In Friday’s Dispatch, we’re looking at stories of Thai women fighting back against victim-blaming and the first ever Arab Fashion Week in Saudi Arabia. In South America, indigenous transgender women are finding new communities on coffee farms in Colombia, and a Brazilian study has revealed the flaws in the ‘queen bee’ theory.
Thai women fight victim-blaming with “don’t tell me how to dress” campaign
Women in Thailand are sharing their stories of sexual assault and harassment on social media after a government official advised them to dress modestly to avoid being molested at New Year celebrations.
Sutthipong Chulcharoen, Thailand’s director general of the department of local administration, recently said that women should dress appropriately to prevent sex crimes at Songkran, a water festival celebrating the Thai New Year.
In response, Thai-American model and TV presenter Cindy Sirinya Bishop posted videos on Instagram in which she criticised Chulcharoen’s advice, accompanied by the hashtags #DontTellMeHowToDress and #TellMenToRespect. Other women then began sharing their own stories using the same hashtags, echoing the spread of the #MeToo movement.
Bishop, a host on Asia’s Next Top Model, said she was sexually harassed at Songkran celebrations when she was 17 years old, after becoming separated from her friends. “Songkran is traditionally such a beautiful festival,” she said. “[But] for a lot of Thai women, it has become dangerous because they know they are going to be taken advantage of.”
Read more on this story at BBC News.
Why indigenous trans women are moving to coffee farms in Colombia
The coffee farms of western Colombia have become an unexpected haven for indigenous transgender women, according to a new report by National Geographic.
As in many other countries and societies, trans women often face serious prejudice in indigenous Colombian communities, and are often punished or forced to leave their villages. Significant numbers of trans women now work in the coffee fields in Ejo Cafetero, where they have found a new community that allows them to live in a way that feels truthful to them.
Lena Mucha, who photographed the women for a local newspaper, explained that the farm owners allow the women to dress as they please in their free time without punishment or harassment.
“I know in Colombia being transgender is quite heavy,” Mucha said. “It’s a very conservative country. LGBTQ [awareness] is something that’s coming slowly and in the bigger cities, like Bogota. When it comes to villages and indigenous communities, they see it as a disease that comes from the white man. There’s no understanding of why this can happen and that it’s normal.”
Read more on this story and see Mucha’s photo series here.
Saudi Arabia hosts first ever women’s fashion week
In another sign that attitudes towards women’s rights are relaxing in Saudi Arabia, the country has launched its first fashion week.
Designers including Jean Paul Gaultier and Roberto Cavalli showed their collections at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
“We are so excited today to be announcing a history and new era for the kingdom, and for the entire Arab world, which is Arab Fashion Week,” said Jacob Abrian, CEO of the Arab Fashion Council.
While male designers were allowed to present their work at Arab Fashion Week, men were not allowed to attend catwalk shows and outside photography was banned.
Read more on this story here.
The ‘queen bee’ phenomenon is a myth, new research shows
A Brazilian study has indicated that the phenomenon of the ‘queen bee’ – a powerful woman who mistreats more junior women and doesn’t help other women succeed – is more myth than fact.
Researchers at São Paolo Business School looked at 8.3 million organisations across 5,600 municipalities in Brazil, and found that when a woman was elected the leader of a public organisation there was a subsequent increase in the number of other women occupying senior and middle-management positions.
Their research also showed that female leaders treat more junior female colleagues kindly and respectfully in environments where senior leaders are granted significant power and discretion.
“Previous research on the queen bee phenomenon stems from illustrative case studies that are not representative or surveys that do not establish the true causal effects of appointing women to power,” said Professor Paulo Arvate, the lead author on the study.
Read more on the myth of the queen bee here.
Throughout 2018, Stylist is raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present – and empowering future generations to follow their lead – with our Visible Women campaign. See more from Visible Women here.
Images: Instagram @cindysirinya / Getty Images / Rex Features