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For the first time in Olympic history all the participating teams will have female athletes

The London Olympics has been billed as a notable step forward in gender equality. It is the first Olympics with female representation from all countries despite the many and several barriers to female sport participation that still exist in some countries (including developed ones). These Olympics have female boxers, female athletes from Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Brunei and male medal bearers But despite Jacques Rogge's declaration in his opening ceremony speech, some are more equal than others. Australia and Japan are reviewing their athletes' travel arrangements after women were given second class tickets and there is a small, but growing campaign to see male synchronised swimming form part of the program (one of two sports, the other being rhythmic gymnastics, with no male competition). [more inside]
posted by MuffinMan on Aug 8, 2012 - 101 comments

Been There. Done What?!

Jillian Lauren recently wrote a book about her experiences as a harem girl in Brunei. LA Weekly also went in-depth into her story. [more inside]
posted by reenum on Aug 25, 2010 - 88 comments

Kings (and Queens) Of Their Own Domains

Josiah Harlan, first American in Afghanistan, Commander-In-Chief of the Afghan Army, Quaker, and Prince of Ghor; the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's short story "The Man Who Would Be King" (and thus the John Houston film). The title was gained for himself "and his descendants in perpetuity" and never rescinded, making actor Scott Reiniger (Dawn of the Dead), Harlan's great, great, great grandson, technically a prince of Afghanistan. (previously)
Ursula Graham-Bower, an English archeology student who ventured to India in 1939 "to putter about with a few cameras and do a bit of medical work, maybe write a book" and ended up in the jungle on the Burmese border as "Queen of the Nagas", leading headhunting tribes against the advancing Japanese Army. (Real Audio BBC Radio history segment, extended MP4 video interview from 1985, shortly before her death, online archive).
The "White Rajas" of the Kingdom of Sarawak, a dynasty of the Brooke family, who ruled a region of Brunei for over a century; the progenitor of the family, James Brooke, was likely an inspiration for Joseph Conrad's "Lord Jim". [more inside]
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul on Aug 13, 2008 - 18 comments

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