Women's News from the Web

The Right Way to be an LGBTQ+ Ally

Women's eNews - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 13:32

A few days before summer vacation, I got her text.

“I have to tell you something but I don’t want you to hate me,” it read. My seventh-grade heart started racing. Had I accidentally said something mean about her? Was she about to tell me we couldn’t be friends anymore? What had I done wrong?

We made plans to talk the next day in person. Sitting in the middle of the crowded gymnasium of Pyle Middle School, she leaned in and whispered, “I’m bisexual. I like guys and girls.”

At a loss for words, I just leaned in to give her a hug. I didn’t know whether to congratulate her or thank her. I just knew that she had taken a huge leap of faith, and I wanted to be there for her in any way I could. We had only known each other for one year, but she had become one of my closest friends. Her secret was safe with me, but I felt the need to protect her at all costs. I didn’t yet know against what, but I was about to find out.

As we walked through the school’s halls immediately after, I became hyper-aware of the comments my peers were making around us. “That outfit is so gay,” I heard a boy remark to his friend. “Oh my god stop being such a f*g,” another boy yelled. I felt as though these remarks were aimed directly at my friend, though I knew that none of them knew she was bisexual.

The following fall she approached me with a proposal. “How would you feel about starting a Gay-Straight Alliance here at Pyle?” she asked. I knew that an eighth-grader had attempted to start one a year earlier, but it never took off. “I’m in,” I immediately responded. “What do we have to do?”

We met with our guidance counselor the following week to discuss our idea. She was completely on board but seemed apprehensive about getting parental and administrative support. She organized a meeting for us with the head of the Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) at our local high school, a strong-willed senior who was ready to help us. We discussed the goals of the club; to create a safe space for queer, questioning, and student allies in our community, as well as providing education about sexuality, which was a taboo topic in our middle school classrooms. We talked about the importance of confidentiality and anonymity in a space like this one. The guidance counselor reminded us that starting this club will be an uphill battle, and we might face pushback, but we knew it would be worth it.

Every day we became more and more aware of the necessity of this club. As word spread about what we were trying to do, a number of students told us they were in support of a GSA and would participate if we succeeded in creating it. A few students even approached us in confidence and came out, while sharing that their orientations did not feel celebrated or valued at Pyle, and that they needed a place to talk about it. A handful of students made snide remarks about the existence of a GSA–why was it necessary, and why did we care–but these comments only further emphasized the need to create this club.  

A few weeks later, we were finally able to meet with the principal. He informed us that he was personally in support of a GSA, but that he was worried about pushback from parents and conservative teachers. He also told us that the meetings would have to be secretive, and information about the existence and logistics of the meetings would have to spread solely by word of mouth. We weren’t allowed to hang flyers or mention meetings in the school’s daily announcements.

This took us by surprise. We knew we’d face pushback, but not to this extent. Yes, gay marriage had only become legal six months earlier at the federal level, but it had been legal in Maryland for over two years! And legality aside, Pyle was a place that prided itself on diversity. Every morning, during the school’s public announcements, a student read our school values, the last two which were: “sustaining a nurturing and respectful environment” and “honoring diversity.” It seemed ironic that these announcements would boast respect and diversity yet could not discuss a club dedicated to preserving these values.

“We can’t have parents getting wind of this,” he told us. He had a point. As middle schoolers we didn’t have much mobility, and widespread parental knowledge about the GSA could potentially put students in harm’s way if they lived in a homophobic household. Yet, at the same time, his demands felt too restrictive. They felt like homophobia veiled as support. His assumption that students would choose to conceal their involvement with a gay-straight alliance demonstrated our school’s lacking support systems for LGBTQ+ students as well as stigma around LGBTQ+ rights and personhood.

We pushed ahead with the GSA, compliant with the principal’s restrictive regulations since we felt that a restricted GSA was better than no GSA. For the first meeting, 25 students showed up. A number of them came out at that meeting, or have since come out as LGBTQ+. Many straight allies showed up as well. The enthusiasm from both groups validated our original goal: We had created a space where students could openly discuss and celebrate diverse sexual orientations.

We continued to hold GSA meetings every Thursday until the end of the school year. We mixed lesson plans with open discussions, careful to honor confidentiality and allow students enough anonymity to remain comfortable. By the end of the year, a group of sixth and seventh graders were attending the meetings as well, to whom we later entrusted the club’s future. The Pyle Middle School GSA exists to this day, and remains a safe space for LGBTQ+ students and allies.

