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I'm in my 40s, please stop asking me why I don't have children | Janet Sewell

Sun, 11/22/2020 - 06:30

Probing questions about my decision not to have kids exact an emotional toll. Happiness comes in many forms

At my mother’s funeral I was holding my 11-month-old nephew when a family friend asked: “When are you going to have children?” He’s the kindest man but the question felt like a sledgehammer blow.

It’s a question I get a lot and I am sick of answering it. You feel like you have to divulge details of your personal life to satisfy someone else’s curiosity. I have worked hard to not care what other people think of me but some people assume that I still live like a 20-year-old when I’m in my 40s.

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Criminalise public sexual harassment in UK, charities say

Sun, 11/22/2020 - 05:55

A fifth of girls and women aged between 14 and 21 experienced street harassment during spring lockdown, poll finds

Girls’ rights groups are calling for public sexual harassment to be criminalised in the UK after research suggested more than half of young women and girls were harassed on the street during the summer.

A fifth (19%) of young women and girls aged between 14 and 21 experienced being catcalled, followed, groped, flashed or upskirted during the spring lockdown, according to polling by children’s charity Plan International and campaign group Our Streets Now.

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New equalities commissioner attacked ‘modern feminism’ and #MeToo

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 22:00

Jessica Butcher claimed ‘victimhood narrative’ disempowered women, and disputed reasons for gender pay gap

One of the government’s newly appointed equality commissioners said that modern feminism disempowers women and blamed the MeToo movement for ruining men’s reputations without due process, the Observer can reveal.

Jessica Butcher, a successful digital entrepreneur, was last week appointed as one of four new commissioners at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) by Liz Truss, the minister for women and equalities.

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Biden's likely pick to lead the Pentagon isn't a win for feminism | Arwa Mahdawi

Sat, 11/21/2020 - 04:00

Michèle Flournoy might become the first woman in charge of the Pentagon, but it seems unlikely she’ll do anything to actually change US foreign policy for the better

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African governments failing girls on equality, report finds

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 21:30

Girls are made to marry too young, excluded from healthcare and are sexually exploited, says African Child Policy Forum

Girls in Africa are being “condemned to a lifetime of discrimination and inequality” due to government failures, according to new data.

Ranking 52 countries in the continent according to how “girl-friendly” they are, a report published on Friday by advocacy group African Child Policy Forum (ACPF) found they were routinely denied education; made to marry too young; endured sexual, physical and emotional abuse at home, work and school; were excluded from healthcare; and were unable to own or inherit property.

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Respect and value girls – they can transform Africa's security and prosperity | Graça Machel

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 21:30

Investment in girls brings socioeconomic benefits, but too many countries lack the political will to bring about equality of opportunity

By 2050, Africa will be home to around half a billion girls and young women. If respected and treated as equals, they have the potential to transform the continent’s security and prosperity. This matters because every penny invested in girls’ education, healthcare and social protection benefits society many times over, while failure to invest in girls results in monumental socioeconomic losses.

Child marriage alone has resulted in human capital and revenue losses equivalent to three times the entire flow of international aid into the continent. As a mother and grandmother, it weighs heavily on me to see millions of girls robbed of their futures and the potential of our continent diminished.

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Jan Morris, historian, travel writer and trans pioneer, dies aged 94

Fri, 11/20/2020 - 06:01

From her Everest scoop to her journey as a trans woman, the author’s authoritative voice and questioning mind found an eager audience

Jan Morris, the historian and travel writer who evoked time and place with the flair of a novelist, has died aged 94.

As a journalist Morris broke monumental news, including Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay’s ascent of Everest, and the French involvement in the Israeli attack on Egypt in the Suez war. As a bestselling author of more than 30 books, she was equally lauded for histories including Pax Britannica, her monumental account of the British Empire, and for her colourful accounts of places from Venice to Oxford, Hong Kong to Trieste. But she was also well-known as a transgender pioneer, with Conundrum, her account of the journey from man to woman, an international sensation when it was published in 1974.

