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Madonna’s age isn’t relevant. Her music is | Fiona Sturges

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 05:52

Like many female artists, the singer has to put up with constant references to how old she is. It’s a double standard

When the carping over Madonna’s age began in earnest, the focus wasn’t on her singing, or songwriting, or even her stagecraft. The problem, according to certain sections of the press, lay with her hands. “Why do Madonna’s hands look older than her face?” asked the Daily Mail in 2006. Such was the paper’s concern over the then 47-year-old’s apparently awful paws, a plastic surgeon was drafted in to provide professional analysis. “As a person ages [the] plumpness goes, making the hand look bonier and more veiny … less elastic,” he said sagely. Since then, close-ups of Madonna’s hands have been as much a tabloid staple as Victoria Beckham’s scowl or Amanda Holden’s sideboob.

Music critics tend not to pass comment on a musician’s appearance – to do so would undermine the seriousness of their endeavour. But the assessments of Madonna’s 14th album, Madame X, have nonetheless brought more subtle kind of disparagement. “Perhaps the erstwhile Queen of Pop should be content with the role of Queen Mother of Pop now,” said the Daily Telegraph’s critic, going on to note that a woman who has shifted 350m units and broken every record for a female artist going hasn’t had a Top 10 hit in a decade. Even in the Guardian’s review, which was mostly positive, the theme of her age was never far away.

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High heels at work are necessary, says Japan's labour minister

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 05:23

Ministry responds to #KuToo petition calling for end to women having to wear heels at work

Japan’s health and labour minister has defended workplaces that require women to wear high heels to work, arguing it is “necessary and appropriate” after a petition was filed against the practice.

The remark came when Takumi Nemoto was asked to comment on a petition by a group of women who want the government to ban workplaces from requiring female jobseekers and employees to wear high heels.

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‘The models have bellies, hips and thighs that jiggle’: the rise of body-positive swimwear

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 03:44

From larger-cup bikinis to modest beachwear, fashion is finally beginning to cater for a range of women’s bodies

If there’s one thing Sasha Khan loathes, it is shopping for swimwear. Which makes it a strange coincidence that, on the day we speak, Khan has just been bikini shopping. “I buy swimwear about once every 10 years,” she says. The 23-year-old charity worker from London is flying to Ibiza tomorrow. “I always put it off. I hate it. It’s like having to go to the dentist or get your eyes tested.”

The reason Khan hates bikini shopping is because she is a size 10-12, with a 32FF bust, and few retailers design swimwear for women with relatively narrow backs and larger cup sizes. Khan isn’t alone. “I heard at least two or three other people in the changing rooms today saying: ‘Oh God, I can never find anything.’”

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Women born in 1950s take fight against rising pension age to court

Wed, 06/05/2019 - 02:33

BackTo60 group says women were not given time to adjust to new retirement age

Women born in the 1950s whose retirement age was increased from 60 to 65 have gone to court seeking a judicial review of how the government raised the retirement age and to try to force the government to repay their lost pensions.

Nearly 4 million women have been forced to wait up to an extra six years to get their pensions after changes to bring women’s retirement age into line with men’s.

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Miley Cyrus speaks out against man who groped her in public

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 22:35

Pop star says a woman ‘can be wearing what she wants … She can’t be grabbed without her consent’

Miley Cyrus has spoken out after a man grabbed and kissed her following a festival performance in Barcelona last weekend. She posted footage of the incident to her Instagram and Twitter feeds, which shows the man grabbing at her hair, then pulling her towards him by wrapping his arm around her neck, and kissing her head. Clearly rattled, she breaks free and moves quickly away.

Captioning the footage, Cyrus wrote: “She can be wearing what she wants. She can be a virgin. She can be sleeping with 5 different people. She can be with her husband. She can be with her girlfriend. She can be naked. She CAN’T be grabbed without her consent. #DontFuckWithMyFreedom.”

