Another round-up

// 11 June 2009

An anti-abortion group hopes to buy the Wichita, US, clinic of murdered abortion-provider Dr George Tiller, in a spectacularly crude move.

Students at an Oxford University college have voted in “a ‘white heterosexual male officer’ to represent their interests on the formal student body”:

Andrew Lowe’s manifesto pledges to replace St Anne’s college crèche with a finishing school, ban women from the library and save money by getting female students to serve food in halls instead of kitchen staff. Further gems include extra funding for “middle-class activities” and moves to prevent college authorities from banning “any act succeeded by the word ‘lad’ or ‘banter'”.

Apparently it’s meant to be a joke. Guess what, not funny.

Rosa, which funds UK projects working with women and girls, celebrated its first birthday this week and announced its first grants. The Women’s Resource Centre blog has more.

The Continental Network of Indigenous Women has written an open letter to the Peruvian government about the recent violent clashes between government and Indigenous protestors. myMADRE has posted the letter and some background info.

Meem has published a book, Bareed Mista3jil: True Stories, which collects 41 stories from “lesbians, bisexuals, queer and questioning women, and transgender persons from all over Lebanon”. You can read extracts from the book, available in Arabic and English, on the book’s website. More info and photos at AfterEllen.

A guest post at Racialicious considers the history of those “harem” trousers that are so popular at the moment…

In 1911, the same year that Morocco was named a protectorate of France, famed Parisian fashion designer Paul Poiret “introduced” the harem pant to avant-garde aesthetes alongside caftans, headdresses, turbans and tunics in an Orientalist collection. Those items deemed “traditional” and “backward” when worn on a native body were thus transformed as “fashion forward” when worn on a Western one, in what amounted to the blatantly uneven, and undeniably geopolitical, distribution of aesthetic value and modern personhood.

More on trousers at Sociological Images, where an ad for unisex ‘pants’ from the 60s/70s prompts this thought:

As an exercise I sometimes ask the students in my gender class to try on the pants of their friends of the opposite sex. That is, I ask women to try on men’s pants and men to try on women’s pants. They often react with surprise at how effectively the jeans make their bodies look like the bodies of their opposite sex friends. (Women often complain that their guy friends look “better” in their jeans than they do!) This starts a discussion of the many ways that our choices about what to wear make it appear as if our bodies are in fact “opposite” when, in fact, they’re not quite as different as we often believe.

We dress ourselves to emphasize certain beliefs about what men’s and women’s bodies should look like by choice, because not doing so carries some negative consequences, and because doing so is institutionalized. It’s institutionalized insofar as department stores have separate men’s and women’s sections (and no unisex section) and jeans are made for and marketed as men’s and women’s.

Lenin’s Tomb posts about some polling data revealing the wider views of BNP voters:

Most of their voters are not signed up to the BNP’s wholesale Holocaust-denial, although a disproportionate number of them are. So, what we are seeing is not so much support for the BNP’s illicit Nazism, but rather support for segregation, racial privilege, ‘soft’ ethnic cleansing, and authoritarianism. I need hardly say that this is itself a significant menace and challenge. It is on the basis of such reactionary views that fascists have always built up support. And it is this layer of ‘soft’ racists whom the BNP seek to cultivate, draw in and convert to fascism proper. This is the process we need to interrupt.

A letter on NPR prompts a post on AfterEllen about Pixar’s lack of decent female characters, particularly ones that are not princesses:

Some of us will certainly identify with a girl who’d rather be an archer than a princess. But many of us might prefer to identify with a girl who was a fish or an ant or a monster — or just a girl in search of adventure. But as a blogger who is much less patient with Pixar than Holmes is notes, “male is neutral and female is particular.”

Employers are using the credit crunch as an excuse to target pregnant women with redundancy, reports the Guardian:

The government is not collecting data on this kind of discrimination, and it is too early for the tribunals service to have tracked a spike, but campaigners say a wealth of anecdotal evidence suggests there has been a steep increase. Camilla Palmer, a lawyer specialising in pregnancy and maternity-related discrimination with Leigh Day & Co, said that more people were losing their jobs across the board, but that pregnant women and new mothers appeared to be disproportionately affected.

Laurie Penny posts on Andrea Dworkin’s book Intercourse, and reactions to her work in general.

Comments From You

Aimee // Posted 12 June 2009 at 8:54 am

That is exactly the reason I didn’t go to Oxford. It’s fucking horrible! I went for an interview there a few years ago, and it was just DIRE… A horrible horrible place full of horrible horrible people.

Robin // Posted 12 June 2009 at 1:34 pm

As an active female member of an Oxford University feminist group, I can assure you that we’re not all bad, and that while the university has a long way to go before it becomes gender-equal, the actions of one college don’t represent the student population as a whole. Most of us (although, as it keeps being demonstrated in one way or the other, by no means all of us) can tell the difference between humour and offensiveness – unfortunately, it’s those who can’t that get the attention.

