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The Guardian view on the pandemic's impact on women: sound the alarm | Editorial

Sun, 07/05/2020 - 07:30

To prevent inequality from increasing, we need a recovery plan with care at its heart

It is several months since the public was alerted to stark differences in the level of threat posed by Covid-19 according to their age, sex and underlying health. As the pandemic progressed, it became clearer that people of colour and those on lower incomes faced a heightened risk. Men in the UK have died from Covid-19 at almost twice the rate of women, with the most pronounced difference in older age groups. Among the working population, male security guards and taxi drivers have had the highest death rates.

The economic and social effects of the pandemic follow a different pattern. The lockdown meant thousands of women and children were trapped in homes where they were vulnerable to abuse, while women were more likely to lose their jobs as well as carrying a disproportionate share of the domestic burden created by the closure of schools and nurseries. They are also overrepresented in the caring jobs where pressure has been most intense: 82% of adult social care jobs are held by women, as are 89% of nursing and health visitor posts.

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Labour mayors back plan to make police record misogyny as hate crime

Sun, 07/05/2020 - 05:43

Stella Creasy believes amendment to domestic abuse bill would make police take misogyny more seriously

Labour’s metro mayors have united behind a parliamentary proposal from Stella Creasy to force the police to start recording misogyny as a hate crime.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester, Steve Rotheram, the mayor of the Liverpool city region, and Dan Jarvis, the mayor of the Sheffield city region, are backing an amendment to the domestic abuse bill tabled by the Labour backbencher Creasy, which she believes will lead to police forces taking domestic abuse more seriously.

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The death of the bra: will the great lingerie liberation of lockdown last?

Sun, 07/05/2020 - 03:00

Working from home has been a chance to do away with uncomfortable, unnecessary underwear. And many women have no intention of returning to underwires and constriction

It was after a shopping trip, the first time for weeks that Louise Kilburn had ventured out during the lockdown, that she realised she wasn’t wearing a bra. “I’d completely forgotten to put it on,” she says. Kilburn, a university lecturer, had been shielding since the last week of March. She was still busy teaching online, although not usually by video, and had created a more comfortable work wardrobe of pyjamas, loungewear “and, more importantly, no bra”. Her bras were somewhere, she says, with a laugh, under a pile of pre-lockdown clothes – lost enough that she had to buy some bralettes, a more unstructured style, to try out. She had, she says, “mislaid my boob cages”.

Lockdown has changed a lot of things about the way we present ourselves to the world, and for many women, ditching their bra has been a particularly popular one. “I just don’t see bras making a comeback after this,” tweeted the Buzzfeed writer Tomi Obaro in May. Her tweet has been “liked” more than half a million times. The feminist satire website Reductress ran a headline last week reading: “Bra furlough extended.”

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Gloria Steinem: ‘Go too far, or you’re not going far enough’

Sat, 07/04/2020 - 03:00

The feminist activist, 86, on worldwide sisterhood, Spaceship Earth, sexual harrassment in the 1970s and being bitten by rats

My parents were kind and funny and taught me that kindness and a sense of humour are invaluable. Much later, I learned that in the oldest cultures laughter is the only free emotion. Obviously, fear can be compelled. So can love, if we’re dependent for long enough, we enmesh even with a captor in order to survive. But you can’t compel laughter. It’s a flash of recognition. Never go anywhere you’re not allowed to laugh, including church.

I became a grown-up too early, from 10 to 17, a small person responsible for a big person. My mother was ill and often couldn’t look after herself. I never knew what I would find when I got home. Since then I’ve had friends who were the children of alcoholics, and I’ve learned we share some of the same feelings.

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Beauty sector angry and puzzled as pubs reopen, but not salons

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 05:54

Ministers accused of sexism for overlooking industry in lockdown easing plan

After three months in lockdown, many had assumed the days of DIY pedicures would soon be over. But, unlike cinemas and hairdressers, nail bars and beauty and tanning salons will be forced to keep their doors shut on Saturday, with no idea when they can reopen them.

