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People have told me I’m on the wrong side of history, but I still want to be their friend | Hadley Freeman

Fri, 06/25/2021 - 22:00

I don’t drop people I disagree with from my life – but for many liberals, differences of opinion have become unacceptable

It’s rare to see a woman really let her anger glitter, unhindered by any fear of accusations of hysteria or worse, so what a blast of delicious fire Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie has given us. Her essay It Is Obscene, published online last week, is ostensibly about two former students of hers who denounced her on social media after she gave an interview to Channel 4 in 2017 in which, when asked if she thought trans women were women, Adichie made the tautological but now highly controversial reply, “Trans women are trans women.” Instead of just calling her, one of Adichie’s students “went on social media to put on a public performance,” she wrote. The other tweeted that people should “pick up machetes to protect us from transphobes like Adichie”, and still assumed Adichie would endorse her book.

Really, the essay is about a strong current in modern culture. “There are many social media-savvy people who are choking on sanctimony and lacking in compassion... People who demand that you denounce your friends for flimsy reasons in order to remain a member of the chosen puritan class,” Adichie writes.

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‘I knew how dangerous things could become’: the perils of childbirth as a Black woman

Fri, 06/25/2021 - 19:00

When she was pregnant, Anna Malaika Tubbs was thrilled – then terrified, knowing the shockingly high death rate of Black women in childbirth. Could she find a way to stay safe?

In the bathroom of a friend’s house in Washington DC, I waited anxiously for a few minutes before turning to look at the pregnancy test. It was positive. My eyes filled with tears; I was overjoyed, grateful and excited, but also very scared.

I think many parents can relate to this feeling, which seems to start as soon as we see that test result, and continues until our children are adults; we are overwhelmed with happiness for their mere existence while simultaneously terrified of the possibility of losing them. But as a Black feminist scholar, I was well aware that I had even more reason to worry.

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No one should be penalised if they want to carry on working from home | Gaby Hinsliff

Thu, 06/24/2021 - 21:00

Unless men also ditch the commute, flexible working is bound to be held against those who embrace it

If dating can sometimes feel like hard work, then playing Cupid is evidently no picnic either. Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder of the dating app Bumble, has just given her entire company a week off to recover from what one senior executive (in a swiftly deleted tweet) called “our collective burnout”, following similar gestures at Facebook and LinkedIn.

Related: Post-Covid work patterns must not be imposed by bosses with an eye on cost

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Outrage after Pakistan PM Imran Khan blames rape crisis on women

Thu, 06/24/2021 - 14:59

Khan accused of being a ‘rape apologist’ after saying rise in attacks is down to women wearing ‘very few clothes’

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, is facing backlash after he blamed victims of rape for wearing “very few clothes”.

The former cricket captain was questioned by the Axios journalist Jonathan Swan about the ongoing “rape epidemic” in Pakistan and responded by saying: “If a woman is wearing very few clothes it will have an impact on the man unless they are robots. It’s common sense.”

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The advertising industry sold us the perfect woman – do we finally understand the price we paid?

Thu, 06/24/2021 - 04:24

For decades, marketing left women feeling they must live up to punishing ideals. Now, finally, some brands are offering a glimmer of hope

When Billie Eilish appeared on the cover of Vogue’s June edition sporting a corset and a magnificent set of platinum blond curls, staring into camera and daring anyone to object, it felt properly shocking. Many on social media berated her, vigorously and unforgivingly, for “selling out”. Eilish was unfazed. She is, she said, an adult. She has every right to dress as she prefers. And at that moment, she preferred a corset.

She was, in effect, claiming her womanhood, her adulthood, her right to present herself in any way that makes her feel good. She was growing up, not giving in.

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Vulva decor: is Cara Delevingne’s vagina tunnel the start of something big?

