Angela King, champion of empowering women, dies aged 68
[Episcopal News Service] Jamaican diplomat Angela E. V. King, former United Nations assistant secretary general and special adviser on gender issues and advancement of women, died February 5 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City after battling with breast cancer. She was 68.
Funeral arrangements, tentatively planned for her birthplace of Jamaica, and details of a memorial service in New York have not yet been announced.
King, an Anglican, served the UN as special adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women from 1997 until her retirement in April 2004. In 2006, she delivered the keynote address at the orientation for Anglican delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).
In expressing regret at King's death, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said the international community has lost a pioneering champion in the achievement of women.
King had a long history of active work for the advancement of women in the UN Secretariat: she was a founding member of the ad hoc Group on Equal Rights for Women (GERWUN) and chaired the Secretariat's High-level Steering Committee on Improving the Status of Women. She previously served as director of the Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs (1996), where she was responsible for the follow-up to the Beijing Conference and for managing the central UN program for the advancement of women. She also chaired the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender and Equality (IANWGE) and supervised the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW).
King joined the UN Secretariat in 1966 from the Permanent Mission of Jamaica, where she worked on matters relating to human rights and social development. She was one of the first two women Foreign Service officers posted after Jamaica joined the UN. While at the UN, she held the positions of director of Recruitment and Placement, director of Staff Administration and Training, deputy to the Assistant Secretary General for Human Resources Management, and director of the Operational Services Division, where she worked closely with the Focal Point for the Improvement of the Status of Women in the Secretariat on issues such as special measures for women and sexual harassment. King attended the First, Second and Fourth Women's Conferences in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Beijing (1995) and organized and directed the Beijing+5 Special Session of the General Assembly (2000).
From 1992 to 1994, King was on assignment as chief of Mission of the UN Observer Mission in South Africa (UNOMSA), one of the first two women to head a UN mission on preventive diplomacy and peace-building. Her diplomacy and advocacy with the Security Council, in cooperation with other UN entities and non-governmental organizations, led to the adoption of the Council's resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued the following statement on King's death:
"Angela King led the United Nations' efforts for the empowerment of women with knowledge, passion and courage as the United Nations worked to translate into practice the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. A fervent champion of the equality of women and men, and women's enjoyment of their human rights, she knew that all parts of the United Nations had a responsibility to uphold those principles -- including in the area of peace and security. Ms. King's advocacy and partnership with civil society paved the way for the Security Council's landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security -- the Council's first recognition of women's essential role in peacebuilding, peacemaking and peace negotiations. She was equally committed to championing the cause of women staff members in the United Nations, and their equal opportunities in the workplace. Her work for gender equality crowned an almost 40-year career with the United Nations, during which she also served as Chief of the United Nations Observer Mission in South Africa at the time of the country's first democratic, non-racial elections. She will be mourned with profound affection and respect by many friends and allies around the world."
King held a BA (Hons) in History from the University College of the West Indies and a MA in Educational Sociology and Administration from the University of London, as well as graduate studies in educational sociology at New York University. In November 1999, she received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of the West Indies. She also was awarded the medal of Commander of Distinction by her country.
King is survived by her son Richard A. James.
IWTC Women's GlobalNet #321 Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide
February 14, 2007 By Anne S. Walker
ANGELA KING, UN WOMEN’S RIGHTS ADVOCATE AND FRIEND TO WOMEN WORLDWIDE
Jamaican diplomat and international civil servant Angela E. V. King, former United Nations Assistant Secretary General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, died February 5 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City after battling with breast cancer. She was 68. In expressing regret at King's death, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said the international community has lost a pioneering champion in the achievement of women’s advancement.
Angela joined the UN Secretariat in 1966 from the Permanent Mission of Jamaica, where she worked on matters relating to human rights and social development. She was one of the first two women Foreign Service officers posted after Jamaica joined the UN. While at the UN, she held the positions of director of Recruitment and Placement, director of Staff Administration and Training, deputy to the Assistant Secretary General for Human Resources Management, and director of the Operational Services Division, where she worked closely with the Focal Point for the Improvement of the Status of Women in the Secretariat on issues such as special measures for women and sexual harassment.Angela had a long history of active work for the advancement of women in the UN Secretariat.She was a founding member of the ad hoc Group on Equal Rights for Women (GERWUN) and chaired the Secretariat's High-level†Steering Committee on Improving the Status of Women. Angela attended the First, Second and Fourth Women's World Conferences in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980) and Beijing (1995) and organized and directed the Beijing+5 Special Session of the General Assembly (2000).She served as director of the Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs (1996), where she was responsible for the†follow-up to the Beijing Conference and for managing the central UN program for the advancement of women. She also chaired the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender and Equality (IANWGE) and supervised the†Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW).
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has issued a statement in which he says:
"Angela King led the United Nations' efforts for the empowerment of women with knowledge, passion and courage as the United Nations worked to translate into practice the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. A fervent champion of the equality of women and men, and women's enjoyment of their human rights, she knew that all parts of the United Nations had a responsibility to uphold those principles -- including in the area of peace and security. Ms. King's advocacy and partnership with civil society paved the way for the Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security -- the Council's first recognition of women's essential role in peacebuilding, peacemaking and peace negotiations. She was equally committed to championing the cause of women staff members in the United Nations, and their equal opportunities in the workplace. Her work for gender equality crowned an almost 40-year career with the United Nations, during which she also served as Chief of the United Nations Observer Mission in South Africa at the time of the country's first democratic, non-racial elections. She will be mourned with profound affection and respect by many friends and allies around the world."
Always elegantly dressed in Jamaican attire, Angela stood out from the more conservatively dressed officials of the UN on many a dais and platform. She represented a new kind of official, always gracious, smiling, and ready to listen to NGO representatives from all over the world. For many of us, she was the one we could talk to about our problems and concerns as we battled to find a way through the UN bureaucracy and regulations. Angela is survived by her son Richard A. James.
In closing, it seems appropriate to quote from a letter of tribute from a member of the Rwandan delegation:
“The death of Angela King is a very big loss for the whole women community over the world even though she announced at the 49th CSW session when she officially left the Division that she had a cancer and was leaving because of health problem and medical treatment. Last year when we were attending the 50th session of CSW although she was no more the UN Secretary General's Special Advisor on Gender Issues, she participated actively and chaired a panel. She met Rwanda delegation to congratulate Rwandan Government for outstanding achievements in gender mainstreaming especially in decision-making. As we are preparing for CSW 51st session a word of condolence and remembrance will be included in Rwanda statement.”FATUMA NDANGIZA
Angela E.V. King, 68, a Jamaican diplomat who became a leading advocate for women's equality and the first special advisor to the U.N. secretary-general on women's advancement, died Monday of complications from breast cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, her former husband Wilton James said.
During a 38-year career at the United Nations, King led efforts to end discrimination against women and promote gender equality.
She was also one of a few women to lead a U.N. mission - in South Africa from 1992 to '94 during elections.
King participated in U.N. conferences to promote women's rights in Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980 and Beijing in 1995, where world leaders adopted a wide-ranging blueprint to achieve equality for women.
In 1997, then Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed her to a new post as his special advisor on gender issues and advancement of women with the rank of assistant secretary-general to help ensure U.N.-wide implementation of the Beijing platform.
King, who held a bachelor's degree from the University College of the West Indies and a master's degree from the University of London, joined the U.N. Secretariat in 1966 from the Jamaican mission to the United Nations.
Refer Feminist Researchin a scientific world besotted with prion theories:
Manuelidis, Laura, Sklaviadis, Theodoros and Manuelidis, Elias E. Evidence suggesting that PrP is not the infectious agent in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. European Molecular Biology Organization Journal 1987; 6: 341-347.
Manuelidis, Laura, Murdoch, Geoffrey and Manuelidis, Elias E. Potential involvement of retroviral elements in human dementias. In: Novel Infectious Agents and the Central Nervous System, Ciba Foundation Symposium 135 Chichester, U.K.: John Wiley & Sons, 1988, p 117-134.
What if rogue proteins aren't to blame for vCJD...
VIRUSES, not prions, may be at the root of diseases such as scrapie, BSE and vCJD.
The widely accepted theory of what causes these so-called "transmissible spongiform encephalopathies" (TSEs), such as mad cow disease, is that deformed proteins called prions corrupt other brain proteins, eventually clogging and destroying brain cells. But this theory has never been proved completely.
Laura Manuelidis of Yale University has insisted for years that virus-like particles observed in TSE-infected brains may be the culprits, but since such brains are degenerating, the particles have been dismissed as general debris.
