In Australia, Aboriginal women and girls disproportionately sent to prison and jail are disproportionately strip-searched. We know. What are we going to do about it?

The Alexander Maconochie Centre 

Excessive strip-searching shines light on discrimination of Aboriginal women in the criminal justice system”. An article with that headline appeared yesterday. While the research and argument of the article is unimpeachable, one wonders about the shining light. The discrimination against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women by and in the Australian so-called criminal justice program is a longstanding open secret. In 2018, Human Rights Watch issued a report, which noted, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison are the fastest growing prison population, and 21 times more likely to be incarcerated than non-indigenous peers.” A version of that statement, “Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women in prison are the fastest growing prison population”, had appeared in major reports in 201020112012201320142015,2016, and 2017. Now it’s 2021, and where are we … and who are we?

Last year, the Redfern Legal Centre reported that police in New South Wales continued to strip search children, some as young as 11 years old. In one year alone, NSW police conducted 96 strip searches of children. To no one’s surprise, those strip searches disproportionately assaulted Aboriginal children. This was no surprise, because strip searches generally target Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and especially women and girls. Not only was the practice continuing, it was actually rising in number for Aboriginal children. Redfern is pursuing a landmark class action suit against the New South Wales police. While that would be important, these searches have occurred, for decades, in plain sight. Where are we … and who are we?

In January of this year, former Western Australia and New South Wales police came forward to discuss their experiences as police officers. They described a routine, and cynical, process of boosting arrest numbers by targeting Aboriginal communities, and especially children. Although strip searches are supposed to be only for “exceptional and extreme circumstances”, Aboriginal children were routinely strip searched. Their crime, their exceptionality, their extreme circumstance, was their bodies, their culture, their identity. One police officer remembered that strip searching a 10-year-old Aboriginal child was “one of the worst moments” of his eight-year career as a police officer. What was that moment for that 10-year-old child, one wonders, and where is he … and who is he now?

In March, it was reported that, earlier in the year, a 37-year-old Aboriginal woman was strip searched by four guards, in riot gear, in front of male detainees. Why? Because. This occurred at the Alexander Maconochie Centre, in the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian government boasts that the Alexander Maconochie Centre is “a human rights compliant” facility. Aboriginal leaders disagree. So does the woman, who wrote, “Here I ask you to remember that I am a rape victim, so you can only imagine the horror, the screams, the degrading feeling, the absolute fear and shame I was experiencing.”

Here I ask you to remember. 

In the first week of July, the Human Rights Legal Centre reported that from October 1, 2020, to April 30, 2021, there had been 208 strip searches conducted on women detainees at the same Alexander Maconochie Centre. Of those, 121, or 58%, were performed on Aboriginal women. At that time, Aboriginal women comprised 44% of the women held at the Alexander Maconochie Centre. Just being Aboriginal women made them exceptional and extreme. Again to no one’s surprise, of the 208 searches, three resulted in the discovery of contraband. The others were the price Aboriginal women pay for being Aboriginal women in Australia.

The lack of surprise is the point. In 2003, Debbie Kilroy, Director of Sisters Inside Inc, wrote, “Prisoners are strip-searched because it is a highly effective way to control women … Routine and random strip-searching is conducted in order to punish women and to control them.” The strip searching of women in Australia’s prisons is routine, but hardly random, in that it targets Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and girls, who are sent in disproportionate numbers into “human rights compliant’ prison and jail hellholes. We know. We’ve known for a long time. What are we going to do about it?

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Andrew Finch / City News)

In Cornton Vale, Scotland’s one women’s prison, women with complex mental health needs are routinely thrown into solitary for days on end

Today, Scotland’s Mental Welfare Commission released the findings of their investigation into the treatment of women with complex mental health needs who have the great misfortune of ending up in Scotland’s one all-women’s prison. The Commission reports that women with mental health needs were sent into solitary confinement, euphemistically called Separation and Reintegration Units, for anywhere from a day to 82 days. The cells are described as “sparse and lacking in comfort. The narratives in women’s notes suggested there was little in the way of positive sensory stimulation in the environment of the SRU. There was limited human contact and if other women in the SRU were distressed or unwell, their vocalisations were likely to be audible, disturbing and distressing. When women’s self-care deteriorated, they may also have experienced physical and sensory discomfort in this context.”

