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In 1970, driven by chaos and energy, we felt like pioneers in female protest | Sheila Rowbotham

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 21:30
Fifty years since the start of the Women’s Liberation Movement, one of its founders reflects on its progress

On Friday 28 February 1970, around 500 women, many clutching sleeping bags and babies, arrived at Ruskin, the trade union college in Walton Street, Oxford, for the first national gathering of the Women’s Liberation Movement. I was part of a small ad hoc group that had helped organise the conference, though the heaviest weight had been borne by Sally Alexander and Arielle Aberson who were studying at Ruskin.

The mood was excited and chaotic and the introductory session that evening released an extraordinary surge of expressive energy. We didn’t know what would happen. Over the next two days, we had to overflow into the austere Oxford Union building to deliver formal debates. Until fairly recently, it had been a veritable male sanctuary. Indeed, when I became a student at St Hilda’s College in 1961, women weren’t even allowed to be members!

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More female cabinet ministers would benefit all women | Torsten Bell

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 20:03
Female representation makes a huge difference to the decisions taken

There was a lot of cabinet reshuffling recently but moving ministerial deckchairs didn’t have huge repercussions for the representation of women – the number went down from eight to seven, but their share of cabinet jobs went up as some posts got axed.

In fact, we’ve been stuck with at best 30% of the cabinet being women since that threshold was first reached in 2007. Does this matter? Yes, finds recent research into the effects of female representation on policymaking.

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Who said it – Trump or Bloomberg? Take our revealing quiz

Sat, 02/22/2020 - 04:00

Bloomberg is indisputably on the record saying things that make it clear he is simply a richer version of Trump

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'Diversity is now centre stage': Berlin film festival sets industry precedent

Fri, 02/21/2020 - 06:58

Event achieves gender parity among directors and executives but number of films directed by women falls slightly from 2019

The Berlin film festival has achieved gender parity in some of its most senior positions a year after signing a pledge that commits film festivals to improve representation in relation to diversity.

The Berlin festival, which opened on Thursday, is one of the major events to sign up to 5050x2020, which requires organisations to release information about the gender and race of their directors, members of selection committees and executive boards, and to record similar data about the directors, casts and crews of submitted films.

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Vulva masks and labia serums: the marketing of women’s genital shame

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 21:00

More and more ‘wellness’ companies are selling products that capitalise on women’s insecurities over their bodies. Now they are targeting the vulva

There is little to love about having a cold, damp vulva. Or so I discovered when I applied an “activated charcoal sheet mask” to mine. The product in question, Blackout, is by a “luxury vulva care” brand called Two L(i)ps. The company’s promotional material says it is “ready to disrupt and redefine the vulva space”. Before disrupting my own, however, I had to navigate the packaging. After slipping it from its peach-coloured pouch, you have to pull away a sheet of white “lace” to reveal its dark, sopping glory. “Dim the lights and relax as your skin is detoxified and clarified,” say the instructions on the box, which tell you to leave the mask on for 15-20 minutes, then pat the “remaining serum” on to the skin. Lying on the sofa, mortified by my own company, I last no more than six. Of all the mistakes I’ve made in my intimate life, looking down to see that sprawling blackness, its “lace” film lying sadly by my thigh, is definitely up there, so to speak.

I may be a cynic, but there is a hungry market for these products: Two L(i)ps boasts that 10,000 units of Blackout (£15.50 for a single mask, £66 for a set of five) were sold in the two and a half months after its launch. The brand has developed a range of “luxury vulva care” products including Pout, a “hydrating serum” made of 95% pure hyaluronic acid (£99 for 30ml), and Undercover (£99 for 30ml), an “anti-blemish cream” to “stay spotless”. The cream is made from the skin-whitening agent palmitoyl hexapeptide-36, and comes with the instruction to apply SPF30 sunscreen to the area the following day, no doubt with all that offering-our-naked-labia-to-the-sky sorcery us women get up to in mind.

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Over half of UK women killed by men die at hands of partner or ex

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 20:00

Femicide Census for 2018 shows 149 women killed, the highest number since census began

More than half the women killed by men in the UK in 2018 were killed by a current or former partner, many after they had taken steps to leave, according to a report on femicide.

The fourth Femicide Census, conducted by the campaigner Karen Ingala Smith, found 149 women were killed by 147 men in 2018. The number of deaths is an increase of 10 on the previous year and the highest number since the census began.

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Why do men get away with killing women – is there an amnesty on male violence? | Julie Bindel

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 20:00
Cuts to domestic violence services, refuges and legal aid have resulted in increased levels of risk for women targeted by men

The latest UK Femicide Census shows that, despite more than 50 years of feminist campaigning against male violence, the number of women and girls dying at the hands of men is increasing. The annual report on such crime in the UK shows that of the 149 women killed in 2018, the vast majority – 91 – died at the hands of a current or former partner; 12 were killed by sons or stepsons; five by a current or former son-in-law. Only nine were killed by a stranger or where there was no known relationship. Three of the perpetrators had killed women previously.

