This article looks at an interesting development in the Middle East. Across the region, girls and young women do markedly better in school than boys and young men, even in the sciences.
- “In fact, across the Arab world, women now earn more science degrees on a percentage basis than women in the United States. In Saudi Arabia alone, women earn half of all science degrees. And yet, most of those women are unlikely to put their degrees to paid use for very long.”
The conclusion the article reaches is surprising. It questions the common assumption that Middle Eastern women succeed in education because their lives are controlled and distractions are minimized. Rather than argue women study harder because they have nothing else to do, this article argues the problem may be in the quality of education boys and young men receive and the dynamics created by gender-segregated class-rooms
- “…boys’ schools are more violent places, concluded the study, which was funded by USAID. Over half of the boys interviewed said they’d experienced some kind of bullying in school over the previous year. Only 11 percent of girls said the same thing. Two-thirds of male teachers said they’d witnessed physical violence among students in the past year—compared with less than a quarter of female teachers.”
- Boys also reported worse relationships with their male teachers. Only 40 percent of male students interviewed said they believed their teachers cared about how well they did in school—compared with 74 percent of girls.” “…male teachers in all-boys schools were more likely to belittle or punish students for getting the wrong answer. And boys were much more likely than girls to complain about their male teachers’ tendencies to beat students and shout at them.”
Their explanation for this pattern was a mix of political economy and cultural norms:
- “Teachers do not earn a lot of money in Jordan, but men are still expected to be the primary breadwinners in families. So male teachers are more likely to work second or third jobs as tutors or even taxi drivers in order to augment their small salaries. One Jordanian student told me about a male biology teacher he’d had who was so exhausted by his two other jobs that he used to close the blinds in first period and go to sleep.”
- “On average Jordan’s male teachers—who have mostly gone through the same educational system themselves—do worse on the national entry test for teaching, according to Ministry of Education data. This suggests in turn that boys might be encountering less-prepared teachers on average. “Male teachers are hard to come by, and good male teachers are even harder,””
- “The problem, Osman and his colleagues concluded, was not simply boys’ freedom or male teachers’ preparation. It was all that and more. Through surveys and other analysis, they identified a long list of factors that were interacting like a chemical equation, which is the unsexy secret about how education systems usually work. Not just teacher quality but students’ sense of safety, their study habits, and the subtleties of the boy and girl peer cultures all converge to create a healthy—or toxic—brew.”
Along the way, the article discusses the need to empower men: “We used to say, empowering women, and now we talk about empowering men,” Hamood Khalfan Al Harthi, the undersecretary for education and curriculum in Oman, says. In patriarchal societies this may seem a bit whiny, but it’s not:
- “Natasha Ridge, the executive director of the Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research in the United Arab Emirates, has studied gender and education around the world. In the United Kingdom and the United States, Ridge believes she can draw a dotted line between the failure of boys to thrive in school and votes for Brexit and for Donald Trump. Disengaged boys grow up to become disillusioned men, Ridge says, left out of the progress they see around them.”
In the context of the Middle East, that disengagement one must wonder if it also leads to political radicalization…
“…with or without a female candidate, the race for the presidency has always been gendered, as my research shows — often in ways that are explicitly unfriendly to women. And the language we use to talk about who is fit for the presidency is language that hurts women.”
“When gender is relied upon to contrast two men vying for the presidency, it tends to reinforce a political culture of manliness. In a conflict between a more masculine and a more feminine male, masculinity is used to suggest who’s better equipped to lead.
That reinforces the notion that femininity and feminine qualities are not leadership qualities. That may indirectly contribute to the idea that women — who are more likely to be thought of as feminine — aren’t naturally suited to politics. New research finds overt media bias against women to be waning. Nevertheless, we know that women express lower levels of political ambition, and women are less likely to think they are qualified for politics. That could be because of the way our political discussions gender good politicians as masculine, especially during presidential elections, our highest-profile races.”
VOX asks Peter Neumann, a professor at King’s College London and the director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation why Brussels seems to be at the center of IS activity in Europe. His response is fairly standard:
- “First, the country has an especially longstanding and well-organized network of radical Islamist recruiters, making it easier for people to join up there than in other European countries.”
- “Second, its police and intelligence agencies are epically undersized, making them incapable of dealing with the past five years’ massive surge in jihadist recruiting. The Belgian state, according to Neumann, mostly turned a blind eye to these problems. So it was “just a question of time until something happened.”
In Belgium, like in France and other countries in Europe, you have these areas in cities that have over the past years, if not decades, become migrant ghettos. You had a lot of issues with social/economic deprivation — the best example of that is Molenbeek, the part of [Brussels] where all these jihadists seem to be coming from.”
