Women's News from the Web

Boris Johnson dropping the Mark Field investigation is an insult to women | Sian Norris

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 07/30/2019 - 01:59

The MP could have been held to account for manhandling a protester. Instead it looks like powerful men are yet again closing ranks

When I watched the video of Mark Field’s actions against the Greenpeace protester Janet Barker, I had a visceral reaction. Tears rushed into my eyes when confronted with the rage in his expression, the shock on her face. I wasn’t alone. Many women I spoke to saw the assertion of a brutal kind of male dominance. Some knew all too well the moment when a man aggressively decides that an outspoken woman must be put in her place.

For those of us who know the reality of male violence against women, this looked like a moment when a pervasive culture of male entitlement escaped into the open.

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Don’t worry, prime minister – women have got your message, loud and clear

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 07/29/2019 - 20:00
By dropping the investigation into Mark Field, Boris Johnson is showing just where his priorities lie

We saw it. We didn’t just hear it. It wasn’t a “domestic”; that euphemism for the way men terrorise women every day. We saw Mark Field, the MP for Cities of London and Westminster, with his red face and bulging angry eyes, push a female activist up against a wall, put his hand around the back of her neck and then manhandle her out of a posh dinner. He later said he thought she might have been armed.

There needs to be no further investigation into Field’s behaviour, according to our new prime minister. The case has been dropped. New broom and all; just don’t hit me with it. Boris Johnson, of course, had to face down his own behaviour when the police were called because of an incident between him and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds. We don’t know what happened, except that the police did not take any action. Then, there was a picture of them sitting in a field. What more is there to say, except we also know there is a recording of Johnson conspiring with a friend to get a journalist beaten up? But what’s a few cracked ribs?

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NSW abortion decriminalisation delayed after conservatives resist

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 07/29/2019 - 19:30

Bill with cross-party support was due to be introduced on Tuesday, but Coalition conservatives complain it has been rushed

A bill to decriminalise abortion in New South Wales has been delayed by a week after resistance from the conservative wing of the Coalition government.

The historic bill, co-sponsored by 15 MPs from across the political divide, had been due to be introduced into the parliament on Tuesday before being debated this week.

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Children in Pacific suffer 'shockingly high' levels of violence, report finds

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 07/29/2019 - 18:23

Aid organisations call out ‘dramatic underinvestment’ by Australia and other donors in tackling ‘endemic’ problem

Violence against children in the Pacific region has reached “endemic” levels, with children subject to brutal physical discipline in the home, as well as sexual violence, a new report has found.

More than 4 million children across the region had experienced violent discipline in the home and in Papua New Guinea 27% of parents or caregivers used physical punishment “over and over as hard as they could”, the report by leading NGOs working in the region found.

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Get Off My Nipple: Stop the Baby Food Industry from Milking Profits

Women's eNews - Mon, 07/29/2019 - 15:25

If you have been on the breastfeeding journey or supported a loved one through it, you may have heard these myths: 

“Breastmilk alone is not enough.”

“Breastfeeding is old-fashioned.”

“Breastfeeding is for poor people who cannot afford formula or baby food.”

“Breastfeeding for a long period will make your breasts sag.”

I am no stranger to these myths. In fact, every year during World Breastfeeding Week celebrations (the first week of August), I find myself reflecting on my breastfeeding experience and the pressures parents on this journey are currently facing.

About five years ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Zhane Lindiwe. I was particularly thankful that I had an easy pregnancy, which helped tp well-position me to commit to breastfeeding exclusively for at least six months. My mother is a nurse and I grew up in Kenya, where the social setup promotes breastfeeding and associated health benefits to both mother and baby.

But while I enjoyed a lot of support from family and friends, I found the first few weeks challenging. I encountered strangers and loved ones alike, caught up in breastfeeding myths and misconceptions spread by the  aggressive marketing campaigns of powerful corporations. These myths are passed on as ‘culture’ from one generation to another. This is difficult to resist especially when you factor in the sore and sometimes cracked/bleeding nipples, the sleepless nights, engorged breasts and intermittent flow of breastmilk, just to name a few of the challenges.

