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Feminist News Round-up 26.02.12

First Female PM Under Threat

You obviously would have heard of recent news of the upcoming leadership battle in the Australian Labour party between current Prime Minister Julia Gillard and (now) former Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd. Will Australia continue to have a female head of state? We’ll know on Monday. Regardless of what you think of her politics, now might be a good time to review the challenges facing the tenure of Julia Gillard, including: how she became Prime Minister in the first place (and how that could potentially be anti-feminist), the fact that she self-identifies as a feminist, her constant struggle for Parliamentary legitimacy, the television show speculating about her home life, the litany of public scrutiny she has received as a female politician, the potentially sexist nature of her unpopularity, and the extensive coverage she has received for her footwear. If Gillard loses her job on Monday, what will her legacy be? Should the past couple of years be considered inspirational to women everywhere? Has she shown that occupying the office of Prime Minister is a difficult job mired in patriarchy? Or is she simply bad at it? Tell us your thoughts!

Update: Mademoiselle a miss

Weeks ago, this column mentioned that the little French town of Cesson-Sevigne has officially banned the title ‘Mademoiselle’. In an important update, now no Official French documents will force women to reveal their marital status by making them choose between the titles ‘mademoiselle’ or ‘madame’. From now on, people filling out government forms will get just two choices: madame or monsieur. The reason behind the decision is that the disclosure of one’s marital status is simply unnecessary. Further, it has been argued that ‘it’s a reminder of the time when women passed, through marriage, from the authority of their fathers to the authority of their husbands.’ You can read more about the story here and commentary about how this may change the daily reality of French sexism here.

Meanwhile, titles in English are still the stuff of controversy in feminist circles. English does incorporate the discreet salutation, ‘Ms’, but the question of what to use (Miss, Mrs, Ms) can still be troublesome.

Abuse of UK Abortion Act?

Right-wing UK newspaper, The Telegraph, has published an article this week saying that ‘The Abortion Act, intended as a humane response to hardship, has been subverted by changing times’. They note that some women have opted to terminate pregnancies in cases where the foetus is of their non-preferred sex, and because they feared that their pregnancy would ‘spoil’ their holiday plans. An editorial by the same publication has unveiled other anxieties surrounding abortion, specifically the relative ease in which they believe women are unable to obtain one. Legally speaking, the UK abortion act holds that a woman is only eligible for abortion if she can demonstrate that carrying the baby to full term would be detrimental to her health (mental health is included in this) and The Telegraph charges that this legal requirement is hardly ever fulfilled. But is the wording of the Act as it stands valid? Blogger Laura Woodhouse writes in relation to these news items that all women should always have a right to choose without question of their reasoning. And if you think the UK law is bad, check out the confusing and state-based Australian legislation!

US Pharmacists Can Decide Not To Hand Out Morning After Pill

If there is ever a slow news week in the world of feminism (though there never is) you can always rely on a story coming out of the US which further restricts the reproductive rights of women. This story (and associated commentary) comes from Jezebel. A federal judge in Washington ruled that pharmacists who are against the use of contraception (specifically for religious reasons) can decide to refrain from providing women with the ‘morning after pill’ also known as ‘Plan B’. The pharmacists in this case claimed that they felt that the use of Plan B was a kind of abortion. The scientific inaccuracy of their claim was obviously not upheld.

Santorum Against Pre-Natal Testing

On that theme, a possible future President of the US, Rick Santorum, has publicly said that insurance companies shouldn’t be forced to cover certain prenatal tests (particularly a procedure called amniocentesis) that detect birth defects because they lead to abortions. While a 1999 study did show that 90 per cent of women terminate their pregnancies after a prenatal diagnosis of Down Syndrome, the reality of the situation – that the tests lead to abortion – is not so straightforward. In fact, these tests can assist new parents in preparing for a baby which may have special needs, or even in some cases saving the life of a baby by preparing medical staff for a potentially difficult delivery. On the other hand, the use of these tests may have a eugenics-type function, which of course is problematic. In addition, some of the pre-natal tests carry particular risks.

Fairfax Launches Daily Life

Daily Life, an online Fairfax news outlet aimed towards providing thoughtful content for a female audience launched this week. While the website looks promising, it has sparked debate over what constitutes ‘women’s content’. One blogger writes, ‘I call it belittling nonsense that reduces women’s interests to shopping and famous people.’

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