Courtney at Feministing passes on news of a breakthrough in Venice:
Twenty-three year old Giorgia Boscolo just became the first female gondolier after nine centuries of exclusively male rowing in the canal in Venice. Boscolo had to pass a grueling six-month, 400 hour course, but told reporters that she had no fear that she couldn’t handle the physicality of the job: “Childbirth is much more difficult.” Boscolo is the mother of two.
Nine centuries of sexism don’t surprise me. What shocks me is that a gondolier would need 400 hours of training to row people up and down canals in a little boat. Was this something that was imposed only on Boscolo because of her gender? Or are all gondoliers just…really, really good at rowing gondolas?
(Just guessing here, but I also imagine that this kind of rigorous regimen is a way of keeping the cadre of gondoliers insulated. If it’s something that most people — even women! — can do, then that seems all the more reason for current members of the club to make ridiculous requirements for entry.)
(image from flickr user blacque_jacques under a Creative Commons license)
I agree with Ann Friedman’s point here…
As Dana points out, the engagement ring doesn’t quite mean what it used to — a downpayment on a woman’s virginity. But I would argue that in many cases, an expensive diamond ring does still function as a signal to other men that a woman is “taken” by someone who has paid a lot of money to tell the world that she’s his. The bigger the rock, the stronger the “off limits” signal.
…but I think that the phenomenon of buying as big a diamond as you can also has something to do with the ethic of competitive consumerism. It’s not just a relic of a sexist practice; it still is one, as any notion of buying a ring for a woman to “claim” her for marriage would be. But I think it’s also tied up in a dynamic of purchasing the gaudiest, most expensive thing you can to somehow show your “love.” Think buying a Lexus for Christmas — but with creepier, patriarchical overtones.
(image from Tambako the Jaguar under a Creative Commons license)
James Joyner responds to Spencer and Matt‘s critique of this cover of The National Interest — depicting Hillary Clinton, Janet Napolitano, and Susan Rice in the manner of those “sexy crimefighters,” Charlie’s Angels — and, in the process, shows how easy it is to dismiss feminism out of hand.
Interestingly, TNI is edited by Justine Rosenthal, who is both decidedly female and taken quite seriously. For example, she garners A Sit-Down with Brent Scowcroft, chairman of the Atlantic Council’s International Advisory Board, for the current issue.
See, look, it’s edited by a woman! So feminist critiques are out-of-bounds. And not just any woman — a serious woman. She was even able to nag an interview with a real (male) political figure. Good for her!
And just in case missing the point that TNI is, with a single (silhouetted) image, reducing the tremendous career accomplishments of these women down to the attractiveness of the “Angels” was not enough, Joyner digs an even deeper hole:
In an OTB exclusive, I would add my conjecture that few women are offended at being compared to Farrah Fawcett, Jacklyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd, Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu, or Cameron Diaz.
And I don’t think he’s referring to Barrymore’s role as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN World Food Program. Who’d be flattered by that, anyway?
(image from flickr user scherre under a Creative Commons license)
In an otherwise mostly reasonable essay, Michael Crowley makes the rather repugnant insinuation that those who argue in favor of the war in Afghanistan from the standpoint of defending women’s rights against the horrific abuses of the Taliban just don’t understand the man’s world of realpolitik.
Shortly after the fall of the Taliban, in November 2001, Hillary Clinton, soon to be Obama’s woman at Foggy Bottom and a key voice in the Afghanistan debate, penned a Time essay arguing against the notion that imposing Western values there amounted to “cultural imperialism.” “Women’s rights are human rights,” Clinton wrote. “They are not simply American, or western customs.”
Stirring words, to be sure. But the day may come when cutting deals in Afghanistan means consigning some women, if not to the brutal life of the high Taliban era, to strict Islamic rules sure to offend the likes of Hillary Clinton. It may well be, in other words, that America’s moral and strategic interests are beginning to diverge in Afghanistan in a way that supporters of the “good war” may not yet appreciate. [emphasis mine]
What makes Crowley’s dismissal of “the likes of Hillary Clinton” so disturbing is that he cites, in the same article, the disgusting incident of two Taliban supporters spraying acid in three teenage girls faces as simply a harbinger of what other rank transgressions might ensue under the Taliban. To make a grudging calculation that, once all factors are considered, a compromise with the Taliban is advisable, even if it may to some extent curtail Afghani women’s difficultly reclaimed rights, is one thing. To minimize the legitimacy of defending women’s rights qua rationale for war as mere “stirring words,” and to imply, essentially, that feminist activists like Clinton may just not “get it,” is quite another.
(image of Afghani women from flickr user Feinstein International Center under a Creative Commons license)