However, when Manuelidis studied the particles in cultures of neural cells infected with two particular strains of scrapie and CJD, she found they contained particles that had clustered in regular arrays, as viruses do in cells - and no apparent prions (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 104, p 1965). Cells with more particles were better at infecting other cell cultures, while boosting prions did not appear to increase their infectiousness or particle numbers. Agents that disrupt viruses stopped the cells infecting other cultures.
However, leading prion researcher Adriano Aguzzi of the University Hospital of Zurich in Switzerland says Manuelidis won't prove her case without isolating the proposed virus and showing it causes TSE. She should also test other strains for these particles and see if her infected cultures cause TSE in animals, he says.
From issue 2591 of New Scientist magazine, 17 February 2007, page 17
Though challenging the accepted theory of the causes of mad cow disease may seem like madness itself, a team of researchers from the Yale School of Medicine has announced potentially groundbreaking findings concerning the origins of the disease.
Yale School of Medicine professor Dr. Laura Manuelidis, the head of neuropathology at the school, and her team of researchers recently published a report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences asserting that a virus, rather than prion proteins, is the cause of mad cow disease in animals and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. These spongiform encephalopathies of the brain have traditionally been thought to be caused by prions abnormal proteins that convert healthy proteins to the disease state. But the new study suggests prions may simply be part of the late stages of the diseases, not part of the causes.
Transmissible spongiform encephalopathies affect the brains and nervous systems of victims, including sheep, deer and humans. The term ”spongiform” comes from the fact that the infection causes neurons to die, leaving tiny holes in the brain so that it eventually resembles a sponge. Humans afflicted with the incurable degenerative disease show memory and personality changes and sometimes problems with movement. Mad cow, the cattle version of the disease, has achieved infamy because the infectious agent in cows appears to be the cause of vCJD, a variant form of CJD in humans.
The research team’s goal was to try to identify viral particles in infected cells. They infected cell lines with either scrapie (a sheep disease related to mad cow) or CJD agents and found virus-like particles that did not contain prion protein. An abundance of these particles was related to high levels of infectivity, which was not true of the presence of prion proteins.
“People hypothesize that prion proteins are infectious, but they’re probably part of the disease, not the infectious agent itself,” Manuelidis said.
The virus-like particles had been found by other researchers but were largely ignored. They were first identified in 1968 in synaptic regions of scrapie-infected brain and later found in many other animals with different TSEs. But Manuelidis said that researchers apparently forgot about them once the prion hypothesis became dominant.
“I had totally forgotten about them, too,” she said. “But after we found the 25-nanometer particles, I went home and remembered I’ve seen these before. I went back to the old journals from the ’70s and there they were.”
Manuelidis said part of the reason for the neglect of the virus-like particles is that in previous studies, they were always found in degenerating brain tissue, so it was impossible for scientists to draw accurate conclusions about them. What allowed her to collect relevant experimental data was the fact that her team observed the particles in highly infectious tissue culture cells.
“We saw them in tissue culture cells that weren’t degenerating,” she said. “The infected cells were as healthy as the uninfected cells that had no 25-nm virus-like particles.”
The study is a work in progress, and the researchers want to conduct more experiments with tissue cultures to gather further evidence and learn more about the particles. Manuelidis said that since it is easier to work with a simplified cell system than with infected animals whose brains are degenerating, tissue culture experiments can be used to identify essential features of the infectious agent and clarify the way in which the particles invade cells. Her team will use the tissue cultures to purify the virus-like particles more completely.
“In the future, we will try to isolate the particles from tissue cultures and characterize what is in them,” she said.
The team’s specific viral particle hypothesis suggests new avenues for treatment and vaccines, Manuelidis said. If they are successful in rapidly measuring infectivity in tissue culture, they will be able to gain better understanding of possible remedies. She even pointed out that prion proteins, while not the infectious agent, are probably essential receptors for replication and growth of the TSE virus.
”The infectious agent needs prion proteins to grow,” Manuelidis said. “This means targeting the prion protein may also be a useful therapeutic step.”
Researchers at other universities pointed out that the Yale study does not definitely prove the viral hypothesis, nor does it fully disprove the prion hypothesis.
Tricia Serio, an assistant professor of molecular biology, cell biology and biochemistry at Brown University, said that while the research is intriguing, the viral hypothesis still needs to be directly proven. She also pointed out that there are many examples of protein-based phenotypes, like the one described in the prion hypothesis.
“For example, we study prions in yeast, and work from the Weissman, King, Liebman, Saupe and Wickner labs has shown that the transfer of recombinant protein produced in bacteria is sufficient to induce a heritable phenotype in yeast,” she said. ”This is direct proof of a prion mechanism for the yeast traits.”
Surachai Supattapone, associate professor of biochemistry and medicine at Dartmouth University, said that the next challenge for Dr. Manuelidis’ group will be to isolate and identify a specific virus that can cause transmissible spongiform encephalopathy. He said, however, that there is still work ahead for prion protein researchers.
“Proponents of the ‘protein only’ hypothesis which is also not proven will need to demonstrate that purified prion proteins alone can fulfill Koch’s postulates [a set of criteria for establishing a causal relationship between an infectious agent and a disease] to prove their alternative claim,” he said.
Researchers have found virus-like particles in the brain tissue of animals infected with so-called prion diseases, including the fatal human disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a finding that calls into question a controversial theory that the diseases are caused by rogue proteins devoid of genetic material.
Although the finding does not disprove the prion theory, it provides evidence of a "very strong alternative," said lead author Laura Manuelidis, a professor of neurobiology at Yale University Medical School.
Manuelidis, whose work appears today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, said the same slow-acting viruses most likely also cause chronic wasting disease, the fatal brain disease that has infected the wild deer herd in Wisconsin and other states.
"Everybody has been ignoring these (virus-like particles) for years," Manuelidis said. "The final proof is not in, but there is a lot of evidence (of a viral cause)."
If the virus theory were to hold up, it could lead to new ways to test for mad cow disease and chronic wasting disease.
The new research used electron microscopy to examine cell cultures from mice that were infected with scrapie, a brain disease in sheep, and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a similar disorder in people. They found an abundance of small virus-like particles.
These virus-like particles were able to induce brain disease when injected into hamsters, Manuelidis said. The particles also did not bind to the antibodies of normal prion protein. That suggests they contained no prion protein and that only the virus could be the infectious agent, Manuelidis said.
The virus-like particles found in the cell cultures were small, roughly the size of the polio virus, said Sheldon Penman, a virologist and emeritus professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Building a case
Penman, who submitted the Manuelidis paper to the National Academy, said he has been following her work for years as she slowly has built a case that prion diseases, known formally as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies or TSEs, are caused by a virus rather than a protein-only substance.
Penman noted that virus-like particles first were observed in TSE-infected brain tissue decades ago, but they were largely ignored as the field became focused on the prion theory.
"It shows we should go back and consider that this is a viral disease," Penman said. "The idea that it's an infectious protein is ridiculous."
The new research is suggestive but not compelling, said Judd Aiken, a prion researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
It still needs to be shown that the particles have nucleic acid, Aiken said.
"The article shows there's clearly some debate," he said. "But I'm skeptical."
He said most scientists in the field accept the prion theory, although some agree that it, too, has yet to be fully proven.
If it turns out the TSEs are caused by a virus, it would have enormous implications, Aiken said. For instance, testing for disorders such as mad cow and chronic wasting disease would be much simpler and reliable, he said.
Stanley Prusiner first proposed that a rogue protein molecule devoid of nucleic acid could replicate itself and cause the family of fatal brain disorders in people and animals. This abnormally shaped protein caused disease, he said, simply by inducing another protein in the brain to mimic its deformed shape.
His revolutionary idea won the Nobel Prize in 1997, although a few researchers have remained unconvinced.
Proof is tough to find
Three years ago Frank Bastian, a professor of neuropathology at Tulane University, found bacteria known as spiroplasma in brain tissue samples from people and animals that died of TSEs, including chronic wasting disease, scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in people. However, no one else has duplicated his research.
So far Bastian has shown only an association between spiroplasma and TSE diseases. He has not proved that the organism causes the disease.
But evidence of the infectivity of prions also has been indirect. No one yet has been able to fully purify and isolate prions from infected brain tissue and show that they cause disease.
A spokeswoman for Prusiner, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, said he was not available to comment on the new paper because he does not do media telephone interviews.
Neurobiologist Kamel Khalili said he has seen the electron microscopy images from the new paper and the particles certainly look like viruses.
There is a large body of evidence supporting the prion theory, albeit circumstantial, he said. "We must always keep our minds open," said Khalili, chief of neuroscience at Temple University School of Medicine.
