Tag Archives: women

Let’s Stop Saying Women. Let’s Say People.

These are people, people.



The minute you say “women”, all of a sudden listeners place them in a separate mental pocket.


Close your eyes for a moment. When you imagine people, you see all sorts of humans, right? (Some of you may envision only men. Men are not the default, so go back to your caves.) Nevertheless – eyes open – the humans pictured above are people first. Yes, they’re people who are female, granted. Still, human beings, people, first and foremost.


An interesting thing has been happening over the past few years with regard to humans who were bought and sold prior to the Emancipation Proclamation in the US, and those who now live the same tragic existences all over the world, primarily in India.


They used to be known as slaves. These days, most journalists and even the guides at Thomas Jefferson’s home, Monticello, refer to them as people held in slavery or enslaved people.


You can tell the difference, right? A slave is not as human as an enslaved person. The latter is a person held in a temporary state of non-liberty. The former is, perhaps, subhuman and born to be owned.


Huge difference.


Think how a similar enormous difference impacts the human beings shown above. Referred to as people, they remain human. Called women, however, and something happens in the mind of the listener, particularly if dangerous cultural or political baggage gets in the way, as in this article regarding the politics of sexual violence in Egypt.


They become something less than people, as if we were speaking of dolphins or aardvarks.


Farfetched? No. Language carries enormous cultural weight and can cause confusion. In Spanish, for example, mujer is the word for both woman and wife. Asked by authorities if she is the “wife” of an injured man – spouses may give consent for medical care – a woman may well answer “yes” even though she is not legally married to him.


Language gives order to how we learn and remember. Language has power, and it offers power, as well. Witness the rise of Welsh-language schools in Wales, the persistent efforts of French speakers to make Quebec a separate country, and the efforts of billions of people to learn and improve their English, the current linguistic coin of power.


It’s just not wise to dismiss how we use words when their use either reduces power or increases it.


We should not have to keep making signs saying “Women Are People, Too!”. That’s so 20th-century.


We do need to begin replacing the words woman/women with person/people as much as possible.


It might sound awkward at first to talk about pregnant people, people with breast cancer, people who have survived FGM.


Though we do speak of pregnant whales, giraffes giving birth, and elephants that have survived poachers’ attacks.


If one, why not the other?


Doing so would point up the humanity of people who are female, rather than consign them to a lesser status in the mind of the listener. Calling them people gives primary acknowledgement to their personhood. Qualifiers – like the word female – are the secondary identification. Then again, speaking of people means that if they carry XY chromosomes, they too will need a qualifier. Male.


When we talk of people, we’ll make more sense than if we used words that mistakenly relegate others to a status below humanity.


Words like slave. And, unfortunately, women.


Stand firm. Use words with care. Up with people !




Filed under Feminism

Stressed at Work, Super-Stressed at Home


Got your attention, didn’t it?


Stressed women are in the news. Not for being stressed – we all know they are – but for where they are most stressed.


We all assumed it was at work, with major loads, decreased pay, unkind bosses and colleagues. In fact, many women – brace yourselves – experience more stress at home.


It was a surprise to them, too. Especially since they reported feeling worse in the workplace. But feelings are subjective. Hormones, however, can be measured, and a recent study did just that – measured cortisol levels in women during their day. Though they may perceive the workplace to be a source of irritation and strain, the real pressure comes when women cross the threshold of the family home.


What do they find there? According to the report, women, especially those with children (aka mothers) fling themselves into a second shift of work at home, tending children, helping with studying, cleaning surfaces and clothing, etcetera. You know the drill. In this essential work, the average woman receives scant assistance from the father of those children, even when he inhabits the same house.


It’s understandable that people would feel stressed about that. More work plus inequity is a powerful equation, what statisticians call “robust”.


But there’s one factor the study discussions haven’t even touched.


Statistics say women are more harmed by violence in their own homes than they are by cancer and car crashes combined. That’s a hell of a lot of women. Some of them must have been in this study. So why wasn’t their cortisol rise attributed to fear?


Imagine it. You get home after a long day at work. You know there’s a long evening ahead, with more work. But there’s also the man you live with. Maybe he’ll be in a good mood tonight. Maybe he won’t criticize you, insult you, hit you, beat you or your children.


Maybe he won’t rape you.


But perhaps he will.


This is not your fault. Yes, you should leave him, but you keep remembering what happened to your cousin who left the same kind of man. Her husband followed her and despite a restraining order – not worth the paper on which it was printed – he killed her. You wish there were a healthy and safe path to follow. You wish the cops would take you seriously. You know that if you held a powerful position – U.S. Senator, for example – the police would be solicitous. You’re an ordinary woman, and the local cops have not been trained to identify and respect risk factors in the lives of ordinary women.


