Your Thursday round-up!

// 14 May 2009

Samantha Orobator has been told to deny she was raped while in prison in Laos, or face the death penalty.

Cara at Feministe says:

But, let’s assume for one moment, for the sake of argument, that she told the truth on the count of rape. It’s hardly the point. The point, those who would wish to make it something else, is that when asked the question of whether or not she was raped, a woman should be able to give an honest answer, whatever it is. She shouldn’t be explicitly told that the price for just answering “yes” to that question is her life.

The criminal justice system in the UK England and Wales is “institutionally sexist”, found a report by the Fawcett Society. The Guardian reports:

A five-year investigation by the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for gender equality, found that discrimination against women pervades the system in England and Wales at all levels, from the police forces where women officers are still forced to wear men’s uniforms to the way frontline staff doubt the credibility of victims reporting rape and domestic ¬≠violence, with a gap seen between equality policy and its implementation.

The society’s commission on women and the criminal justice system, whose members include high court judges and Cressida Dick, one of the most senior women in British policing, warned that since it last reported in 2004 there has been a lack of consistent progress in ¬≠promoting women into senior positions, and victims and offenders continued to be marginalised in a system designed for men.

It raised concerns over the number of women given short prison sentences for non-violent crime, including the non-payment of fines and television licences, and the effect it had on their children as well as its failure to address the causes of their offending.

In 2007, 63% of women sent to jail were given sentences of six months or less. Last month the female prison population stood at 4,309, compared with 2,672 in mid-1997. Ministry of Justice projections show that at best it may decrease by 200 by 2015, and at worst will increase to 5,100.

The earliest representation of a human to be unearthed so far as been discovered in southern Germany – and it’s a 35,000 year old fertility goddess. Hoyden About Town questions why it has been represented in the media as pornography:

And what I’m getting from this is that the sexual male gaze is the only lens through which many men can see the world.

Why are women writers not even in the running for crafting the Great American Novel, asks Elaine Showalter in the Guardian. (Although it would have been more interesting if she’d been a bit more critical about the entire concept of the GAN, as she abbreviates it.)

It’s not just that the GAN is about masculine themes. As Katha Pollitt pointed out on Slate in March, “there’s a certain kind of critical receptivity, a hope of greatness for certain kinds of books by men that hardly ever comes into play with books by women, no matter how wonderful they are”. Although many women novelists do write about “big public subjects” and many male novelists write about “intimate life”, Pollitt suggests, “we emphasise different elements in similar books and only notice the evidence that confirms our gender biases – and give men more benefits of more doubts.”

(Via Other Stories)

Trans woman Debbie Davies has called off a hunger strike in protest at Nottinghamshire PCT’s refusal to pay for her medication or surgery. However, as Helen notes, the Trust’s response is far from adequate.

Meanwhile, Daisy’s Dead Air wonders why only women bloggers seem to delete their entire blogs.

Sinclair has a poll on labels.

Finally, What Tami Said takes on the responses to Wanda Sykes’ performance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner:

Secondly, about my friends on the right…more disengenuous outrage I have never seen. (Well, I have, actually. The right does disengenuous outrage like no one else.) If conservatives are willing to let a person who routinely and without humor or irony, makes hateful, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, ugly and hypocritical statements like the ones above be the de facto spokesperson and leader of their movement, surely nothing that Wanda Sykes says could truly offend them. Limbaugh himself is an offense–one that the right and the Republican Party abide and abet.

Comments From You

Feminist Avatar // Posted 14 May 2009 at 1:17 pm

Can I just be pedantic and say that the Fawcett report is on England and Wales, not the UK (which includes Scotland and Ireland, and which have distinct and no doubt equally (but perhaps differently) discriminatory justice systems). It’s just that to use the English/Welsh experience as synonymous with that of the whole UK hides and devalues the experiences of Scottish and Irish woman- in much the same way as assuming the male experience is that of the entire population.

This is problematic as it means solutions to discrimination are based on the English experience, but are often applied across the UK and in contexts where they are less relevant or impossible to apply. And, yes, it is only shorthand to use the UK for E&W- but it is a shorthand based on power and exclusion. (Because seriously- we never, never get to talk about the Scottish or Irish experience and refer to it as the UK experience).

DaisyDeadhead // Posted 14 May 2009 at 2:52 pm

Thanks for linking me Jess, you have extended a wonderful conversation at my blog!

Jess McCabe // Posted 14 May 2009 at 3:03 pm

@DaisyDeadhead No problem. I have a suspicion that part of it, some of the time, is fed by women not valuing our own words as much as men value theirs.

I deleted my personal blog, but kept my own archive of it and transferred some of the best bits to my current personal blog. I moved it because it was at my own url jessmccabe.co.uk (it’s crap right now, I have to revamp it soon). And I’d started it when I was in uni, carried on for many years afterwards. Once I started working in journalism, I just wanted my URL to be a bit more professional….