A study disputes the theory that deformed proteins are to blame for the brain disease. By Jia-Rui Chong, Times Staff Writer
Graphic Top Markets for Beef
Mad cow disease and other related brain disorders may be caused by a virus and not the weird, misshapen proteins, known as prions, that scientists think are responsible, according to a study released Monday.
Researchers reported that they found virus-like particles in mouse nerve cells infected with two brain-wasting diseases similar to mad cow disease, but found no traces of the particles in uninfected cells.
Lead author Dr. Laura Manuelidis, a neuropathologist at Yale University, said the finding suggested that prions in infected brains were the result of a viral infection and not the cause of the disease.
"We found something that people have been ignoring," Manuelidis said of the virus particles. "What we hypothesize is the simplest, most parsimonious point of view."
Several brain researchers were skeptical about Manuelidis' findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"It's very remarkable that we only see these particles after infection of these cells," said Bob Rohwer, director of the Molecular Neurovirology Laboratory at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Baltimore, who was not involved in the study. "But the evidence that they are in fact the infectious agent responsible is still highly circumstantial."
Mad cow disease, known formally as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a cattle disease that destroys brain tissue by causing abnormal tangles of protein fibers and creating microscopic holes in the brain.
It is part of a family of slow-developing brain diseases, including scrapie in sheep and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans. Human infection in recent years has been connected to eating infected meat. There have been dozens of fatalities over the years.
The prion theory of mad cow disease proposes that a normal protein spontaneously misfolds, starting a cascade of abnormal changes in other proteins.
In Manuelidis' previous experiments, prions did not appear until late in the progression of spongy brain diseases.
To find what appears at an earlier phase, Manuelidis' team homogenized mouse brains infected with scrapie and Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and injected them into nerve cell cultures.
The only new objects were dense spheres that looked like small viruses, she said.
She later added a compound to spur the growth of prions about fivefold to see if that would increase the level of infection. The level did not show a significant increase, suggesting that prions were not the active agent of infection, she said.
To prove that the virus-like particles are solely responsible for the infection, Manuelidis plans to isolate the particles and see if they can start an infection when injected into healthy cells.
DifferenTakes is an investigative series of issue papers, published by the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College, providing alternative information and analysis on a wide range of reproductive rights, population, environment and social justice issues.
We are pleased to send you our latest issue, "India's Saffron Demography: So Dangerous, Yet So Appealing" by Mohan Rao. This issue analyzes how Hindu fundamentalists in India have whipped up hatred and violence against the Muslim community through spurious claims that Muslims are out-breeding Hindus. It points to the dangerous intersections between demographic alarmism and fundamentalist movements.
- Betsy Hartmann and Amy Oliver Co-editors, DifferenTakes
* Also in pdf form HERE * Also check our new color pamphlet: "10 Reasons to Rethink Overpopulation" at: http://popdev.hampshire.edu/projects/dt --
Come to the CLPP Annual Conference!
From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom
March 30 to April 1, 2007 Hampshire College, Amherst, MA Register Online at: http://clpp.hampshire.edu --
India’s Saffron Demography: So Dangerous, Yet So Appealing
By Mohan Rao A Publication of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College • No. 48 • Spring 2007
In the early 1990s, the slogan Hum Do, Hamare Do; Woh Paanch Unke Pachees, meaning “We are two and have two; they are five and have twenty-five,” became particularly strident in India. It played on the Government of India’s slogan calling for a small family, “We are two and we have two.” But it added something noxious to it: it implied that we, Hindus, are two and have two children, while they, Muslims, are five and have twenty-five children.
The arguments were simple, but deeply flawed. For example, the slogan meant that Hindus are not allowed by law to have more than one wife, while Muslims can have four.1 What it did not consider was data that clearly revealed that polygamous marriages are significantly more common among Hindus than among Muslims. Moreover, Muslims, like Hindus, are not a monolithic and homogeneous community: Muslims in Kerala or Tamil Nadu, indeed in South India generally, have smaller families than even Hindus in states like Uttar Pradesh in North India. Clearly, then, religion was not the real issue.
The slogan emerged in a period when the so-called Hindu communalist parties the Sangh Parivar, or family were trying to obtain political power. They mounted a fierce campaign, filled with bloodshed, around the issue of the Babri Masjid, a mosque in Ayodhya in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, which they claimed had been built on the precise site of the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama. Eminent historians as well as Indian courts revealed there was no basis to these claims, but the fundamentalists asserted it was not a matter of fact or law, but of faith. The campaign against the mosque bore fruit: in complete violation of all laws and commitments made to the Supreme Court of India, the Sangh Parivar demolished the mosque on December 6, 1992, a day the then President of India called a “black day for India.” It led to appalling conflagrations across the country.
The “Hindu” parties were now on the upswing.2 They are of course essentially not Hindu but political parties utilizing religious signs, symbols and metaphors. Religion in India, as in many parts of the world, including the U.S., can serve political purposes. Deploying demographic fears of Muslims outnumbering Hindus to build their constituency was a part of their larger campaign to build a theocratic state, a Hindu Rashtra, mirroring Pakistan, a state they hate but cannot help wanting to desperately emulate.
The RSS or the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh is the shadowy head of this group of right-wing Hindu organizations collectively called the Sangh Parivar. The RSS is a male, largely upper-caste, cadre-based organization involved in ideological work and behind-the-scenes politics. Its parliamentary wing is the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), presently in the opposition, which headed a coalition government from 1998-2004. The Prime Minister at that time, Mr.Vajpayee, is a RSS member, as is the then second-in-command, Mr.Advani. Indeed most leaders in the BJP come from RSS ranks. The Sangh family also comprises the more militant, lumpen Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) that has played a large role in violence against Muslims and Christians, along with another organization named the Bajrang Dal. The Sangh Parivar also has organizations working among women, students, tribals, and workers and extremely important for fund-raising organizations known as the India Development and Relief Fund (IDRF) and the Hindu Sevak Sangh (HSS) in the U.S. and U.K. Upper caste professional Hindus in these countries, searching for identity, myths and symbols of a glorious past, are massive funders of fascist organizations in India.3
As someone long involved in population issues in India, I wrote a series of articles and a pamphlet challenging Hindu fundamentalist demography. What took me aback and frightened me, which was the purpose was the response. I received letters asking me to convert to Islam, to change my name. The more frequent one argued that I was an enemy of India and of Hindus. I also had postcards many of them, so clearly it was not just one mad person telling me that should my wife go to Pakistan, the writer hoped she would be raped and converted to Islam. I received a long letter from a retired Inspector General of Police, who is with a front organization of the RSS named the Patriotic Front, enclosing two papers presented at international conferences, arguing that Muslims seek to overrun Europe which would soon be called Arabistan.4
Saffron Demography is the term Patricia and Roger Jeffery give to the Sangh Parivar’s demographic myths and lies: saffron is the color that the Sangh claims represents Hindus.5 What gives Saffron Demography such widespread appeal? Some of the complex factors at work are explored in the next section.
Virulent Identities, Virulent Masculinities Saffron Demography suffers from serious methodological, philosophical and empirical problems. It is based on assumptions that there exists a uniform and homogeneous Muslim community and an equally undifferentiated Hindu community in India which are blatantly false. It is also supremely ahistorical: it does not look at trends of population over time among these homogenized communities; neither does it consider that in India today household economies differ between Hindus and Muslims and that these can have profound demographic consequences. Data also indicates that the use of contraception by Muslim women increased faster in the 1990s than among Hindus.6 I can cite any number of other facts all these only bring in responses that I should change my religion, or worse.
This communalization of demography has a long history. As early as 1909 U.N. Mukherji wrote a book entitled Hindus: A Dying Race, which went on to influence many tracts and publications by the Hindu Maha Sabha, the parent organization of the RSS. This book seemed to meet a widespread demand, going in to many reprints, feeding into Hindu communalism and helping create it. It had a special appeal to Hindu communalists at this time who were anxious to create a monolithic Hindu community in the face of demands for separate representation emanating from both Muslims and lower castes. Whipping up anxiety about Muslims would be one way to weld together hugely diverse, and often antagonistic, castes into one community, erasing the structural divisions in caste society. Indeed it has been noted that “for Hindu communalism, it [A Dying Race] had a more direct resonance as Hindu communalism was now preoccupied with numbers… the possibility of low castes declassifying themselves as Hindus was a motivating anxiety behind the origins of Hindu communalism.” Deeply riddled with inaccuracies, wild flights of prediction of the future with utterly no basis, the book nevertheless provided “demographic common sense functioning as a trope for extinction.”7
Fundamentally, the Hindu communalists believed and continue to believe that a nation is defined “culturally” as a Hindu nation, just as Muslim communalists believed in the purity of an Islamic Pakistan.8 So neatly did the communalists of both religions, by evoking demographic fears, subscribe to colonial definitions of Indian society! The Censuses of the period also contributed. We must, however, remember that this discourse emerged in an embattled political space, as colonialism was contested, new political forces were emerging, the working class was congealing, and early feminist ideas were gaining ground. None of these of course configure in the communalist/fundamentalist discourse.
