Hidden History: The 2014 Revolution in Burkina Faso

Burkinabé Rising: The Art of Resistance in Bukina Faso

Directed by Lara Lee (2017)

Film Review

Burkinabé Rising is about the 2014 revolution in Burkina Faso which overthrew dictator Blaise Compaoré after 27 years in power. To the best of my knowledge the event received no coverage whatsoever in the Western media. The vast majority of Americans have never even heard of Burkina Faso. I confess I first discovered the west African country when I  heard their music performed at Womad* in 2000.

Burkina Faso is bordered by Mali, Niger, Benin, Togo, Ghana, and Ivory Coast. It has a population of 20 million (four times the size of New Zealand). They received their independence from France in 1960.

The primary focus of the film is the historical use of art (music, modern dance, hip hop, visual arts, slam poetry, drama, and traditional masks and mud hut architecture) to raise revolutionary consciousness among young Bukinabé.

Music and dance have been especially successful in evading censorship while  preserving the memory of revolutionary leader Thomas Sankara and investigative journalist Norbert Zonga. Both were assassinated by Compaoré  and his family (Sankara in 1987 and Zonga in 1998).

The use of art in preparing the Bukinabé for full self-government has continued since Compaoré’s ouster in 2014. The role of women, the breadwinners of two-thirds of the country’s households, is of prime importance. At present several grassroots campaigns focus on women’s literacy and the education of girls, as well as the participation of women in civic organization.

There’s also a major emphasis on reviving indigenous languages and reducing food imports by banning GMOs and returning to traditional organic agriculture.


*Womad (World of Music, Arts and Dance) is an international arts festival celebrating the world’s many forms of music, arts and dance. My local city New Plymouth hosts Womad every March.

Rape Culture: The UK Failure to Prosecute Rape

Abandoned Survivors

Press TV (2017)

Film Review

This is a 2017 Press TV documentary about the British failure to successfully investigate and prosecute rape cases. The statistics they uncover are appalling:

  • Between 2013-2017, Britain experienced a 150% increase in rapes. During this period, only 3% of rape complaints went to trial.
  • Between 2016-2017, Britain experienced a 30% increase in rapes, simultaneous with a 30% cut in police resources.
  • British police accuse rape victims of lying in 20% of cases.*
  • In 30 years, Rape Crisis London has experienced only one successful rape conviction.
  • Only 5.7% of suspected rape suspects go to prison for their crime.
  • Convicted sex offenders (including child molesters) only spend an average of four years in prison (sentences are much shorter than for theft and drug offenses, presumably due to their low economic impact).
  • Most convicted rapists re-offend (ie commit rape) within one year of leaving prison.
  • Increasingly British gangs employ rape for vendettas because the sentences are so short.

Although the film is limited to an examination of the British criminal justice system, the US and New Zealand experience similar low prosecution rates for rape.


*”Why It’s So Unlikely Any Woman Would Lie About Being Raped” – see https://www.usnews.com/opinion/civil-wars/articles/2018-01-10/women-dont-lie-about-being-raped

The film can’t be embedded because YouTube has banned Press TV from their platform. You can view it free at  http://presstvdoc.com/post/15961

How Gender Roles Trap Men

The Empathy Gap: Masculinity and the Courage to Change

Directed by Thomas Keith (2015)

Film Review

This documentary asserts our culture traps men in a stereotypical gender role, just as it does women. Stereotypical masculinity requires contemporary men not to express feelings (except anger), not to show empathy or vulnerability, to control and dominate (with violence if necessary), to excel at athletics, to degrade women, and to accumulate material possessions.

Research indicates boys tend to be open about expressing feelings until age 14, when they become terrified of being labeled “faggots” or “wusses” if they are at all open with emotions or feelings of vulnerability.

Contemporary society also socializes men to have little interest (outside the sexual arena*) in the experiences of women. Our culture typically portrays women as incompetent, unreliable, and emotional. Most of this socialization occurs very early in life via the media.

