By Adnan R. Khan - Tuesday, January 8, 2013 - 0 Comments
Zahida Kazmi has survived deadly roads, a fatwa and family abandonment
When it comes to rating her driving skills, on a scale of one to 10, Zahida Kazmi considers herself an 11. “I’m a better driver than most of the men on the road,” says the 57-year-old. “That’s why I get all the good fares.” Kazmi’s confidence is the product of two decades of doing what no other woman in Pakistan does: drive a taxi. In such a deeply patriarchal society, surviving so long in an industry run by men—and in a country notorious for its deadly roads—is a cause for celebration.
Becoming a taxi driver never frightened her, Kazmi says, sitting upright in her modest house in Rawalpindi, 15 km from Islamabad. “I was a widow with six children. They were my only concern. I wanted to give them a good life and a good education. I had a gun and, being a Pashtun, I knew how to use it. Sure, it was tough at first. The male drivers didn’t accept me, and the taxi drivers’ union refused to help. But once they realized I was serious, and they understood the position I was in, they accepted me.” Continue…
By Brian Bethune - Saturday, December 22, 2012 at 10:10 AM - 0 Comments
Newmakers 2012: There’s no denying Suzanne Collins’s heroine hit the zeitgeist right in the sweet spot
Katniss Everdeen has had a very good 2012, and deservedly so. The heroine of The Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins’s highly popular trilogy of young adult novels (2008-10), already had a devoted fan base as the year began, but she exploded into a genuine pop-culture phenomenon with the March release of the film version of the first volume. Now Katniss is not only beloved by millions of teen girls—and a few boys (her film avatar, after all, is Jennifer Lawrence)—she’s also fodder for serious social commentary. American journalist Hanna Rosin, in an interview about her book The End of Men and the Rise of Women, paused while discussing the profound socio-economic changes unfolding in her country, from the erosion of traditional marriage to women’s increasing confidence and even aggression, to call Katniss an iconic figure. “She’s a classic aggressive male provider: unpleasant, self-sufficient, a total protector of her family. Those are all things that we associate with men. Twenty years ago, Katniss would have been a bizarre and unacceptable character, and now she seems completely natural.”
There’s no denying Katniss hit the zeitgeist right in the sweet spot. She’s the 16-year-old daughter of a dead coal miner who keeps her mother and beloved 12-year-old sister Primrose fed by her skill at archery (and poaching). They live in near-future Panem, an authoritarian state risen from the ashes of ecological catastrophe: worsening climate, rising sea levels and resource wars. The residents of the ruling Capitol, living in high-tech splendour, tyrannize the hardscrabble provincials, forcing each of 12 outlying districts to annually send a male child and a female child, aged 12-18, to ﬁght in the televised Hunger Games until only one remains alive.
Teenagers put in an arena to literally kill each other for the amusement of grown-ups is as savage a satire of reality TV and high school as can be imagined. (For adolescent girls, who live in a social milieu potentially even more vicious than that of boys, the appeal is obvious.) But if The Hunger Games is a pitch-perfect dystopia for our era of superstorms and economic uncertainty, it’s merely riding a wave of such storylines. Current YA fiction is dominated by dystopias, both the classic form, featuring harshly repressive societies, and post-apocalyptic scenes of chaos, all with climatic catastrophe as their root cause. The characters in the most popular series are far more often female than in past adventure stories, and the girls all have kick-ass potential, even if Katniss—who can fire an arrow through a songbird at 200 m—kicks harder than most. Continue…
By Brian Bethune - Wednesday, September 19, 2012 at 1:51 PM - 0 Comments
Hanna Rosin in conversation with Brian Bethune
Hanna Rosin, an award-winning American journalist, began investigating the developed world’s new socio-economic order in 2009, after the Great Recession hit the U.S. and the year female employment began to outstrip that of men. Rosin gathered the various strands of profound change—women dominating higher education and the fastest-growing economic sectors, the destruction of traditional middle-class marriage, and even women’s increasing aggression and violence—into her new book, The End of Men and the Rise of Women.
Q: More than one commentator has pointed out the apparently doom-laden symbolism of a woman chronicling the decline of men; “Like a man writing The Feminine Mystique,” noted one. What do you think?
A: Despite the title, the book is really more about the rise of women than the end of men. And maybe men don’t do that endless self-reflection and temperature-taking that women do. And they don’t do gender social movements all that enthusiastically either.
Q: It’s not news that the old physical economy with its traditionally male jobs is passing or that women are flourishing in the new one. What is news is the mounting evidence of the effects of those changes.
By Anne Kingston - Wednesday, April 6, 2011 at 9:48 AM - 10 Comments
Campaigns to raise women’s representation on boards and in politics to 30 per cent are picking up steam globally
In February, Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann created a firestorm with his remark that more women on corporate boards would make life “more colourful and prettier.” Certainly it would at Ackermann’s bank, Germany’s biggest, whose 12-member executive committee is entirely male. Editorialists and bloggers around the globe slammed the banker for his sexist barb. Less discussed was the serious debate that inspired it: proposed quotas in the German Bundestag that would require the country’s largest publicly traded companies to fill at least 40 per cent of their management and supervisory boards with women, up from a current 8.6 per cent.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has filled one-third of her ministerial positions with women, quashed the proposal. Instead, she offered companies “one last chance” to redress the issue before she imposed legislation. Ackermann’s comment, at least according to his PR people, was intended to support that idea; he was trying to highlight the bank’s achievement of filling 16.5 per cent of management positions with women.