Karen Ingala Smith, the founder of Counting Dead Women, from which the Femicide Census grew, first collected data in January 2012. She began after looking into the death of Kirsty Treloar, a young woman who had been in touch with a domestic violence charity Ingala Smith was involved with. It was later found that Treloar was murdered by her boyfriend. Once she started, Ingala Smith found she could not stop. No one else was doing this work, and yet domestic violence alone kills 15 times more women annually than terrorism.

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Natalie Portman's husband denies signing letter backing fired ballet director

Wed, 02/19/2020 - 11:40

Choreographers Benjamin Millepied and William Forsyth deny signing letter demanding director’s return after dismissal for pregnancy discrimination

Choreographer Benjamin Millepied, the husband of Natalie Portman, has denied signing an open letter calling for the reinstatement of a ballet director who was fired for pregnancy discrimination.

The announcement follows a number of reports about the letter that was printed in the French newspaper Libération, purporting to be from a number of dance luminaries, some of whom – including the choreographer William Forsythe – have also since said that they did not sign it.

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Why do we only care about incels when they are men? | Arwa Mahdawi

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 21:00

The idea of involuntary celibacy – first adopted by a woman – was roundly ignored until it was co-opted by a violently misogynistic movement

Back in the 90s, Alana couldn’t get a date. Lonely and frustrated, the self-described late bloomer started an online support group for people like her, whom she termed “involuntary celibates”, or “incels”. Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project soon became a community for people of all genders and orientations who weren’t able to have sex or romantic relationships.

Her social life eventually improved and she ceded her site to someone else. She didn’t realise the group had evolved into a violently misogynistic movement until 2014, when she read about Elliot Rodger, who had killed six people in California and identified as an incel. A few years later, Alek Minassian, another incel, killed 10 people in Toronto in revenge for “not getting laid”.

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Rose McGowan says she regrets Natalie Portman Oscars dress comments

Tue, 02/18/2020 - 01:24

McGowan tweets that she ‘lost sight of the bigger picture’ after calling fellow actor a ‘fraud’

Rose McGowan has expressed regret for her attack on Natalie Portman over the latter’s Oscar dress “protest”, which took aim at the exclusion of women from the best director Academy Award nominations.

Related: Rose McGowan: Natalie Portman's Oscars dress protest 'deeply offensive'

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BFI accused of stealing concept of Thirst Aid Kit podcast

Mon, 02/17/2020 - 05:30

New film season called Thirst covers same themes as podcast and has similar artwork

The British Film Institute has been accused of “erasing” a popular podcast series after the launch of a forthcoming film season that shares part of its title, covers the same themes and has similar artwork.

Thirst: Female Desire on Screen was announced last week, with the BFI being accused of stealing the concept of Thirst Aid Kit, which was launched by the former Guardian columnist Bim Adewunmi and the US writer Nichole Perkins in October 2017.

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I’ve seen the terrible harm workplace harassment inflicts. Australia must catch up with the rest of the world | Aimee Cooper

Sun, 02/16/2020 - 06:30

The way we handle sexual harassment in the workplace isn’t working and isn’t fair. What can we learn from other countries?

Lydia’s* boss regularly touched her bottom, sexually propositioned her, made comments about her appearance and invited her to his home. He behaved this way to other women he worked with. He owned and ran the business – there was nobody to complain to. When she spoke up, Lydia’s position was made redundant.

Alice* was 21 and worked at a trucking company. “I recall sitting in a truck and my male colleague sitting next to me saying ‘shut your legs, it’s smiling at me’. I pretended that I didn’t hear him.”

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Women's Equality party candidate pulls out of London mayoral race

Sun, 02/16/2020 - 03:35

Mandu Reid will replace Sue Black, who was forced to withdraw after vaginal mesh implant complications

The Women’s Equality party’s candidate for London mayor has been forced to pull out of the race after suffering complications from a vaginal mesh implant.

The party claims Prof Sue Black has been a victim of entrenched “health inequalities” affecting thousands of women and that it will be campaigning to get the mesh permanently banned in the UK.

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How to check yourself for breast cancer

Sun, 02/16/2020 - 03:00

Every woman is different and it’s best to get into the habit of examining yourself regularly so you can spot any changes

There is no evidence to suggest that a particular technique works best, but checking your breasts regularly is vital; the sooner breast cancer is diagnosed, the more effective treatment may be.

All breasts are different, so women are encouraged to get to know their own breasts over time. Follow this simple advice: touch, look and check (TLC). Some breasts have natural bumps or nodular breast tissue, and women often have one breast larger than the other. Changes can also occur to the breasts during women’s cycles.

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‘I look at the clock… it’s 3am’: Why can’t women sleep?

Sat, 02/15/2020 - 22:00

While her husband snores peacefully beside her, Mariella Frostrup, like women everywhere, is wide awake – mind spinning. But why? And what can she do about it?