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The Derry Girls are right – a boycott won’t change Northern Ireland abortion law | Anna Cafolla

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 21:00

Concentrating on entertainment industry boycotts only lets politicians off the hook and hurts those who can least afford it

“You can be sure I will fight tooth and nail to move Insatiable to a state that will protect our rights,” Alyssa Milano said recently, referencing her Netflix series that currently films in Georgia. From Orange is the New Black’s Uzo Aduba and Laverne Cox, to Don Cheadle, Amy Schumer and Alec Baldwin, the threat of Georgia’s “heartbeat bill” – which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, around six weeks into pregnancy – has galvanised actors, activists and the creative industries to boycott the state.

Related: Abortion law 'harsher in Northern Ireland than in Alabama'

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The taboo around menstruation and menopause doesn't only hurt women | Karen Pickering

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 15:59

We all came from the same place: a uterus. Demeaning and despising the process that gives us life diminishes everyone

Telling people you’re writing a book on menstruation and menopause is a great litmus test for the strength of the menstrual taboo. Most often, people skip a beat and force a weird smile, before saying something non-committal like “good for you”. Or they laugh nervously (especially men) and say, “Oh wow, OK, not something I know too much about ha ha ha.” They rarely say, “I am completely disgusted by this” but you can usually tell if there’s a reluctance to delve deeper, or a squick factor at work.

Conversely, other people (mostly women) practically pin me down and launch into their own TED talk comprised of every thought they have ever had about periods. I love it when this happens, but I also sense a desperation that comes from me giving permission. “I’ve been DYING to talk about this” is a common refrain. And I know what they mean. Outside of close friendships, it can still feel a little risque to bring up menstruation and menopause in “polite” conversation.

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Men built this system. No wonder gender equality remains as far off as ever | Ellie Mae O’Hagan

Tue, 06/04/2019 - 00:30

With not a single country on track to achieve gender parity by 2030, it’s clear that radical overhaul is required

I’m not going to lie; it’s annoying to start one’s week with the news that no country in the entire world is set to achieve gender equality by 2030. Given that our world leaders seem to continually miss targets on every measure put forward to improve things, from climate change to poverty, I’m starting to suspect they don’t really care about anything.

In any case, the UN reports that all but 10 countries have men as heads of government, so I’m tempted to paraphrase Greta Thunberg: we’re not here for you to tell us what you consider is politically possible in the society that you have created. The modern world was created by men, and it shows. The pay gap remains 23%; women are more likely to be in vulnerable work; we have less access to financial institutions; we’re less likely to have workplace protections and benefits; and we spend 2.5 times more of our time on unpaid work – in fact, women do so much unpaid work that if it were paid, it would account for between 10% and 39% of GDP.

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US abortion policy is 'extremist hate' and 'torture', says UN commissioner

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 20:00

Trump administration’s ban on terminations is a crisis directed at women, warns Kate Gilmore

The US policy on abortion is a form of extremist hate that amounts to the torture of women, the UN deputy high commissioner for human rights told the Guardian.

The attack on women’s rights was a “crisis”, organised and well-resourced by very extremist groups.

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Lies pave the way for anti-abortion laws. To defeat the laws we must fight the lies | Rebecca Solnit

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 09:07

A wave of new laws banning and restricting abortion could not have been passed without misleading the public about what abortion actually is

Anti-abortion laws are built on anti-abortion lies. Lies about things like who has abortions, how abortions work, how women’s bodies work and how fetuses develop. The lies pave the way for the laws.

There are the old lies, like the ones suggesting that the women having abortions are careless hussies (51% of abortions are to women who were using contraception; 59% are to women who are already mothers; 75% are to poor and low-income women). Lately, there’s a huge new lie making the rounds, that women and doctors are conspiring to kill babies at birth and calling it abortion. This is a lie that encourages conservatives to regard pregnant women and medical caregivers as potential ruthless killers who should be hemmed in with yet more laws targeting them. While a lot of older abortion lies were distortions and exaggerations, this one is a complete and dangerous fabrication.