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Women in mid-30s may never know equal pay in their working lives

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 20:00

More than 40% of working women worried about impact of Covid on job prospects

Women in their mid-30s will never know equal pay in their working lives if progress towards tackling the gender gap is not accelerated, according to new analysis.

To mark Equal Pay Day, the day that women in effect stop being paid because of the gender pay gap in the UK, Labour has said 8.5 million women will go their entire careers without receiving equal pay.

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Pandemic could lead to profound shift in parenting roles, say experts

Thu, 11/19/2020 - 01:47

Men are spending more time with their children and businesses are seeing economic benefits of flexible working

The year 2020 has been transformative for how society sees fatherhood, and could produce the most profound shift in caring responsibilities since the second world war, according to researchers, business leaders and campaigners.

Research has shown that while women bore the brunt of extra childcare during the initial coronavirus lockdown and are being disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout, there has been also a huge surge in the number of hours men are spending with their children.

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Pharrell Williams announces gender-neutral skincare line

Tue, 11/17/2020 - 01:57

Musician’s Humanrace products described as perfect for ‘every individual’

The musician and entrepreneur Pharrell Williams has announced the release of Humanrace, his long-awaited skincare line. Significantly, it is gender neutral.

The products – a powder cleanser, lotus enzyme exfoliator and humidifying cream – are described on the website as being for “every individual”, subtly avoiding any pronoun definition.

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Marie Stopes charity changes name in break with campaigner's view on eugenics

Mon, 11/16/2020 - 20:13

Organisation says Black Lives Matter movement reaffirmed commitment to changing name to MSI Reproductive Choices

Marie Stopes International (MSI) is to change its name in an attempt to break its association with the family planning pioneer.

From Tuesday, the abortion and contraception provider, which operates in 37 countries, will abbreviate the initials and go by the name MSI Reproductive Choices.

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It can feel uncomfortable to keep telling our abortion stories – but it is still essential

Mon, 11/16/2020 - 06:19

Many experiences are like mine: unexceptional, not ‘deserving’ or ‘worthy’. The more of those testimonies we hear, the stronger we are in our fight to protect women’s rights

One of the last things I did before lockdown was attend a rally supporting the protests against Poland’s constitutional court ruling that introduced a near-total ban on abortion. Hardening the country’s already terrifyingly restrictive current law, it would, if enforced, remove one of the few narrow exceptions still permitted: termination in the event of congenital birth defects.

Related: 'A backlash against a patriarchal culture': How Polish protests go beyond abortion rights

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Period poverty has surged in UK during Covid pandemic

Mon, 11/16/2020 - 01:34

Charity supplying six times as many menstrual products compared with before crisis

Period poverty has increased sharply in the UK since the coronavirus crisis began, according to a charity that says it is supplying almost six times as many menstrual products compared with before the pandemic started.

Bloody Good Period (BGP) has been supplying food banks, community support groups, those fleeing domestic violence, asylum seekers and refugees, homeless shelters and even NHS frontline workers.

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Shock new figures fuel fears of more lockdown domestic abuse killings in UK

Sat, 11/14/2020 - 20:45

Calls to advice hotlines soar as abusers turn to latest technology to intimidate and control partners

Calls to the UK’s largest domestic abuse helpline are rising “week on week” as new figures reveal that almost 50 suspected killings may have occurred during the first lockdown.

The charity Refuge, which runs the National Domestic Abuse helpline, said it was “very concerned” by the continuing upward trend in demand for its services, with England a little over a week into its second lockdown.

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‘I need complete freedom’: Maggi Hambling responds to statue critics

Sat, 11/14/2020 - 08:52

Some see a new statue commemorating Mary Wollstonecraft as an affront to the pioneering feminist, but its creator says she is used to controversy

Maggi Hambling, the renowned British artist who outraged a large section of the general public and many feminists last week, to say nothing of the surprised residents of a north London community, has defended her right to artistic freedom.

Her new statue commemorating Mary Wollstonecraft was unveiled last week, the culmination of a 10-year campaign to mark the groundbreaking feminist philosopher who started her writing career and established a girls school in Newington Green in the late-18th century. But Hambling’s work sparked a furious reaction. Rather than a statue of Wollstonecraft, she produced an abstract sculpture which features a small, naked silver woman.

