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Of course birthrates are plunging – the Tories have created a child-unfriendly society | Polly Toynbee

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 06:06

Austerity-era cuts to pre-school help, education and benefits have put parenthood out of reach for many

The austerity decade has diminished us in many ways, and this week there came news of a new one: the birthrate is plummeting. The Office for National Statistics has revealed a fall of 12.2% since 2012. That’s a replacement rate of just 1.65 children per woman – lower in Wales.

Cue panic. Who will look after the old? Who will do the jobs to pay for their pensions? Some think fewer humans are good for the environment, others that it signifies national decline: size means status and strength among wealthier nations.

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Covid-19 threatens access to abortions and contraceptives, experts warn

Thu, 07/23/2020 - 05:29

Unplanned pregnancy rates have fallen globally, report finds, but coronavirus could endanger access to services

Rates of unplanned pregnancies have fallen around the world, according to new data published by health research organisation the Guttmacher Institute and the UN Human Reproduction Programme (HRP) on Wednesday.

Global rates of unintended pregnancies have fallen from 79 per 1,000 women aged 15 to 49 in 1990 to 64 in 2019, thanks in part to a concerted effort to increase access to contraceptives, but there are concerns that decades of progress in reducing the numbers risk being undone by Covid-19, as lockdown restrictions hamper health services.

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Tackling sexual misconduct in universities isn't optional – it's essential | Michael Arthur

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 20:00

As a university leader, I’ve come to understand how widespread sexual misconduct on campus is – and why change is urgent

Last year, members of my senior management team were asked to publicly describe our most recent consensual sexual experience. All around the room, jaws dropped, eyes darted to the floor and we shifted uncomfortably in our seats.

The hypothetical question was posed during a Rape Crisis South London workshop and was deeply humbling. While we, as university leaders, felt deep discomfort at the prospect of sharing our recent consensual sexual experiences with our colleagues, we could not begin to understand how traumatic or excruciating it would be to recount non-consensual experiences such as sexual harassment and assault.

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Women took on bulk of childcare during British lockdown, study finds

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 03:37

ONS polls show impact of home-schooling on parents’ mental health, with women hardest hit

Women carried out significantly more daily childcare duties than men during lockdown, for an average of more than three hours a day compared with just two hours for men, in households with children aged 18 or younger, according to new figures released by the Office for National Statistics.

The study also found that one in three women with school-aged children said their mental health had suffered as a result of home-schooling, compared with 20% of men – although the ONS warned that women generally were more likely to report their wellbeing had been affected by the cononavirus outbreak.

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Women at Google miss out on thousands of dollars as a result of pay discrimination, lawsuit alleges

Wed, 07/22/2020 - 00:00

An ongoing 2017 case found that discriminatory practices may be pushing women into lower-paying career tracks

Women at Google lose out on thousands of dollars each year compared with men as a result of discriminatory practices including pushing female employees into lower-paying career tracks, a lawsuit has alleged.

The findings stem from an ongoing lawsuit brought against Google in 2017, which accused the tech company of gender pay discrimination between female employees – from coders to teachers in its in-house childcare department – and their male counterparts. More details about the extent of the pay disparity emerged in a memorandum filed in court on Tuesday to classify that lawsuit as a class action, which, if approved, would mean it applies to 10,800 women who have been employed by Google at any time since September 2013.

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Reni Eddo-Lodge and Emma Watson to redraw London tube map with women's names

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 04:11

Suggestions sought for public history project inspired by similar map of New York led by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro

Londoners Reni Eddo-Lodge and Emma Watson are spearheading a project to reimagine the city’s iconic tube map, by renaming all 270 stops after the women and non-binary people who have shaped the history of each pocket of the capital.

Eddo-Lodge, author of the bestselling Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race, and the actor and activist Watson, were inspired by a similar project in the book Nonstop Metropolis by Rebecca Solnit and geographer Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, which featured a New York City subway map with all the stations renamed after great women. Both Solnit and Schapiro are working with Eddo-Lodge and Watson to help create the City of Women London.

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IMF urges swift action to protect women from Covid-19 economic hit

Tue, 07/21/2020 - 04:00

Pandemic could reverse progress for women all over the world without governments taking powerful measures

Governments around the world have been warned by the International Monetary Fund to take swift action to limit the economic damage for women that has been unleashed by Covid-19.

Sounding the alarm over the disproportionate impact on women amid the worst global recession since the 1930s Great Depression, the Washington-based organisation said the pandemic threatened to roll back gains in women’s economic opportunities, widening gender gaps that persist despite 30 years of progress.

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Avon reports big surge in UK sign-ups to be cosmetics sellers

Sun, 07/19/2020 - 08:39

Number of new reps who sell products to people in their homes has more than doubled

Avon looks set to be calling at many more UK homes after the cosmetics company revealed that the number of people signing up to be sales representatives had more than doubled in the lockdown.

The company, which boasts 5 million “reps” globally, said it had seen a 114% “surge” in the number of new representatives joining its UK business since lockdown began.