The report goes on to note, “Part of the ethos, and indeed the name of SRUs, is that offenders are reintegrated into the mainstream environment after a period of time. Reintegration did not appear to feature in the majority of cases we reviewed …. For women who were floridly unwell with acute psychosis or manic psychosis, the severity of their symptoms and level of disturbance significantly worsened in the SRU.”

None of this is surprising or new. That solitary confinement, for anyone, is torture is not new. That solitary confinement as a response to women’s health needs is torture is not new. That solitary confinement as a response to women in need is, nevertheless, altogether ordinary also is not new. That solitary confinement worsens everything is also not new. That Cornton Vale is a toxic hot mess, with high levels of suicide and self-harm is also not new. Due to its high rates of suicide and self-harm, Cornton Vale has been called the “vale of death”. None of this is new or surprising.

In 2018, the European Commission on the Prevention of Torture visited Cornton Vale: “The CPT raises serious concerns about the treatment of women prisoners held in segregation at Cornton Vale Prison …. The CPT found women who clearly were in need of urgent care and treatment in a psychiatric facility, and should not have been in a prison environment, let alone segregated for extended periods in solitary confinement under Rules 95 and 41 (accommodation in specified conditions for health or welfare reasons). Prison staff were not trained to manage the highly disturbed women.” When they returned, in 2019, they found that the situation was somewhat improved, in some senses, but that the use of segregation, and in particular long-term isolation, persisted. None of this is new or surprising.

What is new is that this is not new. On July 10, 2017, Nicola Ferguson Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, wrote, “Tomorrow sees a major milestone in the transformation of our justice system. We will begin the demolition of Cornton Vale women’s prison, a move that marks the next stage in our plans to ensure Scotland’s penal policy doesn’t just punish people who’ve committed crimes – important though that is – but helps deliver safer communities in the long term.” What happened? Why, four years later, is Cornton Vale still standing? What happened to the alternatives — an 80-bed prison, five regional 20-bed facilities, community sentencing and service, and much greater funding for mental health, drug abuse, counseling? What is the investment in Cornton Vale’s catastrophic failure, such that, four years later, the vale of death, the vale of women’s slow and painful death and deaths? Haven’t there been enough inquiries and enough `discoveries’, enough corpses and enough ruined lives?

(By Dan Moshenberg)

In South Africa, women assert the Constitutional right to breathe fresh air is a State responsibility

Promise Mabilo

Section 24a of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa declares, “Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being.” Everyone means, or should mean, everyone. For decades, coal mining and coal-fired power plants have turned the Mpumalanga Highveld into the site of the most polluted air in the world. Two years ago, Greenpeace reported that the area was the world’s largest power plant emission hotspot. In 2007, the South African government created the Highveld Priority Area to respond to the deadly situation. Nothing changed. If anything, the air became more deadly. This year, women in Mpumalanga, most of them members of the Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action, decided enough was already way too much, and, with another environmental justice organization, groundWork, sued the South African government. The women declared they knew what was happening to their children, neighbors, community, and to themselves, and they said that they had pushed every other way conceivable and now, it was time for the South African government to abide by its Constitution. Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being. Everyone means everyone. The case is known as the “Deadly Air” case. In May, the Pretoria High Court heard the case, and the decision could come out any day.

After the case was heard, Promise Mabilo, coordinator of Vukani Environmental Justice Movement in Action and one of the claimants, explained, “For me, this case is very important because people around the Highveld are really suffering. I have a son who is suffering from asthma and I feel the pain when I look at him. His childhood had limitations because he couldn’t play with other children, run around or carry heavy objects. I also noticed his school performance dropping because he wasn’t attending school regularly as he would be sick for one week then be okay the next …. The more I see the results of breathing in this polluted air and the people I live with in the community who are also sick and suffering from asthma, I feel abused and violated because I know what the cause is … We wish for the government departments to work together with other departments, such as the Department of Health. We do not just want compliance from the polluters because once we get sick, we even struggle to get proper healthcare because we don’t have money.”