The filmmakers share vignettes five-year-old children of both sexes consistently choosing boy dolls as “smarter” and girl dolls “as nicer.”

According to Keith, Donald Trump, more than any other contemporary male figure personifies this stereotypical masculinity. The latter carefully cultivates an image of being tough, distant, and demeaning to women. As part of this script he nearly always addresses conflict with aggression and rarely displays any emotions other than anger.

Sadly little has changed in fifty years. A comparison of the idiocies broadcast by right wing commentators such as Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Erick Erikson reveals little difference between their personna and that of the fictional Archie Bunker in the 1970s TV series All in the Family.

Research shows men in groups are more likely to exhibit toxic masculinity than men on their own.


*In my experience, most men aren’t very interested in women’s sexuality, either.

Anyone with a public library card can view the film free at Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine.

Enough with Catcalling: Fighting Sexual Assault in Brail

Enough with Catcalling: Fighting Sexual Assault in Brazil

Directed by Amanda Kamacheck and Fernanda Frazo (2018)

Film Review

This documentary concerns a female-led campaign to reduce sexual assault levels in Brazil, including verbal aggression commonly known as catcalling.* Brazil, where a woman is raped every 11 minutes, is fifth highest in the world for its rate of femicide. Eighty-one percent of Brazilian women report being emotionally distressed by catcalling. Forty-four percent complain of touched without their permission.

In contrast one-third of Brazilian men blame rape victims for being raped. Twenty-six percent agree that women who reveal too much of their bodies deserve to be raped. As for catcalling, a majority feel it’s okay – because it doesn’t invade women’s space and “women should accept it as a compliment.”

In Brazil, men are raised to believe they have the right to control women’s bodies and comment on them. The filmmakers interview female academics who echo views presented in Feminist City and Invisible Women They lament women’s age-old battle to be present in urban spaces (as opposed to being confined at home), despite women making up 50% of the workforce “since the beginning of time.”

Like Leslie Kern and Caroline Priado Perez, they agree the layout of Brazilian cities (favoring residents with cars) has made them less safe for women who walk, cycle, or wait for buses, especially at night. They also agree that the the solution to verbal, physical, and sexual aggression against women is to make women more conscious of the level of aggression men subject them to. They find social media extremely helpful in increasing consciousness levels.


*Catcalling: The act of publicly shouting at women with harassing and often sexually suggestive, threatening, or derisive comments.

People with a public library card can view the film free on Kanopy. Just type Kanopy and the name of your library into your search engine.

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men

By Caroline Criado Perez

Vintage Books (2019)

Book Review

Although women make up over 50% of the global population, under patriarchy there’s a perverse tendency for political and social institutions to regard “male” as the default sex and “female” as an aberration. The result, according to author Caroline Criado Perez, is major suffering for women in three main primary areas 1) society’s failure to accommodate major ways women’s bodies are different from men’s, 2) society’s failure to acknowledge the vast amount of unpaid work women perform, and 3) society’s failure to address the ubiquitous threat of male violence against women.

The most serious threat to women’s lives occurs in the medical and military/security area, owing to the failure of doctors and military planners to appreciate distinct features of women’s anatomy and physiology. Perez cites research revealing that doctors (of both sexes) continually misdiagnosis life threatening illness in women as “hysterical” or “in their head.” They still fail to recognize that many common illnesses (for example heart attacks*) present differently in women.

Women’s health (and lives) are also seriously jeopardized by military and police regulations that fail to account for women’s physical differences. Among the most striking examples are the frequent pelvic fractures female recruits suffer. According to Perez, this stems from requirements they match the stride length set by men and carry rucksacks (designed for men), with ill-fitting straps that lack padded hip belts. Their masks and boots (women’s feet are narrower and have higher arches than men’s) don’t fit, either. Nor do their rubber gloves, which frequently get caught in machinery.

There is also a deplorable lack of funding for start-ups and research related to women-specific medical conditions.**

The issue of women’s invisible unpaid labor has (mainly child care and elder care) been a bugbear of the feminist movement for nearly 40 years. However I was previously unaware that the world’s elite economic institutions (eg World Bank, IMF) made the deliberate decision to exclude unpaid work from GDP.

