Weekend Reading on Women's Representation May 10, 2019

By Cynthia Richie Terrell on May 10, 2019


Afghan girls raise their hands during English class at the Bibi Mahroo high school in Kabul on Nov. 22, 2006. Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Foreign Policy had a very interesting piece on women's political power in Afghanistan - with fascinating contrasts to the debate on these same topics in the US and around the world. Of particular note is the classic duality between the letter of the law and the application of the law:
As it stands now, though, the Afghan Constitution focuses heavily on political rights. In fact, many of the protections it grants women aren’t even matched in Western democracies—notably, Afghan women are guaranteed equal rights under Article 22. The U.S. equivalent has yet to be ratified. Among Afghan women’s rights is representation in the country’s House of Elders, equal access to education, the ability to serve in the military, the ability to inherit land and property, and freedom of speech and from torture. Of course, most of these rights are neither fully enacted nor upheld in courts.

In short, the laws on the books and the debate about women’s rights taking place in Kabul, and in the press more broadly, don’t adequately reflect men and women’s everyday understandings of a just society in rural eastern Afghanistan. There is far greater support for girls’ education and women’s employment than has been highlighted, yet at the same time, there is also evidence that some men now believe women have too many rights and that younger men are less likely than their fathers to support full gender equality. That could reflect the disparity between what rights rural Afghans are comfortable with and what is outlined in the constitution.



Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts defeated a popular Republican incumbent in her first election.CreditEric Thayer for The New York Times
Kimberly Peeler-Allen co-founder of Higher Heights and many others are well-quoted in an interesting piece in The New York Times on women who have won every race, being asked if they can win the campaign for the democratic nomination:
“We have 45 presidents who have been men. And seeing a woman in that role is still something that we’re not used to,” said Kimberly Peeler-Allen, a co-founder of Higher Heights, a national organization building the political power and leadership of black women...
“We have to, as an electorate, change our mind-set on what executive leadership looks like,” Ms. Peeler-Allen said. “Women lead differently. And that’s not a bad thing.” ...
Ms. Warren, Ms. Gillibrand, Ms. Harris and Ms. Klobuchar can all claim an interesting distinction: They have never lost an election in their political careers. All of the most prominent male Democratic candidates, including Mr. Biden, Mr. Buttigieg, Mr. O’Rourke, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey, have lost at least one.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York met with people at a coffee shop in Clarinda, Iowa, last month. She has been highlighting her ability to win Republican votes during campaign stops in rural areas.CreditCreditMaddie McGarvey for The New York Times
I am excited to be working with Sharon Nelson and the team at Civically Re-Engaged Women to organize an inclusive, creative, joyous celebration of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution! Last year was a tremendous success and this year's gathering in Saratoga Springs, NY promises to be even better.
The deadline for registering and reserving your room is May 15th (though I expect we may be able to accommodate late-comers) so please:
  • click here to find out more about Seneca Falls Revisited
  • click here to register & to reserve your room
Please let me know if you or your organization would like to be a sponsor or a supporter of the event - the list so far includes: Discover Saratoga, RepresentWomen, SUNY Press, Capital Women, City & State and the NYS Suffrage Commission. This is a great way to build community and show our support for one another so please let me know how you can help!
Here is an update on the conference planning from Sharon:
The Seneca Falls Revisited conference will be held on Sunday, August 25 -Tuesday, August 27th at the fabulous Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga, NY. The conference is in celebration of the Centennial of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment, providing American women the right to vote, and pays homage to the 1869 conference organized by the NY state Women's Suffrage Association in Saratoga Springs.
High Quality Tours, is our tour operator and is handling the room reservations.  Please do not call the hotel directly as High Quality tours has reserved a special price for conference attendees.  Please make your reservation via their website at www.highqualitytours.com.
One of the Honorary Chairs is the Honorable Gale R. Brewer, Manhattan Borough President. You will also enjoy meeting our other Honorary Chairs, Deborah L. Devedjian, Founder and Chief Citizen’s Officer, The Chisel.com and Kenneth B. Morris Jr., Founder and President of the Frederick Douglass Family Foundation.  For those of you who are history buffs, Mr. Morris is also the great, great, great grandson of Frederick Douglass!
Thank you for your support and consideration in advance to preserve Women’s Herstory, our patriotic allegiance and to strengthen our sisterhood! Together we can do and be anything we strive for!  Be a part of herstory in the making. See you in Saratoga this summer!  Let me know if you have any questions.
There was a very interesting profile of Rep Elise Stefanik and her work to recruit more republican women to run for office in Time Magazine this week:

Representative Elise Stefanik can pinpoint the moment that crystallized the issue for her: It was the week after the midterm elections, and the newly elected members of the House of Representatives lined up for a photo. Representing the Democratic side of the aisle were more than 30 women. On the GOP side were two–Carol Miller of West Virginia and Young Kim of California.

Stefanik knew what could have been. “I recruited over 100 women,” she says, reflecting on her time as recruitment chair for the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC). But looking at the freshmen on the Capitol steps, she saw whom her party was welcoming in 2019: almost all white men. And within days, mail-in ballots showed that Kim had actually lost, bringing the grand total for House GOP freshmen women to one.

