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Celebrate the beauty that comes with age | Letters

Mon, 06/07/2021 - 06:52

Ian Flintoff and Teresa McDonnell on notions of beauty, age and women in response to an article on Kate Winslet

Gaby Hinsliff (Kate Winslet shows there’s more to middle age than a saggy belly, 3 June) raises a question of massive importance to women, but also to us all. It is a myth that humans are less beautiful as they age – on the contrary. Years ago, to help me to understand things better, I got a season ticket to a Rembrandt exhibition. Many hours, day after day, taught me that, with the more truthful eyes of the artist, age is an etching of beauty on the more stereotyped images that are thrust upon us by adverts, pin-ups and porn. If the rosebush had eyes, it would peer at any human with wonder and exclaim: “How can anything of such wonder, beauty and complexity possibly exist?”

An analogy I often use is of the flashy cover on the latest novel in a bookshop, comparing this with the patina, beauty and handcrafting of an antique volume in a museum. Things – and people – lose beauty with age? No! The opposite is the case by any other than the most superficial standards of self-interest.
Ian Flintoff

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The Peequal: will the new women’s urinal spell the end of queues for the ladies’?

Mon, 06/07/2021 - 03:56

Research shows women in the UK spend 34 times longer queueing for public loos than men do. Now, two young designers think they have the solution

Name: The Peequal.

Age: Brand new.

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New play recounts ‘petticoat rule’ in the UK’s first female-majority council

Mon, 06/07/2021 - 01:23

Frankie Meredith’s Petticoat Council – to be performed as part of Coventry’s city of culture celebrations – celebrates women’s pioneering achievements in Bishop’s Itchington

In an unassuming village in Warwickshire after the second world war, a group of six women were quietly making history. As part of the first female-majority parish council in the UK, they transformed Bishop’s Itchington into a thriving community and broke down barriers for women in local politics despite opposition from the men on the council.

“I got really tearful when I was reading through the minutes from the meetings, because there’s just pages and pages of these women getting stuff done,” said playwright Frankie Meredith, who trawled through archives to bring the story to life on stage for the first time in her folk musical Petticoat Council.

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Stonewall risks all it has fought for in accusing those who disagree with it of hate speech | Sonia Sodha

Sat, 06/05/2021 - 22:30

The charity has forgotten that true power lies in solidarity and compromise

It was never going to be an ideal Pride month for Stonewall. The protests and parades, with their joyous celebrations and flags are, by necessity, on hold until later in the year. But how did it happen that its chief executive, Nancy Kelley, came under fire last week for likening a strand of feminism to antisemitism?

Two of Stonewall’s founders have accused the charity of losing its way. An independent review by a barrister into the unlawful no-platforming of two female academics found that Essex University’s policy on supporting trans staff, reviewed by Stonewall, misrepresented the law “as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than as it is”, to the detriment of women. And following the Equality and Human Rights Commission leaving Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme, the equalities minister, Liz Truss, has reportedly pushed for government departments to follow suit.

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Education for girls and vaccines can save Africa from disaster | Phillip Inman

Sat, 06/05/2021 - 06:00

Parts of the continent potentially face a decade of crisis. These two measures are more important than any other in avoiding it

There are so many good causes in the world it is often difficult to know where aid money should go. As leaders line up to attend the G7 summit in Cornwall, the most effective destinations for aid money have become clearer – a global vaccination programme and improving girls’ education.

This is especially true in sub-Saharan Africa, where so much can go wrong over the next 10 years – a population explosion, massive biodiversity loss, desertification, famine and mass migration to mention just a few – that unless we focus our efforts on vaccines and girls’ education, whatever is done to alleviate poverty or tackle the climate emergency will be threatened or even sabotaged in almost every other region of the world.

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My husband knew all about the waterworks | Brief letters

Fri, 06/04/2021 - 05:33

Obituary mistakes | Short walks | Ageing | Medical euphemisms | Cuckoos

Regular readers will know that Barbara Ewing (Letters, 3 June) is far from alone in appearing prematurely in the obituary pages and subsequently in corrections. Might it not be an idea to arrange an occasional “resurrections” column?
Mike Hine
Kingston upon Thames, London

• With the current long waiting lists for hip and knee replacements, these shorter walks are just what is needed for the older, lamer family members too (10 easy walks in Britain for families with younger children, 2 June). I would have welcomed the presence of a few more pubs.
Alberta Swan
Scarborough, North Yorkshire

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‘Unchain your wife’: the Orthodox women shining a light on ‘get’ refusal

Thu, 06/03/2021 - 21:00

Orthodox Jewish men give their wives a ‘get’ as the couple is divorcing, which seals the divorce according to religious law

On Route 59 in Monsey, New York, an Orthodox Jewish enclave in upstate New York, there is a large billboard that says in big block letters: “Dovid Wasserman. Give your wife a get!”