Mbali Vosmang added, “I live with my  two children. Princess is seven, and Asemahle is three years old. When they were born, they were not sick but since living Emalahleni, we have become sick. It is very tough to sleep in hospitals due to COVID-19. The beds are full, and our children are put on oxygen tanks from the bench. The Deadly Air case is very important because I do not want others to continue to suffer the same issues as we do.”

When the government tried to explain that cleaning up an area takes time and that the claimants, majority women, were being emotional rather than rational, their attorney, Steven Budlender, responded, “The Constitutional Court has spoken with great force and passion about the need to … make a difference in ordinary people’s lives, and when you speak about 10 000  deaths of predominantly poor people in an area, that’s not emotional, it’s not irrational. It is the fact and the facts give rise to a constitutional violation.”

The facts give rise to a constitutional violation. The women of the Mpumalanga Highveld know the cause of the rampaging death in their communities. It is the air and it is the refusal of the State to care sufficiently. A state that can save its airline industry and its tourist industry is able to address the deadly air, produced by mines and power plants, in its rural areas. In Mpumalanga, in the northeast of South Africa, the women want the world to know, everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being. The women want the world to know, everyone means everyone.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Daily Maverick / Daylin Paul / Life After Coal)

Chile’s Constitutional Reformation From a Feminist Perspective

Chile’s new constitution will be the first drafted in the aftermath of the global #MeToo movements and a wave of feminist activism across Latin America confronting strict abortion laws, violence against women, and femicide. The conception of the new document will be crucial in the fight for gender equality and political representation in Chile. The new constitution will spur progress for women in Chile and potentially set a new global standard for gender equality in politics. 

Generations of Chilean women have long fought for social, gender, and class equality—beginning under the two most decisive periods of Chilean history, the socialist government of President Salvador Allende and the military government of General Augusto Pinochet. More recently, feminists and LGBT organizations have mobilized to confront a brutal neoliberal and increasingly authoritarian state. Chilean feminists have protested state violence, anti-statism, and anti-capitalist beliefs. These movements centered on accessibility to legal abortion, violence against women, and femicide have ignited broader demands for social equity outside the parameters of gender and reproductive issues in Latin America. 

The 2019 Chilean feminist anthem, “Un Violador en Tu Camino” (“Rapist in your Path”), which is fundamentally rooted in the feminist theory and anti-statism, demands the Chilean state to claim responsibility and accountability for Chilean women’s violence and deaths. First performed in Chile by the interdisciplinary, intersectional, and trans-inclusive feminist collective, Las Tesis, the anthem and performance quickly became viral and spread from France, Mexico to Kenya, and India, igniting a global feminist movement against violence. 

In the wake of recent feminist movements such as “Un Violador en Tu Camino” and similar movements in Latin America, Chile has elected 155 members, 77 women and 78 men. The members will be in charge of writing Chile’s new Magna Carta and decide on fundamental issues as social rights, the country’s private property regime, and the state’s role. This process emerged in response to the demands of the social outbreak that shook the country in October 2019. The procedure, supported by 78% of the voters in a referendum in October 2020, will end in 2022 with another widespread consultation that will approve or reject the text that will replace the 1980 Constitution written under the military regime of Augusto Pinochet.

With the new constitution, what does that mean for women? The structural reformation will prove pivotal in creating a more inclusive and representative body. The nearly perfect, 77 women and 78 men, gender parity provides a step in the right direction. Feminist activists and organizers consider this provision a historic victory for women in obtaining political visibility. Activists believe the gender parity will create visibility for minority communities, including the country’s Indigenous communities, LGBT groups, and gender non-conforming people. 

Though the outcome of this gender parity and the new body of laws remains yet to be seen, one thing is certain—feminist grassroots organizers globally are eagerly awaiting the long-overdue seat(s) at the table that has the potential to set a new global standard pf politics.

