Russia & UAE: A big week for women in air and space

This week saw the 4th ever female cosmonaut go into space and the first ever United Arab Emirates female combat pilot go into action in Syria.

Russia’s Yelena Serova launched into space yesterday aboard a Soyuz flight from Kazakhstan and arrived overnight at the International Space Station. She is the first woman in Russia’s space program to go to space since Yelena V. Kondakova‘s space shuttle flight (STS-84, Atlantis) in May 1997, which went to the Mir station.

Kondakova, now a member of the Russian Duma (parliament) for the ruling party, went to space twice during her career as a cosmonaut, but was actually only the 3rd ever Soviet or Russian female cosmonaut — making Serova the 4th in the entire program’s history. The Soviet Union, notably, sent a woman into space two decades before the U.S. did the same, but failed to capitalize on that milestone (not even sending its second until 19 years later). This stands in contrast with the opportunities opened to many women in NASA and space programs around the world since then.

In another part of the world, the United Arab Emirates announced on U.S. television that their pioneering female combat pilot, Major Mariam Al Mansouri, led the UAE’s airstrikes on ISIS positions in Syria, as part of the US-led coalition:

[UAE Ambassador to the US] Al Otaiba also confirmed that Major Mariam Al Mansouri, 35, an F-16 pilot, will lead the air strike missions on ISIL.

“I can officially confirm that the UAE strike mission on Monday night was led by female fighter pilot Mariam Al Mansouri,” he said.

“She is a fully qualified, highly trained, combat-ready pilot and she is on a mission.”
Maj Al Mansouri has an undergraduate degree in English literature and is the first woman to join the Khalifa bin Zayed Air College, graduating in 2008.

She is expected to continue commanding the UAE’s missions in Syria in the coming days and weeks.

Ambassador Al Otaiba cited her as a positive example of how Arab states and Muslim societies can be more moderate and open than the stereotype, while retaining their identities. The example was offered in contrast to both ISIS and some of the Emirates’ neighboring countries. You can read more about Major Al Mansouri and her path to the skies here.

Cosmonaut Yelena Serova (via NASA/Wikimedia) and Maj. Mariam al-Mansouri (via WAM/The National)

Cosmonaut Yelena Serova (via NASA/Wikimedia) and Maj. Mariam al-Mansouri (via WAM/The National)

May 5, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 83

Topics: Minimum Wage, Ukraine, Cosmo. People: Bill, Greg, and commentator Sarah.

Talking Points:

– How high should the U.S. minimum wage be? Should cities raise their own?
– What is going on in Ukraine? Does Putin have any allies on this?
– Cosmo: 9 sexy but confusing ways to listen to community radio this spring. Why is the magazine finally devoting attention to reproductive freedom?

Part 1 – Minimum Wage:
Part 1 – Minimum Wage – AFD 83
Part 2 – Ukraine:
Part 2 – Ukraine – AFD 83
Part 3 – Cosmo with Sarah:
Part 3 – Cosmo – AFD 83

To get one file for the whole episode, we recommend using one of the subscribe links at the bottom of the post.

Related links

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This week in awful old U.S. laws

A xenophobic 1907 U.S. law stripped U.S. citizenship from any native-born woman who dared to marry a foreign man. Senator Al Franken (DFL-Minn.) is trying to secure an official Senate apology for the 1907 law — which likely would have affected many women in Minnesota in the early 20th century after waves of immigration to the state — since it doesn’t seem to be possible to reverse its effects posthumously for those wronged.

In the early part of the last century, during the rush of European immigration to the United States, Congress stripped citizenship from any American woman who married a foreigner. The little-known Expatriation Act of 1907 stayed on the books until 1940, so even after women won the right to vote in 1920, those who were married to a non-American could not exercise that newfound right.

Franken would like the Senate to offer, through legislation, its sympathy and regret for passing a law “incompatible with and antithetical to the core principle that all persons, regardless of gender, race, religion, or ethnicity, are created equal.”

Franken’s office first learned of this blemish in U.S. history from a constituent who was seeking posthumous citizenship for his grandmother. She lost hers when she married a Swedish man in 1914. Franken’s office couldn’t accomplish that, so is seeking an official apology as the next-best commendation.

