In today’s WDD: how Italy’s top female politician is standing strong in the face of death threats, and why Mexican women are getting ‘married’ to trees. Plus, New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern withstands a seriously sleazy interview – and South Korea’s president speaks out as senior figures in the country are toppled by sexual misconduct allegations.
Italy’s highest-ranking woman politician gets death threats for speaking out against sexism and racism
Laura Boldrini might not be a household name in the UK, but in Italy she’s the most famous (and most senior) woman in politics. The speaker of the Italian parliament, she has been campaigning for a parliamentary seat in Milan in the run-up to the Italian elections on 4 March.
However, according to a new profile, Boldrini’s campaign has been marred by near-constant harassment and death threats. BuzzFeed News reports that the phrase “Death to Boldrini” has been seen on walls in cities across Italy, while the mayor of an anti-immigration party suggested that rapists should pay her a visit. She says that she didn’t pay much attention to the death threats until a bullet arrived in the post – which prompted her to start travelling with a security detail.
The apparent justification for this abuse? Boldrini has been a prominent advocate for immigrant rights in the wake of the refugee crisis, which has seen nearly half a million people arrive in Italy since 2015. She has also long pushed for greater gender equality and spoken out against sexual harassment in a country still characterised by traditional gender norms.
But Boldrini will not be cowed. “Sometimes I feel that I’m not understood, because the country is not maybe yet ready,” she said, adding: “The more you attack me, the more you threaten me, the more I have to go ahead.”
Read more about this remarkable woman here.
Women in Mexico are ‘marrying’ trees in order to save them
Mexican women have been getting ‘married’ to trees, in a mass protest against illegal logging in the state of Oaxaca.
Illegal logging – mostly controlled by criminal groups – is a major problem in Mexico, and Oaxaca is one of the states hit hardest by deforestation. To raise awareness of the problem and show their dedication to protecting the environment, women clad in white dresses and veils have been gathering in forests outside the town of San Jancinto Amilpas for symbolic ‘weddings’ with the trees.
The practice of marrying trees in Mexico reportedly began as a ritual of giving thanks to Mother Earth, and was later picked up by Peruvian actor and eco activist Richard Torres as a way of highlighting environmental issues.
Worryingly, our insatiable appetite for avocados is thought to be driving illegal deforestation in Mexico (see The Guardian for more information).
To see photos from the wedding ceremonies in Oaxaca, visit Metro.co.uk.
New Zealand Prime Minister endures deeply creepy interview
A TV interview with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has been doing the rounds online, with the presenter coming under fire for his old-fashioned and “creepy” line of questioning.
An episode of 60 Minutes featuring the politician aired in Australia on Sunday night. Reporter Charles Wooley introduced the interview by saying: “I’ve met a lot of prime ministers in my time, but none so young, not too many so smart – and never one so attractive.”
Wooley, 69, also described himself as being “smitten” with the world’s youngest female head of state, and pressed her and her partner Clarke Gayford for intimate details on her pregnancy.
“[There is] one really important political question that I want to ask you, and that is what exactly is the date that the baby’s due?” he asked the couple.
When Ardern replied that she expected to give birth on 17 June, Wooley replied: “It’s interesting how many people have been counting back to the conception… as it were.”
The reporter later defended himself against criticism and described the backlash to his interview as “Orwellian”. Read more on this story, including our response, here.
President of South Korea urges action in the wake of #MeToo
Conversations about sexual misconduct and the #MeToo movement have been slow to take off in male-dominated South Korea, where old-fashioned attitudes towards gender roles run deep.
However, South Korean President Moon Jae-in has now called for police to investigate a growing number of sexual abuse claims against prominent figures in the country, including entertainers and a priest.
Ahn Tae-geun, the former deputy minister for criminal affairs at the South Korean Justice Ministry, has been accused of groping a subordinate in 2010. Lee Yoon-taek, artistic director at famous South Korean theatre group Yeonheedan, is facing several allegations of sexual violence, including rape (he has admitted sexual misconduct but denies rape). Actor Cho Jae-hyun has also issued a statement of apology after he was accused of sexual harassment.
At a meeting on Monday, President Moon told aides that he welcomed investigations into claims of sexual harassment and abuse.
“Gender violence is an issue of a social structure that allows the powerful to sexually oppress or easily wield violence against the week,” he said. “I applaud those who had the courage to tell their stories.”
Reuters has more on this story 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: Rex Features / iStock