Did You Read...? November 19, 2013

- By Eliza Wierzbinska - 

Are mean girls a product of evolution? In New York Magazine’s Kat Stoeffel discusses a recent paper that argues women “evolved” into mean girls in order to ensure the propagation of their genetics by weakening their sexual rivals. The theory proposes that women use indirect aggression (i.e., calling one another “slut”) to make the targeted woman “too sad and anxious to compete in the sexual market,” thus lessening competition for male attention.

Over at Refinery 29, Jessica Goldstein looks at the tough road still ahead for raising awareness about domestic violence, despite advancements such as passage of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The federal law, aimed at preventing and ending violence against women, has strengthened legal protections and helped shift social practices that facilitate violence against women. Yet the national campaigns stemming from VAWA are not reaching girls and young women aged 16 to 24 – the age group with the highest rate of intimate partner violence—and she suggests that something needs to be done about this.

Hermione Hoby writes in The Guardian about three young girls who are redefining girlhood as a state of strength. First, there is Malala Yousafzai, the 16-year-old schoolgirl and youngest Nobel Peace prize nominee, campaigning tirelessly for girls’ rights to education in Afghanistan and the world over. In a recent UN speech she said, "The terrorists thought that they would change our aims and stop our ambitions but nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born." Hoby also writes about Lorde, a 16-year-old singer and songwriter from New Zealand whose hit “Royals” has been topping the charts in the US. Teens topping the charts is not novel but what is refreshing is how vocal and passionate she has been about feminism. Last but not least, is Tavi Gevinson, who started her career with a fashion blog at age 11. Now, at age 17, she is a global media powerhouse and feminist: “Feminism to me means fighting. It's a very nuanced, complex thing, but at the very core of it I'm a feminist because I don't think being a girl limits me in any way."

Google’s autocomplete function is a time-saver because it uses algorithms to predict a search based on word combinations that other searchers have used in the past. Recently, the United Nations launched a creative ad campaign to show the autocomplete results for phrases that begin innocuously enough, such as women should…, women shouldn’t….,  and women need to….  The top autocomplete results for these phrases include: women need to be put in their place, women should be slaves, women shouldn’t have rights, etc. One could critique Google for including such results in autocomplete, though it might be wiser to use this opportunity to raise the alarm on how deeply sexism is embedded in our world.



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