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Don't despair over Boris Johnson – it's time for hope | Catherine Mayer

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 23:00

Optimism grounded in reality is the only antidote to the regressive rightwing populism flourishing on both sides of the Atlantic

• Catherine Mayer is co-founder of the Women’s Equality party

Sterling slipped just a little on confirmation of Boris Johnson’s ascent, but another currency plunged: optimism. His was a triumph of self-belief, buoyed by privilege and untethered to ability or vision, magical thinking without any magic or any thinking. “We are going to rise and ping off the guy ropes of self-doubt and negativity,” he declared in his victory speech, “with better education, better infrastructure, more police, fantastic full-fibre broadband sprouting in every household.” It’s hard to say which aspect of this list was more revealing – its lack of ambition or the scepticism it prompted over his capacity to deliver even minor improvements to the nation’s broadband. Who even among his newly minted cabinet truly believes the central pledge of his premiership: a Brexit, deal or no deal, that boosts anything apart from the Conservative party or its new leader? In peddling Brexit lies in place of genuine aspiration, Johnson has devalued hope itself.

Enthusiasm among a rump of musty old Marxists for a no-deal Brexit to speed the revolution amplifies this effect by ignoring the inevitable toll it would exact on everyone, especially the most vulnerable. Yet hope – grounded in reality – remains the best and only antidote to the regressive rightwing populism now flourishing on both sides of the Atlantic. Switching off the news may feel like self-care, but the surest way to feel better is to make things better. Optimism is a political choice that anyone with the time and resources to be active must take – right now. You’ll find this surprisingly easy once you stop thinking in terms of what can’t be done and focus on what you can do.

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Where’s the advice for men on how to propose? | Daisy Buchanan

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 22:00
Asking for a woman’s hand in marriage is ‘traditional’, we’re told, but without guidelines too many men are coming a cropper

The greatest curse of womanhood is also its biggest blessing. If you’re a woman, it’s easy to find strong opinions and instructions that will inform you exactly how you are expected to conduct yourself during any given occasion. Plenty of the advice is useless, contradictory and mad, but if you want to live a peaceful, uneventful and rather dull life as a woman in the 21st century, you can get by if you use the following terms as broad instructions: “Don’t make a scene” and “midi dresses”.

Men, on the other hand – hoo boy. My heart breaks for you all. We’re furious with you for failing to constantly acknowledge that you’re benefiting from centuries of systematic privilege. We’ve convinced ourselves that you’re all happy-go-lucky pay-gap profiteers who couldn’t describe a vacuum cleaner if it came up during a game of Articulate. If I’d never met a man in real life and only seen them on the news, I’d be convinced that no man had ever had the handle of a bag for life snap off in the bus queue or had an entire chocolate Digestive collapse in their tea. Whatever you’re doing, in 2019, we’re quick to tell you that you’re doing it wrong – but unlike women you don’t have an instructive legacy of completely insane advice to guide you. Where is your Goop? Who is your Elizabeth Gilbert, your Oprah? Your inspirational beacon is Jack from last year’s Love Island, a 28-year-old man who can’t be trusted not to spoil his dinner by ripping into three sharing bags of Doritos before he opens his Old El Paso kit.

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Doctor claiming to 'reverse' abortion was told to stop using medical school's name

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 19:00

For years, Dr George Delgado falsely claimed an affiliation to a prestigious US medical school and his assertions about ‘reversal’ procedure have been denounced

A doctor who has said he invented a procedure to “reverse” abortion has for years falsely claimed an affiliation to a prestigious US medical school, the Guardian can reveal.

A medication abortion or “self-managed” abortion, is an FDA-approved procedure and is administered through two doses of medicine over 48 hours. Medication abortions now represent nearly one-third of all abortions nationally, according to the Guttmacher Institute. There is no reversal procedure.

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Is it grossly sexist to propose to your girlfriend at her graduation ceremony?