I do think it’s a problem, though. Sometimes I want to go find something brilliant I remember reading a year ago, and the site has gone or moved, all the links are broken and that’s that. I wish people would leave up their work, at least in an archive, more often…

Anne Onne // Posted 14 May 2009 at 6:12 pm

I wish people would leave up their work, at least in an archive, more often…

Hear hear! So often I feel sad because someone’s writings (or other work) was so influential to me that I want to link to it and re-read it, but can’t because they have taken it down. I respect people’s desires for a break, or privacy, or to put the old them to rest and start afresh. But at the same time, I mourn for the great stuff lost in the metamorphosis!

I also think it’s about security. In addition to men being taught to be more confident, to want to ‘show off’ more, they are given more latitude online. Women are more likely to get threats. We’re more likely to need a break, or to feel the need to retire from a spotlight so much more critical and hostile than the one male bloggers face. Even when not being political, female bloggers are given higher standards to live up to, and more ways in which their social position may suffer if they are ‘outed’ if their blog was anonymous. I’m gonna head off and read that article, now.

I’ve been thinking about Samantha Orobator’s case a lot. I really hope they can get her away from there as soon as possible. I can’t imagine what she’s faced and what she’s still facing, and I can’t believe this latest development.

Lisa // Posted 14 May 2009 at 8:42 pm

A fertility goddess can cover the whole timescale of sexual reproduction from arousal to birth or she may be split e.g. Aphrodite for arousal and conception and Artemis for birth. As far as men are concerned their minor role is at the time of arousal and conception therefore their interaction with a fertility goddess can only be from that perspective – men do not carry the pregnancy to term nor do they give birth nor do they lactate.

They re-appear in the reproductive cycle with the older child in their roles as father, king, hunter and warrior. In these roles they interact with other non-fertility goddesses in non-sexual ways e.g. hunter and nature goddess, warrior and war/death goddess.

From a fertility cult perspective, if males do feel attraction and arousal on viewing the figurine, the goddess does indeed have the intended ‘magic’ power over the male. Arousal, conception and fertility is assured and anxiety about infertility and the survival of the group is thereby reduced.

As far as women are concerned birth was (not so now as overpopulation has shifted the focus to non-reproductive sexual acts and extended adolescence) the main focus of the relationship with the fertility goddess. The transition from the internal reproductive phase, as it were, to the external.

Males and females therefore have a completely different interaction with the fertility goddess but with a birthrate of 1.9 children per woman in the UK (with considerable numbers of women having ambivalence if not hostility to motherhood) it is difficult for women to be drawn to this goddess. Warrior/Death Goddesses seem more suited to the Zeitgeist and popular culture reflects this – Kill Bill 1 and 2, Lara Croft, Manga, Horror, the Dominatrix … (the list is endless).

BTW From a pagan perspective this Death focus is neither negative nor positive – there are none – it is simply what is born out of our current circumstances.

Vxn // Posted 15 May 2009 at 11:24 am

A bit unrealated, but massive heads up on this article-

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/west_midlands/8050902.stm

Feminist Avatar // Posted 15 May 2009 at 12:59 pm

The fertility goddess is also presumed to be a fertility goddess due to her ‘over-sized’ genitals, but there are ethnic groups, as well as individuals, whose genitals are more ‘pronounced’ than others- we really don’t know whether this icon is representative or not of typical women’s bodies in this time and space (or even just that of the artists’s muse/ own body). And, without knowing that, how do we really know what the message is that it is portraying. [Especially given the lack of information from the same period to give it context].

Plus at least part of the concern with representations of the genitals/breasts/buttocks on these sorts of statues is a belief in our society that they should be covered/hidden. Therefore, if they are on display they must mean something- but perhaps it is the lack, or less distinct, arms and head that are of interest to the 35000 year old observer.

LOuise // Posted 16 May 2009 at 9:42 am

That statue seems to represent the body of woman who ‘s just given birth. She’s lactating, hence the massive boobies, and her genitals look like they’ve just been through the birth process. If this woman was to stand in front of the porn-enthusiasts out there in all her post-birth glory, I wonder how many of them would be so quick to label her “Prehistoric Totty”. I totally agree with the author of the blog : our interpretation of History (or in this case Prehistory) tells us often more about us as a culture than it does about the very people we claim to be studying.

Jen // Posted 16 May 2009 at 8:01 pm

I totally agree with the author of the blog : our interpretation of History (or in this case Prehistory) tells us often more about us as a culture than it does about the very people we claim to be studying.

I guess we all learned who’s the real cromagnon today. Culture is so bad! And don’t get me going on Society, that thing’s the worst. I say we abolish both. And people of course. They’re all silly.

Women on the other hand, much like whales and small fluffy dogs and bunny rabbits, are way smarter than human beings. Go us!

Jess McCabe // Posted 16 May 2009 at 8:13 pm

@Jen, I just don’t get your point at all.

@Feminist Avatar, LOuise: This is an interesting analysis of why another prehistoric figure of a woman has been interpretted as a fertility goddess/’venus’.

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