The Week in Women: gender-sensitive cavemen, trail-blazing policewomen, and other firsts

“First is the worst, second is the best” — a playground chant clearly not thought up by winners. Let’s face it, being first is wonderful. It’s an honor. It gets you gold medals and big trophies. Happily, this week saw a series of momentous “firsts” for women across the world. So let’s get to it, shall we?

On Tuesday, New York City paid tribute to the first female chief of the NYPD, who passed away at the age of 96. Gertrude Schimmel joined the force in 1940, a time when women were not allowed to ascend beyond the entry-level position of policewoman. After 27 years of service—and a gender discrimination lawsuit against the city’s Department of Personnel—Schimmel earned her stripes.

American rower Sonya Baumstein is hoping to become the first woman to row across the Pacific Ocean—solo. The voyage, which begins in Japan and ends in San Francisco, covers 6,000 miles and could take anywhere from four to six months. And in case you weren’t already impressed by Baumstein’s resolve, consider that she will have to subsist on freeze-dried food and olive oil for the duration of her journey.

Pakistan has set up its first military training ground for elite female commandos who have been recruited to combat the Taliban. The fighters wear black niqabs as they learn how to use automatic weapons including anti-tank and anti-aircraft launchers. According to Commando trainee Gul Nisa, “The situation in our country is very bad. That’s why we should all play a role in improving it.”

Based on an interactive report by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, we should all pack our bags and move to Oregon. The state placed first in a nation-wide ranking of reproductive rights, and no wonder; Oregon funds abortions, recognizes same-sex marriage, and mandates sex education in schools. But the ladies of America might want to steer clear of South Dakota, which ranked last in the list.

Let’s travel back in time to the first of the modern humans, who, as it turns out, can teach us a thing or two about gender parity. A new study by University College London found that contemporary hunter-gatherer tribes operated on an egalitarian basis, where men and women had equal influence on where their group lived and who they lived with. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen The Flintstones—we all know Wilma was the real boss of the house. Yabadabadoo.


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