Girl in Maldives Faces Flogging For Premarital Sex

A court in the tiny island of Feydhoo last week sentenced the 15-year-old to 100 lashes after she admitted to having consensual sex, a court official said on condition of anonymity because he had no formal approval to speak to the media.

The official said details of the consensual sex emerged when police investigated her complaint against her stepfather and another man of sexually abusing her.

No mention of a flogging sentence for the two men, which tells me just about everything I want to know about this country for the time being.

Via The Frisky.

Can a Wrist Watch Really Cure India's Rape Problem?

No. (That one’s a gimme.) A watch that texts your friends and family and the police with your location and records video of the event is, on the whole, only a small step in overcoming centuries of patriarchy, misogyny, and governmental and police disregard for the problem. But every little helps.

More importantly, other groups are starting to use technology to prevent, not just report, rape.

The Rape Foundation recently partnered with tech firm Possible to develop Safebook, an app they hope to release by the end of the year. Safebook aims to shift the burden to the friend, the bystander, the person that witnesses assault by creating groups and allowing them to check in on members. Its target demographic is college women, one in five of whom report being sexually assaulted during their four years on campus. Realizing this susceptible group is spending most of its time in the digital world, the partners hope to use social media campaigns to target them where they’re most comfortable—similar to campaigns that have already been successful for gay rights awareness and bullying.

Of course, prevention and reporting do not directly address a culture that views rape as acceptable, but they contribute. As more people and government agencies begin to take the issue seriously, the collective consciousness will start to shift.

Gamers Harass Women More Than Men

Content/Trigger Warning: Gender and Racial Slurs and Profanity

I mean, duh. But still, it’s nice to have some data to back up all the anecdotal evidence.

Halo 3 was used as the staging ground, chosen for its popularity and its random matchmaking system. In order to standardize the experimental conditions, verbal messages were pre-recorded in both a male and female voice. These were made up of unassuming things such as “hi everybody,” “nice job so far,” and “thanks for the game, bye.” The researchers then played public matches, transmitting the messages via voice chat. Matches played without engaging in voice chat were used as a control. […]

Findings indicate that, on average, the female voice received three times as many negative comments as the male voice or no voice. In addition, the female voice received more queries and more messages from other gamers than the male voice or no voice.

Negative language also tended to be more gendered when directed toward women than when directed toward men.

In one particular game nearly every utterance made by the female condition was met with a negative response by a particular gamer. When the female condition said “hi everybody”, the other gamer responded with “shut up you whore” followed a few seconds later with “she is a nigger lover”. When the female condition said, “alright team let’s do this”, the other gamer replied, “fuck you, you stupid slut.”

What’s wrong with people?

♀ One Thing I Know About Being a "Real Man"

Last week User Interface (UI) designer Sarah Parmenter wrote about an experience she had six months ago, when an anonymous persecutor attempted to post pornographic pictures purportedly of Parmenter to the official Twitter account for An Event Apart, a very high-profile design industry conference at which she was speaking that day. When the event’s organizers blocked this person from their feed, they set up a fake Twitter account during Parmenter’s presentation and began sending the pictures to her employers and professional acquaintances. Fortunately, Jeffrey Zeldman, the co-founder of the event, encouraged everyone in attendance not to pay attention to trolling, so Parmenter experienced no career setback. But the incident clearly went beyond mere harassment to attempted professional sabotage.

Later that week, Whitney Hess, another professional UI designer, responded to Parmenter’s revelation by writing a post about her own experience with harassment. She reported that, although her silence in the face of mistreatment has actually earned her some fans and even brought clients to her door, it has also allowed misrepresentations of her character to go unchallenged, lowering her reputation among some sectors of the design community.

On Thursday of last week I listened to a conversation between Hess and Parmenter, hosted by Dan Benjamin and Haddie Cooke on 5by5’s The Crossover. The group talked about gendered harassment in general but also narrowed their focus to discuss deliberate career sabotage. Despite a very fair-minded acknowledgement from Hess and Parmenter that some women had also engaged in this sort of persecution, the majority of their detractors were obviously male. While my heart warmed to hear how their supporters had defended them, this sort of harassment absolutely must stop. I came away from the podcast and from my reading of their posts resolved to be more proactive about noticing and challenging gender-based attacks on the internet.

But I have also been thinking quite a bit about this exchange midway through the episode:

Hess: It has always come down to the fact that they feel as though I’m stealing their spotlight.

Parmenter: Yeah, I would agree with that.

Hess: That they were once more prominent, that their careers were going better, that more people listened to them, before I came around. And that now that I’m here, I’m too loud, and I’m too opinionated, and I’m attracting too much attention, and they’re no longer being heard.

Hess goes on to point out that not only have these people largely failed to damage her, their direct ad hominem attacks have actually hurt their own reputations; moreover, they could have spent the time they wasted persecuting her on projects of their own that would have garnered positive attention. Deep down, these individuals probably realize this, so why do they persist in such a counterproductive activity? I suspect they can’t help themselves; they’re acting from an emotional response to the erosion of the advantage men until recently enjoyed in the professional world.

