Oct 10
Her eye on the news
She's running

The presidential election in Nigeria is quickly approaching, and until this week two men who are both in their 70s were the leading candidates. But then the tireless Obiageli Ezekwesili shook things up by announcing she is jumping in the race. Ezekwesili, co-founder of the Bring Back Our Girls campaign advocating for the return of 276 girls who were kidnapped in the middle of the night by Boko Haram militants while at school in Chibok, Nigeria, in 2014. She is also Nigeria’s former education minister and once served as a vice president at the World Bank.

Ezekwesili announced her candidacy on Twitter this week, telling Nigerians “our time has finally come!”

All told, there about nine candidates running, according to the BBC, but the two top candidates the 55-year-old Ezekwesili will have to beat out are 75-year-old incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari  his top challenger, 72-year-old Atiku Abubakar. She is making an appeal to younger voters in a country where more than 50 percent of the populations is under 30 years old. “How can a country gifted with millions of young, vibrant, brilliant people, be satisfied with just being [an] onlooker?” Ezekwesili recently remarked. She’s also framing herself as the anti-establishment candidate. In the months after the Chibok girls were abducted, Ezekwesili was sharply critical of the government response, accusing officials of “dilly-dalling” in launching a respectable rescue effort. Voters in Nigeria will go to the polls in February.

Of course, Ezekwesili has appeared at numerous Women in the World events over the years, often talking about the struggle to rescue the kidnapped Chibok girls. Women in the World founder Tina Brown congratulated Ezekwesili on her presidential bid, saying on Twitter, her “roaring leadership potential has been obvious to us for years! At last running for president of Nigeria!”

Below, watch video of Ezekwesili’s most recent appearance on the Women in the World stage at the New York Summit in 2016.

Read the full story at the BBC.


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‘Totally respected’

The Deuce producer and star Maggie Gyllenhaal defended her continued employment of co-star James Franco on Tuesday, saying that she felt ending the show as a result of the sexual abuse accusations against Franco “would’ve been like actually the opposite of the right thing to do.”

“At the time that the accusations against James came out in the L.A. Times we read them all, we took them very seriously,” Gyllenhaal told SiriusXM show Sway in the Morning. “We spoke to every woman on the crew and in the cast to find out if they felt respected and what their experience of working with James was and everyone said that they had been totally respected by him.”

“I feel like it would’ve been the wrong consequence to those accusations to shut our show down. It would’ve been like actually the opposite of the right thing to do,” she continued. “And yet, you know, look, I believe that there should be consequences for disrespecting or assaulting women. Of course, I do.”

In January, five of Franco’s former acting students alleged that the actor had used his acting schools in Los Angeles and New York to exploit young women by coercing them into serving as naked props for his films. Franco was also accused of removing the plastic guards covering the vaginas of young extras during an unscripted orgy scene in which he simulated performing oral sex on them. Franco’s acting school, Studio 4, abruptly closed both of its locations without explanation just months before the allegations were publicized.

According to Gyllenhaal, Franco is ”walking right into the eye of the storm” and “continuing the conversation” about sexual assault in the industry by playing the role of twins Vincent and Frankie Martino, two businessmen who operate a front for the mafia, in The Deuce.

“I think about our show in particular: It’s about misogyny, it’s about inequality in terms of gender in the entertainment business,” she said. “It’s about the subtleties of transactional sex. And I felt that it would have been a terrible shame to stop telling that story.”

Earlier this week, Franco found himself accused of misconduct by another former co-star. In her new memoir, actress Busy Phillipps writes that Franco bullied her on the set of the 1999 NBC sitcom Freaks and Geeks. Phillipps alleges that during a scene in which the show’s director had instructed her to poke Franco in the chest, he reacted by erupting and breaking character. “He grabbed both my arms and screamed in my face, ‘DON’T EVER TOUCH ME AGAIN!'” Philipps writes, according to NBC News. “And he threw me to the ground. Flat on my back. Wind knocked out of me.”

