5-18-22 The female body is misunderstood and this is why, says Rachel E. Gross
From non-consensual vaginal microbiome transplants to misconceptions about the G-spot, Rachel E. Gross discusses the sexism and biases that have led to our fragmented understanding of the female reproductive system. JOURNALIST Rachel E. Gross was working as the science editor at Smithsonian.com when she developed an “obnoxious” vaginal infection that set her on a mission to better understand her own body. It may have started with her genitals, but in her new book, Vagina Obscura: An anatomical voyage, Gross not only unravels many misunderstandings about the female body, but also rewrites the history of the science of gynaecology with women and LGBTQ+ researchers front and centre. She spoke to New Scientist about why this matters. Rachel E. Gross: I was doing a lot of coverage of women in the history of science. These themes kept coming up of women in scientific fields that had been left out of the conversation or blocked from attaining certain levels. And at the same time, there were all these questions about women’s bodies and bodies [of people] with a uterus and ovaries that weren’t being asked. I made the connection: the deceptively simple reason why these questions weren’t being asked was because women weren’t at the table. The darkest section of the book is about James Marion Sims and the development of the speculum. It’s well known that he was a southern slaveholder who made his advancements on the bodies of enslaved Black women. But there is a lot more to that story. I relied a lot on historians who had excavated the stories of some of those women, namely Betsy, Lucy and Anarcha. Deirdre Cooper Owens is the historian who spearheaded the argument that these women, and others, became surgical assistants who ended up knowing as much about fistulas (openings between the walls of the bladder and the vagina that can occur after a long or obstructed childbirth) as any doctor. They gained all this medical knowledge and potentially went back and used it to help their own communities. That was just such a paradigm shift for me. I was shocked to read about experiments in the 1950s that involved transplanting microbiomes of people with vaginal infections into pregnant women, and other examples in which the female body was seen as available for people to do what they want with. Do you feel optimistic that this is changing?
5-18-22 Claims that girls have a 'natural' aversion to physics are harmful
Girls are just as capable as boys in science and mathematics, but ingrained attitudes are stopping female students from engaging, says Maria Rossini. FROM Katherine Johnson, known for her pioneering work at NASA, to Nobel prizewinning physicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell and epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta, women have contributed hugely to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). But that contribution often remains undervalued, and in the UK a false narrative persists that science is a boys’ subject and that girls lack the aptitude for study or work in STEM disciplines. These long-standing negative assumptions were displayed recently at an inquiry on diversity in STEM by the UK parliament’s Science and Technology Committee. Katharine Birbalsingh, head of Michaela Community School in London and chair of the Social Mobility Commission, said that girls in her school have a “natural” aversion to physics and that it involves “hard maths”, which girls would “rather not do”. Contrary to Birbalsingh’s comments, evidence shows that girls are just as capable as boys: girls outperform their male peers in GCSE maths and science qualifications, taken from age 14, with 68 per cent getting grades A*-C in 2015 versus 65 per cent for boys. Yet despite this, only around 23 per cent of entrants for the A level qualification in physics, taken from age 16, are girls. There are clearly underlying reasons behind these statistics, but Birbalsingh’s comments highlight exactly the kind of harmful stereotypes that have led many young women to disengage from these subjects. Research has found that, despite being very capable, many girls lack proportionate confidence in their maths and physics abilities because they feel they aren’t “naturally” clever enough. This is partly due to a notion within popular culture of the “effortlessly clever physicist” (whereby physics is presented as something that comes naturally, rather than something to work at), as well as the view that physics is “masculine and hard”: the very same troubling narrative that Birbalsingh was espousing.
5-18-22 Afghanistan: The secret girls school defying the Taliban
Hidden away in a residential neighbourhood is one of Afghanistan's new "secret" schools - a small but powerful act of defiance against the Taliban. Around a dozen teenage girls are attending a maths class. "We know about the threats and we worry about them," the sole teacher tells us, but she adds, girls' education is worth "any risk". In all but a handful of provinces in the countr
5-19-22 Girls see physics as for white men only, MPs told
Girls do not take physics at A-level because they think the subject is only for white boys, MPs have been told. No mention of female scientists in the national curriculum contributes to "the message society gives" to discourage girls from picking physics, leading physicist Prof Dame Athene Donald said. "If you are black or if you are a woman, you don't see yourself fitting in," she said. In 2021, 23% of physics A-level entrants were female. This is a slight increase on previous years. Prof Donald, from the University of Cambridge, told the Commons Science and Technology Committee it was "relevant" that "most of the images one sees of scientists, physicists, are white males". Teachers should try to "actively counter" messages from wider society that may discourage girls and children belonging to ethnic minorities from certain subjects, she added. "In my generation I know lots of women who said 'I would have loved to do sciences at A-level, but my school discouraged me'. I don't for one moment expect that still to be true, but there's a difference between active discouragement and no active encouragement." The panel session comes after a government adviser was criticised for saying girls avoid physics because of its "hard maths". Social mobility adviser and head teacher Katharine Birbalsingh said physics was not a subject girls "tend to fancy", adding: "I just think they don't like it." The IOP said it was alarmed by the comments, and Ms Birbalsingh later said her language had been "clunky". Prof Donald said Ofsted could help encourage girls to choose A-level physics by tracking the gender balance of subjects as part of its school inspections. "If Ofsted made gender equity an issue then every school would have to think, in primary school as well, 'what are we doing, without thinking about it are we giving boys different games to play, or different tasks?'."