“It’s really disappointing,” said Alix Claxton-Wood, the owner of Sheffield’s Hudson & Wood beauty salon. “We had a fully booked diary for the day that we were going to open.”

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Cancellation might feel good, but it's not activism | Suzanne Moore

Fri, 07/03/2020 - 04:55

While denouncing someone can get you high, it ignores human complexity, and is no substitute for the hard work of persuasion

How do you change someone’s mind? This may appear to be a simple question, but it’s a very complicated one. What makes you change your mind?

How about this: even though you tried your best in life, you had a couple of bad thoughts that I find offensive, so I make sure you lose your job and that none of our mutual friends ever speak to you again?

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Women's careers will suffer most if UK childcare sector collapses, say experts

Thu, 07/02/2020 - 13:01

Fawcett Society flags economic imperative of supporting childcare sector in letter to Rishi Sunak

The childcare sector is facing unprecedented financial challenges due to a sharp fall in income from parents and social distancing putting limits on their capacity, MPs and business leaders have warned.

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Too many women are caught in a low-income trap. They can’t simply ‘put back’ their super | Emma Dawson

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 18:07

Why does the government still ignore the realities of women’s financial insecurity, both during and after their working lives?

Data released by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority on Monday showed that the fears of critics of the government’s superannuation early release scheme were well placed: more than $17bn has been ripped out of Australia’s retirement savings in just two months.

Funds have paid out an average of $7,492 to at least 2.3 million Australian workers who have applied to withdraw their super as they face the loss of jobs and income due to Covid-19.

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To all men who are in on the ‘open secret’: you have failed us | Rhea Dhillon, Olivia McMillan and Sally Shera-Jones

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 07:30

For all the work feminism has done, here we are in 2020 where sexual harassment is still a basic barrier to entry to the profession

When the Dyson Heydon story broke last Monday afternoon, the allegations started to fill the online chat in our workplace. For a number of women lawyers in the firm, there was a single theme running through our minds that made us all feel squeamish. Then upset. Then outright mad.

Heydon has “emphatically” denied any allegation of predatory behaviour or breaches of the law. For many of us, Heydon’s alleged sexual misconduct is not only a story about sexual harassment in the legal profession, nor about the absence of effective complaints mechanisms, nor about updating the high court’s HR policies.

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Woman loses legal challenge to NHS charges for pregnant migrants

Wed, 07/01/2020 - 03:50

Charity and woman argued government policy hindered access to maternity healthcare

A woman who faces decades of repayments to the NHS for maternity care has lost a case in the high court challenging the government’s healthcare charging regime for migrants.

The woman, who cannot be named, brought the legal challenge along with the charity Maternity Action, which works to end inequality and improve healthcare for pregnant women.

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Sexual harassment is prevalent across all industries and sectors. We can and must stop it | Kate Jenkins

Tue, 06/30/2020 - 07:30

My inquiry has highlighted that it has been ignored for too long. There are simple ways Australians can drive change

Conditions are ripe for Australian to change our response to, and prevention of, sexual harassment.

As Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, I spent 18 months conducting Respect@Work, a world-first national inquiry into sexual harassment in Australian workplaces.

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Forget blokes with shovels, shouldn’t stimulus go to nurses and teachers? | Peter Lewis

Mon, 06/29/2020 - 17:22

Workers who guide our kids into the world and care for us when we are ill are still not fully valued. This must change

There’s a direct line that runs from the harassment allegations against a retired high court judge and the emergency ward of the local hospital that bears scrutiny.

It starts with an elite profession charged with enforcing the law, where women routinely feel compelled to endure the unwanted attentions of powerful men, and wends its way through the economy and our broader society by devaluing the caring professions.