K // Posted 12 June 2009 at 2:00 pm

Maybe he’ll go the same way at the “male officer” that Cambridge elected a few years ago. The guy was a fully signed-up misogynist before being elected, whereafter he discovered how hard and necessary the women’s officer’s job was and quite in protest at his own stupidity.

Qubit // Posted 12 June 2009 at 2:18 pm

Did he create the role or was the role created and he stood for it?

In the latter cases his policies are so stupid it makes a mockery of the role existing and maybe that is part of the point.

I am not sure about the necessity for a women’s officer in general. Partly because women’s issues should be university issues if they are serious enough to be discussed. While I can see the use of women’s groups within the union I think maybe having a women’s office on the exec implies that any discrimination or harassment women suffer is a non-issue.

When I was at university we had a male and female welfare officer who looked after relevant issues but weren’t limited to only covering their gender. This worked out well and I felt represented both the male and female population.

The most interesting thing in my mind if the role is ‘white heterosexual male officer’ NOT ‘white upper-middle class heterosexual male officer’ but a lot of the policies are based on the middle classes. What about white heterosexual white working class males shouldn’t they come under his remit as well? Of the groups that are suffering in education working class males of all backgrounds are supposed to be the worst off. Just pretending they don’t exist could be a bad thing. At least ‘fake’ or otherwise policies which discriminating against women acknowledge their existence.

Aimee // Posted 12 June 2009 at 2:33 pm

I know you’re not all bad! :) I just found the entire atmosphere opressive… not just sexist, but definitely classist and racist aswell…

Robin // Posted 12 June 2009 at 3:03 pm

I have to admit, I’m not at St Anne’s College, where the position has been created, and I don’t know a great deal about it. However, I do know that the role is a new position, and was created as a ‘joke’, although it certainly isn’t funny. I think that the position has been created as every JCR (committee representing the undergraduate student body at each college) has a women’s officer, LGBTQ officer, international students’ officer, etc, and there are always people arguing that straight white men are the only people without a specific representative. (There are male and female welfare officers at each college, it’s worth mentioning.) It’s possible that this position was created to stop these people complaining, which is really unfortunate, as it devalues the genuine representational roles.

There are a number of very serious women’s issues at Oxford; the student union has a women’s officer representing women across the university. But due to the collegiate system, most colleges have an undergraduate and graduate women’s officer. There are always arguments for and against women’s officers, but they’re very necessary at Oxford, particularly as at many colleges, including my own, women are a minority (there’s a 60/40 split where I am), and as such need specific representation.

What’s interesting is that the manifesto of the ‘straight white middle-class heterosexual male’ officer contained little or no racist, homophobic or classist material – it was basically all sexism. Apparently sexism is the only form of discrimination that shouldn’t be taken seriously.

And I’m well aware that Oxford can come across as deeply prejudiced – as I said before, the vast majority of people are very progressive, but the few who aren’t make a lot of noise, and positions like these being created certainly isn’t helping.

There are a lot of people who understand all this a lot better than me, so I hope I’m making at least some sense.

Robin // Posted 12 June 2009 at 5:41 pm

I probably should add, it was pretty clear from the report on this in one of the student papers that the student who has the role regarded his manifesto, and the position, as a joke, and that he claimed these weren’t his real opinions. He was quoted as saying something along the lines of ‘I wouldn’t want people to think I was actually sexist.’ (can’t remember the exact wording, it was more than a week ago that I read it.) I don’t think he’ll be seriously representing anybody – I don’t think that the role was ever meant to be serious. Not that that makes it all OK – just because it’s ‘ironic’ doesn’t mean it’s not sexist.

NorthernJess // Posted 15 June 2009 at 4:11 pm

I liked the article about the difference in male/female trousers. What annoys me most about ‘female’ trousers is the complete lack of pockets, I just can’t get my phone, purse keys fags etc in like men do which nesseccitates the use of a handbag- this completly leaves me stumped as I a) have to buy another thing I don’t need because I’m a woman and b) have to constantly watch an object that is not attatched to my body in order to feel “safe” from the evil bag snatching predetors (BTW has anyone seen the Vogue article recently about the ‘new way we are wearing our bags this year’ ie. grasped daintily in outstretched palm just waiting for some canny sod to slip it off you wrist and run to the hills with all your credit cards in tow! And Women buy into this nonsense! Come on, I know you’ve been indoctrinated since birth to belive you have to do everything the bill boards tell you but WAKE UP AND USE YOUR BRAIN!!!!!!! Sorry! Little rant there!)Anyway, trousers, yes, of course, women would not be half as easy to ogle unless their thighs were completly on display so women’s jeans have to be tight, and that means no baggy functional pockets! If anyone knows anywhere I can buy jeans that are well made and will not last thirty seconds, with functional pockets, that are designed to fit my ass (boys jeans don’t- they are really tight around the hips then loose around the waist beyond a belts help) and I don’t want ‘boyfriend’ jeans- I don’t buy into products that make assumptions about my sexuality.

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