For many men, their professional lives form an essential part of their “manhood”. Getting a job, being successful in that job and building a career out of it, and accumulating wealth through that career—optionally using that wealth to support a family—are part of what makes us “real” men, according to both social convention and overt instruction received from our parents and religious institutions. In recent decades, though, this signifier has lost much of its meaning as women have also built careers for themselves and even taken on the role of primary breadwinners on behalf of their families.

We can say the same thing about many of the other traditional markers of masculinity. Women now participate in athletics, martial arts and other feats of physical prowess, encroaching on the “masculine” traits of strength and protection of the weak. While not yet achieving parity, they have also begun to occupy more positions of power, making decisions that effect the lives of men—rather than the other way around.

In other words, it no longer makes sense to say “X is what it means to be a man,” because X quite likely applies to women as well as to men. While some gender differences do exist, many may be culturally-produced and -perpetuated, and many of the stereotypes about men that do have some basis in fact are not actually very flattering. I doubt very much that anyone wants to say “Having a bigger sexual appetite is what it means to be a man” or “A real man cares more about career than relationships”. Even greater physical strength, a positive and true (for now) male stereotype, will probably not satisfy most men; we aren’t very interested, generally, in defining ourselves as brutes.[1]

Many people have already identified this crisis in male identity, so nearly every week I see a blog post or article touching on the subject, often calling for a new definition of “manhood” or “true masculinity”. But I can’t think of any advantage we gain from such a definition, while I can think of plenty of disadvantages, because we have already experienced them. Clearly defined gender markers have thus far only served to reinforce the status quo of gender inequality. Moreover, anyone who truly cares about the welfare of men should realize that rigidly defining “masculinity” disadvantages men in two ways: 1) by crippling them psychologically if they realize they don’t measure up to the definition and 2) by making them more likely to feel resentful of any “non-men” who encroach upon their territory—which will likely happen with greater and greater frequency in the future.

We don’t need a new definition of manhood; we need a definition of “good personhood”. I don’t know exactly how that definition would read, but I have some ideas, mostly revolving around basic ethical principles. Better-educated people than I probably have even smarter, more thought-out ideas. I do know two things that need to be true about that definition, though: it should take the best from each set of gender stereotypes and combine them, and it should not exclude minority groups (like trans* people or the disabled) from qualifying as “good people”.

While we’re figuring it out, let’s stick with telling people how to live ethically, not how to “be” whatever we’ve identified as their gender. And there is one good stereotype about “Real Men” I’m willing to keep for now: they are confident and don’t need to tear anyone down.

  1. I suppose we could always equate masculinity with tallness; then shorter men would start wearing lifts in their shoes, just as equating masculinity with strength leaves smaller or weaker men feeling emasculated.  ↩

Somalia Jails Alleged Rape Victim

A Somali woman who accused government security forces of rape was sentenced to one year in prison on Tuesday after the court ruled that her accusation was false. A journalist who had interviewed the woman but never published a story was also sentenced to one year in prison.

The Somali court ruled that the woman had not been raped based on the testimony of a midwife who performed a “finger test.” According to the Human Rights Watch, the so-called “finger test” is “an unscientific and degrading practice that has long been discredited because it is not a credible test of whether a woman has been raped.”

As I’ve said before, that test has got to go. It’s rooted in ignorant beliefs about female anatomy held over from the days when a woman’s only worth came from her monetary value as a bona fide virgin on the marriage market.

UK Midwives May Question Patients About Female Genital Mutilation

The Royal College of Midwives is considering how best to implement the Department of Health’s recommendation on gathering data about the practice, which is illegal in the United Kingdom.

“Female genital mutilation has not been taken seriously by the authorities to date, as many professionals consider it to be a cultural practice and are reluctant to address this for fear of being accused of being racist by the affected communities,” said Efua Dorkenoo, advocacy director of the genital mutilation programme of Equality Now. “It is estimated that in England and Wales there are 66,000 women who have undergone mutilation, while 24,000 girls are at risk of undergoing mutilation.”

Authorities think that most health professionals will now be willing to ask questions despite the risk of offending cultural sensibilities—which is good, because genital mutilation has no roots in religion but everything to do with misogynistic ideas about the “need” for curtailing female sexual desire.

Via Deanna Ogle.

"Reporting to the Police Was Far More Traumatizing Than the Rape Itself"

Human Rights Watch released a report Thursday that found District of Columbia police had engaged in “callous, traumatizing treatment” of victims of sexual assault.

