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Writer Susan Sontag in Rome, June 9, 2003, while  promoting her book
Writer Susan Sontag in Rome, June 9, 2003, while promoting her book

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The Week in Women: Which literary legend may have also secretly penned her husband’s seminal work?

By on May 16, 2019

AMERICA’S SHAME
“Every woman sobbing on election night knew what was coming.” By now, you’ll likely be aware that on Tuesday night, 25 male Alabama lawmakers voted to ban almost all abortions in the state — with no exception for rape or incest victims. The measure — which was signed into law by the state’s female Governor Wednesday night — recommends a greater jail sentence for doctors performing the procedure (up to 99 years) than the state’s current sentence for rape.

As we wrote on Tuesday, as things are going, these bills could feature in every edition of this newsletter (and will, if similar ones in Louisiana and Mississippi continue to advance.) And while it can be easy to lose all hope at times like these, remember: there is no state in the country where public support for banning abortions reaches even 25 percent. The Alabama legislation doesn’t take effect for six months, and the ACLU and Planned Parenthood are already mounting court challenges than CNN believes would delay its enforcement for years. This fight has truly only just begun: here’s how you can lend support.

OUTFOXED
“I won’t ask millions of voters to tune into an outlet that profits from racism and hate.” As the B-Boys Biden, Bernie and Buttigieg scrap with one another for prime position on various Fox shows, Elizabeth Warren has called the network out for what it is — “a hate-for-profit racket” she says she’ll never appear on. Read her forceful rejection to their Town Hall invitation in full here.

CLUELESS
After seeing the amount of work that goes into parenting, Spanish men say they no longer want big families.

In March 2007, Spain introduced a national policy that granted most new fathers two weeks of fully paid paternity leave. In 2018, that number was expanded to five weeks. Now, the first study of the effects the policy has had on citizens’ mindsets has emerged.

Its greatest finding? After being made “more acutely aware of the effort and costs associated with childrearing,” men surveyed said they now wanted smaller families. Meanwhile, women interviewed for the same study shared a newfound preference for larger families, implying that (surprise, surprise) raising children feels a little less impossible when fathers share the load.

PROTECTING HER LAND
Brazilian activist Sônia Guajajara — the first indigenous woman in Brazil’s history to run for Vice President — just bossed her appearance on Hasan Minhaj’s popular Netflix show, Patriot Act.

Invited to discuss her extraordinary environmental activism, Minhaj asked Guajajara whether America — having decimated its own forests — is an “a**hole” for pointing the finger at Brazil.

“You’re saying it” Guajajara said with a smile, “and I’m affirming it.”

‘MOM IN DC’
Congresswomen, they’re just like us. A fresh New York Times feature takes us inside the home lives of three new congresswomen working to balance the needs of their young children with the needs of their hundreds of thousands of constituents.

As it turns out, the old ways remain the best ways. Remember Katie Porter, the freshman Democrat who elegantly dismembered the facile responses of Chase CEO Jamie Dimon before the House Financial Services Committee last month? Her family still uses a worn weekly fridge planner — except hers has a pretty important commitment on it most days: “Mom in DC.”

A WOMAN’S WORK
In 2017’s The Wife, Glenn Close plays a woman accompanying her husband to Sweden to accept his Nobel Prize, having secretly written all of his novels.

Now, life seems to be imitating art, with a new Susan Sontag biography claiming she was the true author of her ex-husband Philip Rieff’s seminal book on Freud.

In Benjamin Moser’s, Susan: Her Life, the author claims that Rieff “almost certainly did not write the book upon which his career was based,” and interviews Sontag’s friends who remember her “spending every afternoon rewriting the whole thing from scratch.”

Fortunately, Sontag went on to become a legend of letters, but as Jezebel points out Vera Nabokov, Anna Dostoyevsky and Zelda Fitzgerald never received credit for their known contributions to their husbands’ books.

THERE’S MORE
The 2019 Cannes Film Festival began this week with a defense of its treatment of female filmmakers. That hasn’t spared the event facing fresh criticism for its treatment of mothers and babies.

Women in the World summit speaker Tayari Jones novel Silver Sparrow will be turned into a movie by none other than Issa Rae.

That was close: a zealous Angela Merkel fan was so excited to see the German Chancellor’s plane on the runway, she accidentally crashed her car into it while trying to get a closer look.

Heard the one about the influencers and the tobacco company? You’re about to. A new Reuters investigation has exposed how tobacco companies are using female Instagram influencers to hook teens on smoking.

Sign up to the bi-weekly newsletter, for all the stories that you need to know, coming to you from women on the front edge of change around the world. 

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