus is intimately connected with and it cannot be regarded in isolation of the life of the pregnant woman. The Court’s holding that the life of the fetus is not protected under article 2 has been confirmed in later cases such as R.H. v. Norway, Boso v. Italy and Vo v. France. In the latter case the court said that “the issue of such protection has not been resolved within the majority of the Contracting states themselves… there is no European consensus on the scientific and legal definition of the beginning of life”
In the newest case on abortion from 2007 the Court decided a case where a Polish woman had been denied an abortion even though three doctors testified that carrying her pregnancy to term would endanger her health and seriously damage her eye sight. She gave birth to the child and became seriously disabled due to her now poor eye sight. Abortion on this ground would be legal according to Polish law, but the doctors in Poland are extremely wary of performing abortions even when they are legal. The Court held that the contracting states have an obligation to ensure that abortions are accessible when they are legal.
The European Court of Human Rights’ justification for a right for a woman to have an abortion is very similar, it seems, to the U.S. Supreme Courts justifications in Roe v. Wade. In Roe the U.S. Supreme Court held that a woman’s right to have an abortion was protected under the right to privacy and that the word “person” in the American Constitution does not include a fetus. One difference though, is that the European Convention on Human Rights contains an explicit right to privacy (article 8).
In U.S. Supreme Court decisions regarding abortion following Roe there have been a tendency to regard the right of a woman to have an abortion as a right to equal treatment for a woman instead of a right to privacy. This is the case in both the majority opinion in Casey and in the dissent in Gonzales. The same does not seem to be the case in the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. It would be possible to make the argument, I think, since the Convention does contain a provision on equal protection:
The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Convention shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as sex, race, colour, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, association with a national minority, property, birth or other status.
Nether the Bee nor the Chronicle actually uses the word "rural" to characterize the affected regions, but many of these counties are rural. Here's an excerpt from the Washington Post story, which explicitly observes the rural angle:
The downward trend is evident in places in the Deep South, Appalachia, the lower Midwest and in one county inThe Chronicle story says:
. It is not limited to one race or ethnicity but it is more common in rural and low-income areas. The most dramatic change occurred in two areas in southwestern Maine Virginia( Radford Cityand Pulaski County), where women's life expectancy has decreased by more than five years since 1983.
In counties where declines occurred, they affected whites as well as blacks, which makes income seem a greater determinant than class. As for the gender divide reflected in the study, it is not immediately obvious to me why smoking-related diseases and hypertension should impact women more than men. Perhaps the impact of such diseases in these counties was already reflected in pre-1980 life expectancies for the male populace. Perhaps as the Washington Post reporter observed, this reflects the beginning of the consequences of the obesity epidemic, and the fact that women took up smoking in large numbers decades after men did so.
During the two decades prior to 1980, according to the study, not one of the 3,100 counties in the United States reported a decline in life expectancy of men or women; in the final two decades, the researchers found declines among women in 963 counties and among men in 59 counties.
Using stricter statistical standards that rule out the possibility that the declines were the results of random chance, the researchers still spotted outright declines in female life expectancy in 180 American counties, and for men in 11 counties.
Ezzati and his team linked the reversals to several diseases. Among women, declines were caused by increased rates of lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease - two smoking-related killers. Obesity-related illnesses such as adult-onset diabetes and hypertension also contributed to the declines in life expectancy found in men and women, while HIV and homicide caused significant declines in life expectancy for men.
These negative trends ran counter to the increasing life expectancy - seven years among men and six years among women - recorded for the nation as a whole. That underscores that there is a widening gap between the health haves and have-nots in the United States, and the study shows that whether the life expectancy news is good or bad has a lot to do with where a person resides.
Friday, April 18, 2008
Among the news there: today, April 18, 2008, is Equal Pay Day. The National Women's Law Center is encouraging everyone to blog about it, so here's my invitation to you to chime in here . . . now . . . on our alumni/course blog.
My contribution to the topic is a not-so-fun fact I learned in the course of my research about rural women: Whereas nationally women make $.77 to every male dollar, the figure is about $.55 to the male $1 in rural areas.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
I encourage you to listen to the story. In it, film maker, Lisa Jackson, speaks of the Congolese associations of rape with war -- just as we were discussing today. She includes several cold blooded accounts from the mouths of the rebel thugs, including how they see their sexual prowess --including how it is manifest in rape -- as arming and empowering them for war. In essence, rape is a patriotic activity. Illustrating this point is an anecdote she shared about her efforts to connect with and gain the cooperation of those whom she was interviewing and filming in Congo. She took to Congo with her photos of her family and other artifacts about herself, and she told the rape survivors she met the truthful tale of having been gang raped in Washington, DC many years ago. When she shared this story, the Congolese women bombarded her with many questions -- who the assailants were, whether they had been caught and punished. Most tellingly, perhaps, they asked if a war had been going on in her country at the time.
Friday, April 4, 2008
As you'll see from reading the piece, in 2004, writer and activist Jennifer Baumgardner distributed T-shirts that said "I Had an Abortion." When she decided she wanted to apply this approach to consciousness raising to rape, she had difficulty coming up with a suitable design, one that was neither too passive, ebullient, or shocking. She settled on the one pictured in the article.
And a conversation does follow on the City Room blog. Maybe you will want to join.
“What the safe design loses is shock value,” said Ms. Baumgardner, but that’s not what she was going for in the first place.
What was she going for? A shirt that would let rape victims “own the experience,” she says, and would help chip away the cone of silence that surrounds a crime with humiliation at its core.
