11 Recent Headlines That Make My Feminist Blood Boil

Susan notes: over the past several days, as governments across the Middle East react violently to populist protests, I’ve also been shocked and appalled by some of the recent news related to the continuing escalation of violence against women around the world. Sometimes I despair. Then I realise there is no time for desperation, and I strengthen my resolve to continue fighting for a stop to violence. My weapons are peaceful actions and powerful words that clearly demonstrate that violence of any kind is simply not acceptable, and that violence against women in particular must stop.


1) Gates, Rumsfeld Sued Over U.S. Military’s Rape Epidemic

“There are three types of women in the Army,” says Rebecca Havrilla, a former sergeant and explosive-ordnance-disposal technician. “Bitch, dyke, and whore.” During the four years that Havrilla was on active duty, she was called all three—by fellow soldiers, team leaders, even unit commanders.

Once, during a sexual-assault prevention training, the 28-year-old South Carolina native claims, she watched a fellow soldier—male—strip naked and dance on top of a table as the rest of the team laughed. While deployed in Afghanistan, Havrilla spent four months working under a man she alleges bit her neck, pulled her into his bed, and grabbed her butt and waist—on a daily basis.

When, on the last day of her deployment, she alleges she was raped by a soldier she considered a friend, it was, she says, “the icing on the cake.” More here.

2) It’s a Lot Worse Than Sex Parties

The demonstration by an estimated million women across Italy on February 13 points to a continuing denial of fair opportunities for women at work.

The protest demonstrations, in 280 cities in Italy and 28 cities abroad, were called to demand action against Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi over the latest scandals. The turnout was some measure of the determination among women to take the political and public debate in Italy to the real problems of women.

The protest followed weeks of intense debate over allegations that Berlusconi paid for sexual intercourse with a number of young women, including a 17- year-old undocumented girl from Morocco. In Italy the age of consent is 14, but prostitution below 18 is illegal. More here.

3) Jury finds New York TV Executive Guilty of Murder For Wife’s Beheading

After a three-week trial and one hour of deliberations, an upstate New York jury on Monday found Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan guilty of second-degree murder for beheading his wife.

In February 2009, Hassan, who founded a TV network aimed at countering Muslim stereotypes, went to a police station in the Buffalo, New York, suburb of Orchard Park and told officers his wife was dead, police have said.

Aasiya Hassan had been decapitated, with prosecutor Paul Bonanno saying during opening arguments that the long knife used by her husband had left marks on his office’s tile floor.

“Mr. Hassan has felt that throughout the tenure of his marriage, no one had listened to his side,” his legal advisor told reporters after the verdict. “It was important for him in the two hours that he had for summation to get across his side and how he saw his marriage.” More here.

4) Lara Logan Suffered ‘Brutal’ Sexual Assault In Egypt

CBS correspondent Lara Logan was covering the jubilation in Tahrir Square for a 60 MINUTES story when she and her team and their security were surrounded by a dangerous element amidst the celebration. It was a mob of more than 200 people whipped into frenzy.
In the crush of the mob, she was separated from her crew. She was surrounded and suffered a brutal and sustained sexual assault and beating before being saved by a group of women and an estimated 20 Egyptian soldiers. More here.

5) Deutsche Bank Chief Josef Ackerman: ‘Women on our board would make it prettier and more colourful’

The head of Germany’s largest bank, Deutsche Bank, has sparked anger by saying that appointing more women to its executive board would make it “prettier and more colourful”, it was reported on Monday.

Josef Ackermann’s comments, made at a press conference and reported in the Handelsblatt newspaper, were part of a debate about whether Germany should set quotas for the number of women on company boards, as Norway, Spain and France have done.

The chief executive admitted that there are no female workers on Deutsche Bank’s executive committee, a subordinate body to the board of directors, “but I hope it will be prettier and more colourful one day” when more women are named, he added.

6) ECB Board Will Have No Women

The European Central Bank’s 23-person governing council will have no female representative for the first time in the bank’s 12-year history, after European finance officials agreed to replace the board’s only woman with Belgium’s Peter Praet.