There was yet another flame stoking these fears among Hindu communalists resentful of social reform. Emblematic here was the tragic figure of the Hindu widow. Forbidden remarriage among the upper castes, she was at once responsible for the dying of the “Hindu race” and an allurement for virile Muslim men, a danger within the sacred heart of the Hindu household, waiting to be profaned. Fitting neatly into this gendered anxiety was the communalization of the issue of “abduction” of Hindu women. Indeed, this too was prominent in the form of epidemics of rumors before the genocidal carnage in 2002 in the western state of Gujarat where over 2000 Muslims were brutally killed, and hundreds of Muslim women gang-raped, in riots aided and abetted by the BJP state government. Thus the embedding of patriarchy, “nationhood,” and violence against women in discourses on numbers, inscribing on women’s reproductive bodies atavistic anxieties about the future and the politics of genocide.
Recently, we have had leaders from the Sangh Parivar opposing family planning among Hindus, claiming there is a “demographic war.” The leader of the VHP enjoined Hindus not to accept family planning as their numbers were going down as those of Muslims were increasing. At a public meeting attended by thousands, and in the presence of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, the leader of the Madhya Pradesh unit of the RSS claimed that the Muslim population was increasing at a rapid pace, and that this, combined with infiltration of Muslims from Bangladesh, portended doom for India. Claiming that this “demographic war” was being waged across the world, he attributed the break up of the Soviet Union to such “demographic imbalance.” 9
The same groups have also opposed access to abortion, arguing that a disproportionate number of Hindu women utilize abortion facilities.10 In addition, we have had a huge and unedifying controversy erupting recently when the Census Commissioner announced the religion-wise data from the 2001 Census, failing to add that these could not be compared to previous figures since the 1991 Census had not been conducted in Kashmir, a Muslim majority state. The Hindu Right created an uproar about “them” outnumbering “us” in our own country, with a lot of help from the national media. This was despite clarifications issued by the Census Commissioner and figures showing that the decline of the Muslim population growth rate was substantial and indeed sharper than among Hindus.
Martha Nussbaum has noted that the creation of virulent masculinities is perhaps a part of the project of nationalisms of the European variety. Emulating this project, other communities, other nations of blood and tribes, are also creating masculinities of the European sort. She notes that Israel and India are both seats of construction of this notion of virulent masculinities, both directed at Muslims, who are classified in colonial discourse as “martial races.” Those scoffed at as feminine or intellectual, not rational enough, set out to recreate themselves in colonial mirrors, creating a style of masculinity that is associated with the oppressor in the past, much as they recreate colonial definitions of history. This too is responsible for the horrors of Gujarat, as is the essentialism of numbers, as fundamentalists wreak murder and rape, “annihilating the female” both in themselves and in the Other.11
In 2002 the slogan Hum Do, Hamare Do; Woh Paanch, Unke Pachees helped the leader of the carnage in Gujarat, Mr. Naredra Modi of the BJP, win a shameful but resounding electoral victory. It also ties in with the trope of the alleged vegetarianism of Hindus along with the sexual rapacity of non-vegetarian Muslims. Sarkar notes that “there is a dark sexual obsession about the allegedly ultra-virile Muslim male bodies and over-fertile Muslim female ones.” Recounting the unspeakable horrors perpetrated on Muslim women and children in the Gujarat carnage, she offers the following explanations. In communal violence, rape is a sign of collective dishonoring of a community; the same patriarchy that views the female body as the symbol of lineage, of community, of nation and of their purity would besmirch an entire community as impure and polluted once “their” women are raped. There are also the calculated and politically charged rumors spread of Muslim men luring away Hindu girls, “a kind of penis envy and anxiety about emasculation that can only be overcome by violence.” And finally, the anxieties whipped up over generations about “Muslim fertility rates,” of their uncontrolled breeding and the dying of “the Hindu nation,” led to the brutal killing of children, the new blood of the “Muslim race.” 12
By engendering fear and anxiety about the future, what Saffron Demography successfully does is insidious: it evokes complicity in morally offensive and violent policies and practices among people who would otherwise be repelled by them. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Mohan Rao is Professor at the Centre of Social Medicine and Community Health, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He is the author of From Population Control to Reproductive Health: Malthusian Arithmetic (Sage, 2004), and has edited Disinvesting in Health: The World Bank’s Health Prescription (Sage, 1999) and The Unheard Scream: Reproductive Health and Women’s Lives in India.
The Population and Development Program CLPP • Hampshire College • Amherst • MA 01002 413.559.5506 • http://popdev.hampshire.edu Opinions expressed in this publication are those of the individual authors unless otherwise specified. References 1. Personal laws in India are based on religion and this is a deeply problematic and contentious issue. 2. There are enormous problems with this characterization of the Sangh Parivar as Hindu fundamentalist or Hindu nationalist. In the first place they do not represent Hindus, and indeed seem to be deeply ashamed of Hinduism, wishing to transform it into a more “masculine” religion, like Christianity or Islam. There are of course no fundamentals in Hinduism. Their claim to be nationalistic is equally moot since they played an extremely marginal role, if at all, in India’s freedom struggle. Indeed the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi, a good and proper Hindu, was a member of the Sangh Parivar as it then existed. However, this is how they are referred to, in especially the Western literature and media, and following this, in India. 3. South Asia Citizen’s Web and Sabrang Communication (2002), A Foreign Exchange of Hate, Mumbai. See also “Project Saffron Dollar,” www.stopfundinghate.org (SFH), (accessed on November 20, 2006). 4. He now regularly presents papers on Muslim demographic dangers to India at various fora, not all of them organized by the RSS. It is thus no surprise that police forces in India are known to be deeply communal. 5. Patricia Jeffery and Roger Jeffery, Confronting Saffron Demography: Religion, Fertility and Women’s Status in India (New Delhi: Three Essays Collective, 2006). 6. N. Krishnaji and K.S. James, “Religion and Fertility: A Comment,” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.XXXX, No.5, 2005. 7. Datta, Pradip Kumar, Carving Blocs: Communal Ideology in Early Twentieth Century Bengal, O.U.P., Delhi, 1999 pp. 18, 23. 8. The founder of the RSS, M.S.Golwalkar, was a great admirer of Hitler’s grand experiments with racial purification. Like Hitler, he defines a nation as a nation of blood, of primordial ties embedded in an ancient culture, in a fierce anti-Enlightenment discourse. He argued that only those whose religion emanated in India could be Indian citizens, thus marking Christians, Muslims, Parsees and Jews as “outsiders.” He wrote: “To keep up the purity of the Race and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic Races, the Jews. Race pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how wellnigh impossible it is for races and cultures, having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into one united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by” (Golwalkar M.S. (1947), We, Or Our Nationhood Redefined, Bharat Publications, Nagpur). 9. See “VHP Supremo Asks Hindus to give up Family Planning,”http://www.newkerala.com/ (December 30, 2004); “VHP asks Hindus to Abandon Two Child Norm,” The Statesman, February 16, 2005; and Staff Correspondent, “RSS sees ‘demographic war,’” The Hindu, January 24, 2005, p. 5. 10. Mohan Rao, “Female Foeticide; Where Do We Go?” Issues in Medical Ethics, Vol. IX, No.4, October 2001. 11. Nussbaum, Martha, The Clash Within: Violence, Hope and India’s Future, Harvard University Press, (forthcoming, 2007). 12. Sarkar, Tanika, “Semiotics of Muslim Terror: Muslim Children and Women in Hindu Rashtra,” Economic and Political Weekly, Vol.XXXVII, 2002, No.28, p. 2874.
Syndicated columnist Molly Ivins poses for a portrait at her home Sept. 22 in Austin, Texas. She died Wednesday at 62 after a long battle with breast cancer (Taylor Jones / AP file)
AUSTIN, Texas - Best-selling author and columnist Molly Ivins, the sharp-witted liberal who skewered the political establishment and referred to President Bush as “Shrub,” died Wednesday after a long battle with breast cancer. She was 62.
David Pasztor, managing editor of the Texas Observer, confirmed her death.
The writer, who made a living poking fun at Texas politicians, whether they were in her home base of Austin or the White House, revealed in early 2006 that she was being treated for breast cancer for the third time.
More than 400 newspapers subscribed to her nationally syndicated column, which combined strong liberal views and populist-toned humor. Ivins’ illness did not seem to hurt her ability to deliver biting one-liners.
