News Highlights: Week of January 1

California Democrats propose adding third, nonbinary gender option for driver’s licenses and other official documents, by Melanie Mason of the LA Times

Some California lawmakers are working to establish a nonbinary gender marker for state documents like driver’s licenses and birth certificates. The proposed bill would also streamline the process for changing one’s gender marker; right now, individuals must wait until they are 18 and get a statement from a doctor that certifies medical treatment for gender transition. What that gender marker would be is not yet determined, but countries like Australia and New Zealand, for instance, added “X” to their “M” and “F” options. Jo Michael, who works with Equality California, a gay rights advocacy group, praises the proposed bill: “As the LGBT community — but especially the trans community — is under assault in this country, California needs to go in the opposite direction and embrace the trans community and support the trans community and modernize these laws.”

Gender Trouble, by Elizabeth Redden of Inside Higher Ed

At Sweden’s Lund University, course reading lists must have a roughly 60-40 ratio of male to female authors to be approved by the administration. Tomas Bergström, head of the political science department, explains that this “rule of thumb” is designed to make professors stop and think about their choices and has resulted in higher quality education at Lund. Recently, Professor Erik Ringmar submitted a reading list for his course “Modern Society and Its Critics.” The reading list included almost no female contributors and he actually revised his list from last year to remove Judith Butler, a prominent feminist scholar. The administration required him to add Butler back to the list, but Ringmar maintained that the reading is no longer relevant to his revised course and he did not end up teaching it. Butler herself responded to the controversy: She disapproves of her work being forced upon Ringmar and argues that professors have the right to design courses “in accord with their own disciplinary judgments.” But she clarifies, “The proposed course on fascism is less interesting and less insightful by virtue of its lack of feminist perspectives…The topic would be addressed more fully and persuasively with the addition of gender perspectives.”

Coffee Shop Entrepreneur Shows Customers Yemen Is About More Than War, by Zahir Janmohamed from NPR

Ibrahim Alhasbani considers himself “part coffee entrepreneur, part cultural ambassador.” Originally from Yemen, he’s been in the U.S. for seven years and recently opened a coffee shop in Dearborn, Michigan called Qahwah House, where he sells the cardamom and ginger infused coffee characteristic of his country of origin. While Dearborn has a particularly high Arab and Arab American population, Alhasbani is always looking for ways to share more about his culture—how Yemen has a long history of coffee production and “is more than just violence and war,” as many people tend to assume. He takes great pride in his shop (he claims Yemeni coffee is “better than pumpkin spice”), but he misses his mother and brother back in Yemen. Because of the Trump administration’s travel ban, he doesn’t know when he will see them again. In the meantime, he hopes to earn enough money to start a fund that keeps young Yemeni people away from extremist groups, and wants to introduce more Americans to Yemeni coffee and culture.

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