European officials said Mr. Praet, a board member of the Belgian National Bank, would succeed Gertrude Tumpel-Gugerell, an Austrian, on the ECB’s executive board when she retires. Euro-zone ministers chose Mr. Praet over Elena Kohutikova, a member of the board of the Slovak National Bank.

The decision comes days after a joke by Deutsche Bank AG Chief Executive Josef Ackermann that the inclusion of women on his bank’s board would make it “more colorful and prettier, too” sparked a discussion over what countries could do to open the male-dominated universe of European finance to more women. More here.

7) Surviving the Sexist Genocide in Guatemala

“He would punch my head all the time, pull my hair, smack and kick me. And he would make me wear long sleeves to hide the bruises; even on my wedding day I had a black and blue mark on my arm,” Heidi Velásquez told IPS in Guatemala.

In this Central American country of 14 million people, 46,000 complaints of domestic violence filed last year made it to the legal system.

But thousands of victims of gender-related killings have not survived. Between 2000 and 2010, more than 5,200 women were killed in this impoverished country, most of them shot to death, according to the police.

In terms of gender violence, that figure outshadows even Ciudad Juárez, a Mexican city on the U.S. border that is notorious for the hundreds of unsolved murders of young women, mainly factory workers, involving sadistic sexual violence since 1993. These gender-related killings, known as “femicides,” rose to 306 in 2010, according to official figures. More here.

8) Women Say Some Rape Victims Should Take Blame – Survey

A majority of women believe some rape victims should take responsibility for what happened, a survey suggests.

Almost three quarters of the women who believed this said if a victim got into bed with the assailant before an attack they should accept some responsibility. One-third blamed victims who had dressed provocatively or gone back to the attacker’s house for a drink.

The survey of more than 1,000 people in London marked the 10th anniversary of the Haven service for rape victims. More than half of those of both sexes questioned said there were some circumstances when a rape victim should accept responsibility for an attack.

The survey also found more than one in 10 people were unsure whether they would report being raped to the police, and 2% said they would definitely not do so. The main reasons were being too embarrassed or ashamed (55%), wanting to forget it had happened (41%) and not wanting to go to court (38%). More here.

9)Vancouver Memorial March Honours Missing, Murdered Women

Hundreds of participants took part in a march around the Downtown Eastside in heavy rain to remember Vancouver’s missing and murdered women. And Aboriginal elders, community leaders and family members of murdered and missing women led the 20th annual women’s memorial march today (February 14) from Main and Hastings to various sites around the neighbourhood. March organizers carried red roses to mark sites where women were murdered, and yellow roses for missing women.

According to Marlene George, the chair of women’s memorial march organizing committee, 32 women from the Downtown Eastside are still missing. More here.

10) Women’s Refuge Chief Returns OBE in Protest Over Cuts

Denise Marshall says she is returning the OBE as she received it specifically for providing services to disadvantaged women, something she claims the cuts will prevent her from doing.

Marshall, chief executive of Eaves charity, which specialises in helping women who have been victims of violence and those who have been trafficked into prostitution, said the level of funding cuts to support organisations such as hers meant they would soon be unable to function properly.

National and local government funding decisions have hit women’s support services hard. Preliminary research by the national charity Women’s Aid shows that more than half of all domestic violence services still do not know whether they will have enough money to remain fully open after March. More here.

11) Rape Myths Persist: Reactions to the Assault on Lara Logan

As a clinical psychologist who specializes in post-traumatic stress disorder, I’ve been horrified by some of the comments I’ve read — declarations about Lara Logan’s looks, her previous sexual history, her choice of profession. The irrelevant information seems to have no bounds.

More than 30 years ago, Psychologist Martha Burt coined the term “rape myths” to describe “prejudicial, stereotyped, or false beliefs about rape, rape victims, and rapists.” Rape myths are widely believed and can help justify aggression and sexual violence. On a psychological level rape myths also help us distance ourselves from the victim.

For example, This could never happen to me because: 1) I would never have worn a short skirt, 2) I never walk alone at night, 3) I would not have been a journalist in Egypt! Clearly the list of justifications goes on and on. More here.

Related links:
20 Reasons Why We Still Need The “F” Word