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The rape case in El Salvador shows what happens when hatred of women is enshrined in law

Mon, 11/12/2018 - 08:00

A 20-year-old woman has been imprisoned for 20 years for attempting to abort a baby conceived in a rape. It proves again that it is a deeply dangerous thing to be a woman in 2018

It is already a cliche to compare the treatment of women in whatever part of the world they happen to be under attack to the monstrosities imagined in The Handmaid’s Tale. (And when references to an unremittingly bleak feminist dystopia became banal, you are really in trouble.)

Then, a case like that of 20-year-old Imelda Cortez surfaces and its extremity, horror and breathtaking injustice blows everything else out of the water. What we are left with is the incontrovertible fact that, for many, it is a deeply dangerous thing to be a woman in 2018. This is what can, does and will continue to happen when the right to an abortion is removed entirely.

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Is it legal for your boss to make you wear a bra to work?

Sun, 11/11/2018 - 21:00

Many women dislike wearing bras, but is it inappropriate to go without? A lawyer explains women’s rights

A woman on Netmums recently waded into a question many bra-wearing women have pondered: why am I wearing this?

In a post titled “Can I get in trouble for not wearing a bra at work?”, a contributor wrote that she finds bras uncomfortable. “I am not doing this for attention,” she wrote. “It’s 2018 – I shouldn’t have to wear something because it will make people feel less uncomfortable, stop men looking or just because it’s the norm.”

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Planned Parenthood's new president warns of 'state of emergency' for women's health

Sun, 11/11/2018 - 20:00

Dr Leana Wen, who takes over as president of the US’s biggest reproductive healthcare institution this week, says she plans to expand services despite attacks

Dr Leana Wen takes over as president of Planned Parenthood – America’s biggest, best-funded and most vilified reproductive healthcare institution – at a time of unprecedented attacks on the organization’s values and work.

Last week, Alabama voters passed a fetal rights law; the Trump administration finalized rules to allow employers to opt out of health insurance requirements to provide birth control; and liberal women collectively held their breath as one of their champions – 85-year-old supreme court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, leader of the court’s liberal wing – was hospitalized with three cracked ribs.

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Boardroom boys still full of excuses for lack of equality

Sat, 11/10/2018 - 23:00
A government review into the shortage of female executives – due to make its final report this week – has exposed amazingly backward attitudes

Sunday is the day that, by rights, no one could really complain if women in the UK simply downed tools and put their feet up for the rest of the year. Equal Pay Day, which fell on Saturday, reflects the disparity between the wage deals enjoyed by men and women.

The gender pay gap may be at its lowest ever, but men still get paid 8.6% more on average than their female counterparts. Given that we are now 91.4% of the way through the year, why should women lift a finger again until 1 January? It’s fitting that Equal Pay Day should fall shortly before the final report of the government’s Hampton-Alexander review is released on Tuesday.

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Half of white women continue to vote Republican. What's wrong with them? | Moira Donegan

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 01:00

Some 53% of white women voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election – the real story of white women voters is both more grim and more complex than the figure reveals

For the past two years, the American left has been haunted by a number: 53. It is the percentage of white women who voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. In the sectors of the left where the figure and its implications have become a perennial theme, the number is treated both as disappointing and darkly unsurprising, a reflection of the conventional wisdom that white women would rather choose the racism espoused by the Republican party than join in the moral coalition represented by men of color and other women. On the left, this number can elicit exasperation, rage, and even suspicions about the moral legitimacy of the feminist project. It casts doubts on the political convictions of liberal white women, colors leftist perception of female-coded liberal political projects like the Women’s March, and has prompted long-overdue calls for increased political leadership by women of color.

The real story of white women voters is both more grim and more complex than the 53% figure reveals. The truth is that the 53% of white women who voted for Trump in the last presidential election was actually an improvement on even worse numbers from previous cycles. White women supported Mitt Romney at 56% in 2012, and supported George W Bush by 55% in 2004. Even these robust showings by Republican white women were down from their previous highs: Ronald Reagan won a staggering 62% of white women in 1984. All of these totals were lower than those for white men, who continue to support Republicans at alarming rates, but they were solid majorities nonetheless.

