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

$350 million for WeWork co-founder shows how broken and biased venture capital is

Of interest (for the WeWork story, watch the AppleTV series, WeCrashed):

A reported $350 million investment into a new, yet-to-be-launched real estate venture founded by a controversial businessman has drawn criticism from women entrepreneurs.

The investment, which was made and publicly shared by venture capital powerhouse Andreessen Horowitz, is in Flow, the new company of WeWork co-founder Adam Neumann.

Given Neumann’s questionable business dealings and his abrupt exit from WeWork amid a fraught initial public offering in 2019, this new investment typifies the immense gap that exists in comparison with how much money venture-funded companies founded solely by women garner, experts say.

The investment is a prime example of how venture capital (VC) ecosystems “have always been inequitable,” Rebekah Bastian, the CEO and co-founder of OwnTrail, a startup that helps people achieve their next personal and professional milestones, told NPR.

“When 16% of investment partners at VC firms are women, 3% are Black and 4% are Latinx, it’s not shocking that women founders have received 1.9% of venture dollars so far in 2022,” Bastian told NPR over email. “Black-founded startups in the U.S. raised less in Q2 2022 in aggregate ($324 million) than Adam Neumann received in a single check from Andreessen Horowitz.”

Andreessen Horowitz did not respond to requests for comment.

Why the venture funding for Neumann received such a visceral response

To understand why Neumann, Flow and the millions of dollars raised caused a groundswell of condemnation among women, one place to start is Aug. 14, 2019.

That’s the day WeWork first released its paperwork to go public and revealed to the world how Neumann had siphoned hundreds of millions of dollars for himself, restructured the company to provide himself a tax break and rented his own properties to WeWork.

A month later, The Wall Street Journal reported on Neumann’s partying and “unusual exuberance and excess.” One of the more puzzling aspects of Neumann’s tenure was how an entity he controlled “sold the rights to the word ‘We’ to the company for almost $6 million—before public pressure led him to unwind the deal,” the Journal reported.

Neumann stepped down as WeWork’s CEO on Sept. 24, 2019, not long after the company’s valuation, once estimated at $47 billion, dropped precipitously.

To see Neumann raise hundreds of millions of dollars roughly three years after his exit from WeWork is a sign of how “there will be Adam Neumanns but there won’t be Abagail Neumanns,” said Katica Roy, a gender economist and the CEO and founder of Pipeline, an award-winning startup that uses artificial intelligence and cloud computing to close the gender equity gap in the workplace. Roy is also the daughter of a refugee who was brought to the U.S. on Air Force One after being granted passage by President Dwight Eisenhower.

“The Flow funding illustrates perhaps the most high-profile example of ‘prove it again’ bias, or the fact that women have to work harder than men to substantiate their competence,” Roy told NPR over email. “These biases lead to smaller and fewer checks for women entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs of color.”

Neumann and Flow also reveal a double standard that exists around second chances in business, said Amy Nelson, co-CEO of The Riveter, which has built a collective of work and event spaces for working women across the United States.

“I think the outrage is about the fact that a lot of Black and brown founders, a lot of women, don’t even get the chance to fail. You can’t show the world a comeback if you can’t even get into the arena,” Nelson told NPR.

How bias is woven into the world of venture capital

Despite a banner year that brought in a record $330 billion of venture capital funding in the U.S., only 2% of funds in 2021 went to women-founded teams, Roy said.

Part of this disparity stems from how investors question founders who are women in comparison with those who are men.

A 2018 journal article, “We Ask Men to Win and Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding,” revealed how women receive more prevention questions from potential investors. Prevention questions focus on safety, responsibility, security and vigilance; for example, “How predictable are your future cash flows?”

Meanwhile, men receive more promotion questions from potential investors, according to the article, published in Academy of Management Journal. Promotion questions focus on hopes, achievements, advancement and ideals; for example, “What major milestones are you targeting this year?”

