Women well represented in Swiss govt.

The Guardian reports here on the election of Simonetta Sommaruga to the Swiss Federal Council, meaning that 4 of the 7 members are now women. Also encouraging are her remarks on respecting the rights of minorities (recall that recently, Swiss citizens voted in a referendum in favour of banning new minarets).

Observers say that Switzerland’s rapid propulsion of women to top jobs in politics has been caused at least in part by its commitment to grassroots activism and to flexible working hours. Even some of the most powerful MPs work part-time, meaning that women with families can more easily hold elected office.

However, many said the vision of sexual equality in the executive gives a misleading impression of Swiss advances. Women are still outnumbered three to one in parliament, while few have made it to the top of the business world

“Man badly burned when girlfriend’s house set on fire”

That’s the headline. OK, you may be thinking. Must be that the man was the only one in the girlfriend’s house when some malicious person snuck up and set it on fire without his knowledge.

Not quite. The girlfriend, her mother and and her son where there, too. But, you may think, they didn’t get burned. Turns out to be true– though to describe them as ‘OK’ (as the article does) seems wrong after what they’d been through. Still, you’re thinking some malicious person did this.

And you’re right that it was a malicious person. It was that ‘man’ from the headline! The one who’s obviously meant to be the recipient of our sympathy. (I plan to use this example when next teaching implicature.)

That’s bad enough. But just to put the icing on the cake: turns out she wasn’t his girlfriend. She’d just dumped him.

(Thanks, Wade!)

Afghan girls dressing as boys

Here’s an interesting and heartbreaking article about the practice of dressing a daughter as a boy to pretend she’s a son. The practice allows the daughter to come and go from the house (daughters are confined inside), to play cricket and football and other outdoor sports with boys, to work, to help families with shopping, to obtain a better education, and to avoid the daily harassment and disrespect that girls and women endure. It also enables the family to avoid the stigma of only having daughters. Generally speaking, the practice ends at puberty, when the family deem it too dangerous for their daughter to be around boys any more. Many enter arranged marriages at this point. Unsurprisingly, it can be hard to adjust to the life of a woman, especially for those who have spent their entire childhood living as a boy. There are no official statistics, but when asked, many Afghans have stories of neighbours, friends and relatives who have dressed a daughter as a boy. The stories concern women of many generations.