However, challenges that inform breastfeeding misconceptions work in favor of a $70 billion baby food industry, which impedes the confidence of mothers and undermines our breastfeeding choices to drive up sales of breastmilk substitutes. This industry is dependent on, and reinforces, long-standing and interlocking systems of oppression based on colonial histories including gender, class, race, caste and ethnicity.

Breastfeeding — A Radical Act

Associated with the “uncultured poor,” breastfeeding was frowned upon during 17th century Europe. But when breastfed children seemed to experience better health outcomes, slave owners began to force enslaved mothers to become ‘wet nurses’ to their children. Ruling class mothers could then avoid what they felt was the ‘messy’ part of motherhood and maintain the hope of perky breasts, while allowing their children the health benefits of breastfeeding.

Today, countries in the global North have made significant progress due to policies such as longer parental leave, which allow women to embrace breastfeeding. According to the NGO Save the Children’s Breastfeeding Policy Scorecard, Norway, which has one of the most generous parental leave policies in the world, reports ninety-nine percent of babies breastfed at birth, and seventy per cent still breastfeeding exclusively at three months.

Globally, feminists have long upheld the right to breastfeed in public within hypersexualized cultures where displayed breasts are seen as sexual objects. This has birthed campaigns like #FreeTheNipple, which challenge the sexualization of female bodies but fell short in it’s feminist imaginations by excluding queer, trans, gender non-conforming and racialized narratives.

Milking Profits at the Expense of Global South Mothers

Breastfeeding myths continue to play a significant role in profit-motivated corporate strategies to capture markets today. According to an investigation by The Guardian and Save the Children, “Companies continue to use aggressive, clandestine and often illegal methods to target mothers in the poorest parts of the world so as to encourage them to choose powdered milk over breastfeeding.” This has compromised infants’ health and even led to infant deaths.

Mothers in Global Southern countries remain particularly vulnerable. For example, Asia represents 53% of the global market share of infant formula. Witnessing their sales flatten in the Global North countries, corporations are taking advantage of weak legislation in the global South to increase their sales of substitutes. In 2018, global sales were forecast to rise by four percent, according to Euromonitor, with most of that growth occurring in ‘developing nations.’ Essentially, the colonial legacy has taken the form of neo-colonialism, with global North-based corporations profiting in the global South, at the expense of the people – particularly women and their infants.

Yet these same corporations are increasingly emboldened in their actions, and use more overt tactics as they consolidate economic power, which is quickly translating into political power. In traditional human rights safe-keeping spaces such as the United Nations, we are witnessing ‘corporate capture’ with agendas that prioritize corporate profits over people’s lives and the environment. 

Ducts of Hope: From corporate power to corporate accountability?

In 2018, Ecuador tabled a resolution at the World Health Assembly (WHA) supporting breastfeeding. The US government was not in favor of this resolution and proceeded to threaten countries with trade sanctions and withdrawals of military support if they endorsed it. They went even further by threatening to cut funds to the World Health Organization (WHO). (It’s worth noting that the infant formula giant Abbott Laboratories contributed to Trump’s 2017 inauguration ceremony.) Despite these threats from Trump’s administration, however, the resolution ultimately passed.

So while we celebrate gains made around the world during this year’s World Breastfeeding Week, the ongoing battle over breastfeeding begs for a moment of reflection, especially due to the imminent threat of breast feeding choices of mothers in the Global South. Let us join with global feminist mobilization to help ensure that all parents are supported with a safe environment to make the best feeding choices for their infants, free from powerful corporate influence.

Felogene Anumo is a  pan-African feminist activist who is passionate about using her creativity, politics and intellect to strengthen feminist movements to build collective power. She co-leads the Building Feminist Economies program at the Association for Women’s Rights in Development (AWID). During her free time, she loves to explore the world with and through the lens of her five-year-old daughter. 

