nation: United Arab Emirates

Cross-posted at Family Inequality.

I have criticized sloppy statistical work by some international feminist organizations, so I’m glad to have a chance to point out a useful new report and website.

The Progress of the World’s Women is from the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. The full-blown site has an executive summary, a long report, and a statistics index page with a download of the complete spreadsheet. I selected a few of the interesting graphics.

Skewed sex ratios (which I’ve written about here and here) are in the news, with the publication of Unnatural Selection, by Mara Hvistendahl. The report shows some of the countries with the most skewed sex ratios, reflecting the practice of parents aborting female fetuses (Vietnam and Taiwan should  be in there, too). With the exception of Korea, they’ve all gotten more skewed since the 1990s, when ultrasounds became more widely available, allowing parents to find out the sex of the fetus early in the pregnancy.

The most egregious inequality between women of the world is probably in maternal mortality. This chart shows, for example, that the chance of a woman dying during pregnancy or birth is about 100- 39-times higher in Africa than Europe. The chart also shows how many of those deaths are from unsafe abortions.

Finally, I made this one myself, showing women as a percentage of parliament in most of the world’s rich countries (the spreadsheet has the whole list). The USA, with 90 women out of 535 members of Congress, comes in at 17%.

The report focuses on law and justice issues, including rape and violence against women, as well as reparations, property rights, and judicial reform. They boil down their conclusions to: “Ten proven approaches to make justice systems work for women“:

1. Support women’s legal organizations

2. Support one-stop shops and specialized services to reduce attrition in the justice chain [that refers to rape cases, for example, not making their way from charge to conviction -pnc]

3. Implement gender-sensitive law reform

4. Use quotas to boost the number of women legislators

5. Put women on the front line of law enforcement

6. Train judges and monitor decisions

7. Increase women’s access to courts and truth commissions in conflict and post-conflict contexts.

8. Implement gender-responsive reparations programmes

9. Invest in women’s access to justice

10. Put gender equality at the heart of the Millennium Development Goals

I spent a day in Salzburg this September with a man from Dubai.  We had a wonderful time comparing perspectives.

Dubai, he explained, was a wildly modern, multicultural city.  The default language in public was English due to the international population.  He was a stockbroker who had gone to college in London and gone part way through an MBA.

He interacted with veiled, Middle Eastern women and non-veiled Western European women daily.  He seemed to have no qualms with the two styles of presentation, considering them simple choices; they were unpoliticized and carried no deeper meaning.  To him, women who veiled were simply religious, like the men he knew who would not drink alcohol, and himself when he would not eat meat improperly slaughtered.

In any case, women in Dubai, he felt, were liberated.  As an example, he explained how there was now a woman’s taxi service.

“A woman’s taxi service?”

“Yes, with women drivers.”

You see, it is not proper for women to be alone with a non-relative male and, so long as all taxis were driven by men, women (who also do not drive) could not run errands or visit friends.  They were largely neighborhood-bound.  To my friend, a woman’s taxi service was liberation.  And, indeed, from the perspective of their rules, it must have seemed like freedom indeed.

I was reminded of this chat when Happy A. sent in a link to a story about a new women’s taxi service in Mexico.  The taxis, painted pink, are driven by women and only women can hire them. The taxi service isn’t designed to allow women to travel, but to allow them to travel without the threat of harassment and assault.

Women’s groups, however, have called the taxis insulting.  They suggest that the girly pink, the protectionism, and the make-up mirrors in the back seats seem to encourage the very objectification that makes women targets in the first place.

Pink Ladies, in the U.K., rationalizes its service with the same protectionism:


And, in Moscow, they have Ladies Red Taxi:


I think these examples, considered together, do a really good job of undermining any absolutist ideas about what is good for women.

The situations in the different countries are dramatically different.  Women’s taxis improve the quality of life for women in Dubai (who can afford them) much more significantly than the taxis in, say, the U.K.

A radical feminist bent on destroying the system altogether may say that such taxis reinforce a gender binary and are easily co-opted by patriarchy (I wonder whose errands women are doing in those pink taxis?), a reformist feminist may say that the move is a good option for women both there and elsewhere, if not actually an end to male domination.

I think both are good points.

Does the fact that the Mexico service is run by the city and the U.K. service by a private company make a difference?  In the first case it is driven by concern for women’s safety, in the second case it is driven, at least partially, by profit.  Should people be profiting from women’s vulnerability?

Is a woman’s taxi service inherently feminist and liberating?  Or is it always sexist and demeaning?

I’m  not sure what I think about women’s taxis, but I like how cross-cultural comparisons like these remind us that context matters.

Click here for another sociologist’s take on the extent to which the pink taxis should be seen as liberating for women.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Photographer Martin Parr has decided to photograph the rich in their habitat, exposing an elite world for the rest of us.  He writes:

Shot in various locations, from art fairs to horse racing, and in many countries, I have selected situations where people are comfortable showing off their wealth. Designer clothes, champagne and parties are all part of this repertoire.

Traditionally the portrayal of poverty has been the domain of the “concerned photographer” [see, for example, here], but I photograph wealth in the same spirit.

What I like about his photographs is the realistic portrayal of the rich.  Unlike the way in which wealth is glamorized in popular culture (see, for example, here, here, here, here, and here), these are real people, with all of their imperfections, showing off all of their money.

The pictures are (as far as I’ve been able to determine) from the U.S., Moscow, and Dubai:




(Images from here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.