“These biases also reflect the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the U.S. Fully 65% of VC firms have zero women partners or GPs [general partners], and women represent only 4.9% of all VC partners in the U.S.,” Nelson added. “We call ourselves the land of opportunity. However, as we see time and time again, opportunity is not equitably distributed.”

These issues are among the many that explain why entrepreneurs like Jaclyn Fu did not seek out venture funding when starting their companies.

Fu and her co-founder, also a woman of color, launched a 470% successfully funded Kickstarter campaign that helped get their business, Pepper, a direct-to-consumer bra brand for small-chested women, off the ground.

The venture capital that Neumann raised is just another sign that the industry hasn’t progressed, Fu told NPR.

“I was furious that time and time again, VCs invested in the same pattern that rewards toxic, growth-at-all-cost behavior and ineffective stewardship of capital,” Fu said. “It’s wild that safe bets for VCs look more like Neumann with fanciful ‘vision’ versus founders who can actually prove product-market fit and real customer opportunity.”

Change is slow but coming to the venture capital industry

Andreessen Horowitz and its co-founder Marc Andreessen do not care what the world thinks when it comes to their investments, Nelson said.

“No white man has to care,” Nelson added. “White men account for almost all of venture capital investors and almost all of venture-backed founders, and I’m convinced that their money flows in a circle.”

That circle must be broken, said Lizelle van Vuuren, a U.S.-based South African who is co-founder of Undock and founder of Women Who Startup, a learning community for women entrepreneurs. Van Vuuren is also the chief growth officer at OwnTrail.

Van Vuuren was among the first of many women to respond to Neumann’s VC raise on Twitter. When it comes to the world of venture capital, women not only have “to change the game, the rules and the playing field, we have to do it with a smile,” she tweeted.

“I think more women are going to win. I think more Black and brown, Asian, immigrants and disabled founders are going to continue to win, because we’re not going to shut up,” van Vuuren told NPR. “Every generation has yearning for improvement. That is the beauty of human evolution. We will always, hopefully, be focused on improving the way we found things, especially younger generations. So whether Adam continues to make headlines or whatnot is irrelevant to someone right now, at her desk, trying to build a startup with four team members with about $400,000 in the bank. They’re gonna be out of money in several months. And she has to figure out how to raise money. She’s focused on that.”

Source: $350 million for WeWork co-founder shows how broken and biased venture capital is

Paul: The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don’t Count

A plague on both their houses:

Perhaps it makes sense that women — those supposedly compliant and agreeable, self-sacrificing and everything-nice creatures — were the ones to finally bring our polarized country together.

Because the far right and the far left have found the one thing they can agree on: Women don’t count.

The right’s position here is the better known, the movement having aggressively dedicated itself to stripping women of fundamental rights for decades. Thanks in part to two Supreme Court justices who have been credibly accused of abusive behavior toward women, Roe v. Wade, nearly 50 years a target, has been ruthlessly overturned.

Far more bewildering has been the fringe left jumping in with its own perhaps unintentionally but effectively misogynist agenda. There was a time when campus groups and activist organizations advocated strenuously on behalf of women. Women’s rights were human rights and something to fight for. Though the Equal Rights Amendment was never ratified, legal scholars and advocacy groups spent years working to otherwise establish women as a protected class.

But today, a number of academics, uber-progressives, transgender activists, civil liberties organizations and medical organizations are working toward an opposite end: to deny women their humanity, reducing them to a mix of body parts and gender stereotypes.

As reported by my colleague Michael Powell, even the word “women” has become verboten. Previously a commonly understood term for half the world’s population, the word had a specific meaning tied to genetics, biology, history, politics and culture. No longer. In its place are unwieldy terms like “pregnant people,” “menstruators” and “bodies with vaginas.”

Planned Parenthood, once a stalwart defender of women’s rights, omits the word “women” from its home page. NARAL Pro-Choice America has used “birthing people” in lieu of “women.” The American Civil Liberties Union, a longtime defender of women’s rights, last month tweeted its outrage over the possible overturning of Roe v. Wade as a threat to several groups: “Black, Indigenous and other people of color, the L.G.B.T.Q. community, immigrants, young people.”

