Apr 17 2014

Book Review: Gender and Global Justice by Alison M. Jaggar

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Alison Jaggar aims to bring gender to the centre of philosophical debates about global justice with this recent collection of essays. Chapters cover geographies of gender and migration, taxation and global justice, and sexual violence in an international context, amongst other issues central to our understanding of what justice means today. Although Gender and Global Justice is not altogether timely, the book still forms a compelling resource for those interested in global issues, in social and political philosophy, and in feminist theory, given the breadth of conceptual work it contains, writes Clara Fischer.

Gender and Global Justice. Alison M. Jaggar (ed.). Polity Press. December 2013.

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Being perhaps best known for her classic 1983 text, Feminist Politics and Human NatureAlison Jaggar has, over the decades, consolidated her position as one of the most preeminent philosophers working in social, moral, and political thought in a feminist vein. Her latest edited volume,Gender and Global Justice, continues this project of critical feminist theorising by reinscribing gender in philosophical discourses on justice in the wider context of phenomena and events that transcend national borders.

For Jaggar, a too-narrow focus on topics deemed to be of particular interest to women, such as “female seclusion” or “genital cutting”, masks the fact that “all of the issues addressed by global justice theorists have gendered dimensions.” Accordingly, “philosophical work in global gender justice addresses the gendered dimension of war, human rights, global governance, political freedom, nationalism, migration, indebtedness, poverty, climate change and more” (p. 9). Gender and Global Justice reflects this all-encompassing approach to philosophical work on global justice, and cogently makes the case for a gendered reading of issues as diverse as migrant care work, reform of global taxation arrangements, poverty, sexual violence, and transnational collectivities.

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Apr 5 2014

UK 2014-15 Budget: Where does the social security spending cap leave disabled women and their carers?

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Dinara Zapparova Author bio

Dinara recently completed her MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation at the LSE Gender Institute, and will shortly be commencing an accounting training scheme.

On 19th March 2014, George Osborne, the UK Chancellor of the  Exchequer delivered the annual speech to Parliament outlining spending and taxation plans. A limit was imposed on UK annual social security spending. This limit is set at £119 billion for year 2014-15. The limit was announced in relation to managing ‘out of control’ welfare spending, reigning in alleged ‘incentives’ which ‘pay not to work’ and resisting temptation to ‘squander the gains’ of continued economic growth. The limit excludes spending on Jobseekers Allowance and State Pensions, which in 2012/13 amounted to £5.1 billion and £79.9 billion respectively (Outturn and forecast: Budget 2013 xls). Out of 26 benefits within the scope of the limit, over a third are directly related to disabled people and their carers. The cap for example includes ‘Attendance Allowance’, an allowance paid for personal care to those with physical or mental disabilities over the age of 65. Also included is ‘Carers’ Allowance’, which pays £59.75 a week to those who spend more than 35 hours per week caring for someone with a disability (unless the carer is studying for 21+hours a week or earning more than £100/week).

Putting this cap into practice will mean cuts to the income and wellbeing of all disabled people and their carers. Yet women are more likely to bear the brunt of disability-related funding cuts for two main reasons:

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Apr 3 2014

How does freedom dress?

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Cloth - still from videoCloth is a video art piece intended to contribute to an inter/intracultural conversation about women, identity, oppression, agency and freedom, as well as common (mis)representations thereof. The directors and performing artists, Samira Mahboub and Ania Catherine, both current postgraduate students at the LSE Gender Institute, envisioned film as a medium through which they could carry academic discourse to a wider audience via performance art – cloth is the result. As gender scholars with diverse backgrounds –  Samira is a Muslim of  German and Moroccan heritage, and Ania is a non-religious Hispanic American –  they are interested in channeling their performance experience into projects that not only stimulate critical reflection, but also encompass a meaningful combination of art, academia, and politics.

Cloth plays on stereotypes of the veiled Muslim woman as the ‘oppressed‘ Other in binary opposition to the ‘liberated’ Western women. In doing so, it takes up academic scholarship that challenges the homogeneous (and negative) portrayal of veiled women, and the assumed mutual exclusivity of veiling and empowerment.

Veiling – —to Western eyes, the most visible marker of the differentness and inferiority of Islamic societies— – became the symbol now of both the oppression of women (…) and the backwardness of Islam (Ahmed 1992)

Cloth playfully translates such critiques into a medium that invites a wider public into the conversation. In exploring how freedom dresses, all too easy assumptions around oppression and empowerment are complicated.



