The Week in Women: High-heel empowerment, a landmark Supreme Court ruling, and some very saucy lions

Activists wait for rulings in Whole Woman's Health v. Hellerstedt, in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 27, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Pete Marovich/Getty Images)

Happy Fourth of July weekend! In honor of ’Murica’s independence, we’ve curated a selection of stories from the past week that feature themes of emancipation and freedom — which sounds nice, but sometimes isn’t. Let’s take a look back, shall we?

On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down an onerous 2013 abortion law that had led to the closure of dozens of abortion clinics in Texas. The law required abortion clinics to meet the same building standards as ambulatory surgical centers, and mandated that clinic doctors have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals — benchmarks that proved too difficult for many facilities to meet. In his majority opinion, Justice Breyer wrote, “We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes … [E]ach constitutes an undue burden on abortion access, and each violates the Federal Constitution.”

Amidst the fallout of Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, two women politicians have emerged as top contenders to lead the major parties — and the nation — going forward. There is support among a significant number of politicians for Angela Eagle to issue a leadership challenge to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who lost a confidence vote on Tuesday by a devastating margin of 172 to 40. Eagle, a Member of Parliament, resigned Monday from her post in Corbyn’s cabinet, accusing him of “half-hearted ambivalence” for his lackluster campaigning to remain in the E.U. On Thursday, British home secretary Theresa May launched her bid for leadership of the Conservative Party, after prime minister David Cameron announced his resignation. “I’m Theresa May and I’m the best person to be Prime Minister,” she said, leaving no doubt as to her ambition. The decision over who will lead England’s major parties following the Brexit vote is critical; thankfully, it looks like it won’t be this dude.

A new movement in Japan is encouraging women to emancipate themselves from the patriarchy by … wearing high heels? The Japan High Heel Association (JHA, and apparently a thing) is one of several organizations advocating for women to boost their confidence by submitting to the medieval torture contraptions of footwear. “Many women are too shy to express themselves,” said “Madame” Yumiko, managing director of JHA. “In Japanese culture, women are not expected to stand out or put themselves first.” JHA is offering a six-month course in high-heel wearing, which costs a whopping 400,000 yen (about $4,000) and will be presumably be empty. Because, you know, none of the participants will be able to walk there.

Perhaps a more compelling way to free ourselves from the yolk of gender norms would be to take our cues from animals. Biologists are challenging prevailing theories of evolution, which hold that males are sexually aggressive and females are passive. A recent paper by University of Missouri researcher Zuleyma Tang-Martinez puts forth evidence of females defying the normative rules of sexual selection theory — among birds, for instance, the fairy wren will see only five percent of its clutches fathered by a single male. Further evidence includes female lions mating 100 times a day with various partners. We’re tired just thinking about it.

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