(By Tatiana Ruiz)

(Image Credit: Emily Matteson / Anthropology News)

In Turkey, women refuse to go back: ‘It is women who will win this war’

Around the world, the past year has seen astronomical increases in the incidence of domestic violence. According to United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, “Since the outbreak of Covid-19, emerging data and reports have shown that all types of violence against women and girls, particularly domestic violence, has intensified in what we have called the Shadow Pandemic.” While the explosion of violence against women and girls may be a shadow, around the world – from the Americas to Asia and Africa to Europe and beyond – women are refusing to be rendered shadows or specters, are organizing, militating, demonstrating and protesting, and demanding a just and better world. Women are the story. Remember that.

In Turkey, women have always organized against violence against women and girls, femicide, and silence. When women discovered that the Turkish government didn’t think the murder of women important enough to record, they set up their own platform, We Will Stop Femicide. Last summer, when yet another woman was brutally tortured to death, in this instance by her ex-boyfriend, women organized, insisting on justice for Pınar Gültekin, which justice would include contextualizing her death among the large number of women attacked, murdered, intimidated, harassed: “We are here Pınar, we will hold them accountable”. They used every means available, including famously Instagram, asking, “What is happening to women in Turkey? (and what is the Istanbul Convention?)”.

The Istanbul Convention is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. Last July, in the midst of rising and intensifying violence against women and girls, in Turkey as elsewhere, Turkey’s President Erdogan began making noises that he wanted to leave the Istanbul Convention, because leaving the one structure that actually addresses violence against women and girls seemed the most reasonable State response, given the Shadow Pandemic. 

Friday night, at midnight, the Turkish government issued a decree claiming to withdraw its membership in the Istanbul Convention. While the announcement was “a surprise”, it wasn’t surprising. Recall that last year, in May, Hungary’s Parliament refused to sign the Istanbul Convention, and then, in July, Poland threatened to pull out. While the move was “a surprise”, it wasn’t creative or original or clever. If anything, it was both predictable and trite. Poland passes more and more draconian laws outlawing and criminalizing abortion and reproductive rights more generally, Hungary goes after its LGBTIQ+ communities and individuals, and Turkey promotes violence against women. The pogrom is alive and well in Europe.

While the media largely focuses on the so-called Big Men, the real story here is that of the women of Turkey, mobilizing, organizing, militating as ever. The moment the decree appeared,  at midnight, women organized. Individual women and women’s organizations responded immediately. Feminist attorney Hülya Gülbahar was among many who noted, “It is not possible to withdraw from an international convention with a Presidential decree. You withdraw from a convention in the same way you became a party to it. The İstanbul Convention was unanimously approved at the Parliament. We call on the Parliament to reclaim its own will, the people’s will. Parliament to duty, to lay claim to İstanbul Convention”. Canan Güllü, the chair of the Federation of Women’s Associations of Turkey, added, “This is a consequence of the one-man regime. They put women on the table of politics. This means “Rape women, beat women, abuse children.” The next day, in demonstrations across the country, women chanted, “İstanbul Convention saves lives” and “We don’t recognize the one man’s decision”. Others chanted, “We are not scared, we are not afraid. We shall not obey.” One placard said it all, “It is women who will win this war.”

1956, South Africa, in response to State violence, the women chanted, ”Wathint’ abafazi, Strijdom! wathint’ abafazi,wathint’ imbokodo,uza kufa!” “Now you have touched the women you have struck a rock: you have dislodged a boulder: you will be crushed.” 2019, Chile, in response to State violence, the women pointed to the Supreme Court and chanted, “El violador eres tú!” “The rapist is you!” 2021, Turkey, in response to State violence, the women say, “It is women who will win this war!” Women are the center of this center.

(By Dan Moshenberg)

(Photo Credit: Bianet / Evrim Kepenek & Ayşegül Özbek)

Landmark case: In South Africa, five sisters said NO! to the exclusion of women … and won!

