From debunking gender stereotypes to fighting against pro-life abortion regulations, women are changing the world every day. Here is what we are reading this month:
Journalist Ezra Klein interviews Kate Manne, author of Down Girl: The Power of Misogyny, to discuss the current U.S. media coverage that deems American female political candidates “unelectable.” Manne argues that the electability of men vs. women isn’t a static social fact, but “a social fact we’re constructing.” What’s going on? According to Manne, it’s misogyny. Misogyny, she says, is a “social enforcement mechanism where women tend to encounter hostility because they’re not conforming to gendered roles and expectations.” At the end of the day, it’s about “protecting an existing social order,” Manne claims. It’s why Democratic presidential candidates like Sen. Bernie Sanders and former V.P. Joe Biden rise in the polls, while Sen. Elizabeth Warren “trails behind them with no plausible explanation.” Societal expectations punish female candidates for actions that men get away with – a reminder about the work needed to check our biases – and to hold media outlets accountable for sexist coverage – as we approach the 2020 elections.
Earlier this month, Governor Brian Kemp of Georgia signed into law what was, until mid-May, the most restrictive abortion legislation in the country. The “heartbeat” bill makes it illegal for women in the state to get an abortion after six weeks, punishable by “life in prison or the death penalty and allows for authorities to investigate women who miscarry to determine whether they could be considered at fault.” To clarify, this law would mean that the cut-off date for women to get abortions would be two weeks after their period was supposed to happen. But on May 15, 25 white men in Alabama decided to one-up Georgia as the most shortsighted state legislature by passing their own anti-abortion bill in the Alabama State Senate. We condemn these decisions to criminalize women, their health decisions, and their providers, and stand by all girls and women, wherever they are, and their right to choose. #prochoice
Following the recent archaic decisions made by the courts in Ohio, Alabama, Georgia, and Missouri, we thought it was important to highlight women’s stories and voices when abortion is no longer a legal option. In her new project, A History of Misogyny, Chapter One: On Abortion, creator Laia Abril attempts to show the history of abortion and the consequences of women not having legal, safe or free access to procedures. “It reveals what is normally hidden from public opinion and ranges from chilling testimonies of women who aborted in all kinds of conditions and with all kinds of fatal consequences (death, imprisonment) to ancient methods of contraception such as lemon” (International News). We encourage you to read this remarkable piece with the hopes that you will be inspired to call your local politician and demand that a woman’s right to choose be protected.
Political and women’s rights activist, journalist, and parliamentary advisor Mina Mangal was gunned down on May 13 in the streets of Kabul. Her death has sparked outrage in her country and worldwide. Mina’s colleagues and friends have denounced the killings of multiple outspoken women in Afghanistan, including Farkhunda Malikzada, who was wrongly accused and later lynched by a mob for burning a copy of the Quran. The hashtag #stopkillingwomen has spread widely on social media, reminding us starkly, as does this horrific tragedy, of the dangerous path toward realizing women’s full human rights. We honor Ms. Mangal’s life and legacy, and we stand with her family, her colleagues, and all women and girls seeking human rights and freedom for themselves and for all.
What determines gender, and who ultimately gets to decide who is “woman” or “man” enough to fit in a certain category? The South African runner Caster Semenya and her “astoundingly quick performance” and more muscular appearance prompted the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) to declare her ineligible to compete in women’s sports without hormone suppressants, because her “testosterone levels [were] three times higher than those normally expected in a female.” There is little evidence that higher levels of testosterone actually give female athletes a competitive advantage. The IAAF decision has been criticized as a way to police women’s bodies into conforming to societal expectations, in the name of preserving “the integrity of female athletics.” Also, beyond effectively punishing one athlete in particular, the decision now targets many intersex and non-binary conforming athletes – leaving us to wonder, are you kidding me?
A common stereotype is that boys and men are more willing to take risks than women and girls. Many believe that since women take care of children, they tend to be more risk-averse and that men’s higher levels of testosterone make them naturally greater risk takers. But a recent study debunks these stereotypes. According to Univ. of Houston economist Elaine Liu, young girls raised in female-led cultures were actually “bigger risk takers than boys in the same community.” But after the girls from China’s matriarchal Mosuo culture “spent years in schools with boys and girls who came from patriarchal communities, the trend reversed.” Take risks, girls, we’ve got your back!
Stanford Social Innovation Review
WomenStrong recently co-sponsored a workshop on “The Power of Groups: Effective Tools and Practices for Promoting Life Skills Among Girls,” held at The International Center for Research on Women and hosted by the Coalition for Adolescent Girls. One of our speakers, Miriam Temin of Population Council, shared an article she and her colleagues had published wrote about what it takes to create an environment that allows young girls to succeed. While many share the goal of reducing gender inequality worldwide, the “how do we do it?” is not obvious. Having documented the critical importance and effectiveness of adopting a holistic approach to empowering girls, Population Council designed a theory of change “that can help programs reach the right girls with the right content at the right time.” According to evidence gathered and analyzed by Temin and her colleagues, programs working with girls must include seven key components: girls’ groups, safe spaces, mentors, contents on gender and power, economic empowerment, referral networks, and community engagement. Only then will girls have “voice, choice, and control.” A really terrific article, describing truly impactful findings!
The Moth Radio Hour
This month we want to give a shout-out to another compelling episode from the podcast, “The Moth.” This episode features women and girls around the world, telling their stories. Here’s The Moth’s own description of the stories in this episode: “A Kenyan student aspires to be beautiful while her mother has bigger ideas; a teenager’s failing sight is revealed during a game of kickball; and a woman smites down her enemies. Mary Hamilton gets married to an unconventional man. Esther Ngumbi hides an act of defiance from her mother. Jon Howe re-commits to his ailing wife. Emily Recinos struggles with her diminishing eyesight. Anne Moraa reveals her true self during a traffic jam in Nairobi. Fatou Wurie recognizes her grandmother’s impact on her life during a trip to Sierra Leone.” We celebrate these diverse girls’ and women’s voices and hope you enjoy their stories!