Thursday, June 25, 2009

Woman's violent death symbolic of the protests in Iran

by Malavika Balanchandran

The world has watched the horrific events playing out in Iran, but of all the images of the violence we have seen, the haunting image of Neda Agha-Soltan, a young Iranian women, has become the face of the turbulent events in Iran. Neda was a 27 year old student studying Islamic philosophy at the Azad University in Tehran. While not active politically, she attended the protests due to her frustration with the voting fraud in Iran. While sitting in traffic, she stepped out her car for some air (her air conditioner was not working properly), and was shot in the chest. The video of Neda, bloody and dying, has become iconic and representative of the growing opposition movement in Iran.

The 34 million women in Iran are treated as second class citizens, despite the fact that women make up 65% of university students. In addition to strict dress codes and segregation, it is very difficult for Iranian women to hold jobs in the public sector, the legal age of marriage is 13, and men may have up to four wives. Further, legally, the value of a women's life is deemed half the value of a man's life, and for most actions, women must seek permission from their husbands. However, many brave Iranian are starting to speak up. Women make up a large portion of the opposition movement, and one of the key components of the reform movement is the advancement of women's rights. Many of the images of the protests showcase Iranian women at the forefront, fighting for equal rights. An Iranian lawyer and human rights activist, Shirin Ebadi, stated in an interview with the BBC, "My hopes for Iran's future lies with women first and foremost and then with young people. Iran's feminist movement is very strong. This movement has no leader or head quarters. It's place is the home of every Iranian who believes in equal rights. This is currently the strongest women's movement in the Middle East."

I am moved by the brave women who are risking their lives to speak out against the oppression they have faced and continue to face. The violence stirred by peaceful protests is horrifying. I hope that one day these Iranian women will be treated with the equality and respect they are fighting for and desperately deserve.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Quick hit: Thesis research on female playwrights

I should be preparing for a midterm for my summer class, so I'm going to keep this short, but I wanted to direct everyone's attention to an article that came out in the NYT yesterday, highlighting the research of Emily Glassberg Sands, who graduated from Princeton earlier this month. Ms. Sands, who majored in economics, conducted a study (I'm assuming for her thesis) investigating whether discrimination plays a role in the small numbers of female playwrights who are produced within the theater community. The surprising part of the research? It's actually female artistic directors and literary managers who are to blame - they're the ones who seem to be discriminating against female playwrights. There's also a lack of good scripts by female writers - although Sands did admit that women who write scripts for Broadway are held to a higher standard, even though their plays tend to run for the same time as less profitable shows written by men, and that plays featuring female leads (which are most often written by women) were also less likely to be produced.

This is a very short summary, and I encourage you to read the article yourself. Ms. Sands comes to some very interesting conclusions, and asks some difficult questions. Like most issues, the lack of female-written plays is much more complex than artistic directors and producers would have you believe - but it's also a question that can't be answered by a single charge of discrimination. Now someone just has to write a thesis on why female playwrights don't produce as many scripts as their male counterparts, and we'll have the full story. Any anthropology or sociology majors want to take that on?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Chris Brown pleads guilty to Rihanna's assault

by Molly Borowitz

In a somewhat unexpected move, everyone's favorite R&B singer Chris Brown confessed to assaulting his former girlfriend, Rihanna, and pled guilty to one count of assault. The two parties reached a plea deal just a few hours before the trial was scheduled to begin -- and before Rihanna was scheduled to testify against Brown. As a result of the plea deal, Brown's sentence has been reduced from a possible four years in jail to five years of probation and six months of community service. The judge also imposed a "stay-away" order requiring that Brown and Rihanna remain at least 50 yards apart at all times -- except at celebrity events and musical performances, where the distance is reduced to 10 yards. Rihanna did not request the restraining order, but deemed the judge's ruling a "fair and just resolution."

Just outside the courtroom, Brown's lawyer Mark Geragos told the press that Brown "embraces this as a chance to get the message out that domestic violence will not be tolerated. He wants to get his life back on track." Hang on just a bit. Of course we're all very pleased (and relieved) that Chris decided to do the right thing by confessing his crime, but I'm not sure that his honesty about being a perpetrator of domestic assault earns him a spot as a spokesperson against it. I'm all for giving people second chances, but let's wait until the man serves his time before we declare him a reformed sinner and fall at his feet.

Not everyone agrees with my skepticism, however. If you watch BBC's video coverage of the event, you'll hear one woman screaming "CHRIS! I LOVE YOU!" as Brown is escorted from the courtroom. Evidently, his own admission of having assaulted another woman -- one he professed to love, no less -- isn't enough to deter her adoration. Let's hope the rest of the world is a little less forgiving.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Round-up of the past few hours, days, weeks

We're not even pretending to keep you updated on everything that's happening this summer - and my posts, at least, are mostly experiential. But just so that you're not totally out of the loop (although I hope that in our absence, you're following Feministing, Feministe, Jezebel, the Harpyness, and other fabulous feminist blogs), here is a very incomplete run-down of what's been going on recently. Enjoy!

Something I'm trying not to be bitter about: Terry O'Neill is the new president of the National Organization for Women. She was running against Latifa Lyles, who I knew last summer when I was interning in the NOW Action Center in DC - Latifa would have been the youngest president of NOW ever, and she's one of the smartest people I've ever met - I think she's exactly what the organization needed to pull away from accusations that NOW, a feminist icon, is unfriendly to young feminists. I don't know much about Ms. O'Neill's policies, but I love Latifa, so I'm very sorry that she's not president. I wasn't at the conference, so I don't know the details, but I think the election was a close one. Still, I'll admit that I'm angry that Latifa wasn't elected - and that NOW won't let people vote absentee. I'm in Vietnam currently, so there was no way I could make it back to Indiana to vote - even though I care passionately about NOW's future. Discriminatory against young women, who often don't have the time/money to travel to the conference? Maybe not deliberately - but it's pretty damn thoughtless - as NOW can sometimes be.

An nice reminder of the importance of Carolyn Maloney's Breast-Feeding Promotion Act, in the NYT yesterday.

In new reports of idiocy, some UK doctor wants abortion clinic ads taken down, because they're "sexy" and will thus promote "promiscuity."

If you're as horrified by the situation in Iran as I am, a post on the Frisky from last week will cheer you up (marginally).

Princeton's own Emily Rutherford writes about Facebook and the gender binary (you guessed it - Fbook isn't handling it well) for Campus Progress.

France is thinking about banning the burqa. Thoughts?

And while I'm at it, happy belated Father's Day to my dad. He's one of my feminist icons - he and my stepmother have 2-year-old twins, and even with two grown daughters, he's still changing diapers and reading bedtime stories. Thanks for everything, Dad - I love you!

And to our loyal readers: what's been happening in your summer? Think we're missing crucial events? Write it up in the comments section! We always love hearing from you.