Sep 08
Her eye on the news
'Hindu chauvinism'

A journalist known for being a harsh government critic was gunned down in her home this week by three unidentified suspects. The killing of Gauri Lankesh left her supporters shaken and many grasping for answers after a crime that was described as an assassination against a woman who was an outspoken opponent of Hindu majoritarianism.

In a column for The Daily O, journalist Shoma Chaudhury cuts straight to the heart of the aftermath and draws parallels between Lankesh’s slaying and the killings of three other dissidents, M Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar, in recent years. She worries that Lankesh’s killers, like the killers of the other three who were assassinated before her, won’t be brought to justice in this tumultuous time in India — or even identified as suspects.

And she gets right to the point about what is ailing Indian culture these days.

“It’s crucial, therefore, to say this even more unequivocally than ever before: India cannot afford Hindu chauvinism,” Chaudhury writes. “It does not need it. The Hindu gods do not need it. Hinduism does not need it. This civilization and culture has survived perfectly for millennia without pygmy armies to protect it with country pistols and political vitriol.”

Chaudhury paints a bleak portrait of the state of affairs in India right now — Lankesh’s slaying is “proof that violent bigotry and intolerance have already put a fatal tear into our national soul,” but that “bow[ing] to the tenets of good journalism” should be their north star — and their hope.

Read the full column at The Daily O.

‘They’re only girls’

In an interview for Firsts, a multimedia project from TIME magazine that features interviews with 46 “women who are changing the world,” Oprah Winfrey revealed that she once threatened to go on strike from her job as host of The Oprah Winfrey Show unless her boss gave her female producers raises commensurate with the show’s success.

Oprah, whose legendary talk show went on to become the highest-rated program of its kind after its premiere in 1986, said that as the show became a success and she began earning more, that she discovered her bosses had refused to increase her producers’ salaries.

“I went to my boss at the time and I said everybody needs a raise, and he said, ‘Why?’” Oprah recalled. “He actually said to me, ‘They’re only girls. They’re a bunch of girls — what do they need more money for?’ I go, ‘Well, either they’re going to get raises, or I’m going to sit down.’ I will not work unless they get paid. And so they did.”

Oprah also spoke at length about how it felt to be a TV talk host at a time when “there were no black people on a billboard, on television or in the media.”

Read the full story and see an excerpt of the interview at TIME magazine.


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Legal quandary

A California judge has ruled that a jury must decide whether a teenage girl who was declared brain-dead three years ago is still alive, after evidence showed that the girl’s body, which was maintained through life support, had managed to go through puberty.

More than three years ago, Jahi McMath was pronounced dead after surgeons at the Children’s Hospital in Oakland allegedly botched a routine tonsillectomy performed on the then 13-year-old. But Jahi’s mother, Latasha Spears Winkfield, who has endured a heartbreaking struggle over the last three years, noted that her daughter was still able to twitch her fingers — even though Jahi was technically brain dead, from Winkfield’s perspective, it seemed clear that her daughter was still alive.

Citing her Christian belief, Winkfield traveled to New Jersey, the only U.S. state that accommodates people who don’t recognize brain death as the legal end of life, in order to prevent California doctors from removing Jahi from life support. Jahi’s family, which was already seeking damages for the alleged malpractice, is now seeking a ruling to officially declare that she is alive — and to mandate that the hospital be made to pay for her future care.

While doctors representing the hospital have said that brain dead patients are capable of slight movements, a doctor who examines the girl every three months for the family has testified that she began menstruating while in New Jersey. After a ruling on Tuesday by Alameda County Judge Stephen Pulido, a jury will have to determine not only whether or not malpractice occurred, but whether or not Jahi should be considered dead or alive. For more on the story, watch the video below.

Read the full story at The Los Angeles Times.


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Giving back

Two weeks after Hurricane Harvey slammed into the southern coast of Texas and dumped record rains that led to devastating flooding, the inventors and entrepreneurs from Toyota’s Mothers of Invention program in association with Women in the World are stepping up to help those impacted most by the storm’s aftermath. The inventors behind clever products and ideas like Luminaid, DayOne Response and Well Aware are using the power of their products to help deliver relief to those who were in the flood zones in Texas and Louisiana and are now trying to put their lives back together.

For one of the Mothers of Invention, the storm hit very close to home. Well Aware is a nonprofit that funds and implements clean water solutions for impoverished communities in East Africa. and is based in Austin, Texas. It was founded by Sara Evans, and is lending its expertise in water analysis and filtration to assist another DayOne Response, another company featured in Mothers of Invention program, in implementing on-the-ground training with proper utilization of the water filtration bags. Well Aware is also providing more than 7,000 cans of drinking water to those in need.

