Jan 06
Her eye on the news
‘Critical mass’

It’s no secret that the United States’ military arms business has historically been almost entirely dominated by men. But in recent years, the field has undergone a remarkable transition as women now control top leadership roles at the country’s most important defense contractors. And when it comes to negotiating purchases, the majority of governmental officials sitting across from said contractors are now women as well.

Andrea Thompson, a former Army officer who serves as Donald Trump’s undersecretary of State for arms control and international security affairs, is now the leading official for negotiating U.S. arms sales and negotiating international weapon’s agreements. National Nuclear Security Administration chief Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the first woman to ever lead the government body, is responsible for the production and maintenance of the country’s nuclear arsenal. In separate interviews, both women acknowledged that the industry was still heavily tilted toward men.

“I tell folks that one of the positive aspects of serving is equal opportunity and equal pay,” said Thompson. “Many times, I was the only woman in the room. But I was always treated the same.”

On the other side of the table, Lockheed Martin, the country’s largest military contractor, has been led by Marillyn Hewson, a seasoned industrial engineer with three decades of experience, since 2013. Defense giant General Dynamics is helmed by Phebe Novakovic, a former intelligence officer. Boeing’s Defense, Space and Security division is run by Leanne Caret. And at the start of the new year on January 1, Kathy Warden, a longtime executive, was named CEO of Northrop Grumman, a government contractor that reported more than $20 billion in defense-related revenue in 2017.

“I think there’s critical mass, where you have enough women that they’re getting noticed,” explained Rachel McCaffrey, a retired Air Force colonel who now serves as the executive director of career development and networking organization Women in Defense.

But for women to continue to ascend to top leadership positions, she warned, would take sustained recruitment efforts from both the private and public sectors alike.

“I think this is great, but not if 10 years from now, these women are gone and we’re back to having all white men in these positions,” said McCaffrey.

Read the full story at Politico.


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‘Trust the process’

A growing freebirth movement that recommends mothers give birth in an environment of their own choosing, without the help of a doctor, midwife, or other medical professionals, has drawn concern from experts who say that the practice is unsafe.

Late last year, a California woman’s baby was born dead after six days of labor without any medical assistance, prompting widespread backlash against the freebirth movement, whose members had allegedly insisted that she just “trust the process.” But despite the risks, some women, including Rixa Freeze, who studied the freebirth movement in North America for her PhD thesis, continue to advocate for the controversial practice.

“If you’re in an environment that’s largely undisturbed and safe, wherever that is, you just let your body do its thing and you follow along,” Freeze told The Current. In a 2015 study on the practice at the University of British Columbia, one woman reported that she opted for a freebirth after she said doctors failed to acknowledge her preferences and concerns.

“Birth, I feel, is supposed to be one of those experiences where you get to, as a woman, really realize your potential as a creator and a maker of life,” the woman said. “So to go and have something like that stripped away and medicalized and controlled, I just didn’t want to have anything to do with that.”

But during the unplanned freebirth of her third child, Freeze acknowledged, she was forced to give her baby neonatal resuscitation. If she hadn’t been trained for the procedure, the baby could have died. Dr. Brenda Wagner, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Richmond Hospital in British Columbia, said that most freebirth parents would not be prepared to handle the potentially dangerous or life-threatening situations that can arise during a birth. But doctors, she added, also needed to do a better job of being considerate of women’s preferences when they give birth in hospitals.

“When women are in labor, sometimes they actually have a hard time expressing their deep felt choices … and that would of course become very traumatic for the woman, because she’s having something that she deeply felt was wrong for her,” Wagner explained. “I do think that many obstetrical care providers forget to have those conversations about choice with women when they’re not in labor, and document those conversations.”

Read the full story at CBC.


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Actress Jameela Jamil has expressed regret for not trying to stop magazines and other publications from airbrushing photos of her earlier in her career, telling Red magazine that at the time she didn’t feel she “was allowed to say no.”

“I was given a whiter face, a little English nose and perfect skinny thighs,” recalled Jamil, 32, in an interview for Red’s February issue. “It makes me feel gross. I’m sorry to anyone who ever saw pictures of me like that and wanted to be thin like me.”

The Good Place star also opened up about her struggles with anorexia as a teenager, explaining that the constant pressure from media and society for women to be thin had left an indelible mark on her psyche.

“I still suffer from body dysmorphia. I can’t get rid of it. Something’s wrong with my brain and I will rally against it forever,” she admitted. “I don’t weigh myself any more and I sort of judge my size on how my clothes fit because I know that I’ll never be able to see myself properly.”

In order to combat societal objectification of women and its harmful psychological effects, Jamil has spearheaded a social media campaign called “I Weigh” that encourages women to share pictures encapsulating what they value about themselves. In September, the actress also spoke out about an incident in which she was bodyshamed by a man at her gym, telling followers on social media that she was sick of people presuming they had the right to tell her or anyone “what I should or should not look like.”