5-19-22 Women awarded damages over Japan exam discrimination
A medical school in Japan has been ordered to pay compensation to 13 women for discriminating against them in entrance exams. Juntendo University in Tokyo set stricter requirements for female students because it said women had better communication skills than men and had an advantage in interviews. The judge ruled the requirements were discriminatory, local media report. It is believed to be the first ruling of its kind in Japan. It comes after a government investigation was launched in 2018 after another institution, Tokyo Medical University, was found to have tampered with the scores of female applicants from as early as 2006. The investigation found that a number of Japanese medical schools had manipulated admissions, in part to exclude female students. At the time, local media reported that this was done partly because some university administrators had said that they thought women would leave the medical profession, or work fewer hours, after getting married and having children. Juntendo University has since admitted that its actions over recent years led to dozens of women being unfairly rejected. The private institution has been ordered to pay around eight million yen ($62,000; £50,400) in compensation to the women after the judge ruled that the women had suffered emotional distress as a result of the university's "irrational and discriminatory" policies, Kyodo News quotes the judge as saying. The 13 women awarded damages had taken the university's entrance exams between 2011 and 2018 but were not accepted, Kyodo News reports. Two of the women would have passed the first entrance exam had the results not been rigged, it added.
5-19-22 Afghanistan's female TV presenters must cover their faces, say Taliban
The Taliban have ordered female Afghan TV presenters and other women on screen to cover their faces while on air. Media outlets were told of the decree on Wednesday, a religious police spokesman told BBC Pashto. The ruling comes two weeks after all women were ordered to wear a face veil in public, or risk punishment. Restrictions are being tightened on women - they are banned from travelling without a male guardian and secondary schools are shut for girls. One female Afghan journalist working for a local TV station in Kabul, who did not want to be named, said she'd been shocked to hear the latest news. "They are putting indirect pressure on us to stop us presenting on TV," she told the BBC. "How can I read the news with my mouth covered? I don't know what to do now - I must work, I am the breadwinner of my family."The new decree will take effect from 21 May, Reuters news agency reported, quoting a spokesman for the Taliban's Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue. The spokesman referred to the ruling as "advice" - it is not clear what will happen to anyone who fails to comply. "Based on information received by Tolo news, the order has been issued to all media outlets in Afghanistan," the news channel reported. The decision is being widely criticised on Twitter, with many calling it another step by the Taliban to promote extremism. "The world deploys masks to protect people from Covid. The Taliban deploys masks to protect people from seeing the faces of women journalists. For the Taliban, women are a disease," one activist tweeted. The private Shamshad news channel posted a photo of its news presenter wearing a mask, and other similar images are being shared on social media. During their first stint in power in the 1990s the Taliban forced women to wear the all-encompassing burka in public. The hardline Islamist movement was driven from power by US-led troops in 2001, after which many restrictions eased. Women appearing on television showing their faces became a common sight.
y, girls' secondary schools have been ordered to remain closed by the Taliban. At the school we visit, they've done an impressive job trying to replicate a real classroom, with rows of neat blue and white desks. "We do our best to do this secretly," says the female teacher, "but even if they arrest me, they beat me, it's worth it." Back in March, it seemed as if girls' schools were about to reopen. But just an hour or so after pupils began arriving, the Taliban leadership announced a sudden change in policy. For the students at the secret school, and many other teenage girls, the pain is still raw. "It's been two months now, and still schools haven't reopened," one 19-year-old in the makeshift classroom told us. "It makes me so sad," she added, covering her face with the palms of her hands to hold back the tears. But there's also a mood of defiance. Another 15-year-old student wanted to send a message to other girls in Afghanistan: "Be brave, if you are brave no-one can stop you." Primary schools for girls have reopened under the Taliban, and have in fact seen a rise in attendance following the improvement in security in rural parts of the country, but it's not clear when or if older girls will be allowed back into class. The Taliban have said the correct "Islamic environment" needs to be created first, though given schools were already segregated by gender, no-one seems sure what that means. Taliban officials have repeatedly insisted in public that girls schools will reopen, but also admit that female education is a "sensitive" issue for them. During their previous stint in power in the 1990s, all girls were prevented from going to school, ostensibly due to "security concerns".
5-17-22 South Carolina's GOP governor signs transgender sports ban
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed the "Save Women's Sports Act" into law on Monday. The legislation requires student-athletes to compete on teams that correspond to the biological sex listed on their birth certificates, rather than gender identity. Reuters reports that the bill "first cleared the state's House of Representatives last month after the Republican majority outlasted an estimated 1,000 amendments to the bill put forward by Democrats seeking to stall it." The original version of the bill banned transgender girls and women from female sports teams at all public schools — from elementary school through college — and at private schools that compete against public schools. The state Senate amended the bill so that it also barred transgender boys and men from male sports teams "unless no team designated for females in that sport is offered." Since 2019, more than a dozen states have enacted restrictions on transgender student-athletes. "The Save Women's Sports Act is now the law of the land in South Carolina. We have to do everything we can to protect the young men and women in our state who choose to pursue athletic competition, and that's why I proudly signed this bill into law yesterday," McMaster tweeted Tuesday. "It's common sense, boys should play boys sports and girls should play girls sports." Ivy Hill, the community health program director of Campaign for Southern Equality, told Reuters the bill "needlessly stigmatizes young people who are simply trying to navigate their adolescence, make friends, and build skills."
