Writing about discrimination against Iranian Women

Here is a seemingly important article on “Iran’s women footballers banned from Olympics because of Islamic strip“. (It seems The Guardian has taken down all links/urls/copies of this article. Anyone with additional info, please share it in the comments.)

This [Iran-women-Olympic-strip] article/news story involves a very important matter as regards individual Islamic women (or teams of them) who cannot do something such as play a sport because of how they choose to dress, especially if that dress is something as important to them as their understanding of their religion. Perhaps some significant percentage of the women do not choose this form of dress, as Iran requires something like it. We do not know because the article appears not to say or to address this issue of choice. (Even oppressed women who have internalized sexist norms in a great many cases nonetheless have substantial autonomy and agentic skills.)

I regret that this news story is cast in terms of a focus on Iran. Perhaps a focus on Iran is required for the story to use the Olympics as a main example. The problem with that use, however, is that Islamic women in many places suffer discrimination for using this kind of dress in all kinds of sports venues besides the Olympics – I can think of many unfortunate cases of female high school athletes in the U.S., for instance.

Of course, I wish more people would read and understand Irshad Manji on such matters. One might think that my two paragraphs above are not sufficiently feminist because of how sexist the Islamic religion is. However, all forms of western monotheism are incredibly sexist (among other bad things) and I really do not see Islam as particularly bad for western religions as regards feminist concerns.

Ideally, if I were writing newspaper stories/articles I would write about how Iran massively oppresses women. I would also write about the oppression of women with regard to discrimination against them in the field of sports.

What I would NEVER do is write a story/article about Iranian athletes that does not even seem to mention, let alone strongly emphasize, how badly the Iran state treats women. (People go to jail all the time in Iran just for signing a peaceful petition saying that they support democratic reforms! And the lawyers in Iran who represent people who go to jail in Iran for doing something like signing a peaceful petition in support of democratic reforms are themselves sent to jail or worse.) It pains me to read the article with which this post began given the concern expressed in this paragraph and in the context of this entire post.

For related comments threads to two posts that document Iran state oppression of women, see:

What Do Iran And The U.S. Have In Common?

interested readers might especially want to check out comments numbered 12 through 20 at the post above


Urgent Petition To Save Sakineh

interested readers might want especially to check out comments numbered 5, 6, 8, 18, 19, 39, 45, 46, and 49 at the post above

Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero

Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero

Last week I found this gem of a post at feministing.com:


The post includes a video clip in which Texas State Representative Senfronia Thompson spoke out against disrespect for women in the legislature. Her words are extraordinary, powerful, and sadly much needed.

Here is the Texas House webpage for this wonderful woman:


“Rep. Thompson has been in the forefront of every campaign against discrimination for the last four decades. Ms. Thompson has among the highest ranks of any legislator for her voting record on issues of concern to women, minorities, labor, consumers, reform advocates, domestic violence victims, the elderly, teachers and civil libertarians.”

“Rep. Thompson has authored and passed more than 200 Texas laws, including Texas´ first alimony law, the James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, laws prohibiting racial profiling, the state minimum wage, the Durable Power of Attorney Act, the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, the Sexual Assault Program Fund, the Model School Records Flagging Act, the Uniform Child Custody & Jurisdiction Enforcement Act, contraceptive parity, and scores of other reforms benefiting women, children and the elderly. Rep. Thompson pushed through major reforms in child support enforcement, simplified probate proceedings, and complete overhauls of statutes dealing with statutory county courts and municipal courts. In 2005, she passed legislation requiring free testing for the human papilloma virus (HPV), an early indicator of cervical cancer, for women who have health insurance.”

House Floor – Rep. Thompson on Disrespect to Women – May 26, 2011

This clip is only 7 minutes and 53 seconds. Please watch/listen to every second of it.

My favorite part is this, especially the last sentence (beginning at about 6 minutes and 24 seconds):

“… And we have not earned this disrespect in this house. We fight here we get elected just like you do. And we have not earned this kind of disrespect. And I don’t want to tolerate it by anybody. And men, if you don’t stand up for us today, don’t you walk in this chamber tomorrow.”

Also this part (beginning at about 4 minutes and 8 seconds):

“… This is wrong; it cannot exist. And I think that – I want to ask you if you have any intestinal fortitude, and I believe you do, to stand up and tell this organization that this is not acceptable conduct for the members of this house…”

Some of Representative Thompson’s sentiments here remind me of (one aspect of) G. A. Cohen’s criticism of John Rawls’ focus on the basic structure of society and social institutions, as opposed to focusing on individuals and individual obligations. Liam Murphy published a paper on the same topic, and you may know of the literature surrounding it. These matters remind me of the frequent part of many speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr. in which he identifies the greatest injustices not necessarily in the horrible, unethical actions of bad people, but rather in the silence and inactions of (seemingly) good people who know what ethics/justice requires and do not step up to do things about it (because doing so has various costs and risks for sacrificing one’s career, job, time, resources, freedom, and/or life). We can find similar sentiments throughout history. Senfronia Thompson could not have said it any better than she did in her words above (as well as in many other places for those interested to look).