Wed, 07/24/2019 - 05:00

Surprise proposals are more and more popular – but they look dated and run the risk of denying women their moment

Remember when people simply got engaged to one another, and didn’t feel the compulsion to record and disseminate the news How I long for those days. The public proposal video has been an online mainstay for years now, but its relative merits and faults continue to be a talking point on social media, especially when it comes to the male tendency to make it all about him.

The latest man to annoy the internet is 27-year-old Edgaras Averbuchas, who chose his girlfriend Agne Banuskeviciute’s graduation ceremony to get down on one knee. She was in the process of receiving her English master’s from the University of Essex when Averbuchas sauntered on stage – rather stealing the spotlight, some might argue. The university posted the clip on Twitter before deciding it to remove it when it proved unpopular. One user said it was “bad form”: “Years of hard work and now we’re all supposed to be pleased for her. Not because of her achievement, but because she got her man.”

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Europe’s patchwork of abortion laws is absurd. Rights must be made universal | Prune Antoine

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 19:00
I was stunned to discover that abortions, strictly speaking, are still not legal in Germany

When I was 30, in 2011, I had an abortion. I was living in Berlin, a city known, since the fall of the Wall, for championing freedom. Or at least it was until attention turned to my womb. Born in France in the 1980s, and brought up on the internet, the Erasmus European studies programme and love without borders, I was under the happy illusion that everything relating to women’s bodies – from abortion to assisted reproduction – was covered by rights secured after long, hard struggles.

Related: Brexit effect forces women to go to Netherlands for abortions

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In Norway, I finally found out what it means to be a truly independent woman | Hasina Shirzad

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 19:00

After leaving Afghanistan I was unprepared for life in a country where tasks are not strictly divided between the sexes

My life story might be summed up like this: I’ve travelled from one of the worst countries in the world for women to one of the best countries. I am an Afghan refugee in Norway. Adaptation is a process, and comparing these two countries would be totally unfair but I would like to share my insights into what it feels like to be an independent woman in both countries.

Related: This is Europe: stay close with the Guardian’s email updates

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Was Leonard Cohen’s Marianne the last artist’s ‘muse’? Let’s hope so | Fiona Sturges

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 19:00

Nick Broomfield’s film underlines the downside of a life spent providing comfort and inspiration for a male artist

What are the life skills appropriate to an artist’s muse? Hotness is a given; and sexual availability, while not compulsory, has generally been appreciated. The ability to keep a house tidy is a plus, as is being supportive of the artist at all times, even if he – and it is nearly always he – is being an arsehole. It helps, of course, to be mysterious; if one is to be endlessly gazed at, it’s best not to give everything away at once. As for a life, and a career of one’s own, well, history has shown that such things are rarely tolerated.

In Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love, out later this week, the filmmaker Nick Broomfield examines the on-off relationship between the late Marianne Ihlen, a Norwegian single mother, and the poet and musician Leonard Cohen, whom she met on the Greek island of Hydra and who died just four months after her in 2016. Ihlen was immortalised in the song So Long, Marianne, and inspired Cohen to write Bird on a Wire. Since Ihlen gets first billing in the title, one might assume that this is her story, a biopic of sorts, but instead it depicts her through the prism of the men in her life. These include the novelist Axel Jensen, who left her not long after their son, Axel Jr, was born; Cohen, the towering genius whom we are told she could never hope to tame; and Broomfield himself, who had a fling with her during a visit to Hydra in his early twenties.

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How to practise good post-sex hygiene

Sun, 07/21/2019 - 04:00

To steer clear of infection, use a condom, avoid harsh soaps and douching, and empty your bladder within 15 minutes of intercourse

The most important rule for any sexually active woman is to empty their bladder within 15 minutes of sex. Whether it is same-sex, with a sex toy or heterosexual intercourse, unless you empty your bladder you are more likely to get a urinary tract infection (UTI), which can be very uncomfortable and can lead to bigger problems. The reason that women get UTIs after sex is that the urethra is very short and the bladder is close to it, so during penetrative sex you are allowing bacteria direct access to your bladder.