It left out those threatened most of all: women. Talk about a bitter way to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX.

The noble intent behind omitting the word “women” is to make room for the relatively tiny number of transgender men and people identifying as nonbinary who retain aspects of female biological function and can conceive, give birth or breastfeed. But despite a spirit of inclusion, the result has been to shove women to the side.

Women, of course, have been accommodating. They’ve welcomed transgender women into their organizations. They’ve learned that to propose any space just for biological women in situations where the presence of males can be threatening or unfair — rape crisis centers, domestic abuse shelters, competitive sports — is currently viewed by some as exclusionary. If there are other marginalized people to fight for, it’s assumed women will be the ones to serve other people’s agendas rather than promote their own.

But, but, but. Can you blame the sisterhood for feeling a little nervous? For wincing at the presumption of acquiescence? For worrying about the broader implications? For wondering what kind of message we are sending to young girls about feeling good in their bodies, pride in their sex and the prospects of womanhood? For essentially ceding to another backlash?

Women didn’t fight this long and this hard only to be told we couldn’t call ourselves women anymore. This isn’t just a semantic issue; it’s also a question of moral harm, an affront to our very sense of ourselves.

It wasn’t so long ago — and in some places the belief persists — that women were considered a mere rib to Adam’s whole. Seeing women as their own complete entities, not just a collection of derivative parts, was an important part of the struggle for sexual equality.

But here we go again, parsing women into organs. Last year the British medical journal The Lancet patted itself on the back for a cover article on menstruation. Yet instead of mentioning the human beings who get to enjoy this monthly biological activity, the cover referred to “bodies with vaginas.” It’s almost as if the other bits and bobs — uteruses, ovaries or even something relatively gender-neutral like brains — were inconsequential. That such things tend to be wrapped together in a human package with two X sex chromosomes is apparently unmentionable.

“What are we, chopped liver?” a woman might be tempted to joke, but in this organ-centric and largely humorless atmosphere, perhaps she would be wiser not to.

Those women who do publicly express mixed emotions or opposing views are often brutally denounced for asserting themselves. (Google the word “transgender” combined with the name Martina Navratilova, J.K. Rowling or Kathleen Stock to get a withering sense.) They risk their jobs and their personal safety. They are maligned as somehow transphobic or labeled TERFs, a pejorative that may be unfamiliar to those who don’t step onto this particular Twitter battlefield. Ostensibly shorthand for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” which originally referred to a subgroup of the British feminist movement, “TERF” has come to denote any woman, feminist or not, who persists in believing that while transgender women should be free to live their lives with dignity and respect, they are not identical to those who were born female and who have lived their entire lives as such, with all the biological trappings, societal and cultural expectations, economic realities and safety issues that involves.

But in a world of chosen gender identities, women as a biological category don’t exist. Some might even call this kind of thing erasure.

When not defining women by body parts, misogynists on both ideological poles seem determined to reduce women to rigid gender stereotypes. The formula on the right we know well: Women are maternal and domestic — the feelers and the givers and the “Don’t mind mes.” The unanticipated newcomers to such retrograde typecasting are the supposed progressives on the fringe left. In accordance with a newly embraced gender theory, they now propose that girls — gay or straight — who do not self-identify as feminine are somehow not fully girls. Gender identity workbooks created by transgender advocacy groups for use in schools offer children helpful diagrams suggesting that certain styles or behaviors are “masculine” and others “feminine.”

Didn’t we ditch those straitened categories in the ’70s?

The women’s movement and the gay rights movement, after all, tried to free the sexes from the construct of gender, with its antiquated notions of masculinity and femininity, to accept all women for who they are, whether tomboy, girly girl or butch dyke. To undo all this is to lose hard-won ground for women — and for men, too.

