Friday, August 1, 2014

What We've Been Reading 8/1

Buzzfeed wrote a concise article describing President Obama’s speech at a town hall meeting in Washington that hosted his administration’s Young African Leader Initiative. He spoke about older traditions in Africa and how they cannot continue to function in our modern society. A few quotes stuck out in particular that, personally, reminded me of just how important it is to have a president who is not afraid to make women empowerment a priority not only in the United States, but also internationally. Obama actively wants to change a culture that promotes violence against women in this country. His speech at this meeting pinpointed outdated and violent practices within parts of Africa and explained how these social practices need to change.
        He talked about polygamy, saying, “It was based on the idea that women had their own compound. They had their own land and so they were empowered in that area to be self-sufficient.” But these circumstances no longer apply, as he explains, and now this social practice actually disempowers and hurts women. He also vocalized his thoughts on female genital mutilation: “I think that’s a tradition that is barbaric and should be eliminated. Violence towards women. I don’t care for that tradition. I’m not interested in it. It needs to be eliminated.” While most of what he spoke about was geared towards Africa, he made some statements that apply everywhere, and especially in this country: If you’re a strong man, you should not feel threatened by strong women.” I appreciate this last comment, as many male (and some female) politicians would not feel comfortable vocalizing this simple fact. While this article does not discuss all of his comments made at the meeting, or go into great detail on the Young African Leader Initiative, it does show that our president feels it necessary to prioritize women’s rights and issues.
-Emily Schacter
Jillian Berman of Huffington Post wrote an article at the beginning of last week about the underrepresentation of women in executive positions at companies that market to women with a very telling title, “Even Companies That Sell Tampons Are Run By Men”. In addition to discussing that while these companies attract mostly women for retail and middle management, executive offices and board of directors are filled with a majority of men, who figure out what women want using market research statistics. Berman considers the factors contributing to the gender disparity and reports that some women who’ve maintained executive positions point to a lack of work-life flexibility, sexism in the workplace, nepotism and tradition. The author points out that other than just making marketing for products like tampons less strange, having more women executives increases the diversity of management styles and boosts stock market performance. However, she writes that encouraging women to be more pro-active in their careers is a tactic that will fail to increase gender diversity in senior-level management. Instead, companies have to make prioritizing gender equity part of their business model beyond recruitment, including “giving women equal access to role models, mentors and sponsors throughout their careers”. Ultimately, the responsibility for increasing the representation of women in top positions is that of company leadership and currently, companies are doing a pretty poor job of it.

Mic’s Julianne Ross turned a critical eye on the recently released summer blockbuster Guardians of the Galaxy in her article 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Shows Why We Desperately Need a Female Superhero Movie”. Her problem is with the depiction Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana. Though Ross claims that the movie is great and that Gamora is a strong female character, she fails to maintain heroine status through the film, often needing the saving the male protagonist, Quill, played by Chris Pratt. Ross argues that Gamora is a supporting character for Quill for much of the movie and “ultimately is relegated to side-kick and potential-love-interest status.” Ross doesn’t dismiss the movie or the character based on this fact, but rather advocates that it’s high time that Hollywood tell a super-heroine story as nearly half of its fan-base is composed of women.

-Allysha Roth