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Mrs Obama made a great job of being first spouse. But why the need to play consort? | Catherine Bennett

Sat, 11/24/2018 - 20:09
Whatever its dubious benefits, the public role of political partner is oppressive – and redundant

Reading Michelle Obama’s Becoming made me think – intermittently – about Philip May’s bins. As in: was that the last time we heard from him? And if so, is that solitary TV appearance, along with some tweedy churchgoing and posing with walking poles – to be his legacy as prime minister’s consort? Is that – with time plainly running out – it?

Failing some last-minute contributions, May has proved, from an entertainment, news and thus satirical point of view, a dismayingly unco-operative dud of a first spouse. And it’s not as if anyone anticipated amusement up there with Brigitte Macron’s state visit showstoppers, or Samantha Cameron in the fish shop or, earlier, Cherie Blair, in the days when she sized-up property with a conman and shared details of her fertility highs and lows.

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UK pledges £50m 'to end female genital mutilation by 2030'

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 11:18

Money will go to grassroots programmes across Africa in bid to protect millions of girls currently at risk of being cut

The UK government is to invest £50m in an attempt to end female genital mutilation by 2030, claiming it is the biggest single investment to tackle the issue by an international donor.

The money, announced on Friday, will go to grassroots programmes working to stop the practice across Africa, where prevalence is highest. Penny Mordaunt, international development secretary, said the investment was key to also ending FGM in the UK.

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Little Mix: these issues of body shaming needed exposure | Gaby Hinsliff

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 07:37

Piers Morgan, please take note. The naked hostility to the band’s Strip photoshoot shows why their message still matters

There are few things more terrifying than being stripped naked in public.

That’s why anxiety dreams so often do away with clothes, and nudity tends to be reserved for people we trust. Going starkers in front of strangers is, then, a brave move. But can it ever be an empowering one?

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People keep asking why I don’t have children. I don’t know what to say

Fri, 11/23/2018 - 05:00

Resist the urge to over-explain yourself, says Annalisa Barbieri – you have nothing to apologise for

I’m a middle-aged woman, and many women I meet ask if I have children. I do not. They often ask why not, but I cannot tell them. The real reason is because I am a failure, both personally and professionally, and have been for most of my life. There are many causes – a mental health condition that it would be immoral to pass on, a date rape, an abusive relationship, a promising career destroyed by both the economy and my own poor decisions. I have discussed some of these issues with the couple of women I have known for many years. Hopefully you will understand why I do not wish to discuss them with those of short acquaintances, but I do want to make friends with them (I lack a regular, nearby support network). How do I tell them to get their noses out of my private business while still saying, hey, let’s be friends?

You need to be kinder to yourself. You are not a failure. Living with a mental health condition and surviving a date rape and an abusive relationship does not make you a failure – how could it? I can’t comment on whether you have made wrong decisions in your career, but if you have, that wouldn’t make you unusual. Some great conclusions have been reached on a path of bad choices. So the reason for you not having children, I would argue, is because you are a survivor, not a failure. You chose not to have them. That is commendable. Every day I receive letters highlighting the damage wrought on children by people who went into parenthood without such cogent thought.

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UK pledges £50m to help end FGM across Africa by 2030

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 23:44

Officials say funding is biggest investment in tackling practice and helping vulnerable girls

The British government is to invest £50m in an attempt to end female genital mutilation by 2030, claiming it is the single biggest investment to tackle the issue by an international donor.

The money, announced on Friday, will go to grassroots programmes working to stop the practice across Africa, where it is most prevalent. Penny Mordaunt, international development secretary, said the investment was also key to ending FGM in the UK.

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South Korean women destroy makeup (and smash the patriarchy) – video

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 21:15

Beauty standards in South Korea can be so oppressive that women are criticised for wearing glasses on TV and one in three young women have had plastic surgery. But a new movement is trying to change this – one destroyed lipstick at a time

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Fifth of 17 to 19-year-old girls self-harm or attempt suicide

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 10:35

Biggest research into young people’s mental health for 13 years shows one in 10 boys also affected

A fifth of girls aged 17-19 and one in 10 boys the same age have self-harmed or tried to kill themselves, the biggest research into young people’s mental health for 13 years has found.

Experts said the figures were “deeply worrying” and raised serious questions about the damage that social media, pressures to look good, and sexual violence were doing to the mental welfare of young women in England.

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Goldman Sachs offers London staff emergency nannies

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 04:36

Subsidised care is part of the bank’s attempt to cut its 55% gender pay gap

Goldman Sachs is offering London staff emergency nannies to look after unwell children and elderly care in the bank’s latest incentive aimed at reducing its gender pay gap.

