In our newsroom on November 16th, 2021, we looked at local, national, and international news from a feminist perspective. The news articles we will be discussing include conversations surrounding controversy over the graphic novel, “Gender Queer: A Memoir”, recent changes to Louisiana cosmetology school LICENSING, and a population law being passed in Iran that violates women’s rights.
Earlier last week, Michael Richards, the superintendent of Harrisonburg City Public Schools pulled the novel, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe from libraries after parents in other school districts across states such as Texas and Northern Virginia made complaints to their school boards. These complaints were based around the graphic images in the book that contain nudity and some sexually explicit language with many of the parents comparing the images to pornography. Richards took it upon himself to remove the novel from Harrisonburg City Public Schools saying it is, “a more primary responsibility to protect the safety and wellbeing of students”, also stating how pulling this book limits students younger siblings’ access to the material. Richards claims to be pro LGBTQ+ and even mentions that he thinks school libraries should contain LGBTQ+ inclusive content on the shelves, but this decision still raises question and concern about the lack of visibility of trans and non-binary identities for young adults. Despite the controversial decision Richard’s made, I find it important to include his urge to keep the questions of portrayals of sexuality in novels [and its explicitness], and inclusion of LGBTQ+ representation, separate as his decision was made on the basis of it’s content not being “age appropriate”.
On November 1st, 2021, the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology unanimously voted to pass the decision that in order to obtain a stylists’ license you now must learn how to cut and style textured hair. Many Black hairstylists are celebrating this decision, while emphasizing how this decision comes as big news because most people are unaware of the fact that cosmetology schools previously did not require stylist’s to know how to cut textured hair at all. In a quote for CNN, Renee Gadar [global artistic director of texture for Aveda] states “Black women have been “disenfranchised” and left out of the beauty industry for too long… the exam requirement will force all beauty school students of all races to learn about textured hair and overcome any stigma around it”. Edwin Neill, chairman of the Louisiana Board of Cosmetology, told CNN the state’s new requirement will go into effect in June 2022 also stating the growing “consciousness” around textured hair inspired the board to add it to the exam. This decision is a great step in combating race-based hair discrimination in the workplace and schools, along with the beginnings of equality in a larger scope of the beauty industry. It will hopefully destigmatize textured hair as well as bring awareness to other states who have not yet enacted this decision.
On November 1st, 2021, Iran’s Guardian Council approved the “rejuvenation of the population and support of family” bill, which outlaws sterilization and free distribution of contraceptives in the public health care system unless a pregnancy threatens a woman’s health. Within the bill there are articles that “benefit” women and families, but others that have the potential to harm. For example, article 17 includes nine months of fully paid maternity leave, an option for working from home for up to four months during pregnancy, and an option to take leave for medical appointments for women with children under age 7, but article 56 that includes how an abortion can only be legally performed if three doctors agree that a pregnancy threatens a woman’s life. Additionally, the bill prohibits production of cultural material against the country’s population policies and mandates Iran’s state broadcasting agency to produce programs encouraging women to have children and denouncing decisions to remain single, have fewer children, or have abortions. In a quote from Sepehri Far she states it best when she says, “Expecting to achieve population growth by restricting the right to health and privacy is a delusional understanding of policy making and one that will only lead to rights abuses.”