The Gender Beat: Gender Bias in Book Reviews; Women’s Rights Activists Urge NOTA as Protest

A round-up of what’s happening in the worlds of gender and sexuality

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Dalit student’s death pushes Barmer village back in time 

The death of a 17-year-old girl from Barmer village in Rajasthan has caused many families in the village to withdraw their girl children from school, says a report in the Hindustan Times. The father of the student has been accused of giving her “too much freedom,” says one of her brothers. Another brother is quoted as saying: “[She was] an ambitious and talented girl who always led our school in cultural events and was the star of our village… [But she was] forced to wash utensils and clean rooms in her hostel. If this is not casteism, then what is?”

The student was found dead in the water tank of her hostel in Nokha. She had told her father the previous evening that she was sent to clean physical trainer Vijendra Singh’s room by a warden, where she was raped by Singh. The student’s father is demanding a CBI probe, after the police’s failure to follow due process when the body was found, and their decision not to include a murder charge in the investigation.

Women entering temples will cause rape: Swaroopanand

After chow mein, mobile phones, and jeans, yet another candidate has been proposed as the source of sexual violence against women in India: women entering part of a temple which men have been welcomed into for over 400 years. Religious leader Swaroopanand Saraswati, who has made this claim, is no stranger to making what his many critics are unsurprisingly calling false equivalencies. He has previously argued that drought in Maharashtra has been caused because people worship Sai Baba.

Women’s rights activists urge the use of NOTA as a method of protest

A group of women’s rights activists have started a campaign responding to the under-representation of women candidates in the state assembly, and the failure of the government to pass the women’s reservation’s bill. They are urging voters to use NOTA wherever women candidates are not represented, says a report in the Hindu.

Norway to allow LGBT church weddings

On April 11, Norway’s Lutheran Church voted in favour of LGBT church weddings. However, priests who do not agree with the decision and do not want to marry the couples will have the right to object.

The Huffington Post reports that the Open Public Church, a movement within the Lutheran Church, to whom a majority of Norwegians belong, had campaigned for marriage equality.

Court hears China’s first transgender discrimination case

A transgender man and LGBT activist  is seeking five weeks worth of pay before a work tribunal in Guiyang on the grounds of unfair dismissal, reports the Guardian. The man, Chen, says he was dismissed by a healthcare provider within a week of being hired because of his clothing. Chen’s manager has been quoted as saying: ““Chen’s appearance really didn’t fit our standards.”

This is the first time that China is witnessing a court case on transgender rights.

Germaine Greer under fire for comments on transgender people

Germaine Greer, well-known second-wave feminist, and author of The Female Eunuch (1970) has said for years that she doesn’t accept that transgender women are ‘real’ women. At a recently held panel, Greer appeared to momentarily reconsider her views, but went on to say that she does not believe that one belongs “to the other end of the spectrum” because one is being unhappy with being a man. Greer’s remarks have been condemned by transgender rights activists.

Two young men killed at Kashmir protest against army officer accused of sexual assault

The army opened fire on a gathering of people in the Handwara area of north Kashmir. Reports say that the protest was held against one or more army officers who had reportedly attempted to sexually assault a schoolgirl. Two young men were killed.

Queer fairy tale meant for children will be published soon

Promised Land, a fairy tale about two men who fall in love, has met its crowd-funding goal and will be published soon, reports India Today. Adam Reynolds and Chaz Harris, the creators of the book, say that the book gives the characters the happily ever after ending that they would have benefitted from reading as children. The book is meant for children between the ages of five and ten.

Data analysis shows that sexist stereotypes still plague book reviews

Two researchers looked at over 10,000 book reviews published in the Sunday Book Review of the New York Times since 2000, and found that “New York Times book reviews overwhelmingly suggest that women tend to write about domestic issues and affairs of the heart, while men thrive in writing about “serious” issues such as politics.”

The researchers add: “It’s not that women don’t write about politics or men don’t write about feelings and families. It’s just that there is a very strong likelihood that if you open the pages of the Sunday Book Review, you will be jettisoned back into a linguistic world that more nearly resembles our Victorian ancestors.”

They point out that an increase in the number of bylines by women is not directly correlated to how women’s writing is talked about, saying: “The discourse around gender we find in the last five years in the Times has essentially reproduced the public/private split bequeathed to us from the nineteenth century: Women writers are still being defined by their “sentimental” traits and a love of writing about “maternal” issues, while men are most often being defined by their attention to matters of science and the state.”