The Yarl’s Wood hunger strike has been suspended. The women hunger-strikers say:

The suspension will last for three weeks until something is done to all the issues that had been raised. Our position will be reviewed on suspension of the hunger strike if there are no changes to the problems and issues. Nobody wants to go on hunger strike, but if the authorities and immigration do not listen to us then we can resume the hunger strike on the 9 April 2010. This letter will be sent with a copy of the problems that we face at Yarl’s Wood.

Here are some suggestions on how to support the strikers.

The London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival starts tonight – sometime F-Word contributor Kaite Welsh has rounded up some of the highlights over at Lesbilicious. The site also considers the highlights for the Queer Up North festival in Manchester this May.

Meanwhile, Charlotte at Subtext notes two interesting films screening in London as part of the Human Rights Watch festival:

Sanctuary (4m animation)

Sanctuary is the true story of one woman, Marjorie, who tries to seek asylum in the UK. Speaking of her experiences in her own words, this film illustrates the journey she goes through—her inner journey as she confronts the effects of her torture and her outward journey as she struggles for asylum.

Location: The Ritzy, Brixton Oval, London

Date and time:

March 21, 2010 5:00pm

March 22, 2010 6:30pm

Women Without Men

Shirin Neshat’s striking Women Without Men weaves together the stories of five women against the backdrop of the American- and British-backed coup that brought down Prime Minister Mossadegh and reinstalled the Shah in 1953. Contrasting the political drama of the time with the complexities of the women’s intimate lives makes for an imaginative and emotional film that engages us on a myriad of levels.

Location: Curzon Soho, 99 Shaftesbury Avenue, London

Date and time: March 23, 2010 6:30pm

US tabloid magazine Life & Style engaged in a particularly egregious bout of gender policing recently, putting Angelina Jolie’s three-year-old on the cover with the headline: “Why is Angelina turning Shiloh into a boy? -A boys haircut and clothes -Calls her ‘John’ -No girlie things.” Miriam at Feministing notes:

The idea of kids and adults standing in the grocery store aisle, looking at this cover, and absorbing the message it sends was too much.

Agendered is looking for writers to contribute to its Masculinity issue:

We’re looking for articles on things like ( but not restricted to):

Politics: can men be feminists? profiles of various feminist men…

Baby Daddies: the UK’s new paternity leave—how does it measure up to the Scandinavian countries’ paternity leave?

Sex and Dating: dating guides’ models of ‘masculinity’—is the man from ‘The Rules’ the same as the man from ‘The Game’? Or is it a different sport entirely?

Role Play: what do people who value ‘masculinity’ think about femininity?

Oxford Rites of Passage: does ‘masculinity’ vary from place to place? Is there an Oxford specific model of ‘masculinity’?

Mag Hags: ‘Men’s Health’ is now more popular than ‘FHM’—What’s going on?

Beauty: Masculinity and the female gaze—a review of ‘Filament’ magazine

Criticisms of how gender stereotypes are imposed on explanations of how the human egg is fertilised are well established and almost 20 years old. Elle PhD picks up on how they have not yet sunk into the minds of those at the National Geographic Channel, however:

The woman’s body is represented as terrain to be overcome and defeated. Why do I say defeated? Because the narrator describes the process of fertilization and conception as an “epic quest,” and “a war,” calls the sperm “250 million genetic couriers… about to invade Emily’s body” and talks in terms of “securing victory.” For sperm, “landing in Emily’s vagina is like D-Day.”

Anyway, back to women-as-landscapes. There are forests and mountains and oceans. There is a rough, rocky road (aka the floor of the vagina. Yes, seriously). The woman’s reproductive system is defined in terms of its treachery or pleasantness to sperm. “Everything in the vagina,” says one of the scientists, “works against the sperm’s survival.” The vagina has a “dark side.” The cervix is a “dark, treacherous maze of uncharted tunnels.” It is “hell,” a “twisted, nightmarish, urban environment.” On the other hand, the fallopian tubes are “sperm heaven.” But, it’s not all sunshine at this point! The egg’s short life span presents “a final, fatal hurdle.”

Gordon Brown has promised to provide pregnant women with the legal right to a home birth and an extra 4,000 midwives by 2012.

Isata Denton Ceesay from the Mother’s Campaign of the All African Women’s Group talks about the recent march (note, I’ve not been able to watch this video myself):

Also, the 10th Carnival of Feminist Parenting is up at Mothers for Women’s Lib.

LGBT Asylum News profiles a lesbian couple in Uganda.

Reille Hunter – with whom US politician John Edwards had an affair – was interviewed in GQ magazine. The resulting pictures unleashed some serious slut shaming.

The International Olympic Committee wants to require intersex athletes to have surgery before they compete, according to the Bay Area Reporter, which links up a petition to protest this.

Farmer’s Weekly held a competition for ‘sexiest farmer’, with male and female categories. The news media predictably leapt on the story, but have been ignoring the winner in the men’s category, only reporting on the “blonde” winner of the sexiest woman farmer category. Only Pete Mortimore’s local newspaper ran a photo of him. Sociological Images breaks it down.

Bristol Reclaim the Night happened – sian and the crooked rib has posted her speech from the protest.

In ice-skating news, Sociological Images explains that competitive female figure skaters are required to wear skirts, after the International Skating Union was “scandalized by Debi Thomas’ unitard at the 1988 Olympics”.

Over at Comment is Free, Annabelle Lever breaks down an interesting study about how racism operates in juries.

Melissa at Shakesville offers congratulations on the first same-sex couple to wed in Washington, DC, and some thoughts about love. Meanwhile, Sociological Images considers how a ‘family’ organisation ‘accidentally’ posted the wrong photo representing a lesbian couple wanting to adopt a relative’s child, but also see the comments discussion too.

The Grand Narrative posts about how symbolism varies across culture – and how this makes it hard for Westerners to ‘read’ how gender operates in Korean advertising.

Lady Gaga and Beyonce’s product-placement-tastic latest video Telephone has been kicking up a lot of discussion, with Fox News predictably ‘outraged’, but also some people with more valid criticisms – Lesbilicious has more.

More on the implicit/explicit racism and sexism of population control rhetoric – Pink Scare links through to this Facebook album looking at some of the images advocates of population control use:

Often simple depictions of women of color with children are associated with hunger, scarcity, overcrowding and environmental burden. Critically analyzing and understanding these fear-based images can help us remove the negative lens through which certain peoples are viewed as burden or threat rather than as integral members of a global community.

Over at the Women’s Media Center, Latoya Peterson makes the case for focusing on the “wealth gap” as well as the pay gap:

Wage equity is still a large problem for women—while the gender wage gap is widest for white women compared to white men, black, Latina, and Native American women take home far less than their white counterparts. But earnings are only a small part of overall financial stability. What matters more than income in the long run is the accumulation of wealth. As lead researcher Mariko Chang explains in her presentation summarizing the data, “wealth confers benefits income doesn’t.” While income is vital for day to day survival, only wealth can generate further income, provide collateral for loans, be passed from generation to generation through inheritance, and provide the individual with the means to survive without a paycheck. Sadly, for many of women of color, the wealth gap is even wider than the income gap. Most women of color have no assets except for their cars—once the blue book value of the vehicle is removed from the calculation of median wealth, black women are left with a scant $100 in assets, while Latinas can only claim $120.

Finally, Ayaan Hassan at Muslimah Media Watch looks at how Muslim women immigrants are represented in the right-wing media in the UK.