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Jan 10
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‘Natural and beautiful’

Women across the United Kingdom are letting their body hair grow for Januhairy, a movement started by Exeter University student Laura Jackson meant to help overcome “the taboo of body hair on a woman.” The campaign also aims to raise money for body positivity project Body Gossip.

The movement, perhaps unsurprisingly, has faced blowback, particularly from men, who claim that it is impossible for women to have unshaven armpits and still be attractive. But according to comedian and activist Kate Smurthwaite, not shaving one’s hair isn’t just a rejection of an oppressive societal norm, but also a particularly effective filter for women trying to find a date with a sensible forward-thinking man.

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Hi I’m Laura, the gal behind Januhairy! I thought I would write a little about my experiences and how Januhairy came about… I grew out my body hair for a performance as part of my drama degree in May 2018. There had been some parts that were challenging for me, and others that really opened my eyes to the taboo of body hair on a woman. After a few weeks of getting used to it, I started to like my natural hair. I also started to like the lack of uncomfortable episodes of shaving. Though I felt liberated and more confident in myself, some people around me didn’t understand why I didn’t shave/didn’t agree with it. I realised that there is still so much more for us to do to be able to accept one another fully and truly. Then I thought of Januhairy and thought I would try it out. It’s a start at least . . . I have had a lot of support from my friends and family! Even though I had to explain why I was doing it to a lot of them which was surprising, and again, the reason why this is important to do! When I first started growing my body hair my mum asked me “Is it you just being lazy or are you trying to prove a point?” . . . why should we be called lazy if we don’t want to shave? And why do we have to be proving a point? After talking to her about it and helping her understand, she saw how weird it was that she asked those questions. If we do something/see the same things, over and over again it becomes normal. She is now going to join in with Januhairy and grow out her own body hair which is a big challenge for her as well as many women who are getting involved. Of course a good challenge! This isn’t an angry campaign for people who don’t see how normal body hair is, but more an empowering project for everyone to understand more about their views on themselves and others. This picture was taken a few months ago. Now I am joining in with Januhairy, starting the growing process again along with the other wonderful women who have signed up! Progress pictures/descriptions from our gals will be posted throughout the month. Lets get hairy 🌵 #januhairy #bodygossip #bodyhairmovement #happyandhairy #loveyourbody #thenaturalrevolution #natural #hairywomen #womanpowe

A post shared by Januhairy (@janu_hairy) on

“Isn’t it fascinating? As soon as women do something with their bodies, the reaction is, ‘What will men think?” said Smurthwaite during an appearance on Good Morning Britain. “Well, you know what? Maybe actually I think it’s a great thing. One thing my armpit hair does is filter out the kind of men who think that’s important. As far as I’m concerned that’s an absolute plus. That’s a straight up win.”

Another guest on the show, former Big Brother contestant Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace, expressed disgust about being able to see Smurthwaite’s armpit hair, insisting that her adverse reaction wasn’t the result of social conditioning but rather a concern about “hygiene.”

“It’s bacteria, it’s smell, I can’t deal. Why make a big fuss and song and dance about growing your armpit hair? There are bigger things to do,” said Horgan-Wallace.“If you look at the media, every woman is hairless,” responded Smurthwaite. “If young women are growing up and every woman they see is completely waxed, shaved, plucked within an inch of their life, then what happens when they turn 11, 12, 13 and start growing a few body hairs? They think there’s something wrong with them, that they’re disgusting. I want to send a message to young women that the way your body is naturally is fine.”

Smurthwaite also took the opportunity to educate one of the show’s more conservative hosts, Piers Morgan, about the concept of polyamory after Morgan demanded she “talk about your polyamorous thing a minute” because “I’ve never heard of this before.”

“Poly meaning many and amory meaning love. I practise ethical non-monogamy which means that I am not monogamous and everyone in the situation knows what’s going on,” the comedian explained. “I have two or three regular serious partners and about five or six other guys I date from time to time.”

Morgan tweeted that not shaving was “lazy and revolting.”