A number of adults have since approached me to remark how brave it was to start this club. Still, I don’t believe I was the brave one in this experience, since I didn’t have anything to lose. The bravery belongs to my LGBTQ+ peers who attended the meetings and opened up about their lived experiences, helping to foster a more supportive network for questioning and closeted students. Bravery also belongs to my good friend and co-founder of the GSA for serving as a role model to our peers and future students. I simply saw a problem that needed to be addressed, and used my ‘straight privilege’ to help elevate the voices of those who didn’t have any. That’s not bravery; it’s responsibility.

About the Author: Emily Axelrod is a member of The Jewish Women’s Archive’s  Rising Voices Fellowship,a 10-month program for female-identified teens in high-school who have a passion for writing, a demonstrated concern for current and historic events, and a strong interest in Judaism, gender and social justice.

More women over 40 are getting pregnant. But is that really about their choices? | Zeynep Gurtin

Women's News from the Web - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 02:33
An ONS report frames later motherhood in terms of women’s changing roles. But men’s decisions also affect fertility patterns

The trend for later motherhood is continuing apace. This week, the Office for National Statistics released new data on conception rates for women in England and Wales, showing that teenage pregnancy rates continued to decline in 2017, and that, for the first time, more women are getting pregnant in their 30s than in their 20s. But perhaps the most striking trend concerns fortysomethings, the only age group – for the second year running – whose conception rates are on the increase. This reflects a dramatic long-term shift: they have more than doubled since 1990.

Related: More women getting pregnant after 30 than in 20s for first time

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The misogynist trolls attacking Katie Bouman are the tip of the trashpile | Jill Filipovic

Women's News from the Web - Wed, 04/17/2019 - 00:00

Trolls latched on to Bouman’s achievement of the first black hole image with a vitriol that, in a saner world, would be shocking – but is par for the course for women

The researcher Dr Katie Bouman played a leading role in taking the first photograph of a black hole. A photo of the 29-year-old Bouman taken the moment the photo was processed shows her with her hands clasped in front of her mouth, looking at the camera with a mix of shock and excitement. It went viral – both a testament to the groundbreaking work itself and a moment of victory for women in the sciences, whose contributions have long been ignored, downplayed and erased.

The giddiness didn’t last long.

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Cheating men's face shapes can give it away, study suggests

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 13:01

Experts find men with more ‘masculine’ faces more likely to seem, and be, unfaithful

Philandering men have unfaithfulness written all over their faces, according to research that suggests men and women are able to spot cheating chaps just by looking at them.

Experts found men with more “masculine” faces were more likely to be thought to be unfaithful, and such men also self-reported more cheating or “poaching” of other men’s partners.

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Extra late-term scan could reduce need for caesareans, finds study

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 12:46

Proposal would cut costs for NHS and allow thousands more women to give birth naturally

Thousands of emergency caesarean sections could be avoided in the UK every year by scanning women in late pregnancy, research has suggested.

A routine ultrasound at 36 weeks would help detect babies in the breech position, which can lead to complications during labour, according to the study published in journal PLOS Medicine.

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Hypocrisy without borders: the pomposity of Ivanka Trump’s trip to Africa | Arwa Mahdawi

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 02:09

The first daughter is visiting Ethiopia and Ivory Coast to promote women’s rights – yet she stays silent while her father’s administration stifles female empowerment

We don’t deserve Saint Ivanka, we really don’t. Nobody asked Donald Trump’s favourite child to devote her life to empowering women, she just knew it had to be done. Nobody elected her to serve in the US government, but she took a senior role in her father’s administration anyway. And not content with simply empowering the women of the US, the patron saint of nepotists, hypocrites and grifters has altruistically taken her talents on tour.

On Sunday, the first daughter and presidential adviser set off on a four-day trip to Ethiopia and Ivory Coast to promote the US government’s Women’s Global Development and Prosperity initiative (W-GDP), which aims to benefit 50 million women in developing countries by 2025. The programme was launched with a $50m (£38m) fund, which is less than the cost of the president’s trips to Mar-a-Lago (by one estimate, the president’s Florida sojourns have cost taxpayers at least $64.6m). Of course, that doesn’t factor in Ivanka’s time and expertise, which is priceless. Who knows how many Ethiopian women she has empowered already. I am sure she has taught Sahle-Work Zewde, a respected career diplomat and Ethiopia’s first female president, a thing or two.