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Can’t get a pension, can’t get work: a special dystopia for older women | Gaby Hinsliff

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 20:00

Older women face considerable prejudices at work, and now they are being forced to retire later. Old-held assumptions must be challenged

Emile Ratelband wants to be younger. He wouldn’t be the first 69-year-old man to say so but what makes Ratelband unusual, to put it mildly, is that he has just launched a lawsuit in the Netherlands demanding to be legally recognised as only 49. If a trans woman can identify as female and change her official documents accordingly, he argues, why can’t he change his registered date of birth and thus get more dates on Tinder? After all, his doctor says he’s very fit for his age, and if he could only claim to be under 50 then surely “with this face I will be in a luxurious position” with women.

This makes significantly more sense as a PR stunt, obviously, than as any sort of argument. Age is not a mutable fact or a social construct, and “age dysphoria” is – unlike its gender variant – not even remotely a thing. You’re born when you’re born and if other people make madly unfair assumptions based on something as arbitrary as a date then it’s the assumptions that need changing, not birth records. And unless he’s arguing that only as a born-again fortysomething could he finally get women in their 60s to look twice at him, then Ratelband himself seems guilty of some pretty dodgy assumptions about age. Older women, so often spurned on dating apps by vain old goats who stubbornly refuse to “settle” for someone their own age, may not shed too many tears over this one.

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World's female MPs gather in London and pledge to form 'giant sisterhood'

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 07:08

A century since legislation paved way to universal suffrage in UK, parliament hosts meeting of female MPs from around the world

Female MPs from around the globe have pledged to form an international sisterhood and to support each other’s fight for gender equality.

In the centenary year of legislation paving the way to universal suffrage in Britain, the UK has hosted the first-ever meeting of female MPs from every parliament in the world.

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Brexit: Hunt says he is 'confident' UK and EU will reach deal within three weeks - Politics live

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 06:19

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen

4.16pm GMT

4.02pm GMT

This morning David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, suggested that the Commons would vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal. That would prompt a renegotiation, he said, implying that a revised deal would then get approved by MPs. (See 9.03am.)

Rupert Harrison, who was chief of staff to George Osborne in the Treasury, also thinks that getting the Brexit deal through the Commons will end up being a two-state process.

Quick Brexit punt: my view all along has been there would be a deal - still feeling ok about that. But starting to wonder if Parliamentary vote will be like TARP in the US in 2008 - voted down, markets puke, passes second time with small changes... would make for a bumpy ride!

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Why do some schools still ban girls from playing football? | Anna Kessel

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 03:58

Football is our national sport and yet some schools continue to offer it solely to boys

Imagine a school that divided its subjects by gender. A school that didn’t allow girls to study chemistry or algebra, and the only way to access those subjects was to pursue private tuition outside of school hours at their own expense. There would, rightly, be outrage.

When it comes to PE lessons, however, it remains perfectly acceptable for a school to offer different sports to boys and girls. The rationale? Archaic and gendered ideas about physical activity: football and rugby are best suited to boys; netball and dance are best for girls. At the same time that we have public health and sports governing bodies working to promote football and rugby to women and girls, we are turning a blind eye to a blatantly sexist and outdated practice in education that tells girls those very same sports are not for them.

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Teach schoolgirls about orgasms, says Labour MP

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 01:56

Jess Phillips says open discussion of female pleasure is vital to redress gender power balance

Schoolgirls should be taught about orgasms in sex education lessons, according to a Labour MP.

Jess Phillips, who represents Birmingham Yardley and has two sons, made the remarks during a magazine interview. She explained that girls should be taught about sex from a young age in order to form healthy sexual relationships when they become adults.

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Tokyo medical school offers places to women after sexism scandal

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 17:34

Japanese university announces it will accept women unfairly rejected in favour of male candidates

A Japanese medical school at the centre of a sexism row has offered places to dozens of women who were unfairly rejected in favour of male candidates.

Tokyo Medical University said this week that it would accept women whose exam scores were deliberately marked down to restrict the number of female students.

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Red Dead Redemption 2: calls to ban violence against women in games are too simplistic | Van Badham

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 14:47

How violence is punished or rewarded is part of the challenge of playing, and always has been

Ten minutes into the game’s snow-whipped, western world of weary cowboys, disintegrating crime gangs and staggering audiovisual design, Red Dead Redemption 2 had me in its thrall.

Rockstar’s latest blockbuster game is so captivating, and its powers of visual, narrative and interactive stimulation so habit-forming, that criticism of the potential the game allows for violence against women – an allowance being taken advantage of with glee by some users – has registered with sharpness proportional to its own extraordinary detail.