Here is a summary of the relevant provisions from the Wikipedia page for the Expatriation Act of 1907:

Section 3 provided for loss of citizenship by American women who married foreigners.[1] Section 4 provided for retention of American citizenship by formerly foreign women who had acquired citizenship by marriage to an American after the termination of their marriages. Women residing in the U.S. would retain their American citizenship automatically if they did not explicitly renounce; women residing abroad would have the option to retain American citizenship by registration with a U.S. consul.[5] The aim of these provisions was to prevent cases of multiple nationality among women.[13] Nevertheless, these resulted in significant protests by members of the women’s suffrage movement, and just two years after women gained the franchise these were repealed by the Cable Act of 1922.[5][14] However, the Cable Act itself continued to provide for the loss of citizenship by American women who married “aliens ineligible to citizenship”, namely Asians.[15]

The Supreme Court upheld these loss-of-citizenship provisions in 1915 (Mackenzie v. Hare) and said Congress could do whatever it wanted to native-born American citizens’ citizenship as long as it wasn’t arbitrary and there was a set of established rules that would result in loss of citizenship. Since the law clearly said that marrying a foreigner resulted in a loss of citizenship for a woman, the majority opinion held that women couldn’t complain if they married a foreigner and lost their citizenship as a result because it was “voluntarily entered into, with notice of consequences.”

Ugh. Props to Sen. Franken for trying to make things right.

Backlash mounts on Spanish abortion rollback

spainBill and I have already discussed Spain’s proposed abortion law, the Ley Gallardón, which would restrict abortion in Spain to cases of rape or long-term harm to the mother.

Opponents of the proposal have created a satirical website called “Bebés de contenedor” (“Dumpster babies”) advertising a fake startup that connects hopeful adoptive parents with the babies that will be abandoned because of restricted abortion rights.

The site states (all translations in this post are my own):
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Egypt: If civilian men don’t get you, the state will

flag-of-egyptRegional experts agree (discussed here previously): Egypt is, by far, the worst place to be a woman in the entire “Arab World” right now.

They’ve hidden that nasty reputation by distractingly pointing to real but less substantive issues like driving bans and clothing requirements in the Gulf states. But in terms of basic human rights, being female in Egypt is a pretty heinous experience right now. And when anything bad happens, their families often abandon them.

The latest affront is state-backed “virginity tests” on women detained by security services. This euphemism itself hides the reality of the situation: members of state security and quasi-medical professionals aggressively and intrusively “examining” (read: violating, since it’s not optional) women they believe have crossed some moral boundary, usually after having been assaulted by civilian men (an extremely frequent and ever-present threat since the fall of the Mubarak regime). These examinations are neither medical in nature nor scientifically based (unfortunately, in the West, many myths persist also about the topic — so don’t feel too superior, American readers).

To top it all off, the new dictator and future president is a vocal supporter of this violation as a regular tactic. 
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Women in Egypt want their basic human rights back

egypt-coat-of-armsA recent survey of hundreds of gender experts from the region found Egypt to be the worst place for women in the Arab World right now, due to the chaos of the Arab Spring aftermath. Even Saudi Arabia came out ahead. Egypt has long had legal rights on paper for women, but in practice it hasn’t held up — and has gotten dramatically worse since the fall of the Mubarak government in early 2011.

9 in 10 women ages 15-49 have been mutilated, 99% have been aggressively harassed or sexually assaulted. Grievous assaults have occurred in full view of hundreds with no one intervening. Contrary to the messaging of opponents of the Muslim Brotherhood who claimed political Islam was the main threat to secular rights for women and others, the situation for Egyptian women has worsened even further under the military coup government installed in July of this year. Many of the pro-coup protesters have been among some of the worst public offenders. Now, Egyptian women are fighting back.

Trigger warning for the article linked above.

The next round of debate on birth control access

This is an issue we talk a lot about on the show, in large part because it doesn’t get nearly enough coverage in the traditional media. The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take up another case in the right-to-choose debate, this time on birth control and the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”).

Here’s a brief summary of the case from Slate:

The precise question before the court is whether for-profit corporations can claim a religious freedom exception to the contraception mandate—the requirement under Obamacare that employers offer contraception coverage as part of health insurance for their employees. Exceptions already exist for religious organizations, for certain religiously affiliated nonprofits, for grandfathered employers, and for profit-seeking corporations with fewer than 50 employees. But no such exception exists for large companies. As a result, some corporations controlled by owners with religious objections to contraception have sued, contending that religious freedom laws exempt them from the contraception mandate.

All I can say is that the Supreme Court had better not screw this up. If we have an employer-based health care system in this country, which almost everyone in government seems committed to continuing, we can’t just let any old corporation start applying the personal beliefs of senior management to every employee and their family members. That’s utterly absurd.

Contraception is extremely expensive relative to many other health services. For basic access, many American women will be counting on the ACA’s requirement that insurance plans cover it. Non-religious companies should have no say in what the plans cover because it’s none of their business what health services their employees need access to. So the Court needs to uphold the coverage mandate or else we need a non-employer-based health care system, and clearly the latter isn’t going to happen.

The rest of the article linked above explains, in more depth, how the line of reasoning argued by the company in question went mainstream — essentially hijacking the already strained people-have-free-speech/corporations-are-people arguments upheld in the Citizens United decision and attempting to re-apply it here even when it’s a pretty different context.