The 197-page investigation, “Capitol Offense: Police Mishandling of Sexual Assault Cases in the District of Columbia,” is based on the testimony of 150 sexual assault survivors, community groups, victims’ advocates, hospital staff, and university counselors, among others. HRW found a consistent pattern of police officers failing to file incident reports, which are required to proceed with an investigation, or classifying serious sexual assaults as lesser or other crimes. Police incident reports could not be found for 35.6 of percent people who, according to hospital records, had reported a sexual assault to the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.

Shocking and horrifying. No wonder we have a rape culture.

Gingrey's Bad Science and Bad Logic

When I responded to Rep. Phil Gingrey’s “legitimate rape” remarks on Saturday, I focused on the subtle misogyny underlying the statement. William Saletan at Slate wants to make sure we don’t miss the bad science behind Gingrey’s claims that stress can cause infertility and that doctors frequently tell women to “Just relax. Drink a glass of wine.”

If Gingrey is telling this to his patients—and prescribing alcohol for it—he’s a quack. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, “While chronic stress, for example from extreme exposure to famine or war, may decrease a woman’s ability to conceive, there is no scientific evidence that adrenaline, experienced in an acute stress situation, has an impact on ovulation.” The American Society for Reproductive Medicine agrees: “There isn’t any proof that stress causes infertility.” Another infertility organization, Resolve, says “stress does not cause infertility.” Dr. Gingrey might also benefit from reading this 2010 paper in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology: “Acute stress may induce ovulation in women.”

Saletan also isn’t letting Gingrey slide on his reinterpretation of Akin’s original statement as a warning against false rape accusations by teenage girls afraid to admit they had consensual sex:

Really? That isn’t how Akin explained his remark. On Aug. 20, a day after the gaffe, Akin went on Mike Huckabee’s radio show. Huckabee asked Akin: “What did you mean by ‘legitimate rape’? Were you attempting to say forcible rape?” Akin replied: “Yeah, I was talking about forcible rape.” If that’s truly what Akin meant, then he was using the term legitimate to suggest that any woman impregnated by rape must have suffered statutory rape, not forcible rape.

As I’ve mentioned frequently, I grew up Republican and retain strong nostalgia and sympathy for the party. So I believe I’m decently-positioned to be fair in thinking this incident illustrates that many of the GOP establishment have gotten lost in uncritical rhetoric and thereby become incapable of not sounding like racist, misogynist, homophobic fear-mongers scrabbling to retain their dwindling vestiges of power.

Because of my also—by this time—well-known belief that most people are pretty decent and have good intentions, I think the Republican party needs to take a good hard look at itself and get educated about the true needs and perspectives of women, gays, and minorities, very quickly.

"I Don’t Find Anything So Horrible About That."

I assume it’s now some sort of GOP hazing ritual to have to make an ill-advised remark about “legitimate rape” in an interview, so it doesn’t really surprise me much that Rep. Phil Gingrey, chairman of the GOP Doctors Caucus, said this on Thursday:

“I’ve delivered lots of babies, and I know about these things. It is true,” Gingrey said, according to the Marietta Daily Journal. “We tell infertile couples all the time that are having trouble conceiving because of the woman not ovulating, ‘Just relax. Drink a glass of wine. And don’t be so tense and uptight because all that adrenaline can cause you not to ovulate.’ So he was partially right wasn’t he?”

I pretty much expect that of Republican legislators now. Call me cynical. But the [more?] outrageous part of Gingrey’s remarks comes when he tries to interpret what he thinks Todd Akin actually intended to say:

What he meant by legitimate rape was just look, someone can say I was raped: a scared-to-death 15-year-old that becomes impregnated by her boyfriend and then has to tell her parents, that’s pretty tough and might on some occasion say, ‘Hey, I was raped.’

Here are two reasons this is still offensive: 1) It reinforces the patriarchal culture that tells women they need to be ashamed to admit they’ve been sexually active, and 2) perpetuating the trope of the woman who lies to cover up her sexual indiscretions betrays an underlying mistrust of women and assumption that they lack integrity.

This is what the Republican party seems not to get about the entire conversation. They keep focusing on whether Akin’s remarks about women’s bodies and rape were medically accurate when it almost doesn’t matter, because the misogyny at the root of this thinking is what’s actually costing them the female vote.

Women in Indonesian City Banned from Straddling Motorbikes in Sharia Crackdown

Women in the Indonesian city of Lhokseumawe have been banned from straddling motorbikes because of fears that it distracts men drivers.

Civic leaders in Aceh province, which is ruled by strict sharia law, have launched a crackdown on what they say are un-Islamic practices.

A culture whose men get distracted when they see a woman sitting with her legs apart while riding a motorcycle or bicycle may have more serious problems.

The mayor told the Jakarta Globe that behaviour and morals were straying from Aceh’s Islamic cultural values.

“We want to save women from things that will cause them to violate shariah law. We wish to honour women with this ban because they are delicate creatures,” he said.

Totally. Remember that time I wanted to honor a woman, so I started bossing her around and forbidding her from doing very reasonable things?

Via The Frisky.