Asked by Morgan whether any of her partners had “a problem with Januhairy,” Smurthwaite was unequivocal in her response.

“None of them have even expressed an opinion about it because all eight of them value my warmth, my generosity, my creativity, my intelligence,” she replied. “None of them are the petty-minded people who would get obsessed with something as normal and natural and beautiful as a few normal human hair follicles.”

Watch video of Smurthwaite’s appearance on Good Morning Britain below.

Read the full story at Indy100.

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‘Vulnerable’

Two women have been accused of harassing, physically accosting, and sexually assaulting a transgender woman in the bathroom of a North Carolina bar, according to a police report. Jessica Fowler 31, and Amber Harrel, 38, were charged with sexual battery and second-degree kidnapping after they alleged accosted the woman inside the bathroom, began commenting on her genitals, and then began repeatedly groping her even after she left the bathroom and sought help from the bartender.

“I was going to the bathroom to check hair and makeup and there were two females in the bathroom,” the victim told a dispatcher in a 911 call that was released by police on Tuesday. “I thought they were two drunk people just being friendly.”

According to the victim, the women began harassing her and one even revealed her own breasts. After she fled the bathroom, the two women chased after and “would not let go” of her body, despite her repeated protests, until the bartender got involved and demanded that they leave her alone. The incident, the victim said, also triggered a panic attack due to a rape she suffered last year.

(Photo by Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

“It’s a shame that two women can do so much harm to a wonderful person,” the bar’s owners told NPR. “Once they came out of the restroom and it was made clear … what was happening, we immediately stepped in to stop the situation and make sure she was OK.”

North Carolina has become infamous as a state disdainful of transgender rights ever since the 2016 passage of a bill that banned people from using bathrooms that don’t conform to their biological sex — a measure that state legislators claimed would protect women from “sexual predators” who pose as transgender. Backlash from businesses who boycotted the state in retaliation for the shamelessly discriminatory law reportedly cost the state billions of dollars, and prompted lawmakers to repeal parts of the law in 2017.

According to Kori Hennessey of the LGBT Center of Raleigh, such incidents of bathroom assault are uncommon but often go unreported due to fear of police and of publicity that would lead to further harassment.

“Anytime a trans person steps out into the light, they’re making themselves a little more vulnerable,” Hennessey explained to NPR.

Read the full story at NPR.

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‘Completely disgusting’

As Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez continues to weather near relentless attacks from conservatives over her dress, dance moves, and other similarly petty and gendered complaints, critics of the young Latina congresswoman stooped to a new low on Wednesday by publicizing and circulating a fake “nude selfie” of her.

The Daily Caller, a conservative outlet co-founded by Fox News host Tucker Carlson, shared an image of a woman showing her bare feet and holding a vape pen in the bath. “Here’s the photo some people described as a nude selfie of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” the headline read. The outlet’s decision to share the photo came despite the fact that the image, which has been circulating on the internet for over a month, was long ago debunked as fake. In wake of public outrage, The Daily Caller has since deleted the tweet and accompanying article.

In response, Ocasio-Cortez handled this latest bizarre attack on her political credibility with characteristic fire and aplomb.

“GOP have been losing their mind + frothing at the mouth all week, so this was just a matter of time,” she wrote on Twitter. “There is also a Daily Mail reporter (Ruth Styles) going to my boyfriend’s relative’s homes+offering them cash for ‘stories.’ Women in leadership face more scrutiny. Period.”

“Completely disgusting behavior from Conservative outlets,” she added. “No wonder they defended Kavanaugh so fiercely.”

Ocasio-Cortez also took the time to respond to a social media user who suggested that the GOP’s unceasing attacks on the young congresswoman were “designed to shame all young women into thinking they should not/could not run for office — that old videos or pictures or rumors of them would surface, that they could never dress/act/speak unimpeachably enough.”

“If they want to make an example out of me, I will gladly be one. Hopefully we can be an example of dedication, courage, and persistence under fire. Or compassion, thoughtfulness, curiosity, justice, and zeal. I also hope to be an example of not tolerating nonsense, too,” she wrote back.

