The glass ceiling may be dinged, but study shows a new barrier for women – glass walls


Just when it looked like the glass ceiling was getting dinged, new research shows a new barrier for women who are looking to advance in their careers – glass walls.

study published in the Harvard Business Review in April looked at the experience of freelancer workers. When men broaden their experience they are rewarded, but when women do it they are penalized. This should be a wake-up call to both workers and organizations looking for the best outcomes.

The idea of a glass ceiling originated in the late 1970s when a Human Resources executive in the telecom industry named Marilyn Loden coined it to refer to the invisible barriers that too-often halted women in their climb to the C-Suite. Over the decades, organizations have made attempts to remove it and many women have succeeded in shattering it in terms of their own careers although there is more progress to be made.

These days, however, people are experimenting with different ways of working. U.S. freelance website Upwork estimates that as of 2022 nearly half of Gen Z and millennial workers did at least some freelance work. Although it is not always adopted by choice, freelancing is thought to have some advantages including letting workers be judged by the work rather than by how well they play corporate power games, but that might be a flawed assumption.

Evidence that female freelancers are running up against glass walls comes from research by Professors Yonghoon Lee of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Christy Zhou Koval of Michigan State University and is Soljee Susie Lee of Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University. They detail the experience of 8,000 freelance creative workers, specifically Korean pop music (K-pop) songwriters who released their first song between 2003 and 2012.

The authors judged success partly by the ability to release more songs (fewer than half of all songwriters released a second song). They found that when male songwriters expanded into fields beyond writing lyrics, such as arranging, they had more success.

That makes intuitive sense, suggesting that continuing success means expanding contacts and deepening their experience. Women should presumably have had the same experience, except that the researchers found the opposite was true. Female songwriters who tried out a new role after publishing a first song were less likely to get a second song released than were those who stayed as strictly lyricists.

The difference between the two experiences, the authors believe comes down to what decision-makers perceive as ‘agency’ or the ability of people to direct their own career paths. When researchers asked K-pop songwriters to evaluate the abilities of fictional freelancers’ profiles, they found that the women who expanded their roles were seen as being less competent and less committed to being songwriters than men who did the same thing.

When repeating the exercise in the U.S. using fictional profiles of cinematographers who expanded into production design, researchers found the same results. Men who branched out were seen as broadening their experiences by choice, while women who did so were seen as doing it because they had no choice, and in the process ended up diluting their original skills.

It would be easy to say that the experience of K-pop songwriters in Korea has nothing to do with the experience of those who work more traditional jobs in North America, but the results are worthy of reflection. Within many organizations both men and women are often encouraged to make lateral moves to gain experience, with the assumption being that by doing so they will enhance their ability to move up the ladder if they wish. If (unconsciously or consciously) women are perceived differently than men when they do, it might be that they should think about a different game plan.

The authors suggest ways to counter the glass wall, although some of them are depressingly retro. They suggest female freelancers use business names to obscure their gender and skip any bias toward women, a practice that hearkens back centuries. They also suggest that women who try out new roles take pains to communicate why they have done so, making it clear it was by their own choice. For organizations with traditional workers that want to avoid glass walls, the first step might be to acknowledge that they exist. That might mean establishing new metrics and taking a look at whether women who take lateral roles within organizations gain more or less ground than men who do the same thing.

The real eye-opener though is that women’s and men’s achievements, even when identical, are still being viewed through different lenses. Changing perceptions takes a lot more than changing a name, but hopefully the glass walls will fall faster than the ceilings.

Source: The glass ceiling may be dinged, but study shows a new barrier for women – glass walls

Minority status biases evaluation of both women and men professors

Of interest:

Both men and women professors in the United States may receive lower course evaluation scores in departments where the majority of professors are of the other gender. However, because women are more often in the minority, they receive a disproportionate share of lower scores.

Further, since course evaluation scores are a significant factor in promotion and tenure decisions, this disparity negatively affects women professors’ career trajectories, hampering efforts to achieve equity and gender parity in the upper levels of the professoriate, says a new study published in the journal PNAS – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our key finding is that regardless of which gender is in the minority, that gender receives lower course evaluation scores than does the dominant gender. We saw the same effects for men working in female-dominated departments and women working in male-dominated departments,” says Professor Oriana R Aragón, who teaches in the department of marketing at the Carl H Lindner College of Business of the University of Cincinnati.

She is lead author of the study published in PNAS earlier this year and titled “Gender bias in teaching evaluations: the causal role of department gender composition”.

“These findings are consistent with role congruity theory, which, in the context of academe, says that when a department is majority male or female, members of the opposite gender who teach in it are not deemed to be ‘authentic’ or as not being a bona fide expert.

“Students have a sense of, ‘It’s not quite right. I didn’t get the teacher that I should have had.’ This leads them to rate the professor lower, especially in upper-level courses; this negatively affects women professors because they are more often in the minority.”

The study and some findings

There are two parts to the study conducted by Aragón; Evava S Pietri, professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder; and Brian A Powell, Fjeld professor in nuclear environmental engineering and science at Clemson University in South Carolina.

The first part utilised course evaluations from courses in which 115,647 students were enrolled in all of Clemson University’s 51 departments. These evaluations covered 1,885 educators who taught 4,700 courses during the 2018-19 academic year.

The evaluations utilised a Likert-type scale ranging from one (strongly disagree) to five (strongly agree). Since introductory courses have much larger enrolments, more than 72% of the courses were upper level, that is, years three and four.

These archived evaluations revealed that in departments with gender parity, students rated male and female educators almost equally in both the lower- and upper-level courses.

By contrast, in those departments that were majority male, female educators teaching lower-level courses were rated almost 0.1 point higher than were male teachers: 4.24 to 4.15. In upper-level courses, the relative position of the genders flipped, with women scoring 4.28 and men just under 4.37.

In the lower-level courses, in departments in which women made up the majority of the instructors, female educators actually scored 0.1 points lower than do males: 4.33 to 4.43. In upper-level courses in which the teaching staff is majority female, female educators are rated 4.48 while male teachers were rated more than a tenth of a point lower (4.36), a significant difference in scores.

Interpreting some findings

Central to understanding the results found in the evaluations from 2018-19, Aragón explained, is role congruity theory.

Female professors are rated more highly by both male and female students in lower-level courses, she says, partially because students value the interpersonal nurturing role that female instructors either provide or are seen to provide at that level of the university.

“Role congruity theory tells us that women are seen as more communal. Women are seen as caretakers of the home and of the sick, for example. In male dominated departments, at least at the lower level, it’s consistent with stereotypes to see women in these roles and that translates into rating them more highly on evaluations.”

The lower course evaluation scores that male instructors receive when they teach lower-level courses in male dominated departments can be understood as the flipside of why male professors are rated so much higher than are female professors in the upper-level courses in these same departments.