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Good on Meghan and Harry for letting the curtain fall on the royal birth media circus | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 01:20
The duke and duchess’s decision to keep the birth private is a modernising, feminist act that will incense the tabloids

News, if you could call it that, that Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, and Prince Harry will not reveal the location of or plans surrounding the birth of their first child. This will no doubt frustrate the swarms of paparazzi accustomed to camping out outside the Lindo wing of St Mary’s hospital in anticipation of the now familiar sight of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, groomed, trussed up and probably still bleeding in a pair of high heels, performing the whole Simba routine to the nation. The strangeness of the sight has never been lost on women; last year, when Prince Louis was born, women took to social media to share snaps of how they looked after giving birth: ecstatic, yes, but also exhausted, dazed, clammy, reeling. Trauma aside, these postnatal photos end up resembling a kind of freedom when put side-by-side with the stage-managed spectacle of the duchess.

Some of the press coverage of Meghan's pregnancy has been appalling, tinged with sexism and racism

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Why Andrea Dworkin is the radical, visionary feminist we need in our terrible times

Women's News from the Web - Tue, 04/16/2019 - 00:00

She was labelled a man-hater, anti-sex and ugly. But she predicted both the ascent of Trump and #MeToo – and her unapologetic attitude is more relevant than ever

‘I can’t come here as a friend, even though I might very much want to.” These are the words of Andrea Dworkin, addressing an anti-sexist men’s organisation in 1983, in her acclaimed speech I Want a 24-Hour Truce in Which There Is No Rape. “The power exercised by men, day to day, in life is power that is institutionalised. It is protected by law. It is protected by religion and religious practice. It is protected by universities, which are strongholds of male supremacy. It is protected by a police force. It is protected by those whom Shelley called “the unacknowledged legislators of the world”: the poets, the artists. Against that power, we have silence.”

Dworkin, who died of heart failure in 2005 at the age of 58, was one of the world’s most notorious radical feminists. She wrote 14 books, the most famous of which was Pornography: Men Possessing Women (1981). Now her work is being revisited in Last Days at Hot Slit, a new collection of her writing.

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L&G steps up action against firms with few female board members

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 04/15/2019 - 13:01

Legal & General fund managers voted against more than 100 chairmen in 2018

The UK’s biggest fund management group voted against more than 100 chairmen last year, at firms including Barclays, Ted Baker and Sports Direct, for failing to boost the number of women in their boardrooms.

Legal & General Investment Management, which manages more than £1tn in assets, more than doubled the number of protest votes cast in 2018 over a lack of gender diversity. A year earlier the asset manager only voted against 37 UK chairmen.

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More women getting pregnant after 30 than in 20s for first time

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 04/15/2019 - 07:47

Figures from England and Wales show long-term rise in pregnancies to women over 30

The number of pregnancies among women aged 30 and above in England and Wales has surpassed the number among women in their 20s for the first time since records began, the latest figures show.

The long-term rise in pregnancies of older women, which have more than doubled for those aged 40 and over since 1990, has been driven by women spending more time in education and in work, and by the rising opportunity costs of childbearing, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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Women to join Taliban delegation for first time in Afghan peace talks

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 04/15/2019 - 05:40

Move follows calls for female representation in discussions aimed at ending 17-year war

Women will be included for the first time in the Taliban delegation for talks this month with US officials and Afghan representatives in Qatar on the future of Afghanistan, the movement’s main spokesman has said.

For a group known for its strictly conservative attitude to women’s rights, the move represents a step towards addressing demands that women be included in the talks, aimed at ending more than 17 years of war in Afghanistan.

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‘It’s not just a wolf whistle’: how catcalls became anti-harassment street art

Women's News from the Web - Mon, 04/15/2019 - 02:25

With teenage girls a particular target of street harassment, Farah Benis is on a mission to document incidents and raise awareness

CatcallsofLdn is an Instagram account that raises awareness about street harassment using chalk art. Inspired by and working with @catcallsofnyc, founder Farah Benis collects submissions from the public then chalks them onto the pavement in the place where they happened. The hope is that chalking, documenting and sharing images of the words will help to raise awareness of street harassment and ultimately prevent it.

72% of submissions are from under 17-year-olds, 60% of those were wearing school uniforms and 100% of the perpetrators were adult men

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Why is the left blinkered to claims about Assange and sexual assault? | Nesrine Malik

Women's News from the Web - Sun, 04/14/2019 - 19:00

In the hierarchy of progressive political causes, women seem to be relegated to the bottom of the pile

In case you’ve forgotten, or have been confused by politicians who failed to mention it, let me remind you why I believe Julian Assange was in the Ecuadorian embassy for seven years before he was ejected and arrested last week. I don’t believe it was for being a journalist or a truth-teller to power, and it wasn’t for releasing evidence of America’s war crimes. He was in the embassy because, in 2010, Sweden issued an international arrest warrant so that he might answer allegations of sexual assault and rape. Assange would not accept extradition, jumped bail in the UK and absconded.