“I’m sorry to say (cancer) can kill you, but it doesn’t make you a better person,” she said in an interview with the San Antonio Express-News in September, the same month cancer claimed her friend former Gov. Ann Richards.
To Ivins, "liberal" was no insult. "Even I felt sorry for Richard Nixon when he left; there's nothing you can do about being born liberal fish gotta swim and hearts gotta bleed," she wrote in a column included in her 1998 collection, "You Got to Dance With Them What Brung You."
In a column in mid-January, Ivins urged readers to stand up against Bush's plan to send more troops to Iraq.
"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war," Ivins wrote in the Jan. 11 column. "We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"
Ivins' best-selling books included those she co-authored with Lou Dubose about Bush. One was titled "Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush" and another was "BUSHWHACKED: Life in George W. Bush's America."
Ivins' jolting satire was directed at people in positions of power. She maintained that aiming it at the powerless would be cruel.
Family, friends pay tribute to a Texas original who had no trouble speaking her mind
Friends of Molly Ivins enjoy Marica Ball's performance of Great Balls of Fire (Rodolfo Gonzalez: AP)
AUSTIN Texas journalist Molly Ivins was relentless in pursuing justice and defending the powerless, yet never lost her optimism and sense of fun, family and friends said as they celebrated her life Sunday.
In a laughter-filled church memorial service that finished with Austin blues musician Marcia Ball performing "Great Balls of Fire," hundreds of admirers clapped and cheered Ivins' words and spirit.
Ivins, who died Wednesday at age 62 after a long battle with breast cancer, smiled down on the crowd from a portrait at the front of First United Methodist Church as numerous friends and family members read from her writings and told funny stories of their adventures with her.
Career spanned the state Her friend Linda Lewis brought the crowd to its feet in long applause when she repeated one particular quip from Ivins: "The next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please, pay attention."
But the best-selling author and syndicated columnist, a Texas liberal who delighted in skewering Republican politicians, particularly President Bush, drew praise even from those she criticized most.
Bush, whom Ivins referred to as "Shrub," issued a statement after her death saying she was a Texas original. He said he respected her convictions and "her passionate belief in the power of words, and her ability to turn a phrase."
Ivins' career included working at the Houston Chronicle, the Minneapolis Tribune, the liberal biweekly The Texas Observer and The New York Times.
Then she became a columnist for the Dallas Times-Herald and later the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she went independent and wrote her column for Creators Syndicate.
Numerous former journalism colleagues packed the church Sunday a block from the Texas Capitol, where so many of the politicians she poked fun at spend their days. The celebration then moved to Scholz Garden, a famous spot for telling stories and drinking beer near the University of Texas campus.
January 31 2007
Goodbye, Molly I.
Molly Ivins, 1944-2007 By Anthony Zurcher
Molly Ivins is gone, and her words will never grace these pages again -- for this, we will mourn. But Molly wasn't the type of woman who would want us to grieve. More likely, she'd say something like, "Hang in there, keep fightin' for freedom, raise more hell, and don't forget to laugh, too."
If there was one thing Molly wanted us to understand, it's that the world of politics is absurd. Since we can't cry, we might as well laugh. And in case we ever forgot, Molly would remind us, several times a week, in her own unique style.
Shortly after becoming editor of Molly Ivins' syndicated column, I learned one of my most important jobs was to tell her newspaper clients that, yes, Molly meant to write it that way. We called her linguistic peculiarities "Molly-isms." Administration officials were "Bushies," government was in fact spelled "guvment," business was "bidness." And if someone was "madder than a peach orchard boar," well, he was quite mad indeed.
Of course, having grown up in Texas, all of this made sense to me. But to newspaper editors in Seattle, Chicago, Detroit and beyond -- Yankee land, as Molly would say -- her folksy language could be a mystery. "That's just Molly being Molly," I would explain and leave it at that.
But there was more to Molly Ivins than insightful political commentary packaged in an aw-shucks Southern charm. In the coming days, much will be made of Molly's contributions to the liberal cause, how important she was as an authentic female voice on opinion pages across the country, her passionate and eloquent defense of the poorest and the weakest among us against the corruption of the most powerful, and the joy she took in celebrating the uniqueness of American culture -- and all of this is true. But more than that, Molly Ivins was a woman who loved and cared deeply for the world around her. And her warm and generous spirit was apparent in all her words and deeds.
Molly's work was truly her passion. She would regularly turn down lucrative speaking engagements to give rally-the-troops speeches at liberalism's loneliest outposts. And when she did rub elbows with the highfalutin' well-to-do, the encounter would invariably end up as comedic grist in future columns.
For a woman who made a profession of offering her opinion to others, Molly was remarkably humble. She was known for hosting unforgettable parties at her Austin home, which would feature rollicking political discussions, and impromptu poetry recitals and satirical songs. At one such event, I noticed her dining table was littered with various awards and distinguished speaker plaques, put to use as trivets for steaming plates of tamales, chili and fajita meat. When I called this to her attention, Molly matter-of-factly replied, "Well, what else am I going to do with 'em?"
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of Molly's life is the love she engendered from her legions of fans. If Molly missed a column for any reason, her newspapers would hear about it the next day. As word of Molly's illness spread, the letters, cards, e-mails and gifts poured in.
Even as Molly fought her last battle with cancer, she continued to make public appearances. When she was too weak to write, she dictated her final two columns. Although her body was failing, she still had so much to say. Last fall, before an audience at the University of Texas, her voice began as barely a whisper. But as she went on, she drew strength from the standing-room-only crowd until, at the end of the hour, she was forcefully imploring the students to get involved and make a difference. As Molly once wrote, "Politics is not a picture on a wall or a television sitcom that you can decide you don't much care for."
For me, Molly's greatest words of wisdom came with three children's books she gave my son when he was born. In her inimitable way, she captured the spirit of each in one-sentence inscriptions. In "Alice in Wonderland," she offered, "Here's to six impossible things before breakfast." For "The Wind in the Willows," it was, "May you have Toad's zest for life." And in "The Little Prince," she wrote, "May your heart always see clearly."
Like the Little Prince, Molly Ivins has left us for a journey of her own. But while she was here, her heart never failed to see clear and true -- and for that, we can all be grateful.
To find out more about Molly Ivins and read her past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2007 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
Molly Ivins' final column, "Stand Up Against the Surge," is available here. Use the calendar below to navigate through her columns from 2006.
January 31 2007
Syndicated political columnist Molly Ivins died of breast cancer Wednesday evening at her home in Austin. She was 62 years old, and had much, much more to give this world.
She remained cheerful despite Texas politics. She emphasized the more hilarious aspects of both state and national government, and consequently never had to write fiction. She said, “Good thing we’ve still got politics—finest form of free entertainment ever invented.”
Molly had a large family, many namesakes, hundreds of close friends, thousands of colleagues and hundreds of thousands of readers.
She and her two siblings, Sara (Ivins) Maley of Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Andy Ivins of London, Texas, grew up in Houston. Her father, James Ivins, was a corporate lawyer and a Republican, which meant she always had someone to disagree with over the dinner table. Her mother, Margot, was a homemaker with a B.A. in psychology from Smith College.
In addition to her brother and sister, Molly is survived by sister-in-law Carla Ivins, nephew Drew and niece Darby; niece Margot Hutchison and her husband, Neil, and their children Sam, Andy and Charlie of San Diego, Calif. and nephew Paul Maley and his wife, Karianna, and their children Marty, Anneli and Finnbar of Eltham, Victoria, Australia.
Molly followed her mother to Smith and received a B.A. in 1966, followed by an M.A. from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and an honorary doctorate from Haverford College.
Her full list of books and awards will be abbreviated here. In addition to compilations of her brilliant, hilarious liberal columns, she wrote with Lou Dubose Shrub: The Short But Happy Political Life of George W. Bush (Random House 2000) and Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush’s America (Random House 2003). She was working on a Random House book documenting the Bush administration’s assault on the Bill of Rights when she died.
Molly, being practical, used many of her most prestigious awards as trivets while serving exquisite French dishes at her dinner parties. Her awards include the William Allen White Award from the University of Kansas, the Eugene V. Debs award in the field of journalism, many awards for advocacy of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the David Nyhan Prize from the Shorenstein Center at the Kennedy School at Harvard.
Although short, Molly’s life was writ large. She was as eloquent a speaker and teacher as she was a writer, and her quips will last at least as long as Will Rogers’. She dubbed George W. Bush “Shrub” and Texas Governor Rick Perry “Good Hair.”
Molly always said in her official résumé that the two honors she valued the most were (1) when the Minneapolis Police Department named their mascot pig after her (She was covering the police beat at the time.) and (2) when she was banned from speaking on the Texas A&M University campus at least once during her years as co-editor of The Texas Observer (1970-76). However, she said with great sincerity that she would be proudest of all to die sober, and she did.