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Why UK feminists should embrace sex worker rights | Kate Hardy

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 03:47

Sex workers are at the coalface of gender injustice. In Argentina, they are central to the feminist movement

Puta Feminista” (Feminist Whore) reads the banner taped to the wall, as women stream through the door at the Casa Roja. Freshly painted, the bright red casa is in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of Constitución, in the heart of the red-light district. After today, it will be the new centre for Ammar – the Argentina’s Women’s Sex Workers’ Union.

On any one day, up to 200 women arrive – morning, noon and night – to find clients on the corners of the neighbourhood. Lilian, 55, has been a sex worker for 20 years. She stopped working, but has been forced to return to the streets of Constitución to make ends meet. “We’re in the midst of a total crisis,” she says. “We used to work four to five hours a day. Now it’s 12, including on Saturdays and Sundays, just to cover the basic necessities.” Dramatic inflation (which reached nearly 50% last year), combined with a reduction in subsidies by the rightwing government under Mauricio Macri and at the behest of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), have sent the cost of basic foodstuffs, electricity and water spiralling. A third of the population are living in poverty.

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#KuToo: Japanese women submit anti-high heels petition

Mon, 06/03/2019 - 00:27

Campaigners urge government to ban employers from forcing footwear on female staff

A group of Japanese women have submitted a petition to the government to protest against what they say is a de facto requirement for female staff to wear high heels at work.

The KuToo campaign – a play on words from the Japanese kutsu, meaning shoes, and kutsuu, meaning pain – was launched by the actor and freelance writer Yumi Ishikawa and quickly won support online.

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Not one single country set to achieve gender equality by 2030

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 18:00

The first global index measuring efforts to end gender inequality finds countries are not doing enough to improve women’s lives

No country in the world is on track to achieve gender equality by 2030, according to the first index to measure progress against a set of internationally agreed targets.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the index, launched on Monday, “should serve as a wake-up call to the world”.

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The Guardian view on Artemisia Gentileschi on tour: the people’s painting | Editorial

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 07:49
An innovative scheme by the National Gallery has seen a new and prized possession displayed in public buildings across the country

When the National Gallery in London acquired a portrait by the great 17th-century artist Artemisia Gentileschi in 2018, the institution asked itself how this remarkable work, showing the painter in the guise of Saint Catherine of Alexandria, might help it fulfil its role as a truly national museum. The gallery has a long history of lending to other institutions. But once it was restored and ready to display, was there anything else it could do?

The answer was yes. The painting has been on a tour, unprecedented for a British museum, that has so far taken in a girls’ secondary school in Newcastle, a GP practice in East Yorkshire, a women’s prison in Surrey and the Glasgow Women’s Library. Its last stop, before returning to Trafalgar Square this summer, is a library in the London borough of Waltham Forest. The idea has been to bring the painting to people who would not, or could not, normally encounter it – taking art to the people rather than inviting the people to art.

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Bluetooth your bladder: the hi-tech way to beat incontinence

Sun, 06/02/2019 - 04:00
Urinary leakage affects millions of women, who have often suffered in silence. That may change with Elvie, a new way to strengthen the pelvic floor – involving an app

There are nappies in my wardrobe, but I have no children nor a sexual fetish. Instead, I have a problem shared by millions of women (and some men): I cannot always control my bladder as well as I want to, no matter how many toilet visits I have made beforehand. I have incontinence, and I am not alone: in the UK, up to 40% of women have incontinence at some point, either because they have given birth or are menopausal, because of genetics, or simply because of age. Up to 70% of expectant and new mothers experience incontinence, and a quarter of men over 40 – though, given how shameful it is thought to be, the figures are likely to be conservative. We mask, we hide, we cope.