Read the full story at The Cut.


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‘Culture of silence’

As the #MeToo movement began to sweep through Hollywood a year ago, a number of prominent women in Bollywood expressed support but also suggested that the more deeply entrenched patriarchy in the country made it impossible for similar changes in their own film industry. But as the power of #MeToo continues in the U.S. unabated, it appears that India’s film industry may be on the verge of a breaking point after a number of allegations, some as old as a decade, finally resulted in at least some consequences.

Over the past few weeks, Phantom Films Pvt., an Indian production house that produced the Sacred Games series for Netflix, announced that is is dissolving amid allegations that its founder, Vikas Bahl, sexually assaulted a crew member in 2015. Popular comedy troupe All India Bakchod also removed senior leadership partners after they were accused of covering up the actions of an employee who sent women at the company lewd photos, and powerful Hindi actor, Nana Patekar, is reportedly being investigated by police for sexually harassing actress Tanushree Dutta in 2008.

“The whole culture of silence and shame has been existing not just in Bollywood, but in Indian society as a whole,” said Dutta. “I was just speaking the same truths I have been speaking for the last 10 years. Ten years ago there weren’t any takers.”

Patekar has denied the allegations, and has sent Dutta a message from his lawyers demanding that she apologize or face a lawsuit, according to Reuters.

The movement is also slowly spreading beyond just Bollywood. On Wednesday, the first politician to be implicated as a result of India’s #MeToo movement, M J Akbar, India’s junior foreign minister, was accused of inappropriate behavior from his time as an editor — including a first-person account of his alleged sexual harassment of reporter Ghazala Wahab in the 1990s. Nonetheless, some activists are tempering their excitement about recent developments. In April, Radhika Apte, one of the few high-profile Bollywood actresses to come forward about what she described as a casting couch culture in the industry, suggested that #MeToo wouldn’t be able to take off so long as the men in the industry refused to show support and solidarity with the women.

“[I loved] the way the women, and the men, of course, came together and decided that as a team we’re not going to let this happen. I wish that could happen here,” said Apte.

Last November, as the #MeToo movement was gaining momentum in the U.S., director Alankrita Shrivastava said that harassment was seen by many as simply the cost of doing business. “The way men are being called out in Hollywood right now, I don’t know if it can happen in India,” she said.

Below, watch Indian journalist and frequent Women in the World contributor Barkha Dutt lead a discussion recorded earlier this week with Tanushree Dutta and journalist Sandhya Menon on India’s #MeToo movement.

Read the full story at Bloomberg.


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‘Make some noise!’

A Texas woman’s tongue-in-cheek musical response to Donald Trump’s recent claim that it is “a very scary time for young men” has gone viral on social media, as women hailed her stark contrast of the risk of being accused of sexual assault and the possibility of actually being assaulted. Trump, fresh off his mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, one of the women who accused Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh of sexual assault, had insisted to reporters that the accusations leveled against the justice demonstrated how “scary” it was to be a man. In response, performance artist Lynzy Lab, a dance lecturer at Texas State University, recorded herself singing a self-created tune on a ukulele and shared a link to the video on Twitter, explaining: “It’s a really scary time for dudes right now. So I wrote a song about it.

“I can’t use public transportation after 7 p.m. I can’t be brutally honest when you slide into my DMs. I can’t go to the club just to dance with my friends and I can’t ever leave my drink unattended,” sings Lab cheerily. “But it sure is a scary time for boys. Yeah, gentlemen! Band together, make some noise. It’s really tough when your reputation’s on the line and any woman you’ve assaulted could turn up anytime!”

The song, which largely centers on the constant precautions that women are told to make against sexual assault — and that are in turn often used against them, both in courts of law and public opinion, as evidence that they ‘invited’ assault — also contains direct allusions to Ford’s claim that Kavanaugh sexualy assaulted her in 1983 with the lyrics: “I can’t speak out against my rapist after 35 years. I can’t be taken seriously if I’m holding back tears.”

