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Updated: 5 hours 58 min ago

The Guardian view on demography and politics: nationalist narratives must be challenged | Editorial

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 07:30
Women’s autonomy and reproductive rights must be upheld as far-right ideas gain ground

The speech on Thursday by Viktor Orbán, Hungary’s prime minister, praising the fertility of Hungarian women as a bulwark of Europe’s survival appealed to dangerous and atavistic myths. That isn’t a reason to ignore it. In fact it needs meeting head-on, for it marks a further irruption into mainstream politics across the rich world of “replacement theory”: the belief that the nature of Europe is threatened by demographic change. This fear has become central to politics in the United States and Australia, as well as many European countries, whether or not they have large immigrant populations themselves. It was one of the drivers of the result of the Brexit referendum, in which hostility towards European immigrants served as a cover for wider xenophobias.

The presence at the Budapest summit of the former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, and his praise of Mr Orbán, underlies the global nature of this belief. At a speech in honour of Margaret Thatcher in 2015, Mr Abbott, one of the architects of Australia’s brutal refugee policy, argued that European countries should embark on a massive programme of imprisoning would-be migrants overseas, and repelling them at land borders and at sea: “It will require some force; it will require massive logistics and expense; it will gnaw at our consciences – yet it is the only way to prevent a tide of humanity surging through Europe and quite possibly changing it for ever.”

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To end online harms we must address misogyny | Letter

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 06:36
MPs and activists call for straight talking and urge the government to protect and empower women

Women around the world are 27 times more likely to be harassed online than men. In Europe, 9 million girls have experienced some kind of online violence by the time they are 15 years old. In the UK, 21% of women have received threats of physical or sexual violence online. The basis of this abuse is often – though not exclusively – misogyny.

Misogyny online fuels misogyny offline. Abusive comments online can lead to violent behaviour in real life. Nearly a third of respondents to a Women’s Aid survey said where threats had been made online from a partner or ex-partner, they were carried out. Along with physical abuse, misogyny online has a psychological impact. Half of girls aged 11-21 feel less able to share their views due to fear of online abuse, according to Girlguiding UK.

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South Africa in a crisis of violence against women, says president

Fri, 09/06/2019 - 05:47

Cyril Ramaphosa promises plan of action as protesters call for death penalty for perpetrators

The South African president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has admitted the country is facing a national crisis of violence against women as protesters took to the streets for a third successive day.

Ramaphosa addressed the nation on Thursday evening with a plan of action to curb the scourge of gender-based violence, including a proposal to make a register of offenders public. He claimed laws would be reviewed in parliament imminently.

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The war on #MeToo will fail. Women cannot be un-radicalized | Moira Donegan

Thu, 09/05/2019 - 21:00

The backlash was always going to start with Al Franken – anti-feminist reaction follows every feminist movement with the certainty and regularity of the tides

The backlash to #MeToo was always going to begin in earnest with Al Franken. A famous celebrity and well-liked politician in the Democratic party, the harassment accusations that were made against him by eight women were met with skepticism and disdain by liberal Americans who had previously been supportive of the movement, but were unwilling to see it come for one of their own.

In July, these Americans were cheered by a New Yorker article by Jane Mayer, an investigative reporter with a history of tackling powerful figures on the right, which aimed to exonerate Franken. Uncharacteristically for the accomplished Mayer, the article was incompletely and credulously reported. It poked significant holes in the account of one Franken accuser, the radio host Leeann Tweeden, but did nothing to cast doubt on the other seven accusers. Instead, the piece dismissed their allegations with hand-waving assurances from Franken allies that they were sure he hadn’t meant any harm. Despite its failures of argument and reporting, the article accomplished its desired goal: conventional wisdom among middle-class liberals shifted to seeing Franken not as a man held responsible for his own actions, but as the victim of a nefarious plot at the hands of overzealous feminists.

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Does Boris Johnson’s government have a women problem?

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 19:00

With a resolutely male inner circle and the sacking of four female aides, it’s no surprise that accusations of misogyny have been levelled by the opposition. The question is whether it makes a difference at the ballot box

Sonia Khan seemed exactly the kind of young woman likely to prosper under Boris Johnson. A passionate Brexiter who cut her political teeth campaigning for lower taxes, at 27 she was already a veteran of several Whitehall departments, including the Treasury. When he became chancellor, Sajid Javid snapped her up. Then, last week, her career ended in the most brutal of ways; escorted out of No 10 by the police, after being summarily sacked by prime ministerial adviser Dominic Cummings in a manner that her former boss Philip Hammond suggested could win her an employment tribunal case should she choose to bring one.