The pelvic floor – a sling of muscles stretching from the tailbone to the pubic bone – supports the bladder, bowel and womb. These muscles are meant to contract to stopper any flow of urine. (The muscles are also sometimes referred to as a “trampoline” – a sour joke for women who know trampolining is a sure way to wet pants.)

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The trouble with ‘woke’ ads is they’re just another cliché

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 22:00

The advertising industry has got the body-imaging message, now they’re trying to sell it back to us

Every now and then it’s important, isn’t it, to take the temperature of where we are with the whole “feminism” project. Specifically in relation to women’s bodies – these soft maps where international politics plays out daily, from the way they’re criminalised by the men controlling anti-abortion laws to our evolving body-image crisis, now entering its late stages.

At the beginning of the new Boots advert, we watch two women watch an advert, a Protein World-style video of a hot bikini girl asking: “Are you summer ready?” But these are modern women, able to dissect and name the clichés that have rained and then hailed down on them since puberty. So instead of doubling over with shame and regret, they laugh. After a slick of lip balm and spritz of hair stuff, they saunter across a beach, past a disapproving model-type, before, with brave Thelma and Louise-esque grimaces, throwing off their sarongs to dance gleefully in the sea. The slogan appears: “Let’s feel good about summer.”

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My friends’ husbands keep hitting on me. How can I stop them? | Dear Mariella

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 19:00

It’s reassuring to know that our allure doesn’t fade with age, says Mariella, and while it may actually be the opposite, it’s hard to know what’s prompted this epidemic of lust

The dilemma I’m a 60-year-old grey-haired woman, reasonably fit and not ugly, but not particularly beautiful. I don’t wear sexy clothing and I can’t fill a double-A bra. I’ve never been tempted to cheat on my husband of 30+ years. But the husbands of my girlfriends keep hitting on me. Two nights ago, one of these husbands had his hands all over me while my husband and his wife were in the same room. I didn’t want to make a scene that would upset the friendly relationships among the couples. I don’t want to lose my girlfriend’s friendship, which is extremely important to me, and I don’t want my husband to get angry with her husband. This is not the first time. The same thing happened with another couple, and after I told my husband about the man’s advances, all communication between both husbands and both wives ended. What am I doing wrong? How can I stay close to my girlfriends and enjoy going out as couples with our husbands without having them hit on me?

Mariella replies Nice problem to have. Swatting off amorous men is no hardship at any age so long as they are prepared to take no for an answer. Thanks for pointing out that there is nothing about you that anyone should find attractive. Grey hair, post-menopausal, small breasts and sensible clothes – what’s to like? Or could it be that our entrenched assumptions about sexual attraction are inaccurate? It’s very easy to feel that we live in a world where unless you’re cosmetically enhanced or blessed with a Baywatch body your ability to find a partner will forever be compromised. But looking around there’s way too much evidence that the opposite is true.

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Childfree by choice: stop telling me I'll change my mind later

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 10:00

Saying a woman will regret it returns to the idea of motherhood as the natural position and anything else as deviant

At work a while back, I was complaining that the air-con – usually set to subzero – was turned up to practically balmy. No one else agreed; my mate reached for the emergency nanna rug we keep in the office.

“Huh,” I said. “Must be the menopause.”

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Seriously, Meryl Streep? 'Toxic masculinity' doesn't hurt men – it kills them | Arwa Mahdawi

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 02:00

In America, men are 3.5 times more likely to die from suicide than women, and many experts say it’s because they’re told not to express emotions

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

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Threat to Missouri abortion clinic leaves neighboring providers scrambling

Fri, 05/31/2019 - 20:00

With reproductive rights under aggressive attack, clinics across state lines are bracing for an influx of women seeking care

Dr Erin King felt a weight lift off her shoulders – at least for a few minutes.

The executive director of Hope Clinic in Granite City, Illinois had spent a week “scrambling” to prepare for an influx of patients from St Louis – just about a 10-minute drive across the Mississippi River – as Missouri threatened to close its last legal abortion provider by the end of the week at midnight.

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