What we can learn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life’s work

When Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday at age 87, she was the most senior Justice on the Supreme Court of the United State’s liberal wing. She was also the second woman ever to be appointed to that hallowed court.

But when Ginsburg first left law school, she couldn’t get a job anywhere despite graduating at the top of her class at Harvard law. It was 1959.

“To be a woman, a Jew, and a mother to boot,” she would later say about this time, was “a bit much.”

She would often cite Justice Benjamin Cardozo: “Justice is not to be taken by storm. She is to be wooed by slow advances.” She was wary, she said, of “taking giant strides and thereby risking a backlash too forceful to contain.”

Ginsburg’s radical heart was laid bare when she would often joke about how frequently she is asked when she would consider there to be enough women on the supreme court and she would reply: “when there are nine.”

Source: What we can learn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s life’s work

Disney’s Mulan tells women to know their place

The story of Mulan has been told and retold for 1,600 years. This latest version is more conservative, when it comes to a woman’s place, than one told in the 17th century.

Within the film, the villain Xianniang (Gong Li) provides a powerful contrast to Mulan. Xianniang invites Mulan to join forces and rebel against the Emperor. She wants to build a kingdom where strong women like them are accepted for who they are, but Mulan responds, “I know my place” – emphasising her duty is to serve her Emperor.

Ultimately, Xianniang sacrifices herself to save Mulan. By refusing to work within the system, Xianniang’s death signifies the failure of her radical approach.

Rather than being a story of female empowerment, Mulan promotes the idea that women must put male authority figures before themselves to achieve recognition.

The story of Mulan hasn’t always sent this message. In a version by the 17th century author Chu Renhuo, set at the end of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), Xianniang is a warrior princess who becomes Mulan’s sworn sister. They lead a group of women soldiers and travel together. This friendship is absent from the Disney film.

Source: Disney’s Mulan tells women to know their place

French book I Hate Men sees sales boom after government adviser calls for ban

A French government official’s attempts to ban an essay entitled I Hate Men over its “incitement to hatred on the grounds of gender” have backfired, sending sales of the feminist pamphlet skyrocketing.

Harmange, a 25-year-old activist from Lille, said the book is an invitation to women “to imagine a new way of being, to take less account of the often unsupported opinions of men, to consider the adage ‘it is better to be alone than in bad company’ seriously, and to rediscover the strength of female relationships full of reciprocity, gentleness and strength”.

Source: French book I Hate Men sees sales boom after government adviser calls for ban | Books | The Guardian

The Coronavirus Is a Disaster for Feminism

Enough already. When people try to be cheerful about social distancing and working from home, noting that William Shakespeare and Isaac Newton did some of their best work while England was ravaged by the plague, there is an obvious response: Neither of them had child-care responsibilities.

For those with caring responsibilities, an infectious-disease outbreak is unlikely to give them time to write King Lear or develop a theory of optics. A pandemic magnifies all existing inequalities (even as politicians insist this is not the time to talk about anything other than the immediate crisis). Working from home in a white-collar job is easier; employees with salaries and benefits will be better protected; self-isolation is less taxing in a spacious house than a cramped apartment. But one of the most striking effects of the coronavirus will be to send many couples back to the 1950s. Across the world, women’s independence will be a silent victim of the pandemic.

Source: The Coronavirus Is a Disaster for Feminism – The Atlantic

Diana Russell obituary

The feminist scholar and activist Diana Russell, who has died aged 81, devoted her life to the campaign to end male violence towards women and girls. Perhaps her greatest achievement, and the one of which she was most proud, was popularising the term “femicide”, which she described as “the killing of females by males because they are female”.

She said: “From the burning of witches in the past, to the more recent widespread custom of female infanticide in many societies, to the killing of women for so-called honour, we realise that femicide has been going on a long time.”

Source: Diana Russell obituary | Feminism | The Guardian

The real reasons that women are oppressed by patriarchy

Men don’t oppress women because they think they are stupid, incompetent, weak or incapable – they oppress women because they know that we aren’t any of those things. They know that given the chance, we will change the world in several ways which will permanently dismantle male supremacy. And they don’t want that.