She worked as a reporter for The New York Times (1976-82) in New York and Albany and later as Rocky Mountain Bureau Chief covering nine mountain states by herself. After working for the staid Times where she was heavily edited, Molly cut loose and became a columnist for the Dallas Times Herald. When the Herald folded, she signed on as a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. In 2001, she became syndicated, eventually appearing in 400 newspapers.
She never lost her love for The Texas Observer or her conviction that a free society relies on public-interest journalism. She found that brand of journalism the most fun.
In recent years she shamelessly used her national and international contacts to raise funds for the Observer, which has always survived on a shoestring. More than $400,000 was contributed to the feisty little journal at a roast honoring Molly in Austin October 8.
Molly’s enduring message is, “Raise more hell.”
To read more about Molly Ivins or to make a comment about her, go to www.texasobserver.org. Tax-deductible contributions in her honor may be made to The Texas Observer, 307 West Seventh Street, Austin, TX 78701 or the American Civil Liberties Union, 127 Broad Street, 18th floor, New York, NY 10004, www.aclu.org.
Memorial services will be announced in the coming days.
To Our Readers and Friends
Molly Ivins left her editor's chair at The Texas Observer more than 30 years ago and went on to play a larger stage. But she never left us behind. She remained convinced that Texas needed a progressive, independent voice to call the powerful to account and to stand up for the common folk. She kept our voice alive. More than once, when the paper was on the brink of insolvency, she delivered speeches and gave us the honorariums. She donated royalties from her best-selling book Shrub to keep the doors open. Her determination and efforts sustained the Observer as a magazine, as a family, and as a community.
Molly was a hero. She was a mentor. She was a liberal. She was a patriot. She was a friend. And she always will be. With Molly's death we have lost someone we hold dear. What she has left behind we will hold dearer still.
Despite her failing health, and an impending ice storm, Molly insisted on being driven to the Observer’s most recent public event in early January so she could thank our supporters.
Observer writers are useful, she explained to the crowd, in much the same way as good hunting dogs. Turn them loose, let them hunt. When they return with their prey, pat them on the head, say a few words of praise, and set them loose to hunt again.
For the time being, our site will be dedicated to remembering Molly, her work, her wit, her contributions to the political discourse of a nation. We invite readers to submit their own thoughts and recollections, to say a few words of praise.
I was going to write about the spineless resolution on the troop surge in Iraq that Carl Levin forged with John Warner today. But then Molly Ivins died after her own weary battle with breast cancer and, well, all hell broke loose. With her fierce and unrelenting criticism of Bush and his misadventures in Iraq, her death seemed too ironic and significant to let pass without comment.
I never met Molly Ivins, but she was an inspiration to me and a generation of other women reporters. I'd read one of Ivins' smart-mouthed political columns and think wickedly, Can you actually say that? And the answer was an astonishing yes. She was the only person besides my friend Sue, who once lived in Austin, who made me seriously consider taking a job in Texas.
Ivins was the first female political columnist to ascend from the trenches to become a star. In a profession dominated by self-important and uptight males, she was like a shot of Irish whiskey. Bracing and smart. But best of all she was tough and unafraid. She said what she thought and didn't apologize for it. She spoke for people who didn't have a voice. She was proud of being a liberal. Who else would have thought to call the Commander in Chief, the ersatz cowboy in Crawford, the self-described "Decider" "Shrub"? Ouch.
Even as she lay dying she continued to attack Bush's policies in Iraq.
Here is what Ivins wrote on January 11:
"We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'"
We also need a courageous bunch of Senators, ones who are willing to stop thinking about 2008 for a half second and take a stand. That's something Molly Ivins understood.
The liberal warrior and beloved Texas columnist could, and did, say that.
Her greatest joy was bringing grief to those she considered too big for their britches or too small-brained to be bipeds often the same person. A self-confessed bleeding-heart liberal, her favorite targets were politicians, mostly of the Republican persuasion, and much of her scorn was reserved for her bête noire-in-chief, George W. Bush, whom she immortalized, and trivialized, as "Dubya" and "Shrub."
Molly Ivins' obituaries testify to her rapier-like wit, her razor-sharp barbs, her skewering, stinging, poking and puncturing of overinflated egos and venal ambitions: Vlad the Impaler (1431-1476) pales by comparison. The New York Times' choice of the elegant, Frenchified verb "filet" to describe her skill at gutting her enemies would have tickled her, since her six-year tenure at that paper ended when it became obvious that her raucous, earthy prose did not meet the standard of "All the News That's Fit to Print."
But it is striking that the same obits invariably celebrate her optimism and good humor, and anyone who ever met her, heard her speak or read her prolific output of reporting, columns and books could never doubt her respect and affection for the institutions and offices she delighted in kicking around, if not for the temporary occupants of same. One lovely irony of her 30-odd-year legacy is that, more than most other prominent Texans, she embodied the values the love of country, state, family and friends that so many of her victims so publicly claimed but so often betrayed.
Besides comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable, another public service that Molly Ivins performed was to give the world a different view of what a Texan is. In many quarters, unfortunately, the stereotype has been of an ignorant, provincial hick or a gun-totin' cowboy shoot first and ask questions later. In Ivins, the world saw an educated, urbane, funny, fearless and compassionate Texan. There have always been such Texans, but they're not all women six-feet tall with a big, sassy, brilliant mouth, a twice-weekly column running in about 350 papers and a vibrant mass of red hair (till chemotherapy transformed it to a soft white veil).
After a diagnosis of breast cancer in 1999, which recurred several times and finally silenced her gifted voice this week, Ivins fought the disease publicly and gracefully, with humor and dignity, and never gave up on her life's work. In her last column last month, ill as she was, this populist Texan exhorted her readers to think and act for themselves: "We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. ... Raise hell."
And yes, even though she was born in some place called Monterey, out there on the left coast, she was a true Texan most of whom were not born here, either. She left, came back, left some more and finally came back for good. Good for her; good for Texas.
I was a cub reporter in Minneapolis -- the city where she'd cut her journalistic teeth a couple of decades earlier -- when I first met Molly Ivins.
It was one of those damp blue Midwestern early summer days, and we sat outside the clubhouse where she'd just given a reading, on wrought-iron chairs that she made look like doll furniture. She was tall, and incredibly red-headed, and the biggest personality I'd ever met; also gentle, and funny, and patient as I fumbled with my microphone and asked starstruck questions about her life, her politics, and the town we'd both covered. We compared notes about how remarkably venal and corrupt a city run by supposedly squeaky-clean Democrats could be when given half a chance, which having come of age in the Reagan years I'd somehow been too naive to expect.
Mostly, though, I didn't say anything: I just drank up what it was like to see a woman be sharply political and yet uproariously funny, unapologetic and uncompromising, completely confident with the good old boys and completely capable of beating them at their own game, and all this without even seeming to try very hard at all.
There were not many women writing like that in the 80s, which is why I dreamed of being Molly Ivins when I grew up; there still aren't many like her today, and magazines like Mother Jones are run and written overwhelmingly by men. Why? I don't know exactly: Because most women are not trained, as many men have been, to presume that the world is dying to hear what we have to say? Because having an outsized personality and convictions to match makes you lonely, as a woman more so than a man? Because so many of us, anxious to get along, learn to lace our opinions, even inadvertently, with qualifiers and fudges, with "I think"s and "I could be wrong, but"s?
Molly didn't fudge, but neither did she lecture: She just told you what she thought, and often it wasn't what you might have expected at a time when the left had grown timid and self-referential and obsessed with PC nuance. She went for the roundhouse punch when everyone else was busy wringing their hands, and she liked those -- Democrats, Republicans, men and women, good old boys and bad new girls -- willing to do the same. She made us laugh, and she made us smarter, and she cut through a lot of B.S.
Now it's time to thank her for it: As she wrote, in her very last column just a couple of weeks ago: "Raise hell." And have fun.
Molly was a contributor to Mother Jones for many years, and in the coming days, you'll hear more from the people who worked with her; we'll also have an archive of her stories for this magazine. For a quick sketch of her life, see Josh Harkinson's story HERE.
TOUGH, funny, bawdy, outrageous, liberal wit Molly Ivins finally succumbed to her third round of breast cancer, and America will be poorer without her. She was a brilliant, caring intellectual who hid her genius behind raucous wisecracks and blue-collar jargon.
She dubbed President Bush “Shrub” and said of his conservative team: “These people are not only dishonest — they’re not even smart.” She called Henry Kissinger “an old war criminal.” She called Fox News commentator Bill O’Reilly “sludge-for-brains.”