4-28-22 Egypt criticised after singers jailed for belly dancing video
Human rights groups have criticised an Egyptian court for jailing two popular singers over a video they made with a Brazilian belly dancer. In the clip, they are seen lip-synching and smiling as the dancer, in a long dress and jacket, performs her moves. The video was a YouTube hit in 2020 and has clocked up millions of views. But the court in Alexandria found the men guilty of "violating family values" in what is being seen as part of a wider crackdown on artistic expression. They were also convicted of profiting from the video starring the dancer Lordiana, who has become well-known in Egypt for her slinky moves. The singers - Hamo Beeka and Omar Kamal - were sentenced to a year in prison and fined 10,000 Egyptian pounds ($540; £435). If they pay the same amount on top as a fee, they can have their jail terms suspended. Human Rights Watch says Egypt is increasingly relying on what it calls "abusive and ill-defined family values" to exert control over social media. It is calling for cybercrime law articles that it says criminalise free expression to be repealed. At least a dozen young women acting as social media influencers have been accused of violating the law, with courts giving them hefty fines and sentences of up to five years in jail. The latest verdict comes as part of a larger clampdown on a relatively new genre of low-budget, electronic music known as mahraganat, or festival music, which is wildly popular in Egypt. This is typically upbeat and lively, depicting stories from the everyday lives of less well-off Egyptians. Some mahraganat songs have drawn international attention since being used by Egyptian director Mohamed Diab in Moon Knight, a new Marvel series. However, the state-run Musicians' Syndicate has banned a number of mahraganat singers, including Mr Kamal, which prevents them from legally performing in public.
4-9-22 Ketanji Brown Jackson 'means the world' to every black girl
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is the first black woman to become a justice on the US Supreme Court in its 233-year history. Speaking at a White House event on Friday in celebration of her confirmation, Judge Jackson said: "I am feeling up to the task, primarily because I know that I am not alone. I am standing on the shoulders of my own role models, generations of Americans who never had anything close to this kind of opportunity, but who got up every day and went to work believing in the promise of America." She was joined by US President Joe Biden, who nominated her to the court, and Vice-President Kamala Harris, who also made history when she became the first black woman and first Asian woman to become vice-president. The BBC spoke with black women who are studying the law about what Justice Jackson's appointment means to them. "[It] blows the whole game wide open for myself and other black women in the legal world. Black women only make up 2% of the profession. Now that we've seen a black woman make it to the highest position in the legal profession, it seems like anything is possible. I'm going to walk with a different sense of confidence, knowing that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to. "I am just so grateful for Judge Jackson. I imagine her entire career, like many of us, she had to be twice as good to get half as far." "This is what I've always wanted to do and I've never seen faces who look like me and who I identify with on this nation's highest court, something that I one day hope to argue in front of. For this timing to happen in my last semester of law school, it really just hits home in a different way." "Even with our accolades and education, we are oftentimes barred from the very positions we have prepared for, hoped for and prayed for. So having this esteemed force in the field of law join the bench and highest court of these United States would mean the world for every little black girl to know that they too can aspire for the best and be a vessel of wisdom and justice in this country and beyond. "Even though the constitution was not written with us in mind or penned with us at the table, we are still more than capable of interpreting it in a way that ensures equality for all of us - something that Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson has an audacious record and reputation of doing."
4-5-22 A woman according to Rep. Madison Cawthorn: 'XX chromosomes, no tallywhacker'
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) defined a woman as a person with "XX chromosomes" and "no tallywhacker" during a speech on the House floor Monday, The Guardian reports. "Madame Speaker," Cawthorn began, "the left has ripped away the pen of truth from the Author of Life." (Cawthorn describes himself as a devout Christian and frequently includes biblical references in his speeches.) "They're exchanged natural science for a party platform and declared war on biology," he continued. "You can't even define what a woman is! You might amend a bill, but you'll never amend biology." Cawthorn then offered his own definition of a woman. "Take notes, Madam Speaker," he said, "I'm about to define what a woman is for you: XX chromosomes, no tallywhacker." Cawthorn's comments come two weeks after Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson told Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) she would not provide a definition of a woman because she is "not a biologist." Cawthorn made headlines last week when he accused D.C. inviting him to orgies and using cocaine in front of him, allegations he later admitted had almost no basis in reality.
4-1-22 Gay marriage is the law, but what do we teach our children?
The gay rights debates of the 1990s and early 2000s ended with a whimper. Less than a decade after "values voters" were said to have swung the White House to George W. Bush for a second term over their opposition to same-sex marriage, and just five years after the last Democratic presidential nominee had to at least pretend to believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, the Supreme Court ruled handed down Obergefell v. Hodges. Unlike Roe v. Wade with abortion, the Supreme Court decision that established a constitutional right to gay marriage did not touch off a lasting debate. There is no serious talk of overturning it, either by legal challenge or constitutional amendment. Last year, public support for same-sex marriage broke 70 percent. In 1996, it was just 27 percent in the same poll. But rumbles of this debate have returned. Florida's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed parental rights legislation that was widely panned as the "Don't Say Gay" bill — and even with generally hostile media coverage, slim majorities appear supportive of its provisions. Gay rights for adults carried the day. But the debate over what children should be taught, and when it is appropriate to introduce concepts like sexual orientation and gender identity to minors, is unsettled. This may reveal that moral qualms about homosexuality consistent with the teachings of the country's biggest religions are more commonplace than thought in post-Obergefell America. It certainly shows there are plenty of people who do not share traditionalist views about human sexuality who nevertheless think third grade is too early for this kind of discussion. Liberals ignore this at their peril. The fact that they are more responsive to the worst arguments for DeSantis' position suggests that they may realize sex- and gender-related issues remain an open question to many voters. Perhaps they can bludgeon it out of existence. Or maybe it will follow the same trajectory as previous debates. But cultural liberalism is being contested even on the battlegrounds where it has looked strongest.