- Third, “…parts of Europe that have been completely abandoned by the state, by the authorities, by even Muslim communities. And for a long time, people were happy with that. They would be leaving us alone, and we would be leaving them alone.
But over the years, this situation festered. Jihadist structures took advantage of that, and basically go about their business almost unhindered. What happened after 2011-’12 is that groups like Sharia4Belgium — a prominent group — went into these places and very systematically recruited large numbers of people.”
Newsweek has a somewhat different take. The article argues a new generation of Jihadists have emerged in Europe:
- “Their knowledge of Islam is quite limited; they are more like jihadi hipsters than dedicated Islamists, or what some experts in the intelligence community call “jihadist cool.” They celebrate what the Dutch coordinator for security and counterterrorism called “pop-jihad as a lifestyle.”
- “These shallow Islamists have proved to be a challenge for European countries that use a traditional de-radicalization program for Muslims lured into the world of radical fundamentalists: It’s hard to re-educate people about Islam when they knew almost nothing to begin with. In what may be the most representative event depicting the nature of these new Islamist extremists, two British Muslims, both 22, purchased copies of Islam for Dummies and The Koran for Dummies in August 2014 just before they boarded a plane on the first leg of their trip to join ISIS fighters in Syria.”
- “These are youths who gather in groups, such as the recently dismantled Sharia4Belgium. They know less about Osama bin Laden than they do about Tupac Shakur; Belgians who travel to Syria to fight often revere the deceased American rapper on social media, identifying themselves with his lyrics about life in the inner cities. But these attackers also have their own rap music, hip clothes popular with young Muslims that are sold by companies like Urban Ummah and slogans akin to what might be found on a bumper sticker (“Work Hard, Pray Hard.”) Their tweets often end with terms like #BeardLife and #HijabLife.”
- In some respects, the Newsweek analysis is similar to that of VOX:
“Based on interviews with European Muslims returning from fighting in Syria, foreign intelligence agencies estimate that about 20 percent of them were diagnosed with mental illnesses before they left for the Middle East. A large percentage of them have prior records for both petty and serious crimes. And the vast majority of them come out of urban neighborhoods torn apart by economic hardship.”
The big difference is that this article focuses on local culture, local social networks and “Rambo-envy.”:
- “For foreign fighters the religious component in recruitment and radicalization is being replaced by more social elements such as peer pressure and role modelling,’’ said a January 18 report by Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, which deals with militant networks. “Additionally the romantic prospect of being part of an important and exciting development, apart from more private considerations, may play a role.”
This account would fit in well with the Feminist literature on how the formation of particular dysfunctional types of masculine identity leads to violence.
Finally, the Economist’s Daily Chart provides some statistics on attitudes toward Muslims in Europe. The graphic tells a sad tale of Islamaphobia: “an Ipsos-Mori poll in 2014 found that on average Belgian respondents thought 29% of their compatriots were Muslim. The actual figure is closer to 6%.”
Here is a rather scathing review of UN operations by Anthony Banbury, the former United Nations assistant secretary general for field support. He lambastes the bureaucracy in particular:
- “If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again.”
He also criticizes the way peacekeepers are deployed:
- “Peacekeeping forces often lumber along for years without clear goals or exit plans, crowding out governments, diverting attention from deeper socioeconomic problems and costing billions of dollars”
- “the United Nations decided to send 10,000 soldiers and police officers to Mali in response to a terrorist takeover of parts of the north. Inexplicably, we sent a force that was unprepared for counterterrorism and explicitly told not to engage in it. More than 80 percent of the force’s resources are spent on logistics and self-protection. Already 56 people in the United Nations contingent have been killed, and more are certain to die. The United Nations in Mali is day by day marching deeper into its first quagmire.
- But the thing that has upset me most is what the United Nations has done in the Central African Republic. When we took over peacekeeping responsibilities from the African Union there in 2014, we had the choice of which troops to accept. Without appropriate debate, and for cynical political reasons, a decision was made to include soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo and from the Republic of Congo, despite reports of serious human rights violations by these soldiers. Since then, troops from these countries have engaged in a persistent pattern of rape and abuse of the people — often young girls — the United Nations was sent there to protect.”
“Look at those hands, are they small hands?” the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination said, raising them for viewers to see. “And, he referred to my hands — ‘if they’re small, something else must be small.’ I guarantee you there’s no problem. I guarantee.”