She said Republicans smeared former President Clinton “with the frenzy of a foaming mad dog.” Regarding a Texas GOP congressman, she wrote: “If his IQ slips any lower, we’ll have to water him twice a day.”
Across America Thursday, genuine sadness was voiced by many admirers who read her sardonic columns in 400 U.S. newspapers, including this one.
The Nation magazine called her “the warmest-hearted populist ever to pick up a pen with the purpose of calling the rabble to the battlements.” Texas Democratic leader Matt Angle said: “She could deflate a puffed-up politician better than anyone I’ve known.” Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-Texas, said “she tried to make a kind of crazy world understandable through humor.”
In 1994, Ivins was the first speaker in Charleston’s W.E. “Ned” Chilton III Leadership Lecture series, named for this paper’s late publisher. After regaling the overflow crowd with bawdy tales, she said: “The reason I loved Ned Chilton is that Ned believed journalism should have values.”
Thursday, her editor at Creators Syndicate wrote: “If there was one thing Molly wanted us to understand, it’s that the world of politics is absurd. Since we can’t cry, we might as well laugh.” He added that Ivins would want no mourning at her death, but would tell people:
“Hang in there, keep fightin’ for freedom, raise more hell, and don’t forget to laugh too.”
DifferenTakes is an investigative series of issue papers, published by the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College, providing alternative information and analysis on a wide range of reproductive rights, population, environment and social justice issues.
We are pleased to send you our latest issue, Old Roots, New Shoots: Eugenics of the Everyday by Betsy Hartmann. This issue explores the persistence of eugenic thinking in the U.S. and how it interacts with other forms of biological determinism that influence the fields of science, health, economics, politics and popular culture.
- Betsy Hartmann and Amy Oliver Co-editors, DifferenTakes
* Also in pdf form HERE * Available at http://popdev.hampshire.edu/projects/dt * Also check our new color pamphlet: "10 Reasons to Rethink Overpopulation" HERE
-- Come to CLPP’s Annual Conference!
From Abortion Rights to Social Justice: Building the Movement for Reproductive Freedom
March 30 – April 1, 2007 Hampshire College – Amherst, MA Register Online at: http://clpp.hampshire.edu ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Old Roots, New Shoots: Eugenics of the Everyday
by Betsy Hartmann A Publication of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College • No. 47 • Spring 2007
Very few people today in the U.S. would openly identify as eugenicists, yet eugenic assumptions are widespread, interacting with other biological determinisms that influence the fields of science, health, economics, politics and popular culture. Like many other powerful ideas, the power of eugenic ideology lies partly in its capacity to not draw attention to itself, to appear commonplace.
Today eugenics is typically framed in terms of debates over the promise and perils of new reproductive technologies, from fetal genetic screening to the cloning of human beings. While feminists and progressives need to engage critically in these debates, we also should pay attention to more everyday manifestations of eugenics and how they affect movements all along the political spectrum.
In the U.S., conventional wisdom has it that eugenics disappeared with the exposure of Nazi atrocities. In reality, not only did eugenics survive, but eugenicists continued to occupy prominent positions in population, biology, and related fields. Moreover, eugenic sterilizations, mainly of poor people of color, continued in a number of states well into the latter half of the 20th century.1
Eugenics was a particularly powerful force in the postwar population control establishment. Frederick Osborn, the leader of the American Eugenics Society, served as both vice-president and president of the Population Council until 1959. The founders of the council debated whether to emphasize qualitative or quantitative aspects of population. In the end, because of Cold War fears of the ‘population explosion’ in the Third World, they reached the decision to focus on the quantitative dimension, i.e. reducing population growth, because of its supposed urgency.
However, the eugenic dimension of demography hardly disappeared. The council funded a number of eugenics research projects in the U.S. and its contraceptive research had a definite eugenic thrust. In 1968 Osborn wrote, “Eugenic goals are most likely to be attained under another name than eugenics.”2 Today, as population growth rates decline around the world, demography is focusing once again on ‘quality’ concerns such as the differential fertility of competing ethnic groups and the problems of population aging. This is especially true in Europe where a growing number of policymakers are urging white women to have more babies as an alternative to immigrant labor.3
The eugenic dimensions of molecular biology also gathered steam in the post-war period. Famous biologist Lionel Pauling, for example, argued for the purification of human germ plasm and population control to reduce the number of defective children born. Reminiscent of the Nazis’ yellow star for Jews, he even went so far as to advocate tattooing the foreheads of young people with sickle-cell and other defective genes.4
Thus, while eugenic ideologies and practices have changed over time, they have hardly gone away. Following are key arenas where eugenic ideas continue to circulate today. Pure Nature: Environment and Immigration American environmentalism has had a long and strong relationship with eugenics. Many of the early conservationists were eugenicists who believed in maintaining the purity of both nature and the gene pool as well as the manifest destiny of the white Anglo-Saxon race to steward (and colonize) the environment. In California, Mexican immigrants in particular were identified as a threat to both society and the environment.5
Eugenic ideas and actors have continued to influence the environmental movement. In the ‘greening of hate,’ anti-immigrant groups masquerading as environmentalists (with names like Carrying Capacity Network and Population-Environment Balance) have tried to take over liberal environmental groups, particularly the country’s largest member-based environmental organization, the Sierra Club. Anti-immigrant groups blame pollution and urban sprawl on immigrant-induced population growth and use billboards of pristine landscapes (“amber waves of grain”) under threat from immigration to build popular support for anti-immigration ballot initiatives.6
Fortunately, groups that monitor the right are now exposing the links between these so-called environmentalists and white supremacist organizations and environmental groups are growing more wary of right-wing attempts at penetration.7 Yet much remains to be done to challenge the problematic assumptions, language and images that make American environmentalism particularly susceptible to eugenic influences. These include persistent beliefs in ‘pure’ nature, pristine wilderness and a clear division between native and non-native species.
For example, as feminist biologist Banu Subramaniam points out, the same xenophobic metaphors about invasions of hyper-breeding illegal aliens are applied to non-native plant and animal species and human immigrants, stoking fears of the foreign in both nature and culture. Indeed, we need to keep close attention to the traffic between the worlds of nature and culture at a moment when heightened fears of globalization (and now terrorism) are leading to a resurgence of nativism and romanticizing of the local.8 Notions of natural purity and cultural purity blend into and reinforce each other, making racism and ethnic prejudice more acceptable in the process.
“I wish they all could be California girls” : Bodies and Sexualities
Biological determinism is much in vogue these days as the media bombards us with messages that we are, in the end, mainly a function of our genes or hormones. Gender and sexuality are being re-centered in the body rather than in social relations. Biology is becoming the legitimizing script, providing fertile feeding grounds for what Nancy Ordover calls “the scavenger ideology” of eugenics.
For example, queer rights activists find themselves on tricky ground when it comes to the search for a genetic basis of homosexuality. “Of all the groups targeted by biological determinism,” writes Ordover, “queers seem to be the only ones who have looked to eugenics to deliver us from marginalization.” Ordover is referring to the push by several gay male scientists in the 1990s to locate a “gay gene,” partly as a strategy to win greater social acceptance and legal rights for homosexuals. The search for a gay gene is not only scientifically flawed, Ordover argues, but politically flawed, reinforcing eugenic thinking in other arenas (race, crime, urbanization and class) and posing no substantive challenge to homophobia. She urges queers “to opt out of nature versus nurture arguments altogether.”9 The transgender movement too faces issues of biological determinism, particularly the question of how to make sure hormonal treatments for becoming more biologically male or female do not reinforce problematic gender ideologies and binaries.
In relation to the body, perhaps the most everyday and often unexamined manifestation of eugenics is in aesthetics. In the heyday of eugenics in the 1930s, the promotion of ideal body types took place in racist research on phenotypes, state fair contests to find the fittest (white) families, and graphic and sculptured representations of the ideal Nordic male and female. The perfect man and woman of the future would not only be geniuses, but have beautiful, efficient and controlled bodies.10
This aesthetic survives today, taking a variety of forms from paying blond, blue-eyed Ivy League women to be egg donors to the pages of fashion magazines. Where it may be most insidious is in the growing prevalence of eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia among young women searching for an elusive physical perfection, sense of control and in some cases hyperathletic physical efficiency. Although eating disorders have complex causes, we should not underestimate the legacy of eugenics in breeding the psychological monster of perfectionism that terrorizes so many women. The current mass marketing of hormonal birth control pills like Seasonale that have the ‘liberating’ side effect of stopping your periods also plays on the eugenic aesthetic of a clean, efficient female body.11
Racing Backwards: Re-biologizing Race One of the great ironies of the present moment is the resurgence of race-based biological and genetic determinism at a time when scientific research is exploding myths about the biological basis of race. For example, research has shown that genetic variation within a group is much greater than variation among “races” and that geographic proximity is a much better marker for genetic similarity than skin color.
