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Why Carrie Symonds is the embodiment of the Boris Johnson brand

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 00:00

Greenish and economically rightwing, No 10’s first live-in girlfriend is recognisable to many young Tories, and legitimises Johnson as a lustful law unto himself

Carrie Symonds is not some ingenue blond playmate of a rich and powerful older man. It is almost worse than that. As the partner of the new prime minister, she has become the visible authentication of the Boris Johnson brand: that’s Boris the priapic, convention-busting, law-unto-himself, human bulldozer; a man of as many conflicting opinions as wives and mistresses and more children than principles. For him, moving his girlfriend into Downing Street while he is still married to someone else is one more way of saying that the normal rules don’t apply.

I’m only guessing, but it seems realistic to assume that Symonds knows all this and is ready for the role as the first ever live-in girlfriend at No 10. She is in the communications business herself, after all. She did eight years at Conservative party headquarters, peaking with a year as boss of party communications. Hardly a role she’s likely to submit for the public affairs category of PR Week’s 2019 awards, but then, in the lipstick-on-a-pig challenge, selling the Tories after the catastrophe of the 2017 general election must come pretty near the top.

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It is inevitable that NSW's archaic abortion laws go into the dustbin of history | Mehreen Faruqi

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 17:45

Women in New South Wales have been campaigning for reproductive rights for so long. It’s time politicians listen

It’s been just over two years since my bill to fully decriminalise abortion was defeated in the upper house of New South Wales parliament. The anger and disbelief of those present in the public gallery that day is etched in my memory. Women of all generations were overcome with emotion, outraged that even in the 21st century, politicians would vote to deny them their reproductive rights.

While disappointed, I knew this moment was not the end of our campaign, but an essential milestone in putting this long neglected issue squarely on the political radar. Once the silence was broken, it was inevitable that NSW’s archaic abortion laws would go into the dustbin of history sooner rather than later. That time is now here.

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NSW abortion bill: Alex Greenwich hits back at claims of 'unrestricted' terminations

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 14:48

Conservatives opposed to historic reform should do their homework, independent says

The architect of a historic bill to decriminalise abortion in New South Wales has hit out at opponents of the legislation, after a conservative MP wrongly claimed the bill would allow unrestricted abortion “until the moment of birth”.

The independent MP for Sydney, Alex Greenwich, tabled the bill on Thursday after it was delayed by a week by resistance within the Coalition government.

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Sorry men, but we are still the slackest of the sexes | Greg Jericho

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 08:00

However you want to cut it, it is clear that women are the workers of the nation. And most of it is unpaid

One of the biggest holes in any economic discussion is the lack of accounting for unpaid work.

Housework and taking care of your children does not bring a wage, nor appear in the GDP figures, yet of course were you to pay someone to do those tasks it most definitely would. The latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (Hilda) survey, released on Tuesday, shows that this work is overwhelmingly done by women and at levels that really should shame men in this country.

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Shana Grice was killed by her ex-boyfriend – and thoroughly let down by the police

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 07:18
It is commonplace for women to placate those who may harm or kill them. Until the police recognise this, more women will be at risk

Of all the horrific details of teenager Shana Grice’s murder by her ex-boyfriend in 2016 – her reporting him to authorities five times over six months, her throat being slit in her bedroom and his attempts to burn her body afterwards – there is another that particularly disturbs. Grice was fined £90 by Sussex police for wasting police time, after it emerged she initially failed to disclose that she had previously been in a relationship with her eventual killer.

On Tuesday, a misconduct panel found that former officer Trevor Godfrey’s behaviour amounted to a breach of police rules. But, during the two-day hearing, he maintained that in the lead-up to her death, Grice wasn’t being harassed as she had sent her ex texts punctuated with kisses. He also claimed she had lied as a “smokescreen to disguise her affair”, so her new boyfriend did not find out that she was still seeing her ex; Godfrey considered the latter relationship to be consensual.

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Cambridge sexual misconduct rule change branded 'unlawful'

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 19:00

Two students have lost internal means of pursuing complaints of sexual assault and rape

Lawyers and women’s groups have condemned a decision by Cambridge University to not investigate some students’ complaints of sexual misconduct, including rape, warning it was potentially unlawful.

Their comments came after a ruling this summer that sexual misconduct should no longer be covered by the university’s general disciplinary regulations for students.

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Boris Johnson dropping the Mark Field investigation is an insult to women | Sian Norris

Tue, 07/30/2019 - 01:59

The MP could have been held to account for manhandling a protester. Instead it looks like powerful men are yet again closing ranks

When I watched the video of Mark Field’s actions against the Greenpeace protester Janet Barker, I had a visceral reaction. Tears rushed into my eyes when confronted with the rage in his expression, the shock on her face. I wasn’t alone. Many women I spoke to saw the assertion of a brutal kind of male dominance. Some knew all too well the moment when a man aggressively decides that an outspoken woman must be put in her place.

For those of us who know the reality of male violence against women, this looked like a moment when a pervasive culture of male entitlement escaped into the open.