Constitutional Court

This is the story of Trudene Forword, Annelie Jordaan, Elna Slabber, Kalene Roux and Surina Serfontein, five women who refused to be denied their birthright, and In so doing affirmed, once again, that justice means justice for everyone. The story begins in 1902, in Oudtshoorn, in the Klein Karoo, in the Western Cape. Oudtshoorn is known for ostrich farms. Maybe now it will also be known as yet another cradle of democracy and justice for all. On November 28, 1902, Karel Johannes Cornelius de Jager and his wife, Catherine Dorothea de Jager formally signed their will, leaving some of their farms to their children, with one stipulation. The farms would pass from their children only to male generations until the third generation. But what if, at some point, the only direct descendants are women? Last month, South Africa’s Constitutional Court ruled on that question. 

In 1957, brothers Kalvyn, Cornelius and John de Jager inherited the property. John de Jager never had sons, and so when he died, his property was split between his two remaining brothers, Kalvyn and Cornelius. When Cornelius died, his sons – Albertus, Frederick, and Arnoldus – inherited his half share in the farms. In 2015, Kalvyn de Jager died. He had no sons, and he had five daughters: Trudene Forword, Annelie Jordaan, Elna Slabber, Kalene Roux and Surina Serfontein. Their male cousins claimed the property, noting that while the situation may smack of “unfair discrimination”, the law was the law, and a will was a will. The sisters didn’t buy that argument and went to court. Both the High Court and the Supreme Court of Appeals decided in favor of the male cousins. The sisters persisted and went to the Constitutional Court, the court of last resort, in this instance. Last month, the Constitutional Court decided in the sisters’ favor.

Acting Justice Margaret Victor explained, “The provisions of the preamble to the Equality Act make its nature and intended purpose clear. The consolidation of democracy requires the eradication of inequalities, especially those that are systemic in nature and which were generated in South Africa’s history by colonialism, apartheid and patriarchy. Inheritance laws sustain and legitimise the unequal distribution of wealth in societies thus enabling a handful of powerful families to remain economically privileged while the rest remain systematically deprived. In my view, this system entrenches inherited wealth along the male line. In applying this critique to the facts in this case our common law principle of freedom of testation is continuing to entrench a skewed gender bias in favour of men.”

The consolidation of democracy requires the eradication of inequalities, especially those that are systemic in nature and which were generated in history by colonialism, apartheid and patriarchy. What else is there to say?

By Dan Moshenberg

(Photo Credit: GroundUp / Ashraf Hendricks)

Who are essential workers in the pandemic? Grocery store clerks, teachers, nurses, women.

While the President lies, downplays, and now considers easing up on the social distancing rule despite public health officials’ warnings, we are in the midst of a pandemic. 

People who are non-essential workers are being told to stay home, to telecommute and teleconference. To work from their personal laptops and flatten the curve.  

We’re hearing this everywhere. Non-essential, non-essential. But who are the essential? Who are the critical workers that are leaving their homes and risking infection, whether they want to or not, because they provide a public good? 

They’re teachers, nurses, EMTs, grocery store clerks. In short, they’re women.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve learned several valuable lessons (well, not really. I knew them already, but I really hope this experience radicalizes those who did not). And that is who should be considered valuable and essential workers in times of crisis. What I mean is this:

Grocery store workers/truck drivers/warehouse workers deserve a Congressperson’s salary, with health insurance and benefits and a pension plan that rivals how much Paul Ryan makes after he retired from the House. Those workers have spent two to three weeks stocking shelves, taking care of people despite the risk of infection, and have been donating to food banks so that local people can have food. We’ve been doing more than any person in Congress is doing right now.

Teachers need a Presidential Salary. I don’t know, is it $275,000? or over $400,000? Either way, teachers and schools provide more services than the government does for the impoverished in their area! Children are fed, given emotional care, taught and, in the case of NYC, provide literally a place for homeless children to stay!

And hospital workers? Nurses? EMTs? Forget about it. CEO salary. And I’m not talking small to mid-size business here. I’m talking about Bob Iger’s compensation before he ducked out of the Walt Disney Company. You are keeping people alive, despite the fact there might not be enough beds, or ventilators, or even face masks! While other jobs are able to work from home, to stop the spread of the disease, you are working under extreme conditions to make sure people get to go home, alive and healthy, to their families.

Those are the people who are essential. When this is over, when this crisis is averted (and even now), maybe it’s time to start demanding we be treated as essential workers.

