Friday, December 2, 2011

In the News

Hello, dear readers, and welcome back to Not Another Wave's "in the news" posts! This week we've got quite a few stories to go over as usual; less usual, perhaps, is the way this week's stories tended to categorize themselves based on subject material or vapidity of the original reporters. Ready? Here we go!

Our first category this week, "Fucking DUH!," is also entirely populated by articles from Britain's Daily Mail (I'd say I should stop looking at the DM, but there's always something there to consider or argue with). The first "DUH" article is one that yet again parades social research results as something novel; this time, that women are better multitaskers than men. When you look at the research, the results are stunningly obvious: cis women with cis male partners often wind up carrying a greater workload at home and at the office, probably at least in part due to the continued expectation that cis women make home and hearth their priority when not at work. Another "DUH" article, also from the DM, reports that children who are abused are more likely to be bullies. REALLY? I had no idea! Why have I even included these things in the news? Mostly because, sadly enough, things like this are still news to people. Though if you had no idea that cruelty to children teaches them to be cruel in return, I'd like to know at what point your cognitive processes stopped evolving.

The next category this week is one I'd like to call "What century IS this?" First up is an article out of a small town in Kentucky, where a tiny church community has decided not to recognize or welcome interracial couples. I'm not sure which part is sadder: that interracial marriages are an issue in the first place, or that the church's decision is the result of a community vote. No, really. People chose this policy. And now that American media has got hold of the story, the community is considering a re-vote. Again, really. I can't bury my face in my palms enough.

The second article for "What century IS this?" also comes out of the U.S., where S. 1253 (the Senate's National Defense Authorization Act) has been written to include a provision permitting the President to use the military to arrest and detain any person believed to have any association with a terrorist organization. This is TERRIFYING. If you're sitting there saying "I don't see the problem," re-check your U.S. history, particularly the 1939-1945 period. We've done this already, and the result was the detention of thousands of Japanese Americans in internment camps for some vague person's sense of security. As a ten-year-old doing a project on the internment camps, I was privileged enough to interview a colleague of my mom who had been interned as a boy. I'd never heard of the internments before, and to this day I remember the sense of abject horror I felt when I learned that we, as a country, had deliberately uprooted, threatened, and starved thousands of people simply because they or their ancestors had come from Asia (yeah, no, the U.S. government didn't try too hard to distinguish between countries). We were fighting the Nazis at the same time, for crying out loud, and denouncing what they were doing to Jewish people. How hypocritical! And now we want to bring this back? Oh HELL no. National security cannot be, and should never be attempted to be, bought by the suppression of a broad category of people. It's inhuman, it's ineffective, and it's disgusting.

Finally, in the "century" category, we've got an article about a woman from Afghanistan who served time in jail for being raped and has been released to marry her rapist. Afghanistan is currently claiming that the marriage portion of this story is by the choice of Gulnaz (the woman's name or alias), which may or may not be true- she gave birth to her rapist's child, and I have no idea what her expectation is for the "proper" thing to do with a child out of wedlock, even one conceived by force- but I'm still wincing over her imprisonment for being a victim. I'll admit that I'm quite ignorant about day-to-day cultural expectations in Afghanistan, and I feel that a quick internet search does a disservice to the complexity of any culture, but I feel like there's something amiss with a government that sees victimhood as a crime.

Our last category today is "Things That Make Me Think." In this group, we find articles that release interesting studies, discuss difficult topics, or are generally fascinating (to me, at least). The first, also from Afghanistan, releases the results of a massive study done in-country to examine maternal mortality. Afghanistan has, for many years, been on the list of countries with terrifyingly high maternal death rates (in 2005, the UN reported a rate of 1,800 mothers dying per 100,000 live births; the U.S. was ranked at 5 per 100,000). This new study, however, suggests that the rate is now below 500 per 100,000 live births- still high, but much better. It also suggests that infant and child mortality is improving as well.

Next up in this category is an article that looks at the disparate impact the U.S. economy's nosedive has had on African American families. I thought this article was worth sharing for the way it focuses on historical factors- for example, the ease African Americans had in finding jobs in the public vs. the private sector during the early 20th century- and their impact on contemporary racial gaps. Race is such a touchy subject in America that finding common ground to discuss racial inequality (and what we can do about it) can be nigh impossible, but I think it's worth trying.

Another interesting article comes out of the BBC in Zimbabwe, where the government is prosecuting gangs of women who apparently roam the countryside in search of men to rape. No, I'm not being facetious. It's unclear what the motive is- current speculation is that there's a ritualistic component in semen collection- but what I wanted to focus on was the victims' experiences with reporting the rapes and pushing for prosecution. Rape is never okay, no matter who does it to whom, and I'm saddened by the pervasive perception that rape is only something that (cis) men can do to (cis) women. This belief appears to be fairly global, too- even the FBI's definition of rape is explicitly gendered ("the carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will").

Finally for this category, the good ol' Daily Mail brings us a vapid- but interesting- piece about young (cis) women going out for the evening. The DM's stance is clear from the beginning: these young adults don't respect themselves and are putting themselves in danger, as well as encouraging sexually predatory behaviour from young (cis) men. While most of the women interviewed for the article are quoted in minimally articulate ways, the underlying question (if you can get past the ditzy writing) is an interesting challenge: why do we blame these women for their behaviour (dressing up for attention, which they say they want) when British and American cultures both teach females, from a very early age, to judge their self-worth based on male attention? How much of Manchester's nightlife is the inevitable telos of a culture that minimizes other ways for women to value themselves? Discuss.

Our last article for today is the reiteration of a story that broke earlier this week when Barney Frank announced his semi-retirement. Much has been made of Rep. Frank's career, both for its longevity and what he's done with it, but I feel that it's important to acknowledge- politics aside- that his unswerving attention to the rights of LGBQ Americans has been hugely important in taking another step towards social equality. It's difficult to envision how the battle against the Defense of Marriage Act will go without such a strong advocate in Congress.

That's the news for this week, folks! Tune in again for more news, commentary, ridicule, and exasperation.

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