So it was curious to hear Diane Abbott, when answering questions about Labour’s enthusiastic objection to Assange’s possible extradition to the US to face charges of involvement in a computer-hacking conspiracy, say those sexual assault charges were “never brought”. The allegations were made, she generously conceded, but the charges were never brought.

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From Victim to Victor: Surviving Sexual Assault in Uganda

Women's eNews - Sun, 04/14/2019 - 12:53

I am a survivor of a sexual assault that happened in my village in Rwanda when I was just an 11-year-old child.

I thought I had put all that pain behind me until 2015, when I traveled to Uganda to visit my husband’s home—the site of his organization, Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project. There, I learned that a 35-year-old man had raped a nine-year-old girl that weekend. The adults around her knew what had happened, but they did nothing. Instead, they sent her to school the following day, as if nothing had even happened. I soon learned, too, that a five-year-old girl in the same village was raped by her grandfather, leaving her HIV positive. Then I heard about a 14-year-old in a neighboring village who had been repeatedly raped by her father, starting when she was just four years old. The child had attempted suicide twice, and made futile attempts to seek help and safety, but she couldn’t get away.

This is the sad truth about my part of the world: Young girls are frequently sexually assaulted in sub-Saharan Africa, and justice is rarely served. I knew I needed to do something to help.

This turned out to be more difficult than I had thought. While working with young survivors, I learned how hard it is to gain justice in Uganda. Survivors are responsible for completing their own police reports, which often includes walking an average of seven miles to report the crime, and paying $12.00 in legal fees—half a month’s salary for most families—before the perpetrator can even be arrested. The rape victim then has to walk another long distance to a hospital where she has to gather her own evidence to take back to the police. It’s a maddeningly cruel system that seldom leads to justice for survivors. Even worse, a survivor’s case can easily be thrown out, and often is. Survivors must come to court, which often means walking and giving up a full day of work for family members, and court dates are often changed at the last minute. Once in court, the survivor is responsible for presenting the correct paperwork and bringing enough copies for the court. If anything is missing, the case is thrown out.

The process is frustrating, grueling, and embarrassing for survivors. One young survivor had become suicidal after facing threats from her perpetrator’s family and taunts from local boys. Without support of any kind, she came to believe all the evil lies claimed about her. I therefore created the EDJA Foundation, to help survivors heal by helping them at every step, beginning immediately after an assault and staying by their side long after the criminal trial. Working with the community, we added a Rape Crisis Center within the hospital to support survivors immediately after being attacked. Since then, every survivor is given a rape exam, medical attention, and life-saving medicine that can prevent HIV contraction.

As we know, however, a sexual attack causes more than just physical pain. To address the level of psychological healing every survivor needs, we also established a Sexual Assault Program to provide free counseling. We began with individual counseling, and have since added support groups to accommodate the increasing number of survivors coming to us for help.

Additionally, our Legal Advocate assists the police by first locating many perpetrators, and then providing the police with a ride to arrest them. He also provides transportation for survivors to court, files the police reports, and handles other issues with the court. He is a guide for families through this painful process, while offering them legal counsel so they know their rights.

Finally, I knew we needed to do more than just react to sexual assault; we had to change the culture — fighting for a world without violence. Now EDJA educates the entire community through a monthly radio show and group sessions about girls’ rights, sexual assault, and how to get help for survivors. We also teach the community’s boys about standards of behavior that respect the rights of girls, which we hope will begin to put an end to the enduring rape culture.

Best of all, we witness positive changes every day. Over 50 rape survivors—some as young as four years old—are receiving life-saving support from EDJA. And, appropriately enough during April’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month, that grandfather who raped his own granddaughter and infected her with AIDS received 32 years in prison. Today, over 30 perpetrators have received prison sentences.

Change like this is important for many reasons, including keeping the community safe. But most importantly, it’s a message to girls and women that they matter, they are valued, and they can fight for their dignity and for justice.

As a survivor myself, I can tell you that there is no greater gift to rape survivors than being believed and validated. That’s the message that EDJA intends to deliver to survivors worldwide, beginning with those in East Africa where women have accepted their fate of abuse for too long. Today, EDJA is saying in a loud and clear voice: Those days are over. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

About the author: Tabitha Mpamira-Kaguri is the Founder/Executive Director of the EDJA Foundation.To learn more about the EDJA Foundation to end sexual violence in Uganda, please visit their website, www.edjafoundation.org. To view the trailer of their film, Victors, click here.

