Saving women in the Middle East

Hooman Majd gave an excellent dissection of Tom Friedman's latest "Yay, us!" column in the New York Times, where he has decided that the war wasn't about WMDs, terrorists, dictators, or even just plain ol' democracy, it was about freeing the women of the Arab World. This is through the demonstration of our super-egalitarian military, where women serve on the Navy ship right along side the men. Majd responds:
America is so different. And so better. So they should adopt our ways, whether they like it or not. And yes, it did take America over 150 years to get us to Paris Hilton and reality TV shows where women compete for the chance to sleep with an eligible bachelor, and we didn’t even have to be invaded and occupied. Meanwhile, those misogynistic Iranians gave women the right to vote in 1906, some fifteen years before we did, and Muslim Pakistan, home to those scary madrassas, elected a female leader in 1988, while we’re still debating whether a woman stands a chance of becoming president in the U.S..

Now, I'm not going to go so far as to say that Iran and Pakistan are models of female leadership and equality, but Majd's point is made: there's this wild mainstream conception that somehow, our own democracy got its act together where race and gender are concerned. What?

Looking at the Senate alone for representation... there's 13 Senators that are women. This is up from a few years ago, when one of my cousins gave me a book on women senators called "Nine and Counting." I should be jumping for joy that a constituency composing over half the population is still only represented by 13 women?

Friedman also talks about how well our gals are working in the military... never mind the fact that sexual assaults have risen exponentially in the last 10 years, and the administrations of the armed forces are doing little to nothing about it. Who else remembers Tailhook? I do!

This notion that we're out there in Arabia saving women from the A-rabs, it's more than ridiculous, it's insulting. Yes, there's a lot of need for the advancement of women's rights in the Middle East -- and hello, throughout the whole world -- but if the US were really interested in this sorta thing, we would've invaded Afghanistan ten years ago, when the Taliban first took hold. As if a military invasion can beat a culture into submission anyways...
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Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
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