They claimed it was “too difficult to measure.” However Perez asserts unpaid labor is very easy to measure with “time-use” surveys. Thanks to the growing popularity of major all-volunteer projects like Wikipedia and Open Source software, economists are finally acknowledging the importance of unpaid work, as well as employing “time-use” surveys to measure it.

The result, according to Perez, was the discovery that significant GDP growth starting in the late 70s largely resulted from more women getting paid for previously unpaid work (eg child and elder care). Likewise, the decline in GDP growth stemming from post-2008 global austerity cuts reflected women’s women’s withdrawal from the labor market to perform child and elder care. They had no choice when most industrialized countries drastically downsized publicly funded care programs.

In discussing her third major area of concern (the ubiquitous threat of male violence), Perez addresses many of the same issues as Leslie Kern highlights in Feminist City, mainly related to fear and risk of violence women experience when they use public transport or enter certain city spaces on their own.


*With heart attacks, women are more likely to present with stomach pain and nausea (in contrast to the chest pain in men). Additionally, women’s ECGs tend to be inconclusive and their angiograms tend to be negative because their heart attacks are less likely to be caused by occlusion (closed-off coronary arteries). Because doctors are slow to diagnose heart attacks in women, they make up only 25% of patients receiving life-saving percutaneous coronary interventions (eg stents).

**Perez gives the example of a female inventor who couldn’t get startup funding (despite studies showing women-run startups generate twice the revenue of male startups) for a better fitting, quieter, more efficient breast pump and female researchers who couldn’t get funding to research the most effective treatment available for menstrual cramps (Viagra!), pelvic floor training (37% of women have pelvic floor dysfunction after childbirth), or sodium bicarbonate infusion for weak birth contractions (number one cause of maternal death in childbirth).

 

Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-made World

Feminist City: Claiming Space in a Man-made World

by Leslie Kern

Book Review

Feminist City is about “feminist geography,” a field that studies the failure of city planners to anticipate the needs of women. Because women do the vast majority of unpaid work (ie child care, elder care, and homemaking) they use the city much more intensively than men. Except on weekends, the latter use city spaces mainly on the way to work.

Historically the first women in public spaces were prostitutes (20% in the early 18th century). As distinctions of rank diminished with new fashions, the desire not to be misconstrued as a “public woman” put great pressure on middle class women to stay at home.

It didn’t help that working class women who came to the city to work in factories and domestic service were condemned  (according to Engels) for destroying families. Nor that author Charles Dickens proposed to compel “fallen women” to be sent to colonies with a surplus of men.

According to Kern, the male gender of the vast majority of city planners creates major difficulties for women in paid work, who must also transport children to school, daycare, and after school activities and children and elders to medical appointments. Since only a minority have cars, they must rely on public transportation, which is very poorly designed to accommodate them. Beyond Tube and subway stations inaccessible to women with strollers, most buses and trains accommodate strollers poorly, if at all. Public transport is also far more expensive for women – due to the high number of trips they take and the additional fares they pay for children they can’t leave at home.

Other ways women are disadvantaged in accessing city spaces include

  • Inadequate public toilets, a major problem for women managing pregnancy or periods, infants, or toddlers undergoing toilet training.
  • Inadequate safety planning for single women fearing potential male violence and microaggression in using public transport at night or in poorly light and/or low traffic areas.
  • Inadequate planning for girls’ recreational areas to complement the skate parks,

The most interesting section of the book addresses the threat women pose in a patriarchal system when they opt out of marriage and heterosexual monogamy, seek out female friendships in preference to romantic relationships, exist in public spaces on their own (without an accompanying male) or express themselves as individuals (politically, artistically, journalistically, or on social media).

The default expectation is that a woman alone is presumed to be available to men or craving a relationship. Kern blames this expectation for the persistence of the urban tendency to “punish” solitary women with catcalling, whistling, unwanted touching or, most intrusive of all, being approached by male strangers and told to smile.

