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Jan 09
Her eye on the news
Inclusivity

The Wing, a private co-working and community space for women that now boasts more than 6,000 members across the U.S., has officially opened itself up to all genders in a move that the organization characterized as a push to be more inclusive of trans and non-binary members. Since opening their first co-working center in New York City in 2016, the pioneering women’s club has enjoyed remarkable success — leading to the establishment of additional co-working spaces in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco, and a recent $75 million fundraising effort that buoyed the startup’s valuation to $375 million.

The Wing’s success has also met with detractors — in particular, men’s rights activists who insist that it is illegal for the club to exclude men. In March 2018, it was announced that the New York City Commission on Human Rights was investigating The Wing on the basis that such a women-only space might violate anti-discrimination laws. The investigation prompted derision from many, including legal experts who noted that the law being used to justify the investigation had been intended to allow women and minorities to gain access to all-male social clubs that served as bastions of power and influence within the business world. A man, James Pietrangelo, also targeted the club with a $12 million lawsuit accusing their membership policy of being “egregious: brazen, flagrant, intentional, willful, wanton, actually malicious, motivated by evil and ill-will, deliberately oppressive, outrageous, and willfully and callus disregardful of the rights of men.”

While The Wing’s move to open their doors to male members should assuage some of their legal concerns, co-founder and chief executive Audrey Gelman has insisted that the change to their membership policies was initiated before the lawsuit and should not be interpreted as a reaction to it.

“Gender identity and gender presentation are two distinct concepts and do not always align,” wrote Gelman in a letter to members explaining the change. “To that end, we’ve made some internal updates and adopted written membership policies to ensure that our staff is trained not to make assumptions about someone’s identity based on how they present, or to ask prospective members or guests to self-identify. We initiated these trainings and policies so that we can continue to build a community that reflects our values and pushes us all to be more inclusive.”

Read the full story at TechCrunch.

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‘Not funny’

A Japanese magazine accused of “sexualizing, objectifying and disrespecting women” by publishing an article ranking women’s universities by how likely their students were to have sex at drinking parties has issued an apology, of sorts, after facing widespread outcry.

The article, published in the December 25 issue for weekly magazine Spa!, was ostensibly centered around the practice of “gyaranomi” — drinking parties that male participants pay women to attend. According to the magazine, they produced the offending list through information garnered from the developer of an app intended to help facilitate the parties. Following the article’s publication, a woman launched a campaign and online petition on change.org to call for an apology from Spa! and the suspension of further sales of the issue.

“2018 was a year where women from all over the world fought for women’s rights, so that our voices were delivered,” said the petition. “Japan will be having the first G20 summit this year, 2019 and it is ridiculous for an article such as this to be published. It’s not funny at all.”

In a statement, the magazine declined to suspend sales of the issue but did offer a lukewarm apology for their use of “sensational language.”

“We would like to apologize for using sensational language to appeal to readers about how they can become intimate with women and for creating a ranking… with real university names… that resulted in a feature that may have offended readers,” read the statement. “On issues that involve sex, we will do what we can as a magazine to listen to various opinions.”

Last year, Tokyo Medical University was accused of deliberately altering women applicants’ entrance exam scores in order to prevent more women from being admitted into the university.

Read the full story at SBS News.

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Broken system

In Western Australia, a community-backed fundraiser has rapidly raised more than $100,000 to help free more than a hundred Indigenous women imprisoned by authorities for being unable to pay overdue fines.

Debbie Kilroy, the chief executive of Queensland-based advocacy group Sisters Inside, said she had been shocked by the response after they started a GoFundMe on Sunday afternoon with the goal of freeing 100 indigenous women who have been held in prison until they “pay off” their fines. By Tuesday evening, the group raised more than $120,000 and was able to begin the process of working to free the women.

Three women — including a young pregnant mother arrested over traffic fines and a woman who was threatened with arrest over her unpaid fines after she called police for a domestic issue — have already been released as a result of the group’s efforts, according to Kilroy. The three women owed $6,600 collectively.

“I just can’t believe how it’s gone,” she told AAP, adding that the success of the fundraiser has given her hope that they can free many more women than just the 100 initially targeted.