It is 3am. I know because I’ve checked the clock three times since I crept to the loo at 1.45am. Within minutes of my return to bed I feel the delicious fog of slumber evaporate, my heart rate rises and my brain begins its relentless scan for topics to keep me engaged. Occasionally, I get a laugh out of what I dream up as a priority worry; more often I’m shocked by the banality. A thank you note I failed to send a year ago; the small part for a kitchen appliance I keep forgetting to order; whether I booked Ocado for Friday; whether Stormzy will agree to talk to me about his favourite books; the shirt my son needs; guilt because I didn’t call my friend with breast cancer; where to go on summer holidays; how to get the car to its service in Yeovil; why the person I discussed documentary ideas with hasn’t replied; did I book a blowdry on Tuesday? And where has that blue dress gone?

I look at the clock again, it’s 3.15am and I’m getting closer to the moment when I’m going to have to medicate or resign myself to staying awake. Now adding to my copious preoccupations: what do I have to do in the morning? Can I afford to be exhausted or should I resort to the cornucopia of drugs and sleep aids crammed into my bedside drawer? While I attempt to follow the cognitive behavioural therapy advice I’ve been given and count my breaths – five in, five out – to restore my equilibrium and compartmentalise the turmoil, my husband snores deafeningly beside me.

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Male makeup signals a move away from rigid gender roles – but there's a catch | Arwa Mahdawi

Sat, 02/15/2020 - 04:00

Male body image issues are on the rise and studies suggest men are as likely to be insecure about their appearance as women

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Fighting the tyranny of ‘niceness’: why we need difficult women

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 22:00

Today’s thumbs-up, thumbs-down approach to feminism is boring and reductive. It is time to embrace complexity

Difficult. It’s a word that rests on a knife-edge: when applied to a woman, it can be admiring, fearful, insulting and dismissive, all at once. In 2016, it was used of Theresa May (she was “a bloody difficult woman,” Ken Clarke said, when she ran for Tory leader). A year later, it gave the US author Roxane Gay the title for her short story collection. The late Elizabeth Wurtzel took “in praise of difficult women” as the strapline for her feminist manifesto in 1998. The book’s main title was, simply, Bitch.

The word is particularly pointed since it recurs so often when women talk about the consequences of challenging sexism. The TV presenter Helen Skelton once described being groped on air by an interviewee while pregnant. She did not complain, she said, because “that’s just the culture that television breeds. No one wants to be difficult.” The actor Jennifer Lawrence told the Hollywood Reporter that she had once stood up to a rude director. The reaction to the incident left her worried that she would be punished by the industry. “Yeah,” chipped in fellow actor Emma Stone: “You were ‘difficult’.”

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Why the battle over trans rights is a minefield for Labour | Gaby Hinsliff

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 20:00

A pledge supported by three of the four leadership candidates has exposed a faultline running through the party

This is a story about how politics fails. It starts with a hairline crack that slowly widens, until it’s big enough for some people to slip through. Eventually, the gap becomes a chasm. And if nobody builds a bridge, eventually the other side almost disappears from sight. This week brought another small earthquake along the faultline running through the Labour party over trans rights. Three women running for the leadership – Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Emily Thornberry – all signed a pledge drawn up by a hitherto unknown group of trans activists demanding a battle against what it calls transphobic “hate groups”. (The lone male candidate, Keir Starmer, didn’t sign; Thornberry warned against using the phrase “hate group”.) The pledge specifically named Woman’s Place UK (WPUK), a grouping of leftwing feminists and trade unionists who insist they don’t hate anybody but do worry about trans women accessing all-female spaces – such as domestic violence refuges, prisons, changing rooms and toilets, given proposed reforms making it easier to transition legally. The hashtag launched by defiant supporters of Woman’s Place UK – #ExpelMe, daring Labour to either kick them out or have the guts to defend them, a choice the party seems desperate to avoid – reflects long-simmering tensions.

Related: Labour leadership: row over support for trans rights charter

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Caped crusader: who is the real target of Natalie Portman's reply to Rose McGowan? | Catherine Shoard

Fri, 02/14/2020 - 04:45

Under fire for ‘tassel campaigning’ at the Oscars, Portman showed restraint and defiance in her riposte – plus mindful respect for women colleagues

It’s hard to predict what the big stories from Oscar night will turn out to be. Parasite’s victory was a slight surprise – but not an earth-shaker. Mystic Meg wasn’t required in order to guess that Elton John might give us a tune or Joaquin Phoenix could bringout the vegan big guns.

The joy of the night is the curveball: Scorsese goggling at Eminem; Janelle Monáe popping her shirt button while struggling with a Mr Rogers cardie. Diane Keaton.

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Tracy Brabin's off-the-shoulder dress raises £20,000 for Girlguiding

Thu, 02/13/2020 - 09:48

MP auctioned dress after facing criticism on social media when wearing it in the Commons

An off-the-shoulder dress worn by Tracy Brabin in the House of Commons has raised more than £20,000 for Girlguiding UK.

The Labour frontbencher was forced to defend her attire last week after the dress slipped off her shoulder when she leaned on the despatch box because of a broken ankle.

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