Saudi Human Rights Activist Hatoon Al-Fassi's Arrest and Conservative Mona Charen Rethinks Sex and Marriage

  • Last September King Salman of Saudi Arabia, who fancies himself a reformer, ended the ban on women drivers -- at least cosmetically. Simultaneous to this announcement was a crackdown on the human rights activists that have been calling for an end to this ban for years. Prominent women’s rights advocate Hatoon al-Fassi was arrested last week. She was planning to drive journalists to mark the ban’s end. “Fassi was last active online on Thursday. She was planning to take journalists in her car on Sunday as other women did to celebrate the much-hyped end of the world’s last ban on female drivers, long seen as an emblem of women’s repression in the deeply conservative Muslim country,” reports Reuters.


  • The Handmaiden’s Tale is more relevant than ever, especially as evangelicals are eyeing a potential rollback of Roe v Wade. Even Oprah made a cameo. "In this second relentless season, which has two more episodes to go, the story line of The Handmaid’s Tale has moved ahead of, but not past, Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, which introduced a post-U.S. society called Gilead that’s ruled by religious extremists. Women there have been stripped of all rights, with some turned into breeding stock — biblically speaking, they’re called ‘handmaids’ — and subjected to a religiously sanctioned, heavily ritualized rape in the service of infertile couples," Philly Inquirer's TV Critic Ellen Gray wrote. "The slightest dissent or resistance brings swift, harsh punishment.”
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  • On that note: What does the retirement of Justice Kennedy during a Trump administration mean for reproduction rights? At present, there are four Justices pro-reproduction rights — Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer. And there are four against: Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Justice Clarence Thomas, who wrote the 5-to-4 decision. Until this week, the fight was even, with Kennedy as the dividing line. Kenedy was the swing vote on reproductive rights. No more. Julie Rikelman of the Center for Reproductive Rights told The Cut that “there are several cases pending in lower federal courts at the moment that could raise the question of whether abortion should be legal to the Supreme Court,” writes Rebecca Traister in The Cut. “One such lawsuit is the Jackson Women’s Health v. Currier, which challenges Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban. If that case makes its way up to the Supreme Court, the justices may have to again rule on the legality of Roe.” Trump thus far has only picked conservative Justices. Trump has asked the Federalist Society, a right wing legal group, to help him with a list of conservative nominee that can pass through Congressional hearings.
  • One of the scary possibilities about another right-wing conservative addition to the court altering its balance seems like a prologue to Hulu’s more and more prescient Handmaid’s Tale. Conservative thinker Mona Charen just wrote a controversial new book, Sex Matters: How Modern Feminism Lost Touch with Science, Love, and Common Sense. The sexual revolution, to Charen, was without standards. Charen quixotically blames male bad behavior – sexual harassment and abuse - on the sexual revolution, like a true movement conservative. “Sex needed to be kept in the box,” she told Morning Joe. She argues that marriage, courtship, and modesty — the new Victorianism of modern conservatism — is the way to go going forward. “Charen’s solution to all of these problems? A renewed focus on ― if not fetishization of ― the traditional family unit, marriage, courtship, and modesty. She apparently believes that so many of the problems that plague our culture could be solved if women just slowly backed away from any kind of sexual (and I would argue, by logical extension, social, and political) agency and then slowly backed themselves back into the kitchen, preferably after first getting knocked up by their husbands,” Noah Michelson writes in Huff Post. It was enough to make me think someone had changed the channel to 'The Handmaid’s Tale' when I wasn’t looking.”


  • How does the mainstream media portray the #MeToo movement? Oftentimes the movement that exposed the sexual harassment that women have faced for decades in the workplace is portrayed as divided — as in divide and conquer. But is it any more divided than any political movement in the West nowadays? “In short, many of the criticisms of #MeToo — and many of the demands critics have made of the movement— have mirrored the criticisms that have been made of women in general, when they have attempted to argue for a better place in a culture that has looked down on them,” Megan Garber writes for The Atlantic. “The complaints resolve, often, into a unified and overarching critique: that #MeToo is not only divisive, but also divided. That, being structurally unsound, it will eventually — and inevitably — implode.” But #MeToo will not go away, and it is not nearly divided as it is sometimes portrayed. A recent Vox/Morning Consult poll showed that women over 35 are still largely optimistic about the movement.


Cover photo via NRT TV