Worse still, Khan, whose loyalties were seemingly questioned because of her contacts with old friends in the rebellious Hammond’s camp, was the fourth female aide forced out by the new regime. “How someone could think that escorting a young Asian woman out with an armed police officer was good optics beggars belief,” says a female former Tory staffer. She points out that the idea of what one anonymous Tory source called “big thuggy bald blokes picking on girls” is a gift to opposition MPs busy painting Johnson’s wider regime as aggressive, unreconstructed and full of dubious attitudes to women.

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To my merciless, brutal period: it’s time you and I talked | Emma Barnett

Wed, 09/04/2019 - 03:48
You got me out of swimming at school, and gifted me my son, but truly, I won’t miss you when you’re gone

I am standing in a draughty, picturesque church on an icy Saturday in December, wearing four-inch gold glittery heels and silently cursing you as you churn up my insides without a thought for the occasion. Try as I might to focus on my friend, the gleamingly beautiful bride, and stand stoic during the hymns she’s painstakingly chosen for us to chorus, all I can think is: will you please fuck off? And when can I rip off this fascinator, my heels, dress, tights and, while I’m at it, my skin? The need for delicious wedding champagne to dull your grip is getting increasingly urgent.

Yeah, I’m talking to you. My pushy, aggressive, attention-seeking period. The very same period that has no sense of timing or mercy. OK fine, due to the wonder of the pill you do arrive on time, mostly. But you pay no heed to how you transform me from a fast-walking, talking vibrant being into a husk who craves warmth, trousers that have lost their elastic, and copious amounts of fat chippy chips doused in vinegar.

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Jameela Jamil is well-meaning, but slim, pretty women can't smash the diet culture alone

Mon, 09/02/2019 - 06:43

We are still in a catch-22 in fighting sexism – women must be attractive before they are allowed to criticise the demand for them to be attractive

Jameela Jamil’s guest edit of Stylist this month features her on the cover of the magazine attacking sets of scales with a hammer. The cover has received praise and some backlash, from the troubled optics of a slim woman “smashing diet culture” to the fact that many of the clothes in the accompanying fashion shoot aren’t available past size 18.

While some frustration is understandable, it feels depressing to focus too much on unpicking Jamil’s well-meaning efforts, not least because of her own history (she has spoken openly about body dysmorphia and struggling with an eating disorder, saying she now approaches her body image with neutral acceptance as opposed to celebration). The rest of the magazine does have much progressive content, too.

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'Incel' violence is horrific, but Joker is complex, and doesn't take sides

Mon, 09/02/2019 - 03:57

Alarmist reactions to the ‘rightwing’ film – starring Joaquin Phoenix as a needy, dangerous wannabe star comic – overlook its subtler points

Todd Phillips’s Joker had its world premiere at the Venice film festival only on Saturday, so it’s impressive that nearly everyone on the internet has an opinion on it. Reviews from critics here have been largely positive, though have also already sparked discontented rumblings from that nebulous collection of industry folks and movie fans known as “film twitter”. One of the central points of contention around Phillips’s comic-book villain origin story is that it in some way panders to incel culture, or “involuntary celibates” – men who see themselves as losers and “beta males” who women don’t want to sleep with. Angry, misogynistic and feeling entitled to sex and attention, incels have been prone to real-world violence, as with the Isla Vista murders in 2014, when a killer targeted a sorority – shooting 11 people and killing six before killing himself.

Related: Joker review – Joaquin Phoenix’s villain has last laugh in twisted tale

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Why don’t doctors trust women? Because they don’t know much about us | Gabrielle Jackson

Sun, 09/01/2019 - 08:00

The medical community have known for a century that women are living in constant pain. They’ve done nothing about it

It’s frustrating to have questions that don’t get answered. It’s altogether disturbing to find out that those questions haven’t even been asked.

When I was diagnosed with endometriosis at age 23, I didn’t know enough to ask the right questions. I assumed my gynaecologist had all the answers, and listened carefully to his thoughtful explanations. I thought I knew it all. Or at least that he knew it all. But I was wrong.

