What I’ve been reading – burka ban, budget 2011, Ivory Coast horrors, and US revisionist history

Ok, yes, I possibly have been on the Interbets all week. Here’s some of what’s been happening:

  • It’s quite unbelievable, still, that France passed the “Ban on the Burka” law last week, but it did. Needless to add, there was outrage. The irony of telling women that they’re not allowed to wear what a patriarchal culture tells them to wear is not lost on Sarkozy, I’m sure, even if he is brainless. You cannot beat oppression with oppression. (Though we shouldn’t fool ourselves that Sarkozy et al were thinking of the women at all here. No, this is thinly veiled – pun intended – Islamophobia at its best.) And as if it’s not offensive enough as it is, the Guardian reported that refusing to comply with the ban will result in a fine or a condition to have lessons in “French citizenship”.  Arrange the following words in a sentence: off, fuck. Within hours of the ban coming into force, women were being arrested for continuing to wear the veil. Well, you would wouldn’t you! There are several excellent blog posts around the Interweb which discuss this issue in much more detail than I do here: thefword, delilah-mj, msmagazine, and lattelabour for starters.
  • Budget 2011 leaves women out in the cold (fawcettsociety). The 2011 budget spells trouble for women in Britain. There’s been talk for a some time now of how the vast array of cuts introduced by the coalition government will affect women, and the picture is now becomnig clearer. First, a piece from the Guardian reveals that job losses have affected women the most and, second, a report produced in partnership with the Fawcett Society (‘The Impact on Women of the Budget 2011’) highlights the following issues. It is not looking good.

– The current economic strategy looks set to undermine gender equality in the labour market: if current trends continue, more women than men in the UK will be unemployed, for the first time since records began.
– The bonfire of regulations will remove the protections that women and men with caring responsibilities need in order to be able to work.
– The increase in the Personal Tax Allowance threshold will not touch the most vulnerable, and among those who will benefit, men will gain £140 million more than women.
– Without action to tackle entrenched gender inequality within the apprenticeship sector, where women earn on average 21 per cent less than men,  the Government’s flagship expansion in apprenticeships and training opportunities will not improve the employment opportunities young women face and do nothing for older women.
– The businesses set to benefit most from new tax breaks and other incentives are typically owned and invested in by men while schemes to support women in business are scrapped.

  • The Ivory Coast standoff ends, but the nightmare for women continues (msmagazine). Most mornings when I wake up, I’m inclined to be rather discontent with my lot for a few minutes before I come to (I’m tired, it’s cold, I have too much to do; that sort of thing). Reading about the women in the Ivory Coast reminds me that I don’t even know I’m born. Though the conflict in the Ivory Coast has come to an end now, women and girls there are still being persecuted (kidnapped, beaten up and raped) daily. They’ve been through all of this before in 2004 and they’re going through it all again. And we don’t know the half of it.

Pender [a gender-based violence Technical Advisor for IRC] conveyed reports from women of gang rapes, rapes of entire families and sexual slavery, as women and girls are “taken as wives” for weeks at a time. “These women have experienced things that we cannot even imagine–and many for the second time,” said Pender. The collective memory of rape and violence from the last Ivorian war, in 2004, is still fresh. In fact, the recollection of “what happened last time,” and the threat of new violence has driven many girls and women to flee.

  • Finally, Americans seem to [want to] forget slavery (prospect). When a research centre asked why the American Civil War took place, a frightening number of respondents answered that they thought it was about the rights of states. The reason for the war is disputed, of course, but even I (a European)  know that slavery was as central a reason as any other.

That so many young Americans believe a revisionist account of the Civil War is, if anything, another sign of our collective refusal to deal with our difficult past. Slaves built the White House and fueled Wall Street, but we want nothing more than to forget slavery and the central role it played in our nation’s history.

Couple this finding with the recent revisionist adaption of Huckleberry Finn (to remove the n-word) and one wonders if America wants to forget all about its sordid past altogether. I hope not.

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