As anthropologist Alan Goodman notes, another frequent error is the assumption that racial differences in disease are due to genetic differences among races. Not only does this over-emphasize and simplify the role of genes as a causal agent of disease, but it diverts attention from the social, economic and environmental determinants of illness, including the negative effects of racism. Native Americans, for example, may indeed suffer a higher rate of Type II diabetes, but poverty, discrimination, poor diet and reservation culture may explain this higher incidence much more than any genetic predisposition. Racism more than race is inscribed in the body.12
The social forces which perpetuate the biologizing and geneticizing of race can be found at varying points along the political spectrum. Pharmaceutical interests profit on these myths; the Washington Post, for example, recently published an article about the GenSpec brand of dietary supplements with the title, “Maker of race-based vitamins says they are targeting real biological differences.”13 Racist social conservatives are still fond of blaming inequality and poverty on the inferior intelligence of black people and the liberal press has proved all too willing to go along.14
Parts of the left, through some forms of rigid race-based identity politics, have also played a role. The more didactic approaches to anti-racism education can ironically serve to reify and consolidate the black/white binary while undermining possibilities for solidarity on the basis of class, gender, or a shared political perspective. The challenge remains how to address very real white racism and privilege without buying into biological constructs of race based on having the right genes, skin color and ‘blood.’ Scarcity Scares and Inefficient Efficiencies: The Role of Neoliberalism Current forms of eugenics are complementary to, if not the product of, neoliberal ideologies and policies. These complementarities include:
Concepts of burden Competitive capitalism has long required rationales for why people are poor and expendable. Under neoliberalism, the shrinking of the welfare state casts more and more people as drains on the economy and the state not just the poor and people of color, but also elderly people and people with disabilities. It is not surprising then that one can hear echoes of negative eugenics in population control measures and technologies targeted at poor women (welfare ‘reform’ family caps, the Project Prevention organization that gives incentives to drug users to use long-term contraception or be sterilized, recent FDA approval of quinacrine chemical sterilization trials) and in genetic screening for fetal disability.
Consumer choice Just as the concept of burden is intrinsic to negative eugenics, so is the concept of individual choice to ‘positive’ eugenics and new reproductive technologies. These technologies are often promoted to well-off women in terms of consumer choice and ‘designer babies.’ In a sense, burden and choice are two sides of the same coin as both impose reproductive duties on women in an era of privatization.15 Eugenics, past and present, is also intricately linked to industrial mass production through the design and marketing of ever more standardized ‘ideal’ consumer goods and the associated rise in social expectations and conformity, faith in technological progress, and belief in consumer rights as the foundation of free enterprise and democracy.16
Globalization Here we need to look more carefully at both ideologies and practices of global out-sourcing when it comes to genetic engineering and assisted reproduction. In addition, stem cell and cloning research is becoming the latest marker of which country is ‘out front’ in the competitive race to the new technological frontier.
Efficiency Linked to all of the above is the heightened focus on ‘efficiency’ as privatization, competition, the information technology speed-up and the time/space compression of globalization put ever more demands on the human body and body politic to make more ‘efficient’ use of resources. Nowhere is this clearer than in health policy where the priority given to finding, treating and preventing the genetic causes of both physical and mental disease is touted as more efficient than, for example, identifying and ameliorating environmental and social causes. Most disorders are blamed on genes, and the quick-fix solution is pharmaceutical. Genetic screening, meanwhile, threatens to become a means by which health insurance companies, in their ‘efficient’ search for higher profits, can deny people coverage. War Within,War Without: The National Security State Any discussion of eugenics must also take on the escalating role of the prison–military–industrial complex. Extremely high rates of incarceration, often with long sentences that extend through the reproductive years, are curtailing the family-making possibilities of black men and women. In addition, poor women of color are being imprisoned for supposed reproductive crimes, such as ‘fetal abuse’ for taking drugs during pregnancy. We also have to ask just who is being used as cannon fodder in the war in Iraq, who is viewed as less fit to live, more fit to die.
Coupled with tax cuts for the rich, the diversion of billions of dollars toward the ‘war on terror’ and war in Iraq, meanwhile, is creating very real budget deficits, with social programs increasingly cut to support national defense. In the hands of conservative ideologues, fears of scarcity are manipulated in order to cast more and more poor people as burdens and to foment racist assaults on immigrants and people of color. This climate helps foster and legitimize eugenic thinking. A more speculative issue is whether there is a relationship between the widespread use of surveillance technologies in the national security state and increased acceptance of the surveillance mechanisms of genetic screening.
To challenge everyday eugenics, we need to use our political imaginations to create a powerful and persuasive vision of the future that celebrates diversity, creativity and difference, presents alternatives to neoliberalism and the national security state, harnesses scientific research for the real benefit of human and environmental health, and does away once and for all with the false and dangerous binaries of pure and impure, fit and unfit. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Betsy Hartmann is the director of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. This paper is an abridged version of “Eugenics of the Everyday: Some Preliminary Reflections,” background paper for the consultation on ‘New’ Reproductive and Genetic Technologies and Women’s Lives, SAMA-Resource Group for Women and Health, New Delhi, India, June 16-17, 2006, and a version has also appeared on Znet, September 22, 2006.
The Population and Development Program CLPP • Hampshire College • Amherst • MA 01002 413.559.5506 • http://popdev.hampshire.edu Opinions expressed in this publication are those of the individual authors unless otherwise specified.
Resources & References
Groups that do progressive analysis and campaigning on eugenics issues include: • Center for Genetics and Society (www.genetics-and-society.org) • Council for Responsible Genetics (www.gene-watch.org) • Committee on Women, Population and the Environment (www.cwpe.org) • The Corner House (www.thecornerhouse.org.uk)
1 Alexandra Minna Stern, Eugenic Nation: Faults and Frontiers of Better Breeding in Modern America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005). 2 Edmund Ramsden, “Between Quality and Quantity: The Population Council and the Politics of ‘Science-making’ in Eugenics and Demography, 1952-1965,” (Rockefeller Archive Center Research Reports Online, 2001). 3 See Elizabeth Krause, “Dangerous Demographies: The Scientific Manufacture of Fear,” The Corner House, Briefing 36, (July 2006), http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/pdf/briefing/36dangerous.pdf, and "From Explosion to Implosion: A Call for Population Skepticism," DifferenTakes, No. 46 (Spring 2007) http://popdev.hampshire.edu/projects/dt/dt46.php. 4 Lily E. Kay, The Molecular Vision of Life: Caltech, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Rise of the New Biology (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993). 5 See Stern 2005. 6 Betsy Hartmann, “Conserving Racism: The Greening of Hate at Home and Abroad,” DifferenTakes, No. 27 (Winter 2004) http://popdev.hampshire.edu/projects/dt/dt27.php. 7 For example, see “The Puppeteer,” Intelligence Report, no. 106 (Summer 2002), 44-51. 8 Banu Subramaniam, “The Aliens Have Landed! Reflections on the Rhetoric of Biological Invasions,” in Betsy Hartmann, Banu Subramaniam, and Charles Zerner, eds., Making Threats: Biofears and Environmental Anxieties, (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield Publishing Group, Inc., 2005), 135. 9 Nancy Ordover, American Eugenics: Race, Queer Anatomy, and the Science of Nationalism (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 60, 69, 207. 10 Christina Cogdell, Eugenic Design: Streamlining America in the 1930s (Philadelphia: University of California Press, 2004). 11 Amanda Bucek, “Beyond the Hype: What You Should Know about the Seasonale Birth Control Pill,” DifferenTakes, No. 36 (Summer 2005) http://popdev.hampshire.edu/projects/dt/dt36.php. 12 Alan Goodman, “Reflections – Impure Biology: The Deadly Synergy of Racialization and Geneticization,” in Hartmann et al., eds., Making Threats (2005). 13 January Payne, “Maker of race-based vitamins says they are targeting real biological differences,” Reprinted from the Washington Post in the Daily Hampshire Gazette, May 9, 2006, C3. 14 The Bell Curve is one example, and more recently the attention paid to John Donohue and Steven Levitt’s theory that the drop in crime in the 1990s was due to the 1973 legalization of abortion which kept potential criminal offspring from teenage, single and African American mothers from being born. 15 Dorothy Roberts, “Population Control and Reprogenetics in U.S. Neoliberalism,” Speech for the plenary on The Politics and Resurgence of Population Policies, 10th International Women and Health Meeting, New Delhi, India, September 23, 2005.