Blog RSS

WMC News: Muslim female athletes, Syria chemical weapons attack, trans under Obamacare, WMC Live & m

April 4, 2017

Muslim female athletes use voice and visibility to break barriers

By Anya Alvarez | April 6, 2017

While working in Tehran in the early 2000s, Iranian journalist Solmaz Sharif found herself becoming increasingly aware of the lack of coverage of women in sports.

Wanting to give Muslim female athletes a voice, in 2007 Sharif started an online magazine, Shirzanan (Persian for “female heroes”), the first Iranian women’s sports publication, which told the stories often neglected by the mainstream media concerning Muslim women in sport.

“Through my hard work in sports newspapers, I realised that many of my male colleagues didn’t believe in women’s sports,” Sharif wrote. “They had little interest in including it in the news. Because the sport desks were dominated by men, women’s athletics received little or no coverage. I had to find a way to empower women and girls through media and sports and decided to launch the first Iranian women’s sports publication.”

The magazine shut down after two years due to funding challenges stemming from denial of government permission to publish. But a few years later, Sharif had moved to New York, where she met Mara Gubuan while working at the NGO Advancing Human Rights. The two teamed up to relaunch and expand Shirzanan in 2014 to operate as a media and advocacy organization for Muslim female athletes. Their mission: “to advance Muslim women's rights through sports and media.” This means promoting sport to Muslim women where access is denied, telling the stories of Muslim female athletes through the platform of their website, educating other media outlets about Muslim female athletes with the hopes that larger publications will also cover them, and advocating for the rights of Muslim women within their chosen sports. More >>

Image description:Team Shirzanan blocking traffic in Mount Vernon, Iowa, during their bike ride across the state in July 2015. Photo courtesy of Shirzanan.

Please support our work to make women visible and powerful in media!



Syria chemical weapons attack puts new focus on regime crimes. One of which is rape.

By Lauren Wolfe/Director | April 5, 2017

With Tuesday’s gruesome chemical attack in Syria all over the news, attention has suddenly turned toward the crimes of Bashar Al-Assad’s regime—and away, for a moment, from those of the Islamic State. It is about time. Now would also be an appropriate time to recognize that media and politicians have long overlooked sexualized violence committed by the Syrian state in favor of the sick glamour of ISIS crimes.

Since the beginning of the war in 2011, the regime has perpetrated horrifying violence against its own people, such as torture, murder, unlawful detention, starvation, and rape. It’s this last one, however, that has had a low profile in global media, as well as in world politics. In fact, The New York Times published an entire story today breaking down specific atrocities committed by Assad’s men. None of the atrocities mentioned were sexualized violence.

The reasons for this absence, while multiple, are not hard to understand. More >>

Image description: Destruction from Assad’s bombs is easy to see. Sexualized violence is not. (Izein Alrifai/AFP/GImages)

Please support our work to make women visible and powerful in media!



Women missing in discussion of peacekeeping cuts

By Lauren Wolfe/Director | April 4, 2017

In the Trump administration’s proposed mass slaying of any and all programs the United States financially supports in terms of human rights, one in particular is troubling for women around the world—and it’s an angle media have missed in their reporting.

In the proposed U.S. government budget, the United States’ contribution to peacekeeping would be capped at 25 percent, reported The Associated Press on March 17. Right now, the U.S. pays 28.5 percent, or about $2.2 billion a year. The global fallout from this cut would be dramatic, experts say. “Cutting 3.5 percent from that total could hasten drastic changes or even the end of several missions that are winding down,” AP wrote. The reduction would greatly impact affect missions like UNMISS in South Sudan, and MONUSCO, the world’s largest peacekeeping force at 22,000 members, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

DRC, fairly or not, has been labeled “the rape capital of the world.” Cuts to the peacekeeping force would have a definite impact on the safety of women. While MONUSCO has been much maligned on and off for its failure to stop violence—such as a mass rape in 2010—it has also managed to do some good through its mandate, which includes “the protection of civilians, humanitarian personnel and human rights defenders under imminent threat of physical violence and to support the Government of the DRC in its stabilization and peace consolidation efforts.” More >>

Image description: Peacekeepers deployed around the world are facing cuts as the Trump administration looks to slash its contribution to the UN. (UN Photo/Stuart Price)

Please support our work to make women visible and powerful in media!




Here We Are: A Q&A with Kelly Jensen, author of a new intersectional anthology

By Julie Zeilinger | April 7, 2017

t’s been an interesting few years to be a young feminist. From the high of rising teen feminist celebrities and role models to the lows of the election, it’s clear that the next generation of young feminists have a unique understanding and enactment of this movement. It’s a complex new understanding of feminism worthy of exploration—and Kelly Jensen’s new anthology Here We Are aims to do just that. This recently published collection of essays, art, and lists—contributed by thought leaders like Laverne Cox, Mindy Kaling, Wendy Davis, Amandla Stenberg, Roxane Gay, and nearly 40 others—does the important and timely work of exploring what feminism looks like and means to the next generation of changemakers.

