Oct 08
Her eye on the news
An education

How can men be good allies to women? The question has been circling in the year following the allegations against Harvey Weinstein that led to a worldwide expansion of the #MeToo movement. One Swedish professor, Carl Cederström, decided to hit the library to find out.

“I wanted to to sit down and read about women’s experiences, to stay silent for a while, and hopefully learn something,” he wrote in a column for The Guardian, as he wanted to explore “what can men do to show solidarity with women, and what can we do to address a culture of toxic masculinity and begin examining ourselves?” And so he narrowed down a list of influential feminist works, ranging from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, published in 1792 to We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, which hit shelves in 2014.

What he found, of course, is what women have known their entire lives: Stories of sexual abuse have been around for centuries, and the blame is usually placed on the women who are attacked. “It is not as if these stories are new,” he writes. “They just hadn’t been heard properly.”

Mary Wollstonecraft’s 1792 feminist classic A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (Library of Congress)

Perhaps it was reading about specific stories of assault that paint the broader systemic problems into sharp relief — in Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay writes about being lured by a boy she thought was her boyfriend and raped by a group of 12-year-old boys.

The range of titles also highlight the broader perception of the roles women play in the world, and the limiting cultural pressures that can silence them. Back in 1970, Germaine Greer wrote in The Female Eunuch that if women are confined to the roles of wives and mothers, their “horizon shrinks to the house, the shopping center and the telly.”

So what did this one man learn in the end? The need to “ask, read, listen, widen your perspective, call your own perspectives into question.” If that’s what one month of deep reading can lead to, just imagine the results after a lifetime.

And for those men (or women) who are so inspired, here is the list of titles to pick up:

Read the full story and see all 13 titles on the professor’s full suggested reading list at The Guardian.


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‘Wishful thinking’

Misguided solution or reasonable fix?

To counteract the rise of sexual assault in Nepal, the government isn’t cracking down on the perpetrators themselves, but has chosen to ban online pornography in the tiny country, hoping that will prevent incidences of rape.

The government released a statement saying it was now necessary to prevent the access of the content through online media, and will block access to pornographic sites — yet there is still a way to get around these blocks by accessing the sites through VPN.

One activist called it merely a “diversionary tactic to hide the government’s incompetence in prosecuting rapists,” urging instead of the need to empower people and respect their sexual agency — and, of course, to punish the perpetrators.

“The number of reported rapes has risen sharply in Nepal in the past three years, jumping from 1,093 to 1,677 in 2017,” as reported in The Washington Post, with 60 percent of reported rape victims young than 16, and a third younger than 10. The police are often accused by other activists and women’s groups of covering up the crimes and conspiring to protect the attackers.

One such case happened this summer when 13-year-old Nirmala Pant was kidnapped, raped, and killed while she was on her way to a friend’s house. The police were said to have protected her real attackers and falsely accused a man with learning disabilities. Her story went viral and thousands marched with her parents demanding justice. Instead, what they’re receiving is a crackdown on pornography that has been ineffective in other countries. In fact, India’s government tried a similar tactic in 2015, but was forced to lift the ban after one week due to public outrage.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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More than one in three women have experienced sexual assault, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and now a new study shows women who have experienced assault or harassment could be at risk or linked to a variety of health problems.

The study, published last week in JAMA Internal Medicine, centered around 304 women from ages 40 to 60. Of that group, 19 percent reported experiencing sexual harassment at some point, 22 percent reported experiencing sexual assault, and 10 percent reported both, according to CNN.

The results are surprising: Women who experienced sexual assault were three times more likely to experience depression and twice as likely to have elevated anxiety. Victims of assault or harassment were also twice as likely to have sleep problems such as insomnia. Additionally, higher blood pressure was seen in women who reported being subjected to workplace sexual harassment.

“There was a lack of striking differences in the health outcomes between women who were sexually assaulted or sexually harassed,” said senior study author Rebecca Thurston, professor of psychiatry at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, “which speaks to the universality of these types of experiences.”

This new study is one of the rare few to track health problems as related to self-reported incidences of sexual harassment or assault, but the results are clear. More research is needed to uncover the long-term effects of sexual trauma on women.

Read the full story at CNN.


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'Tiny feminists’

The idea almost seems radical: educating boys on women’s rights and violence against women when they’re young. And yet at the Safe School for Girls, a co-educational school in Rwanda, adolescent boys are learning how to respect and improve the lives of women — and it’s working.

The boys are talking about how to support women and better understand the issues facing them in Rwanda in the after-school program, which is carried out every weekday at 174 schools across the country through Care International and local non-profit organizations. Boys are getting a full-spectrum education, learning about emotional and financial abuse and physical assault, and holding each other accountable for the actions of other men.

“If we happen to see such violence, we report them and make sure the people who have [committed the violence] are judged,” 18-year-old Rini Mutijima told the BBC.

But it’s surprising how fundamental and yet revolutionary this idea is — and how necessary the conversation, not just for Rwanda, but the rest of the world. Young boys learn about issues ranging from menstruation to domestic abuse to gender-based violence, and participate in roundtable discussions. More than 19,000 boys have gone through the schools (not to mention 47,000 girls), which gives a semblance of hope for the next generation.

This reality seems a world away from the Rwandan genocide of 1994, during which half a million women were raped and 800,000 Tutsis were killed by Hutu extremists. Now, more than 60 percent of Rwanda’s Parliament is female — the greatest percentage in national government.

Perhaps an even brighter future starts with a few boys gathered around tables after school, thinking about not just their future partners, but all the women in their lives. As one sixteen-year-old boy said: “It’s my responsibility as a boy to protect my sister.”

Just one question: Can this be taught in every country?

Read the full story at BBC News.


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‘I found a sword!’

Saga Vanecek, 8, is being hailed on social media as the new Queen of Sweden following the youngster’s discovery of what scholars say appears to be 1,500-years-old at the Vidöstern lake in Tånnö, Småland.

“I was outside in the water, throwing sticks and stones and stuff to see how far they skip, and then I found some kind of stick,” recalled Saga in comments made to The Local. “I picked it up and was going to drop it back in the water, but it had a handle, and I saw that it was a little bit pointy at the end and all rusty. I held it up in the air and I said ‘Daddy, I found a sword!’ When he saw that it bent and was rusty, he came running up and took it.”

Saga’s father, Andy Vanecek, said that despite his daughter’s excitement he initially was unconvinced that the strange object was anything other than a branch or disfigured toy. But after speaking to a colleague with an interest in archaeology, he decided to report the find to authorities at the Jönköpings Läns Museum who calculated its origin to the 5th or 6th century AD, pre-Viking age.

“Why it has come to be there, we don’t know,” said museum employee Mikael Nordström about the watery artifact. “When we searched a couple of weeks ago, we found another prehistoric object; a brooch from around the same period as the sword, so that means — we don’t know yet — but perhaps it’s a place of sacrifice. At first we thought it could be graves situated nearby the lake, but we don’t think that any more.”

Saga, who grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota but moved to Småland last year, said that her American roots gave an additional reason to be excited about the find.

“The cool thing is that I’m a huge Minnesota Vikings fan, and this looks just like a Viking sword!” she said.

Read the full story at The Local.


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