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WMC News: Political Power, Boko Haram, Looking Like a Lesbian, Emma Watson, WMC Live & More

October 26, 2016

Women in East Timor Push for Political Power

Celestra Fatima is a candidate for village chief in the October 29 election. Photo ©2015 Jerry Redfern.

By Karen J. Coates | October 26, 2016

Timor-Leste will hold elections on Oct. 29 to determine the country’s next local leaders. And for the first time since this tiny Southeast Asian nation gained independence in 2002, women occupy prominent spots on village ballots.

“The times are different now,” says Celestra Fatima, a village chief candidate in her district, Aileu. “After independence, as women, we realized that we also have rights—the same rights as men. Because of that, I’m willing to run for village chief.”

Fatima symbolizes a shift in Timorese society. Timor-Leste, formerly known as East Timor, was a Portuguese colony for more than 400 years before Indonesian forces invaded in 1975 (with a nod from U.S. President Gerald Ford and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger). That move led to one of the 20th century’s most brutal occupations, which claimed the lives of 200,000 people—a third of the population. Timorese men and women fought side by side in the decades-long struggle for independence. Their aim was national liberation. Now, many women say, it’s time to fight again—for women’s rights. More>>

Image description: Celestra Fatima is a candidate for village chief in the October 29 election. Photo ©2015 Jerry Redfern.


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Hungry and Isolated, Women Who Survived Boko Haram Face New Nightmare

Boko Haram freed 21 of the more than 200 girls the group kidnapped two years ago. This Chibok girl, who is crying while holding her baby and meeting Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is one of the 21. (Getty Images/Philip Ojisua)

By Shaista Aziz/Guest Blogger | October 25, 2016

Maiduguri, Nigeria—Yagna Ibrahim is a woman who has a presence that is difficult to ignore. She strides into the room with grace and confidence, pulls out a chair, and sits down next to her friend and fellow women’s rights activist, Rabia Musa.

The two women are part of an informal network of women’s rights activists that is trying to mobilize women in Nigeria’s northeastern Borno State to help displaced women and children, providing food, clothes, money and other support.

Both are in their fifties, wives and mothers, educated and financially independent. They prefer not to tell their husbands the details of their work in case they think it’s too dangerous. “Our society has changed forever and we have to work to limit the damage,” Ibrahim explains during an interview in Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state.

Over the past seven years, the militant group Boko Haram has set about destroying communities, schools, and health facilities in northeast Nigeria and has used sexualized violence and the kidnapping of women and girls to terrorize the population. At least 20,000 people have been killed, and an estimated 2.5 million people have been displaced. Amid the carnage, communities have been unable to tend to their land and multiple harvests have failed. Hunger has taken over. Children and adults have wasted to death. The United Nations’ children’s agency UNICEF warned that 75,000 children could die this year without a major aid effort in northeast Nigeria. More>>

Image description: Boko Haram freed 21 of the more than 200 girls the group kidnapped two years ago. This Chibok girl, who is crying while holding her baby and meeting Nigerian Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, is one of the 21. (Getty Images/Philip Ojisua)


Combating Asian American Invisibility in Public Life

We need more role models like Constance Wu

By Women SPEAK | October 26, 2016

“You can’t be what you can’t see.”

As a mixed Asian-American woman, I’ve grown to despise this phrase. Growing up, I cannot remember learning of or looking up to any public figure who looked like me. Throughout my childhood, my family advised me to narrow my career options to those that were seen as financially stable and productive for an Asian-American woman, and I found it difficult to find role models or mentors that offered any alternatives. As I grew older, I thought things like running for public office or being in the spotlight were not made for me.

I believe the reason such a narrow path was presented to me is ultimately simple: In the Asian American community, stability is preferred over risk, comfort over inconvenience, and acquiescence instead of protest. These ideas are known as the “model minority myth,” and have influenced how society in turn stereotypes Asian-Americans. More >>

Image description: We need more role models like Constance Wu


The Problem With Saying Someone "Looks Like a Lesbian"

My style has nothing to do with my sexuality.

By Dayton Uttinger | October 24, 2016

Apparently, if you cut off half of your hair, start playing rugby, spearhead a LGBTQA group on campus, begin obsessing over Orange is the New Black, and break up with your boyfriend all within the span of a year, people think you’re a lesbian. After each of these developments, I registered my mother’s raised eyebrows, my friends’ giggles, and questions like, “You know you look like a lesbian, right?”

Not that I expected any differently. I knew that my lifestyle (and style itself) was conforming to lesbian stereotypes every step of the way. I’d figured that out for myself after being hit on several times by other women (although, to be fair, half the social events I attended during college were hosted by LGBTQA groups or my rugby team). The fact that I kept talking about TV lesbian dramas and complimenting others’ tackling forms during these events probably helped, too.

But while I’d laugh off my friends’ comments at first, I found them less funny as they persisted. I should wear a dress, or grow my hair out, or wear makeup, they said.

Here’s the thing: I know that I look like a lesbian. I can check off every single box of the stereotype. But why does everyone seem to automatically assume that “looking like a lesbian” — whether you are one or not — is a bad thing, or one that must be fixed? More>>

Image description: Colorful mohawk with caption "My style has nothing to do with my sexuality."


Emma Watson Reminded Us Why We Must Keep Fighting For Gender Equality  

Emma Watson's video, 'Hurdles'

By Faatimah Solomon | October 20, 2016

It’s easy for many people who care about social justice to get caught up in the obstacles these still face, and fall into a pit of despair and helplessness. On the flip side, many others get so caught up in celebrating all the achievements these movements have made that they tend to overlook the existing problems yet to be addressed. It’s critical to resist both of these extremes and to balance the way we perceive milestones in the fight for quality. Emma Watson’s “Hurdles” video, created by Global Citizen, communicates this very message.

Emma Watson starts the video by stating that since the beginning of time, women have faced injustices and inequalities, but that it has never stopped them from fighting for their right to vote, gain an education, and hold positions of political power. Women from all over the world are shown leaping over actual hurdles, which symbolize these aforementioned barriers — as well as the achievements that have been accomplished in the arena of women’s rights and gender equality. The video then both talks about achievements throughout history — such as New Zealand giving women their right to vote in 1893, the US’s Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the increasing number of women who occupy political positions in countries such as Rwanda — while also acknowledging that serious issues still persist — like violence against women, child marriage, and girls not being in school. The main message of the video is that, “The race is still on, every day of every year of our lives,” and that the struggle for gender equality is an endless, perpetual fight that must become imbued and ingrained in our society and must become an integral part of our way of life. More >>

Image description: Emma Watson’s video, ‘Hurdles’


WMC Live #184: Natashia Deón, Judit Polgár. (Original Airdate 10/23/2016)

Robin on the real "rigged system," electoral vertigo, and reversing its looking-glass effect. Guests: Natashia Deón talks about her novel Grace; Judit Polgár, the great chess Grandmaster who checkmated Spasky, Kasparov, and all the other big boys. Listen here >>

This week WMC SheSource features experts on the clearing out of “The Jungle” migrant camp in Calais, France; the comments made by Philippines President Roger Duterte; airstrikes resuming in Aleppo, Syria after the end of the ceasefire; the remaining weeks of the 2016 Presidential election; and AT&T buying Time Warner in an $85 billion deal.

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