A shirt that would start conversations.
So what was the other thing this brief item reminded me of? Just what Baumgardner says above -- the need to let rape survivors "own the experience," to help end the silence about this all-too-often occurrence in the lives of altogether-too-many women. As I've expressed before to friends and students: Why do we value and encourage discussion of so many life experiences as providing insights into those experiences, yet dismiss what rape survivors know about rape as "emotional" or "biased" on the topic? We/they should be permitted to speak about our/their experiences without loss of credibility, without being dismissed as angry/upset/overly emotional/lacking objectivity (pick your descriptor). For so many reasons, we/it/they need to come to out of the closet.
Noon, April 9, Wilkins Moot Court Room, King Hall
Four of the attorneys who argued the same-sex marriage case recently before the California Supreme Court will speak.
Featured speakers will include:
Christopher E. Krueger, counsel representing Attorney General Edmund G. Brown
Kenneth C. Mennemeier, counsel representing Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
Shannon Price Minter, counsel representing the Rymer parties
Therese M. Stewart, counsel representing the City and County of San Francisco
Also April 9
Performing Rights: The Art of Sex Worker Activism
Scarlot Harlot, Founder & Co-Director, Sex Worker Film and Arts Festival; Co-Founder, Bay Area Sex Workers Advocacy Network
Maniko Passion, Founder, Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP), Los Angeles
3201 Hart Hall
Intuitively, these findings are not surprising to me. The study's author, Robin Fretwell Wilson, speculates that successful, highly educated women -- such as those who become lawyers-- are attracted to successful men. The latter, she theorizes, don't give women the "care and support" they need. She urges women lawyers to seek out men who will provide that care and support.
Her advice seems a bit simplistic to me, as does her theory, though it rings true at least in part. I think traditional gender roles are incredibly difficult to shrug off, for both men and women -- even highly educated ones. When women have work demands commensurate with those of men, "women's work" at home is less likely to get done. Depending on both male and female expectations of themselves and each other, this creates major stresses. Then there is the possibility that the woman lawyer will, by objective standards, be more successful than her male partner. The pitfalls are numerous . . . which isn't to say they are not worth navigating for those who desire both marriage and career.
I am also reminded of the Arlie Hochschild quote in that Mary Becker piece that we read earlier in the semester -- to the effect that women don't stand up for themselves -- for equality, if you will (my paraphrase)-- in the context of marriage because of the desire to avoid conflict in that context. After all, how much conflict can a marriage survive? What's a woman to do? Maybe the answer is to look for a partner who not only will love and support her, but who doesn't have to be constantly confronted/nudged/cajoled/hit over the head about doing his fair share.
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
I have discussed this phenomenon with my parents numerous times. My mother is a kindergarten teacher, and from her own experience she believes that parents demand more of their daughters than of their sons. If a boy has trouble concentrating in school parents will often say: “Oh he is a boy. A seven year old boy is supposed to have trouble concentrating in school. All boys are like that.” And then they let him off more easily than they would a girl.
I tend to agree with my mother’s view. You would never hear a grown-up say the above quoted sentence about a girl, because that is not how we expect little girls to behave. On the contrary, if a girl has problems concentrating, her parents will probably think there is something wrong with her.
This stereotyping regarding the behavior of small children can probably have severe consequences for a girl, who has trouble concentrating in school, since she will be regarded as unusual since she does not conform. But I think that the consequences are much more serious for boys. The stereotyping, in my experience (which, I admit, is not that great) only affects few girls, while it affects thousands of boys in a very serious way. Because letting boys off too easily when it comes to school work actually deprives them of a fair chance to a good education. The foundation of a good education, and with it a good life, is laid very early on, and many grown-ups, parents and others, do not realize that.
The fact that more women than men get a higher education seems like a victory for feminism. And of course in a way it is. But it seems like less of a victory when you think about the reason why it has become this way. Because, if what I have written above is true, women have not gotten their bigger share in the market of higher education by fair competition, but by the fact that they are actually favored in the educational system, since they are raised to conform to it better. And I do not think that that is what we want, because it has too serious consequences for men and for society as a whole.
One of the consequences is that some educations risks being regarded as “women’s educations”. Today it is already like that with many shorter educations like that of nurse and kindergarten teacher. But that might also be the case for educations that today are not regarded as “women’s educations”, since educations where a very high grade point average is required accept a very large percentage of women. These are for example medicine (67 percent women in 2006), psychology (81 percent women in 2006) and law (62 percent of women in 2006).
Another problem is that even though there are more women with a higher education in the work force, the really high paying, high prestige jobs are still held by men, even in the areas where there are a very high percentage of women such as law and medicine.
The large percentage of women taking a higher education is a good thing from a feminist point of view. Of course it is. But it also creates and reveals other problems concerning the equality in education and work for women. The large percentage of women in higher education is a good start, but we are certainly not there yet. However, well begun is half done.
Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Her speech is extremely interesting and can be heard at this link: http://audio.commonwealthclub.org/audio/podcast/weekly.xml
I think that her most groundbreaking statements related to women in politics. She candidly claimed that if Senator Obama was a woman, she would not go far in the race. Meaning that a woman with Senator Obama's credentials -- specifically, his short tenure in Congress -- would not be given the time of day had she decided to run for president. I usually think of Hillary's relentless reminder of her qualifications as a tactic to reduce Senator Obama's credibility. I never thought that she might be reiterating her resume so that the public, and Washington, would trust her more as a woman in power.
I'd love to discuss this more so please listen to the podcast!