Lab, who hadn’t posted to Twitter in more than two years prior to sharing her impromptu song on Monday, has said that she was shocked at the “overwhelming response” she got to the video, which was widely shared across platforms and racked up more than 33 million views on NowThis Politics. Amid the wave of support she’s received, however, were comments from men’s rights activists and Trump supporters who accused her of anti-male bias. Lab addressed those complaints in a tweet on Wednesday, writing, “Just to clear up any confusion: I’m not here to delegitimize men’s struggles. I’m just hoping that we can finally start legitimizing women’s. Regardless of what you’ve decided about me, I’m not “anti-men”. I am, however, super “pro-women”. You should be too.”

Below, listen and watch Lab’s rendition of A Scary Time.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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'Not right'

Pope Francis on Wednesday delivered some of the strongest anti-abortion rhetoric of his papacy during a lecture before his general audience, telling listeners that having an abortion is like hiring “a hitman.”

“But how can an act that suppresses innocent and defenseless budding human life be therapeutic, civil or simply human?” Francis said, asking listeners at St. Peter’s Square if it is right “to do away with a human life to solve a problem.” Then came the grim comparison. “Is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem? One cannot do this, it is not right to do away with a human being, albeit small, to solve a problem.”

Francis ascended to the papacy five years ago, and in that time has led the church to take less extreme position on homosexuality, breastfeeding in public and, it seemed for a while, abortion. As recently as 2016, the pope had directed Catholic priests to absolve women for committing the “grave sin” of abortion. It was seen at the time as the Church possibly softening its stance on abortion. But Francis’ remarks on Tuesday all but out that notion to rest.

The remarks also come at a time when abortion rights have been on the rise in other nations. As CNN points out, a bill to legalize abortion in Pope Francis’ home country of Argentina ultimately failed, but not before it was approved by the Parliament’s lower house. And Ireland, a majority Catholic country, last month repealed a constitutional amendment banning abortion, a move that was lauded by pro-choice activists. Meanwhile, in Italy, abortion rights seem to be going the other way. The city council of Verona recently declared the city “pro-life” and is funding anti-abortion groups while launching an initiative to “prevent abortion and promote motherhood.” Below, watch video of the pope’s remarks.

Read the full story at The Guardian


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The voice

Taylor Swift’s singing voice has been front and center for years propelling her to success as one of the world’s biggest pop stars. And that voice led to a record night at the American Music Awards for Swift, but another emerging voice that Swift has perhaps kept secret all this time was unveiled at the award show as she used the moment in the spotlight to continue her resounding message about the importance of voting in the upcoming midterm elections. Swift  also put on an electrifying performance to kick off the evening.

T-Swift swept up four AMAs on Tuesday night, surpassing the late Whitney Houston’s record for AMA Awards won by a woman artist, including Artist of the Year. The 28-year-old has now amassed 23 AMAs in her career, according to ABC News.

Swift got the audience supercharged right from the outset with a scorching performance of “I Did Something Bad” from her 2017 album Reputation, which also won her the Best Pop/Rock Album AMA. At one point during the performance, Swift sang the lyric “shit,” which ABC censored from the broadcast. Swift also won AMAs for Pop/Rock Female Artist of the Year and Tour of the Year. Watch a highlight from the electrifying performance below.

The pop star also showed fans she’s becoming more comfortable exercising her rather convincing political voice. Earlier this week, she called on people to register to vote in the upcoming elections and endorsed to Democrats running for U.S. Congress. In the 24 hours after making that post on Sunday night, a whopping 65,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 registered. 

Swift continued that call on Tuesday night as she accepted her award for Artist of the Year, telling the audience watching the AMAs, “I just wanted to make a mention at the fact that this award and every single award given out tonight were voted on by the people. And you know what else is voted on by the people,” Swift said, drawing an eruption of applause from the live audience, “is the midterm elections on November 6. Get out and vote. I love you guys!”

See her full Artist of the Year acceptance speech below.

Read the full story at ABC News.


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