Senfronia Thompson, Moral Hero

Elouise Cobell, Moral Hero

Elouise Cobell is the lead plaintiff in the largest class action law suit ever filed against the U.S. government (filed in 1996). Representing over 500,000 Native Americans, Cobell reasonably argued that the U.S. government owed Native Americans hundreds of billions of dollars. In late 2010, Cobell settled for $3.4 billion to provide at least some recompense to the older Native Americans who were sadly dying every day without receiving any justice in this regard.

In 1887, the U.S. government tried to break up Native American Nations/Tribes by dividing tribal owned land into individual Indian accounts, and/or trust funds, for which the U.S. government supposedly served as trustee. While serving as treasurer of the Blackfeet Nation Indian Tribe (and building the Blackfeet National Bank, which turned into the Native American Bank and is a marvelous story in its own right), Cobell noticed how clearly the U.S. government continually failed to serve as minimally responsible trustees, in some cases stealing funds themselves, in other cases leasing Indian property to corporations and allowing the corporations to steal Indian funds, and in most all cases generally mismanaging the Indian accounts/trust funds in the most egregious ways. After much stonewalling and criminal defiance from Washington D.C., Cobell filed what became the largest class action ever against the U.S. government.

Here is a promotional video clip for the documentary “Cobell v.” (formerly titled, “Broken Promises”)

Here is a concise and slightly apposite press release from the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs

Here is the official website for the settlement

Below are four pieces covering this matter from Mother Jones:

Elouise Cobell’s Bittersweet Victory, 12/8/2009

Cobell, Native Leaders Reject Bush Proposal, Seek Resolution From Congress, 3/29/2007

Bush Administration Proposes Pennies On the Dollar In Settlement To Indians, 3/9/2007

Accounting Coup, 9,10/2005

Below are four pieces covering this matter from Democracy Now with Amy Goodman:

Federal Judge Rules US Government Owes Group of Native Americans $455 Million for Unpaid Royalties on Drilling for Oil and Gas, 8/12/2008

Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance to Economic Globalization: A Celebration of Victories, Rights and Cultures, 11/23/2006

Indian Leaders Offer to Settle Largest Class Action Lawsuit Against Federal Government in U.S. History, 6/24/2005

“The Indian Enron”? Hundreds of Boxes of Documents Destroyed, Charges of Contempt of Court, Billions of Dollars at Stake, Millions Paid to Arthur Anderson: Native Americans Sue the U.S. Government, 5/29/2002

Elouise Cobell is currently the Executive Director of the Native American Community Development Corporation.

She is now recovering from cancer treatment. Let us all please wish her well.

[A version of the above is cross-posted at https://sites.google.com/site/davidslutsky/home/moral-heroes]

Women Fight to Maintain Their Role in the Building of a New Egypt

Women Fight to Maintain Their Role in the Building of a New Egypt (good NY Times article)



“…Egypt’s popular revolution was the work of men and women, bringing together housewives and fruit sellers, businesswomen and students. At its height, roughly one quarter of the million protesters who poured into the square each day were women. Veiled and unveiled women shouted, fought and slept in the streets alongside men, upending traditional expectations of their behavior.

The challenge now, activists here say, is to make sure that women maintain their involvement as the nation lurches forward, so that their contribution to the revolution is not forgotten…”

“…There have been disappointments outside the square, too. The committee of eight legal experts appointed by the military authorities to revise the Constitution did not include a single woman or, according to Amal abd al-Hadi, a longtime feminist here, anyone with a gender-sensitive perspective.

As a result, one proposed revision states that the Egyptian president may not be married to a “non-Egyptian woman” — seemingly ruling out the possibility of a woman as president…”

“…A coalition including Nawal el-Saadawi, a leading feminist, is planning a million women’s march for Tuesday, with no set agenda other than to promote democracy. Ms. Diaa said that she planned to stay home now to give the new prime minister a chance to work and to help her children. But she said she would return to the streets if Mr. Sharaf did not quickly make democratic changes.

“I don’t see a difference between men and women,” she said, talking about her many days of protesting. “The only difference is that men are more able to take the sticks of the thugs. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice. I believe that I have a voice, so I can’t stay at home. I have a responsibility. I can be one of a million.”