Directors: Ania Catherine and Samira Mahboub
Director of Photography: Jacqui J Sze
Editor: Jacqui J Sze
Performance Artists: Ania Catherine and Samira Mahboub
Production & Set Assistant: Eman al-Maadeed
Music: “Easy Muffin” by Amon Tobin

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Mar 27 2014

Only Deeds: Twenty Years Later and Still Not Recognizing What It’s Like to Be a Woman in Philosophy

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Dana Rognlie author pic

Dana Rognlie is a doctorate student at the University of Oregon completing her dissertation on the virtue of courage and domestic violence.

[trigger warning]

Suppose I decide to rape Catharine MacKinnon before
reviewing her book.

(Carlin Romano, 1993,  The Nation)

Suppose I decide to skip Carlin Romano’s latest pontification before blogging about him. Because I’m uncertain he understands the difference between being a feminist and being a ‘feminist’. Perhaps the better question is, suppose the discipline of philosophy valued the existence and freedom of women in philosophy and in society more broadly over abstract claims of freedom of expression made by privileged men? Despite attending more to style than to content, touting clarity while remaining incoherent, and responding to criticism with name-dropping and non sequiturs, Romano is what passes in America (the philosophical!) for a public intellectual. Perhaps I owe it to him, to philosophy, to America, to women, or to myself to attend his talk. But the carelessness with which he wields his privilege is precisely the problem for women in philosophy (and in the home, and in the streets!). Would attending implicitly endorse his ignorance and privilege? Would failing to attend allow him to get away with yet more self-indulgent misogyny? Should I carry a sign? Should I wear a vagina hoodie? Or should I engage in polite, Midwestern chitchat? Should I patiently explain, as I do with students, that sometimes women aren’t treated so well? More importantly, why do I have to make these wrenching decisions at all?

One thing is certain: you don’t mess with Kitty and get away with it.

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Mar 24 2014

Is ActionAid’s gender-specific fundraising campaign progressive?

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Author pic Georgina Holmes

Georgina Holmes is a Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Portsmouth, Honorary Research Associate in the Department of Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London and a Visiting Lecturer in the Centre for Gender, Culture and Development at the National University of Rwanda. She is the author of Women and War in Rwanda: Gender, Media and the Representation of Genocide published by IB Tauris in October 2013.

In September 2013 international NGO ActionAid launched a new fundraising campaign in the UK that aimed to raise awareness of the plight of women in refugee camps. The campaign poster features a black-and-white image of a Congolese woman, accompanied by the heading “The worst period of her life.” Underneath this statement is written:

Imagine you’ve fled your home. You’ve lost everything. And then it gets worse: you get your period and you can’t afford sanitary towels. Women fleeing conflict in war-torn countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria suffer this terrible humiliation, month after month after month. Will you donate £3 to help give one more woman a little bit of dignity?

The poster, first promoted in women’s public washrooms before being rolled out across British train network media in early 2014, may well succeed in establishing empathy and willing among UK-based women. Yet the extent to which ActionAid, a rights-based organisation committed to advocating consciousness-raising and mobilising voices in civil society, broke free from the discursive structures of inequality, that posit African women as silenced, passive victims is questionable.

To a degree, this latest strategy to generate interest and engagement with UK publics represents a reassuring break from the relentless images of helpless Congolese women ‘rape victims’ that have pervaded NGO and human rights campaigns since the 2000s, though still continuing to feature in ‘western’ media. Critics (myself included) hold this image as central to the new, feminised Congo atrocity narrative.[1]

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Mar 19 2014

Five Minutes with Meena Kandasamy: “I think propaganda can be very beautiful based on what you are doing it for”

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Nazreen Fazal author pic

Nazreen Fazal is Assistant Editor of the LSE Review of Books. Nazreen graduated from the University of Nottingham (Malaysia Campus) with a degree in International Communication Studies with English Language and Literature. She is currently pursuing a Masters in Comparative Politics at the LSE. Nazreen blogs at Penguin Peeks and Brown in Britain.

