The Week in Women

Criminalizing women for demanding their own rights, sexist cars, and men who really don't like women traveling.

Scenes from another life (Lahore, Pakistan, April 2019)

Hello readers! Welcome to The Week in Women, a roundup of women’s rights news from around the world, followed by links to a few good features, longform pieces, podcasts, and radio stories in the universe of gender equality, international human rights, politics, and whatever else is interesting on the internet.

Enjoy, subscribe, and share.

What to Know

Ignoring her, too: Egypt had a #MeToo moment, but optimism for expansion of women’s rights in a conservative and authoritarian nation is waning — and a rape case that rocked the nation is only the latest example of how women’s basic physical safety continues to be sidelined.

Bad Book Alert: I read and reviewed Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s latest book, in which she claims she’s defending the safety of European women. Spoiler, she isn’t.

Criminalizing Women: In Poland, one of the women who led abortion rights protests against the right-wing government has been arrested and charged with criminal felonies, including for allegedly insulting a police officer, creating an epidemiological threat for protesting during a pandemic, and “malicious obstruction” of religious services — the protests interrupted Masses, as the Catholic Church has been fundamental in restricting Polish women’s rights.

Are Women People? The EU Parliament is also debating Poland’s near-total ban on abortion, which pretty clearly violates the human rights of women and girls. Women’s rights defenders are calling on the European Commission to take action.

Women Don’t Need Guardians: In Nepal, a proposed law would require that women under the age of 40 get family or government permission to travel to the Middle East or Africa. Nepalese women aren’t having it; they took to the streets of Kathmandu in protest against the law, and further demanded that their government make good on the constitutional promise of equal rights for women.

Women Don’t Need Guardians, Part 2: Women’s rights have been further rolled back in Gaza as the Hamas-run Sharia Judicial Court held that women must have the permission of a male guardian to travel, a process already made extraordinarily difficult by Israeli and Egyptian blockades.

End of an Era: Ilyse Hogue, who led the abortion rights group NARAL, is stepping down.

Automisogyny: Your car is sexist (yes, seriously), and that leads to a lot of unnecessary injury and death. Can Pete Buttigieg fix it?

Women Win: Chile’s new constitution is a feminist victory.

Modern Lovers: Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird, a great love story.

Freed But Not Free: Very good news: Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released from prison after being held for more than 1,000 days. But she’s also banned from leaving Saudi Arabia or talking about her ordeal. And Saudi Arabia remains a nation where misogyny is legally enforced.

What Happened That Night?: A new book about two girls’ deaths in India — an ordinary tragedy and a bigger story of violence, sexism, and shame.

Who’s Talking Now? The president of the Tokyo Olympics organizing committee resigned after, in a response to a question about a plan to increase the number of women in the board, he said, “On boards with a lot of women, the board meetings take so much time” because women won’t shut up. Women are competitive, he said; if one talks, they all raise their hands. You have to wonder: Has he ever been in a meeting with men? 

Dishonorable Duties: In Pakistan, the family of a 12-year-old girl says she was kidnapped, raped, chained in a cattle pen, forcibly converted, and then forced to marry her rapist and captor — something human rights groups say is a troublingly common fate for religious minorities in the country. The authorities did nothing, claiming that the pre-teen had consented to the marriage.

Find New Insults, Grandpa: Kamala Harris is a Jezebel, say two Southern Baptist pastors, who I am sure we are all shocked to learn are racist, sexist bigots.

Nevertheless, Misogyny Persisted: Discrimination against women in Iran remains persistent in public and in private, in law and in practice, the UN says.

Rest in Power: Arianna Wright Rosenbluth, a pioneer in data science, died of coronavirus last week; she was 93. Millie Hughes-Fulford, NASA’s first female payload specialist who flew on the Columbia in 1991, died of cancer at 75. And in Harlem, people are honoring Cicely Tyson, the neighborhood’s “Trueborn Queen.”

Rebuffed: Actors are accusing Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon of gross and abusive treatment.

Using the Law Against Itself: Four Harvard Law grads are taking on the legal system, and challenging the ways its used to cover up sexual abuse and harassment.

Identity Politics: A left-wing party in Spain has proposed a new gender identity bill that would bring the nation in line with nearly 20 other nations in allowing citizens to legally change their gender identity for official purposes without jumping through a series of onerous medical and legal hoops. Far-right groups and the powerful Catholic Church oppose it; so do a handful of feminists.

State of Emergency: The exodus of women from the workforce is a national emergency, writes Vice President Kamala Harris.

Go Directly to Jail: A 25-year-old French woman going by the pseudonym “Julie” has accused some 20 firefighters of raping her when she was between the ages of 13 and 15, and women the country over and demonstrating in support of her. The men admit they had sex with her, but argue it wasn’t rape and say that she consented (France has no formal age of consent). Julie, her family, and feminists across France argue that a child cannot meaningfully consent to sex with adult men.

Her too: Game of Thrones actress Esmé Bianco tells her story of being in an abusive relationship with Marilyn Manson.

Clinton Derangement Syndrome: QAnon’s roots in Hillary hysteria (and Hillary has thoughts).

Get ‘Em: Malian women’s rights activists are suing their own government for failing to end FGM.

Coronavirus Casualties: Covid-19 has been a disaster for women’s land rights and livelihoods in Lesotho. And across Southern Africa, the pandemic has put women and girls at great risk in their own homes.

Required Reading: Read an excerpt of Gayle Tzemach Lemmon's new book The Daughters of Kobani in Marie Claire.

Watch List: Check out My Name is Pauli Murray, a documentary about the life of the visionary feminist lawyer.


What to Read

Stories of slavery, from those who survived it [The Atlantic]

Searching for Shelley Duvall: The Reclusive Icon on Fleeing Hollywood and the Scars of Making 'The Shining' [The Hollywood Reporter]

Breaking the Rule of One: After upending a racial norm in the rural South, a Black councilwoman contends with defiance from a community she wants to serve [The Washington Post]


Take a Break

…and watch Framing Britney Spears, an excellent and enraging documentary about pop star, and all of the ways in which we control and break young women. (Yeah sorry this one isn’t much of a break, but it’s very good!)


If you’re enjoying this newsletter and want even more, please consider a paid subscription. And as always, feel free to share.

xx Jill