The expectation, according to role congruity theory, is that upper-level courses will be taught by experts in their fields. Since 72.6% (or 37) of Clemson University’s programmes have majority male staff, simple maths dictates that the cadre teaching the upper-level courses will be majority male.

Male educators in the lower-level courses pay a price of approximately 2/10ths of a point on their course evaluation scores because, Aragón and her co-authors aver, they are seen as fulfilling supporting (that is, stereotypically female) and not essential or agentic roles in their department’s educational and research ecosphere.

Women teachers in upper-level courses in female dominated departments are rated more highly than are those who teach lower-level courses (4.28 to 4.49). They also received higher course evaluation scores than men teachers who teach in departments in which female instructors dominate, such as nursing.

“Because upper-level courses signal high status and require expertise, broader gender stereotypes [that is, those beyond the university itself] would imply that men should teach upper-level courses,” Aragón et alwrite.

“However,” Aragón further explained to University World News, “the broader stereotype is overridden in female dominated departments, such as nursing or education where women may be considered bona fide members in those fields. And, so follows too, women’s higher evaluation scores, relative to men, when teaching these upper-level courses in female-dominated departments.”

The course evaluation scores for male teachers who teach lower-level courses in majority female departments is not only approximately 0.2 points higher than their male colleagues who teach in majority male departments, it is more than a point higher than the course evaluation scores of women professors who teach in male dominated departments.

Aragón and her co-authors explain why we see these biases against those in the gender minority in upper-level courses but not in lower-level courses by pointing to a societal paradox identified by role congruity theory.

“In the female-dominated domain of the family caregiver, men are evaluated negatively for filling the essential care-giver role of stay-at-home fathers or for taking extended family leave, which signals a primary caretaking position,” they write.

“Yet, men are viewed more positively than are women when they fill supportive roles in female domains, such as reducing work hours to help with the family’s needs or taking shorter leaves from work for supportive or interim caretaking. It seems that those in the gender minority are not penalised for entering gender incongruent domains when they are simply facilitating the more supposedly genuine measures of that domain.”

Shifting gender-based expectations

The second part of the “Gender bias” article reports on an experiment Aragón et al used to see if they could shift students’ gender-based expectations about professors and their ‘fit’.

In the research, 803 students were randomly assigned to departments, the descriptions of which were vague enough so that the students could not make stereotypical assumptions about whether the department was male- or female-dominated.

The students were then shown ‘faculty’ webpages that were manipulated to show male- or female-dominated departments and asked to evaluate the professors.

In the absence of classroom experience with professors the course evaluation scores were more stratified by gender. For example, female teachers in majority male departments who teach lower-level courses received course evaluation scores 0.17 higher than male teachers in the experimental group, while in the archived group the difference was 0.08.

“Our manipulation via a few moments with a faculty webpage,” writes Aragón, “was most likely not powerful enough to override broader gender stereotypes, particularly because the fields of study were not specified. Thus, the gender stereotypes appeared to play a larger part in shaping biases in the experimental than in the archival study” and significantly disadvantaged women.

Some conclusions

Aragón and her co-authors conclude the “Gender bias” article with two arguments.

The first addresses the question of whether, as departments become more balanced in terms of gender, existing stereotypes go by the wayside. While they answer yes, their example, computer programming, points to the paucity of examples of fields where the achievement of gender parity has improved the perception of women.

In the 1960s, computer programming, which involved preparing computer punch cards and, thus, was not seen as being far removed from bookkeeping or secretarial work, was a majority female job classification and was seen as a being supportive role. “Once the field became male dominated” – in the mid-1970s – they write, “the characterisation of the field changed to one of cerebral analysis”.

Secondly, the authors indicate strategies that departments and universities can use until various fields reach gender parity, so that women professors are not systematically disadvantaged by the bias in course evaluation scores.

Among these strategies is one they dub “fake it until you make it”, which would de-emphasise course evaluation scores and emphasise the achievements of both men and women in their departments. To try to neutralise gender expectations and course levels, they propose that “both male and female educators should teach lower- and upper-level courses”.

Finally, they call on tenure and promotion committees to make themselves aware of the bias inherent in course evaluation scores which, their study shows, have more to do with students’ sense of ‘fit’ than with performance in the classroom.

“Promotion and tenure decisions are made,” Aragón told University World News, “on very small differences. If the department average for a certain item on the questionnaire is 4.6 and you have a 4.55, you better believe I have gotten letters from the tenure promotion review committee that say, ‘You really need to get that score up a little bit’.

“That little fraction of a point can make a huge difference. It can decide who gets promoted, who gets tenure and who doesn’t. At present, the bias in these numbers disproportionately negatively affects the trajectory of women educators in colleges and universities.”

Source: Minority status biases evaluation of both women and men professors

Canada hired more female police officers in 2022, while the number of racialized officers remained unchanged

Of note:

The representation of women in police departments across Canada continued to increase in 2022, according to a new report by Statistics Canada, while the number of racialized officers remained largely the same.

More than 2,000 police officers and nearly 1,900 recruits were hired in 2021/2022, an increase of about 900 between the categories compared to the year before, the report says.

That year, 15 per cent more female officers were hired than the year before and 16 per cent more female recruits were hired. Recruits are people training to be police officers.

Overall, women represented 23 per cent of police officers in 2022, while just eight per cent of the police force comprised racialized officers, the report says.

Number of women officers continues to increase steadily

Police services in the country have been hiring more and more women since 1986, the report notes, when data on gender was first collected. At the time, women represented less than 4 per cent of all officers in Canada.

As of May 2022, there are more than 16,000 women working in Canadian police departments, up by more than 270 compared to 2021.

Most women on the force last year held positions as constables, making up about 24 per cent of all such positions in the country.

While women still represent a slightly smaller portion of senior and nonsenior ranks (commissioned and non-commissioned), the number of officers is rising on both fronts.

In 2022, 18 per cent of senior officers were women — the highest number recorded to date.

Racialized officers continue to represent less than 10 per cent of the force

While 26.5 per cent of Canada’s population was racialized in 2021, according to census data, only eight per cent of all police officers were racialized in 2022, the report found.

The figure did not change from 2021.

The report notes efforts are underway to boost diversity and inclusion among the ranks, highlighting the importance of representing the diversity of the population among police.

Racialized recruits, training to be police officers, did increase by three percentage points compared to 2021. That year, 11 per cent of recruits were people of colour, while the same was true for 14 per cent of recruits in 2022.

In the RCMP, racialized officers made up 13 per cent of personnel. In municipal services, they made up seven per cent.

Indigenous populations, meanwhile, made up five per cent of people in Canada in 2021, and four per cent of police in 2022.

In First Nations police services, more than half of officers identified as Indigenous.

They comprised 7 per cent of the RCMP, one per cent of officers in municipal police and two per cent of those in the Sûreté du Québec and Ontario Provincial Police, the report says.