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Don’t worry, prime minister – women have got your message, loud and clear

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 20:00
By dropping the investigation into Mark Field, Boris Johnson is showing just where his priorities lie

We saw it. We didn’t just hear it. It wasn’t a “domestic”; that euphemism for the way men terrorise women every day. We saw Mark Field, the MP for Cities of London and Westminster, with his red face and bulging angry eyes, push a female activist up against a wall, put his hand around the back of her neck and then manhandle her out of a posh dinner. He later said he thought she might have been armed.

There needs to be no further investigation into Field’s behaviour, according to our new prime minister. The case has been dropped. New broom and all; just don’t hit me with it. Boris Johnson, of course, had to face down his own behaviour when the police were called because of an incident between him and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds. We don’t know what happened, except that the police did not take any action. Then, there was a picture of them sitting in a field. What more is there to say, except we also know there is a recording of Johnson conspiring with a friend to get a journalist beaten up? But what’s a few cracked ribs?

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NSW abortion decriminalisation delayed after conservatives resist

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 19:30

Bill with cross-party support was due to be introduced on Tuesday, but Coalition conservatives complain it has been rushed

A bill to decriminalise abortion in New South Wales has been delayed by a week after resistance from the conservative wing of the Coalition government.

The historic bill, co-sponsored by 15 MPs from across the political divide, had been due to be introduced into the parliament on Tuesday before being debated this week.

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Children in Pacific suffer 'shockingly high' levels of violence, report finds

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 18:23

Aid organisations call out ‘dramatic underinvestment’ by Australia and other donors in tackling ‘endemic’ problem

Violence against children in the Pacific region has reached “endemic” levels, with children subject to brutal physical discipline in the home, as well as sexual violence, a new report has found.

More than 4 million children across the region had experienced violent discipline in the home and in Papua New Guinea 27% of parents or caregivers used physical punishment “over and over as hard as they could”, the report by leading NGOs working in the region found.

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Let men be free to admit vulnerability | Letter

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 06:50
Responding to Lucy Mangan’s review of I Am Nicola, Susan Seager argues that Adam’s failure to make his partner happy does not make him a monster

I was struck by a possibly generational divide in my response to I Am Nicola, awarded five stars by Lucy Mangan (23 July). I cannot deny the acting was impressive and it was an absorbing 60 minutes, but I cannot agree that Adam is a controlling monster.

He is tormented by jealousy and insecurity – common human failings – but he admits he has a problem and expresses the desire to change.

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Not one of the Fortnite World Cup's 100 finalists was a woman. Why? | Keith Stuart

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 00:59

The esports industry must attract female pro players to avoid replicating the sexism that blights other sports

This weekend the best Fortnite players in the world gathered at Flushing Meadows in New York to compete in the game’s first ever World Cup Finals for $30m (£24m) in prize money. Tens of thousands of spectators packed the famed Arthur Ashe stadium to watch the action live, and many millions more viewed on Twitch and YouTube. Fortnite is, after all, one of the biggest entertainment brands on the planet, played by hundreds of millions. Amid all the hype and fanfare around the finals, however, one depressing fact remained unavoidable: not a single one of the 100 finalists was female.

Despite the growing popularity of professional gaming throughout the world – the audience figures for competitive gaming have reached 450m this year – female competitors remain scarce. There certainly are high-profile examples of female pros – trans woman Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn is one of the most successful Starcraft II players in the world; Katherine “Mystik” Gunn is the industry’s highest-paid female pro gamer and won the SyFy channel’s reality TV show WCG Ultimate Gamer; and Fortnite has stars such as One_Shot_Gurl and Loeya. But you could watch a year of big tournaments, whether it’s Call of Duty, League of Legends or Hearthstone, and count the number of female competitors on the fingers of one hand.

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Anti-abortion group uses US federal grants to push controversial fertility app

Sun, 07/28/2019 - 19:00

Femm app, which sows doubt about the pill, promoted by Obria group that was awarded $1.7m by Trump administration

US federal grants intended to help poor women obtain contraceptives are being used to promote a menstruation tracking app funded and operated by anti-birth control and anti-abortion campaigners.

The Femm app sows doubt about the birth control pill and promotes itself as a natural way for women to “avoid or achieve” pregnancy. The app collects women’s most intimate data, including details on menstruation, sex, mood and prescription drugs. Its developers say it has been downloaded more than 400,000 times.

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Sunbathing topless should be a pleasure we can all enjoy | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Sun, 07/28/2019 - 19:00
Younger women are covering up on the beach for fear of harassment, suggests a recent report. That’s a sad state of affairs

According to a survey of 5,000 women by the French Institute for Public Opinion, the number who regularly sunbathe topless has fallen sharply over the past three years, from 29% to 19%. Digging into the figures, it emerges that the #MeToo movement has been an influence, with women between 18 and 25 citing harassment and ogling. No doubt the fear of unwanted photographs ending up on the internet also plays a part in persuading young women to keep their bikini tops on when they go to the beach.