Jensen recently shared some thoughts about this book with the FBomb. More >>

Image description: Kelly Jensen’s new anthology

Please support our work to make women visible and powerful in media!



What trans individuals need to know about their rights under Obamacare

By Nico Morgan | April 5, 2017

Last weekend, I felt a tiny glimmer of hope in light of the looming threat of the Trump Administration and Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Trump’s new health care bill (aka the American Health Care Act, aka Trumpcare, aka the sound you make when you sneeze while congested), didn’t receive the necessary amount of votes to pass through the house and become law.

And thank god for that, as most humans with souls noted that the AHCA was nothing more than a tax break for millionaires and a certain loss of health care for 24 million people. The new health care bill would also have been a minefield for women, as it vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, which is less the “abortion factory” right-wingers claim it is than a vital center for reproductive health.

But rather than focus on the horrors we avoided, I instead want to discuss the services that were preserved for marginalized people under Obamacare/ACA (the Affordable Care Act), and how those programs should be readily taken advantage of now, before another possible villain comes along and tries to take them away. Specifically, it seems not everyone is aware of the opportunities Obamacare offers in terms of transgender health. More >>

Image description: Dimly lit hospital room.

Please support our work to make women visible and powerful in media!



Manners or sexism?  

By Julie Graves | April 3, 2017

“Girls, you NEVER say no to a guy when he asks you to dance,” barked the instructor at the sea of awkward children, anxiously tugging at our itchy formalwear. I was in fifth grade, in the midst of a “manners” course. There were a million things I would rather be doing, like reading a book or even doing homework. But my mom had threatened to take away a book I was reading at the time if I did not attend this course. She put her rebellious daughter in a dress and sent her to a ballroom in heels to learn to waltz without stepping on her partner’s feet (which I did anyway).

I live in the South, where this course is a tradition. For countless years in my community, children of a certain socioeconomic background have been sent to a local country club to learn how to properly socialize, dance, eat, and generally conduct themselves. For many of us, joining a course like this one was a tradition that spanned over generations of our families. The class I took is called “Invitational,” and kids either looked forward to the opportunity to wear fancy dresses, or complained incessantly. Why do fifth graders need to know how to behave at a ball? The latter group wondered.

I particularly dreaded the dancing section of class. The food section—in which we were taught the purpose and correct use of the many forks on a dinner table—was fine because they gave us fancy punch and cookies to munch on. But the dancing section required each boy to ask a girl to dance after the instructor demonstrated the proper steps. During this time, I would always dart away and duck behind the crowd of awkward ten-year-olds so none of the instructors could pull me up and none of the guys could ask me to dance. More >>

Image description: Ballroom with chandeliers and dancers with caption "The truth about “Invitational”"

Please support our work to make women visible and powerful in media!



Words of wisdom from feminist writer Ariel Levy

By Julie Zeilinger | March 31, 2017

Many feminists may know Ariel Levy as the author of modern feminist classic “Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women And The Rise Of Raunch Culture.” A contributor to the the New Yorker as well, Levy has built an impressive career examining modern issues through an incisive feminist lens. Recently, however, the journalist created a far more intimate work: Her new memoir The Rules Do Not Apply, which covers her experiences with miscarriage, marriage, sexuality—and, essentially, the reality of enacting a feminist life.

On March 17, the writer appeared in conversation with Lena Dunham at the 92Y in New York in honor of the book’s recent release. The two talked about everything from the stigma and shame surrounding women’s bodies to their Jewish identities. The whole conversation can be viewed here, but here are a few highlights of Levy’s wisdom. More >>

Image description: Ariel Levy and Lena Dunham

Please support our work to make women visible and powerful in media!



WMC Live #203: Sally Field, Leah Fessler. (Original Airdate 4/2/2017)

Robin on the filibuster, scoring a hockey goal, a Constitutional Convention, and running shoes. Guests: Sally Field on returning to Broadway (but loving townhall protests!); Leah Fessler on smartphone PA bots being programmed to tolerate sexism. Listen here >>

Please support our work to make women visible and powerful in media!



This week WMC SheSource features experts on the vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch, President Trump announcing that he’ll stop North Korea’s nuclear threat with or without China’s help, the impact of President Trump’s proposed budget, President Trump’s accusations that the Freedom Caucus is to blame for the failure of his healthcare plan, and April 4th being Equal Pay Day.

Sign up to receive regular emails highlighting women experts to speak on newsworthy issues.  




The views expressed in this commentary are those of the authors alone and do not represent WMC.

WMC is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse candidates.

To support women journalists who are changing the conversation, donate to the WMC: