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feminist news round-up 06.11.11

This new column will summarise events that have happened in the last week relevant to women, feminism, and sexuality and link you to related articles. It will also offer a brief analysis on some stories. Please feel free to give us feedback! You can read last week’s round-up here.

This week has a mixture of good news, bad news, and the frankly insane news.

Lesbian Couple is Crowned Homecoming King and Queen

Starting with some good, two lesbian students have been named homecoming king and queen in a San Diego high school. Rebecca Arellano and Haileigh Adams were given top honours in a ceremony where members of the graduating class ironically elect their own ‘king’ and ‘queen’. Arellano is the first girl in the school’s history to be crowned ‘King’. The two girls have been a relationship together for two years and were delighted with the symbolic significance of the result. You can read more about it here.

Women Boxers to Wear Miniskirts

The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) has suggested that women boxers ought to wear mini-skirts and tight-fitting vests while competing in order to distinguish them from men. This suggestion, insist AIBA, is purely for the benefit of the spectators. Who apparently otherwise would be lost without these important gender markers (?). Polish boxing coach Leszek Piotrowski claimed that, ‘by wearing skirts, in my opinion, it gives a good impression, a womanly impression.’ Of course, many women boxers have disagreed with the opinions of the AIBA and people like Piotrowski. You can read more about it here.

Australian Female Cadets are Poorly Treated

In sad, but not very shocking news, a recent report has shown that in the Australian Defence Force, female cadets are exposed to harassment and discrimination. There were several reported incidents of rape and other forms of sexual assault and 74 per cent of female cadets reported some form of sexual harassment. Women in the defence also force face objectification, comments about their weight, and being treated like ‘game’ as opposed to respected as a colleague amongst other cadets. The report suggests that some of the causes of these poor conditions involve a lack of good leadership, a male-dominated ‘warrior culture’, and a lack of supervision of first-year cadets.

However, on the bright side, ‘the report goes on to say the majority of female cadets interviewed said they were treated ”equally and with respect”, and that their experience at the academy was a positive one.’ You can read more about the report here.

Population Prediction: Men to Outnumber Women

As the world’s population has now hit the seven billion mark, predictions of the future of the world’s population shows that the proportion of women in the world will decrease over the next fifty years. This is in part due to gender-selective abortion practices which are common in some parts of the world and are having a significant impact on the gender proportions of the population. The effect this will have on society is the stuff of speculation, though forecasts include obvious difficulties with marriage as men will need to compete heavily for brides, and perhaps even an increase in violence. You can read more here.

Gillard Seeks Conscience Vote on Equal Marriage

Now that Prime Minister Julia Gillard is the only Australian Labor leader who is against equal marriage, instead of facing pressure to change her mind on the matter, she will offer all MPs a chance to have a conscience vote on this issue. While a number of Labor MPs would probably support equal marriage in a conscience vote, Liberal MP, Malcolm Turnbull, believes that it probably would not pass, saying that ‘I don’t think the numbers are there for that at the moment but things are changing’. However, why it is that minority rights should be decided by a clearly conservative government comprising mostly non-minority individuals is not clear. You can read more about this issue here.

Women Bloggers and Journalists Publicly Call for an End to Misogynist Trolls

Laurie Penny, amongst other women writers, has publically denounced sexist comments and threats they have received in response to their work. After Penny made reference to the abuse hurtled towards her on her blog, Helen Lewis-Hasteley, a writer for New Statesman, has since collated the experiences of others. Threats of rape and murder and sexist name-calling is a normal daily encounter for many women writers. Some writers subsequently report censoring their opinions in order to avoid the vitriol directed towards them. Susie Orbach comments on this matter, ‘the deeper question is the disenfranchisement of men who find themselves in such depraved circumstances that all they can do is expel the fury that’s inside of them on to women. The reaction these men are having shows they are very, very threatened by something and that threat is to their masculinity’. You can read more about this phenomenon here.

UK Women Badly Affected by Austerity Measures

Recent budget cuts in the UK as a result of recent euro-zone and world-wide financial downturn has affected women more than men. According to the Mirror, women ‘are bearing more than two thirds of the £16billion Chancellor George Osborne is raking in from slashing welfare in his Budget and spending review.’ Benefits to women, such as the pregnancy grant, centres assisting women with child rearing, and tax credits related to having a family have all either been cut or severely reduced.

As a result, according to The Guardian, a group comprising charities, women’s rights groups, academics, women’s union officials, and activists are telling Prime Minister David Cameron that UK women are subjected to ‘the greatest risk to their financial security in living memory’. The cuts have been denounced as ‘a war on women’, with over 3 million women worse off as a result of these measures.

Yemen Uprising Unites Women

Women protesters in Yemen are banding together in order to make their demands for equal rights central in the uprising. The main goal for the women is to end the regime of current president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. However, the campaign also has a broader reach of aiming for social change, increased equality, and the work of social codes which undermine and segregate women from public life.

Women in Yemen face harsh conditions: 70 per cent of females are illiterate, and poor health services and a lack of access to them mean that an average of eight women die per day. Only 7 per cent of women in Yemen are part of the paid workforce and their participation in public life is rare. Nonetheless, women in Yemen are fighting hard for lasting social change, and you can read more about it here.

Herman Cain Accused of Sexual Assault

Potential Republican candidate in the upcoming US Presidential elections, Herman Cain, has been accused of sexually assaulting two women. While Cain was working as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s, two employees complained about his inappropriate behaviour, including lewd comments and physical gestures directed towards them. The women both signed agreements stating that they would drop the matter upon receiving financial payouts in the five-figure range. Cain claims to be falsely accused, though it looks as though this matter will reduce his (already relatively low) odds of becoming the next Republican presidential candidate. You can read more about this story here.

50% of Americans Believe that Women Should be Legally Required to Take their Husband’s Surname

The title of this story says it all really. In a recent study using a sample of 815 Americans, it was found that two-thirds of respondents thought that it was better if the wife took the husband’s name upon marriage. Surprisingly, 50 per cent of respondents supported a law requiring women to take their husband’s name. You can read more about this story here.

(Image credit: 1.)

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