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Two women worthy of gracing the new £50 note | Letters

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 08:23
Mary Somerville and Caroline Herschel would both be fitting choices, writes Gerard Gilligan

With regard to the suggestion of who should appear on the new £50 note (Editorial, 6 November), may I suggest Mary Somerville (1780-1872), a self-taught mathematician and polymath, an early campaigner for women’s rights and the vote. Her book On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences became one of the bestselling science books of the 19th century. The word scientist was first used in a review of her book.

There is also Caroline Herschel (1750-1848), who was with her better known brother William when he discovered the planet Uranus in 1781. She became the world’s first professional astronomer, with her salary being provided by King George III. Following the production of a catalogue of astronomical nebulae, she became the first woman to be awarded the Royal Astronomical Society’s gold medal in 1828. She was also an accomplished comet hunter.
Gerard Gilligan
Chairman of The Society for the History of Astronomy

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Why popping the question at a sporting event is the worst kind of public proposal

Wed, 11/07/2018 - 06:27

Social media users are aghast at a man who interrupted his girlfriend’s debut marathon run to ask her to marry him

Sections of the internet have been aghast at the latest example of a public proposal at an inopportune sporting moment – in this case, Jersey firefighter Dennis Galvin, who interrupted his girlfriend’s first attempt to run a marathon by leaping over the barriers and asking her to marry him just as she hit the 16-mile mark.

While Kaitlyn Curran said yes, and seemed delighted at the turn of the events, a lot of observers questioned whether Galvin had really picked the right moment for a romantic gesture. The proposal was captured on video by Galvin’s cousin Kathleen Figueroa, and has been widely shared on social media – to much derision.

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Good news glow: why I’m searching for positive stories in these dark times

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 07:48

From the recovering ozone layer to a flying centenarian, I am on the hunt for cheerful real-life tales – and there are more about than you think

There’s a curse for which everyone blames the Chinese, but which is apocryphal: “May you live in interesting times.” It’s always wryly invoked when the news goes mad, but we passed that point long ago. We now live in dark, depressing, God-awful times – so bleak that many have turned away from the news (if only journalists had that option). War, famine, the rise of the far right, Trump, antisemitism, Brexit, Brett Kavanaugh, Jair Bolsonaro, austerity, racism … every day we are witness to a parade of awfulness. Studies claim news can make you depressed. Tell me something I don’t know.

No wonder that, mired in gloom, we seize on glimmers of light – the good news stories. The story of how Leamington Spa welcomed several families of Syrian refugees has kept me away from the brink since February. (My husband, who is from Leamington Spa, claims that tailoring your news feed towards local news makes for a much less distressing experience. Alas, when I tried this I was greeted with an abundance of drownings.) More recently, I was cheered by the news that the UN has said that the ozone layer is finally healing after years of aerosol damage. The possibility that the ozone layer may be fully repaired by 2060 is something we can all feel positive about, though it leaves Australians in want of conversation topics. Climate change warnings have become so ominous in recent years that positive news constitutes a diamond in the dung. Here’s another: humpback whales are doing fine.

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This isn’t pension equality. This is a clear injustice to older women | Anne Perkins

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 06:01

Equality in pension age will not magically deliver equal pay or lifelong earnings power – the new rules entrench unfairness

It’s gender equality day today, the day when women finally catch up with men; but don’t worry, you haven’t missed the party because there wasn’t one. All it means is that as from this date, 6 November 2018, women and men must both be 65 before they can claim their state pension. Naturally, it is important that women and men be treated equally, except that’s not what’s happening. Equality in pension age will not magically deliver equality in pay or lifelong earnings power – or even access to a full state pension. And if you want to understand how class and gender inequality intersect to create a double whammy of disadvantage, you need only consider how a prized universal benefit like the state pension offers least help to those who need it most.

This would be much less well understood without the tireless efforts of Women Against State Pension Inequality (Waspi), the campaign at the forefront of the defence of that generation of women who planned their lives around retirement at 60 – only to discover that the government had moved the goalposts. Some women will now have to wait six extra years before they qualify for their state pension.

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In praise of loud women – the joy and power of being noisy and female

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 00:00

My big voice was frowned upon when I was a girl in the 70s. Now, celebrities from Beyoncé to Michelle Obama are helping to tear up the idea of what a woman should sound like

No one wants to sit next to a loud woman. I know this because someone recently moved the placement card on a dinner table to get away from me. That label – “loud woman” – has never been a compliment, even though some of us may wear it as a badge of honour. Picture a loud woman and she is in Technicolor, with the sound turned up past 11, looking like she is stuck in the 80s: big hair, massive gob, voice like a foghorn, part witch, part harridan, part pub landlady. You definitely don’t want to sit next to her when she has a drink inside her.