3-30-22 ‘Vagina Obscura’ shows how little is known about female biology
A new book chronicles how scientists are finally giving proper attention to female health and anatomy. More than 2,000 years ago, Hippocrates, the Greek physician often considered the father of modern medicine, identified what came to be known as the clitoris, a “little pillar” of erectile tissue near the vagina’s entrance. Aristotle then noticed that the seemingly small structure was related to sexual pleasure. Yet it wasn’t until 2005 that urologist Helen O’Connell uncovered that the “little pillar” was just the tip of the iceberg. The internal parts of the organ reach around the vagina and go into the pelvis, extending a network of nerves deeper than anatomists ever knew. It took millennia to uncover the clitoris’s true extent because sexism has long stymied the study of female biology, science journalist Rachel E. Gross argues in her new book, Vagina Obscura. Esteemed men of science, from Charles Darwin to Sigmund Freud, viewed men as superior to women. To be male was to be the ideal standard. To be female was to be a stunted version of a human. The vagina, the ancient Greeks conc Because men mostly considered women’s bodies for their reproductive capabilities and interactions with penises, only recently have researchers begun to truly understand the full scope of female organs and tissues, Gross shows. That includes the basic biology of what “healthy” looks like in these parts of the body and their effects on the body as a whole. Vagina Obscura itself was born out of Gross’ frustration at not understanding her own body in the wake of a vaginal infection. After antibiotics and antifungal treatments failed due to a misdiagnosis, her gynecologist prescribed another treatment. As Gross paraphrases, the doctor told her to “shove rat poison up my vagina.” The infection, it turned out, was bacterial vaginosis, a hard-to-treat, sometimes itchy and painful condition caused by an overgrowth of bacteria that normally reside in the vagina. (The rat poison was boric acid, which is also an antiseptic. “It’s basically rat poison,” the doctor said. “You’re going to see that on the internet, so I might as well tell you now.”).
3-24-22 LGBT people in Iraq live in fear of lives - HRW
Armed groups in Iraq, including the police and one of the country's most powerful militias, attack LGBT people with impunity, a new report says. Cases include abductions, torture, rape and murder, with LGBT people living in fear of their lives, campaigners Human Rights Watch (HRW) and IraQueer found. HRW said the Iraqi government had failed to hold perpetrators accountable. Iraq's interior ministry has denied any such attacks by its security forces. The 86-page report includes interviews with 54 LGBT Iraqis carried out between June and November last year. Accounts paint a harrowing picture of life as an LGBT person in Iraq, where the community is disproportionately affected by laws against extra-marital sex and undefined "immodest acts" in public. Those interviewed described being arbitrarily arrested by security officials and subjected to physical and verbal abuse. They said that in detention they were denied food, water and medical treatment, and not allowed to contact a lawyer or family members. Some said police forced them to sign statements saying they had not been mistreated. The worst cases involved groups belonging to the umbrella organisation Popular Mobilisation (PM), a powerful Shia-led paramilitary unit which officially became part of the Iraqi armed forces in 2018. One 31-year-old transgender woman, "Khadija", described how she was brutally attacked after being stopped by up to half a dozen men in a Hummer vehicle. "They kicked and punched and slapped me all over my head and body. They told me to get up and threw me in a garbage bin…. I lay down on the garbage and they pulled out a razor blade and a screwdriver and poked and cut me all over, especially my [bottom], crotch, and thighs. She said they poured petrol on her and set her alight, before she was saved by neighbours. Another, "Laith", a 27-year-old gay man, told how his boyfriend was killed in front of him. "Four men got out of [a] car. I saw two of them had guns. They all had long beards. They beat him and forced him into the car and drove away. I followed them in my car…. They arrived at a big farm, took out my boyfriend and started beating him. I heard him scream and sob. "I wanted to help but I was terrified.… They kept beating him for around 20 minutes. Then they shot him five times." HRW's LGBT rights researcher Rasha Younes said: "LGBT Iraqis live in constant fear of being hunted down and killed by armed groups with impunity, as well as arrest and violence by Iraqi police, making their lives unliveable. "The Iraqi government has done nothing to stop the violence or hold the abusers accountable," she said.
3-23-22 Lia Thomas: Florida governor Ron DeSantis refuses to recognise Thomas win
Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed a proclamation recognising runner-up Emma Weyant as the winner of the highest US national college swimming title - an event she lost to transgender athlete Lia Thomas. Last week Thomas became the first known transgender athlete to win the title. She took victory in the women's 500-yard freestyle in Atlanta. But on Tuesday Republican governor DeSantis said the result "undermined the integrity of the competition". Thomas, who swims for the University of Pennsylvania, secured the title in four minutes 33.24 seconds in Atlanta. Weyant, of Sarasota, Florida, who won 400m individual medley silver at the Tokyo Olympics, finished 1.75secs behind in second. DeSantis criticised the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for allowing Thomas to compete. He said: "The NCAA is basically taking efforts to destroy women's athletics, they're trying to undermine the integrity of the competition and they're crowning somebody else the women's champion and we think that's wrong. "They are putting ideology ahead of opportunity for women athletes and I think that there are just some people that are afraid to speak out and say what they are doing, but that is what they are doing." Thomas swam for the Pennsylvanian men's team for three seasons before starting hormone replacement therapy in spring 2019. US swimming updated its policy in February to allow transgender athletes to swim in elite events, alongside criteria that aims to reduce any unfair advantage. The NCAA - which governs college-level swimming - ruled it would be wrong to implement the new rules mid-season, thus allowing Thomas to compete. On Monday World Athletics president Lord Coe issued a warning over the future of women's sport if sporting organisations get regulations for transgender athletes wrong. "I think that the integrity of women's sport if we don't get this right, and actually the future of women's sport, is very fragile," Coe said.