So you return home to potential danger and stress. Even though you tell yourself you can handle it, your cortisol levels rise.


Researchers, it’s not just the second shift of work. It’s also the fear of attack. Start interviewing your subjects about relationship violence. You’ll see.



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Filed under Relationship violence

“Remember The Ladies”


Drugs tested on men don’t work well on women. Surprise, surprise.


In March of 1776, Abigail Adams wrote an impassioned letter to her husband urging him to remember that women were as patriotic as men, as desirous of separating the American colonies from British rule, as willing to fight and sacrifice toward that end, and deserving of the vote.

Adams’s letter – where she urged her husband to “remember the ladies”, some of whom were far better educated than the backwoodsmen who would be allowed to govern the new nation – did not succeed.

Here’s one that will: The National Institutes of Health (NIH), having finally acknowledged that clinical studies that do not contain an equal number of female participants fail to produce medicines and remedies and even procedures that are 100% effective for all adults, are now requiring female/male parity in future studies.

Think this is just one more ho-hum, medical academia requirement? Think again.

When a new Big Pharma product is produced using only male study subjects, that product can have adverse effects on fully half of the people who take it.


As in, 1 out of 2, or 50%.

What kind of efficacy is that? Horrible, as it turns out, since women experience adverse drug reactions at higher rates than men do.

As a scientist quoted in the New York Times says, “One of the underlying assumptions has been that females are simply a variation on a theme, that it isn’t a fundamentally different mechanism, that if you’ve learned about the male you’ve learned enough to deal with both males and females. We’ve discovered that’s not always the case.”

That’s true even on a cellular level. “Every cell has a sex. Each cell is either male or female, and that genetic difference results in different biochemical processes within those cells.”

So human does not equal male. Human includes all of us, with all our differences.

“Contrary to the conventional wisdom in laboratories, there is far more variability among males than among females on a number of traits and behaviors,” researchers have found.

Look, if you hope to produce drugs and remedies that will help everyone, you need to include, well, everyone in your studies. It’s no use pretending women are smaller and slightly inferior men. That kind of attitude was false from the start, and women have been hurt by the very pharmaceuticals prescribed to help them. Lies are lies, no matter their origin.

Does it cost more to include female subjects in lab testing? Only if you double your testing population. Instead, you could go halves on it. Or use only female subjects, and ignore men’s worries that the product may not actually help them that much.

After all, that’s what’s been happening, in reverse.

For the foot-dragging NIH to finally get its ducks in a row and require parity in studies is amazing. Now, researchers, stop complaining and step up to the plate.



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Filed under Sexism

Is It A Good Time To Be A Girl In India?

Fewer every year


Is 2012 a good time to be young and female in India?


It depends.


This New York Times article says this: “The number of girls in schools has increased. The maternal mortality ratio has dropped. The government has carved out more money for women’s welfare measures in the budget. And for the first time, women outnumbered men in the number of literates added to the country in the last decade.”


Yet the same piece also points out that rape is high, child marriage is on the upswing – with its concomitant surge in domestic violence (in Hinduism, a husband is supposed to be a god, and gods are allowed to beat humans) – and compared to Western nations, as a democracy, India is far behind. This article on the thoughts of male elders in the state of Haryana is alarming. Their idea is to marry girls off early, so that they won’t be raped as single teenagers. Which is rather like saying that to prevent lambs being attacked by groups of jackals, each lamb ought to be housed individually with a sole jackal. The fact that a lamb is just as much at risk from assault by an individual jackal (especially one larger and older than the lamb) is ignored.


So, it depends. Are Indian girls better off than their grandmothers at the same age? Definitely. More of them are being schooled, more are out in public where other people can assure their health and success. The eyes of the world, via the internet and Twitter, have made it possible for Indians of good faith to ensure girls’ nutrition, vaccination, and education.


On the other hand, there are reactionaries who – not unlike their Taliban contemporaries in Afghanistan – deplore the improvement in girls’ lives. It’s no accident that village elders are male. That such a skewed power structure (as the saying goes, women hold up half the sky) can be neither effective nor impartial is swept under the tribal carpet.


And the girls of tomorrow’s India? Will they have it even better than current schoolgirls?


I’m sorry to say, probably not. Not unless India stops the abortion of female fetuses. Not prohibits, but stops.


All over Asia, but particularly in India and China, the number of girls has dropped. Where there is scarcity, often there is value. Supply and demand, yes?


