Thursday, June 19, 2014

What We've Been Reading- Week of 6/16

Confronting the Issue of Rape in India: Shilpa Phadke, an assistant professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, wrote a powerful opinion article on June 17th, “Better toilets won’t solve India’s rape problem,” describing the current debate surrounding rape in India. After the rape and murder of two girls on May 27th in Uttar Pradesh, a state in Northern India, some people have asserted that if the girls had had better access to toilets, they would not have been kidnapped while they relieved themselves in an outside field. Naturally, this claim has received criticism, as Phadke points out. She explains that “the two girls were raped, murdered and lynched not because of a lack of toilets but because of India’s caste affiliations and the historical precedent that makes lower-caste women’s bodies the subject of sexual and other kinds of violence perpetrated by upper-caste men.” Moreover, the toilet argument is problematic because “if indoor toilets keep women safe, the implication is that women could be kept indoors forever — for their own safety, of course.” Phadke does not deny that there is a sanitation problem across the country and that better toilets would be helpful, especially for the comfort of women. But the idea that better toilets could truly prevent rape puts the responsibility on women to prevent their own rape, which is ridiculously unfair. Additionally, taking away public space as a resource for women detracts even more from women’s inherent rights. Phadke explains, “In this context, it is important to talk about the right to access and about public access as a value in itself.” Her article is extremely well-written and engages the reader in an incredibly important conversation.

It was posited in the Washington Post this week that student loans could become the newest women’s issue for Democrats in the midterm election, as discussed in this article. With the recent filibuster conducted by Senate Republicans, Democrats lost the chance to refinance student loans at a lower interest rate, and this topic has important implications for the gendered issue of income inequality. With the average amount of debt for a bachelor’s degree totaling almost 30,000, the fact that female college graduates make 82 cents for every dollar than their male counterparts in their first year out of college is troubling. Women then have less money to pay off these loans, and these debts become more burdensome as women must put a higher percentage of their incomes towards paying off student loans. The gendered aspect of the student loan topic provides another perspective to the plight of the income inequality faced by women.

Pantene recently came out with a new ad. Instead of using regular tactics to sell shampoo, the ad is part of Pantene’s new campaign called “Shine Strong”, and looks at how women often over apologize and say “sorry” for things that are not their fault. The video shows women apologizing for asking a question, handing her baby to her husband and speaking at the same time as a man. The company says that it is part of the debate brought by Sheryl Sandberg’s “Ban Bossy” campaign. At the end of the video things are reverse and the women stopping apologizing and some start saying, “Sorry, Not Sorry.” Pantene says that over the upcoming 2014-2015 year they will be a part of a campaign with The American Association of University Women to “challenge women student leaders on college campuses throughout the country to initiate change and tackle biases and stereotypes that permeate our culture.” The video can be viewed here.