Thu, 06/24/2021 - 00:11

The model and actor has a new household installation - a pink tunnel where she goes to think. Vulval art and design has an ancient history, but it’s becoming more popular than ever

Should you swap all your doors for a vagina tunnel? This is the pressing question raised by a video tour from the model and actor Cara Delevingne, who takes Architectural Digest around her LA home, and I believe the answer has to be “yes”. In her living room, a secret door in the mirrored panelling reveals a soft pink opening. Crawl right in, take the dog with you (Delevingne does). “I come in here to think, I come in here to create, I feel inspired in the vagina tunnel,” says Delevingne.

Delevingne, and her architect, Nicolò Bini, were inspired, she says repeatedly, by Alice in Wonderland, but this is more like a vulval version of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe – the Chronicles of Labia, if you like. You climb out through a washing machine at the other end – “rebirthed and cleansed!” cries our host. The vagina’s rebirth powers are strong: Delevingne’s terrier goes in, and comes out a husky. The theme continues through the rest of the house: there is a floral display in her bedroom (“This lovely bouquet of vagina flowers”) and a “pussy palace”, a tactile pink suedette-lined secret room complete with swing and mirrored ceiling.

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Mystery of the wheelie suitcase: how gender stereotypes held back the history of invention

Wed, 06/23/2021 - 23:00

Why have some brilliant innovations – from rolling luggage to electric cars – taken so long to come to market? Macho culture has a lot to answer for

In 1972 an American luggage executive unscrewed four castors from a wardrobe and fixed them to a suitcase. Then he put a strap on his contraption and trotted it gleefully around his house.

This was how Bernard Sadow invented the world’s first rolling suitcase. It happened roughly 5,000 years after the invention of the wheel and barely one year after Nasa managed to put two men on the surface of the moon using the largest rocket ever built. We had driven an electric rover with wheels on a foreign heavenly body and even invented the hamster wheel. So why did it take us so long to put wheels on suitcases? This has become something of a classic mystery of innovation.

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Aphra Behn fans campaign for statue of playwright in Canterbury home

Wed, 06/23/2021 - 19:00

Fundraisers say 17th-century author who was first woman to make her living as a professional writer should be celebrated by town

Playwright, poet, novelist and spy: Aphra Behn is often referred to as the first ever woman to make her living as a professional writer. And now, a mere three centuries after her death, a committed group of fans are campaigning to get a statue of her erected in her home city of Canterbury.

It is about time that the “original smasher of the glass ceiling” was rightfully celebrated alongside other literary Canterburians Chaucer and Christopher Marlowe, said local poet Charlotte Cornell, chair of A is for Aphra.

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NHS nurse sacked over weekend working wins landmark ruling

Wed, 06/23/2021 - 06:23

Woman fired by North Cumbria NHS trust wins appeal in ruling hailed as victory for women’s workplace rights

A community nurse who was sacked for not agreeing to work weekends has won a “landmark” ruling for working mothers after a judge said employment tribunals must take childcare disparity into account.

Gemma Dobson worked fixed shifts in order to care for her three children, two of whom are disabled. She was fired by North Cumbria integrated NHS foundation trust in 2016 after she was unable to meet a new requirement for community nurses to work flexibly, including some weekends.

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Irish couple to receive damages over advice that led to unnecessary abortion

Wed, 06/23/2021 - 05:27

Rebecca Price terminated pregnancy after being mistakenly told foetus had fatal abnormality

A couple in Ireland are to be awarded damages for being mistakenly told their unborn baby had a fatal foetal abnormality, which led them to terminate the pregnancy.

The high court in Dublin will consider the damages to be paid to Rebecca Price and Patrick Kiely on Wednesday after medical personnel and institutions involved in the case admitted liability.

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Thelma & Louise stage musical in the works

Tue, 06/22/2021 - 23:55

The writer of the 1991 feminist road movie has revealed a musical version is in progress, but will be ‘a completely different animal’

A musical based on Thelma & Louise, the Oscar-winning 1991 film starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, is in preparation, it has emerged.

The film’s writer, Callie Khouri, told the Hollywood Reporter at a 30th anniversary screening that the project was in its “very early stages”. “We’ve got a book and we’ve got music but because of the pandemic, we haven’t all been together in a very, very long time. So, it’s still in its nascent stages, but it’s very promising.”

