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feminist news round-up 15.04.12

Call for Nike Boycott

Last week, in a Cambodian factory which manufactures Nike apparel, at least 107 female garment workers fainted. It is believed that poor ventilation and the use of harsh chemicals caused this mass fainting.

Fainting is not uncommon in the course of factory operations. It is believed that exposure to factory conditions can put women at risk for developing health problems.

Opposition MP Mu Sochua yesterday called for a boycott of Nike products in Cambodia over this incident. Women internationally are also calling into question Nike’s practices and the treatment of women in factories, particularly regarding things like maternity leave. Sometimes, women are simply fired when they are found to be pregnant. Women also face unfair wages, most factory workers are paid under the minimum wage.

This news is particularly ironic after Nike’s launch of ‘The Girl Effect’ campaign, aimed at empowering young women.

Ethnicity no excuse for rape

Esmatullah Sharifi appeared at County Court in Victoria for the second time under rape charges. Sharifi was jailed in 2009 for the abduction and rape of a woman in Frankston on Christmas Eve, 2009. In that case, he forced the 25-year-old into his car, punched her and raped her and the victim escaped by jumping from his moving car. Now he has been convicted of a second rape of an 18 year-old woman he found alone and intoxicated outside a nightclub.

Sharifi is an Afghan refugee who escaped the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the trial, a psychiatrist for Sharifi said that he had ‘an unclear concept of what constitutes consent in sexual relationships.’ The Judge found that this was not an adequate excuse and that Sharifi was aware of the seriousness of his crimes.

A Golden Age of Female Achievement Erased from History

Historian Bettany Hughes writes in The Guardian that a number of great achievements by women have gone unacknowledged and ignored. For instance, Theodora, the empress of Byzantium, legislated on providing safehouses for prostitutes, outlawing pimps, and introducing new penalties for rape. The legal framework she developed alongside her husband now serves as a basis for much European law. In addition, Muslim women frequently founded schools, and one of the first recorded universities in the world – the Qarawiyyin University in Fez – was built in the ninth century by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri. In the seventh century, a Chinese woman, Wu Zetian reformed the administration of the Chinese empire, was a patron of the printing press 700 years before its arrival in Europe, and worked to invade Korea and Tibet (not exactly a nice thing to do, but an achievement nonetheless). Her current legacy in China is downplayed and physically eradicated. Hughes argues that these women, and others, were systematically written out of history. Further, the Golden Age of womens’ achievement ended as university institutions replaced religious ones as a source of knowledge – women were excluded from the university system for centuries.

Miss Universe Allows Transgender Women

This week the international pageant competition has changed its rules to allow transgender women to compete. The new rule will come into effect in 2013. The news comes as a response to criticism over the disqualification of contestant Jenna Talackova on the basis that she was ‘not born a woman’. However, the rules themselves never said that one must be born a woman in order to enter the pageant, the only requirement is age. The organisers are still drafting the exact wording of the new rules.

Anti-Gay Adverts Pulled from Bus Campaign

London mayor, Boris Johnson, has stepped in to ban adverts which proclaim the efficacy of converting gay people through therapy. The ads read ‘Not gay! Ex-gay, Post-gay and Prod. Get Over It!’ Were it not for Johnson’s ban, the advertisements would have appeared on the side of buses. The Christian charity responsible for this campaign funds ‘reparative therapy’ for homosexual Christians. Johnson said, ‘It is clearly offensive to suggest that being gay is an illness that someone recovers from and I am not prepared to have that suggestion driven around London on our buses.’

Workplace Negotiations for Women

The Conversation has released an article which says that some explanation for the persistent pay gap between men and women is in the wage and promotions negotiations process. Women tend to be less confident in the workforce than men and may therefore undervalue their skills, or err on the side of caution in requesting a higher wage or position. Yet when women do negotiate and are tough on their employers, they are perceived as more pushy, less likable and undesirable work colleagues. While it might be effective in getting a higher salary, they are liable to damage their reputation and erode trust.  The article suggests that in negotiations, women should highlight their niceness and their competence in order to get the best outcome. The fact that they need to do this in order to avoid being labelled as ‘too pushy’ speaks volumes of the sexism still operating in the mainstream workforce. The article suggests that employers should address this issue as well.

An Explosion of Feminists

The Guardian has reported that ‘dozens of new organisations are springing up around the UK, campaigning on issues from lads’ mags to benefit cuts.’ The groups are comprised of a diverse range of people – young and old, men and women, people from a range of locations. There has been a significant resurgence in the feminist movement and with the engagement of people with feminist issues and in feminist campaigns. A range of reasons why this is happening can be found. The internet and the use of social media allows the communication of feminism through non-mainstream means, high profile events such as SlutWalk have increased general awareness in feminist issues, the fact that abortion and reproductive rights are under severe threat both in the US and the UK, and the fact that the global recession has been particularly damaging to the situation of women and their employment.

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