Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Ignoring rape?

It's been happening for decades, indeed centuries, but here is the latest example of legal and other state authorities failing to respond appropriately to rape. This New York Times story reports that an early email within the United Nations indicated that rapes were occurring in early August in a region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, but peacekeepers failed to respond in a timely fashion. Here's part of the story's lede:
The United Nations’ beleaguered peacekeeping mission in Congo, which costs more than a billion dollars a year but has failed to stop widespread violence against civilians, has been harshly criticized since the news broke 10 days ago that United Nations peacekeepers did not respond to a rebel attack in which nearly 200 women were raped.

According to an e-mail sent within United Nations agencies on July 30, as the attack was unfolding, United Nations officials knew that the rebels had infiltrated the area and that at least one woman had been raped.

* * *

Over the three days [following the email], from July 30 to Aug. 2, hundreds of F.D.L.R., along with gunmen from another rebel group, raped at least 179 women.

F.D.L.R. is the acronym for Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, described as "a fearsome rebel group that includes former Rwandan genocidaires who have been hiding out in Congo for years and preying upon the local population." According to the NYTimes story, many women were gang raped in the presence of their families.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sarah Palin as feminist? and how the Democrats should respond

This provocative and thoughtful op-ed by Anna Holmes and Rebecca Traister in today's New York Times caught my attention. It points out that--two years after Sarah Palin hit the national stage as John McCain's running mate--the left should be outraged not only at Palin's popularity, but at their own inaction and failure to promote and celebrate women leaders and candidates.

Holmes and Traister discuss the left's exasperation as Palin "enthrall[s] pundits and journalists who devote countless television hours and column inches to her every Twitter message and Facebook update."

What makes this all the more frustrating, of course, is that progressives helped to give Ms. Palin her start; her political career was a natural outgrowth of feminist successes. As a teen, she played basketball thanks to Title IX; as an adult, she enjoyed a professional life made possible by the involvement of her load-bearing husband Todd, entering Alaska’s governor’s mansion at 42 with four children in tow and giving birth to a fifth while there.

* * *

We progressives discount [Palin's] references to the women’s movement — not to mention her validity as a candidate — by looking down on her as a dim, opportunistic, mean-girl prom queen, all spunk and no policy muscle.
But Holmes and Traister say that the Democrats are partly to blame. They have failed to give Hilary Clinton her due, and they treat her best when she "plays well with others in the Senate or State Department." Thus Clinton, like Nancy Pelosi, is "about as eager to mount a Palin-style girl-powered campaign as ... to wear a miniskirt on the House floor." Proudly touting their "feminist credentials" or otherwise taking risks, Holmes and Traister assert, has become "taboo" for these second-wave feminist politicians. Holmes and Traister thus call for a "smart, unrelenting female, who, unlike Ms. Palin, wants to tear down, not reinforce, traditional ways of looking at women." But, they acknowledge that this will require a party "eager to discover, groom, promote and then cheer on such a progressive Palin."