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Jamil, who has previously spoken about suffering a date-rape in her 20s, said that she hopes “to arm young people with information — what I’ve learnt — that no-one ever told me.”

“I didn’t know anything about consent or how to protect myself as a young woman. Then I found myself, aged 22, being sexually assaulted,” she said. “It was the end of a date and I was raped by someone that I had met very briefly before then. I didn’t know who to turn to or how to feel about it. I just felt like it was my fault somehow.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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‘Men in decline’

Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose show Tucker Carlson Tonight lost sponsors last month after he declared that immigrants make America “poorer and dirtier,” is facing another call for an advertiser boycott just days into the new year. During a segment of his show on Wednesday, that has since gone viral on social media, Carlson noted that women were increasingly out-earning men across the country. But this change, Carlson claimed, was nothing to be celebrated since women “generally don’t want to marry” men who make less than money than they do.

“Over big populations this causes a drop in marriage, a spike in out-of-wedlock births and all the familiar disasters that inevitably follow. More drug and alcohol abuse, higher incarceration rates, fewer families formed in the next generation,” said Carlson, apparently citing unnamed studies.

The chyron that ran onscreen as Carlson weighed in on women’s improved earning power read “men in decline.”

On social media, feminists and supporters of women’s rights questioned why advertisers continued to endorse the pundit and his sustained advocacy of “outmoded ideas that are used to repress women.”

Watch video of Carlson’s comments below:

Read the full story at HuffPost.


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Pivotal moment

U.S. states are jostling for a showdown on abortion rights in 2019, with all eyes on the newly conservative highest court in a nation where passions run high on the issue among religious groups, conservatives and women’s rights advocates.

A number of states are seeking to prosecute doctors, recognize a fetus as a person and lengthen waiting periods for abortions, while others are eyeing ways to protect abortion access for women if the U.S. Supreme Court does not.

At the heart of the controversy is the high court’s Roe v Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide 45 years ago.

Overturning the landmark ruling — the goal of many religious groups — could place decision-making powers on abortion in the 50 states.

So far the 1973 decision has survived a handful of major legal challenges before the Supreme Court, but the 2018 appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, selected by President Donald Trump, has locked in a newly conservative majority.

“I think 2019 could be pivotal for abortion rights,” Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion research group.

“With the shift at the Supreme Court, state legislators of all stripes are looking to the Court either with anticipation that abortion rights will be rolled back or with trepidation for the same reason,” Nash told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

To test Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court can decide to hear a case that has been challenged in lower courts – most likely if one court upholds an abortion law but another court elsewhere knocks down a similar law, setting up a showdown, experts say.


This comes at a time when abortion rights are under scrutiny in other countries around the globe.

Voters in Ireland in 2018 decided in a landslide vote to end its strict abortion ban, while the conservative government in Poland pushed to tighten its already restrictive abortion laws.

Argentina rejected a measure to legalize abortion, pushing back against a groundswell of support, and the election of a far-right president in Brazil is seen slowing efforts to legalize abortion in the South American nation.

Among the conservative U.S. states considering restricting abortion laws in 2019, Texas will look at a measure to revoke medical licenses of physicians who perform abortions.

The southern state of Alabama just voted to support giving fetus the same rights as a person, and in the Midwest, Missouri will weigh a law to ban abortion if a heartbeat is detected.

“There are a number of states that I would say are competing for the race to the bottom,” said Andrea Miller, head of the National Institute for Reproductive Health, an abortion rights group.

“And of course they have an ally in the White House who has not only been shifting the balance on the Supreme Court but has been packing the lower federal courts.”

In recent weeks, one federal judge in the American South remarked on the states’ strategy in a ruling that knocked down a restrictive abortion law in Mississippi.

“The real reason we are here is simple. The state chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades- long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Judge Carlton Reeves wrote in the ruling,

He added that the effort was the “disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature.”


Clarke Forsythe, senior counsel at Americans United for Life, an anti-abortion group, said he believes the abortion issue should have always been left up to individual states.

“When Roe v Wade is overturned – and I am confident it will be and the issue is returned to the states – the states hopefully will pass complete limits on abortion except to save the life of the mother,” he said.

“I think there is momentum in the states, and I think there will continue to be in 2019.”

With more conservative judges throughout the country, restrictions on abortion could be upheld even if Roe v Wade were left untouched, said Julie Rikelman, litigation director at the Center for Reproductive Rights advocacy group.

Aware of this, some liberal states are moving to ensure abortions are available, regardless of the fate of Roe v Wade.

Massachusetts recently repealed a law dating back to the 1800s that banned abortion and New Mexico is eyeing a similar move in 2019. Both bans were unenforceable under Roe v Wade.

Advocates in New York are promoting legislative action to enshrine Roe v Wade protections into state law.

“I see this as being one of the most fragile moments since Roe that we’ve ever had in this country,” said Miller. “But I also see at the same time more public support and more vocal and engaged support on this issue than at any other time since.”

(Reporting by Ellen Wulfhorst, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith)

This story was produced by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, global land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, women’s rights, and climate change.


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