Week in Review: 7 billion people and 7 stories about women

"As world welcomes '7 billionth baby,' UN says empowering women is key to stability" - Christian Science Monitor

According to United Nations estimates, the world population hit 7 billion this week. As a result, we’ve turned this week’s Week in Review post into a seven-story round-up of top news related to women and girls.

1. Seven billion and counting

With the world population hitting 7 billion, the UN argued that empowering women is vital to stabilizing growth, as demonstrated in this Christian Science Monitor piece. A baby girl named Danica Camacho born in the Philippines on Oct. 31 became the symbolic seven billionth baby.

2. Women’s rights in the Arab Spring

Continued concerns about the role of women and women’s rights during upheaval in the Middle East emerged this week. U.S. State Department officials spoke to a Senate committee about the issues Wednesday. Tunisian women demonstrated regarding their rights on the same day in light of the election victories of an Islamic party.

3. Herman Cain deals with sexual harassment accusations

Campaign coverage this week was dominated by allegations that presidential candidate Herman Cain was accused of sexual harassment during his time working for the National Restaurant Association in the late 1990s. Politico broke the story that at least two women had complained of “inappropriate behavior” from Cain. These women ultimately left their jobs with financial packages and having signed nondisclosure causes, meaning they are unable to discuss the issues. Cain has denied the claims and suggested it was the work of candidate Rick Perry’s campaign. A third woman came forward saying she considered filing a workplace complaint against Cain. One woman received permission to speak about the matter publicly and issued a statement through her lawyer.

4. Journalists and sexual violence

The Atlantic published a piece by Lauren Wolfe, director of Women Under Siege, about journalists and sexual violence, specifically the efforts of Jineth Bedoya Lima, a Colombian journalist to seek justice nearly a dozen years after she was drugged, kidnapped and gang raped. Women Under Siege is a new initiative by the Womens’ Media Center on sexualized violence in conflict situations.

5. Gender-based online harassment

Women writers also spoke out this week regarding the harassment they receive online for writing and expressing their opinions and called for it to stop. Women detailed comments ranging from their level of attractiveness to threats of gang rape and mutilation. One woman, Laurie Penny, referred to a woman’s opinion as the “mini-skirt of the Internet.”

6. Not Funny Facebook

In an effort to combat a specific issue of misogyny online, activists campaigned to put pressure on Facebook to enforce and clarify its guidelines and to remove pages that promote sexual violence. Facebook’s Terms of Service do ban “hateful, threatening” content and those that contained “graphic or gratuitous violence,” but Facebook has refused to remove these pages, saying they are jokes or don’t qualify as hate speech. Campaigns included a “Rape is Not Funny” campaign in the UK and a Change.org petition and social media campaign (See #notfunnyfacebook on Twitter) in the US. As of the time of this post, campaigners noted that at least one page — “You know she’s playing hard to get when your chasing her down an alleyway” — has been taken down this week.

7. Feminism and the web

For those looking for a good read, New York Magazine published a piece this week titled “The Rebirth of the Feminist Manifesto” about the ways the blogosphere has “transformed” the feminist conversation. It includes interviews with a number of feminist figures on the web and a roundup of some links to their sites.

This is the Gender Report’s Week in Review, a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed or in the week’s Gender Checks. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.

Week in Review: Jan. 24-28

*Week in Review is a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed or in the week’s Gender Checks. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.

State of the Union

President Barack Obama gave his second State of the Union address Tuesday, discussing a plan to “win the future.” Media outlets focused in on key issues in the speech such as investing in education and infrastructure to stay competitive with other nations as well as working to reduce the deficit.

The blogosphere was a”twitter” with commentary, including some women who noted the absence of certain social issues. During their #sheparty discussion on Twitter on Wednesday, the Women’s Media Center asked what the take was on Obama’s speech. Commenters noticed missing issues such as equal pay, violence against women and abortion.

Also observed was the coverage of the speech. A post at Feministing provided a roundup of commentary on the address, noting at the end that it was “virtually impossible to find any female pundits commenting on the SOTU on the nation’s most notable progressive media outlets.”

At the same time, the Women’s Media Center released its report card for Obama on the state of the union for women and children, giving him an overall pass “with room for improvement.” Obama’s lowest grade on the report card, aside from some incompletes, was a C for appointing women. It cites the Center for American Women and Politics and notes that Obama appointed women to fill seven of 22 existing cabinet or sub-cabinet positions, or approximately 32 percent. The high for women was under President Bill Clinton at 42 percent. It also partly holds Obama responsible as a leader of the Democratic party for the lack of women running in recent elections. Quoting Katherine Kleeman with the CAWP, the report card notes, “the Democrats aren’t putting as much effort as the Republicans into grooming great women candidates at the local level.”

In other news

Also this week, women were part of the dialogue on the situations on Tunisia and Egypt. N’Dri Assie-Lumumba, a professor of Africana Studies at Cornell University, has noted that women are playing significant roles in these social movements. She says, “Even if African and Middle Eastern women don’t always have easy access to public platforms to express their ideas and voice their opinions,… they have consistently constituted a formidable and determining force in the struggle against any system of oppression.”

Here are a couple articles to check out if you’ve missed them.

-NPR: “In Tunisia, Women Play Equal Role In Revolution

-AFP: “Tunisian women fear Islamist return

-Guardian: “An eyewitness account (by a woman) of the Egypt protests

-Daily Beast: “Egypt Revolution: the Purity Protests” (Women increasingly taking part in the politics of the street)