Women held record gains, influence in election

On November 6, most Americans focused their attention on the presidential election results. However, many state and congressional races also will influence the next four years. The Gender Report has previously looked at the influence of women in politics, notably the lack of women in elected office.This year, those numbers are starting to improve.

A Washington Post multimedia project highlights the female senators and their projected significance in governance. Click the image to go to this project.

The 2012 election brought a record-number of women to office; 1 in 5 senators are now female (a gain of 3 seats), and the first Asian American, as well as openly gay, women were elected to represent Hawaii and Wisconsin, respectively. A Washington Post multimedia project highlighted the female senators and their projected significance in governance. In addition, New Hampshire became the first state to elect an all-female delegation, including the only female democratic governor. In the House of Representatives, 77  seats will be held by women (a gain of four representatives).

Presidential Influence

Despite their gains for their own seats and victories, much of the media coverage of the election instead focused on the influence of female voters on the top of the ticket. According to research from the Huffington Post, for the first time in research dating to 1952, a presidential candidate whom men chose decisively – Republican Mitt Romney – lost. While Obama’s victory was attributed partly to high minority turnout and support, he won the female vote 54 to 45 nationally and also in every swing state(compared to his 56 to 43 showing in 2008). In one Washington Post article, female supporters of Gov. Mitt Romney said they couldn’t trust him to be true to his campaign promises, an issue women voters consider more signficant than their male counterparts. Gallup polling has tracked the gender gap since 1952, and said this year’s gender divide was 20 percentage points, the largest ever using its method of calculation.

The Huffington Post called 2013 the “New Year of the Woman.” For the time being, the most attention will be on Sen. Elizabeth Warren and the role she will play in the upcoming deficit deliberations in Congress.

Also of note was the loss of two male candidates who made incendiary comments about rape and women’s health in the weeks leading up to the election. Rep. Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock, both republicans, made headlines for their separate comments about “legitimate rape” and abortions being god-sent, and were both defeated. Some analysts attribute the nationalized attention to their comments to the already debated “war on women” of the republican party.

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Women in journalism: Reading list 2/13/12

The Gender Report is now providing a weekly round-up of links to online articles that may be of interest to our readers. The links below are to noteworthy articles on topics related to women in journalism and the media during the past week.

-REPORT: By A Nearly 2 To 1 Margin, Cable Networks Call On Men Over Women To Comment On Birth Control (Think Progress)

-Four Tips for Male Journalists Who Want to Discuss Women’s Health (Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress)

-Sunday Shows Overwhelmingly White And Male: Study (Huffington Post – Media)

-A Painterly World Press Photo Winner: “We seldom see veiled women in this way, at such an intimate moment.” (Lens – New York Times photo blog)

-BBC ‘got it wrong on women’ (The Guardian)

-The grammar of assault: Salisbury paper learns why ‘performing a sex act’ misrepresents the crime (Poynter)

-Cal Thomas Apologizes To Rachel Maddow For Contraception Comment (Huffington Post – Media)

-In the New York Times, Sheryl Sandberg Is Lucky, Men Are Good (Rebecca Rosen for The Atlantic)

-Finding ‘Life, Death And Hope’ In A Mumbai Slum: Interview with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo (NPR’s Fresh Air)

-When did The New York Times first get…[a woman reporter with a desk in the newsroom]? (Poynter)

-What it’s like to cover ‘unbearable’ stories of rape in Congo (by Lynsey Addario for Women Under Siege, a project to document sexualized violence in conflict. The project’s website launched this week.)

-From darkness, dignity: Why sexualized violence must move from the shadows (by Lara Logan for Women Under Siege)

-$20K grants available for female-driven digital journalism start-ups (10,000 Words)

-Help PhD research into women in journalism (Journalism.co.uk)

Articles included in this feature do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gender Report or its writers. We encourage readers to submit suggestions of articles to include in future editions of this feature by sending an email to genderreport@gmail.com. For links to articles like these throughout the week, follow @GenderReport on Twitter.

Week in Review: A look at the Middle East

Photo credited to BBC Persian, from the New York Times. Participants marched against the widespread public sexual harassment of women on the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan, last July.

As political and social change continues to sweep through Egypt, Libya, Yemen and several other parts of the Middle East and Africa, the Gender Report looked at the key role women are playing in these processes. We’ve written before about protests, participation in marches, and pushes for representative government in these areas. Here are a few updates in these cases we found in our News Feed, as well as their representation in the media:

  • Libya: Women continue to speak out against rapes committed during the country’s long civil war, asking the new government to provide financial, legal and counseling support to victims. Read more via the Associated Press (as syndicated by the Washington Post).
  • Afghanistan: Nicholas Kristof, an avid supporter of women’s rights, featured a guest post by Noorjahan Akbar on his New York Times blog on her experiences with women marching for awareness of sexual harassment concerns. The post also highlighted organizations and women that are continuing this fight.
  • Egypt: The safety of female journalists in Tahrir Square continues to make headlines as another women, this time a female broadcast journalist from France, was assaulted while covering the protests. The organization Reporters Sans Frontieres, recanted a recommendation to remove female journalists from Tahrir Square for their own safety, after many journalists criticized the statement. One opinion piece for the Guardian said “If women journalists are told it’s too dangerous for them to go there, those voices are likely to be silenced altogether.” The Gender Report earlier highlighted the sexual assault of a “60 Minutes” reporter in February.

Have you seen or read other coverage of women in the Middle East? Post a comment or tweet it to the Gender Report or our News Feed, @GRNewsFeed or @GenderReport.

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.

Saudi women given right to vote, run in future elections

News organizations and social networks were buzzing Sunday morning after Saudi Arabian King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud announced that women would be given the right to vote and to run in future local elections as well as join the advisory Shura council as full members.

This marks a significant shift for the conservative Muslim country where activists have been calling for further rights for women.

“Because we refuse to marginalize women in society in all roles that comply with sharia, we have decided, after deliberation with our senior ulama [clerics] and others … to involve women in the Shura council as members, starting from the next term” (King Abdullah said in his speech, according to The Guardian)

Saudi writer Nimah Ismail Nawwab, in talking to the BBC, said activists have been campaigning on this issue and others related to women’s rights in the country for 20 years. In this report by Al Jazeera, Hatoon Al Fassi, a professor of women’s history at Saud University, comments on the decision and the long-term efforts for further women’s rights in the country:

Women in Saudi Arabia currently must have written approval from a male to work, leave the country or for certain medial procedures, and public segregation of the sexes is the norm. Women are also still not allowed to drive, though there is no specific law against it. This became the most recent hot-button issue as over the summer women protested by defying the ban and driving. Some women were arrested as a result. This issue was not addressed in the announcement.

The White House offered praise of the decision Sunday morning, with National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor saying the move recognizes the “significant contributions” that women make in Saudi Arabia, according to the AP.

Some commentators have suggested that the elections are meaningless and these elected positions don’t hold real power, as noted in this Christian Science Monitor story. But many are still acknowledging the symbolic importance of involving women.

This changes will go into effect after Thursday’s election. The next municipal elections will be in 2015.

Here’s a roundup of some of the initial coverage:

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.