Last week, Ocasio-Cortez also defended herself from another lame attempt at discrediting her after conservatives shared a video of her in college performing a rendition of the iconic dance scene from The Breakfast Club. In response, Ocasio-Cortez recorded a new video of herself dancing outside her congressional office that has since been viewed more than 20 million times.

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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Human trafficking

A Hong Kong lawmaker vowed on Wednesday to launch a renewed push for an anti-slavery law, warning that there was “no room” for delay as thousands of victims are trapped in the city.

There is little support within the Hong Kong government for a new slavery law but lawmaker Dennis Kwok said he had been lobbying international groups, including the United Nations, to put pressure on city officials.

Kwok, who has spearheaded a campaign for a new law since 2017, said he and another lawmaker would table a private member’s bill modeled on Britain’s Modern Slavery Act to the city’s legislature by the middle of this year.

“There is really no room for any further delay,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Hong Kong.

“There are countless of victims out there who are being subjected to human trafficking and modern slavery because we have a loophole here in Hong Kong. We need to close that loophole,” Kwok added.

Campaigners say forced labor and exploitation is rife in the sex industry and among 370,000 foreign domestic workers in the former British colony, which maintains a laissez-faire economic system after its return to Chinese rule in 1997.

Hong Kong’s government said its current framework is “comprehensive” and “effective” in tackling trafficking crimes, according to a statement it posted on the legislative council’s website in June last year.

But Kwok said traffickers in the region continue to use easy access to Hong Kong’s financial system to run their operations, and the government must clamp down on illegal profits flowing through the city.

Some $150 billion in profits are generated by the global slave trade each year and affect at least 40 million people worldwide, U.N. estimates show.

Recommendations in Kwok’s bill include life sentences for traffickers, compelling firms to report whether their supply chains are free from slavery, and giving law enforcement officers wider investigation power.

Hong Kong has been placed by the U.S. State Department on the second-lowest ranking in its annual Trafficking in Persons report since 2016, alongside countries like Nigeria and Kuwait.

“You can’t address the needs of a human trafficking victim if you have no system, process and procedure in place,” said Matt Friedman, chief executive of the Hong Kong-based anti-slavery group The Mekong Club.

“Having a legal system is an essential part of the process,” he added.

Some 10,000 people are living in modern slavery in Hong Kong, according to the Global Slavery Index 2018 by the charity Walk Free Foundation.

Britain is regarded as a leader in the global fight against slavery after it introduced the landmark Modern Slavery Act in 2015, followed by Australia in November last year.

(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi; Editing by Michael Taylor, Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change.)

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Accountability

Angela Conley, the first black commissioner for Hennepin County in the Minnesota district’s 166-year history, took her oath of office on Tuesday on a copy of a book about how racist politicians have abused the criminal justice system to disenfranchise black voters. While it is traditional to take oaths of office with a hand on a holy book such as the Bible or Quran, Conley said she opted for a copy of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander, in order to provide people with a reminder of a seldom-discussed reason why white Americans continue to dominate politics nationwide.

“The choice of ‘The New Jim Crow’ was an intentional pick for this historic moment,” Conley told The Hill in a statement. “We must never forget that the institutions that created and sustained white supremacy and structural racism never intended to include Black people in the decision making process. These institutions must be held accountable to this and the devastating effects they have had on people of color.”

Alexander’s book has been critically acclaimed as an illuminating and unflinching perspective on how politicians nationwide conspired to disenfranchise black voters and force them into manual labor by deliberately targeting them for felony convictions. In most states, a felony conviction forces American citizens to sacrifice their right to vote. And under the 13th Amendment, slavery remains technically legal when used as a punishment for committing a crime.

Overseeing Conley’s swearing in ceremony was a fellow pioneer — retired Hennepin County District Judge Pamela Alexander. Thirty-five years ago, Alexander was named the Minneapolis district’s first ever black judge.

Read the full story at City Pages.

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01.10.19

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