Those on the right who are threatened by women’s equality have always fought fiercely to put women back in their place. What has been disheartening is that some on the fringe left have been equally dismissive, resorting to bullying, threats of violence, public shaming and other scare tactics when women try to reassert that right. The effect is to curtail discussion of women’s issues in the public sphere.

But women are not the enemy here. Consider that in the real world, most violence against trans men and women is committed by men but, in the online world and in the academy, most of the ire at those who balk at this new gender ideology seems to be directed at women.

It’s heartbreaking. And it’s counterproductive.

Tolerance for one group need not mean intolerance for another. We can respect transgender women without castigating females who point out that biological women still constitute a category of their own — with their own specific needs and prerogatives.

If only women’s voices were routinely welcomed and respected on these issues. But whether Trumpist or traditionalist, fringe left activist or academic ideologue, misogynists from both extremes of the political spectrum relish equally the power to shut women up.

Source: The Far Right and Far Left Agree on One Thing: Women Don’t Count

Tolley: Women and racialized political candidates are being set up to fail

I’m less pessimistic than Tolley given overall progress election to election, albeit slower than desired. And gender equity may be more of a factor in winnable ridings as visible minority and Indigenous candidates are largely, but not universally, as a function of riding demographics:

Recent elections have resulted in more women, racialized and Indigenous people holding political office in Canada. That’s good news, but we’ve got a long way to go. Elected institutions still do not reflect the demographics of the populations they claim to represent. These representational gaps are a clear indicator of democratic inequality.

It’s not that there is a shortage of qualified candidates from diverse backgrounds. It’s that the major parties still tend to privilege candidates who are white, male and middle-aged. Parties have many of the tools they need to address electoral under-representation, but rather than being a gateway into politics, parties are frequently the gatekeepers. It’s time this changed.

Political parties are the central pressure point in any effort to address electoral under-representation. The problem isn’t really voter bias: Canadians tend to base their voting on party and leader preference, and this inclinationtends to override all but the strongest prejudices against local candidates. There also isn’t a shortage of qualified candidates, but parties frequently underestimate the electoral potential of those who don’t fit the mould.

If all parties nominated a more diverse slate of candidates in winnable districts, elected institutions would be more representative.

In the lead-up to Ontario’s most recent election, commentators pointed to the high number of women and racialized candidates, including many with immigrant and minority backgrounds. But when the votes were counted, the legislature’s gender composition remained stalled at just 39-per-cent women.

What happened?

We need to look beyond aggregate candidate “diversity” numbers. It’s not just who gets nominated, but also where they run. Realizing it is electorally advantageous, some parties have attempted to recruit more women and racialized candidates, but women especially continue to be disproportionately nominated in ridings the party has no hope of winning. This isn’t inclusion.

And although there has been some progress in the right direction, it’s not enough – and it hasn’t been across all parties at all levels of government.

For example, prior to the Ontario election, the Liberals set aside 22 ridings and designated them women-only nomination contests. In the end, the party’s dismal electoral fortunes meant they only eked out a victory in one of those designated ridings, but polling indicates this was more a rejection of the party and its leader than the individual candidates.

If all parties committed to nominating more women in winnable ridings, the demographics of our elected institutions would shift.

International evidence confirms the key role that parties can play.

In 2005, Britain’s Labour Party introduced legislation that permits parties to use all-women short lists to achieve gender equality in Parliament. In the 2019 election, 51 per cent of the party’s elected MPs were women. There is noevidence voters punished Labour for using a positive discrimination measure, and the selected women were every bit as qualified as other candidates, often even more so.

There is a straight line between more equitable nomination practices and increased gender representation. Political parties that are serious about democratic equality should take note.

But parties need to think about diversity beyond gender.

In Canada, the primary beneficiaries of most diversification efforts are white women. Federally, my own research shows that racialized candidates come forward for party nomination in numbers that exceed their share of the population, but parties still show a preference for white candidates, even in some of the country’s most diverse ridings. And even when they nominate more diverse slates, parties nonetheless funnel more money to prototypical white, male candidates.

Without financial and organizational support, candidates are being set up to fail.