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I forgot how to cry as a man. HRT gave me a range of emotions I never thought possible | Cadance Bell

Sun, 07/19/2020 - 07:30

While many focus on the physical aspects of gender transition, for Cadance Bell, the greatest benefit was existential, like putting the right fuel into an engine for the first time

I forgot how to cry as a man. Laying in an economy box at the end of the funeral home was my departed grandmother. Flowers my mum had chosen hung from a borrowed vase. I sat with my family, numb. I knew I should feel something about her death, but I was empty.

A celebrant was riffing from a lectern. “Sharon, I hear, was a lovely woman,” she said. “It’s Shirl,” came a hesitant voice from the audience. I cringed. “Sorry, Shirl. And now, she’s up there in the Lord’s kingdom in a great big room, with all of the friends who got there before her, and they’re so happy. They’re laughing with Sharon and they’re smiling, and they’re all eating her favourite cake!”

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‘The guys were waiting for me to fail’: Annie Nightingale on battling the BBC

Sat, 07/18/2020 - 20:43

Still doing a Radio 1 show at 80, the veteran DJ tells Desert Island Discs about Beatles secrets and breaking down a ‘wall of no’

Veteran DJ Annie Nightingale, the first woman to do the job on Radio 1, has spoken of her suspicion that the BBC wanted her to mess up at the beginning of her career with the station in 1970.

“I think the BBC wanted it to fail,” Nightingale said. “They thought, OK, we have got this woman DJ now … but they would have been quite happy if it had not worked out.”

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The power of touch: I didn't hold my daughter until she was three days old | Salamishah Tillet

Thu, 07/16/2020 - 21:30

I was afraid my inability to breastfeed her or engage in skin-to-skin contact would harm her, but I was also burdened by another history

Welcome to the Guardian’s Power of Touch series

I had to wait three days after my daughter Seneca was born to hold her. She arrived punctually just before sunrise on her due date, a fact I have interpreted as her over-accommodating me, because it enabled me to drive to UPS and mail off my tenure dossier on time.

Nine hours later, as my partner, Solomon, my sister, Scheherazade, and I drove to the hospital with a maternity bag filled with a lavender-scented eye mask, breastfeeding pyjamas and a white-noise machine, I noticed only a handful of cars on the highway, the glare of their headlights guiding us to the hospital, four suburbs and 30 minutes away from our New Jersey townhouse.

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The power of touch: having sex with another woman shook my brain and restarted my heart

Wed, 07/15/2020 - 00:30

I had known her for a month or so, and ending up in bed seemed inevitable. The experience elevated touch to a whole new level

Welcome to the Guardian’s Power of Touch series

Everyone’s “first time” is different: a drunken, messy affair; a gentle experience with a committed partner; a huge disappointment; a satisfying endeavour – or a combination.

But some people, myself included, have had more than a single loss of virginity. (The description of “losing” your virginity is quite odd, isn’t it? As if it has been left on a train seat. Though, doubtless, that will have been the case for someone out there.)

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Abbie Chatfield is the best thing about Bachelor in Paradise. Don't make her the villain | Matilda Boseley

Tue, 07/14/2020 - 16:30

The franchise was never a feminist masterpiece but it’s infuriating that funny, confident women are still portrayed as evil and bad

One skill every modern woman learns is the ability to briefly lock her feminist ideals away in a dark cupboard to enjoy a good hour of TV.

It’s a tactic I picked up somewhere between seasons two and three of Game of Thrones and, let me tell you, it comes in handy during Australia’s Bachelor months. A glass of Aldi rosé in my hand and that show can reinforce all the outdated romantic stereotypes it wants.

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Mrs America depicts one of feminism’s toughest battles – the fight against female misogynists | Suzanne Moore

Mon, 07/13/2020 - 20:00

From Gloria Steinem to Shirley Chisholm, there were some brilliant women pushing for equal rights in the 1970s. In Phyllis Schlafly, they found a formidable foe

I am lapping up Mrs America, from the opening 70s graphics and the soundtrack to the portrayal of difficult, clever women strategising to get the equal rights amendment ratified. Cate Blanchett, who plays their opponent, Phyllis Schlafly, with ice-cool precision may make her a little too fabulous (she is Cate Blanchett, after all) because Schlafly was the very kind of person feminists find hard to deal with: a woman who was an out-and-out misogynist, and who ultimately mobilised the Christian right and white supremacist groups who would pave the way for Trump. As ever, this was done in the name of “family values”.

Gloria Steinem is surely less innocent than in this portrayal. She knew she was beautiful, and used it for the cause

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US judge rules Georgia’s six-week abortion ban violates constitution

Mon, 07/13/2020 - 12:51

Brian Kemp has vowed to appeal the ruling against HB481, which bans the procedure once cardiac activity is detected

A federal judge on Monday permanently blocked the state of Georgia’s hardline 2019 six-week abortion ban, finding that it violates the US constitution.

US district judge Steve Jones ruled against the state in a lawsuit filed by abortion providers and an advocacy group. Jones had temporarily blocked the law in October, and it never went into effect. The new ruling permanently enjoins the state from ever enforcing House Bill 481.

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Women speak out about Warren Ellis: 'Full and informed consent was impossible'

Mon, 07/13/2020 - 01:10

Scores of women are publishing details of their relationships with the Transmetropolitan writer, who they say offered mentorship in exchange for sexual contact. But they don’t want him cancelled – they want a conversation

‘Stories are what make us human,” comics writer Warren Ellis told an audience on 28 April 2005, as that year’s Toronto Comic-Con began. “They’re an advanced form of play. Cats have play. Sometimes very sophisticated, dramatised forms of play. But they’re not communicated or externalised. So far, only humans use stories to dramatise the way they see the world.”

Two days after that, on 30 April, a 23-year-old woman flew to the convention to surprise Ellis, whom she believed was her boyfriend. The pair had spoken on video chat and email regularly since they first met online in 2004, with some of their conversations lasting through the night. She alleges that Ellis, then 37, never told her that he had a long-term partner, and that he had asked her to keep their relationship secret because of his fame. They had sex in his hotel room that evening.

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Seoul mayor funeral: anger at use of public funds for five-day service

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 23:36

More than 500,000 people sign petition calling for quiet family funeral for Park Won-soon amid sexual harassment allegations

A row has broken out over whether the mayor of Seoul, who was found dead last week in an apparent suicide, should have been given a publicly funded funeral amid allegations he sexually harassed a member of his staff.

The South Korean capital’s administrative court dismissed an 11th-hour injunction to block the use of taxpayer funds for the funeral on Monday morning of Park Won-soon, whose body was found in mountain woods in Seoul on Friday.

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The pro-choice movement is in tatters. Planned Parenthood is part of the problem | Jessa Crispin

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 23:30

The organization is a fundraising juggernaut but women’s practical access to abortion services continues to decline

The pro-choice movement in America is almost inextricable from Planned Parenthood. The non-profit is not only the largest provider of abortion services in the country, it is also its political leader. Planned Parenthood and its executives are whom liberal politicians turn to for endorsement and support. They issue the talking points and they decide the agenda.

Increasingly, abortion seems to be a thing progressives care about only whenever there’s an opening on the supreme court, or when a state we don’t care about or know anyone in closes another clinic, and that is pretty much it. (Even the New York Times, in a recent article about how irrelevant abortion rights seem to young feminists, seemingly couldn’t find anyone outside a major urban area to talk to, someone who maybe didn’t live a short Uber ride away from a clinic and have the $600 on hand to pay for the procedure before the end of the first trimester.)

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The Guardian view on a women’s health scandal: under the skin | Editorial

Sun, 07/12/2020 - 07:05

An official review of vaginal mesh and medicines in pregnancy reveals systemic weaknesses, and sexism too

Greater openness about women’s bodies was one of the big themes of postwar feminism. Access to contraception and the right to terminate a pregnancy were crucial stepping stones on a path to liberation from a social order that for centuries constrained women. The right to choose whether to have children is now well established, along with access to education, employment and equal pay (although gender pay and pension gaps remain). But sexism has not gone away. Among the findings of the Independent Medical Devices and Medicines Safety Review set up to investigate vaginal mesh implants is that the UK’s health system has a habit of ignoring women.

One patient likened the search for a doctor who would take seriously her concerns about the implants, which were widely used to treat pelvic organ prolapse and stress urinary incontinence until 2018, to “traipsing through treacle”. A former doctor referred to an “unconscious negative bias” towards middle-aged women in chronic pain. The report described a culture in which “anything and everything” women said about their discomfort was put down to the menopause.

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'We went to therapy to save our friendship'

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 23:00

Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman have been best friends for more than a decade. They care about each other so much they even saw a couples counsellor. Now they’ve written a book about what it takes to stay close for the long haul

When Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman first met, at a viewing party for the teen drama Gossip Girl in 2009, each recognised a kindred spirit. “I can tell you for a fact that I viscerally remember the moment Ann and I walked in different directions,” recalls Sow, 35. “I remember just the pang of… Ahh, when am I going to see this person again? That feeling. It’s such a vivid episode in my mind.” When Sow got home that night, she found a friend request from Friedman, now 38, on Facebook. She has heard other friends talk about that same feeling of excitement when it comes to the very beginning of a new, platonic relationship. “We just do not understand them to be an intense emotional experience on the same level that we would give to a romance, for example. But I think the excitement is the same, the butterflies are there.”

Those butterflies turned into a decade-long, and still going, best friendship. In fact, they like each other so much that they have written a joint memoir of their lives together as friends and colleagues (both are writers and have been co-hosting a podcast, Call Your Girlfriend, since 2014, “for long-distance besties everywhere”). You get the sense, though, that they are using their personal story, with its ups and downs – and there are such downs that at one point, they go to couples’ therapy to salvage their relationship – to sneak in a manifesto of modern friendship, and how to navigate big, emotional platonic relationships successfully. Anyone who has ever experienced the pain of a friendship break-up, yet lacked the words to describe it, will find plenty to take from Big Friendship.

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