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I tried to sexually harass Siri, but all she did was give me a polite brush-off | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 05:51
Virtual assistants are millennial Stepford Wives. But perhaps there’s an upside for real women

“Hey Siri, show me your tits,” is not something I ever thought I’d say, especially not while sitting in an empty kitchen while wearing fluffy slippers. I have many hobbies, but sexually harassing disembodied digital entities is not one of them, even in the interests of journalistic research.

But having read that a UN report that claimed virtual assistants coded female by default (i.e. most of them) were reinforcing gender stereotypes that portray women as subservient – for example, by responding to sexual harassment in a tolerant, even coquettish, manner – I thought I had better conduct an experiment. “Hey Siri, wanna fuck?” I was trying to do my best frat boy impression, but ended up sounding sad and apologetic, a bit like how I wish men would in real life. “Hey Siri,” I said, lugubriously, “you’re a slut.”

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Universal credit hardship 'linked to prostitution'

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 04:10

Benefits reform forcing women to sell sex for cash, food or shelter, MPs’ committee told

Women are increasingly forced to take up sex work to get money for food and rent after becoming desperate over financial hardship caused by universal credit, an MPs’ committee has heard.

A series of witnesses from specialist charities that work with women involved in prostitution told MPs on the work and pensions committee there was a strong link between benefits changes and so-called “survival sex”.

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‘Pregnancy is a time bomb’ – what I learned about motherhood working in a women’s prison

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 01:54

Pregnant women in jail are revered by other inmates – but the question of what will happen to the child is never far away

Prison is full of mothers. Mothers of adult children, who visit at weekends bringing grandchildren in tow; mothers whose motherhood is on pause because their children are being looked after by foster families; mothers whose mothers are doing the mothering for them – an army of grans and nanas collecting children from school and footing bills for food and clothes; and mothers whose children, passed from pillar to post by the care system, have followed in their footsteps and live just up the corridor.

There are also, often, mothers-to-be. Pregnancy seems to happen more rapidly in prison, as though life is hurtling towards the surface faster than anyone could prepare.

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Photo exhibition celebrates 25 years of female priests

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 20:00

Images of 12 women from Southwark diocese capture variety of a priest’s work

Joyce Forbes looks after her grandson five days a week and campaigns for affordable housing. Susie Simpson absorbs the anger and pain of young men locked up in prison. Helen Harknett fights for social justice and LGBTI inclusion. At 92, Ann Gurney lives quietly these days.

The link between these four women is their membership of a growing band: female priests in the Church of England. Along with eight others, they feature in an exhibition of photographs, Here Am I, celebrating this year’s 25th anniversary of women’s ordination. It opens at London’s Oxo Gallery on Wednesday.

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Revealed: 21,000 US women order abortion pills online in past six months

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 20:00

Three-quarters of mail order requests came from states with strict anti-abortion laws

Thousands of American women have obtained abortion pills online in the past six months, according to figures that highlight the escalating difficulty in accessing safe abortions on the ground.

Data shared with the Guardian reveals that 21,000 women requested abortion medication between October 2018 and March this year from the charity Aid Access. Between a third and a half of the women who made the requests were then sent abortion pills in the mail. The majority of the recipients live in states with hostile abortion policies.

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Older women new face of poverty in Australia, Salvation Army warns

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 18:07

Data reveals 39% rise in women over 65 seeking financial help as Red Shield Appeal nears

The Salvation Army has warned that older women have become the “unexpected face of poverty in Australia”, revealing figures showing a 40% increase in demand for financial help.

Data released on Wednesday to support the Salvos’ Red Shield Appeal found the number of people receiving financial counselling from the charity had increased from nearly 13,000 in the 2013-14 financial year to about 18,000 in 2017-18.

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Digital assistants like Siri and Alexa entrench gender biases, says UN

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 13:27

Female-voiced tech often gives submissive responses to queries, Unesco report finds

Assigning female genders to digital assistants such as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa is helping entrench harmful gender biases, according to a UN agency.

Research released by Unesco claims that the often submissive and flirty responses offered by the systems to many queries – including outright abusive ones – reinforce ideas of women as subservient.

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If Roe v Wade is overturned, we should worry about the rule of law | Shira A Scheindlin

Tue, 05/21/2019 - 02:15

Affirming precedence is an important legal principle. If it’s ignored, which other supreme court decisions could be overturned next?

