On girl crushes

Three lovely bits from a recent conversation with bell hooks and Emma Watson in Paper Mag:

[bell] hooks: …I have an overall obsession in my life with beauty. I’m always wanting to surround myself with the kind of beauty that uplifts you, that runs counter to some of the stereotypes of feminist women.

[Emma] Watson: Yes, yes. In Feminism is for Everybody I found a reminder of just what you were saying, “To critique sexist images without offering alternatives is an incomplete intervention. Critique in and of itself does not lead to change.”

hooks: I was thinking about what you were saying earlier — that I am funny. A lot of people think I am, but most people don’t. [Laughs] I was telling you that when we first met. That’s a pretty big stereotype about feminists, that we’re not fun, that we don’t have a sense of humor and that everything is so serious and politically correct. Humor is essential to working with difficult subjects: race, gender, class, sexuality. If you can’t laugh at yourself and be with others in laughter, you really cannot create meaningful social change.


On countering rape

Elisabeth Jean Wood and Dara Kay Cohen published an op-ed in the NYT on how to counter rape during war,

Last year, at a global conference on sexual violence during war, many speakers agreed that the best way to deter such crimes was prosecution, and they called for more of it. But prosecutions are not enough. We must work to reduce sexual violence by armed groups during wars — not just act afterward.

First, we have to better understand it. Although rape during war is an ancient crime, it’s only in the last decade that social scientists have begun to study the patterns in which soldiers and rebels rape. The findings may be surprising: It’s not more likely to occur in particular regions, countries with greater gender inequality or during ethnic conflict; men may be victims, and women can be perpetrators.

But while rape is tragically common in war zones, it’s not an inevitable part of war. In fact, we have found that a significant percentage of both armies and rebel groups in recent civil wars were, surprisingly, not reported to have raped civilians. That’s because commanders have options: They can choose to order, tolerate or prohibit rape. A deeper understanding of their behavior offers the hope of mitigating the problem.

(links and italics in original text)

I found it difficult to read this and not immediately jump back to the dialogue I observed 9 September 2015 at PRIO, with FOKUS, on Bosnia 20 years after the war — the point was repeatedly made that sexual violence in conflict must be studied proactively and be reduced during wars (not just prosecuted afterwards, if at all).

On refugees facing sexual and gender-based violence

Jina Moore over at BuzzFeed News looked into sexual and gender-based violence of women traveling through central and western Europe —

Those who make the trip from Syria, Iraq, or Afghanistan can count on the volunteers to cook them food, UNHCR to give them blankets, and, in some places along the way, the Red Cross to offer medical checks. But from what BuzzFeed News has learned, few of them can expect to be protected from sexual assault, coercion, or exploitation on that journey.

These vulnerabilities are clear to gender experts, even if data doesn’t exist on what’s happening in Central Europe at this moment. “We don’t actually know for sure what’s going on [but] what we can glean from every humanitarian crisis ever, and from our [earlier] work, is that … a large number of women and adolescent girls who run from violence are subject to violence in flight, and then are still preyed upon… when they get to the ‘safe haven,’” said Deni Robey, director of strategic communications at the Women’s Refugee Commission, a New York-based group that advocates for the rights and safety of female refugees. “This is a story that I think is absolutely not being told.”

On intersectionality

Over at The Washington Post, Kimberlé Crenshaw discusses intersectionality and action —

Intersectionality was a lived reality before it became a term.

Today, nearly three decades after I first put a name to the concept, the term seems to be everywhere. But if women and girls of color continue to be left  in the shadows, something vital to the understanding of intersectionality has been lost. […]

We simply do not have the luxury of building social movements that are not intersectional, nor can we believe we are doing intersectional work just by saying words.

On vulnerability

Emily Cousens in the Independent asks the question “Are Syrian men not innocent and vulnerable too?” —

If our humanitarian sympathies are only summoned in response to children and families, then we risk dehumanising Arab men. This only helps to reinforce a history of Western misrepresentation, in which Arab men are viewed as dangerous, uncivilized, barbaric, and incapable of reason. This might not seem immediately obvious from their absence in the media’s coverage. But the invisibility of the Arab men allows these ideas to insidiously fill the gaps, sometimes even subconsciously.

see also: Charli Carpenter, ‘Innocent Women and Children’: Gender, Norms and the Protection of Civilians