Meena Kandasamy is a poet, writer and activist who deals with the questions of caste, language and feminismShe recently spoke at the LSE event ‘Gender and the Hindu Right’, organised by the LSE Gender Institute. LSE Review of Books Assistant Editor Nazreen Fazal talks to Meena about her writing, activism in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, and her latest novel- The Gypsy Goddess. Recommended reading for those interested in issues revolving around gender and activism in India

What are your experiences as a female writer in India who identifies herself as a feminist? Do you face a lot of opposition against that – online or otherwise -when you meet people?

It is not the feminism bit that is problematic. What’s problematic for these people is the fact that you are also challenging Hindutva, the caste system, and with it all these so-called rules that they have used to put women in [their] place. Most of these rules are not just out of misogyny but arise from a religious or caste-based conditioning. So yes, it does make people angry.

Feminism for some reason has – at least within the section of men – become ‘Oh she hates men’. It is easily translated into that. When you say you are a feminist, you also have to clarify what exactly your feminism means, because sometimes feminism itself as a broad term is used to silence or justify what happens in, say, Afghanistan, with the drone strikes. But feminism is neither a corporate nor an imperialist project. Feminism is a grassroots project; it is a project of the people. As a feminist you need to be really clear on where you come in and where you come from. You have to define your own space but also let people know that they don’t really have a business in what you are critiquing.

Your latest novel, The Gypsy Goddess, is based on the true life Kilvenmani massacre, in which a group of 44 striking Dalit (untouchable) village labourers were murdered by a gang. It must have been painful writing about something this brutal and personal, since you yourself come from a particular caste; how did you get through the process?

My parents had an inter-caste marriage; my grandparents had an inter-caste marriage, so I’m one of the few people who come from inter-caste marriages over three generations. So I consider myself as more of a hybrid as opposed to belonging to any particular caste. The second thing about telling this kind of story is that the easy way for me would have been to write the story of people visiting the UK, studying in dorms, transiting between airports, falling in love with someone of another nationality- just a very urban, educated girl’s experience. But there is enough written about that already so I wanted to tell a story which for me was something that identified me with my roots in Tanjore (a city in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu) and help me understand why a person like my father would so desperately want to escape from there.

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Dec 12 2013

Seeking safety in Algeria: Syrian refugee women’s resilience

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Latefa Guemar author bio

Latefa Guemar is a Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics (LSE) Gender Institute and a Research Associate at The Centre for Migration Policy Research (CMPR) at Swansea University. She has a particular interest in gender issues in forced migration, Diasporas and identities.

On the 6th of August 2012, Algerian online newspapers and social networking sites reported the rape of a 26 year old Syrian woman who had sought refuge in Oran, having fled from Homs as a result of the on-going crisis in Syria. Local police and other national newspapers very quickly denied the story, stating that it was a ‘rumour’. Generally speaking, rape survivors remain meticulously hidden within the patriarchal dominant discourse of Algerian society in which gender-related violence is often denied and is embedded in a culture of disbelief.

The news was embarrassing and shameful for Oran, a city well-known for its established welcoming and reputation for hospitality, upheld by its local population.

Despite the 2,100 miles separating Homs from Oran, since the beginning of the Syrian crisis in July 2012, hundreds of Syrian refugees have entered the second biggest Algerian city. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) claims that more than 2.1 million Syrians are now hosted in the North African region, placing an unprecedented strain on communities, infrastructure and services. According to the Algerian Ministry of the Interior, 12,000 refugees are in Algeria, yet only 400 are registered in Algiers. Local support groups dispute this number, suggesting the higher total of 20,000. Women and children make up around 80% of this refugee population. The majority have no means of supporting themselves, having only the few economic resources which they brought with them in a hurry.

Women’s experiences of being forced to flee

In the summer of 2012, I was in Algeria conducting fieldwork for my PhD and went to meet Syrian women in the city of Oran. ‘We came from Homs to Algiers first, via Jordan’, explained a young woman in La rue Monpat, a relatively poor area,’We stayed three months there in the camps…I knew a Syrian family here who told me Oran would be better, people are very open minded and known for their hospitality’. She showed me an ID card delivered by the Algerian authorities, which, she said, would be renewed within 90 days.

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Nov 29 2013

Book Review: Salma: Filming a Poet in her Village

Tania Bhardwaj is studying for an MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation at the LSE’s Gender Institute. In her spare time she loves to read, dance and travel, and in the future, she hopes to work in Indian politics.

Tania Bhardwaj is studying for an MSc in Gender, Development and Globalisation at the LSE’s Gender Institute. In her spare time she loves to read, dance and travel, and in the future, she hopes to work in Indian politics.