3-22-22 Ron DeSantis issues proclamation rejecting Lia Thomas' victory in NCAA swim event
Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced Tuesday that Florida does not recognize transgender swimmer Lia Thomas' victory in the NCAA 500-yard women's freestyle event last Thursday, and is instead declaring Sarasota native and runner-up Emma Weyant the "rightful winner" in his state, the Miami Herald and Sarasota Herald-Tribune report. DeSantis' reportedly unprompted remarks came during an unrelated news conference, as well as in the form of a proclamation shared on Twitter. "We need to stop allowing organizations like the NCAA to perpetuate frauds on the public, and that's exactly what they're doing," DeSantis said during the presser, per the Miami Herald. Thomas, a transgender woman competing for the University of Pennsylvania, has been the subject of online debate since defeating Weyant, an Olympic silver medalist and University of Virginia athlete. The victory has furthered a larger controversy about whether transgender women should be allowed to compete in women's sports, due to what some — particularly conservatives — believe is an unfair advantage. "By allowing men to compete in women's sports, the NCAA is destroying opportunities for women, making a mockery of its championships, and perpetuating a fraud," DeSantis wrote on Twitter. "In Florida, we reject these lies and recognize Sarasota's Emma Weyant as the best women's swimmer in the 500y freestyle." As a transgender woman, Thomas does not identify as a man. Last year, DeSantis, who is a suspected contender for the 2024 presidential race, signed into law a bill forbidding transgender women and girls from participating in women and girls' sports, the Miami Herald notes. A number of states have also adopted similar policies. Florida has also come under fire for a new piece of legislation critics are calling the "Don't Say Gay" bill for how it handles LGBTQ matters in classrooms.
3-23-22 Afghanistan girls' tears over chaotic Taliban schools U-turn
Early this morning, at her home on a hilltop in the west of Kabul, 15-year-old Marzia packed her bag for school, for the first time since the Taliban took power last August. "I became so, so happy when I heard school was restarting," she told the BBC. "It makes me hopeful about the future again." Around 200 other girls had also made their way to the Sayed ul Shuhada school, far fewer than usual, as pupils and their families debated whether or not lessons would actually start and whether it would be safe for them to attend. Since August, in most of Afghanistan, only girls' primary schools have remained open, along with all boys' schools. Today as a new academic year began, girls' secondary schools were finally expected to re-open along with other institutes. It felt a particularly poignant moment for students here. Last year more than 90 of their classmates and school staff were killed in an attack by the local affiliate of the Islamic State group. "The first suicide bombing happened very close to me," says Sakina, as her eyes fill up with tears. "There were lots of dead people in front of me… I didn't think I would survive." She pauses, overwhelmed with emotion, before continuing, "Our revenge on the people who did this, will be continuing our education. We want to succeed in our lives, so we can fulfil the dreams of our martyrs." As they entered the classrooms, the students wiped the dust off the desks but already some of the teachers were murmuring that, unexpectedly, the school would have to shut down again. The local Taliban education official, who had given us permission to film at the school earlier this week, forwarded the headteacher a WhatsApp message, saying girls' secondary schools would in fact remain closed until further notice. The students reacted with shock and horror. Some began to cry. "We just want to be able to learn and serve our people," Fatima told us. "What kind of country is this? What is our sin?" She asked, addressing the Taliban whilst visibly distraught. "You're always talking about Islam, does Islam say to harm women like this?"
2-23-22 Karnataka: 'Wearing hijab doesn't make Muslim women oppressed'
Nabeela Shaikh was 30 when she started wearing the hijab. She was the last of three sisters to take to it. The eldest, Muzna, first wore it when she was eight, inspired by a cousin. She would then wear it depending on the company around her - until, she says, she realised she couldn't "please everyone". The youngest, Sarah, reached for it at the "lowest point" in her life when her dream of becoming a surgeon was dashed by low exam scores. "It started with things like praying on time," she says. "The hijab came later and it came naturally." Born to two doctors, the sisters grew up in India's coastal metropolis, Mumbai. Their mother still doesn't cover her head. But when they do, they say, people assume it's out of compulsion. The hijab is widely worn in India, where public displays of faith are common - but last month, school girls in Karnataka state protested over being barred from wearing it in class and spotlighted the headscarf like never before. The question - whether Muslim girls have the right to wear the hijab to class - is now in court. The row has sparked violence, divided campuses and stopped a number of Muslim girls in Karnataka from attending classes. The BBC spoke to Muslim women across India who say they feel angry about the "intrusive nature" of the debate. "We are constantly reminded that to be accepted, we must give up our religion," said one woman from Delhi. What is drowned out by the public outcry, they say, is the intensely personal nature of their choice. Those who choose to wear the hijab say it is not solely a religious decision, but one born out of reflection. And those who choose not to wear it say their hair is not a barometer for their faith. "People don't understand how one can feel empowered by wearing a headscarf," Nabeela says, laughing. "It confuses them so they judge us." Oppressed is a word commonly hurled at women wearing the hijab - but many point out that refusing to take into account why they do so is not liberating either, and neither is keeping girls out of school because they refuse to remove it.
2-22-22 New amendment to Florida bill would require schools to out LGBT students to parents
The Florida state representative who introduced the controversial "Don't Say Gay" bill added a new amendment on Tuesday that would require schools to disclose students' LGBT identities to parents, USA Today reports. Under the new amendment, school principals would be required to inform parents if they learn that a student identifies as LGBT. In cases with the potential for parental "abuse, abandonment, or neglect," schools must "develop a plan, using all available governmental resources, to disclose such information within (six) weeks" and to "facilitate disclosure between the student and parent through an open dialogue in a safe, supportive, and judgment-free environment." Florida state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (D), who is openly gay, wrote on Twitter that the amendment would "make it even more dangerous for vulnerable kids." Florida state Rep. Joe Harding (R) introduced HB 1557 — officially called the "Parental Rights in Education" bill — last month. The bill, as originally filed, would give parents easier access to their children's school records and prohibit school districts from "encourag[ing] classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels." An updated version changes "primary grade levels" to "certain grade levels" to be determined by Florida's Department of Education. According to Time, the phrase "primary grade levels" has no statutory definition under Florida law. Harding said he intended it to apply to "kindergarten through third grade." The bill would also empower parents to sue violators. "We just want to make sure that teachers promote that discussion at the right age level, and we want to make sure that parents are kept in the loop," Harding said in a video posted to Twitter. The House bill is being debated on the floor, while the Senate bill is still making its way through committees. Republicans control both houses of Florida's legislature. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has signaled that he supports the bill, according to NBC News.