We don’t know why some people are more susceptible to UTIs than others, but post-menopausal women should be extra-careful, because as a reduction in oestrogen leads to the tissue being thinner, making it harder to fight infection. Even if your partner is a clean person you are still at risk; using a condom or being circumcised doesn’t make a difference. Penetrative sex upsets the natural balance of your body so always make sure to go to the bathroom afterwards.

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A woman's greatest enemy? A lack of time to herself | Brigid Schulte

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 21:00

If what it takes to create are long stretches of time alone, that’s something women have never had the luxury to expect

A few months ago, as I struggled to carve out time in my crowded days for writing, a colleague suggested I read a book about the daily rituals of great artists. But instead of offering me the inspiration I’d hoped for, what struck me most about these creative geniuses – mostly men – was not their schedules and daily routines, but those of the women in their lives.

Their wives protected them from interruptions; their housekeepers and maids brought them breakfast and coffee at odd hours; their nannies kept their children out of their hair. Martha Freud not only laid out Sigmund’s clothes every morning, she even put the toothpaste on his toothbrush. Marcel Proust’s housekeeper, Celeste, not only brought him his daily coffee, croissants, newspapers and mail on a silver tray, but was always on hand whenever he wanted to chat, sometimes for hours. Some women are mentioned only for what they put up with, like Karl Marx’s wife – unnamed in the book – who lived in squalor with the surviving three of their six children while he spent his days writing at the British Museum.

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The SNP’s failure to defend abused politicians belies its caring image | Kevin McKenna

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 19:00

Female MPs and MSPs with unpopular views on abortion and gender have been the target of vile attacks

Do Tory prime ministers, on taking office, begin immediately to brace themselves for the moment when they are finally undone by the blows of their friends? There was Theresa May last week reflecting on her own wretched tenure and admitting that she hadn’t reckoned with the hatred that had engulfed her party over Brexit. “You know what some people call us: the nasty party,” she told the Tory conference in 2002 when she was its chairwoman. Like several of her predecessors, she eventually came to discover that her party reserves an exquisite level of malevolence for its own.

They spend their years in power striving to convince voters that compassion and decency lie at the party’s heart. In the end, they are knifed by those grey men with the vulpine grins when they are deemed to be of no further use. How else did she think it would end in a party that devised the Windrush scandal and the evil of benefits sanctions?

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Condemning poor children to a life without culture is a form of cruelty | Barbara Ellen

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 05:30
From music to sport, too many kids are losing out on vital life-enhancing activities

Disadvantaged children in England are being priced out of a cultural hinterland. A Social Mobility Commission study, from the University of Bath, reports that children aged 10-15 from low-income families are three times less likely than wealthier peers to engage in out-of-school musical activities, such as learning an instrument or joining a choir or orchestra.

There were also differences according to race – 4% of British Pakistani children took part in music classes, compared with 28% of Indian children and 20% of white children – and regional divides: 9% of children in north-east England played a musical instrument, compared with 22% in the south-east.

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Like a natural woman: why taboos about discussing the female body are dying

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 04:01

Periods, miscarriage and menopause were traditionally ‘private topics’. A raft of new books is changing that

When comedian Eleanor Thom first decided to write about her life with endometriosis, a long-term and often incredibly painful gynaecological condition, she did so because “I felt that this was the sort of thing I needed to read when I was a teenager.

“There’s a lot of medical stuff out there but it’s very much ‘this is what happens; these are the theories behind it’. They don’t tell you how to live with it day after day.”

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Yes, women like porn too – we're all just trained to believe they don't | Arwa Mahdawi

Sat, 07/20/2019 - 02:00

We’re told men are biologically wired to be more sexual than women, but this is junk science used to excuse bad behavior

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

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Sharon Stone: I was forgotten like Princess Diana after I had a stroke

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 07:25

Actor says it took seven years to recover from illness that first struck in 2001, during which time the actor says she was treated with ‘brutal unkindness’ by Hollywood

Sharon Stone has accused Hollywood of being “brutally unkind” in its treatment of her as she struggled to recover from a stroke in 2001.