With the advent of the Internet, socially prominent women face far worse, with ubiquitous social media threats to injure, rape and kill them. In a few cases, these threats are carried out, as with British MP Jo Cox in 2016

 

Sexual Violence Against Women in New Zealand

She’ll Be Right

Directed by Frances Pavletch and Carl Naus (2020)

Film Review

She’ll be Right is a film about New Zealand’s extremely high rate of sexual violence against women. In a recent survey at Otago University, more than 1/3 of female students reported incidents of sexual assault. The format consists of a succession of soundbites from #MeTooNZ activists interspersed with a variety of video clips illustrating the issues they raise.

The film highlights a number of factors contributing to New Zealand’s sexual assault epidemic, including

  • New Zealand’s binge drinking culture
  • the link between colonization and male privilege
  • a culture that values men over women and teaches men sexual entitlement
  • consent laws that place the burden on women to say no, rather than requiring men to seek consent
  • an adversarial legal system that makes no pretense of trying to ascertain the factual basis of victim complaints (only 13% of rape cases result in conviction)

The documentary also reveals that imprisoning convicted sex offenders (New Zealand has the second highest incarceration rate in the world) is totally ineffective at rehabilitating them or protecting Kiwi women from sexual assault. It explores the restorative justice process as one potential alternative to warehousing sex offenders in prison.

The video can be viewed free at https://www.filmsforaction.org/watch/shell-be-right/

 

The Social Media Beauty Cult

Too Beautiful: The Social Media Beauty Cult

DW (2019)

Film Review

This documentary examines the link between social media sites that emphasize appearance with a growing incidence of anxiety, depression, and anorexia.

The film features commentary from a psychologist, a sociologist, a philosopher, a former anorexic and a female rapper. The latter has become a strong figurehead in the movement to promote natural, “self-determined” beauty standards.

All agree that women have been dissatisfied with their bodies for generations. Social media sites like Instagram tap into these insecurities by promoting a “new normal,” in which all users must look like supermodels to be rewarded with clicks, likes and emojis.

The video goes on to explore new social media sites devoted to women’s body building cults; the ubiquitous trend to portray women as objects of desire in advertising (remember “sex sells”); and the vicious online attacks directed against women who achieve public prominence in previously male-dominated fields (eg journalism, search, and government. The online attacks directed at these women are always sexualized in a way that dehumanizes them and belittles their appearance.

Typical comments they get include “You’re ugly,” “You’re fat,” “No one would want to fuck you,” and “You must suck in bed.”

Sociologically this phenomenon to relates to a mistaken belief promoted by right wing media that girls and women have “taken over” and that women are better educated and better off financially than men.

 

Tracing Ancestry Via Mitochondrial DNA: A Patriarchal View

The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry

by Bryan Sykes

W W Norton and Company (2002)

Book Review

This book is an account of geneticist Bryan Sykes’s discovery of the value of mitochondrial DNA in tracing the maternal lineage of all contemporary human beings to a few dozen cave women. Mitochondrial DNA is unique in that it’s only inherited from the egg (sperm discard their mitochondria once they penetrate the egg). It’s also far less genetically complex than nuclear DNA and only rarely undergoes mutation.

Sykes first used his discovery to establish that Polynesian navigators (including New Zealand Maori) originated from Taiwan or coastal China, and not south America, as claimed by Thor Heyerdahl. Heyerdahl came to public attention after piloting the balsa raft Kon-Tiki from the South American cost to the Tuamotu islands near Tahiti.

Sykes also used mitochondrial DNA to settle a longstanding debate over the origin of Europe’s agricultural revolution. The old view was that Europe’s hunter gatherers had been overwhelmed and displaced by an “invasion” of Middle Eastern farmers. Sykes’s genetic studies revealed otherwise – only about 17% of current Europeans carry typical Middle Eastern mitochondrial DNA. This suggests that Europe’s hunter gatherers gradually learned techniques for domesticating plants and animals from a small number of Middle Eastern farmers.

