Nancy Pelosi Nominated as Speaker of the House Democrats and More Feminist News

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Nancy Pelosi

Rep. Nancy Pelosi was nominated on Wednesday, November 28th as Speaker of the House Democrats. This was not a surprise, as she outlined the platform that Democrats used to win this year’s pink wave election. Rep. Pelosi is a second-time Speaker, and this will “most likely be the final act of the 78-year-old legislator’s long career as the most powerful woman in the history of American politics,” writes Robert Draper in the New York Times. Prior to her nomination, “she has audaciously declared herself to be a ‘master legislator;’ issued policy statements on behalf of the Democratic caucus; and implicitly dared any challenger to make themselves known while also quelling opposition to her speakership by hinting in an interview with The Los Angeles Times in October that she was open to being a ‘transitional figure.’ When Draper asked Pelosi about these olive branch two weeks later, however, she abruptly walked it back: ‘I think every leader is a transitional figure.’” Pelosi was Speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011, the first woman to lead the House of Representatives, the author and foremost booster of the pink wave.

Midterms’ Firsts

Despite the fact that less than a quarter of the House of Representatives are women, election day was a very good moment of progress for feminist firsts across the country. For example, a quarter of all state lawmakers in the US are now women after election day. In 2017 the US ranked 104th globally in women’s representation. “The November 2018 election in the U.S. will go down for a number of firsts," Allison Herrera writes for PRI World. "The first Somali American Muslim woman to be elected to office. The first Native American woman sent to Congress. And a record number of women elected to the House of Representatives. Currently, about 100 women are headed to the House.” #ThePinkWave

Women in Politics

"Though women represent 50% of the world’s population, women representation in politics is at a mere 23.6% across the globe," writes Patricia Zanini Graca in International Policy Digest. The article traces the gains made by women in politics in the European Union, in particular. "Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom have more than 30% women in the lower house in their national parliaments," is one of the more interesting statistics mentioned in the article.

Women’s Workplace Equality Index

According to a newly released study, the Women’s Workplace Equality Index (WWEI), which ranks countries on women’s workforce equality, Australia ranks first. In the categories of Accessing Institutions and Getting a Job, Australia ranked a perfect score of 100 followed by Canada, New Zealand, Spain, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the UK, Lithuania, Iceland, Latvia, and Denmark. Now, Yemen, one of the poorest and most war-torn countries in the world ranked at the bottom of the list. Finally, the report notes that regarding the legal system (and barriers), top rated Australia’s first woman Chief Justice was appointed in January 2017.

Equal Rights Amendment

Is it time to revive the Equal Rights Amendment? Virginia, which has tended Democrat in the last few election cycles, might be the key. But will it be the 38th state to ratify the amendment first proposed in 1921 by the suffragette movement, but never fully passed by two-thirds of states as required by the Constitution? "Buoyed by the #MeToo movement and a body politic filled with women energized about making their constitutional equality a reality, support for the ERA has seen a revival in the past two years,” Gayle Lemmon writes for Four decades after Indiana became the 35th state to ratify the ERA in 1977, Nevada signed on in March 2017 and Illinois followed suit in May of this year. If activists succeed in making Virginia the 38th, the ERA will serve as a reminder that legislation that is ahead of its time can find its moment, so long as supporters have the intestinal fortitude to press forward.” Virginia’s legislature reconvenes on January 9th. VARatifyERA is a movement looking for 200,000 signatures as a goal – 200 per House district – and is trying to make ratification of this amendment.

India’s #MeToo Headlines

In the last few weeks India’s #MeToo movement has gained steam "physical and sexual harassments in Bollywood, as in Hollywood, is common," writes Omkar Khandekar in Al Jazeera. One could broaden out that accusation to the media, which of late has borne the brunt of harassment accusations in the #MeToo era in India. In the article, Khandekar focuses on the sexual harassment of actress Tanushree Dutta. When Dutta complained about inappropriate touching on set during the shooting of a film, she was berated by the director and afterwards a right-wing politician called for her blacklisting. Since Dutta has published several interviews detailing her harassment, the India #MeToo movement has highlighted mistreatment of women and men in many sectors of the Indian economy. All that having been said, the struggle continues: Malayalam superstar Mohanlal, the president of the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists (AMMA), the primary film body of Kerala, has declared India's entire #MeToo movement a fad. Finally, Bollywood actress Preity Zinta has been accused of making trivializing remarks as well. During an interview, she stated women “are treated the way they behave,” implying #MeToo survivors sought their abusive experiences. It should be noted that Zinta has disavowed the press remarks as selective editing.

