Pope Francis tries to brush Catholic bigotry under the carpet

Pope Francis seemed to extend tolerance to LGBT people, abortion and women on Friday in a long form interview published in the Jesuit Journals. He said:

The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you. And the ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.

This seemed to imply, at the very least, that he wanted to focus on the more spiritual side of Catholicism. He said he wanted to move away from these ‘petty rules’ that have ‘socially wounded’ so many. Cynicism under the cut

Steven Moffat mocks female Doctor Who

Steven Moffat at Comic Con 2008

Steven Moffat at Comic Con 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Steven Moffat has angered fans of Doctor Who by making a joke about the possibility of a female Doctor. Fans had bandied around names such as Idris Elba, Sue Perkins and Miranda Hart for the 12th Doctor in the hope that the show would take a progressive direction by casting either a person of colour or a woman. However on The Doctor Live: The Next Doctor the equally beloved and reviled show runner said:

I like that Helen Mirren has been saying the next doctor should be a woman. I would like to go on record and say that the Queen should be played by a man.

The joke has caused outrage because it ridicules not only the fans who want a Doctor that is a woman but also Helen Mirren and the very idea of a female Doctor. Rather than ignore the issue or acknowledge the potential of a female Doctor, Moffat laughed at the possibility. Continue reading

Sexism at Golf’s Open Championship

HAVRE DE GRACE, MD - JUNE 06: Lorena Ochoa (ME...

HAVRE DE GRACE, MD – JUNE 06: Lorena Ochoa (MEX) during practice before 2007 LPGA Championship held at Bulle Rock Golf Course, on June 6, 2007 in Havre de Grace, Maryland. (Photo by Keith Allison) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week Alex Salmond and Maria Miller, among others, have announced that they will boycott golf’s Open Championship because of Muirfield’s continued men-only membership policy. Despite the fact that occupational segregation is currently a ministerial gender equality priority in Scotland its golf clubs lag behind in the equality stakes. Muirfield is not the only men-only club to hold the Open but it has become a lightening rod for the debate about sexism in sport. There has been condemnation from within the sport as well as outside it amid concerns for the potential damage golf’s image. Laura Davies, among the most successful British female golfer in recent years has said it’s time Muirfield joined the 21st century. Continue reading

On Ender’s Game and the Russian Olympics: Boycotts and Free Speech

Cover of "Ender's Game (Ender Quartet)"

Cover of Ender’s Game (Ender Quartet)

This week there are two quite different things people want to boycott: Ender’s Game and the Russian winter Olympics. The reasons that they want to boycott them however are essentially the same – by supporting them, you are giving money to bigots and homophobes. Vladimir Putin has signed a law banning same-sex affection following on the heals of his terrible treatment of Pussy Riot and Orson Scott Card sits on the board of NOM and is actively involved in similarly distasteful activities including calls for homosexuality to be made illegal. Continue reading

How do we solve a problem like single parent families?

A Moment in a Tumbleweed's Life

A Moment in a Tumbleweed’s Life (Photo credit: Artotem)

England is a “man desert” and 1 million children are growing up without a father. There has been much lamentation, tearing of hair and rending of garments over this revelation in a report from the centre for social justice from the usual suspects. The assumption seems to be that a man – any man – would be better than no man at all in these situations.

What the report fails to address is the question ‘why?’ Did these women choose to be single mothers? Were they divorced? abandoned? abused? Who are the fathers in question? There are many legitimate reasons why a woman might not want a specific man around her children, male role models are great where you can find them but raising children takes more than sperm. Continue reading

Disney’s Merida Makeover: not the only way to be a princess

Image from amightygirl.com

Image from amightygirl.com

Over the last fortnight, Disney released and quickly withdrew some sparkly, sexy Merida artwork for her ‘coronation ceremony’. The slimming down, aging up and general ‘princess-isation’ of Merida who was billed as a character who hated the fluff of being a princess spurred endless column inches about gender and femininity as well as a “Say No To The Merida Make Over” petition with 233,846 supporters to date.  Continue reading

Fatwa for Female Rock Band in Kashmir

Some days it seems like every time the world takes two steps forward in the fight for equality, it takes one step back.

West Point Cadet Accompanied by his Date (Source: Knights Out Twitter)

West Point Cadet Accompanied by his Date (Source: Knights Out Twitter)

This week there have been major advances for the LGBT community. Just last night in the UK we had a historic victory for equality with the signing of the gay marriage bill. In the US, the military has shown how far it has come since repealling DADT by circulating lovely pictures of a male West Point cadet taking his civilian boyfriend to a winter formal.

However while the LGBT community is celebrating (and rightly so) there has been a major step backwards for women in Kashmir. The first all-female, Kashmiri rock band, Pragraash, has decided to disband. The 16-year-old vocalist, Noma Nazir, and two 15-year-olds, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid, were the target of a campaign of virulent abuse via social networking sites. People flocked to the internet to leave comments like ‘These band girlz should be gang rapped’ and ‘shameless bithches they should be hanged’ [sic].

Initially the band decided to retreat from live performances and continue to make an album but the last straw came in the form of a fatwa against them from the Supreme Court of Islamic Shariat, headed by Grand Mufti Mohammad Bashiruddin. In his statement he linked the band’s activities to the gang rape and murder of an, as yet unnamed, 23 year old student in Delhi a few months back. The three girls have all announced that they will completely refrain from playing music in the future.

Clockwise from top left: Lita Ford, Sandy West...

The Runaways: One of the first female rock bands (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to one of the girls who spoke anonymously to BBC Hindi the band didn’t understand why a fatwa had been issued; “There are many artists from Kashmir who are performing. But they did not issue a fatwa against them.” She stops short of explicitly mentioning gender but the implications are very clear. It is not surprising but it is depressing. The double standard is egregious and unrepentant. However perhaps more insidious is the idea that women are in anyway to blame for rape. Even in countries that purport to support equal rights for women this idea continues to permeate attitudes toward rape victims.

Victim blaming is alive and well in the UK and US as was seen when MP for Gloucester, Richard Graham, said short skirts and high heels make you likely to get raped and an NYT report on an 11-year-old gang rape victim highlighted her make up and grown up clothing. This attitude is no different from the Great Mufti who claims women “given freedom to roam around, sing and dance,” causes gang rape and hardline separatists who released a statement that said “No noble family will allow their girls to choose dancing as a profession which is a thing of pleasure for strangers”. Attempts to place the blame on women consistently fail to address the real problem. Telling your daughters not to wear revealing clothing or be in a rock band is not nearly as important as teaching your sons to respect people and not rape them. Make no mistake; rape is not a female issue, it is a male issue.

Despite the appalling misogyny of many, there are some hopeful signs. The band first came to prominence during a Battle of the Bands competition where they placed third and they continue to have the support of the Chief Government Officer Omar Abdulla who has promised a full police investigation into the worst of the social media abuse though he was not willing to go against the Great Mufti’s fatwa. There has also been an outpouring of support from India, specifically from Vishal Dadlani, who offered the girls a recording contract in Mumbai and begged them not to stop making music ‘due to the fear of some random lunatics’. The pressure at home has been too much for the girls however and, with their families facing social exclusion from society, they have decided to stop playing completely. It is a sad outcome for rock music and for women everywhere.