I had real problems with the final section of the book, in which Sykes fantasizes about each of the seven “daughters of Eve” (aka clan mothers) who are direct ancestors of nearly all people of European ancestry. His reconstructions depart significantly from existing anthropological studies of hunter gatherer societies – especially his portrayal of males heading households of nuclear families, his minimization of women’s roles in domesticating plants and most farm animals, and his heavy emphasis on hunting as the primary source of nutrition among hunter gatherers.

His premise that hunter gatherer females nursed 3-4 year old children every four hours (resulting in natural birth control) is just plain wrong. Although hunter gatherer females typically breast fed children for fours years or more, after age 12-18 months breast milk became a secondary source of found as young children shared shared the same solid food their parents ate.

See Patriarchy: An Anthropological Study and Patriarchy: The Crucial Role of Women’s Unpaid Labor Under Capitalism

Medical Establishment Ignores Industrial Causes of Women’s Reproductive Illness

Guest post by Gloria

There have been precipitous increases, in the incidences of women’s reproductive-related, diseases and syndromes, in the past 50 years, in America. All of these women’s diseases and syndromes have Increased.

1. Uterine fibroids
2. Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
3. Endometriosis
4. Ovarian cysts
5. Pre-eclampsia
6. Dysmenorrhea

The diseases and syndromes all involve reproductive issues. They all affect a woman’s ability to have children. They are all debilitating in some way. They are painful. They can lead to much more serious complications.

The medical establishment will not come out and say that these diseases, are related to Environmental health issues.  Issues like the large increases of estrogenic chemicals in the environment thanks to the petroleum and chemical industries. Chemicals that surround us in our homes, clothes, cars and food. Chemicals that are in plastics and synthetics. Chemical that are in everyday goods and in food packaging. The chemicals are everywhere.

The establishment will not talk about the toxic chemicals and radionuclides, that now flood our environment. Chemicals and isotopes that are highly toxic in very small amounts. Chemicals and elements that cause drastic physiological changes in women’s bodies. These highly potent chemicals, pesticides, and radionuclides cause hormonal disruption in the delicate balance of female reproductive systems.

The worst chemical toxins like dioxins, pthalates and pesticides are teratogenic and can be mutagenic, as well as hormone disruptors.

By far and a cry ahead of the chemical poisons are the radionuclides, that are mutagenic . Radionuclides can cause heritable conditions. Radionuclides disrupt physiological process in very small amounts. They alone could be accountable, for the exponential increases in uterine fibroids, in the past 50 years.

Uterine fibroids are painful. Quite often doctors perform hysterectomies, because of them.

Here is an example of what the medical establishment calls environmental factors for uterine fibroids:  “Environmental factors: Uterine infections, menstruation at an early age, high blood pressure, usage of birth control pills, obesity, vitamin D deficiency, a diet high in red meat but lower in green vegetables, fruit and dairy, and alcohol intake (mainly beer)”

The medical system in America, blames the victims of uterine fibroids and, other female reproductive illnesses. The American medical establishment says these illnesses are from bad lifestyle choices, poor genes, or ethnicity. They study certain Asian and South American populations who happen to have less pollution and radionuclides, in the environment. They find that these demographics and ethnicities have lower incidence, of female reproductive illnesses like uterine fibroids. The American medical establishment will never attribute exposure to chemicals and radionuclides as primary causes or, even a contributing cause, in the divergence between American and other populations.

It seems odd to me that scientists who study radionuclide effects have many studies that document decreases in male sperm count. Studies of male infertility due to radiation and radionuclides showing direct effects. Scientists warn that male human sperm-count is declining precipitously, in males in industrial countries. Industrial countries like China and America.

However the medical establishment refuses to address environmental exposure issues involving female reproductive illness and disease.

It is well known in scientific communities that hormone disruptors and other potent toxins affect women’s reproductive health and related reproductive health issues. The scientific and medical community choose to ignore this issue.