The control of female sexuality

Patriarchal control has achieved this by ensuring that women and girls self-sexualise from 7 years old (according to APA, 2007), that women and girls believe and employ rape myths towards themselves and other women, blame themselves (and blame other women and girls) for the sexual and domestic violence of men (Taylor, 2020).

No one has to work very hard to control or manipulate women and girls who already view themselves as sex objects to be used, abused, controlled or enjoyed by men.

The control of female fertility

The patriarchy has long sought to control the reproductive power of women. They understand that they are not capable of the reproductive process without female bodies, hence why there is more and more experimental medical research exploring how to create wombs to gestate human babies in. And more and more fetishisation of female reproductive systems, periods, pregnancy, birth and motherhood.

[W]e have an entire industry of surrogacy which literally sells access to wombs for wealthy people – in which the majority of surrogates are women in less economically developed countries, being exploited for very little in poor conditions, to have babies for someone else who cannot or does not want to. Women’s fertility is not only controlled, but it has been commodified to the point that women are being used as paid-for containers, gestators and womb-havers.

The control of women in government

In general, women are not in control of the world at any significant level, despite making up 51% of the global population. At least, we should expect to be half of all world power. The reality is much less equal. Women make up 8% of national leaders, and within that, 2% of world presidents. Women only make up around 4% of the Fortune 500 CEOs. In the UK in 2020, women make up 5% of the FTSE 100. That’s 5 female CEOs.

The control of women in justice and justice for women

In a world in which 97% of crime is committed by men (according to international statistics collected by the FBI in 2017), it seems odd that men also make up the majority of lawmakers, judges, police chiefs, police commissioners, legislators and senators.

Women are hugely underrepresented in crime. Women make up just over half of the world population but commit 3% of the crime. When women are imprisoned, it is largely due to non-violent offences such as possession of drugs, non-payment of council tax and financial fraud.

However, more and more data is showing that crimes committed against women are going unpunished. We know that the current conviction rate of rape is just 0.2% in the UK, leading to the current inquiries lobbied for by the Centre for Women’s Justice.

So why the disparity here? What would happen if women were more in control of the justice systems? The pattern should be becoming clear by now, that keeping women out of power and influence is important for the upkeep of the patriarchy.

The control of women’s language and spaces

One of the most effective ways of stopping women and girls from taking control of their lives is to limit their language and spaces to do so. If women cannot talk about female oppression anymore, they cannot challenge it or protest. If women cannot define themselves as class of humans that need rights, support and protection, then they will not be able to secure these things. This movement is deliberate. If the word ‘woman’ begins to mean nothing (anyone can define themselves into and out of it) then the laws, legislation and policies pertaining to the advancement and equality of women will mean nothing.

Source: The real reasons that women are oppressed by patriarchy

Exploring Gender Roles in Vintage Advertising

A look back at the portrayal of women and men as homemakers and breadwinners in cinema advertising from the 1940s.

The pressure on women to be perfect in everything they did was intense during this era and present at every stage in life. Household products were pitched directly at women, rather than men, and the marketing message was clear – ‘Brand X’ will help you win over that man and guarantee you’ll keep him.

The period of the late-1950s going into the 1960s saw a recovering economy, greater availability of ‘luxury’ items, the introduction of television, widespread migration and a growing women’s movement. There was a shift in culture and more relaxed social attitudes but the advertising industry continued to employ strictly defined gender roles whenever it thought they might be helpful in targeting different demographics.

Source: Exploring Gender Roles in Vintage Advertising | NFSA

The Better Half by Sharon Moalem review – on the genetic superiority of women

After decades, if not centuries, of bad press for women and their vulnerable biology, this book argues that in fact “almost everything that is biologically difficult to do in life … is done better by females”.

Moalem, a Canadian-born physician, is a research geneticist who has identified two new rare genetic conditions. He has worked across the world in paediatric medicine, including clinics for HIV-infected infants and is also a biotechnology entrepreneur and bestselling author. The Better Half is his latest foray into the field of popular science, and presents a general argument for the superiority of women’s biology to men’s.

Source: The Better Half by Sharon Moalem review – on the genetic superiority of women | Science and nature books | The Guardian