Julian Assange’s case makes it clear women’s rights are still secondary to political games | Jess Phillips

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 04/13/2019 - 22:00
It was shocking that neither main party pointed out he’d evaded facing sexual charges

Women’s issues are always the political side salad, never the main event. We are always told we have to wait until everything else is perfect and then we can focus on the fact that women are being sexually abused in their workplaces, beaten in their homes and sexually assaulted in their personal lives.

For example, in recent months I and others have been pushing the government to make it a legal duty on all employers to protect their staff from sexual abuse and harassment at work, just as they have to make sure their employees’ fingers don’t get chopped off or that staff aren’t doused in bleach.

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The heady intensity of platonic love between women in their 20s | Eva Wiseman

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 04/13/2019 - 22:00

The story of Ilana and Abbi in Broad City is one of female friendship at its best

I’m not a poo joke kind of girl. No thank you. Yesterday I retched when someone described a smell. And yet the wild, warm effluviant humour of Broad City only made me like it more. This was a platonic love story about two women who adored each other. Rather than compete over boys or success, they supported each other unconditionally, and their very best days were spent yomping through the hot streets of New York complimenting each other’s bodies and/or choices. In the final episode, the two paused to stare out over the river, and Ilana told Abbi: “I’ve never felt so cool as when I’m with you.” Despite the fact that a filthy toilet they’d been dragging across town sat between them as they said goodbye, this was the first scene in 48 episodes that made me cry.

And it shouldn’t have taken me this long to realise it, but of course, of course, the gross moments were never just cheap jokes, never just plopped in for effect. It took five series to reveal to me the real role of poo jokes in this beautiful show but, yep, I realised that by opening the toilet door they offered two things. The first, an appreciation of women’s bodies as something other than sex-meat to be gazed at. In fact, as working machines, but ones that sometimes fart, and without shame. The second thing was a new authenticity, which reflected the grand honesty of the characters’ lives, and their insistence on being free. You saw it in their yomping, the way they danced down the street, and you saw it in the way they each had sex, both intimate and regrettable, but mostly in the way they’d decided to prioritise each other, their main relationship, despite all conventions advising otherwise. And not the kind of authenticity we often talk about today in relation to social media, with its careful absences and earnest crops, but a lifting, playful thing that leans into the vulnerability of youth. A way of being that is fearless and easy, if sometimes unhygienic.

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How our capacity for wonder was challenged by the black hole image | Tim Adams

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 04/13/2019 - 21:00
We marvelled at the first image of an event horizon 55m light years away, but struggled to grasp its majesty and dimensions

A few years ago, during a period of insomnia, I briefly got into the habit of contributing to the online project Galaxy Zoo. I would log on to a website that presented, one after another, singular images of tens of thousands of galaxies observed by the Hubble telescope, each billions of light years away. There were so many of these images that cosmologists had opened them up to thousands of amateur volunteers to help narrow down the field of those galaxies that warranted closer study.

Peering at my dimmed computer screen in the early hours, at catherine wheels of stars that perhaps no human eye had ever seen, I ticked the relevant boxes that would assist in classifying them – “elliptical or spiral?”; “smooth or fuzzy?” – and then paused for a while over the open-ended final question: “Is there anything odd in this image?” (An inquiry that always seemed to beg the reply: “You mean, beyond the fact that it is a rotating mass of incalculable solar systems that likely expired untold millions of years ago?”)

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Period poverty: Wales schoolgirls to be given free sanitary products

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 04/13/2019 - 05:10

Some girls are forced to miss school due to being unable to afford menstrual protection

Free sanitary products are to be handed out to tens of thousands of schoolgirls in Wales in a bid to tackle “period poverty”.

As many as 141,000 girls attending both primary and secondary schools in the country will benefit from the free menstrual products as part of the £2.3m scheme, the Welsh government has announced.

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There’s a dark side to women’s health apps: ‘Menstrual surveillance’

Women's News from the Web - Sat, 04/13/2019 - 02:00

Employers and health insurers are using family-planning apps to gather intimate information about your fertility, menstrual cycle and pregnancy

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Upskirting law comes into force in England and Wales as cases rise

Women's News from the Web - Thu, 04/11/2019 - 22:54

Police say 94 incidents reported last year for offence now punishable with jail term

Upskirting has become a specific criminal offence in England and Wales, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment.

The scale of the problem has been laid bare by an investigation that reveals allegations reported by police have increased over the last four years, with a 70-year-old woman and schoolchildren as young as seven among the victims in 2018.

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