#MeToo’s Impact on Feminism

The #MeToo Movement has quite possibly influenced more people to identify as feminist. A year after the Harvey Weinstein story, which amplified the #Metoo Movement, YouGov published the results of a poll in August 2018 showing that feminism is becoming more of a widespread a philosophy. “… slightly more women consider themselves feminists now (38%) than they did in 2016 (32%) … according to new data from YouGov Omnibus, while 48% of women still do not identify with feminism perceiving feminists as too extreme. Among men, only about one in five (22%) say they consider themselves to be a feminist, which is a very slight increase from 2016, when 19% of men said they were feminists,” Jaime Ballard writes for YouGov, an online community group of over 6 million panellists across 38 countries, including the United States, the Middle East and the Asia Pacific region. Further, the poll also found that close to 45% of respondents believed that men were paid at least a little more than women. Also – a recent YouGov poll finds that a majority of both men and women believe that both sexes should be treated equally in every way. Progress?

Rachel Haas in World Economic Forum

In October last year, Alyssa Milano jump started the social media phase of the #MeToo movement by posting her now legendary Tweet. Rachel Haas of No More summed up the year. “The reality is, there’s no going back,” Haas writes in WeForum. “We’ve only scratched the surface and systemic, cultural changes take time. We must have the patience and fortitude to keep fighting for those changes. Simply put: it is on all of us to keep up the momentum of #MeToo and we can – if we do it together.”

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“Most Influential People in Movies and TV”

Who are these anonymous Hollywood players that are complaining – off-the-record – to any journalist within listening range? Brooks Barnes at The Independent draws some conclusions after having drinks with some poor, depressed Hollywood exec. "The #MeToo and Time’s Up reckonings have resulted in the ouster of producers (Weinstein), actors (Kevin Spacey), studio bigwigs (John Lasseter), directors (Brett Ratner) and chief executives (Leslie Moonves). In September, when The Hollywood Reporter published its annual list of the 100 most influential people in movies and TV – a group that usually looks remarkably similar year after year – there were 35 new names, 40 percent of whom were women or people of colour.” Poor baby.

Christiane Amanpour

Out of the #MeToo Reckoning, many women have come out of the background to the fore. Christiane Amanpour, for example, took over the PBD prime real estate of Charlie Rose’s late night politics and culture talk show. Last year eight women accused the PBS and CBS host of sexual harassment. Amanpour and eleven other women ascended to higher positions because of the firings. “Given why Charlie Rose lost his slot, I feel it’s absolutely not just justified but really smart to put a woman in,” Amanpour says “And not just any woman—a woman who has proved herself over decades of reporting, with every award in the book and a career with the evidence to back it up.” Featured in the article are Robin Wright of the Netflix series House of Cards, Nicole Berry, Rachel Rosenfelt, Barbara Underwood, Christine Tsai, Kitty Block, Jennifer Salke, Alison Stewart and Tanzina Vega, Gretchen Carlson as well as Tina Smith.

Tunisia Approves Gender Equality

Tunisia, at November’s end, has become the first Arab nation to approve gender equality in inheritance. "The controversial law permits women and men to have an equal inheritance, contradicting the Qur’anic verse which states the share of women's inheritance is half that of men's,” says the Dhaka Tribune. “The law will also guarantee a freedom of choice between following the constitution or the Sharia Islamic law.” Since the Arab Spring, Tunisia has been something of an outlier in the Arab world with regards to gender equality. This law comes from the Individual Freedoms and Equality Committee, founded in August 2017, aimed at placing human rights at the center of the Tunisian Justice system. May other countries in the region take note!

Cover photo via The Nation