2-22-22 US women's national team reach agreement with US soccer over equal pay
United States forward Alex Morgan says a "monumental step forward" has been taken after the women's national team (USWNT) reached agreement with governing body US Soccer on equal pay. The players will receive $24m (£17.7m) and US Soccer has pledged equal pay for the men's and women's teams across all competitions, including the World Cup. All 28 squad members filed a discrimination lawsuit in March 2019. "It is an incredible day," Morgan told Good Morning America. The two-time World Cup winner added: "This is just such a monumental step forward in feeling valued, feeling respected and just mending our relationship with US Soccer that's really been full of tension. "It's great to take that step forward. I not only see this as a win for our team or women in sport but for women in general." USA team-mate Megan Rapinoe said: "I think we're going to look back on this day and say this is the moment that US Soccer changed for the better. "Something like this is never going to happen again and we can move forward in making soccer the best sport we possibly can in this country and setting up the next generation so much better than we ever had it." The United States won the Women's World Cup for the fourth time in 2019 and have claimed Olympic gold five times. Five senior members of the USA's World Cup-winning team, including Morgan and Rapinoe, initially filed a complaint against the national federation for wage discrimination in 2016. The bid for equal pay - in which they sought $66m (£52.8m) in damages - was dismissed by a court in May 2020, leading to an appeal. The US Soccer Federation offered identical contracts to its men's and women's national teams in an attempt to resolve its gender pay dispute in September. In a joint statement on Tueday, US Soccer and USWNT said: "We are pleased to announce that, contingent on the negotiation of a new collective bargaining agreement, we will have resolved our longstanding dispute over equal pay and proudly stand together in a shared commitment to advancing equality in soccer."
2-22-22 Supreme Court to weigh whether web designer may refuse services for same-sex weddings
The Supreme Court is set to take up a case concerning whether a Colorado web designer may decline to provide her services for same-sex weddings. The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to hear the case, in which a Christian web designer, Lorie Smith, said she would refuse to create websites for same-sex marriages, the Los Angeles Times reports. Her attorneys said she is "willing to work with all people regardless of race, creed, sexual orientation, and gender" but that she "cannot create websites that promote messages contrary to her faith, such as messages that condone violence or promote sexual immorality, abortion, or same-sex marriage." Smith sued over Colorado's law prohibiting businesses from discrimination against gay people, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled against her, with Judge Mary Beck Briscoe writing that Colorado "may prohibit speech that promotes unlawful activity, including unlawful discrimination," The New York Times reports. The Supreme Court is now set to consider Smith's appeal and weigh "whether applying a public-accommodation law to compel an artist to speak or stay silent violates the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment." The case is reminiscent of that of Jack Phillips, a Colorado baker who refused to make cakes for a same-sex wedding. In 2018, the Supreme Court ruled in his favor. But CNN analyst Steve Vladeck noted at the time that the court's decision in that case was "remarkably narrow," failing to set a precedent and leaving "for another day virtually all of the major constitutional questions that this case presented." The Lorie Smith case is set to be heard during the court's next term beginning in the fall.
2-19-22 Core memory weavers and Navajo women made the Apollo missions possible
The historic Apollo moon missions are often associated with high-visibility test flights, dazzling launches and spectacular feats of engineering. But intricate, challenging handiwork — comparable to weaving — was just as essential to putting men on the moon. Beyond Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and a handful of other names that we remember were hundreds of thousands of men and women who contributed to Apollo over a decade. Among them: the Navajo women who assembled state-of-the-art integrated circuits for the Apollo Guidance Computer and the women employees of Raytheon who wove the computer’s core memory. In 1962, when President John F. Kennedy declared that putting Americans on the moon should be the top priority for NASA, computers were large mainframes; they occupied entire rooms. And so one of the most daunting yet crucial challenges was developing a highly stable, reliable and portable computer to control and navigate the spacecraft. NASA chose to use cutting-edge integrated circuits in the Apollo Guidance Computer. These commercial circuits had been introduced only recently. Also known as microchips, they were revolutionizing electronics and computing, contributing to the gradual miniaturization of computers from mainframes to today’s smartphones. NASA sourced the circuits from the original Silicon Valley start-up, Fairchild Semiconductor. Fairchild was also leading the way in the practice known as outsourcing; the company opened a factory in Hong Kong in the early 1960s, which by 1966 employed 5,000 people, compared with Fairchild’s 3,000 California employees. At the same time, Fairchild sought low-cost labor within the United States. Lured by tax incentives and the promise of a labor force with almost no other employment options, Fairchild opened a plant in Shiprock, N.M., within the Navajo reservation, in 1965. The Fairchild factory operated until 1975 and employed more than 1,000 individuals at its peak, most of them Navajo women manufacturing integrated circuits. It was challenging work. Electrical components had to be placed on tiny chips made of a semiconductor such as silicon and connected by wires in precise locations, creating complex and varying patterns of lines and geometric shapes. The Navajo women’s work “was performed using a microscope and required painstaking attention to detail, excellent eyesight, high standards of quality and intense focus,” writes digital media scholar Lisa Nakamura.