Donald Trump was staunchly pro-choice until he sought to become President Donald Trump. From that moment on, a centerpiece of his campaign was a promise to do whatever he could to ensure that the 1973 supreme court’s landmark decision in Roe v Wade that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion would be overturned. He has kept his promise and his base loves him for it. He undoubtedly believes that his strong and now unwavering anti-abortion stance will go a long way to ensuring his re-election in 2020.

How did he keep his promise? The answer is not complicated. He did it by consistently appointing judges to the federal courts that he believes are committed to the goal of overturning Roe. He has succeeded in reshaping the supreme court through his appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh and has now appointed more than 100 judges to the courts of appeals and the district courts, many of whom have been openly hostile to abortion rights in their academic writings, public speeches or judicial decisions. He now expects these judges to achieve the big prize – the overturning of Roe v Wade.

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Why Bella Hadid and Lil Miquela’s kiss is a terrifying glimpse of the future | Arwa Mahdawi

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 21:00

An advert featuring the human and virtual models is late-capitalist hell, ‘queerbait’ and digisexuality all at once

Bella Hadid, a human supermodel, has been accused of “queerbaiting” after making out with Lil Miquela, a computer-generated influencer, in order to sell designer underwear. I know, I know, there’s a lot going on in that sentence. Please take a deep breath: we will unpack this late-capitalist hell together.

Miquela Sousa, also known as Lil Miquela, is a fictional character created by a Los Angeles startup called Brud. Miquela has 1.5m followers on Instagram, where she shares pictures of her imaginary life and proclaims her support for LGBT rights and Black Lives Matter. In the past few years, the virtual model has become a veritable celebrity: starring in Ugg ads, interviewing artists at Coachella and collaborating with Prada. In her latest project, a video for Calvin Klein, she kisses a half-naked (and heterosexual) Hadid as a voiceover proclaims some marketing nonsense about dreams and doors.

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Google changes policy to block misleading ads for anti-abortion groups

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 13:28

A certification process would require organizations to identify themselves as either providing or not providing abortions

Google changed its advertising policy this week, after facing scrutiny for providing tens of thousands of dollars in free advertising to an anti-abortion group that runs misleading ads designed to deter women from terminating their pregnancies.

Starting in June, advertisers running ads “using keywords related to getting an abortion” will first have to distinguish themselves as an organization that “either provides abortions or does not provide abortions”, according to the new policy update.

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'I don't feel safe': Alabama newspapers publish letters by women on abortion ban

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 12:02

Three local publications devoted their Sunday editions to essays from women, ranging from fear to grappling with personal beliefs

Three major Alabama newspapers devoted their Sunday editions to letters from women across the state, offering an expansive look into the reactions after a nearly all-male state legislature passed the nation’s strictest abortion ban last week.

The Alabama Media Group, which operates the Birmingham News, the Huntsville Times and the Mobile Press-Register, filled their Sunday papers with 200 essays from Alabama women of various backgrounds, ages and political leanings. The essays were also available as a package online under the title “It’s time to hear Alabama’s women”.

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Trump Baby is back – and this time it’s more than just a balloon | Nona Hurkmans

Mon, 05/20/2019 - 03:30

Poking fun at the president is all well and good, but let’s use his UK visit to raise cash for migrant, green and abortion charities

“The greatest insult to a sitting US president ever.” It’s not often that I turn to the words of Nigel Farage to seek confirmation I might be involved in doing something right, but last July was different.

It was a few days before Donald Trump was due to touch down for his first visit to British shores since his election to office. And things weren’t quite going to plan. Britain was in thrall to the story of whether a 20ft-high bright orange helium balloon would be given permission to soar above Parliament Square in central London: Trump Baby had arrived.

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Have India’s women seized their chance to vote for a safer, more equal country? | Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 18:00
In an election when parties finally woke up to the power of half a billion women, many of us backed anyone but the BJP

For the first time, more women than men are likely to have voted in the Indian elections. That’s more than half a billion women who have had a say on issues that really matter to them. So finally, Indian political parties seem to have woken up to the fact that the female voter matters.

What then, have been her top concerns? According to a recent survey 70% put the safety of women first. Sadly, violence against women is on the rise everywhere in India. Crimes against women are at an unprecedented high while conviction rates are at an all-time low. India has been ranked the world’s most dangerous place for women. While we have traditionally responded to violence in a demure manner, younger, educated Indian women have refused to be stay quiet ever since huge protests erupted across the country following the gang rape of Jyoti Singh in Delhi in 2012.