In a sense, this is just another fluff story about Donald Trump and the ridiculous things that come out of his mouth. However, from the perspective of feminist IR, its actually very illuminating. In bragging about his hmm… appendage, Trump is demonstrating the gendered ideas underlying contemporary politics. In particular, power is still equated with sexual potency and conflict is often driven by male insecurities about their sexuality. By that measure, Trumps use of the term “schlonged” to describe Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2008 primaries is hardly surprising.
Somewhere Carol Cohn is saying I told you so. see:
Carol Cohn, Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals Signs
Vol. 12, No. 4, Within and Without: Women, Gender, and Theory (Summer, 1987), pp. 687-718
IR theory aside, that comb-over has to be compensating for something….
“The Islamic Republic’s 10th parliamentary elections have yielded a significant victory not only for Reformists, but also for women pushing for change in Iranian society. While the final nationwide results are not expected until March 1; early numbers show twice the number of female members as in the previous parliament. Though ballots from many districts are still uncounted, it is clear that the number of women will reach at least 22. Thus far, 15 women have won seats in Parliament, and 14 of them are Reformists. These include all eight women on the Reformist-moderate “List of Hope” in Tehran, where the results are set to be finalized on Feb. 29.”
Below are links to two articles about women photographers who captured the Iranian Revolution in pictures. Their stories and the their work are fascinating.
The first, which profiles the work of Maryam Zandi, looks at the revolution in general.
‘To each his own weapon, I have my camera’: Iran’s 1979 revolution – in pictures”
The second, which profiles Hengameh Golestan, focuses on the role of women during the revolution.
“Witness to revolution: the women of Iran 1979”
Allegations of sexual misconduct and/or rape among UN peacekeepers are not new. This report is notable because
- The UN is acknowledging that peacekeepers have become involved in the criminal underworld that often develops in large, long-term camps.
- It includes reports of the systematic use of rape: “Christian women were raped by members of the mostly Christian “anti-balaka” militia after being accused of interacting with Muslims” in the “M’Poko camp.
- The UN only acted after “a whistleblower leaked an internal U.N. investigation to French authorities, according to U.N. officials. Last month, the report by a panel including former Canadian supreme court justice Marie Deschamps found that U.N. staff in Bangui had “turned a blind eye to the criminal actions of individual troops” in that case.”
- The report raises the issue of identifying the countries where the accused peacekeepers come from. The UN is reluctant to identify the countries no doubt because it is afraid that countries will stop providing peacekeepers in case there is a scandal. Its not surprising that the UN is concerned about its image, and the image of peacekeeping operations, but sweeping the problem under the rug is short-sighted. Sooner or later these problems always make into the public eye, and the damage done to the UN’s reputation by covering it up is almost as bad as the offenses themselves.
Here is an interesting piece on the morality police in Iran, and how their influence has changed since Rouhani was elected. Two points stick out. First, according to this article women are less intimidated than they have been in the past:
“Before we used to get scared, but now it’s a routine affair for us,” she says of being arrested. It’s nothing like the early days of the revolution when neighborhood vigilantes would torment those they deemed immodest under a selective interpretation of the Islamic principle of “commanding the good and forbidding the evil.” Today, Zahra says, “they just snap a few pictures [of the arrestees] and let them go” after calling in a relative to bring a change of [more “modest”] clothes.
Second, informal social taboos and norms remain powerful, particularly in the poorer, less western southern part of Tehran:
“But what the government can’t control is effortlessly kept in check by social forces, as has always been the case in Iran. In other words, Maryam won’t dare wear the outfit she’s wearing in front of me – nor would Zahra – in Rah-Ahan Square in south Tehran, which is almost entirely devoid of morality police unlike the affluent north. “We could never go walking looking like this in Rah-Ahan,” Zahra says. “Sure, there’s no morality police—but it’s the people.”
The quieter Saeedeh, a college student, speaks up. Even if the mandatory hijab is removed one day she says, “you still won’t be able to wear shorts near Rah-Ahan Square” in south Tehran.”
“Yesterday, the United Nations’ Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) released a rather scathing report on enforcement and remedial assistance efforts for sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. peacekeepers. The report draws on research that we conducted in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia…”
“In 2003, the U.N. banned its peacekeepers from engaging in transactional sex (the exchange of money or anything of value for sex). Despite this ban, our survey of 475 18- to 30-year-old women in greater Monrovia revealed that about half of them report having engaged in transactional sex, and within that group of women, over three-quarters report having done so with U.N. personnel. Over 90 percent of the women who have engaged in transactional sex report that they usually receive money in exchange. And underage girls are at particular risk: 58 percent of the women who report the age at which they engaged in their first sexual transaction say they were younger than 18.”