Police operating expenditures increased by 12 per cent

Across the country, police services spent $18.5 billion in 2021/2022 on operating budgets.

After factoring in inflation, operating expenditures increased by eight per cent. That amounts to $342 per person for the 2021/2022 year, the report adds.

Salaries and wages accounted for 67 per cent of expenses, benefits were 17 per cent and other operating expenditures accounted for 16 per cent of the money.

The report credits the implementation of the first collective agreement for RCMPmembers and reservists, in part, for the increase.

Since a reckoning hit police services across the country in 2020, many anti-racism advocates have called for police funding to decrease or for services to be abolished altogether.

Others have made the case for initiatives such as new body cameras, that have added funding to police, and some have called for more police in the face of growing violence, as has sometimes been the case in Toronto.

‘Police strength’ decreases despite an increase in number of officers

The number of police officers compared to the Canadian population had been relatively stable for two years, but that rate decreased in 2022, the report says.

In 2022, the rate of “police strength” was 181 officers per 100,000 population, down one per cent from 2021.

This rate decreased despite there being about 70,560 police officers in 2022 — 400 more than the year before — due to the growth in the Canadian population.

This occurred as police calls increased by 2.7 per cent, which the report points out happened as pandemic restrictions eased and fewer people stayed at home.

The report also notes that civilian employees — clerks, communications staff, managers and other administrative professionals — are making up more police employees.

Source: Canada hired more female police officers in 2022, while the number of racialized officers remained unchanged

Paul: In Defense of J.K. Rowling

Of note:

“Trans people need and deserve protection.”

“I believe the majority of trans-identified people not only pose zero threat to others but are vulnerable.”

“I respect every trans person’s right to live any way that feels authentic and comfortable to them.”

“I feel nothing but empathy and solidarity with trans women who’ve been abused by men.”

These statements were written by J.K. Rowling, the author of the “Harry Potter” series, a human-rights activist and — according to a noisy fringe of the internet and a number of powerful transgender rights activists and L.G.B.T.Q. lobbying groups — a transphobe.

Even many of Rowling’s devoted fans have made this accusation. In 2020, The Leaky Cauldron, one of the biggest “Harry Potter” fan sites, claimed that Rowling had endorsed “harmful and disproven beliefs about what it means to be a transgender person,” letting members know it would avoid featuring quotes from and photos of the author.

Other critics have advocated that bookstores pull her books from the shelves, and some bookstores have done so. She has also been subjected to verbal abusedoxxing and threats of sexual and other physical violence, including death threats.

Now,  in rare and wide-ranging interviews for the podcast series “The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling,” which begins next week, Rowling is sharing her experiences. “I have had direct threats of violence, and I have had people coming to my house where my kids live, and I’ve had my address posted online,” she says in one of the interviews. “I’ve had what the police, anyway, would regard as credible threats.”

This campaign against Rowling is as dangerous as it is absurd. The brutal stabbing of Salman Rushdie last summer is a forceful reminder of what can happen when writers are demonized. And in Rowling’s case, the characterization of her as a transphobe doesn’t square with her actual views.

So why would anyone accuse her of transphobia? Surely, Rowling must have played some part, you might think.

The answer is straightforward: Because she has asserted the right to spaces for biological women only, such as domestic abuse shelters and sex-segregated prisons. Because she has insisted that when it comes to determining a person’s legal gender status, self-declared gender identity is insufficient. Because she has expressed skepticism about phrases like “people who menstruate” in reference to biological women. Because she has defended herself and, far more important, supported others, including detransitioners and feminist scholars, who have come under attack from trans activists. And because she followed on Twitter and praised some of the work of Magdalen Berns, a lesbian feminist who had made incendiary comments about transgender people.

You might disagree — perhaps strongly — with Rowling’s views and actions here. You may believe that the prevalence of violence against transgender people means that airing any views contrary to those of vocal trans activists will aggravate animus toward a vulnerable population.

But nothing Rowling has said qualifies as transphobic. She is not disputing the existence of gender dysphoria. She has never voiced opposition to allowing people to transition under evidence-based therapeutic and medical care. She is not denying transgender people equal pay or housing. There is no evidence that she is putting trans people “in danger,” as has been claimed, nor is she denying their right to exist.

Take it from one of her former critics. E.J. Rosetta, a journalist who once denounced Rowling for her supposed transphobia, was commissioned last year to write an article called “20 Transphobic J.K. Rowling Quotes We’re Done With.” After 12 weeks of reporting and reading, Rosetta wrote, “I’ve not found a single truly transphobic message.” On Twitter she declared, “You’re burning the wrong witch.”

For the record, I, too, read all of Rowling’s books, including the crime novels written under the pen name Robert Galbraith, and came up empty-handed. Those who have parsed her work for transgressions have objected to the fact that in one of her Galbraith novels, she included a transgender character and that in another of these novels, a killer occasionally disguises himself by dressing as a woman. Needless to say, it takes a certain kind of person to see this as evidence of bigotry.

This isn’t the first time Rowling and her work have been condemned by ideologues. For years, books in the “Harry Potter” series were among the most banned in America. Many Christians denounced the books’ positive depiction of witchcraft and magic; some called Rowling a heretic. Megan Phelps-Roper, a former member of the Westboro Baptist Church and the author of “Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving Extremism,” says that she appreciated the novels as a child but, raised in a family notorious for its extremism and bigotry, she was taught to believe Rowling was going to hell over her support for gay rights.

Phelps-Roper has taken the time to rethink her biases. She is now the host of “The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling.” The podcast, based on nine hours of her interviews with Rowling — the first time Rowling has spoken at length about her advocacy — explores why Rowling has been subjected to such wide-ranging vitriol despite a body of work that embraces the virtues of being an outsider, the power of empathy toward one’s enemies and the primacy of loyalty toward one’s friends.

The podcast, which also includes interviews with critics of Rowling, delves into why Rowling has used her platform to challenge certain claims of so-called gender ideology — such as the idea that transgender women should be treated as indistinguishable from biological women in virtually every legal and social context. Why, both her fans and her fiercest critics have asked, would she bother to take such a stand, knowing that attacks would ensue?

“The pushback is often, ‘You are wealthy. You can afford security. You haven’t been silenced.’ All true. But I think that misses the point. The attempt to intimidate and silence me is meant to serve as a warning to other women” with similar views who may also wish to speak out, Rowling says in the podcast.

“And I say that because I have seen it used that way,” Rowling continues. She says other women have told her they’ve been warned: “Look at what happened to J.K. Rowling. Watch yourself.”

Recently, for example, Joanna Cherry, a Scottish National Party lawmaker who is a lesbian and a feminist, publicly questioned Scotland’s passage of a “self-ID” law that would allow people to legally establish by mere declaration that they are women after living for only three months as a transgender woman — and without any need for a gender dysphoria diagnosis. She reported that she faced workplace bullying and death threats; she was also removed from her frontbench position in Parliament as spokeswoman for justice and home affairs. “I think some people are scared to speak out in this debate because when you do speak out, you’re often wrongly branded as a transphobe or a bigot,” she said.

