The Null Device

2008/6/28

The New York Times has a piece on the traditional Albanian institution of sworn virgins; where women could swear an oath of lifelong virginity and assume the role of men, dressing and behaving like men and wielding male authority. Some did this to escape undesired arranged marriages (or, presumably, the restricted world of female gender roles in general), while others did this out of obligation to provide a "male" head of their family or avenge the family honour:

“Back then, it was better to be a man because before a woman and an animal were considered the same thing,” said Ms. Keqi, who has a bellowing baritone voice, sits with her legs open wide like a man and relishes downing shots of raki. “Now, Albanian women have equal rights with men, and are even more powerful. I think today it would be fun to be a woman.”
The sworn virgin was born of social necessity in an agrarian region plagued by war and death. If the family patriarch died with no male heirs, unmarried women in the family could find themselves alone and powerless. By taking an oath of virginity, women could take on the role of men as head of the family, carry a weapon, own property and move freely.
While Albanian culture formally codified a way for women to assume male gender roles, it would not surprise me if other traditional societies had their share of women who, disaffected with their prospects, secretly pursued lives in a male disguise.

(via MeFi) albania bizarre culture gender society 0

2008/6/27

A chance to watch language changing in real time: the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles has offered to replace all licence plates containing the letters "WTF" free of charge, after the letters became obscene following the rise of internet/text-messaging abbreviations. Nearly 10,000 licence plate holders have the three letters in their plates, though whether they wish to replace them will be up to them. I wonder how many will take up the offer.

(via /.) language obscenity swearing usa wtf 1

Recently, Tory MP David Davis resigned from parliament in protest at the government's detention-without-trial plans, triggering a byelection for his seat. As with all high-profile byelections, various eccentrics, quixotic crusaders and out-and-out (monster raving) loonies have come out of the woodwork to put their names on the ballot; there will be 26 candidates running for the seat, half of these being independents.

The Monster Raving Loony Party (or, actually, the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, which may or may not be the same thing) is fielding one "Mad Cow-Girl", who is being joined by candidates the Church of the Militant Elvis Party, and the Miss Great Britain Party (which suggests a much faster convergence of politics and celebrity than even under Blairism/Cameronism). The cranky right are represented, with the Christian Party and the National Front (though, perplexingly, their more respectable-looking cousins, the BNP and UKIP, are sitting this one out); on the radical left, there is the Socialist Equality Party; the Greens are also fielding a candidate. In an indeterminate place on or off the axis are other causes, such as Make Politicians History and the perplexingly-named "Freedom 4 Choice", while way off in the political equivalent of Cthulhoid non-Euclidean space is David Icke, undoubtedly running on a platform of unmasking the loathsome reptilian conspiracy against humanity.

politics uk 1