DayOne Response is the brainchild of  inventors Tricia Compas-Markman and Amy Cagle and is a 2.5-gallon water filtration bag. In just 30 minutes, the bag is able to purify enough clean drinking water for a family of four to subsist on for up to two months.

Luminaid, a company that produces lightweight, solar-charged lanterns and portable phone charges is pitching in as well. Anna Stark and Andrea Sreshta, both of whom hail from Houston originally, are donating 3,000 phone charges and nearly 1,000 Luminaid lanterns to people in need.

Boxes of DayOne Response filtration bags that are headed for the Hurricane Harvey flood zone.

All three companies are geared toward helping people, and that ethos is being tapped into for what has turned out to be one of the worst natural disasters to strike the U.S. in recent years.

“The Toyota Mothers of Invention are not only innovative entrepreneurs but quick to aid those in need when an emergency situation strikes,” Tina Brown, the founder and CEO of Women in the World, set about their collective efforts. “They are so skilled in solving the world’s problems, so it’s no surprise to see them come together to assist in relief efforts.”

Below, watch a video from Sara Evans’ appearance at the Women in the World New York Summit back in April. Addressing communities that don’t have access to clean drinking water is “not an unsolvable problem,” Evans said at the time.


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In an intriguing trend that some experts say reflects a change in cultural values, images of “gritty” women have become more popular than images of half-dressed women, according to a review of the best-selling stock photos from Getty Images. Over the course of the past 10 years, writes Claire Cain Miller for The New York Times, the most sold photos of women from Getty’s stock image archive have shifted from pictures of half-naked models to images of women exercising or exploring the outdoors.

“Especially in light of the election last year, it definitely seems like this idea of women having grit was a really important ongoing message, both rhetorically and visually,” explained Pam Grossman, director of visual trends at Getty Images.

“It really feels like an image about power, about freedom, about trusting oneself,” she added. “Who cares what you even look like? Let’s focus on what you’re doing.”

As marketers, advertisers, and media outlets serve as the primary customers for stock images, some experts have suggested that the change in stock photo popularity indicates a larger cultural shift. In the U.K., for instance, advertising regulators have banned ads that sexually objectify women, encourage an unhealthy body image, or promote gender stereotypes.

But according to Giorgia Aiello, associate professor of media and communication at the University of Leeds in Britain, the shift in stock image popularity should be taken with a grain of salt. A recent study by Aiello found that photos featuring women from Getty’s Lean In collection, which was developed in cooperation with Sheryl Sandberg, tended to be used mostly in articles about fashion, food, or in the context of balancing one’s career with motherhood. Similarly, images of women in tech or science weren’t used for general science articles, but rather for stories about the challenges faced by women working in those fields.

Other trends found in Getty Image searches, Grossman noted, did appear to reflect a more dramatic shift in how marketers looked at women — and even seemed to shed light on how women perceived the notion of feminism. They also noticed a few interesting things about how men are commonly depicted in stock imagery.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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‘Don’t know anything’

A new Woody Allen film is set to hit theaters soon, an occasion that once again puts his stars in the uncomfortable position of trying to explain why they chose to work with a director who was accused decades ago of molesting his then-7-year-old adoptive daughter. The latest Hollywood A-lister to find herself in this position is Kate Winslet, who stars in Allen’s forthcoming film Wonder Wheel.

“I didn’t know Woody and I don’t know anything about that family,” Winslet told The New York Times when asked about how she reconciled the director’s checkered past. “As the actor in the film, you just have to step away and say, I don’t know anything, really, and whether any of it is true or false. Having thought it all through, you put it to one side and just work with the person.”

In 1992, Allen was accused by Mia Farrow, his partner at the time, of molesting Dylan Farrow, the daughter the couple adopted. Five years later, Allen, then 62, married Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, who was 27. The two are still married and Allen, though a prosecutor in the 1990s said he had probable cause, has never been charged with a crime and has maintained his innocence. But three years ago, Dylan Farrow published an explosive column in The New York Times detailing Allen’s alleged sexual abuse and the fallout she suffered in the intervening years.

She even went on to praise Roman Polanski,  The New York Post noted, saying he’s an “incredible director” and that her time working with him, on the 2011 film Carnage, and Allen was “extraordinary.” Polanski was convicted in 1977 of raping a 13-year-old girl. He subsequently fled the U.S. and has been living as a fugitive ever since.

Winslet’s “I don’t know anything” explanation of how she’s able to compartmentalize and work with someone who has such disturbing allegations standing against him drew criticisms that she “awkwardly” and “clumsily” handled a question about an all-too-common problem in the Hollywood scene: Men getting away with alleged sexual misconduct and their careers suffering no consequences whatsoever.

But, as The Washington Post points out, Winslet is hardly the first actress to defend having worked with Allen. And some have gone way further, even heaping praise upon the controversial director.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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