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Let me ladysplain a few facts about childcare to the dinosaurs of the National party | Kristine Ziwica

Tue, 06/22/2021 - 18:00

Maybe now isn’t the best time to accuse working women of ‘outsourcing’ their kids

• Female Coalition MPs ‘fire up’ after party room told working women are ‘outsourcing parenting’

A “motherhood statement” is defined as a vague, “feel-good” platitude, especially one made by a politician, that few people would disagree with.

May I humbly suggest that the National party – and its newly reinstated leader Barnaby Joyce, who has a questionable record, to say the least, when it comes to women’s issues – steer clear of their particular version of a motherhood statement. They will find many people (coughs women) find them very easy to disagree with.

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A leaked S&M video won’t keep Zack Weiner out of politics – and nor should it | Arwa Mahdawi

Tue, 06/22/2021 - 07:00

Just like this would-be New York councillor, many young people document every intimate aspect of their lives. Some of that footage will inevitably become public

You have to be something of a masochist to want to get into politics – and Zack Weiner is an unapologetic masochist. Last week, the 26-year-old, who is running for a place on the city council in New York, was something of a nonentity: he had zero name recognition and his campaign had raised just over $10,000 (£7,200), most of which he had donated himself.

Perhaps the most notable thing about Weiner was the fact his dad is the co-creator of the kids’ TV show Dora the Explorer. But that changed when a video of a man engaged in consensual sadomasochism was posted on Twitter by an anonymous account that claimed the man was Weiner. On Saturday, the New York Post ran a story about the video, complete with salacious screengrab. Pretty soon it made international headlines.

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On International Widows’ Day, Boris Johnson must add action to his words | Letter

Tue, 06/22/2021 - 06:51

Margaret Owen urges the government to end the silence on the plight of widows worldwide and help them gain basic rights and dignity

Boris Johnson’s government betrays not just children (Punishing the young serves Johnson’s politics of nostalgia, 22 June) but also women and girls – not just here, but across the world – by its brutal cuts in aid to the communities that need it most, and by its breach of legal obligations under Cedaw (the UN convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women).

Its arms sales and trade deals to racist, misogynist and authoritarian regimes, whose wars create uncounted millions of widows of all ages, violate the UN’s arms trade treaty. Where rape and displacement are weapons of war, overcrowded camps for internally displaced people and refugees are full of impoverished widows. And now Covid-19 competes with armed conflict to be another supreme widow-maker.

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The government’s rape review has ignored the experiences of Black survivors | Sumanta Roy

Tue, 06/22/2021 - 02:00

Until victims of rape feel they are believed, the UK will continue to have a two-tier justice system

Last week the end-to-end rape review was published, with the government issuing an apology to victims, acknowledging widespread criminal justice system failures that have led to the decriminalisation of rape. Will this apology make a meaningful difference to the many Black and ethnic minority survivors of rape and sexual abuse who encounter discriminatory attitudes, stereotyping and poor treatment from criminal justice agencies?

Through our research at Imkaan (a network that connects organisations led by and for Black and ethnic minority women) with survivors and specialist frontline organisations, we know there are huge disparities in the way the criminal justice system treats victims. Black and ethnic minority women are more likely to be criminalised and viewed as complicit in violence perpetrated against them. They are less likely to be considered “victims” of sexual violence and can experience harmful assumptions from professionals who pathologise violence as part of a “cultural norm”.

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What life lessons can we really learn from ‘femininity coaching’?

Sat, 06/19/2021 - 21:00

Femininity-focused Instagram profiles are on the rise, but what do they teach us about being the person we want to be?

Summer has arrived and through the hayfevered mists it’s clear to see the femininity industry is thriving. It smells amazing. The parks, the streets, they’re alive with flicky skirts, clicky heels, bronzer dusted 2cm thick in order to make up for those lost lockdown months. I have purchased a tinted lipbalm, some herbal tea and a pair of high-leg period pants this week alone. But it’s not just the vanilla-scented accessories of femininity that are available to buy today; no, these are simply the scaffolding on which the project leans.