2-18-22 Five Afghan women who refuse to be silenced
It was just a snowman. But as winter descended on a starving Afghan population, the heavy snow brought joy to a small corner of Kabul. A group of young women had stopped next to the snowman to take selfies. As they giggled and looked at their phones, they could have been anywhere. Then three Taliban fighters spotted them. They came closer - the women fled. With a smile, one stepped towards the snowman - which perhaps he thought was un-Islamic. He tore off the stick arms, carefully removed the stone eyes, the nose too. Finally, a swift beheading. I had just arrived back in Kabul after 10 years away and had already been lectured by a member of the Taliban about my lack of understanding of Afghan culture. He claimed to know what was best for Afghan women. "Blue-eyed devils" (Westerners) had corrupted the country, he appeared to suggest. Rather than take his word for it, I wanted to hear from women themselves. Many are in hiding, all fear for their future and some for their lives. There are still women on the streets of Kabul, some still in Western clothes and headscarves, but their freedom is under attack - the freedom to work, study, move freely and to lead independent lives. I met women who had been forced into the shadows of a new Afghanistan, who took great risks to express their views freely. They could only do so anonymously - except for Fatima, who insisted on showing her face.
2-16-22 Kuwait overturns law criminalising 'imitation of opposite sex'
Kuwait's constitutional court has overturned a law that criminalised "imitation of the opposite sex" and was used to prosecute transgender people. The Gulf state's parliament amended Article 198 of the penal code in 2007 to make the offence punishable by up to one year in prison and a fine. But Wednesday's court ruling said the amendment violated the constitution. Amnesty International called the development "a major breakthrough for transgender rights in the region". Lynn Maalouf, the human rights group's deputy Middle East director, said the law was "deeply discriminatory, overly vague and never should have been accepted into law in the first place". "The Kuwaiti authorities must now ensure that Article 198 is repealed in its entirety," she added. "They must also immediately halt arbitrary arrests of transgender people and drop all charges and convictions brought against them under this transphobic law." She called for the immediate release of Maha al-Mutairi, a 40-year-old transgender woman who was jailed and fined under the law. Her lawyer, Ibtissam al-Enezi, told Human Rights Watch at the time that the court had used her social media videos as evidence to convict her on the grounds that she was wearing make-up, speaking about her transgender identity, allegedly making "sexual advances", and criticising the government. In June 2020, Ms Mutairi was summoned by authorities after she posted videos on Snapchat accusing police officers of raping and beating her during a seven-month period of detention in a men's prison in 2019. Ms Mutairi's case sparked an international outcry and prompted Kuwaiti lawyer Ali al-Aryan to file a lawsuit requesting that the amendment to Article 198 be repealed. Kuwait's penal code still criminalises sexual relations outside marriage, and punishes consensual same-sex relations between men by up to seven years in prison. One other Gulf state, Oman, has a law that expressly forbids expression of transgender identities. Saudi Arabia has no written laws concerning gender identity, but principles of Islamic law are used to harass transgender and gender diverse people, according to London-based rights group the Human Dignity Trust. And under the penal codes of the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Lebanon, a man who "disguises" himself as a women in order to enter a women-only space is guilty of an offence.
2-13-22 Afghan woman activist released after arrest in January
A female activist who was arrested by armed men in Afghanistan in January has been released, two sources have confirmed to the BBC. On 19 January Tamana Zaryabi Paryani was arrested in her apartment in Kabul's Parwan 2 neighbourhood after taking part in a women's rights protest. Her state of health remains unknown, said the sources. Since the Taliban took over last year, women's rights have been curtailed. In recent months women have been stopped from attending places of education and workplaces. Ms Paryani, along with dozens of other women, had decided to fight back against these measures by taking part in protests. But a few days later she posted a video on social media pleading for help after armed men had arrived at her house and arrested her. After her disappearance, neighbours told BBC correspondent Quentin Sommerville that Ms Paryani had been taken away along with two of her sisters, and no-one had been to the apartment since. They said only that an "armed group" had taken them. The Taliban denied arresting them. In an interview with the BBC the day after the arrests on 20 January, Suhai Shaheen, who hopes to become the Taliban's ambassador to the UN, said: "If [the Taliban] had detained them, they would say they have detained them, and if that is the allegation they will go to court and they will defend themselves... This is something legal, but if they are not detained, and they are making such fake scenes and shooting films in order to seek asylum abroad." Women had gained many freedoms in Afghanistan prior to the Taliban's take-over. But under their rule, Afghanistan has become the only country in the world which publicly limits education on the basis of gender. The regular protests by women highlighting the issue are a source of embarrassment to the group. (Webmasters Comment: All the Taliban are barbaric savages who want obedience from and total control over women!)
2-9-22 What myths of warrior women tell us about identity and gender politics/span>
From Amazon warriors to pugilistic matriarchs, stories of female fighters abound. Where do they come from and what can they tell us about gender equality, past, present and future, asks Laura Spinney. THERE can be few myths as ingrained in our consciousness as that of the Amazons, an ancient caste of warrior women whose marksmanship struck fear into the hearts of their enemies, who chose sexual partners freely and who sacrificed their male offspring to preserve the matriarchy. I have been musing on this while watching tensions rise on the Russia-Ukraine border. At the beginning of that conflict, in 2014, a Ukrainian biathlete and sports minister called Olena Pidhrushna was falsely accused on Russian TV of shooting Russian-speaking civilians in eastern Ukraine. Historian Amandine Regamey recognised this image of a gun-toting woman as the latest revival of the legendary Amazon. She wore a single earring (“it is more convenient to shoot”) and her shoulder was bruised from her rifle’s recoil. “The parallel with the Amazons, who were said to cut [off] one breast to bend their bows more easily, is obvious here,” wrote Regamey. But did the Amazons really exist? The question has been asked often, and the answer looks more confusing than ever. Legend has it that they lived alongside the semi-nomadic Scythians, who inhabited the steppe north of the Black Sea, in the first millennium BC. This region, which overlaps with the area disputed today, has yielded many royal Scythian graves, including several belonging to female warriors. In 2017, a team led by archaeogeneticist Anna Juras reported a puzzling bias in the mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) profiles of the occupants of those graves. mDNA is passed down the maternal line, and half the royal women carried mDNA that could be traced to an eastern Eurasian origin, but none of the males did. Though the sample was small – only 19 individuals – the researchers suggested one possible explanation was that noblewomen who identified as Amazons sacrificed their sons.
