"It's important to understand that we will live with a fair amount of pain for most of our lives. If your first priority is to live a painless life, you will not be able to help yourself or other women. What matters is to be a warrior. Having a sense of honor about political struggle is healing." - Andrea Dworkin

April 1999
Vol. 1 - #2

Said It: Feminist News, Culture & Politics  

in this issue:

Presidential Rape: The Making of a Non-Scandal

America's Shame and the Scapegoating of Monica Lewinsky

Go Mary!

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Britain Grants Asylum to Pakistani Women

In a ground-breaking ruling, Britain's House of Lords determined that Pakistani women have the right to refugee status based on the persecution they suffer as women. Two Pakistani women, driven into exile by accusations of adultery and the subsequent threat of punishment, brought the case with the support of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. They successfully argued that they were refugees under the definition in the UN Convention on Refugees of 1951. The ruling means that women who become outcasts in Pakistani society after being accused of adultery can officially seek asylum in Britain.

MIT Remedies Sex Discrimination

A few female professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the nation's most prestigious institute of science, started comparing notes and ended up finding outrageous and systematic sex discrimination on the part of their employer. A few examples: Female professors were given about half the office space of male professors. There were no female department heads and never had been. MIT lavished raises on men who got job offers elsewhere, but simply let the women leave. The proportion of tenured women on the faculty had not moved beyond eight percent for two decades. While MIT required all professors to raise grant money as portions of their salaries, it required the women to raise twice as much as the men.

MIT eventually admitted to discrimination and has now begun to remedy the problem. Some of the changes: MIT expects to make a 40 percent increase in the number of women with tenure next year, bringing the percentage to above 10 for the first time. Some pensions were corrected, one by $130,000, another by $80,000.

One female professor said that the changes MIT finally made has changed her life. "My research blossomed. My funding tripled. Now I love every aspect of my job. It is hard to understand how I survived--or why."

India Ups Bribes for Assembly Line Sterilizations

The government of India continues its program of state-imposed population control by offering money, and now a sewing machine, to poor, urban women who agree to undergo sterilization.

Although it is now a widely accepted fact that when women are empowered through access to education and economic independence, they choose to have small families, the Indian government chooses to rely on economic coercion, rather than economic empowerment of women, to control population growth.

Influenced by offers of 500 - 1,000 rupees and sometimes a sewing machine as well, scores of poor urban women are agreeing to undergo sterilization operations. The operations are generally performed in a fast-paced assembly line manner. At one maternity hospital, sterilizations are performed simultaneously in two operation "theaters" on eight tables. On one Saturday morning at this hospital, 25 doctors and 50 para-medical staff performed more than 90 sterilizations, with many more women waiting their turn. Some doctors expressed their concerns about the lack of pre-operative checks on the women, but the hospitals ignored their objections.

(The Deccan Chronicle, 3/21/99)

More Proof of Pollution - Breast Cancer Link

A recent study conducted in Denmark has found a correlation between breast cancer and the chlorinated pesticide dieldrin. The Copenhagen study found that the risk of breast cancer was twice as high in women with the highest concentrations of dieldrin in their blood serum, compared to women with the lowest concentrations. Furthermore, it was discovered that the more dieldrin in the blood, the greater the chance that breast cancer would develop.

Previous studies on the link between certain organochlorines and breast cancer have been mixed. The authors of the Copenhagen study say theirs is the first to properly compare blood levels of organochlorine compounds because they adjusted for varying levels of serum in the blood of each individual. The study supports the hypotheses that exposure to xeno-oestrogens, which are industrial chemicals such as pesticides, may increase the risk of breast cancer. The use of dieldren was banned about 20 years ago in Denmark as well as the U.S., but in the industrialized world, nearly everyone's body still contains small amounts of dieldrin, as well as several hundred industrial poisons.

Studies which demonstrate a link between environmental pollution and cancer will support the growing effort to include the protection of the environment in the overall struggle to prevent cancer.

(Rachel's Environment and Health Weekly, March 4, 1999. Back issues are available at For free listserve subscriptions, send email to with the words SUBSCRIBE RACHEL-WEEKLY YOUR NAME in the message.)


Copyright © 1999 Said It.

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