“That was a stark, stark wake-up call,” Stefanik says. She stood up at a meeting with her fellow House Republicans shortly after the election. “‘Take a look around,'” she recalls telling them in the basement of the Capitol. “‘This is not reflective of the American public. And you need to do something about it.'”


The legendary Empress Jingū, the first woman to appear on a Japanese banknote. Wikimedia Commons
I followed with great interest the stories from Japan last week about the new emperor and the role of women in the royal line - I found this piece from The Conversation of particular interest:

The abdication of Emperor Akihito on April 30 2019 and the enthronement of his eldest son Naruhito the following day as the 126th emperor of Japan, was a landmark event. This was the first abdication of a reigning emperor since Kokaku abdicated in 1817, in what is seen as the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world.

The Japanese government came up with a law to allow the throne to pass to 59-year-old Naruhito after Akihito publicly announced in August 2016 that he had decided to “retire” – which renewed debate about the male-only succession system.

The exclusion of women as heirs to the throne first appeared as law in 1869 in Article 2 of the Meiji Constitution and was reinforced by the 1947 rewritten constitution of Japan. As a result, out of a total of 18 members of the imperial family, not one of the 13 women will ever have access to the throne. Naruhito’s younger sister, Princess Nori, was even forced to leave the imperial household and to surrender her status after marrying Yoshiki Kuroda, a “commoner” in 2005.

I think it's very interesting that some leaders in the private sector have embraced gender balance in leadership here is a video from IBM explaining its ibm.com/BeEqual campaign
and Mastercard's Her Ideas which promotes women business leaders. While I am always a little suspicious of campaigns like these I think they can't help but elevate the role of women in society at large. 
‘Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected to the US House of Representatives last November and was repeatedly mistaken for a spouse or an intern.’ Photograph: Jeenah Moon/Reuters
There was a not-surprising-yet-still-sobering piece in The Guardian about barriers women face whilst running for higher offices in the US:

A recent issue of Vanity Fair featured a cover photo of White House hopeful Beto O’Rourke and his words about the 2020 US presidential race: “I want to be in it. Man, I’m just born to be in it.” One wonders what the reaction would be if O’Rourke’s female rivals made such a statement. Ambitious women in politics are treated differently. Voters are less likely to back female politicians if they perceive them as power-seeking, research from the Harvard Kennedy School suggests. More frustratingly, female voters are as likely to hold these negative views. Male politicians escape this “ambition backlash”.

Over the next 18 months these attitudes will be visible for all to see.

The current race for the US presidency has a record number of women seeking the Democratic nomination. The fact that more women want to be president is already a major media talking point. That in itself says much about contemporary political life.

America is not the exception. Despite women accounting for half the world’s population, the parliamentary universe has remained stubbornly dominated by men. One in four of the world’s parliamentarians are women. The numbers are even lower for decision-making positions. Only one in five ministers internationally is a woman in 2019. Rwanda, Cuba and Bolivia are the only countries that have 50% female parliaments.


Page one of the Rankin Chisholm Rule - see the link below for the full text
An interesting side project I've been involved with - a Blueprint for Campaign Equity - was adopted by a candidate for the US presidency as reported by The Guardian. Embedded in the document is the Rankin Chisholm Rule which calls for a commitment to gender balance in the political hiring and appointment process.
There are a number of events in the coming weeks:


I think this piece by Katha Pollitt in The Nation "Why Women are Invisible" is suitable reading on this much-heralded weekend when we celebrate mothers in the US -

New York is a city of women, to say nothing of seniors and people of all ages and ethnicities on the smaller side. Whose bright idea was it to order up a line of taxis fit for nimble giants? And while we’re on the subject, who replaced normal chairs in restaurants with tall stools that you have to awkwardly wiggle up onto? Why are podiums so high? And why does nobody offer you something to stand on so you can be seen over them?

I know what you’re thinking: It’s not about sex, it’s about height—and you, Katha, just happen to be short. That is true. But hello! Women on average are shorter than men, and once you get down to the really petite, they’re mostly women. And yes, I am aware that taxis and seating and podiums are not the most important problems in the world. But as the British writer Caroline Criado-Perez argues, they are symptoms of a much broader affliction. Her brilliant book, Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, lays out in impressive detail the many ways that human beings are presumed to be male, as well as the wide-reaching effects of this distorted view of humanity.

You might have heard of Criado-Perez when she started a campaign in 2013 to have a woman included in what was supposed to be an all-male lineup of notables featured on British banknotes. She was met with scorn and the online obscenities and threats that all feminists seem to attract when they invade male turf—and what’s more manly than money? But it’s largely thanks to her that Jane Austen appears on the £10 note today.

Austen, of course, would have known all about the “generic male.” From the rules of grammar—“man” means both male and human, “he” means both he and she—to the positioning of kitchen shelves, which are way too high even though a woman is likely to be making the most use of the kitchen, the male is treated as the default human. It’s what Criado-Perez calls “male unless otherwise indicated”: Women aren’t people; they’re a “niche.” That means women are seen as the exception, even when they’re not. Asked in one study to draw a “beautician,” Criado-Perez notes, most people in the group drew a man. A 2015 study showed that when people were asked to draw seemingly genderless words (“user,” “participant”), both men and women drew males.

Here's to celebrating women every day, every week, every month, and every year!
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