A “get” is a document Orthodox Jewish men give their wives as the couple is divorcing; it seals the divorce according to religious law, meaning that the husband decides if and when the divorce is final. Without it, the woman cannot move on with her life.

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Kate Winslet shows there’s more to middle age than a saggy belly | Gaby Hinsliff

Thu, 06/03/2021 - 05:51

Mare of Easttown would have been just another whodunnit without the rich detail of an older woman’s story

Kate Winslet has always had guts. But for her to have a belly, let alone one that wobbles and jiggles in the way most 45-year-old women’s middles quite unremarkably do, is still apparently a thing so shocking as to make headline news. This week the star of the cult TV drama Mare of Easttown disclosed that she had refused her director’s offer to edit out footage of her “bulgy bit of belly” from a sex scene, arguing that her character should be allowed to look like the woman she was meant to be: a middle-aged small town detective who has carried two children, unwinds after an exhausting day with a beer rather than a gym session, and has rather more serious things to worry about than the odd flabby bit hanging over her jeans.

“She’s a fully functioning, flawed woman with a body and a face that moves in a way that is synonymous with her age and her life and where she comes from. I think we’re starved of that a bit,” as Winslet, who not only starred in but executive produced the show, puts it. Not since the eponymous heroine of Shirley Valentine ran away to Greece in search of one last adventure, and marvelled at her new lover’s willingness to kiss her stretchmarks, has a naked stomach on film been deemed to make such a statement.

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‘It’s dehumanizing’: Texas valedictorian goes off script to attack abortion ban

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 20:45

Paxton Smith criticizes near-total ban that makes no exception for rape or incest

The valedictorian at a Texas high school went off script while delivering her graduation speech, criticising the state’s extreme abortion ban in an address that has since been widely shared on social media.

School administrators had signed off on Paxton Smith’s pre-written speech on how TV and media have shaped her worldview. But, when it came time to address the graduating class of Lake Highlands high school, she pivoted.

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Female anatomy still causing a blush | Letters

Wed, 06/02/2021 - 06:47

If a gynaecologist is embarrassed to use real terms, perhaps he or she should have chosen a different speciality, says Susan Wolfe. While Susan Boyd finds the obsession with the vagina tiresome

Re your article (Most Britons cannot name all parts of the vulva, survey reveals, 30 May), I put some of the blame for this on the medical community for using infantilising euphemisms for female genitalia when addressing adult female patients.

For example, four separate private gynaecologists in central London each referred to my adult menopausal uterus as my “tummy”. English women to whom I related my surprise at this replied: “The doctor’s probably just embarrassed.” If a gynaecologist is embarrassed to use real terms for a woman’s body, perhaps he or she should have chosen a different speciality.

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Instead of believing my reports of pain, experts told me to have a baby or see a psychiatrist | Katherine Stanley

Tue, 06/01/2021 - 14:14

Continuing to ignore pain as a central issue leaves women suffering, not believed and silenced

I can’t begin to tell you the utter heartbreak I feel some days as I watch my children playing on the monkey bars. Statistics flash through my brain and I plead with the universe: please don’t let my kids be one of them.

Ninety-two per cent* of adolescent girls will have period pain and a third miss work and school because of it.

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Disaster patriarchy: how the pandemic has unleashed a war on women

Mon, 05/31/2021 - 19:00

As Covid-19 has swept the world there has been an explosion of violence against women, and a full-blown assault on their rights. It’s time to fight back against a system that allows women to be sacrificed, erased and violated

Covid has unleashed the most severe setback to women’s liberation in my lifetime. While watching this happen, I have started to think we are witnessing an outbreak of disaster patriarchy.

Naomi Klein was the first to identify “disaster capitalism”, when capitalists use a disaster to impose measures they couldn’t possibly get away with in normal times, generating more profit for themselves. Disaster patriarchy is a parallel and complementary process, where men exploit a crisis to reassert control and dominance, and rapidly erase hard-earned women’s rights. (The term “racialized disaster patriarchy” was used by Rachel E Luft in writing about an intersectional model for understanding disaster 10 years after Hurricane Katrina.) All over the world, patriarchy has taken full advantage of the virus to reclaim power – on the one hand, escalating the danger and violence to women, and on the other, stepping in as their supposed controller and protector.