Phelps-Roper told me that Rowling’s outspokenness is precisely in the service of this kind of cause. “A lot of people think that Rowling is using her privilege to attack a vulnerable group,” she said. “But she sees herself as standing up for the rights of a vulnerable group.”

Rowling, Phelps-Roper added, views speaking out as a responsibility and an obligation: “She’s looking around and realizing that other people are self-censoring because they cannot afford to speak up. But she felt she had to be honest and stand up against a movement that she saw as using authoritarian tactics.”

As Rowling herself notes on the podcast, she’s written books where “from the very first page, bullying and authoritarian behavior is held to be one of the worst of human ills.” Those who accuse Rowling of punching down against her critics ignore the fact that she is sticking up for those who have silenced themselves to avoid the job loss, public vilification and threats to physical safety that other critics of recent gender orthodoxies have suffered.

Social media is then leveraged to amplify those attacks. It’s a strategy Phelps-Roper recognizes from her days at Westboro. “We leaned into whatever would get us the most attention, and that was often the most outrageous and aggressive versions of what we believed,” she recalled.

It may be a sign of the tide turning that along with Phelps-Roper, several like-minded creative people — though generally those with the protection of wealth or strong backing from their employers — are finally braving the heat. In recent months and after silence or worse from some of the young actors whose careers Rowling’s work helped advance, several actors from the “Harry Potter” films, such as Helena Bonham Carter and Ralph Fiennes, have publicly defended the author.

In the words of Fiennes: “J.K. Rowling has written these great books about empowerment, about young children finding themselves as human beings. It’s about how you become a better, stronger, more morally centered human being,” he said. “The verbal abuse directed at her is disgusting. It’s appalling.”

Despite media coverage that can be embarrassingly credulouswhen it comes to the charges against Rowling, a small number of influential journalists have also begun speaking out in her defense. Here in America, Caitlin Flanagan of The Atlantic tweeted last year, “Eventually, she will be proven right, and the high cost she’s paid for sticking to her beliefs will be seen as the choice of a principled person.”

In Britain the liberal columnist Hadley Freeman left The Guardian after, she said, the publication refused to allow her to interview Rowling. ​​She has since joined The Sunday Times, where her first column commended Rowling for her feminist positions. Another liberal columnist for The Guardian left for similar reasons; after decamping to The Telegraph, she defended Rowling, despite earlier threats of rape against her and her children for her work.

Millions of Rowling’s readers no doubt remain unaware of her demonization. But that doesn’t mean that — as with other outlandish claims, whether it’s the Big Lie or QAnon — the accusations aren’t insidious and tenacious. The seed has been planted in the culture that young people should feel that there’s something wrong with liking Rowling’s books, that her books are “problematic” and that appreciating her work is “complicated.” In recent weeks, an uproar ensued over a new “Harry Potter” video game. That is a terrible shame. Children would do well to read “Harry Potter” unreservedly and absorb its lessons.

Because what Rowling actually says matters. In 2016, when accepting the PEN/Allen Foundation award for literary service, Rowling referred to her support for feminism — and for the rights of transgender people. As she put it, “My critics are at liberty to claim that I’m trying to convert children to satanism, and I’m free to explain that I’m exploring human nature and morality or to say, ‘You’re an idiot,’ depending on which side of the bed I got out of that day.”

Rowling could have just stayed in bed. She could have taken refuge in her wealth and fandom. In her “Harry Potter” universe, heroes are marked by courage and compassion. Her best characters learn to stand up to bullies and expose false accusations. And that even when it seems the world is set against you, you have to stand firm in your core beliefs in what’s right.

Defending those who have been scorned isn’t easy, especially for young people. It’s scary to stand up to bullies, as any “Harry Potter” reader knows. Let the grown-ups in the room lead the way. If more people stood up for J.K. Rowling, they would not only be doing right by her; they’d also be standing up for human rights, specifically women’s rights, gay rights and, yes, transgender rights. They’d also be standing up for the truth.

Source: Paul: In Defense of J.K. Rowling

Paul: Free to Be You and Me. Or Not.

Of note:

If you grew up in any remotely liberal enclave of America in the 1970s or 1980s, you grew up believing a few things.

You believed that you lived in a land where the children were free,where it didn’t matter whether you were a boy or a girl because neither could limit your choices — not when you were a kid, not when you grew up. You believed it was perfectly fine for William to want a doll and if you were a girl, you might have been perfectly happy for him to take yours.

You believed these things because of “Free to Be … You and Me.” That landmark album, which had its 50th anniversary last month, and its companion book shaped a generation. It took the idealism and values of the civil rights and the women’s rights movements and packaged them into a treasury of songs, poems and stories that was at once earnest, silly and wholeheartedly sappy. It was the kind of thing a kid felt both devoted to and slightly embarrassed by. The soundtrack got stuck in your head. The book fell apart at the seams.

In other words, for a certain generation, “Free to Be” waschildhood.

And that achievement is something to celebrate no matter your age. Alas, marking that achievement — the brainchild of Marlo Thomas and other trailblazers including Carole Hart, Letty Cottin Pogrebin and Mary Rodgers — also means grappling with the erosion of those ideas. Is it possible we’ve moved past the egalitarian ideals of “Free to Be … You and Me,” and if so, is that a step forward?

To get to an answer, let’s consider what “Free to Be” had to say — and to sing. The album opened with a title song that proclaimed: “Every boy in this land grows to be his own man. In this land every girl grows to be her own woman.” That doesn’t sound like much now, but at the time, it was revolutionary. No matter how liberated your parents were, the larger culture still typically assumed rigid roles for boys and girls, the latter still very much considered the fragile sex. I can’t count how many times people told me, on finding out I had seven brothers, “How lucky you are to have them to protect you!”

“Free to Be” unshackled boys and girls from these kinds of gender stereotypes. As Pogrebin wrote in the book’s introduction, “What we have been seeking is a literature of human diversity that celebrates choice and that does not exclude any child from its pleasures because of race or sex, geography or family occupation, religion or temperament.” For what now seems like a brief moment, boys and girls wore the same unflattering turtlenecks and wide-wale corduroys. Parents encouraged daughters to dream about becoming doctors and police officers. Boys were urged to express feelings. Everyone was allowed to cry.

Then the pushback began. Some of it stemmed from ongoing conservative resistance to feminism’s gains. Some of it was about money. And some it of it emerged from a strain of progressivism that has repurposed some of the very stereotypes women and men worked so hard to sweep away.

