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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 A glass of Aldi rosé in my hand and that show can reinforce all the outdated romantic stereotypes it wants.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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‘They just got away with paying men more …’ Milestone looms in Asda equal pay fight

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 21:08

On the eve of a supreme court hearing for the UK’s biggest joint claim, former women shopworkers describe their six-year quest

For years, Wendy Arundale was nicknamed Little Miss Asda. At one point her whole family, including her husband and two children, worked at the supermarket. She dyed her hair pink for an Asda breast cancer fundraiser. She ran a hotdog stand for Asda. The 62-year-old grandmother of nine from Middlesbrough spent 32 years of her life working at Asda. It’s fair to say she was a dedicated employee.

“It makes me feel sad, and I do get bitter now sometimes thinking of how I was treated,” she said, speaking to the Observer. “My husband was paid 80p more than me an hour. I was close to crying at times because I wasn’t valued. The girls were paid terrible compared to the men. It makes you feel stupid. I really loved my job, but I don’t know why I put up with feeling like this for so long.”

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The medical profession has failed when women in agony are dismissed as hysterics | Barbara Ellen

Sat, 07/11/2020 - 06:30

The vaginal mesh scandal betrayed the intimate trust that should exist between doctor and patient, whatever their sex

Whatever comes next in the vaginal mesh scandal, let’s hope that it spells the end of the “shut up and put up” medical culture when it comes to female healthcare.

The Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review, led by Baroness Julia Cumberlege, spent two years looking into meshes. It also scrutinised Primodos hormonal pregnancy tests and the epilepsy treatment sodium valproate – both thought to cause birth defects.

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Women still face a medical minefield | Letter

Fri, 07/10/2020 - 05:34

Jan Millington of the campaigning group Radiotherapy Action Group Exposure is saddened that women are still not receiving proper care, support and attention to complex needs

Baroness Cumberlege, who chaired the review into vaginal mesh, hormonal pregnancy tests and an epilepsy medicine that harmed unborn babies (Denial of women’s concerns contributed to decades of medical scandals, says inquiry, 8 July), was involved with my campaigning group Radiotherapy Action Group Exposure back in the early 1990s.

After a Guardian article in 1991, it was found that hundreds of women were suffering devastating injuries from breast and pelvic radiation. We had much media exposure and over the years interacted responsibly with the Department of Health, the legal profession, charities and royal colleges, as well as providing advocacy and support to our members.

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The supreme court endangered access to contraception. There's a way to fight back | Ilse Hogue

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 23:30

Brett Kavanaugh is exactly the foe to reproductive rights we said he’d be. This election will be a crucible

Exactly two years ago today, Donald Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to be a justice to the supreme court. What followed was one of the most bitter confirmation battles in the history of the court. Advocates and citizens lined up to lobby their senators to vote no on the confirmation, deeply concerned about the judge’s record on civil rights, reproductive rights and executive authority. Kavanaugh was the least popular nominee to face confirmation and that was all before Dr Christine Blasey Ford came forward with her allegation of sexual assault.

Related: US anti-abortion groups received millions in federal Covid-19 aid

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Pelvic mesh scandal is what happens when men with power ignore women | Richard Vize

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 21:33

Cumberlege report is a damning reminder of how arrogant, intimidating doctors have suppressed their patients’ views

Julia Cumberlege’s report into avoidable harm inflicted by the healthcare system exposes an institutional inability to listen to patients in general and women in particular.

Her investigation into decades of failure batters the reputation of the NHS, professional bodies, regulators, manufacturers, private providers and policymakers.

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The world's poorest women and girls risk being biggest losers in DfID merger

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 19:00

The department is a world leader in programmes based on gender equality. The government must show this will continue

News that the Department for International Development and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office are to merge raised many questions about the UK’s commitment to supporting the world’s poorest people. A key question for us is how the new department will support women and girls.

For more than 20 years, UK aid has saved and transformed the lives of women and girls in some of the world’s poorest countries. In the past five years, 10 million women and girls have received humanitarian assistance and more than 6 million girls have been able to access quality education. Upwards of £25m has been invested to prevent violence against women and girls through the government’s What Works programme, and a further £67m committed.

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Anna Ford attacks ‘body fascism’ in the media – archive, 10 July 1980

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 18:30

10 July 1980: The ITN newscaster and other members of Women in Media gathered in London to marshal their campaign against media mythology

Sexual stereotyping took a battering yesterday as an array of talented and successful women from television, radio, newspapers, theatre and advertising gathered in London to marshal their campaign against media mythology.

The conference, at the Knightsbridge headquarters of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, was organised by Women in Media – a pressure group which for 10 years has fought “to improve the position of women at work, and make men and women aware of the distorted images presented in the media.”

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The pelvic mesh scandal makes it clear: doctors must declare any funding | Margaret McCartney

Thu, 07/09/2020 - 02:56

We need a public register to show if healthcare professionals are in the pay of industry – or more patients will suffer

It was never “just women’s problems”. After decades of having their suffering dismissed, many patients will have been relieved about the publication of the Independent Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Review yesterday. Led by Julia Cumberlege, the review has spent two years investigating three medical interventions: pelvic mesh, used in prolapse surgery, which resulted in chronic, life-changing pain for many women; Primodos, a hormonal pregnancy test, used up until 1978; and sodium valproate, an epilepsy treatment. The latter two have both been linked with birth defects.

Related: Denial of women's concerns contributed to decades of medical scandals, says inquiry

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'I trusted my doctors': the women fighting for justice after medical procedures

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 06:01

An inquiry into the harmful effects of medical treatments prescribed to female patients in England has highlighted a series of scandals

After the birth of her daughter in 2011 Adèle Yemm, now 46, had mild stress incontinence. She initially planned on pursuing physiotherapy, but was persuaded to undergo pelvic mesh surgery – despite raising concerns that it was inappropriate for women who planned on further pregnancies.

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Supreme court upholds Trump rules letting more employers deny contraceptive coverage

Wed, 07/08/2020 - 04:20

Ruling on expansion of religious exemptions could deny 125,000 women coverage, Sotomayor says

The US supreme court has upheld a broad expansion by the Trump administration of the pool of employers that can use religious objections to deny women insurance coverage for contraception.

The ruling, which struck down a lower court decision, could deprive up to 125,000 women of contraceptive coverage, Justice Sonia Sotomayor warned during oral arguments in the case in May.

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Why I don't have a child: I cherish my freedom

Tue, 07/07/2020 - 22:00

Every day I don’t buy diapers, I’m sticking it to the man. And I have the time to think, to be creative and to cultivate a career

Last autumn, I fell in love for the first time in at least 20 years.

That enormous feeling overwhelmed me like fall in New England or a natural disaster. I knew I was in serious trouble when I found myself patiently, even blissfully, ironing his shirts. Who the hell am I right now, my besotted self thought. In a flash of recognition, I knew: I was a woman taking care of a man.

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