Politics is increasingly seen as inhospitable. Electoral engagement is at an all-time low. If parties wait to see which candidates knock on their door and want to run, chances are it will be one of the usual suspects. The time to think about candidate recruitment and organizing is now – not just at election time or the few frantic months that precede it.

Enough hand-wringing. Parties need to recognize their role and commit to action. To open the gates, they must pro-actively identify, recruit and support a more representative slate of candidates with money and organizational capacity in ridings where they can actually win.

Source: Women and racialized political candidates are being set up to fail

Cohen: U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling throws away a half-century of law

Good column:

Well, why should we be surprised? Who on God’s green earth did not expect — given the ideology and origins of the majority of justices on the United States Supreme Court — that it would, at its first opportunity, vote to end a woman’s right to abortion? Do you think this just fell from the sky?

It didn’t. The decision — a draft of which was leaked Monday, confirmed Tuesday and will be issued in June, perhaps in different words with the same effect — has been a generation in the making. It is a triumph of the conservative movement that never supported Roe v. Wade, the judgement that established a woman’s right to abortion in 1973, and has denied it ever since.

One by one, judge by judge, social conservatives put in place the majority that will, this time, reverse the decision. First came Justice Clarence Thomas, appointed by George H. W. Bush; Samuel Alito, appointed by George W. Bush; then Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by Donald Trump.

Conservatives cheered their nominations, if not proposed them, knowing that one day they would get their wish. They were aided by Republicans in the Senate happy to deny a Democratic president (Barack Obama) his opportunity to fill a vacancy, and later to jam through another nomination (Barrett) days before a general election that ousted a Republican (Trump).

Of course, when asked about abortion, those nominees said they would not touch precedent. They persuaded moderate Republican senators who supported abortion that it was safe to put them on the bench.

The most gullible was Susan Collins of Maine, who was under pressure in 2018 to oppose Kavanaugh. She voted for him. She believed that Kavanaugh would not overturn the abortion ruling because, after all, he’d told her “many times” the decision was settled law. She said the same about Neil Gorsuch.

We don’t know with certainty whether Gorsuch and Kavanaugh will rescind the right, but we certainly assume they will vote with their conservative colleagues.

Poor Collins, as naïve as her critics said, who got up on her low horse Tuesday and said, gee, if the draft ruling stands, it would “be completely inconsistent” with what they told her personally in her office and in the hearings.

Well, yes, it would be, but it would reflect their judicial philosophy, which is the reason they were appointed by Trump, applauded lustily by the Federalist Society and opposed mightily by Democrats and pro-choice women’s groups. All knew what Collins did not.

Now we know the old rules no longer apply. A high court of the United States no longer seeks consensus, or honours precedent or a half-century of law. It ends a constitutional right with a leak — and a shrug.

A president rejects the results of a democratic election and foments an insurrection and walks away unpunished. He is twice impeached and twice acquitted. Senate Republicans eviscerate a black jurist of impeccable credentials, turning her nomination for the Supreme Court into a circus. Their unhinged cousins in the House of Representatives attack America’s support for Ukraine.

All this is tolerated. All is normal. Meanwhile, Republicans in the states put in place the people and rules to overturn the vote in 2024, beginning with the mid-term elections in 2022. Trump awaits, America’s strong man, vowing to make Joe Biden’s presidency an interregnum. (His man, author J.D. Vance, who wants to fire federal bureaucrats and replace them with Trump acolytes, won the GOP nomination Tuesday and is likely to be the new senator from Ohio.)

It may be that ending abortion will send angry women into the streets. It may be that this is the moment a somnolent people sees the threat from a reactionary court, which may now undo contraception and same-sex rights. When Americans understand minority rule is creating an autocracy. It can happen here.

Maybe. If so, and there really is a struggle of values between red and blue states, then the end of legal abortion this spring will be seen as the Fort Sumter of America’s new civil war.

Source: Cohen: U.S. Supreme Court abortion ruling throws away a half-century of law