(Photo Credit: John Autey / Pioneer Press) (Image Credit: Bored Teachers)

How many children die as a result of a parent, and especially a mother, being incarcerated?

Last week former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg made claims as part of his 2020 presidential campaign to tackle racial bias in the criminal justice system and lower the prison population. In his plan, released on February 18th, Bloomberg promised to “end the era of mass incarceration, ensure fairness and equality in our criminal justice system, and shift its focus from punishment to rehabilitation.” At the same time, he received criticism for his previous support of stop-and-frisk policing that disproportionally targeted people of color during his tenure in New York City. 

If going through the courts is a necessary step to address the criminal justice system, what do these alleged promises mean in a time when the Trump administration has worked to appoint conservative judges? Bloomberg states that as President he would support legislation to make changes for federal officers, pledge money to reforms, and end federal cash bail. While he’s getting pushback for his positions on social issues, it’s worth noting that he spent more than $41 milliontowards campaigns in the 2018 midterm election that would later help elect 21 Democrats to the House. 

Bloomberg’s allocation of wealth raises the question: if wealth and positions of power created the unjust systems that exist today, is wealth also needed to dismantle them? Is it enough to have people with good morals taking initiatives on criminal justice reform, or do you need to have accomplices in positions of power of wealth? In the case of Bloomberg, his contradictory actions bear assessment

Bloomberg claims he will invest $1 billion in programs to support young men of color, but what about young women of color?

This past week, a California lawmaker proposed bill AB 732, also known as the “Reproductive Dignity for Incarcerated People Act” to improve treatment of incarcerated pregnant women. This followed a 2016 ACLU report exposing the abhorrent conditions for pregnant women in jails, and a class action lawsuit after there were three miscarriages and inmate Candace Steel was left alone for hours in her isolated jail cell without care during the labor and delivery of her child in 2017. The Alameda County Sheriff’s Office disputed her account, but a federal judge believes otherwise. Steel was one of 28 other women since 2014 who sued for civil rights violations, medical malpractice and emotional distress. This is just one example of an incident that could have been avoided if proper attention was given to the needs of women. 

Surveillance video released this past week reveals Damaris Rodriguez, a mother of five, suffering from starvation and psychological behavior in a Washington state jail cell before dying from a treatable metabolic condition. 

What is wrong with this sentence: “Since this incident, our employees have received comprehensive training in crisis intervention”. It is all too common: proposed action after a lawsuit. Why? Because we are living in a carceral world where mental and physical health is policed before it is assessed and treated. Will this ever be corrected if poor training is used as a loophole for the state? 

Last week, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, local rights group Licadho asked prison officials to investigate the death of a five-month-old baby living with its incarcerated mother during her pre-trial detention for possessing $2.50 of methamphetamine. According to a statement issued, the baby had been taken to the hospital for a hip fracture in late January of 2020, where it was denied the ability to spend the night for observation. Upon returning to prison with its mother, it began experiencing medical complications. Only after the baby’s condition worsened was it taken back to the hospital, where it eventually died from pneumonia and severe malnutrition. 

A Prison Department official blamed the child’s death on the mother and denied the baby suffered from malnourishment. Since 2017, there has been mass incarceration of Cambodians as part of the country’s “war on drugs”. The local rights group is bringing this to light in the hope that all pregnant women and mothers in prison with their children serving pre-trial detention will be granted bail before International Women’s Day on March 8, 2020. 

Would this sort of promise be possible in the United States? How many children die as a result of a parent, and especially a mother, being incarcerated?

(Image Credit: Johns Hopkins Medicine)

The problem of female misrepresentation in medical studies is very real

Reference Man

The misrepresentation of women in medical studies is a problem that has misled medical officials for generations. In “On the Generation of Animals”, Aristotle characterized a female as a mutilated male. No one corrected him. Instead, we make medical decisions based on data derived from Reference Man. Reference Man is a Caucasian male, aged twenty-five to thirty, weighing about 155 lbs. Reference-Man fails to represent half of the world population’s anatomy. Women have worked tirelessly to right these wrongs — and receive accurate medical care.

