Posts Tagged ‘women’


The Other Woman

16 April 2014

My wife and I saw yet another ad for the revenge-flick, The Other Woman. In it a woman discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her. He has another girlfriend and, as it turns out, a wife. The three become conspirators, gleefully torturing the adulterous man, usually through demeaning sexual pranks.

I told my wife that men would never be able to get away with that sort of thing, making a movie about systematically humiliating a libido-driven woman in such ways.

But I was wrong. That’s the script of most every porno ever made.


Men Who Stop Rape

7 November 2013

Women have made considerable gains worldwide in calling attention to rape, whether it be the victims of American party-culture to Indian gang-rape atrocities to the pre-teen molestation culture in Papua New Guinea. In 2011-12 the United Nations conducted the largest worldwide study of rape, covering six nations. When taking into account non-consensual sex in marriage, or an inability of a partner to refuse sex, about one in four men surveyed reported committing some kind of rape. The issue is on the table.

But are the solutions being set forth clearly? One that must be put forward in any discussion, in my opinion, is the importance of raising up male anti-rape advocates. Because sexual force stems so much from a sense of entitlement to gratification, and because entitlement derives from cultural norms, men must be vocal in stating that rape is not normative or acceptable. More specifically, important men, “normative” men, must step up to the microphone and air this message.

A friend here in Sioux Falls was commissioned with the leadership of a domestic violence rehab group. He was surprised to find how resistant men were to admitting that they were in control of a situation involving physical or sexual violence. “I couldn’t help myself” or “She was asking for it” became common mantras to avoid personal responsibility. The leader had to walk the men through the decisions they had actually made: “Did you attack her?” “Did you choose to hit her with your fist or kick her?” “Which clothing did you try to take off her?” And so forth. Ultimately, these men hoped that male sympathy for “natural” passions would override personal responsibility. A group like this undid the hope. And it started with a strong male leader. Once multiple men took responsibility for their crime, others followed.

The same sort of thing has been happening in Nairobi, Kenya. After some rapists were released after receiving a sentence of mowing the lawn, the Men to Men program of FEMNET showed up to protest. Kennedy Otina was one of those in attendance, publicly demonstrating. “When there is a case in court,” Otina said, rapists “tend to think or assume that we [men] will be the ones to defend them, to support them in court, but you know when they get to us, we help them understand that violence against women is not acceptable.”

The crimes occurring in bedrooms start with the attitudes born in public forums. Fortunately, key men around the world are taking a stand.


Manhood, Modesty, and Pandemics

28 July 2013

The World Health Organization has reported that the death rate of the new MERS virus is higher than SARS (50%) but slower-spreading. Only 90 cases have been reported since last September, most of them in Saudi Arabia. Oddly, 80% of the cases from the past year were men.

Dr. Christian Drosten from the University of Bonn was quoted in The Times of India saying it probably has less to do with manhood and more to do with standards for female modesty.

MERS also appears to be mainly affecting men; nearly 80 percent of the cases in the new study were men. Drosten said there might be a cultural explanation for that. “Women in the [Middle East] region tend to have their mouths covered with at least two layers of cloth,” he said, referring to the veils worn by women in Saudi Arabia. “If the coronavirus is being spread by droplets, [the veils] should give women some protection.”



Capitalism and the Exploitation of Women: Wal-Mart’s Bangladesh Factory Fire as a Test Case

5 December 2012

Wal-Mart currently resources one billion dollars worth of inexpensive clothing from Bangladesh each year.  So it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that when 112 workers died in a factory fire last month, cloths labeled for Wal-Mart were found in the ashes.  The mega-retailer distanced itself from the disaster, saying that Tazreen Fashions was no longer authorized as a producer for the chain.  They offered no explanation for how the giant company with its giant factory somehow continued to produce massive quantities for Wal-Mart undetected.

Over 70 percent of garment workers in Bangladesh are women.  Their reported wages are low, usually around $50 a month.  Managers make more, but such positions are usually filled by men.  The 112 workers dead in the November blaze continue to go unnamed by the American media.  The vast majority, I assure you, will turn out to be women.