These moves started with an ’80s backlash against the women’s movement and, while much of it was ideological, not surprisingly some of it was about money. When lucrative boomers became parents, the toy industry redivided playthings into separate aisles. In a round table for the 50th anniversary of Ms. magazine, also this year, Pogrebin remarked: “Now I have a stroke when I go through toy stores where still everything is pink and blue. When you order a toy online, they say, ‘Is it for a girl or a boy?’ They don’t say, ‘Is this a child who’s interested in nature or in bugs or in dinosaurs?’ They say, ‘Boy or girl?’ That was gone in the ’70s and ’80s. But that’s all slid backwards.”

Of course, when clothing, toys or books are gendered, companies selling those goods make more money. In their 2012 anthology, “When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children’s Classic and the Difference It Made,” Lori Rotskoff and Laura L. Lovett noted with dismay, “When crass commercialism shows its true colors, pink and blue don’t make purple, they make green, multiplying profits every time parents buy into the premise that girls and boys require different playthings, books, websites and computer games.”

Such stereotypes belie the lessons Mel Brooks and Marlo Thomas imparted in the beloved sketch “Boy Meets Girl,” featuring a girl baby and a boy baby, the latter of whom thinks he might be a girl because he’s afraid of mice and wants to be a cocktail waitress. Back at Main Street School in 1980, where my third-grade class performed the play version of the book, those were the most coveted roles. Everyone wanted to be one of those babies! I didn’t get the part, but I did get the message. Like other liberated kids, I accepted the reality of biological science that I was a girl — and rejected the fiction of gendered social conventions that as such, I should incline toward pink dresses and Barbies.

Now we risk losing those advances. In lieu of liberating children from gender, some educators have doubled down, offering children a smorgasbord of labels — gender identity, gender role, gender performance and gender expression — to affix to themselves from a young age. Some go so far as to suggest that not only is gender “assigned” to people at birth but that sex in humans is a spectrum (even though accepted science holds that sex in humans is fundamentally binary, with a tiny number of people having intersex traits). The effect of all this is that today we are defining people — especially children — by gender more than ever before, rather than trying to free both sexes from gender stereotypes.

Oh, for the days of “Parents Are People,” when Thomas and Harry Belafonte proposed that mommies and daddies — and by extension, women and men, regardless of whether they are parents — should no longer be held back by traditionalist expectations. That they could, as Rotskoff and Lovett put it, “transcend prevailing norms of acceptable ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ behavior.” That everyone, at base, is free to be “gender nonconforming.” (It’s worth noting that Thomas, when asked in 2015 if “Free to Be” fit in with transgender rights, said its message encompasses everyone.)

As for that land where the children run free, there is little running around now. Despite efforts at free-range parenting, kids tend to be hovered over at all times: In school by surveillance systems like GoGuardian and ClassDojo and the parent portal. In their free time, by the location devices built into their smartwatches and phones. At home, by nanny cams and smart devices. And the children probably are home, socializing on their screens rather than outside riding a bike or playing kick-the-can until someone yells “Dinner!”

We’ve found new ways to box children in.

In 2012, when I interviewed Marlo Thomas on the 40th anniversary of the “Free to Be,” she told me, “The ideas could never be outdated.” But whereas the 35th anniversary got a newly illustrated edition and the 40th anniversary was marked with an anthology of essays and stories in places like Slate and CNN, the 50th anniversary has quietly slipped by, but for a brief segment on NPR in which the host noted subsequent “huge changes when it comes to gender” and called some of the album “dated.”

Let’s not lose the positive changes. Why not open the book again, still widely available? Stream the album for your kids on Spotify. This is one case in which winding the clock back a little would actually be a real step forward.

Source: Free to Be You and Me. Or Not.

Cdn. tech sector participation and pay gaps persist and in some cases, worsen: report

Of note. More analysis on the reasons why would be helpful.:

A new report shows women, people of colour and immigrants in Canada’s tech sector saw employment and pay inequities persist — and in some cases, worsen — between 2001 and 2016.

The research from the Brookfield Institute for Innovation + Entrepreneurship at Toronto Metropolitan University was published Thursday and shows women were increasingly excluded from tech work throughout that period.

“It’s infuriating to see that we’re exactly where we started 20 years ago now,” said Viet Vu, the institute’s manager of economic research and lead author of the report called “Further and Further Away: Canada’s unrealized digital potential.”

His research showed women had a 6.29 per cent chance of being a tech worker in 2001, but by 2016, that had fallen to 4.91 per cent.

Meanwhile, men had a 20 per cent chance of being a tech worker, which remained unchanged between 2001 and 2016.

In the past 20 years, women have become even more educated, so Vu thinks it isn’t aptitude fuelling the exclusion. Instead, he puts some of the blame on workplace attitudes and phenomena that limit their participation like gender violence and sexual harassment.

His research also delved into disparities in pay. He uncovered that men made an average of $3.49 more per hour than women between 2001 and 2016. That equates to an average of $7,200 in lost income every year.

Identifying as a visible minority also lowered one’s pay by an average $3.89 per hour.

The report said an immigrant woman identifying as a visible minority and engaging in tech work without a university degree in Canada, on average, is expected to make $18.5 per hour less than a white, non-immigrant man with a university degree.

That amounts to a difference in $38,000 in annual income.

If the man in this scenario had a university degree, he would make on average $8.94 per hour more.

Researchers also observed no pay gap between immigrant and non-immigrant tech workers in 2001, but by 2016, a gap of roughly $5.70 per hour emerged.

Over the 15-year period studied, the gap amounted to roughly $4.40 per hour.

Such findings made Vu sad because they revealed “massive missed opportunities.”

“We could have invested in making tech more inclusive, we could invest in allowing more folks to get into tech work, but we see fairly little done,” he said.

He hopes the report will spark change because he sees identifying inequities as the first step in working toward parity.

He also believes the country and its next sector needs to examine why its current investments and strategies haven’t yielded results.

“Maybe we can figure out what does seem to work, how we can tweak it, how we can actually fix it… so it doesn’t stay status quo anymore.”

Source: Cdn. tech sector participation and pay gaps persist and in some cases, worsen: report

Bruce Arthur: Iran’s players were put in an impossible situation at World Cup, unlike 7 European nations in armband standoff

Good pointed commentary regarding the “snowflakes:”

Fights take courage. Before England and Iran’s second-day matchat the World Cup the talk was all about the pro-LGBTQ armbands England and six other European nations wanted to wear, and FIFA’s ruthless power play to stop them. It mattered, all that. It was telling in several ways.

On this day, though, bravery belonged to Iranians. When Iran’s anthem was played, the Iranian players stood arm in arm and did not sing. Their faces were portraits of gravity: you could watch again and again and see seriousness, determination, maybe even apprehension, weight. “The National Anthem of the Islamic Republic of Iran” was only adopted in 1989; it is not recognized by many opponents of the current regime. As it played, many of the Iranian fans in the building appeared to boo and jeer, as if to drown it out.