Renewed attention to Western Australia’s practice of jailing people for fines was sparked in 2014 following the death of a 22-year-old Aboriginal women who died in a hospital after being held in prolonged custody over unpaid fines. While the practice has long been criticized as both inhumane and economically impractical, promises to reform the system — which disproportionately targets Indigenous women for arrest, according to a 2017 report from the Human Rights Law Center — have thus far gone unrealized by the Western Australian government.

In a statement, a spokesman for Western Australia Attorney-General John Quigley said that they would introduce reforms to the unpaid fine law by July 2019, and that they understood “keeping fine defaulters in custody to ‘cut out’ their unpaid fines is not the most effective way to enforce fines payments and is economically unsound.”

According to Kilroy, who has accused the government of unnecessarily delaying the legislative changes, an estimated 250 more people will be incarcerated over unpaid fines between now and July.

Read the full story at SBS News.

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‘Too strong’

Bernice Sandler, a women’s rights activist whose efforts to upend unfair hiring practices in academia helped lead to Congress’ passage in 1972 of Title IX, passed away in her Washington home on Saturday at the age of 90.

A former part-time teacher, Sandler began her work in activism after earning her doctorate from the University of Maryland in 1969 and being refused consideration for any of the seven teaching openings at her department. When she asked a male faculty member why she wasn’t considered for the open positions, he admitted to her that she was more than qualified.

“But let’s face it,” he added. “You come on too strong for a woman.”

Stung, Sandler began looking into sex discrimination law and discovered an until-then largely ignored executive order signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson that prohibited federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, or sex.

“It was a genuine ‘Eureka’ moment,” Sandler would later recall. “I actually shrieked aloud for I immediately realized that many universities and colleges had federal contracts (and) were therefore subject to the sex discrimination provisions of the executive order.”

She joined the Women’s Equity Action League, and with the group’s support filed a class-action lawsuit against roughly 250 colleges and universities for participating in “an industrywide pattern” of discrimination against women in hiring. Her advocacy brought her to the attention of Reps. Edith Green and Patsy Mink and Sen. Birch Bayh, who enlisted her onto the congressional committee that later drafted the Title IX legislation.

The bill barring gender discrimination in education passed with little fanfare, but it’s scope impacting all educational institutions that receive federal funds would force schools to become truly gender-equal access in all aspects — including enrollment, housing, courses, faculty hiring, and athletics.

The equalization of funding for men and women’s college sports would prove particularly impactful. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, under 4 percent of girls participated in sports before Title IX. In 2016, by comparison, 40 percent of girls were actively engaged in athletics.

Dubbed “The Godmother of Title IX,” she spent much of the rest of her life as an activist and expert on issues such as sexual harassment and sexist bias — both conscious and unconscious. On social media, women’s rights activists and others across the country have paid tribute to her legacy.

“My mother always said, ‘I wanted to change the world, and I did,’” recalled Sandler’s daughter, Deborah Jo Sandler. “She was a big believer in people having equal opportunity to do what they wanted to do. She was stubborn and tough and just a true inspiration. People would come up to her all the time and thank her.”

Read the full story at CNN.

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'Demand for justice'

A new documentary series that reexamines the story of Lorena Bobbitt — the woman who infamously cut off her allegedly abusive husband’s penis — will premiere this month at the Sundance Film Festival, before being released to Amazon’s streaming service in February.

The newly released Lorena trailer challenges those residual characterizations of Bobbit as “jealous” and “hot-blooded” using footage of trial testimony, in which she and other witnesses alleged a range of physical and sexual abuses perpetrated against her by her husband, John Wayne Bobbitt. (Lorena was later found not guilty, and John was acquitted of marital sexual assault, Vanity Fair reports.) The series is described as covering “the scandal you know” and “the story you don’t know.”

The opening lines boil down the shocking 1993 event to its simplest narrative — “This was a modern love story. Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love with girl. Boy marries girl. Girl cuts off boy’s penis” — but the trailer goes on to suggest there’s way more to the story, including analyzing the ways in which media hype at the time turned attention away from what was really at stake. It also indicates the series will place the events in the context of other 1990s sex scandals.

“With this project, Lorena has a platform to tell her truth, as well as engage in a critical conversation about gender dynamics, abuse, and her demand for justice,” executive producer Jordan Peele told Variety when the series was first announced. “This is Lorena’s story, and we’re honored to help her tell it.”

Watch the Lorena trailer below:

Read the full story at Vanity Fair and Rolling Stone.

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01.09.19

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