• Monday, September 22, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Is it ever okay for a woman to exercise her sexuality to gain political power?

    15 Feb 2010


    Kudzai Makombe

    Queen Elizabeth I kept a reign on power by becoming "The Virgin Queen"  Credit www.PDImages.com

    Queen Elizabeth I kept a reign on power by becoming "The Virgin Queen" Credit www.PDImages.com

    This question has been puzzling me since a late-night, noisy get together with friends where we got talking (some might say gossiping) about the alleged cross-party sexual politics taking place in our government. The men, it was said, were using sex as a strategy to silence the women from the opposite camps. The woman targeted  loses her standing once she’s been seduced as it quickly becomes general knowledge among other politicians.

    “Once you see that so and so who used to be so vocal has gone quite then you know they’ve been had,” said one friend. Much like the boarding school strategy employed by male students to remove the top performing girl student’s ranking as number one in class I’m told. But, never having been to boarding school, much less a co-educational school, I am not aware.

    As much as this dirty trick is an age-old male strategy to silence female opponents, women throughout history have used their sexuality, that is — whom one has sex with (or not), in what ways, why, under what circumstances, and with what outcomes — as a strategy to gain power. More »

    Famous and infamous births

    21 Dec 2009


    By Paula Modersohn Becker

    By Paula Modersohn Becker

    When is a photo of a woman giving birth considered pornographic? Take your pick:

    A. When it is shown in a pornographic magazine, film or website.
    B. Never.
    C. When it is emailed to government officials urging action to improve public health.

    One could argue about A and B but this blog is about C.

    Earlier this year, in Zambia, Chansa Kabwela, news editor at the feisty opposition newspaper The Post, was charged with circulating pornography with intent to corrupt public morals. More »

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CEDAW!

    18 Dec 2009


    Ask the woman sitting next to you in the bus, train, plane, taxi-brousse or donkey cart what is CEDAW, and most probably you will draw a blank look. C’est quoi?

    Yet CEDAW – Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women – has likely impacted on her life and her daughters, if she has any, in many ways, from pension and inheritance rights to the passport they hold.

    Quilt made by women of Kyrgztan. (Unifem)

    Quilt made by women of Kyrgztan. (Unifem)

    CEDAW, which was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly 30 years ago today, is the global Bill of Rights for Women, the first international human rights treaty devoted to gender equality.

    Through its 30 articles, CEDAW has boosted women’s rights worldwide in many ways.

    More »

    Living a woman’s life

    04 Dec 2009


    Today at noon my daughter graduated from high school. In the afternoon, the email brought news about very dear friends.

    Motherhood, sisterhood, friendship.

    Motherhood, sisterhood, friendship.

    In Paris, the Chilean researcher, novelist and feminist Ana (Nicha) Vazquez Bronfman had died, aged 71. She was a beacon for a generation of Latin American women for her insights on identity  and gender. One concept she elaborated specially was “transculturation” – the permanent construction of identities in this world of global migration. In 2006 she wrote superbly about sexuality among the elderly – transgressions and secrets, she called it.

    In Rome, my friend and fellow journalist Paola Rolletta underwent the next to last chemotherapy session against breast cancer. She was jubilant to see the end of the chemical bombardment. Like antiretrovirals, chemo saves lives but is no picnic.   More »

    A spiritual gift

    23 Nov 2009


    Patriarchal in all senses. By M. Sayagues

    Patriarchal in all senses. By M. Sayagues

    What drives a 17-year-old girl to enter a monastery? Today she is 30, and still happy about her choice. Her eyes sparkle and her laughter comes easy. She exudes peace.

    I will call her Gabra (gift, in Amharic), for our conversation was private. I met her at a monastery near Lalibela, the mystical city of rock-hewn churches in northern Ethiopia.

    Monastic life has a long tradition and prestige in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The oldest monastery dates from the 6th century. A monastic renaissance between the 13th and 16th century brought great moral and political authority to clergy.

    Custodians of tradition

    Custodians of tradition

    Gabra’s rock-hewn monastery dates from the 12th century. Her room is excavated in the pink tufa rock. Two built-in-the-rock platforms, covered with a thin mattress, do as couch and bed. An old cupboard holds a few plates and cooking utensils, three of the long green robes worn by Ethiopian peasants, the white headscarves that nuns wear, and two pairs of sandals.

    More »

    Being male was the cameraman’s bad luck

    03 Nov 2009


    Guest blogger: Suad Hamada, IPS correspondent in Bahrain

    Shall we talk about it?

    Shall we talk about it?

    A Saudi woman journalist escaped punishment last week but her cameraman wasn’t so lucky.

    Rozana Al-Yami, 22, was pardoned by Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah after the court sentenced her to 60 lashes for her work at the talk show  Red Line in LBC, a Lebanese satellite TV.

    She made international news. He didn’t. No one mentioned that he has to serve a two-month jail term.  His name remains anonymous  in press reports.

    Some would call this positive discrimination in favour of women but to me iit s a general bias. Women have been striving all over the world for equality,  not favoritism. More »

    Beauty as an optical illusion

    12 Oct 2009


    Fashion models in ads are optical illusions and the award-winning  video Evolution of Beauty, from the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty proves the point eloquently. Watch it at:

    http://www.campaignforrealbeauty.ca/bblank.asp?id=6895

    Digital cosmetic surgery – nip-and-tuck, botox and liposuction, on the screen, with a click – render these models picture-perfect (excuse the pun) and thoroughly unreal.

    There is no way a non-photoshopped  woman can attain that perfection. Hey, we are human. We have flaws.

    More »

    HILARIOUS CONDOM ADS

    21 Sep 2009


    Gender Masala has been dealing with serious topics seriously …it’s time for a fun break!  Check out these hilarious condom ads from several continents. They make safe sex fun.

    Make safe sex fun. By M. Sayagues

    Make safe sex fun. By M. Sayagues

    Ranging  from sassy dialogue to black humour, these are one-minute comedies with a smart punchline. The Mother from Hell and the Spoiled Brat skits have a Borat-like humour.  And who would have thought a condom ad from India would depict anal sex?

    Click on the ad from Argentina even if you don’t speak Spanish.  Everybody who has been a teenager will chuckle about these teens, their parents and their predicament. (Watch it here)

    Laughing got me thinking about how seldom one sees humorous ads about condoms in English-speaking Southern Africa. I have seen some cool ads in Mozambique, though – I think there were Brazilian advisors involved. More »

    Whose pleasure? Notes about male circumcision and female sexuality

    24 Aug 2009


    Guest blogger: Pierre Brouard, Deputy Director, Centre for the Study of Aids, University of Pretoria, South Africa

    Permanent erection, permanent pleasure?

    Hard task: defining sexual pleasure. Photo: M. Sayagues

    So what headlines have grabbed you lately about male circumcision in South Africa? These caught my eye:

    “The death toll in the Eastern Cape’s winter circumcision season has risen to 31”
    “Circumcision ‘scam’ probed”
    “Two on run after initiate dies”

    As alarming and distressing as these headlines are – and the sad, desperate and greedy subtexts embedded in them – they don’t say much about the other big debate that is raging across southern Africa: the value of male circumcision to prevent HIV acquisition in heterosexual men, and what’s in it for women. More »