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The lost and lonely clitoris: why can so few people find it?

Mon, 05/31/2021 - 05:18

In a recent survey, more than a third of people in the UK mislabelled this vital part of female anatomy. So where is it – and what is it for?

Name: The clitoris.

Age: As old as men and – possibly more importantly – women themselves, would you Adam and Eve it? Older still, for non-creationists.

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Covid lockdown school closures ‘hit mothers’ mental health but left fathers unaffected’

Mon, 05/31/2021 - 03:24

Study of parents in England reveals mothers suffered from loneliness, depression and problems sleeping

School closures in England during the Covid lockdown badly damaged the mental health of mothers but had no impact on fathers’ wellbeing, research has found.

Doing childcare and home schooling as well as their own jobs led to more mothers of pre-teenage children feeling depressed, having trouble sleeping and seeing themselves as worthless.

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Most Britons cannot name all parts of the vulva, survey reveals

Sun, 05/30/2021 - 03:33

Nearly 40% mislabelled clitoris regardless of their gender in study conducted out of concern for female patients

Do you know your urethra from your clitoris? And could you locate either of them on a diagram? According to a survey of patients in hospital waiting rooms, half of Britons could not identify the urethra, while 37% mislabelled the clitoris – regardless of their gender. Meanwhile, just 46% correctly identified that women have three “holes” down below.

Dina El-Hamamsy, a senior obstetrics and gynaecology registrar, now at Addenbrookes hospital in Cambridge, and her colleagues, conducted the survey out of concern that many of their female patients were confused by the nature of their medical problems.

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Stars in stripes … why the classic Breton top is back in vogue

Sat, 05/29/2021 - 04:05

The comfy staple is seen as the perfect fashion transition after months spent at home

Once favoured by stars ranging from Pablo Picasso to Audrey Hepburn, Marlon Brando to Madonna, Breton tops – with their statement stripes and easy shape – are about to enjoy a new fashion moment.

Touted by stylish insiders as one of the transition items to take us from working from home to emerging out into the world, the familiar stripes have been spotted recently on the Duchess of Cambridge, Anna Wintour and actress Jennifer Garner.

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You’ll believe that wonder woman Simone Biles can fly | Rebecca Nicholson

Sat, 05/29/2021 - 04:00
The first female gymnast to execute the Yurchenko double pike wows everyone... except the judges

Simone Biles became the central figure in a sporting parable last weekend, when she attempted, and landed, a move so dangerous that no other woman has ever even tried to do it in a gymnastics competition, not even the woman for whom it is named. Biles executed the Yurchenko double pike during the final night of the 2021 US Classic in Indianapolis; traditionally, it is only attempted by men. It was incredible. It defied belief, even as it unfolded before the crowd’s eyes.

If Ginger Rogers thought dancing backwards and in high heels was tough, then the sight of Biles approaching a vault blindly and then launching herself to astonishing heights, without so much as looking in the right direction, is something else entirely.

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His fair lady: how George Bernard Shaw’s wife played a vital role in his masterworks

Sat, 05/29/2021 - 01:45

Charlotte’s influence has been downplayed, says a new book on how women are written out of history

In the climactic final scene of George Bernard Shaw’s masterpiece Pygmalion, Henry Higgins famously threatens to wring Eliza Doolittle’s neck. “Wring away!” she replies. “Oh, when I think of myself crawling under your feet and being trampled on and called names, when all the time I had only to lift up my finger to be as good as you, I could just kick myself.”

Until now, Shaw’s play about the flower girl who is transformed into a duchess by a wealthy professor was thought to have little in common with the great playwright’s own life. But this summer, a new book will shine a spotlight on the important contributions that Shaw’s wife, Charlotte, an heiress and intellectual, made to his work – and reveal how her connections and influence utterly transformed Shaw’s life and career.

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Labour pledges to outlaw redundancy for pregnant women

Fri, 05/28/2021 - 20:00

Exclusive: opposition commits to a range of equal rights policies as UK emerges from pandemic

Labour would make it illegal to make women redundant during pregnancy and for six months after their return to work, as part of a slew of policies to protect and promote gender equality in the recovery from the pandemic.

The party also called on the government to review the UK’s “failing” shared parental leave policy and to introducing ethnicity pay gap reporting. It has also pledged to modernise equal pay laws to give women the right to know what their male colleagues earn.

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