The UK Telegraph feels it necessary to alert its readers about the fact that the first woman chairperson appointed by the BBC Trust is a mother of three. Never mind that she has a distinguished corporate career serving on the boards of multinational companies and in publishing, such as being the Chair and Chief Executive of the Financial Times. This headline would never be used to announce a man in a similar role. It is the same tactic used to diminish distinguished women in other industries, including in science and politics. This is a sexist gambit that undervalues women’s accomplishments, as if it’s only acceptable for a woman to be successful if she is also a mother and a wife. Then she can be criticised for trying “to have it all.”
By Zuleyka Zevallos
High heel shoes were once a status symbol for powerful men, from horse riding soldiers in 16th Century Persia, to European aristocrats in the 17th Century. Since the Enlightenment period, heels became associated with “irrational” fashion and pornography, and so “impractical” shoes became a symbol of femininity. What changed? Today’s post examines how history and fashion trends related to high heels help us to see how gender is a performance that entrenches inequality. Continue reading What The Sociology of Shoes Says About Gender Inequality
Syria in political crisis:
The image above is taken from a video posted by homsYT on YouTube, which reportedly shows neighbourhoods devastated in the Syrian city of Homs after the Syrian Government set buildings ablaze. (Link provided by Al Jazeera Syria Liveblog.)
Syria, 4 February 02:01 GMT: The BBC reports that 200 people were killed on Friday when the Syrian government forces “shelled” civilian building blocks in Homs and then set buildings on fire. The information comes from the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The BBC notes this information is yet to be independently verified but this is being reported throughout the international media. Al Jazeera further reports that Syrian forces have conducted similar attacks in other key cities and towns, such as the historically significant town of Hama.
The state attacks in Homs come after thousands of Syrians marched in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the 1982 Hama massacre led by former President Hafez al-Assad, who is the current President, Bashar al-Assad’s, father. Up to 40,000 Syrians are believed to have marched in these demonstrations across the country, in remembrance of the thousands of people who were killed (at least 10,000 and up to 40,000 people are estimated to have been killed in 1982). The photo below by The Telegraph shows that the protesters also displayed solidarity in calling for the removal of the Syrian President.
(Telegraph: Demonstrators protest against Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Qudsaya, near Damascus Photo: REUTERS)
The BBC reports that the United Nations Security Council are preparing to vote on a resolution to back the Arab League’s plan to remove President Bashar al-Assad from power. Up to now Russia has been the biggest obstacle for international intervention. Russia opposes the wording of the UN’s resolution because it reads that the signatories “fully support” the Arab League proposal. Reuters reports that because Russia did not file an alternative wording to the UN resolution, Russia can either file an abstention, which would still mean the resolution will pass (albeit registering Russia’s opposition), or Russia may otherwise be forced to back international action in Syria.
Russia and its allies (China, India and Pakistan) have thus far refused to back the United Nations Security Council on sanctioning Syria. Russia says its objection is because other international interventions in the Middle East have not been successful, citing the poor results in Libya, where conflict and human rights abuses persist under the transitional government despite the NATO action taken to remove Moamar Gaddafi from power. Political commentators note that Russia’s objections are more likely to be influenced by the fact that Russia and Syria have a long-standing arms trading relationship via the capital city of Damascus, an allegiance which may be threatened if the regime changes. Russia is also concerned about providing further international power to the Arab League. Reuters notes that the current draft resolution is ‘vague’ about what sanctions the international community will take if the Syrian President does not back down from office.
As I noted a couple of days a go, the United Nations reports that at least 5,400 people have been killed by Syrian forces over recent months. The currently reported death toll overnight brings the number of deaths closer to 6,000 people.
It is difficult to fully gauge the severity of the conflict in Syria as few international journalists are allowed into the country. In the video I’ve posted above Al Jazeera reports on the work of British-Syrian “citizen journalists” who have set up a make-shift media centre in Homs in order to document the government violence against ordinary civilians. Such activists play an important role in relaying the human rights abuses in Syria to the rest of the world. The number of protests across Syria is rising, and they include all levels of Syrian society, young and old, as the photo below shows. As these protests rise, so too does the level of state sanctioned violence against civilians, as reflected in the events unfolding in Homs.
Image below via Al Jazeera: Girls demonstrated against the government in Idlib on Wednesday [AFP/LCC]
Public harassment of women in India is known as ‘Eve teasing’. I’m using this as a case study to highlight the ‘Western’ media’s divergent constructions of sexual harassment at home and abroad.
In Australia and in Western countries such as the USA, the mainstream media tend to portray sexual violence and gender oppression as a barbaric practice that are culturally entrenched in developing countries. Gender violence is the stuff of others – it is something that members of ‘less civilised’, less enlightened societies do. In comparison, the Western media depict sexual harassment and rape in their own societies as fear-mongering events involving individuals, rather thananindictment of an entire culture. (See my discussion of the sociology of crime reporting in an earlier post.)
Today’s post begins with a case study of Eve teasing in India before moving on to discuss sexual violence on a global scale, including the ‘Slutwalk’ movement. I provide more detail on the USA and Australia to illustrate that gender violence against women is widespread in advanced, liberal democracies, as it is in other parts of the world. As today’s discussion is focused on women, I talk only briefly about sexual violence against men but I will return to this issue in the near future. Here, I will argue that the situation in India is one public expression of broader global patterns of sexual assault.