Here’s my semi-regular round up of gender related news items which have caught my attention of late.
Firstly, we seem to have moved into a time when we now monetise International Women’s Day (which falls next week, Tuesday 8th March – how will you mark it?) – somewhat ironic, given its origins in communist states such as Russia and China, no? I saw in The Observer that L’Occitane have launched this £4 pot of Ultra Soft Balm; they’re donating all profits to women’s projects in Burkina Faso – this, from their website:
L’OCCITANE has been working with the women of Burkina Faso for over 30 years to produce the shea butter used in our award-winning product collections. What started as a partnership with just 12 local women has now developed into an enterprise with over 17,000 women who produce the exceptionally versatile ingredient that both nourishes and protects the skin, even in extreme conditions.
I was also interested to read a very rare interview with Pakistani schoolgirl and activist Malala Yousafzai’s mother, Toor Pekai – aged 44 and usually in the shadows when it comes to press coverage about her daughter; even the recent film about Malala’s life and experiences focused on her father, with its title [my emphasis] HE Named Me Malala. But now Toor Pekai shares how she is learning to read and write and explains that Malala nags her to do her homework.
“If I get poor marks, she says to try harder.”
Still on Pakistan, Nicholas Kristof used a recent New York Times column to write about his Pakistani friend, a former Taliban supporter who now risks his life condemning the Taliban and standing up for women’s rights. His journey is about the power of education — but with a caveat, for what matters is not any education, but the right kind. The article touches on how he evolved from pro-Taliban and anti-American to a voice for moderation and the empowerment of girls. He also has something to say about how Americans like Donald Trump inadvertently help the extremists.
“The most effective opponents of Muslim extremists are the many Muslim moderates whom we in the media often ignore.”
Three of my favourite things are anything which celebrates the achievements of women; fashion; and social history. On that basis, an exhibition which focuses on all three of those activities is very high up on my “Yes, please!” list. Last year, just such an event, “Fashion on the Ration”, was held at the Imperial War Museum in London and I spent half of my birthday wandering around it, looking at the various clothes and artefacts made, worn and modified by women during the Second World War. The exhibition has now closed, but the Julie Summers’ book which supported it is still available and is a very interesting read (better in the analogue book form than the digital though, as it’s got great illustrations). A similar exhibition, “Fashion and Freedom” focuses on women in the First World War and is due to open on May 13th at the Manchester Art Gallery. It sounds fascinating – this link shows some of the photos and gives more details.
Back in the present day, a group of women in California have launched a project they’re calling The Elephant in the Valley – a safe and anonymous forum in which women can tell their stories about gender discrimination and bias in Silicon Valley. Their hope is that sharing stories “will lead to the type of change that will make Silicon Valley a place of even greater innovation by making it a place of greater equality.”
And Accenture have released some new research in which they suggest that ‘digital fluency’ may be the key to improving workplace gender parity; if we double the rate at which women become digitally fluent, defined as “the extent to which people embrace and use digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective”, developed countries could see workplace gender parity by 2040 – 25 years sooner than the current World Economic Forum estimates.
Finally – who you gonna call? The all-female ‘Ghostbusters‘ reboot released its trailer this week, ahead of the film’s release in July. Nice quote from director Paul Feig:
“I seem to have a very feminine take on the world,” Feig said in a recent interview with The Mary Sue. “It is just who I am. I get sent scripts all the time, and when it’s a typical male character who has things together but is faced with a problem, I zone out. I just get completely uninterested. I’ve realized after years of watching movies, I’ve tired of the problems of men. I’m tired of seeing it portrayed.”
Next week, I’ll be blogging about International Women’s Day, women and power and talking to another awesome woman as part of my continuing #PowerofThree series of profiles. I welcome suggestions for interviewees for this series – please contact me if you’d like to bounce around some names.