So, what are we supposed to do with the idea of loud women in our postfeminist age? Where have they all gone? Theresa May seems to maintain her fragile power by being the opposite of loud. Angela Merkel built a 30-year career on being as unnoticeable as possible. The response to Germaine Greer in recent years can be summed up as: “Shut up.” Is it no longer acceptable to be a woman and a noisy, loquacious pain in the arse? After all, the women we now think of as loud usually communicate through performance as larger-than-life versions of themselves: Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lady Gaga.

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The Guardian view on blue plaques and banknotes: making women count | Editorial

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 08:41

Famous females on plinths and currency won’t end inequality, but they matter as a statement of intent

“Representation is what gets me worked up. It’s important,” the feminist writer and activist Caroline Criado Perez told the Observer earlier this year. A few days later, the statue of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett that she had campaigned for was unveiled in Parliament Square, where it joined 11 statues of men. Almost a year earlier, a statue of the Crimean war nurse Mary Seacole was unveiled in the gardens of St Thomas’ hospital, half a mile away on the opposite side of the Thames. Then, in September last year, a new £10 note went into circulation featuring the novelist Jane Austen – following another campaign by Ms Criado Perez, who threatened to take the Bank of England to court after it decided to replace an image of the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry with Winston Churchill, meaning that there would have been no women represented on English bank notes – apart from the Queen.

The Bank appears to have learned its lesson. On Friday it invited members of the public to submit suggestions as to which scientist should appear on the new £50 note, with the mathematician Ada Lovelace and the Nobel prize-winning chemist Dorothy Hodgkin among early frontrunners. Earlier in the week English Heritage asked people to nominate women whose lives could be celebrated with a blue plaque on a London building. At 14%, the proportion of blue plaques currently dedicated to women is “far too low”, the organisation said.

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A 13-year-old girl is a ‘lesbian’ if she plays football? Some things don’t change

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 07:50

Taunts like this have been around for decades – but this playground name-calling reflects how women’s sports are treated

When I was in school a few decades ago, it was standard to be called a lesbian if you so much as kicked a football back to a boy in the playground. This was obviously after the ball had been aimed at one’s (lesbo) head in the kind of terrifying gesture that we were taught, as girls, to laugh off – or, worse, take as a compliment. (See also: the pinging of bra straps.) Well, here we are in 2018, which in many ways is just an endless gif of a football whacking your outraged teenage head (which – ha! – in my case turned out to be bisexual), and a 13-year-old girl is being called a lesbian … for playing football. Some things, such as the nature and content of homophobic taunts, don’t change.

Darcie, from Monmouthshire in Wales, has reportedly been told by PE teachers that she cannot play football as a recommended sport at school. Her peers “have criticised me a lot by saying I’m a man or a lesbian”, she says. The other children’s parents are reportedly no better, apparently shouting “don’t let a girl tackle you” during matches. Gender stereotyping never looked so unoriginal.

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‘I felt sick’: why are so many women assaulted by their driving instructors?

Tue, 10/30/2018 - 00:30

Lewd comments and groping – shocking numbers of women report being sexually harassed during their driving lessons. What can be done?

When Philippa was 17, growing up in a small Peak District community, there was only one driving instructor in the village. “Everyone was taught by him,” she says. But her lessons became uncomfortable. “It started with comments on my appearance – that I was a young, pretty girl, that sort of thing – and then comments about my body, along the lines of: ‘You should wear that skirt more often, I like your legs.’” Then things escalated: “A hand on my leg as he helped me change gear, with me in control of the car and so unable to react … That hand on my leg would gradually linger for longer, head higher up my thigh. There were subtle warnings, too, forcing me to acknowledge that I enjoyed the lessons and that I’d tell my mum that [I enjoyed them].”

Philippa isn’t alone. In the past fortnight, I have heard from 20 women and one man who were sexually harassed or assaulted by their driving instructors. Their experiences bear a series of striking hallmarks: almost all were young and inexperienced at the time; they all describe feeling vulnerable and powerless, trapped in a car in a potentially dangerous situation, with no witnesses present and an older man in a position of power over them. Several tried to tell their families what had happened, only to be disbelieved or told not to make a fuss. Some tried to report their instructor to the driving school, but were brushed off or ignored. And for many, the long-term impact was severe. Philippa, like many of the others, never learned to drive. Now in her early 30s, she says: “I honestly doubt I ever will.”

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