October 16th, 2018: Con Man Threatens Afghan Communities
Content Warning: Sexual Assault, Violence
A 40-year-old man named Rasool Landay has recently been discovered for running an extortion ring in northern Afghanistan, luring in women who were unable to bear children with promises that he could “cure” them. Disguised as an Islamic cleric, Landay practiced fake religious rituals on the women; when they didn’t work, he sexually assaulted and raped them, using a phone to record videos of the abuse that he would later use to blackmail the women into paying him. As members of a conservative society, many of the Afghan women who sought out Landay’s services became victims of violence from their own families once the videos were discovered. They became casualties of honor killings conducted in an attempt to preserve a family’s good name.
Experts suggest that these events will likely instill doubt and mistrust into the communities Landay visited, as paternities of children will be questioned and suspicions of mothers will rise. Bodies of women, most likely victims of honor killings, have been found near his home and in the places he has visited. A community member released videos of the assaults to turn the blackmail against Landay, who failed to pay his debts and is now presumably on the run from the Afghan government. His location is currently unknown. Sharifa Azimi, the provincial director of women’s affairs, expresses concern over the probability of more honor killings, as more and more women become suspected to have been victims of Landay’s ring of deceit.
Read the original New York Times article here.
October 23rd, 2018: Women in the Workplace: #MeToo and the Gender Gap
(from Wall Street Journal: “What #MeToo Has to Do With the Workplace Gender Gap”)
This year’s Women in the Workplace survey, an annual survey administered by LeanIn.Org and McKinsey & Co. to calculate the movement towards gender equality in the workplace, determined that harassment levels are higher in industries that are male-dominated. In a post #MeToo world, it is apparent that workplace hierarchies still contribute to the prevalence, and lack of adequate recognition and action, of sexual harassment and assault cases. There is still a disconnect between men and women in their acknowledgements of how their workplaces view and handle gender equality and reports of harassment. This disconnect continues to be a direct result of the shortage of women in positions of power in comparison to men.
It is impossible to separate harassment and the gender gap, as the power structures that dominate the workplace are comparable to the power dynamics that are exercised by a perpetrator onto his/her victim. Women of lower rank need more women in positions of power in order to heighten feelings of support and safety in the workplace. Women in positions of leadership inspire the women who come after them, and serve as visual representations of what is possible.
As long as disparities in the representation of gender remain in the workplace, sexual harassment can continue to thrive off of the power dynamics that the men at the top control. #MeToo has been integral in giving survivors a voice, breaking the silence on the topic of sexual assault and harassment, and bringing down men in executive positions who have abused both their power and the women in their circle. The next step in preventing this abuse and harassment comes not only from understanding the effects that the gender gap has on increased reports of harassment, but from lifting our women up, partnering with men to achieve equality in the workplace, and committing ourselves to solutions for change.
McKinsey’s survey and its findings, here.
Click here to read more about the gender gap’s role in the #MeToo movement.
November 8th, 2018: The “Year of the Woman” Witnesses Political Milestones
The “Year of the Woman” is here, as over 100 female politicians win Congressional seats in the 2018 midterm elections. This record-setting statistic comes along with other ground-breaking firsts, both state-wide and nationally. While there is still a gender gap in fundraising (women raise about $500,000 less than men per campaign), more women are donating, voting, and winning. This election saw many political milestones, from the first female representatives in states like Tennessee and Maine, to the first Korean American, Native American, and Muslim women representatives in Congress.
With increased female representation in Congress, hopes are high for a push towards equal pay and greater attention to harassment in the workplace. A previous “Year of the Woman,” in 1992, saw 24 women take Congressional seats. Today, ambition and opportunity are even more plentiful, as 94 women have been elected to the House, 12 to the Senate, and nine as governors of their state. There is still ground to cover in matching male campaign donations (of $1.1 billion in 2018), to give women equal chance at winning, but nonetheless, Tuesday marked an incredible step towards equal political representation, not only on the lines of gender, but on those of race, religion, and sexuality.
To read more about the inspiring people paving the way:
January 25th, 2019: Forty-Six Years After Roe v. Wade
Pro-life and pro-choice supporters are speaking out on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling by the United States Supreme Court that deemed state-issued bans of abortion to be unconstitutional. While Texans in San Angelo host a prayer rally and United March for Life around the Tom Green County Courthouse, New York State passes a new law that preserves women’s access to abortion as well as decriminalizes it among medical practitioners.
Following the addition of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court this fall, the black cloud that is the anti-abortion movement in the U.S. is looming heavily. While the Roe v. Wade decision will not be upturned so easily, state amendments are making moves both towards protecting and inhibiting female reproductive rights. In contrast to New York’s strides, West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama, and Florida have shown more and more extreme abortion regulations. Although Democratic states are fighting hard to give their citizens the basic right to make their own healthcare decisions, 29 million people are currently living in what the New York Times calls “areas that are hostile to abortion rights, including seven states that each have just one abortion clinic left.”
Read more about what Roe v. Wade and abortion rights look like today:
February 8th, 2019: Trans Activists Fighting for Recognition Against British TERF Feminists
In comparison to the usual opposition to transgender rights that we see from right-winged Americans, British Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists, or TERFs, have adopted anti-trans mindsets, citing “female erasure” as the reasoning behind their desire to backtrack on transgender activism and shape British trans rights according to their personal biases. The TERF movement was born in the United States, but has since shifted over to the UK. New York Times writer Sophie Lewis highlights the “dearth of social movements in Britain over the past three decades” as a major reason for its susceptibility to this radical feminism. Ultimately, TERFs are present in esteemed journalistic and political spheres, and are described as using this widespread influence to actively exclude transgender women from their feminist movement.
Read more about TERF influence and their effects on feminism and trans rights here:
February 21st, 2018: “I ruined my life” Says ISIS Bride on Wanting to Return Home
Hoda Muthana, 24, left her Alabama home over four years ago, boarded a plane to Turkey, and married into the Islamic State. Now, she and a fellow ISIS bride, Canadian-American Kimberly Gwen Polman, 46, are requesting to have their passports reissued so that they can return to the United States. Muthana’s social media activity, both before her departure for Turkey and following her integration into the caliphate, has been deemed reason enough to consider her a threat to the safety of Americans. Her citizenship is being questioned as a result of her parents’ immigration status during the time of her birth, but nonetheless President Trump has ordered that Muthana, who is currently being held in a Syrian refugee camp, be denied of her request to reenter the U.S.
Both women surrendered to American troops in early January, and had been conspiring to leave the Islamic State together. In total, fifty-nine known Americans have traveled to Syria to join ISIS. The New York Times writes that “nearly all the American men captured in battle have been repatriated,” while at least 13 known women and their children have not been.
Read more here: