Through my twitter feed I came across this video:
It’s a campaign of the European Comission to encourage women to work in science/research fields, where they are underrepresented. So apparently to convince women to use their brains for science, the trick is to show them that the finality of research/development could be as well beautification, make up and fashion. After all who are we for being interested in scientific careers for sake of, say, heal cancer, solving mysteries of the Universe or find alternatives to nuclear energy? No, all we want is privilege to develop new lipsticks!
This video is not only very offensive because it suggests women are interested only in their own standardized feminity, it fails also in adressing the real issues of underrepresentation of women in research and science, such as:
- Many female students, few female researcher: the issue is not to bring women interested in science, on a student level they are even majoritary in some fields and have average better marks, the problem here is that women tend to not pursue a scientific career although science interests them. The reasons of this gap between female students and female researcher can be structural (see points 2 and 3) as well as cultural, in a world where women making what is perceived as a “man’s job” is not yet fully accepted.
- Unstable careers: science grants are generally given for 1-2years projects. For example, if a woman quits for a maternity leave, she does can’t be sure the contract will be reconducted at end of the year or if by the time she comes back to work if there is still any work. The other important effect of this is that people who undertake a scientific career have often to move from one country to another before to find a stable position; if the female scientist has a partner or husband, it is generally not accepted socially that she moves and the man generally doesn’t move with his wife. Moreover, if the man is also a scientist (a subtancial part of scientists have a scientist partner), women generally sacrifice their career to follow men.
- Realm of phallocracy: even when having a position, female scientists are lesser paid, obtain fewer top positions and less talk time in conferences. This disparity is due to the fact that in science/research world, many informal decision criteria count, top of them being that generally decisions are taken by committies of men with few or no women among them.
At the end, what worries me is not really women in science, because they will inevitably build their path and obtain equality, but that in 2012, European Commission misunderstands the issues they should be qualified for!
Published 19 September 2011
Tags: advertising, athlet, body, female, feminism, gender, male, medias, representation, sexism, society, sport
I was watching on TV the french sports news. The main headline was of course the French rugby national team winning against Canada during the world cup. After this came several other sport news – basketball, football, etc. Like most of the time, the news were all related to masculine athletes – feminine sports suffer from an under-representation in medias. But then came some news related to feminine athletes – the feminin basketball team of Lyon. Not really that they were interested in the sportive performances of the team though… they commented the new outfit of the team. Indeed, the athletes will now play wearing a short dress instead of a t-shirt and pants.
New suit, old story: athlet or not, it looks like apparently for a woman to appear in the headlines and in the news, she has to “deserve it” through her appearance, not her performance. Lot of work still to do here for feminism.
It is often said that the sports scene is sexist; it is certainly true. For example, female athlets suffered for a long time from the unattractivity of their careers for sponsors due to the lack of interest of public and media in their sports. The last decade saw the emergence of a few mediatic female athlets that helped to drag the attention on their sports and attracted to them the sponsors, who shaped for them an oversexualized public image. In comparision, their image is strikingly different from the image of male athlets. Looking at advertising campaigns, female athlets are generally posing in soft porn ads, whereas male athlets are generally posing practicing their sport or in a suit, representing an image of prestige, performance and strenghth (cf. pictures below).
And I am still wondering: aren’t female athlets – even the most talented and gifted amongst them – exploited as sexual objects only because after all it’s what the audiance wants to see? So why are we, as an audiance, brought to be disinterested in anything else a woman has to offer except her sexualized image?
Published 19 July 2011
Tags: anne sinclair, domination, dsk, feminism, gender, hooker, machism, man, men, nafisatou diallo, opinion, politics, rape, sexism, society, tristane banon, violence, wife, witch, woman, women
Two months now that the sex assault case involving the ex-Chief of the IMF Dominique Strauss-Khan is ongoing, augmented since last week with a new affair where a young french journalist, Tristane Banon, accuses him as well of trying to rape her. It took Nafissatou Diallo to put charges on DSK for Tristane Banon, who claims since 2003 to be a victim of DSK, to get over her fear to not be believed.
Besides these criminal charges, the french public scene is full of stories involving DSK and women: he is depicted by most of the people that were in contact with him as a “predator” with exuberant sexual behaviour, that knows no real limit and does not really understand women’s refusal. Those who were not raped by DSK anyway talk about his manner of heavily insisting, to the point that some of them say explicitely they were so afraid to be left alone in a room with him they made everything to avoid him. An internal note in the IMF kindly advises female staff to avoid as much as possible to stay alone with him in an office.
If only trials can tell us truth about these affairs, it is already possible to draw a first quick conclusion: in the worst case, DSK relation to women is criminal, in the best case it is “just” pathologic. In both cases, DSK relation to women perfectly symbolizes the darkest side of machism: reducing women to primitive archetypes, and objectifying them in the men-women relations. For DSK and the likes, women can only be of three types:
- The Hooker: Nafissatou Diallo… and any woman, by default
For DSK, the world is like a giant brothel: he just has to “pick up” the hooker he wants and “pay” for that… Women are believed disposable by default, and the interaction with them is essentially sexual. No real moral consideration limits him in his “choice”: they can be his friends’ wives, his assistants, the staff of palaces he visits, relatives of his ex-wife, etc. The personnality of the woman never really enters into account: although he had hundreds of sex affairs with women around him, he does not seem to have any long term extra-conjugal affair, involving if not feelings, something that would look like a person-to-person intimacy: women are consumers’ good, uninteresting once the sexual encounter took place. As a “client”, he uses his personnal, intellectual, political and economical power to convince them to accept his sexual proposals. As a proeminent personnality, he knows how to use the psychological impact he makes on women inferior to him on the “social ladder”. As sexual employees, they “cannot” really refuse to provide him the service he is requesting. Getting them to have sex with him only needs him to find the good “payement” mode, and sometimes the suitable pressure mode.Nafissatou Diallo, the cleaning lady of the Sofitel, is just one of the many he wanted when he saw her. Without any “seduction ritual”, it went directly into a sexual interaction, whether it was forced or not. She was there, she was to be available. And after all, in order to prove his unguiltiness, isn’t his strategy simply to try to convince the jury that “anyway, this woman is a hooker”? (Letting aside the fact that even professional prostitutes can be raped…).
- The Witch: Tristane Banon
Given the high social position of DSK, his wealth, his intellectual capacities, and even his physical force, very few seem to “resist” to him. The sexual encounter generally quickly takes place, and once it is finished, he can go back to his business. Thus, very few women have the strenghth to say no to DSK, and if they do so, even fewer are strong enough to repeat “No” again and again as he repeatedly insists. Tristane Banon is one of these few. Maybe is it because she is journalist and writer and thus she is literate enough to not be vulnerable the intellectual domination he can use on less educated women; maybe is it because her mother is herself a politician (in the same party than DSK) that made her harder to scare with the fact he’s a politician; maybe it is because her godmother is DSK ex-wife, enabling her to see in him a simple man to whom she can say “no” rather than the powerful figure. Anyway, the refusal of a woman seems to be difficult to understand for him. Since the moment Tristane Banon put charges on him, his entourage deploy their strange strategy to discredit her: they spread the word that she is mad, unstable, she is a liar, she invents things. In one word: a woman who says no to DSK is simply a woman out of her mind. As a free minded woman, Tristane Banon bothers DSK because she was not impressible enough, not only for her to sleep with him, but also for her to keep silent about it. She refuses to be one of these nice ‘hookers’, who do what they have to do and let him go back to his business. For DSK, Tristane Banon and women like her strong enough to firmly say no to him are “witches”, the women who do not submit to the natural order of Nature, where women give and men take. Defying this “natural establishment” is viewed as an heretic act, a crime of subversivity. The same way that during the Middle-Age the inquisitors that were convicting women of being witches were accusing them of proceeding to satanic celebrations where ‘immoral’ sex acts were performed, DSK entourage try to spread the word about a nymphomaniac, sexually disturbed Tristane Banon. (Letting aside the fact that even a mentally unstable woman can be raped)
- The Good Wife: Anne Sinclair
As much as a man can objectify women and disinterest from them once he had sex with, the presence of a ‘good wife’ is of primordial importance to a man like DSK: it represents the only little point of mental and emotionnal stability in his relations with women. But here again we are in a symbolically commercial transaction: the relation does not build on trust and respect, since the cheating is implicitely “part of the game”, but on mutual benefit. For DSK, Anne Sinclair is rich, she’s part of his political career, she’s an ally, she is for him a family, meaning a stable and reliable entity of his fluctuent life. On the other side, Anne Sinclair benefits from this situation in sense that she lives her political ambitions through him, as well as by taking the continuous role of the cheated wife, she is the “good one”; she “invests” in DSK to achieve what she knows she can’t make directly herself due to the sexism of the society (the same way Hillary Clinton “invested” in Bill Clinton). She knows about his relations with other women, but not only she makes as if she didn’t know to not lose all she built with him and the social prestige that goes with it, but also she takes secretely pleasure in being “The One”, the woman that remains here, while all others, regardless of how young, beautiful, smart they can be, are only temporary. A woman who dominates all other women through her husband.
The DSK-like machism trilogy (the Hooker, the Witch and the Good Wife), embodied as well by him as by all his entourage that participate to sustain this system (in particular his wife Anne Sinclair), it’s maybe the biggest harm DSK made to women in general: offering one of the sickest models of men-women relations of a socially successful men. If the media coverage of the Sofitel case would allow at least to deconstruct this sexist model in men’s and women’s minds, it would be indeniably a huge step forward in the feminine cause.
Published 21 June 2011
Tags: act, body, civil desobedience, drive ban, femen, feminism, fight, gender, kiev, manal al-sharif, mind, protest, rights, saudi arabia, society, struggle, subversitivity, subversive, topless, ukraine, women, women2drive
The story of Manal Al Sharif, a 32 years old Saudi woman jailed 10 days for defying the driving ban in her country, is a perfect illustration of the extreme repression endured by Saudi women. Her act – being filmed while driving and uploading the video to promote the Women2Drive campaign – was courageous and thus inspired other women in the Kingdom to follow her example. She expressed in the video the wish that she would be only the beginning of the revolt of women like “the first drop is the beginning of the rain”.
She enhanced a movement that had repercussion far beyond Saudi Arabia: many feminist associations, many NGOs, many papers talked about the event and certainly contributed in the global awareness on the terrific situation of women rights in the Gulf. Meanwhile, Femen, a feminist association in Ukraine organized a solidarity protest protest in Kiev around the Saudi Embassy where several of the protestors showed up topless.
So what is the outcome of the Manal Al-Sharif case?
- Manal Al Sharif encouraged women (and men!) in her country to stand for their rights. Several dozen of people follow now her example to break the unfair rules. She showed that Saudi women are courageous enough to take themselves the initiative. What is interesting is that she cares more aboout driving than about, for example, wearing or not the veil: she wants to achieve men/women equality through equal rights to act (drive, express, vote, work, etc), not just through her appearance. Thus her contribution to women cause is positive.
- Femen activists exhibited their own bodies and contributed in nothing neither for Manal Al Sharif, neither for Saudi women, neither for Ukranian women. They finished doing exactly what sexists do: use women’s body as an object. What message did Femen send to the world? “We, women, we can’t do anything, we can’t draw attention unless we exhibit our breasts”. Thus, their contribution to women cause is negative.
The feminism of Manal Al Sharif is constructive because it breaks the prejudice about “women consisting only in an empty body”, while the feminism of topless Femen activists is destructive because it does nothing else than enforcing this prejudice. Manal Al-Sharif uses provocation as a tool to change the law, Femen use provocation for the sole purpose of having the feeling to exist. The sad thing is that certainly Femen wants to act to improve women’s rights: but just type “Femen” in a search engine, all you will find is hundreds of entries about the “topless protests”.
At the end of the day, Femen may be very active, the world associates Femen to nothing else than to naked women, while Manal Al Sharif became a model for women not because of how she looks, but because of how she acts. And that makes a huge difference.