Only, not so with girls and women. Instead of being valued for their rareness, they will be trampled and hidden in order to “protect” them.


Where women and girls are hidden, they are subject to abuse. After all, who will know? If a man’s society affirms that he has the power and the right to inflict pain on people in his family, unless he has very good mental health indeed, he is likely to be the pain-inflictor.


Where there is a huge overpopulation of young males regarded as more deserving of schooling, college, jobs – even food – what happens to their sisters? They lose out. It is not that many years since Indians failed to feed unwanted girls, and in some rural areas that practice of slow infanticide continues. In the future, if sex-selective abortion continues its expanding course, the female child will become a rarity. The few who are born will not find themselves among others like them. Instead, they will be valued for one thing: reproduction. Their lives will be shadowed, isolated, and filled with fear. They are likely to be married off as infants, promised to families of boys, and they may well be subject – due to scarcity – to two or more husbands who will all too often demand their “rights”. That’s already happening in India.


So, are Indian girls today at a good place? Compared to their grandmothers, yes. Compared to their granddaughters, most certainly.


But it should be better than that. India should be looking ahead and planning how to empower these girls, how to assure their continued health, and how to stop sex-selective abortion so that the girls alive today have a chance to right the balance of daughters in a nation with too many young men.

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Filed under Domestic terrorism, Haryana, Health, India, Misogyny, Rape, Rape is torture, Rapist as parasite, Sex-selective abortion, Sexual assault, Yang

The Female Race

No one deserves this treatment. Everyone deserves for it to stop.


Say you are a man walking down a city street, minding your own business, intent on reaching work or school. Someone makes derogatory, offensive comments to you based on race. That’s harassment, right? In some nations, you’re well within your rights to haul that person into court to answer for their racism. The court will take the charge seriously. It will listen to witnesses. If you have made a video of the other person’s behavior and comments on your phone, the court will take that video into evidence and weigh it when passing judgment and ordering a sentence.


Say you are a woman walking down a city street, minding your own business, intent on reaching work or school. Someone makes derogatory, offensive comments to you based on sex. Is that harassment?


It should be. Depending on the nation, it might be. But don’t count on it.


Why is racism worthy of punishment but the much more pervasive sexism ignored? When half the world is female?


A Belgian researcher has released this video of harassment on the streets of Brussels, the country’s capital. (Though a small country, Belgium has two official languages – Flemish is spoken in the north, French in the south – so the abusive comments are in both.) The “Femme de la Rue” (“Street Woman”) videos by Sofie Peeters have garnered much attention. One Frenchman unleashed a storm on Twitter by claiming that he had never heard of street harassment, so Peeters’s experience must be exceptional, a one-off. He was answered by a flood of tweets detailing other women’s experiences on the street – and underground, in the Métro.


Any woman who has walked by men – not just construction workers – knows the hassle, the fear, the emotional pain of jeering, suggestive, or offensive comments. Yet when we object to them, we’re called other things.


Too sensitive. Making it up. Deserving of it because of our clothes.




Nothing prevents these comments. Age does not inhibit offensive remarks and questions. They’re tossed at young girls and grandmothers alike. What we wear has no bearing. We’re as likely to hear insults and invitations whether we wear a business suit, a dress, or jeans – or, as women even in Saudi Arabia will attest, a burqa and veil.


The only thing that silences the foul-mouthed is the presence of an accompanying male. Apparently, the idea that a woman is “owned” by another male stops the gobs of abusers. Otherwise, they’re all in. If the same woman walks by thirty minutes later, alone, the verbal knives will be drawn.


It’s time to make horrifying remarks about sex as unacceptable as horrifying remarks about race. It’s just trading one sort of verbal abuse for another. Aside from white supremacists carrying on with their rage and hatred, most men have realized that most of society regards making racist comments as the verbal equivalent of spitting on the sidewalk. It’s just not done anymore.


But sexist comments seem immune to general societal disdain.


Let’s not keep on that way. Comments based on a factor of one’s being that one cannot alter are out.  (Re-gendering is only visual change, as every cell in the body proclaims through DNA the truth of sex.) Height, skin color, sex, national origin, ought to be out, out, out. The brain processes emotional pain using the same structures in the same way as when processing physical pain. So those words? They’re not just metaphysical sticks and stones. They are sticks and stones.


In addition, what goes around comes around. Next life, the abusive guys will be female. Won’t those women deserve better treatment?


Karma. Now that’s the real bitch.

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Filed under Belgium, Brussels, Burka, Burqa, Feminism, Harassment, Humanity, Misogyny, Morality, Sofie Peeters