2-9-22 Karnataka hijab row: Judge refers issue to larger bench
An Indian state has shut high schools and colleges for three days after a row over the hijab that has gained international attention after Nobel Prize-winner Malala Yousafzai weighed in.The government of Karnataka state in southern India took the decision after protests by students over Muslim women wearing headscarves in the classroom escalated into violence. On Wednesday, the state's high court, which was hearing two petitions filed on behalf of some of the Muslim women, requested the chief justice to set up a larger bench to deliberate the matter. The developments occurred after protests by six teenage students at a government-run college over wearing hijabs spread to other colleges. Several Hindu students then turned up wearing saffron shawls - the colour seen as a Hindu symbol - to protest against Muslim women wearing hijabs. On Tuesday, Malala - who was 15 when she survived an attack by the Taliban in Pakistan for speaking up for the right of girls to be educated - called on India's leaders to do something to "stop the marginalisation of Muslim women". "Refusing to let girls go to school in their hijabs is horrifying," the 24-year-old activist tweeted. "Objectification of women persists - for wearing less or more." In India, the stand-off has increased fear and anger among minority Muslims, who say the country's constitution grants them the freedom to wear what they want. On Tuesday, viral videos showed a Muslim woman being heckled by a mob of young men shouting slogans, and heated arguments between students wearing hijabs and saffron shawls. The issue began gaining attention when six teenage students at a government-run pre-university college - equivalent to a high school - in Karnataka's Udupi district began protesting over being barred from classes for wearing a hijab. Udupi is one of three districts in Karnataka's communally sensitive coastal region - a stronghold of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Commentators often describe the region as a laboratory for majoritarian Hindu politics. The BJP is also in power in Karnataka.
1-22-22 Afghan women taken from their homes after speaking outThe Taliban can threaten with a whisper. After 20 years of violent struggle, and the loss of tens of thousands of civilian lives, they took power here using brutal force.
Even so, Afghan women refuse to be intimidated. Tamana Zaryabi Paryani is one of those women. It takes raw courage to stand up to armed men who want to take away almost everything you have achieved in life. Last weekend, she joined dozens of others to demand the right to work and the right to an education. The protesters were pepper-sprayed by Taliban fighters, and a number said they had been stunned by electric shocks. After making their voices heard, they returned home. Some feared they had been followed. On Wednesday night, at 20:00, armed men entered Tamana Paryani's apartment block in Kabul's Parwan 2 neighbourhood. She was alone at home with her sisters. The men began to kick the door. "Please help, the Taliban have come to my house, my sisters are at home," Ms Paryani pleaded on a video posted to social media. "We don't want you here now," she screamed. "Come back tomorrow, we can speak tomorrow," she pleaded. "You can't see these girls at this time of night. Help, the Taliban have come to my house," she said before the video ended. Since the Taliban took power on 15 August, women have complained that they are now prisoners in their own homes. And even there they are not safe. It is a violation of Afghan culture to enter a home that contains only women. But having dismissed women police officers, the Taliban do not have female personnel available to question women. Tamana Paryani has been missing for two days now. I went to her apartment to try and trace her. There was no-one inside the home. A large muddy boot-print was still visible on the front door.Neighbours said Ms Paryani had been taken away along with two of her sisters, and no-one has been to the apartment since. They would say only that "an armed group" had taken the sisters. Other women protesters were targeted that night. Another, Parawana Ibrahimkhel, is also missing. Still, the Taliban denied taking them.
1-22-22 Hillary Clinton speaks with Afghan girl hiding from Taliban'Lama' is in a safe house after fleeing Kabul. She shares with the former US secretary of state what her life used to look like before the Taliban takeover. This is part of a BBC podcast series on women and war called 'Women Building Peace'.
1-4-22 Bulli Bai: Indian man arrested for fake auction of Muslim womenIndian police have arrested a 21-year-old man in connection with an app that shared photos of more than 100 Muslim women saying they were on "sale".
He is an engineering student from the southern city of Bangalore whose identity has not been revealed. The charges against him are unclear but he is a "close follower" of the app, Bulli Bai, police told BBC Marathi. The app was hosted on web platform GitHub, which has since taken it down amid widespread anger and outrage. Photographs of several prominent Muslim journalists and activists were used on the app without their permission and put on "sale" in a fake auction. This is the second attempt to harass Muslim women by "auctioning" them online. In July last year, an app and website called "Sulli Deals" created profiles of more than 80 Muslim women - using photos they uploaded online - and described them as "deals of the day". In both cases, there was no real sale,but the purpose was to degrade and humiliate Muslim women - many of whom have been vocal about the rising tide of Hindu nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Sulli is a derogatory Hindi slang term right-wing Hindu trolls use for Muslim women, and bulli is also pejorative. Though the police began an investigation in the Sulli deals case, no one has been charged. When news of the Bulli Bai app broke, poet Nabiya Khan who was targeted in the Sulli deals case, tweeted that the Delhi Police had yet to take action on her complaint in 2021. Police in at least three states have opened an investigation into the Bulli Bai app based on complaints by women who were targeted. On Monday, the cyber unit of the Mumbai Police detained the engineering student in Bangalore. He was flown to Mumbai, where he was arrested, on Tuesday.Police told BBC Marathi they were also questioning a woman in the northern state of Uttarakhand in connection with the case. The list of women on the Bulli Bai app included a Bollywood actor and the 65-year-old mother of a disappeared Indian student.