A piece I read on Refinery29 this week introduced to me the trend of “femininity coaching”, and the rise of femininity-focused Instagram profiles. Sami Wunder earns more than £1m a year coaching “high-achieving women” on how to “attract lasting romantic love” by teaching them how to use their “feminine energy” and refrain from masculine “doing” or “giving”. The Instagram account, Levels of Women, has 16,500 followers, here for content from a psychologist whose advice includes “learn to cook”, “never swear” and “don’t be impressed by a man’s wealth unless he’s spending it on you”. Instinctively, I bristle. Of course I do, a person so slathered in various posts of feminism I must complete a mental guilt worksheet before I allow myself to shave even my shins. But the timing of this trend, it interests me.

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Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie captures the hypocrisies of too many ‘social justice’ zealots | Kenan Malik

Sat, 06/19/2021 - 20:30
The writer offers a lucid account of debate where people take offence and act cruelly

‘The more she wrote, the less sure she became. Each post scraped off yet one more scale of self until she felt naked and false.” So wrote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie about Ifemelu, the central character in her 2013 novel Americanah. Through a series of beautifully observed novels that deftly map the fractures of the contemporary world – Purple Hibiscus, Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah – Adichie has become one of the most eloquent voices of anglophone Africa. She has also become a fierce protagonist in debates over racism, feminism and free speech.

Much of Adichie’s work wrestles with questions of identity in a globalised world and, in particular, what it means to be black and to be a woman. In a world of contested identities, this has inevitably drawn her into a number of controversies, most notably with trans activists. Last week, she published a three-part essay entitled It Is Obscene, which went viral, picked up by newspapers across the world. The essay is both a passionate defence of herself against her critics and a blistering polemical reflection on the state of public debate today.

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Biden threatened with communion ban over position on abortion

Sat, 06/19/2021 - 07:36

US bishops vote to stop pro-choice Catholics receiving eucharist

Roman Catholic bishops in the US have voted to press ahead with moves that could result in Joe Biden being banned from receiving communion because of his stance on abortion, and that risks increasing tensions in a divided church.

After three days of online debate, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) voted by three to one to draft new guidance on the eucharist. The unexpected strength of support for the move among the bishops was a rebuff to the Vatican, which had signalled its opposition.

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It’s not our health that concerns you, guys. It’s women having fun | Barbara Ellen

Sat, 06/19/2021 - 06:00
The WHO’s alcohol action diktat plays into a much wider contempt for females

Has the World Health Organization met any women before? On such occasions, are its representatives dismayed that women aren’t lowering their eyes and curtsying?

I only ask, because part of the WHO’s draft global alcohol action plan for 2022-2030 reads like something you might have found nailed to a church door in medieval times. Among other things, it recommends no drinking for “women of childbearing age”. At first, I misread it and thought it was advising against drinking for pregnant women or any woman who wished to become pregnant in the near future. But no, the WHO advice is for all women of “childbearing age”. That women must turn away from their wine and vodka jelly shots in order to… what? Prep for the glory of their gestational futures? Preserve their uterine integrity? Go full Gilead, accept they’re not fully human and embrace their God-given destiny as walking, talking vessels for wombs?

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Switch to more home working after Covid ‘will make gender inequality worse’

Sat, 06/19/2021 - 04:00

Men are more likely to be in the office after the pandemic while women become less visible to employers

The permanent switch to more home working following the pandemic will cause rising gender inequality in the workplace, according to experts, unless employers carefully monitor their new working policies to make sure women aren’t disadvantaged.

Traditionally, more women than men – particularly those with children or caring responsibilities – have requested flexible working. The switch to working from home necessitated by coronavirus lockdowns has, 15 months on, resulted in a permanent change in corporate culture, to the extent that the government is considering legislating to make home working the “default” option.

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