Interested readers might also want to check out these three older posts:

1) Egyptian Women Protesting


2) Gender at the Egyptian Protests


3) Why We Need Women in War Zones


Berlusconi faces the wrath of Italy’s women

Berlusconi allegation triggers protest by women across Italy

“Hundreds of thousands of women took to the streets across Italy on Sunday to demand better treatment for women, days after Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi came under investigation for engaging in prostitution with a minor…”

…”Women in this country are denigrated by the repeated, indecent and ostentatious representation of women as a naked sexual object on offer in newspapers, televisions and advertising,” said protest organizer Ida Poletto, a married hotel manager who has two sons. “It’s intolerable.”…


Berlusconi faces the wrath of Italy’s women


UN Women begins today, January 1, 2011

UN Women officially begins today. They even have a new website (along with redirects for many of the previous links to the former UN Women website, and at least some previous links with no place to go). Here is the new UN Women website:


UN Women is now the main UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. Here is an “About” link and a “Frequently Asked Questions” link:



Frequently Asked Questions:


UN Women appears to have seven specific focus areas (all devoted to gender equality and the empowerment of women): Violence Against Women, Peace and Security, Leadership and Participation, National Planning and Budgeting, Human Rights, Economic Empowerment, and Millennium Development Goals. Here is a link to a webpage for more on these focus areas:


The current UN Executive Board, elected on 11/10/10, includes Saudi Arabia. For comments on or related to this controversial board member and related facts, events, new stories, etc, interested readers can check out the thread to the following Feminist Philosophers post:

Saudi Arabia on UN Women Board


The UN Women website indicates in the “Governance” section of the “About” webpage that the following international agreements guide the work of UN Women:

1) Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)


[On this agreement, interested readers might want to note/know one of the official reservations with which Saudi Arabia ratified CEDAW: “The Kingdom does not consider itself bound by paragraph 2 of article 9 of the Convention…” Paragraph 2 of article 9 of the convention states: “Parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.”]

2) Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (PFA)


3) UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (2000) [and resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009) and 1960 (2010)]






4) Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals



Let us hope and see whether “This ambitious new organization consolidates and scales up UN actions to achieve gender equality, offering the promise of accelerated progress in realizing the rights of women worldwide.”

Shining Hope for Communities

Shining Hope for Communities


“We combat intergenerational cycles of poverty and gender inequality by linking tuition-free schools for girls to essential social services in Kenya’s Kibera slum through a holistic, community-driven approach. By concretely linking essential health and economic services to a school for girls, we demonstrate that benefiting women benefits the whole community, cultivating a community ethos that makes women respected members of society.”


“Shining Hope for Communities believes in integrated and community-driven initiatives to combat extreme poverty. Our two-part approach places women at the center of community development. Our core program is the Kibera School for Girls, the first and only free school for girls in Kibera. Adjacent to the Kibera School for Girls is the Shining Hope Community Center, which houses initiatives that serve the entire community. Together, our projects address the most severe local deficits in education, health, sanitation, food security, literacy, and economic development.”

Government scraps Labour’s planned rules on equal pay

Government scraps Labour’s planned rules on equal pay


“The Government has scrapped plans to force big businesses to disclose the difference in pay for men and women they employ, on the day it emerged that little progress had been made in bringing women into the boardroom.”

A strange way to promote equal pay


Gender pay disclosure plans eased by coalition


Women still struggle to get top FTSE 100 jobs – report


“The number of female executives in top jobs at the UK’s leading 100 firms is almost unchanged for a third year running, a report says.”

UK Office for National Statistics


“…But men and women still follow very different career paths. Men are ten times more likely than women to be employed in skilled trades (19 per cent compared with 2 per cent) and are also more likely to be managers and senior officials. A fifth of women in employment do administrative or secretarial work compared with 4 per cent of men. Women are also more likely than men to be employed in the personal services and in sales and customer services. Similar proportions of men and women work in professional, associate professional and elementary occupations, such as labourers and catering assistants.”…

Britain embraces ‘positive action’ to abolish workplace discrimination


Our own (U.K.) gender pressure valve

“Breaking away from established roles is difficult in a country with such a gender trap, says Rob Williams”

“The index measures how much childcare and housework is being done by men and women as well as 8 other indicators including equality in the workplace and the systems for parental leave in each country. It’s a broad, comprehensive and powerful analysis of gender equality in high income economies. And we are right down there at the bottom end in 18th place. The way we deal with families and work in the UK is highly gendered and, basically, unfair. This is both good and bad news for the government.”


Any comments on this and/or the fatherhood institute?


UK lags behind in new family fairness league table


Does Criticizing India Count as Sedition? Arundhati Roy Will Find Out

Does Criticizing India Count as Sedition? Arundhati Roy Will Find Out (11/30/10)


“Mr. Pandit, who belongs to a minority Hindu community, has accused Ms. Roy of committing sedition for saying that Kashmir was not an integral part of India, and said the country should set a tough example by punishing those ‘who instigate communal passions in the name of Kashmir.’

Many Kashmiri Hindus were forced to flee Muslim-majority Kashmir after an insurgency against Indian rule flared up in 1989 and the region has also been a cause for ongoing hostility between India and Pakistan.

Ms. Roy could not immediately be reached for comment on Tuesday. But last month, when talk of a possible sedition charge first began, she said in a statement from Kashmir, ‘I said what millions of people here say every day. I said what I, as well as other commentators have written and said for years. Anybody who cares to read the transcripts of my speeches will see that they were fundamentally a call for justice.'”

“If convicted, a person can face punishment of up to life in prison.”

see also, Arundhati Roy faces arrest over Kashmir remark (10/26/10)