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When playing with the kids is hard work | Letters

Sun, 09/01/2019 - 06:56
Janet Kay on how to enjoy time on holidays with children, Jeanne Warren on a generation that just got on with it – and got no credit, and Annie Tunnicliffe on the struggles of women in a poverty trap

In response to Lucy Mangan’s assertion (After six long weeks of unrelieved parenting, we’re on our knees, 31 August) that “you have no holidays that are worthy of the name after having a child”, I would suggest she stop moaning about the supposed horrors of the six-week holiday and enjoy her time with her child doing things together they can both enjoy. I am a grandparent carer, parenting second time around. I spent the bank holiday on an English beach in the sun with two of my grandchildren, swimming, digging in the sand and sharing a picnic with friends. What’s not to enjoy? If you’re too inflexible to adapt to the wonderful world of children, then don’t have them.
Janet Kay

• I am struck by how tiring your writers find the care of their children during the holidays. “At the end of three weeks of unbroken time with my children, a treacherous part of me was looking forward to returning to my desk,” says Emma Brockes (Journal, 31 August); “You have no holidays that are worthy of the name after having a child,” says Lucy Mangan. Those of us in my generation who just got on with it day after day, year after year, were never credited with doing anything particularly onerous. We “didn’t work”.
Jeanne Warren
Garsington, Oxfordshire

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Ruth Davidson departs to focus on family. That decision is only hers to make | Gaby Hinsliff

Sat, 08/31/2019 - 09:00

Critics on both right and left claim the Scottish Tory leader is hiding her true motives. That’s an insult to working mothers

She is not the first working mother to walk away from a dream job and sadly she won’t be the last. But few do it with the blunt candour of Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader who resigned last week.

Since having her son, Finn, she said, the idea of disappearing on the campaign trail for weeks on end filled her with “dread”. Not for her the sugary euphemisms about putting family first; instead, she evokes the visceral, animal tug of anxiety at being too far away. Sometimes, too far means being in a different time zone, listening helplessly to your child cry down a phone line. Sometimes, even being in the same room isn’t quite close enough. Everyone has a different threshold, and it can easily change from day to day, but still, too far is too far, and you know it when you feel it. Yet even to say her decision is understandable is to enter a minefield.

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All the single ladies have been an economic force for a long time – marketers are just noticing | Arwa Mahdawi

Sat, 08/31/2019 - 02:00

It’s long been clear women are driving the economy – nevertheless, the corporate world didn’t take them seriously

Sign up for the Week in Patriarchy, a newsletter​ on feminism and sexism sent every Saturday.

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Ruth Davidson’s decision was personal, but her departure is a loss for all of us | Libby Brooks

Fri, 08/30/2019 - 19:00

As the Scottish Tory leader’s resignation shows, balancing work and family is still a problem for women in public life

I’m racing across the central belt to cover Ruth Davidson’s resignation, a row for missing an important email from my son’s nursery ringing in my ears, when I realise I’ve been reporting on women’s difficulty balancing work and family for what feels like two centuries. No wonder I’m feeling so ruddy tired. It’s the sheer unwieldy intractability of the dilemmas posed. It’s like getting stuck behind a motorhome on a Highland road: the progress is teeth-grindingly slow, you get tired of hearing yourself complain, then suddenly you’re forced to reverse into a ditch.

At a press conference in Edinburgh on Thursday, the now former Scottish Conservative leader, who is widely admired for transforming her party’s fortunes north of the border, explained that she was leaving frontline politics because she had been “a poor daughter, sister, partner and friend”, and that the birth of her son last October had caused her to “make a different choice”.

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Venice film festival: Saudi Arabian director praises 'momentum change' in her country

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 05:46

Describing recent changes for women, prominent director Haifaa al-Mansour called for more and praised film as a tool for change

Saudi Arabia’s most prominent female film director says there is a “momentum change” in the country and that cinema is one of the most important tools in changing the fate of women, who are still are not considered legal persons there.

Haifaa al-Mansour – who is one of only two women in the main 21-film competition – premiered The Perfect Candidate, her drama about a young female doctor who runs for public office, at the Venice film festival on Wednesday.

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Roman Polanski attacks 'absurd' abuse accusations on eve of Venice premiere

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 05:21

Director portrayed as persecuted victim of ‘neo-feminist McCarthyism’ in interview for latest film An Officer and a Spy

The figure of Roman Polanski hung once again over the Venice film festival on its second day after he released press notes for his new film that sought to discredit several women who claim he sexually abused them as minors, and suggested that he has been persecuted since the late 1960s, when the press insinuated he was a satanist after the murder, by members of the Manson Family, of his second wife, Sharon Tate.

