Photo: Piedra Lubitsch

Women We Read This Week

Raksha Kumar’s “Trying to tame the wild west of surrogacy in India” in Al Jazeera America

I often wonder, “When are women’s bodies ever their own?” Economic forces have historically pushed impoverished women to sell their bodies as a mode of survival. This article by Raksha Kumar explores the legal but unregulated surrogacy market in India, looking at the effects on the women who act as surrogates. There have been cases in which the couple that hires a surrogate gets divorced and no longer wants the baby and others in which the couple abandons the child entirely because it is not the desired sex. The surrogates sometimes face life-threatening health issues, with no clear guide for how to resolve the situation without losing life or livelihood. In addition to these issues, middlemen and hospitals skim off most of the money paid to surrogates. The surrogates are the clear losers in this transaction, but the market will continue to consume their bodies until legal protections are put in place. — Alice

Elizabeth Kolbert’s “The Big Kill” in The New Yorker

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I have trouble reading all of an article by Elizabeth Kolbert. That’s my fault, of course, not hers. She consistently writes highly-readable, well-researched, deeply compelling articles for The New Yorker on environmental concerns. I just tend to panic and run away after beginning a read.

This article was different. She looks at New Zealand’s intense crusade to return itself to only native species — which means getting rid of all mammals on the islands. For once, I was too captivated to stop reading. There are characters galore, from the environmentalist encouraging species eradication by hunting to a sad native bird that has to live by itself in a lush private zoo. And, of course, since it’s Kolbert, she raises lots of complicated questions about the issues she explores. Well worth a read…maybe 2015 is the year I can stop running away from frightening questions!

–Shannon

Jessica Bennett’s “How Not to Be ‘Manterrupted’ in Meetings” in Time and Jessica Roy’s “What Happens When a Woman Walks Like a Man?” in The Cut

I’ve decided that my next project is going to be a dictionary of terms litanizing the various and subtle ways in which gender stereotypes persist and are enacted. Each time I hear one it’s like a light has just been shone on a whole murky area of previously undefinable frustration: oh, I’ve been mansplained! I think. This week I added two more to the list: manterrupting and my new favorite, manslamming. Each refers to men claiming space from women: the first figuratively, the second literally.

I pay attention to these pieces and these terms because I think women need to be aware, and to have an explanation for the many often invisible ways in which they are forced to cede or to tame their voices and ambitions. I go in skeptical each time, thinking that perhaps this is just going to be link bait, and each time I think, nope, this is legit, and yep, it’s definitely happened to me. –Sarah

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