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Tony Blair won’t do housework, but Boris Johnson will do press-ups – spare me these macho politicians | Suzanne Moore

Mon, 06/29/2020 - 06:34

While male politicians flex their muscles, women are doing double and triple shifts at home. Is the solution to this 1950s-style problem some 1970s-style consciousness-raising?

It’s wonderful when the house is tidied, the children dressed, a meal prepared, the clothes ironed. Well, not in my house. Do pop by when it’s safe to. I haven’t done any laundry since 1997. What actually is a vacuum cleaner? I may have made an omelette. Sorry, bit hazy on that one. Washing up? Not my thing. Cleaning the loo? Er … no. As for children, I was terribly good with mine. Sometimes, I fed them at night and changed nappies. Possibly. I had quite a few. What matters is that I was “both present and involved in a detailed way”. Although details of anything, least of all nappy-changing, are not my forte. Anyway, watch me pump up and down doing press-ups on a carpet that – hopefully – someone has vacuumed. This will reassure you that all is well in the world.

So, this is not actually me, slattern that I am, but some of the stuff that Tony Blair and Boris Johnson have said in interviews over the weekend. The subtext: important men don’t do housework. Blair admitted he had done no housework, been to the supermarket or even washed his own clothes since 1997. As Dominic Cummings ignores the freshly pressed suits hanging in his townhouse wardrobe to rummage in the laundry basket for the most “screw you” trackies he can find, the message is clear: “I didn’t get where I am today by being bogged down in domestic duties.” Childcare is something that other people do. (Possibly up north?) Anyway, it’s unfair to expect people to have full-on jobs and get their hands dirty. Especially when we have to wash them all the time.

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The pandemic put paid to some big arguments. Here are the ones we need to revive | Zoe Williams

Sun, 06/28/2020 - 21:00

When coronavirus began spreading, we stopped arguing about sovereignty – and survived. But failing to address racism caused the world to erupt

I had one intoxicating gulp of the old days this week, when I got into an argument about feminism. When I say “old days”, I don’t mean the kind of intrafeminist schism we used to get into three months ago, pre-pandemic: I mean a true, vintage argument, about class, consumerism, Sheryl Sandberg, rabid possessive individualism, race, Bridget Jones, depoliticising the political, Edwina Currie, the resilience myth, social fragmentation, the whole works. (No one actually mentioned Edwina Currie, but whenever gender equality smashes against the neoliberal order, I always think about her nostalgically, if not necessarily fondly.)

If you want to know more about those weighty themes, I strongly recommend the new book by the sociologist Angela McRobbie, Feminism and the Politics of Resilience. Here are some more general observations: we have spent most of this year in intellectual hibernation, where nothing seemed important except what to do in the next 12 hours. Everything else – feminism, racism, Brexit, the climate crisis – quietly receded.

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Labour MP apologises to JK Rowling for sexual assault remark

Sun, 06/28/2020 - 10:07

Lloyd Russell-Moyle accused author of using her experience against trans people

Labour frontbencher Lloyd Russell-Moyle has apologised to Harry Potter author JK Rowling after accusing her of using her own sexual assault as “justification” for discriminating against trans people.

Russell-Moyle, a shadow environment minister, made a public apology to Rowling after he wrote a piece in the Tribune saying he felt she had used her past experience to pass comment on a group of people who were not responsible for it.

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Egyptian belly-dancer given three-year jail term for 'inciting debauchery'

Sat, 06/27/2020 - 11:01

Sama el-Masry was accused of posting suggestive images that violated family values

A high-profile Egyptian belly-dancer, Sama el-Masry, was sentenced to three years in prison and fined 300,000 Egyptian pounds (£15,000) on Saturday for inciting debauchery and immorality as part of a crackdown on social media postings.

El-Masry was arrested in April during an investigation into videos and photos on social media, including the popular video-sharing platform TikTok, that the public prosecution described as sexually suggestive.

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‘Parents can look at their foetus in real time’: are artificial wombs the future?

Sat, 06/27/2020 - 00:00

Scientists are currently pushing on an ethical boundary. Will out of body gestation ever replace the experience of human birth?