In the press notes for his new film An Officer and a Spy, about the antisemitic Dreyfus affair – which has its premiere on Friday – the 86-year-old Chinatown director is portrayed as a persecuted victim of “neo-feminist McCarthyism” in an interview with the French polemicist Pascal Bruckner.

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White men still make the decisions in film, says BFI festival boss

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 00:15

Announcing details of London film festival, Tricia Tuttle says glass ceiling remains in place

White men are still the decision makers and gatekeepers for big budget commercial movies and the glass ceiling for women remains in place, the head of the BFI London film festival has said.

Tricia Tuttle welcomed an increase in the number of films directed or co-directed by women in this year’s programme as she announced details of the festival. The overall figure, including shorts, has gone up to 40%, from 38% last year. In the competition strands, 64% of the films are made by women.

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I'm a medical student, and I'm gay. Work would be simpler if I were heterosexual

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 23:40

Does the pledge for doctors to be honest include our sexuality? If I tell the truth, I risk losing patient trust to homophobia

I’m a medical student heading into my sixth and final year, and I am a gay woman. I feel like my work as a healthcare professional would be much simpler if I were heterosexual.

When medical students (and the wider medical community) work on a ward, getting to know the patients is important. We have time to sit and chat with patients about their grandchildren, their dogs and where they went on holiday when they were young. In turn, most people like to know a bit about us. Forming a human connection with people under your care, especially those who are older or prone to loneliness, is essential in building a trusting patient-doctor relationship. I hit a sticking point time and time again. I’m asked if I have a husband, a boyfriend, children, or plans to marry someone soon.

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Men now avoid women at work – another sign we're being punished for #MeToo | Arwa Mahdawi

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 19:00

A new study has found US men appear to be following Mike Pence’s lead. Maybe they’re angry that #MeToo ever happened

It looks like Mike Pence is quite the trendsetter. The US vice-president famously refuses to have dinner alone with any woman who isn’t his wife – and now working men across corporate America appear to be following his lead.

Related: NYT columnist quits Twitter after daring critic to 'call me a bedbug to my face'

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The G7 was the final straw – world leaders’ wives should refuse to travel with their spouses

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 07:00
Over the last week, these women have been depicted as a useful way to boost their husbands’ standing, rather than as powerful people in their own right

It was Donald Tusk on Instagram that did it. Four wives of world leaders – Melania Trump, Brigitte Macron, Małgorzata Tusk and Akie Abe – dressed in a spectrum from white to cream, skirts aflap, were enjoying the sea views at Biarritz during the G7 summit. It was a delineation of the acceptable limits of women on the world stage: they look like brides and it is their backs – their backs! – that are demurely captured on film. It would have been just about bearable were it not for the European council president’s caption: “Melania, Brigitte, Małgosia and Akie – the light side of the Force.” It is a statement that says so much: these women are the summer to the winter of us men, the fragility to our strength, the light side of our force. It was the first time I wanted to leave the EU.

Maybe Tusk was having an off day. Surely, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, does not see his wife, Brigitte, as the “light side of his force”. Yet the patriarchy has many tendrils – and a much greater reach even than Tusk’s Instagram account.

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I shaved off my afro because I felt like it. That's all

Wed, 08/28/2019 - 05:49

Black women’s hair isn’t public property: but the styles we choose are too often seen as statements for others to judge

Last week, I joined a club of black British girl bosses who have decided to go bald. From the founders of Black Girl Fest – the first arts festival to celebrate black women and girls – to gal-dem magazine’s Liv Little, shaving off our hair has become the busy black woman’s equivalent of Steve Jobs wearing the same polo neck and jeans combo every day, given how long our hair can take to prep. Black women’s hair is known for its versatility (the recent viral #DMXChallenge, which saw countless video montages of black women flawlessly rocking various different styles, attests to this) – so a shaved head is easy and eliminates an overwhelming range of choice.

Since my afro was large and healthy when I shaved it off, the assumption was that something must have gone wrong: traction alopecia from the tight hairstyles black women endure is a common reason for a drastic cut. Many women do a “big chop” to be rid of hair damaged by heat and chemicals. A bad breakup is often assumed, or a quarter-life crisis (as my dad still suspects). These are all valid reasons, but mine was far less interesting – I simply decided to cut it because I thought it would suit me.

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