Stone made the comments to Variety magazine at an event to raise awareness for the Women’s Brain Health Initiative in Los Angeles, after explaining she had had a “massive stroke … a nine-day brain bleed”.

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Cost of global push to prevent women dying in childbirth to increase sixfold

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 22:00

As Trump funding drought continues, UN figures show billions more will be needed to meet global target on maternal mortality

The cost of preventing women from dying in childbirth is projected to increase sixfold by 2030, requiring billions of dollars to achieve global targets, according to the UN.

The estimate was released by the UN population fund (UNFPA) on Thursday, offering a snapshot of the scale of the challenge the agency has set itself to end preventable maternal deaths by 2030.

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Pardon the rant, but here’s why I love my Mooncup so much | Sophie Wilkinson

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 22:00
Menstrual cups are eco friendly, save money and now are officially just as reliable as tampons

If you’re a Guardian-reading woman of a certain age, it’s likely you’ll have been party to the evangelical Mooncup rant. In the Mooncup rant, one woman tells the other about a convex piece of medical-grade silicone that has saved her life. She uses it each time she gets her period, and spends the rest of her time talking about it. The cup has saved her thousands, is proof of her eco credentials and is now, essentially, the best thing ever.

I’m relatively new to menstrual cups, turning to them two years ago after an organic tampon company’s cardboard applicators injured my gentlest parts. And I’ve got the devotion of a convert, regularly proselytising about my Mooncup with all the spittle-flecked frenzy of a televangelist. A new study published by the Lancet this week has proved my claims. Researchers from the Medical Research Council, the Department for International Development and the Wellcome Trust found that menstrual cups were just as reliable as tampons.

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I reported on misogyny in parliament 29 years ago – shockingly little has changed | Jennifer Nadel

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 02:30
To stamp out bullying, harassment and sexism in Westminster, we need to shift the whole way we do politics
• Jennifer Nadel is the co-founder of Compassion in Politics

Twenty-nine years ago this week I carried out an investigation for the Guardian about the endemic levels of sexism in parliament. A generation later, although much has been done, it is shocking to discover that so little has changed.

Last week’s reports on bullying and harassment in the Commons and Lords by the QCs Gemma White and Naomi Ellenbogen reveal a parliament that is still chauvinistic, lecherous and patriarchal.

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‘We don’t need to bleed’: why many women are giving up on periods

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 23:00

With recent confirmation that periods have no health benefit, an increasing number of women are using contraception to stop them altogether

For some, it is about bringing an end to debilitating pain or dark thoughts. For others, it is as simple as being liberated from the sinking realisation that you need a tampon – but you left them in your other handbag.

When a new wave of feminist authors and activists are calling on women to embrace their periods, the idea that some do not want a monthly bleed and are seeking to avoid having them altogether can seem radical.

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After falling for a con artist, I lost trust in the world – but I am anything but a damaged soul

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 08:00

The author of Fake, Guardian Australia’s new Unmissable book, says her story is far more than ‘lonely childless woman who fell for a fraud’

In 2013, I wrote my first “personal essay”. I told the world that I frequently felt acutely lonely. Even then, two years before Slate declared there were too many of these “solo acts of sensational disclosure” and four years before Jia Tolentino wrote a piece for the New Yorker carrying the headline “The personal-essay boom is over”, I feared there was something potentially unseemly about airing my private agonies.

The author of the Slate article, Laura Bennett, called essays such as How I Came to Forgive My Rapist (Vox) and My Gynaecologist Found a Ball of Cat Hair in My Vagina (xoJane) “professional dead ends, journalistically speaking”.

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KLM tells breastfeeding women they may be asked to cover up

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 07:14

Airline provokes outcry with response after woman says she was asked to cover herself with a blanket

The Dutch airline KLM is facing a storm of protest after warning that women who breastfeed their babies on its flights may be asked to cover up to avoid offending other passengers.

The company’s policy emerged after a woman claimed on Facebook she had been asked to shield herself from view while feeding her one-year-old on a flight between San Francisco and Amsterdam last month.

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