Rajathi Salma and Kim Longinotto’s Salma: Filming a Poet in her Village is a hugely engaging, disconcerting book that takes you behind the scenes of BAFTA award winning Kim Longinotto’s beautiful film Salma. This is not an academic book but reads more like a travelogue or a personal journal, exploring the experiences of two women who come together to make the film.

Rajathi Salma is now a celebrated Tamil writer, her novel The Hours Past Midnight has been long-listed for the Man Asian Booker Prize, but she spent nearly two and a half decades of her life locked indoors against her will and wrote secretly, living in constant fear of getting caught.  The documentary film tells her extraordinary story, and the book captures the filming through the eyes of Kim and Salma separately.  Salma is the main protagonist, but the two accounts, of filming and of being filmed, emotively depict Salma’s experience of patriarchal confinement and control. Though not an elegant literary experience, the book is certainly thought provoking.

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Nov 21 2013

Rescuers & Redeemers: The Evangelical Church’s Role in the Anti-Trafficking Movement

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Katie Gaddini is a MSc student in Gender Research at the LSE. She completed her Master’s of Social Work degree, focusing on international social work in 2010. She has worked for the past seven years in various social work capacities in Peru, South Africa, Spain and the U.S.

On a recent Sunday night in central London, I attended an Evangelical Protestant church service. Midway through the worship portion, the music leader stopped the fervent singing to welcome a woman to the stage. She had just completed a two-week-long bike trek across Europe to raise awareness about sex trafficking and was now back in London to talk about it. After an impassioned recount of her journey and the horrors of sex trafficking, she pleaded, at the music leader’s request, for us to pray for these victims. And the service continued.

Having grown up in American Protestantism and remained skeptically involved, I have sat through many similar church services that focused on abolishing sex trafficking. But this time was different. Something didn’t feel right.

The increased attention sex trafficking has garnered in the mainstream Western media and public has come under feminist scrutiny for various reasons. Indeed, many scholars in the United States have offered a critique; Gretchen Soderlund (2005) places the anti-sex trafficking agenda in the context of conservative politics, and Ronald Weitzer (2007) points to the problematic “crusade” ideology associated with the issue. But what are the specific problems in the context of the American (and British) Evangelical Church?

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Nov 13 2013

Age restrictions on music videos – sexism solved?

Author bios

Ben Warwick is a Graduate Teaching Assistant and Ph.D. candidate at Durham Law School. He is a specialist in gender perspectives on law and in international human rights law. Ben is a member of the Gender and Law at Durham research group. View his institutional profile here and follow him on twitter here.
Ruth Houghton is a Graduate Teaching Assistant and Ph.D. candidate at Durham Law School. As an English Literature student, Ruth explored gender and masculinities in film. Ruth is a member of the Gender and Law at Durham research group. View some of her research and her institutional profile here.

On Monday the Rewind & Reframe campaign  to denounce sexism and racism in music videos was launched by EVAW, Imkaan and Object in London.  The debate in Westminster that signaled the start of their campaign is part of a growing online and traditional media interest in the portrayal of women in the music industry [1]. Rewind & Reframe call for age restrictions to be placed on music videos, in the same way that films or DVDs have age ratings. A discussion on rascism and sexism in music is crucial, welcome, and long overdue; yet its focus on age renders the debate obsolete given the broader effects on society.

Women were asked on social media channels to provide examples of those songs which most offended, upset and disturbed them. The song Blurred Lines was a prominent choice, having already been banned in 20 Universities for its glamorisation of rape and sexist lyrics [2]. Other artists such as Michael Jackson and N-Dubz were singled out as examples, alongside the artist Nelly’s contribution Tip Drill [3]. These examples form only a small part of a larger narrative in pop music that uses sexist lyrics and images.

A feminist response to the sexism contained within Thicke’s song has been ongoing [4]. However, for the most part, critiques of this sort of music in the mainstream media have focused on the effects in relation to children rather than the ways in which songs objectify women and have broader societal impacts. The BBC recently reported that parents fear music videos have become too sexualised and violent, and previously Annie Lennox has called for age ratings as a response to what she considered to be the sexualisation of children. The current petition for age restrictions and discussions surrounding the watershed [5] align with this focus on children and young adults. Yet it was women (and men) of all ages that provided examples of videos that made them feel uncomfortable or threatened.

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