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Why the senators’ race matters in reporting the Alabama abortion ban | Paul Chadwick

Sun, 05/19/2019 - 08:00

Readers argued it was wrong to highlight that white men voted in the measure. But lack of representation is central to the story

Why, demanded several readers, does this headline refer to race: “These 25 Republicans – all white men – just voted to ban abortion in Alabama.” It was part of the Guardian’s coverage of the southern US state’s new measure. The sole exception to the ban is serious risk to the health of the woman; pregnancies resulting from incest or rape are not excepted. Of the 27 Republican men in Alabama’s 35-seat senate, 25 voted for the law.

Distilled, the readers’ view was that although it was understandable that the headline would emphasise male dominance, it was wrong to highlight race, too. Wrote one: “It detracts and distracts from the real outrage, which is that they’re all male, and they’re all Republican, rather than their skin colour.” Another reader thought that the reference to race implied that the votes were motivated by racism. Another wanted the emphasis to stay on the personal moral beliefs of the legislators, whichever way they voted.

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Trump backs abortion in cases of rape or incest, contradicting Alabama law

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 19:23

President suggests abortion will be election issue, tweeting ‘we must stick together and Win for Life in 2020’

Donald Trump, in a series of late night posts on Twitter, has outlined a less restrictive view of abortion than that just passed by Alabama’s Republican state government.

Alabama now bans abortion except if there is a “serious health risk” to the mother, with no exceptions for rape and incest, but the president says he favours making an exception of cases of rape and incest.

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From Alabama to Armagh, women are on the front line waging the ‘war on abortion’ | Catherine Bennett

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 08:00
Far from being driven just by men, many female voices are heard in the anti-choice lobby

Intensifying campaigns to criminalise all abortion in the US have been summarised, accurately, as a war on women, one that calls on women to, as the presidential contender Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has put it, “fight like hell”.

In terms of knowing the enemy, much of it, in the US, will certainly resemble the Alabama misogynists – the 25 white, male, no longer young Republicans who have just stripped half their state’s population of reproductive rights. Photographs have been generously distributed. But, as the men would probably be the first to admit, they couldn’t have ushered in a generation or more of unwanted children without assistance from at least two women combatants, Terri Collins and the state governor, Kay Ivey.

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Is the idea of ‘real women’ just another way of selling stuff? | Yvonne Roberts

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 06:00
Magazines are making promises – and progress – but they’re still selling impossible dreams

‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, I don’t see anyone like me at all…” is the message on the cover of the current edition of Stylist, the women’s free weekly magazine, much garlanded with awards.

Editor-in-chief Lisa Smosarski is a feminist who smartly uses the magazine to find imaginative ways to proselytise that, while readers may face private and individual challenges, many more of their difficulties are rooted in the public and systemic – low pay, discrimination and, last week, what she calls “the mental health crisis”, triggered by a ubiquitous and fetishised very white, very thin, very doctored vision of female beauty.

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Women shouldn't have to tell abortion stories to remind lawmakers they're human

Sat, 05/18/2019 - 02:00

#YouKnowMe is both powerful and profoundly depressing – women shouldn’t have to justify wanting bodily autonomy

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

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I've seen how lawyers' sexism corrupts justice. This is how to change the industry | Charlotte Proudman

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 21:00

We need tough sanctions for sexual harassment, gender parity in chambers, and to close the pay gap, in a radical overhaul

Surprise, surprise: bullying and sexual harassment is rife in the legal profession. Yet another report, this time from the International Bar Association, shows that 62% of female lawyers have been bullied in the UK, which is higher than the international average, and 38% of women have suffered sexual harassment.

The findings accord with the Bar Standards Board (BSB) report in 2016, which found that two in five respondents suffered sexual harassment and discrimination and only one in five reported it.

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'Consensual rape' and 're-implantation': the times lawmakers 'misspoke' on abortion

Fri, 05/17/2019 - 20:00

Politicians saying ludicrous things while arguing for extreme abortion restrictions seems to be common

On Friday Missouri became the latest state to enact extreme abortion restrictions, passing a bill that bans abortion after eight weeks. The ban provides no exceptions for rape or incest which, according to the Republican state representative Barry Hovis, is fine because most rape is “consensual” anyway.

Hovis told the Missouri house that most of the rapes he had encountered in his previous role in law enforcement were “date rapes or consensual rapes”. While Hovis noted that these were “all terrible” he also stressed they were very tricky “he-said-she-said” situations. In any case, the lawmaker said, his real point was that, if someone was sexually assaulted they could simply take the morning after pill. Although, to be clear, he wouldn’t be very happy about that either.

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