Let men be free to admit vulnerability | Letter

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 07/29/2019 - 06:50
Responding to Lucy Mangan’s review of I Am Nicola, Susan Seager argues that Adam’s failure to make his partner happy does not make him a monster

I was struck by a possibly generational divide in my response to I Am Nicola, awarded five stars by Lucy Mangan (23 July). I cannot deny the acting was impressive and it was an absorbing 60 minutes, but I cannot agree that Adam is a controlling monster.

He is tormented by jealousy and insecurity – common human failings – but he admits he has a problem and expresses the desire to change.

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Not one of the Fortnite World Cup's 100 finalists was a woman. Why? | Keith Stuart

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 07/29/2019 - 00:59

The esports industry must attract female pro players to avoid replicating the sexism that blights other sports

This weekend the best Fortnite players in the world gathered at Flushing Meadows in New York to compete in the game’s first ever World Cup Finals for $30m (£24m) in prize money. Tens of thousands of spectators packed the famed Arthur Ashe stadium to watch the action live, and many millions more viewed on Twitch and YouTube. Fortnite is, after all, one of the biggest entertainment brands on the planet, played by hundreds of millions. Amid all the hype and fanfare around the finals, however, one depressing fact remained unavoidable: not a single one of the 100 finalists was female.

Despite the growing popularity of professional gaming throughout the world – the audience figures for competitive gaming have reached 450m this year – female competitors remain scarce. There certainly are high-profile examples of female pros – trans woman Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn is one of the most successful Starcraft II players in the world; Katherine “Mystik” Gunn is the industry’s highest-paid female pro gamer and won the SyFy channel’s reality TV show WCG Ultimate Gamer; and Fortnite has stars such as One_Shot_Gurl and Loeya. But you could watch a year of big tournaments, whether it’s Call of Duty, League of Legends or Hearthstone, and count the number of female competitors on the fingers of one hand.

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Anti-abortion group uses US federal grants to push controversial fertility app

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 07/28/2019 - 19:00

Femm app, which sows doubt about the pill, promoted by Obria group that was awarded $1.7m by Trump administration

US federal grants intended to help poor women obtain contraceptives are being used to promote a menstruation tracking app funded and operated by anti-birth control and anti-abortion campaigners.

The Femm app sows doubt about the birth control pill and promotes itself as a natural way for women to “avoid or achieve” pregnancy. The app collects women’s most intimate data, including details on menstruation, sex, mood and prescription drugs. Its developers say it has been downloaded more than 400,000 times.

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Sunbathing topless should be a pleasure we can all enjoy | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 07/28/2019 - 19:00
Younger women are covering up on the beach for fear of harassment, suggests a recent report. That’s a sad state of affairs

According to a survey of 5,000 women by the French Institute for Public Opinion, the number who regularly sunbathe topless has fallen sharply over the past three years, from 29% to 19%. Digging into the figures, it emerges that the #MeToo movement has been an influence, with women between 18 and 25 citing harassment and ogling. No doubt the fear of unwanted photographs ending up on the internet also plays a part in persuading young women to keep their bikini tops on when they go to the beach.

It’s all a little bit sad. Since Brigitte Bardot became famed for it on Riviera beaches in the 1960s, topless sunbathing on the Côte d’Azur has occupied a rather romantic place in the Anglo-Saxon cultural mindset, tinged with nostalgia for the iconography of the sexual liberation movement. For me and other women growing up in a culture of British discomfort with all things bodily, these confident French women in Cannes or St Tropez seemed glamorous and worldly.

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NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian will support a bill to decriminalise abortion

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 07/28/2019 - 18:20

Coalition MPs will be given a conscience vote on the bill, which is being co-sponsored by politicians from five parties

More than a dozen MPs including the health minister Brad Hazzard will co-sponsor a bill to decriminalise abortion in New South Wales, which already has the support of premier Gladys Berejiklian.

In an unprecedented show of support, the reproductive healthcare reform bill 2019 will feature the names of 15 MPs from five different parties when it is tabled in the state parliament by the independent MP Alex Greenwich this week.

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