An extension to the US investment bank’s backup care programme was announced to employees last week, and includes nanny care at home for “mildly ill” children and the same for dependent adult family members with mobility issues or who need help unexpectedly.

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Ariana Grande criticises Piers Morgan over nudity comments

Thu, 11/22/2018 - 00:08

Chart-topping star responded on Twitter to Morgan’s complaints about Little Mix’s nude photoshoot

Ariana Grande has criticised Piers Morgan after he made disparaging comments about a nude photoshoot by the band Little Mix.

The group of female musicians posed naked and their bodies were painted with criticisms they had faced, such as “ugly” and “talentless”. It was a similar photoshoot to one in 2003 by the country trio Dixie Chicks. Morgan criticised Little Mix for the similarity, writing on Twitter that they “stole this idea”, and that Jesy Nelson of the group “looks ridiculous … she should put some clothes on”.

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Starvation diets, obsessive training and no plus-size models: Victoria’s Secret sells a dangerous fantasy

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 23:18

The brand’s annual show is a worldwide TV event, but former Angels are starting to reveal the uncomfortable truth about the lingerie giant

A woman stands on stage and cries. In the auditorium, another woman’s partner gives a standing ovation, his hand on his heart. One mother gushes that she is “so proud” of her daughter. Another goes further: “So much admiration for all your hard work and dedication to being the best version of yourself and making your dreams come true.”

We are told that these women are “athletes”, that they are in “peak condition”, that they are “aggressively fit”. But this is not the Olympics or the Paralympics. There are no medals to be won. This is a lingerie show.

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‘US is moving backwards’: female genital mutilation ruling a blow to girls at risk

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 21:00

Campaigners say ruling will affect tens of thousands of girls, and could turn the 23 US states that do not have anti-FGM laws into ‘destination states’ for cutting

A historic ruling that declared unconstitutional a US law banning female genital mutilation (FGM), and dropped key charges against practitioners was an “outrageous” blow to the rights of tens of thousands of girls at risk of the abuse, according to campaigners.

Related: US law banning female genital mutilation declared unconstitutional

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Juries have no place in rape trials. They simply can’t be trusted | Julie Bindel

Wed, 11/21/2018 - 03:29
Myths about rape are so widely believed by the public that their ability to deliver justice is compromised

The conviction rates for rape have long been shockingly low. This is what has led one Labour MP, Ann Coffey, today to suggest doing away with juries in rape trials.

I support this. Prevailing rape myths, such as “she was asking for it”, “he’s handsome, and does not ‘need’ to rape”, and “if she didn’t want it she would close her legs”, can poison the mind of a juror against the complainant, whatever the evidence against the defendant. Women and girls are routinely blamed for being raped, which means the perpetrator, even when it is abundantly clear that he is guilty, is too often absolved. That is how patriarchy works: keep females in a constant state of fear of male violence, and then put the responsibility for it firmly on their shoulders.

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Marks & Spencer accused of sexism over 'fancy knickers' display

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 22:54

Retailer criticised as Christmas window defaced by women’s rights campaigners

Marks & Spencer has become embroiled in a sexism row after its window dressers displayed women’s “must-have fancy little knickers” next to men’s “must-have outfits to impress”.

The display in Nottingham town centre was defaced by campaigners who changed the women’s underwear slogan to “must have full human rights”.

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Conservatives launch campaign to help low-paid women

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 22:09

Penny Mordaunt to unveil initiative to help ‘every woman in UK do whatever she wants to do’

The government’s equalities department is to switch its focus away from getting high-paid women on company boards and towards helping lower-paid and unskilled women, Penny Mordaunt, the women and equalities minister, has announced.

Mordaunt will claim on Wednesday that there has been significant progress in closing the gender pay gap and getting more female executives on company boards, but women with poor skills and low levels of English were being left behind.

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Scrap juries in rape trials, Labour MP suggests

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 14:01

Ann Coffey to call for urgent inquiry to avoid ‘perfect storm’ where juries are reluctant to convict young men

Juries may need to be scrapped in rape trials because of the dominance of rape myths in society and “shockingly low” charging and conviction rates, the House of Commons will hear.

In a debate in parliament on Wednesday, Ann Coffey will call for an urgent independent inquiry into what she describes as “the crisis engulfing the criminal justice system’s approach to rape cases”. The Labour MP for Stockport will ask the government to examine whether juries are the best way to deliver justice in rape cases.