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Is Michael Parkinson having a laugh when he says men are funnier than women? | Barbara Ellen

Sat, 11/14/2020 - 08:00
Why does he need to dredge up the tired myth that comedy’s a male thing?

Why do unfunny men never stop going on about unfunny women? This time, it was the former TV chat show host Michael Parkinson. Disagreeing about men finding it difficult to express their emotions, he said that most men he knew were sensitive and funny: “It’s a very contentious statement, but they’re much better than women in their sense of humour.” He went on to grumble about his comments getting him into trouble. You can’t say anything these days, can you? Especially when it’s demonstrable codswallop.

Let’s deal with this in the fragrant ladylike way that women are really good at. Parkinson is entitled to conclude that one sex is “much better” at humour. It’s his business – and no reflection at all on his archaic attitudes – if he managed to sit in front of innumerable female guests and find none of them particularly amusing. Nor is it Parky’s fault if he’s unable to recall the countless delusional male bores gassing away on his show, because, let’s face it, not all of them were Muhammad Ali.

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Kamala Harris didn't become vice-president-elect by saying 'no worries if not' | Emma Brockes

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 21:00

For a demonstration of a woman who is unafraid to speak with confidence, look no further than Harris’s victory speech

Every few months on social media, a campaign reliably comes around urging women to stop undermining ourselves at work. Don’t, we’re advised, use the qualifier “just”, as in “can I just float an idea?” Stop apologising for making routine demands or having the temerity to use up someone’s time. Most recently and trenchantly, don’t, we are advised, ground every timorous request with the phrase “no worries if not”.

I say and do all of these things, although less frequently than I once did. Where 10 years ago the qualifiers came out as reflex, these days, I generally catch and delete them before I hit send. I don’t open emails with “sorry to bother you”, unless I’m being deliberately passive aggressive. (This is my preferred tonal mode, obviously, although it gets me nowhere in the US. A snippy email I sent to an American last week hinged on the word “unideal”, a neutral term to American ears, but to a Brit, clearly, signifying a curse on you and your family for a thousand years.)

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'It was toxic': how sexism threw police off the trail of the Yorkshire Ripper

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 07:09

Sex-worker victims were seen as dispensible, survivors’ accounts ignored, and women blamed for drinking or going out alone

Every woman old enough to remember the 1970s recalls nights in the north of England during Peter Sutcliffe’s decade of terror.

“Leeds was really in a state of almost lockdown and women were afraid to go out,” remembered Mo Lea, who was a student in the city at the time.

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‘I'm always falling in love with fabulous women’: Sandi Toksvig's forgotten heroines

Fri, 11/13/2020 - 03:04

From Madame Ching, a 19th-century pirate who ruled the South China Sea, to Anna Hedgeman, who helped to organise 1963’s Great March on Washington, it’s time to celebrate these often-overlooked yet awesome characters

My desk is littered with dead women, which makes me sound like the world’s untidiest serial killer. Let me start again. I collect women. OK, that may be worse – it makes them sound like ceramic thimbles. Let’s see … I read a lot – mostly history – and every time I find a fabulous woman from the past whose story was hitherto unknown to me, I gather her up to keep in scribbled notes. I do this selflessly, because the risk to my health is enormous.

In 1791, the German theologian Karl Gottfried Bauer wrote: The lack of all physical movement while reading, combined with the forcible alternation of imagination and emotion [leads to] slackness, mucous congestion, flatulence and constipation of the inner organs, which, as is well known, particularly in the female sex, actually affects the sexual parts.”

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I'd planned to have a midlife crisis this year. I hadn't planned on it being shaped by Covid | Ceridwen Dovey

Wed, 11/11/2020 - 16:00

I don’t know my future self yet, but I’m pretty sure she wants me to take off the conventional masks I’ve been wearing

This was meant to be the year of my own private midlife crisis. Instead it has become the year of the novel coronavirus.

I’d been anticipating turning 40 this November with a heady mix of pleasure and pain, knowing it would mark not only the beginning of my middle age, but the end of almost nine years of intensively mothering preschool-aged children.

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