You could have written a novel about those faces of those men, and the silence they chose. Iran has been crushing a popular, women-led uprising for weeks now, ever since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died in police custody in September after being arrested and accused of breaking strict hijab rules. Iran’s theocratic government has unleashed a bloody campaign of repression, and it hasn’t stopped. The day before the match, Iranian captain Ehsan Hajsafi said something extraordinary.

“We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right, and our people are not happy,” Hajsafi said in a team press conference. “Whatever we have is from them. We have to fight. We have to perform and score some goals to present the brave people of Iran with a result. I hope conditions change as to the expectations of the people.”

Then Iran was crushed. Its goalkeeper was concussed in the first few minutes, and England roared to a 6-2 victory. It must have been bitter. Iran’s longtime coach, Carlos Queiroz, said his team was under enormous pressure, and he blamed the fans for being, essentially, a distraction.

“All Iranians are welcome in the stadium,” said Queiroz. “They have the right to criticize the team, but those that come to disturb the team with issues not just about football are not welcome … Everybody knows the circumstances, the environment of my players, is not ideal in terms of commitment and concentration, and they are affected by the issue. They are human beings.

“You don’t know what these kids have been living the last days, just because they want to express themselves as players. Whatever they do or say, they want to kill them. Let them represent the country and play for the people.”

But when Iran scored its first goal to make it 5-1, those Iranian fans summoned the loudest cheer in the stadium all day. They were there to support the players. Iranian players, and Queiroz, are just in a near-impossible situation. That the players didn’t sing was almost all they could do.

If that was impossible, though, the armband situation wasn’t. Seven European nations — England, Wales, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands — had pledged to have their captains wear rainbow-heart One Love armbands in support of the LGBTQ community, during a World Cup in a nation that criminalizes homosexuality. They tried to do a small moral thing, the decent thing.

FIFA crushed it. At the last moment, after discussions that had included fines to the respective soccer associations, they threatened yellow cards, which would have put the captains of all seven teams in a position where one bad decision could mean missing a World Cup match. More, the Belgian newspaper Nieuwsblad reportedthat FIFA forced Belgium to remove the word Love from its rainbow-accented away kits.

The seven nations folded, and too easily. The captains instead wore FIFA armbands that read: No Discrimination. It was terribly weak.

Everything is a choice. Homosexuality is officially criminalized in Qatar, as well as in countries throughout Africa, the Middle East — including, of course, Iran — and Southeast Asia; Russia and China harshened anti-LGBTQ laws in the last decade, and American conservatives are pushing hard in the same direction. The mass shooting at a Colorado Springs drag show on the weekend was a clear symptom of that recent push.

And despite the fact that the nations had alerted FIFA to this in September, FIFA pushed hardest at the end, and it felt very much of a piece with the defining divide at this World Cup. FIFA had already pleaded for teams to “focus on the football,” and FIFA president Gianni Infantino took an explicitly anti-Europe stance to defend Qatar’s treatment of migrant workers, and human rights policies. Infantino had said that the criticism of the World Cup and Qatar had him feeling like a marginalized group — among other things, Infantino said, “Today I feel gay.” It must have been a passing feeling.

English players did take a knee before kickoff as a general gesture of anti-discrimination, which has become relatively common in English soccer, and in the face of racism against some of the team’s players, it matters. But at a World Cup where the emir of Qatar praised diversity and one of FIFA’s official shoulder patches says Football Unites the World, it didn’t land the same. To England and those six other nations, clearly the matches mattered most.

And then the Iranians didn’t sing, despite their impossible situation, and that was courage. It’s not that this World Cup is a clash between Middle East and the West, precisely; it’s that there are constant struggles between visions regarding rights and freedoms and equality, and international sports is used as a tool in that struggle.

The Europeans did what they decided they could do, and the Iranians did what they decided they could do. You could see which one was harder, and which one cost. And you could see which one mattered more.

Source: Bruce Arthur: Iran’s players were put in an impossible situation at World Cup, unlike 7 European nations in armband standoff

DiManno: Halton school board’s failure to deal with prosthetic-breasts controversy makes a mockery of equity

Good test for reasonable accommodation. IMO, fails the test given health and safety concerns (they teach shop):

The biggest breasts on record belong to one Annie Hawkins-Turner, from Atlanta, measuring 70 inches across and weighing 65 pounds each. Size 102 ZZZ.

But an allegedly transgender Halton teacher is giving Hawkins-Turner a good run for her tatas.

Of course Hawkins-Turner’s bosom was a naturally occurring endowment. The medical condition is called gigantomastia — a rare phenomenon that causes breasts to grow excessively large. Kayla Lemieux, an industrial arts instructor who apparently began identifying as female last year, showed up at school this term with oversized knockers, prosthetics that sag below her waistline, with protruding nipples the size of your knuckles. These features have been accentuated by tight-clinging sweaters.

Students were shocked, although presumably they’ve since grown accustomed to their teacher’s dimensions. Parents, upon learning of the situation — from clandestinely recorded videos that exploded on social media in September, making headlines around the world — protested in front of Oakville Trafalgar High School and complained to the Halton District School Board. I doubt whether any, or many, would be objecting to Lemieux’s gender transition. Gender identity and gender expression are protected grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code.

That’s not the point. And frankly I don’t know the point that Lemieux seems to be making, unless this is all a bollixed misreported story driven by right wing media and reactionary organizations. If this is how she wishes to present herself to the world, so be it. Although I do wonder if such large breasts are a safety hazard whilst teaching shop.

A reasonable conclusion would be that Lemieux, for reasons known only to her, is making an exhibitionistic and provocative spectacle of herself. That too might be entirely within her rights. You might recall that women in Ontario won the right to go topless way back in 1996, a legal fight that went all the way to the Court of Appeal. The appellant, who’d been convicted by a lower court judge of committing an indecent act — she’d removed her top on a sweltering summer day — had argued against the double-standard that permitted men to go topless but not women. At rallies across the province, women came out to decry the original charge, and part of that movement was aimed at desexualizing female breasts. They’re not always, certainly not exclusively, about sexual arousal — despite what you might think, walking into any strip club.

The Halton school board was singularly incapable of resolving the controversy and, in September, passed a motion asking director of education, Curtis Ennis, about the feasibility of introducing a dress code for teachers. Education Minister Stephen Lecce also asked the Ontario College of Teachers to review professional conduct for teachers, arising from Lemieux’s pendulous udders.

Last week, after a report was presented to trustees, the board claimed it couldn’t implement a teacher dress code, although students are routinely subjected to restrictions.

I’ve read the report, signed by Ennis and Sari Taha, superintendent of human resources at the board. It makes no direct reference to a specific teacher or concern, as if the whole tizzy sprang out of nowhere. Instead, it pivots on the broader issue of a non-discriminatory dress code, its permissibility. Since the parameters of the report don’t address the elephant in the classroom, it’s impossible to speculate whether any such dress code would prohibit exceedingly humongous prostheses.