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The World Chess Championship is thrilling. But where are the women? | Alisha Matthewson-Grand

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 04:27

The focus on male stars such as Magnus Carlsen obscures the brilliance of female chess players. It’s time to raise their profile

This was the year that I, a lapsed chess fan, rediscovered my love for the game. You can’t fault my timing, for 2018’s World Chess Championship match between defending Magnus Carlsen and the challenger Fabiano Caruana is shaping up to be a close one. Yet my excitement (yes, chess can be exciting) is somewhat dulled by the continued lack of female representation at the world championship. The tournament is technically open to all, but not once in its 132-year history has the competition been won by a woman (though Judit Polgar competed in 2005).

Related: Magnus Carlsen springs Game 8 escape thanks to Fabiano Caruana's false step

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Eccentric women: why they are more important than ever in our oppressive era

Tue, 11/20/2018 - 02:00

From Janelle Monáe to Tilda Swinton, unconventional women are having a moment. In an age threatened by groupthink and strongman politics, they provide an essential antidote

Crazy. Feisty. Bolshy. Bossy. Hysterical. Sassy. Shrill. Spinster. Cat woman. Hag. Cougar. Frigid. Slut. Bitch. The English language has no end of words to describe women who don’t behave the way they are supposed to. They are all derogatory and almost none of them have a male equivalent. The most complimentary thing you can hope to be called if you are a woman who doesn’t conform to societal expectations is the E-word: eccentric.

While the idea of eccentricity is nebulous, it is an important barometer of society and women’s place within it. “The amount of eccentricity in a society has generally been proportional to the amount of genius, mental vigour and moral courage it contained,” wrote John Stuart Mill in 1859. If that is the case, then I think we should be incredibly excited by the loud and proud display of feminist vigour running through popular culture. From Janelle Monáe rocking very unsubtle vagina trousers in the music video for her song Pynk to Marina Abramović’s provocative performance art, and TV shows such as Killing Eve and Sally4Ever that revel in weird women, female eccentricity is having a moment.

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Government reveals sweeping changes to boost women's economic security

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 10:30

Women fleeing domestic violence to get early access to superannuation, no-interest loans and may no longer have to face alleged perpetrators

Women fleeing domestic and family abuse situations will have early access to their superannuation, be eligible for no-interest loans and in many cases no longer have to face alleged perpetrators in cross-examination, under sweeping changes instigated by the minister for women, Kelly O’Dwyer.

O’Dwyer, one of the only women in the Liberal party to self-identify as a feminist, had previously stated she believed sexual harassment to be an economic issue.

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Cleavage is not offensive, but outrage about it certainly is | Chitra Ramaswamy

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 05:45

BBC Africa blurred a woman’s breasts over concern about the reaction in conservative countries. Such censorship objectifies female bodies

There is so much causing offence right now. Take your pick from Tory in-fighting about the draft Brexit deal; the discovery that Facebook employed a PR firm to undermine critics by claiming, among other things, that they were agents of the billionaire political donor George Soros; and whatever the president of the US said most recently. But sweep aside such everyday barbarities for a moment to consider where a woman’s cleavage falls on your personal umbrage scale. Is it more offensive to you than, say, the thought of Dominic Raab and Boris Johnson vying for Tory leadership? What upsets you more: the UN poverty envoy’s conclusion that the UK government has inflicted “great misery” on its people with its “punitive” and “callous” austerity policies, or the space between a woman’s breasts?

Executives at BBC Africa deemed cleavage objectionable enough to warrant blurring out, which has yet to happen to any number of offence-inducing politicians. In a documentary entitled Fake Me: Living for Likes, a Kenyan social media star called Glamour Pam was interviewed in Nairobi about her love of Instagram. During the interview, her “chest” was “muzzed”, to borrow the unintentionally hilarious words of one report. This is how we talk about women in the 21st century.

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Damien Hirst's gigantic uteruses are a bold correction to shocking ignorance | Hannah Clugston

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 05:17

Why the outrage? Hirst’s sculptures of uteruses for Qatar are a rare celebration of women’s bodies – vividly quashing art’s tendency to sanitise birth

As a child, I remember asking my mum where babies came from. Whatever she said left me with the distinct impression that it involved her eating some sort of magic egg. Later, after my sister was born, I drew a picture of a woman in a delightfully patterned dress, beaming as a baby popped down from between her legs. The “labour” of labour had clearly not been made known to me. The whole affair was shrouded in mystery.

In my 14 years in the education system I learned scarcely more of the female anatomy. It’s only with the arrival of apps such as Hormone Horoscope and Natural Cycles that I have finally managed to fathom out what that mystical “cycle” really means. And what a revelation it was to discover that what we refer to as the vagina is actually the vulva!

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