The lamb is sleeping. It lies on its side, eyes shut, ears folded back and twitching. It swallows, wriggles and shuffles its gangly legs. Its crooked half-smile makes it look content, as if dreaming about gambolling in a grassy field. But this lamb is too tiny to venture out. Its eyes cannot open. It is hairless; its skin gathers in pink rolls at its neck. It hasn’t been born yet, but here it is, at 111 days’ gestation, totally separate from its mother, alive and kicking in a research lab in Philadelphia. It is submerged in fluid, floating inside a transparent plastic bag, its umbilical cord connected to a nexus of bright blood-filled tubes. This is a foetus growing inside an artificial womb. In another four weeks, the bag will be unzipped and the lamb will be born.

When I first see images of the Philadelphia lambs on my laptop, I think of the foetus fields in The Matrix, where motherless babies are farmed in pods on an industrial scale. But this is not a substitute for full gestation. The lambs didn’t grow in the bags from conception; they were taken from their mothers’ wombs by caesarean section, then submerged in the Biobag, at a gestational age equivalent to 23-24 weeks in humans. This isn’t a replacement for pregnancy yet, but it is certainly the beginning.

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Why does Covid-19 kill more men than women? Researchers grapple with gender mystery

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 07:30

Australian project to remove the sex and gender biases commonly seen in medical research to study global coronavirus data for men and women separately

Why Covid-19 seems to kill more men than women, and how the virus is impacting frontline health workers who are predominantly women, are some of the unanswered questions researchers are grappling with amid the global pandemic.

On Thursday, the Australian Human Rights Institute announced it had partnered with the George Institute for Global Health to undertake two Covid-19 research projects that will remove sex and gender biases so often seen in medical research that can prevent patients from getting the best care. Traditionally, medical research has been dominated by men in lead research roles, and their medical research has involved male cells, animals and humans. It means advances in treatments have been tailored to, and based on, male biology.

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Many US women want fewer children because of pandemic, survey finds

Wed, 06/24/2020 - 03:01

Women also having increased difficulty accessing contraception, Guttmacher Institute reports

In spite of some early predictions of a baby boom, many American women want to delay pregnancy and have fewer children because of the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey from the reproductive rights-focused Guttmacher Institute has found.

But whether they will have the access to the reproductive health services they need to fulfil those wishes is another question. The same survey reported that women are having increased difficulty accessing contraception. Shutdown orders to slow the spread of Covid-19 cost millions of women their jobs and temporarily closed health clinics they relied on.

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I encouraged my wife to be dominant, but I’m worried it’s gone too far

Mon, 06/22/2020 - 21:00

I haven’t managed to find a space where I, too, can have my sexual needs met. I’m not sure that being submissive is what I really want

I am having a little trouble with my marriage, sexually. While I am quite kinky and highly sexual, my wife is not as comfortable with her sexuality, or communicating about it. I accept that, and have been encouraging her to open up, feel pleasure and tell me what she wants in the bedroom more. This has recently taken an unusual turn, in that I have been encouraging her to role-play being dominant over me, with some success. This has led to a lot of massages for her and very little oral sex for me! I think this is positive, but I have not managed to find a balance or find a space where I am also able to express what I want and have my needs met. I wonder if being submissive is what I truly want.

Your aim might have been to encourage her to adopt a classic BDSM dominant role, but she has interpreted it as permission to demand that her needs be met – and this is not a bad thing at all. Try to view this as it really is: an important stage in her sexual development – and yours. I am sure you know that BDSM is an advanced sexual style and that an awakening to power-exchange sex is a gradual process. Be patient. Encourage playfulness. Continue to allow her to order her pleasure from you. Very gradually, introduce the notion of switching (between dominance and submission). Besides giving you some respite, this should help her – and you – to better understand and enjoy the pleasures of fluidity, rather than rigidity, in polarised games.

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