Upshot: Any dress code for teachers — which clearly was a roundabout way of getting to Lemieux’s dramatically emphasized breasts/nipples — would purportedly expose the board to “considerable liability” for violating the human rights code. Read: lawsuit. Further — and this sounds very much like gilding the liability lily — new rules can’t even be considered at this moment because of ongoing collective bargaining with teacher unions.

The Ontario Labour Relations Act imposes a “statutory freeze” during periods when there is no governing collective agreement, prohibiting employers from altering working conditions during negotiations.

Saturated in diversity and inclusion buzz phrases, the report, abysmally written — bureaucracies are averse to plain-speak — leans heavily into the province’s human rights code. Did they not take a close read of the Commission’s policies on workplace dress codes? Workers in Ontario, and everywhere else, are commonly held to dress code provisos — from restaurant employees to lawyers appearing robed in court to airline crews to health care staff wearing scrubs.

Some places — Hooter’s for instance — compel female employees to wear skimpy butt-cheek exposing outfits and hosiery. It is this kind of wardrobe to which the OHRC draws disapproving attention. “Some Ontario employers require female employees to dress in a sexualized or gender-specific way at work, such as expecting women to wear high heels, short skirts, tight clothing or low-cut tops,” the Commission states on its webpage. “These kinds of dress codes reinforce stereotypical and sexist notions about how women should look and may violate Ontario’s Human Rights Code … They contribute to an unwelcome and discriminatory employment environment for women.”

On the issue of preventing discrimination because of gender identity and gender expression, specifically addressing the trans community: “Dress code policies should be inclusive and flexible. They should not prevent trans people and others from dressing according to their expressed gender.”

Which it seems the Halton board wasn’t pursuing. Lemieux is completely free to dress in a dress, to use the personal pronoun of her choice, and to have her dignity respected.

But this situation is the inverse of what the Commission is promoting by calling out “stereotypical and sexist” dress codes or in any way interfering with trans rights to dress according to their expressed gender. What the Commission doesn’t address, far as I can tell and probably because they never saw it coming, is whether that respect should extend to in-your-face breast prostheses, which wouldn’t necessarily apply only to trans individuals.

Now, I understand the Halton board’s leeriness in taking a dress code risk that could result in a costly human rights wrangle. I’m dubious, however, that directing a teacher to knock off the buxom exhibitionism violates anybody’s human rights.

From the report: “To the extent that workplace policies mandate that employees dress in a particular manner, it is important for those policies to be gender neutral in their application, and that they impose similar dress standards and requirements for all employees, regardless of gender.”

What, pray tell, would be the cisgender, gay, lesbian or trans yin to Lemieux’s extravagant prosthesis yang?

It makes no rational sense. It is folly.

But, it does makes a mockery of equity.

Source: Halton school board’s failure to deal with prosthetic-breasts controversy makes a mockery of equity

He’s known as Chile’s greatest poet, but feminists say Pablo Neruda is canceled

Sigh… I wonder who will be cancelled 50 years from now:

There’s a steady stream of fans visiting the museum that once was the home of Pablo Neruda, widely considered Chile’s greatest poet. It’s located on massive black cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It’s also the spot where Neruda is buried.

The poet died 49 years ago, yet his reputation remains a work in progress.

Neruda has always been a polarizing figure in Chile, mainly for his left-wing politics. But now he is being called out by Chile’s growing feminist movement as a male chauvinist and sexual predator.

“He’s been canceled,” says Lieta Vivaldi, a human rights activist and member of Chile’s Feminist Lawyers Association.

The latest controversy over Neruda, who in 1971 became the second Chilean awarded the Nobel Prize for literature, sprang up in 2018 with the rise of Chile’s #MeToo movement against sexual abuse. Activists singled out some of Neruda’s verses as sexist and focused new attention on several disturbing episodes from the poet’s past.

Neruda abandoned his only child, Malva Marina, and her mother. His daughter was born with hydrocephalus — an accumulation of fluid within the brain that can lead to swelling of the head — and died at age 8.

What’s more, Neruda wrote about his rape of a cleaning woman in his hotel room in 1930, in what is now Sri Lanka.

“I decided to go all the way. I got a strong grip on her wrist. … The encounter was of a man with a statue,” Neruda wrote in his memoir, published in 1974, a year after his death from cancer. “She was right to despise me.”

Initially, his admission went almost unnoticed. But Chile’s feminist movement — newly energized by a series of sexual abuse scandals at the country’s universities and by the global #MeToo movement — has called attention to the episode, and disdain for Neruda is spreading.

Salvador Young, who buys online books for Chile’s National Digital Library, says that for the past several years, he was instructed by his supervisors not to purchase Neruda’s books. Otherwise, he says, “Readers would demand to know: ‘Why are you promoting a rapist?'”

Some Chilean universities and high schools are steering clear of Neruda. One high school teacher, who asked to remain anonymous because he was not authorized by his school to speak to NPR, says many of his female students despise Neruda. He now teaches him less than he did a few years ago.

By contrast, he says, “When I was in school, we had to learn Neruda and recite his poetry. There are verses that students of my generation still recite and analyze.”

Among them, he says, is “From the Heights of Machu Picchu,” which Neruda wrote following an inspirational trip to the ancient Incan mountaintop site. The poem has been put to music by the Chilean group Los Jaivas.

Rejection of the poet by feminists is so strong that in 2018, Chile’s Congress scrapped a proposal to rename the country’s main international airport after Neruda. Meanwhile, anti-Neruda slogans were spray-painted on several walls during #MeToo marches in Santiago, Chile’s capital.

It’s easy to misread Neruda’s works, warns Kemy Oyarzun, a poet and professor of gender studies at the University of Chile. Yet even she is less enthusiastic about Neruda these days.

Kemy Oyarzun, a poet and professor of gender studies at the University of Chile, says this was a response to one of Neruda most famous verses, an ode to silence called “Poem XV.”

It begins: “I like for you to be still: it is as though you were absent.”

Oyarzun says some feminists interpreted this as Neruda telling his lover in the poem to keep her mouth shut. They responded with graffiti proclaiming, “Neruda, now you shut up!”

At a #MeToo demonstration in Santiago in August, high school student Laura Brodsky, 18, said her instructors are not teaching Neruda. Referring to the rape confession in his memoir, Brodsky emphasized that she and her fellow students “have no interest in learning about him.”

All this is a startling reversal for one of the world’s most famous, prolific and bestselling poets, who has often been compared to Walt Whitman. Neruda’s masterwork, Canto General (General Song), is an epic history of Latin America, recounted by way of 231 poems.

In a country where poetry had long been composed by and for the well-to-do, Neruda was known as the poet of the people, often writing about the working class and Indigenous groups, as well as Chile’s natural wonders.

In addition, Neruda won praise around the world for his humanitarian work in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. In 1939, following his diplomatic service as consul, he helped bring more than 2,000 Spaniards — who were fleeing Gen. Francisco Franco’s newly installed military regime — to Chile.

