Is Sarah Palin a role model for Iranian women?

Breaking with the iron rule that everyone in the world must now write comment about the gun-totin’, bearskin-as-sofa-throw-owning, rather-nice-rectangular-glasses-wearing Sarah Palin, I’m not going to mention her in this post (oh … er, well not much anyway).

Instead, moving on from some of the discussion about whether she’s good or bad for feminism/US women/Republicans (I think, by the way, we can take it as a given that she’s bad for Alaskan bears), it's certainly true that the whole women-as-role-model issue is back in the news on both sides of the Atlantic.

Today’s “Sex and Power” study from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, for example, shows, depressingly enough, that opportunities for women in the workplace in Britain are slipping back (“biggest backward step for five years” reports the Independent on its front page).

Pretty amazingly, the number of women MPs in the House of Commons is apparently running at 19.3% – putting Britain in 70th place in terms of international rankings, behind Iraq and Afghanistan. Progress across the board (and in the boardroom!) is at a “snail’s pace”, says the EHRC, and the infamous workplace “glass ceiling” long bemoaned by equality campaigners is still there – only now it’s a “reinforced concrete” one.

When you add into the mix the scary levels of violence against women in this country, highly dubious remarks about date rape from leading actors and new evidence of brothels advertising sex with “very very young” girls and forcibly trafficked women, then it’s safe to say all is not well in our supposedly post-feminist country.

In a way, then, that's all the more reason to support Iran’s very brave Suffragette-like campaigners from the “Campaign For Equality” movement who are being imprisoned for doing what Emily Pankhurst and others did here nearly 100 years ago.

The Guardian has today picked up on the jailing of four more CFE women, adding to scores that have been jailed in the last two years. Amnesty’s supporting their drive for a million signatures to end entrenched discrimination against women and girls in Iran. Check it out.

Whether the current CFE campaigners are finding inspiration in Ms Palin’s meteoric rise to prominence isn’t yet clear, but – either way – give the women of Iran some support. Not least if you find yourself with an afternoon off from bear-hunting some time soon …

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