Bangladeshi men are starting to feel the heat in the disaster.  The factory, identified as “high risk” in 2011, had violated building codes from day one, being built three times larger than was initially authorized.  Male government officials pushed it through.  Likewise, it was male managers who failed to install proper fire exits.  It was a male manager who trapped the women inside even after the fire alarms went off.  Such men are facing public ire now.

Who isn’t being forced to own up to such exploitation of women?  Wal-Mart executives, over 80% of whom are male.

Wal-Mart’s PR fire could get bigger before it gets smaller.  In April 2011 over a dozen representative from major retailers met in Dhaka to discuss safety issues.  Wal-Mart, the lead retailer among them, explicitly opted not to invest in electric and gas system upgrades in their factories.  The other retailers followed suit.  In the document from the meeting, Wal-Mart and the others expressed that “It is not financially feasible for the brands to make such investments” in factories.

Is advanced global capitalism, spearheaded by bottom-line giants like Wal-Mart, going out of its way to empower women?  Look inside the body bags.  The charred corpses will tell you in no uncertain terms.


Can Women Propose to Men on Leap Day?

29 February 2012

Of course, women can propose to men on any day they please, provided they are willing risk rejection and/or strange looks from general society.  But according to a  tradition dating to the 18th century and popularized during the Victorian period, women are especially permitted to propose to their man on February 29.  Leap Day proposals are discussed as possibilities in the USA, UK and Scandavian lands (though, from what I gather, rarely practiced).  Urban legends sometimes claim that she-proposing harkens back to Sts. Patrick and Bridget, but Patricia L. Richard claims it was only in 1864, with the advent of mass advertising, that any noteworthy number of people actually defended the right of a woman to pop the question on the rarified February day.


Men Less Likely to Be Cremated

9 December 2011

An interesting shift seems to be afoot in funeral culture.  Men led the numbers of cremations as the practice gained popularity in the twentieth century.  Stephen R. Prothero notes that men made up the majority of cremations then, even 76% in one area.  Not that men were the only ones interested in the practice.  Lisa Kazmier found that The Cremation Society of Great Britain’s membership consisted of 60% women (“Her Final Performance,” Mortality 6:2 [2001]).  Prothero also writes about women’s role in cremation activism, though he notes that these vocal exponents tended to be college-educated women, and thus very much in the minority.   Anecdotal evidence from the time suggests that women were more likely to protest cremation.  Primarily, men’s bodies were put to the pyre.

That statistic has changed.   Women’s bodies made up 52% of all cremated in 1996-97, according to the Cremation Association of North America.   A demographic study in Great Britain found that women showed the greater preference for cremation over decomposition in the ground (Davies and Shaw, 1995).   Does this general trend have more to do with women’s changing conceptions about the body?  Or does it have to do more with finances, with women’s higher levels of poverty?


Yale University and the Sexual Harrassment Case You Knew Was Coming

18 May 2011

For a number of years Yale has established itself as a university pushing the boundaries of sexual discourse and mores. In 2012 the school celebrates the ten year anniversary of Sex Week at Yale (SWAY), a conference devoted to exploration of all issues sexual. Past speakers have discussed everything from condom use to bisexuality to genital piercing to destigmatizing sex work (provided it is one’s “chosen” profession). The language of “mutuality” tends to lubricate the conversation, ethically speaking. But not entirely: a recent presentation at SWAY encouraged men to “Think of yourself as a hunter” in order to get into women’s pants.

The necessary counterpart to Yale’s licentious conference exerted itself this week as school officials banned a fraternity from campus for five years over a chant they deemed to be sexual harrassment. Delta Kappa Epsilon, the expelled organization, had included as part of October’s initiation rites the following chant in front of the Yale Women’s Center: “No means yes, yes means anal.” The misogynistic chant was followed by another about necrophilia. It was the first phrase, however, that was cited as the basis for expulsion of the fraternity from campus.  Sadomasochistic fun during SWAY week?: okay.  Sadomasochistic humor during hazing events?: not so okay.

Much as corporate capitalism requires an ever-expanding national government to stimulate and regulate it in equal measures, so Yale University’s sexual openness demands a political counterpart to baptize and chastize.  Sexual permissiveness requires increased policing, therefore it comes as no surprise that administrators orchestrated a crackdown on the first public transgression.  Delta Kappa Epsilon initiates, being libertines in the wrong way at the wrong time, will have to take the fall.