“Many working people and progressive activists — not just in Chile, not just in Latin America, but all over the world — adopted him as their hero, proclaimed him as their own,” wrote Mark Eisner, author of Neruda: The biography of a poet.

Still, Neruda has fallen from grace before.

In 1947, Chile’s government outlawed the Communist Party — of which Neruda was a member — and accused him of treason. To avoid arrest, he went underground; then, in 1949, he escaped by horseback across the snow-capped Andes Mountains to Argentina.

Neruda eventually returned. But in 1973, Gen. Augusto Pinochet seized power and his right-wing military regime burned Neruda’s books while promoting poet Gabriela Mistral, another Nobel Prize winner, who was viewed at the time as apolitical.

As during those past anti-Neruda crusades, many writers and academics say the current campaign has gone too far.

Fernando Saez, executive director of the Pablo Neruda Foundation that oversees the late poet’s estate, points out that many writers, painters and musicians have had stormy personal lives, and says reproachable behavior should not negate their artistic contributions.

Doing so, he says “is tremendously dangerous.”

Author Isabel Allende has also defended Neruda’s literary legacy. “Like many young feminists in Chile I am disgusted by some aspects of Neruda’s life and personality,” she told the Guardian in 2018. “Unfortunately, Neruda was a flawed person, as we all are in one way or another, and Canto General is still a masterpiece.”

Neruda “is a very, very important poet and you cannot just cancel him because of his personal life,” Vivaldi says. “In that case, we would be judging everyone.”

It’s also easy to misread Neruda, says Oyarzun. Take “Poem XV,” the one some interpret as a plea for his lover to shut up.

“That’s not what he meant,” Oyarzun says. “He meant to learn from women. He says: ‘I love it when you’re in silence because silence is my favorite dimension and I learn from your silence.'”

Yet even Oyarzun is less enthusiastic about Neruda these days. She says so much fuss over Neruda for so long has ended up overshadowing the work of female poets in Chile, where many of them remain largely unknown.

“I myself have chosen to teach young women’s poetry that was denied for so many decades,” she says. “So if you tell me — ‘Will you teach a course only on Neruda?” — I will not do that.”

At the Neruda museum on Isla Negra, many fans brush off criticism about the poet. Among them is Santiago storekeeper Jorge Díaz, who says many Chilean men of Neruda’s generation behaved the same way.

“Neruda had a dark side,” he says. “But everyone has a dark side.”

Lederman: Stop telling women what to wear – in Iran, but also here at home

Of note. More nuance needed, with the question being more what are reasonable dress codes for professional vs personal situations, recognizing that these evolve over time. But would Lederman be comfortable if Ginella Massa, for example, would want to wear a niqab rather than a hijab on CBC? And what about the recent transgender case of a teacher wearing large prosthetic breasts?

Agree with the principle but its application is

The hijab protests in Iran are among the most courageous movements we have seen in contemporary times.

On Sept. 16, 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was arrested in Tehran for not wearing her head scarf properly, as determined by so-called morality police – men, of course. She died in custody. Now, women and men are – without hyperbole – risking their lives by standing up against a tyrannical regime that forces women to cover up.

But the uprisings have illuminated something else: the comfort level of the public (high, revolting) with telling women how to dress – and not just in Iran, or other countries with similar laws regarding female dress.

Last week, on the CBS show 60 Minutes, veteran journalist Lesley Stahl wore a head scarf, loosely, for an in-person interview with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran. Ms. Stahl does not normally wear a head scarf, but did so in order to secure the interview. “I was told how to dress,” Ms. Stahl said in her report.

This sparked some outrage on social media. Nina Ansari, an Iranian-American author, historian and human-rights activist, noted on Twitter that not long after Ms. Amini’s death, Ms. Stahl wore “the veil in deference to oppressive laws of a misogynistic regime.”

The regime is misogynistic and oppressive. But Ms. Stahl was doing her job: to expose that – and to underscore the need to keep close watch on Iran, its domestic human-rights abuses and its nuclear aspirations, which potentially know no borders. She managed to do so, in an important interview. If the cost of doing it was wearing the head scarf, well, that was Ms. Stahl’s decision to make.

Later that week, CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour was also set to interview Mr. Raisi, this time in New York. Through an aide the President suggested, 40 minutes after the interview’s scheduled start time, that she should wear a head scarf. She refused, and Mr. Raisi cancelled.

Good on her. Her head, her choice. But good on Ms. Stahl, too. Her head, her choice.

In Canada, too, we’ve been volunteering our own opinions around the hijab, to the point that CBC broadcaster Ginella Massa, who chooses to wear it, felt it necessary to explain herself on Twitter.

“I usually try to let my work speak for itself but apparently this needs to be said explicitly,” Ms. Massa wrote, noting she has interviewed women fighting for their right to remove their hijab in Iran, as well as women fighting to wear theirs in Quebec, where Bill 21 bars some public servants from wearing religious symbols. “What they are both demanding is autonomy and personal choice, and my job is to offer them a platform to speak their truth. I can be in solidarity with a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body, without changing what I have personally chosen to do with mine.”

Ms. Massa owes us no explanation. How she chooses to present herself in no way affects her abilities at work, and it is none of our business. Yet somehow, people feel it is their right to weigh in.

Whether Lisa LaFlamme’s grey hair directly contributed to her ouster at CTV News remains unclear, but what is certain is how comfortable management (and the public) felt in making it an issue. Just ask any woman who has worked in TV news about the hair comments to which they are subjected – Black women, in particular.

This isn’t confined to TV, and it doesn’t start in adulthood. There are schools that still enforce strict dress codes aimed at girls: skirts must be a certain length, bra straps can’t be showing, no bare midriffs et cetera. In one case earlier this year, a North Carolina charter school was found to have violated the rights of female students by forcing them to wear skirts. The parent/student handbook says the dress code is meant to “instill discipline and keep order so that student learning is not impeded.”

Dictating how women should dress is an indicator of a society that feels comfortable dictating how women should live, and what they can do with their bodies. This regressive thinking can only lead to regressive law – the revoking of abortion rights in the U.S., for instance.

If Ms. Massa or a teacher in Quebec wants to wear a hijab at work, if Ms. LaFlamme wants to go grey, if a Grade 11 student wants to wear a crop top – it is not our concern. It does not affect the lessons, the news, the world. But telling students, teachers, broadcasters – women, anyone – how to dress does. It colours the world.

I can understand why the hijab might incense someone such as Dr. Ansari – a strong advocate who is fighting not simply against mandatory veiling but for the liberation of the country.

But let’s remember who the real villain is here.

Godspeed to the courageous women in Iran burning their head scarves. As the protesters have chanted on the streets: women, life, freedom.

Source: Stop telling women what to wear – in Iran, but also here at home