It’s all a little bit sad. Since Brigitte Bardot became famed for it on Riviera beaches in the 1960s, topless sunbathing on the Côte d’Azur has occupied a rather romantic place in the Anglo-Saxon cultural mindset, tinged with nostalgia for the iconography of the sexual liberation movement. For me and other women growing up in a culture of British discomfort with all things bodily, these confident French women in Cannes or St Tropez seemed glamorous and worldly.

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NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian will support a bill to decriminalise abortion

Sun, 07/28/2019 - 18:20

Coalition MPs will be given a conscience vote on the bill, which is being co-sponsored by politicians from five parties

More than a dozen MPs including the health minister Brad Hazzard will co-sponsor a bill to decriminalise abortion in New South Wales, which already has the support of premier Gladys Berejiklian.

In an unprecedented show of support, the reproductive healthcare reform bill 2019 will feature the names of 15 MPs from five different parties when it is tabled in the state parliament by the independent MP Alex Greenwich this week.

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A controlling woman in our lives is turning my girlfriend against me

Sat, 07/27/2019 - 19:00

The best way to react is to do absolutely nothing, says Mariella Frostrup

The dilemma My girlfriend and I have been together for four years. A year ago we moved from London to a smaller city where we met a woman in a bar who seemed eager to become friends. As time went on it became apparent that she often lures men and women in relationships to have sex. It wasn’t long before she made advances towards me, which I rejected. Since then she has turned nasty and ignores me. She is also verbally toxic towards others. My girlfriend has suffered from mental illness and struggles with guilt and shame. This means she has issues saying no to people. The woman has her buying her dinner and sharing information about our relationship – mainly to do with sex. She puts pressure on her to catch up many times a week. I’m trying to be supportive, but my girlfriend defends her and is sceptical of her coming on to me, saying I miss the attention. It feels as if she’s been reeled in and can’t see her behaviour is causing an issue. I’m starting to feel like a ranting boyfriend, which is making it worse.

Mariella replies Understandable. The annoying thing about partners is that all too often they completely disregard our opinions about friends and family. You’d think that sharing someone’s bed and life would put you in pole position to dictate, or at least influence, their choices, but when push comes to shove, all they plough is their own flawed furrow. I can feel your pain, but unfortunately there’s little I can do to assuage it.

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Female desire is all the rage. But are the stories still too driven by men? | Stephanie Merritt

Sat, 07/27/2019 - 07:51
Uncovering the mystery of women’s sexuality has become the hot topic in books, but old attitudes linger

What women want is a supposedly elusive mystery that has preoccupied writers for centuries. It’s the question posed to the rapist knight in Chaucer’s The Wife of Bath’s Tale, whose life depends on finding the “correct” answer. In the 2000 film What Women Want, knowing that was a telepathic gift magically bestowed on Mel Gibson’s sleazy ad executive by a freak accident, a sly suggestion that this is the only way a man could hope to understand the complexity of a woman’s desires.

Nancy Friday’s 1970s books, My Secret Garden and its successors, supposedly lifted the lid on women’s fantasies, sold millions of copies and were received as either groundbreakingly feminist or damagingly anti-feminist, depending on who you asked. EL James’s astronomically successful Fifty Shades trilogy was credited with opening up a conversation about sexual power dynamics while reinforcing the most depressingly traditional and reactionary of them.

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It's not a hate crime for a woman to feel uncomfortable waxing male genitalia | Arwa Mahdawi

Sat, 07/27/2019 - 02:00

16 complaints filed by a Canadian trans woman make a mockery of the hate crimes committed against trans people every day

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

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Why has the charge rate for rape fallen in England and Wales?

Fri, 07/26/2019 - 07:28

Always difficult to prosecute, cases now require police to sift through big volume of digital data

Fewer rape complaints resulted in a charge or summons last year, police figures show. The decline comes against a backdrop of falling prosecutions and a row about the amount of sensitive personal information requested from alleged victims of rape.

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The Guardian view on rape and the justice system: victims deserve more than this | Editorial

Fri, 07/26/2019 - 06:40
The number of reported rapes leading to a suspect being charged has fallen off a cliff, and boosting police numbers is not the solution

The criminal justice system has been failing victims of rape for a long time. From the initial reporting of a crime, through to investigation and trial, for decades women could expect to be on the receiving end – from police, lawyers, judges, juries and the wider public – of some combination of disrespect, distrust and scorn. This doesn’t mean that sympathy was always with the accused, or that justice was never done. But sexual mores and sexist prejudice combined to make the process of seeking justice an impossibly hard one.

To what extent we have left that world behind is not easy to say. The blame and shame attached to victims has lessened as attitudes to sexuality have become more liberal. Rape within marriage was made a crime in 1992. The number of recorded rapes has risen by 61% in four years – a change statisticians attribute to decreased stigma and better policing rather than a dramatic increase in crime. But when the proportion of such reports that lead to a suspect being charged is revealed to have plummeted to fewer than one in 65 (down from one in seven four years ago), the whole idea of progress is thrown into question. One prominent campaigner told the Guardian this week that “there is no meaningful access to justice for women”.

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