Through a whirlwind of decisions made from 1977 and 1993, women lost their right to participation and they took it right back. In 1977, women “of childbearing potential” were removed from the possible subject pool of medical studies. This was due to the fact that 10,000 children had been born between 1960 and 1962 with thalidomide-related disabilities because doctors prescribed it to pregnant women for morning sickness. Drug developers and doctors everywhere had made the mistake, and women continued to pay the price. In 1985, Public Health Reports released “Report of the Public Health Service Task Force on Women’s Health Issues”, which called for data on women – not data on Reference Man. Because the data simply did not exist. In response, NIH and FDA worked to develop more inclusive guidelines regarding the inclusion of women in medical studies. In 1993, the 1977 ban was rescinded. 

Yet we fail to learn from our mistakes. In 2012 and 2013, as recounted by Vox producer Kim Mas, headline after headline read that women were crashing their cars the morning after taking a sleeping pill, Zolpidem, commonly known as Ambien. Why? Men and women received the same prescription of a ten-milligram dosage for eight hours of sleep. But developers had failed to test the drug’s effects on women. Women’s metabolism took twice as long as men to break down the drug and remove it from their system. So, when they got started with their day the following morning, they were still under the influence of Ambien, impairing their ability to operate a motor vehicle. But the doctor prescribed it, so how could it be their fault? 

Well, it was. Surprise! Reference Man had gone through the trials, and his results were not generalizable. Not to women, and not to anyone besides Reference Man. Rather than take the time and money to test more subjects, developers assumed the data they had covered it all. Plus, the Vox report illustrates how even if women are included in these studies, their results are usually lost amidst the overwhelming male data. Following this scandal, the FDA released a safety warning in 2013 cutting the Ambien dosage for women in half. If drug companies cannot take the time to test the effects of their drugs on women, how can we trust our medical care? And how can we expect anyone else to give a damn about our needs?

We can’t. In February 2018, the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology published an all-male-authored medical paper entitled ‘Gender differences in clinical registration trials: is there a real problem?’. Their conclusion? No, the problem was not “real”. If you ask me, when women are crashing their cars because their doctors did not know the effects of the drug dosage they were prescribing, I’d say that’s a real problem.

(Photo Credit: Vox)

Why is women’s leadership so scary for men?

Data shows that start-ups which are women-led receive more revenue than those led by men. Data also shows that women score higher than men in five key traits of a successful leader. In her book, Invisible Women, Caroline Criado Perez touches on an interesting aspect, how women’s leadership is shown to be successful but men still want to discount it from successful women. According to BI Norwegian Business School research, the five key traits used to identify a successful leader are emotional stability, extraversion, openness to new experiences, agreeableness and conscientiousness. After reading this, I looked up to my male friend and asked whole-heartedly, “Why is female leadership so scary for men?” He answered this might be because in the past, there has always been this tough, demanding white boss, and intimidation brings (or brought) results.

The BI Norwegian Business School traits all have to do with listening, being empathetic and having emotional stability. Who on Earth wants to work for a mean, disrespectful boss? Criado

Perez writes that “women are better suited for leadership than men” and I cannot help but think about the reactions people have towards this. What is so bad about it? Why can’t women be great leaders, and why can’t men be led by them?

While Criado Perez was talking about leadership in the workplace, I would ask the same question for the feminist movement. The anti-femicide demonstrations that have been happening around the world with the song “Un Violador en Tu Camino” has impacted the feminist movement greatly. Why can’t women be great leaders, and why can’t men be led by them? Across Latin America, people are attacking feminists who performed this song, mocking their movements without knowing their meaning, objectifying them, and the comment that bothers me the most: “n=No one would ever want to rape you!” Are these trolls saying that wanting to be raped is an honor? Society needs to understand what feminists are fighting for. Men need to be open to learning and understanding what women go through every day. It would be interesting to see people take a step back, listen to what the feminist movement is asking for, and let women lead into more peaceful, inclusive communities, both in the workplace and beyond.

(Photo Credit: Pagina 12) (Video Credit: YouTube / El Mundo)