Nov 12
Her eye on the news

Tennis all-time great Serena Williams has been honored by GQ as the magazine’s Woman of the Year, but a decision to put the word “Woman” in quotation marks on the cover page left many in outrage that the magazine appeared to be raising doubt about the 37-year-old superstar’s femininity. Williams, who has faced racial abuse, false claims that she takes growth hormones, and insinuations that her domination in the women’s game is a result of her being too “manly,” acknowledged the difficulties of dealing with such accusations in an open letter posted to Reddit last year.

“I’ve been called man because I appeared outwardly strong … It has been said I don’t belong in women’s sports — that I belong in men’s — because I look stronger than many other women do. (No, I just work hard and I was born with this baddass [sic] body and proud of it.)” Williams wrote.

Given past events, fans of Williams expressed anger at GQ’s decision to have the word “man” visibly crossed out on the cover and the word “woman” re-written over it in quotation marks, noting that past covers with stars such as Gal Gadot named her as woman of the year without any strange caveats.

But GQ’s decision, while questionable, appears not to have been a deliberate attempt at further maligning the new mother and tennis champion. The typography, wrote GQ research manager Mick Rouse, “was handwritten by Virgil Abloh of Off-White, who has styled everything in quotation marks as of late (see Serena’s U.S. Open apparel that he designed).”

Why GQ decided to feature Abloh’s work in such a potentially misleading way remains unclear. Regardless, fans of Williams, who returned to the court within months of nearly dying during the birth of her daughter last year and promptly made both the Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, are making it clear that they will broke no further ambiguities — intentional or otherwise — about the star’s femininity. Williams has yet to comment on the controversy over the cover.

Read the full story at CNN.


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‘A woman’s gaze’

Monica Lewinsky has opened up about her decision to participate in a new docuseries titled The Clinton Affair, writing in a candid Op-Ed for Vanity Fair that she agreed to participate in the project after being told that it was being produced and edited almost entirely by women.

Sitting down for 20 hours of interviews for he docuseries was a painful, difficult, and anxiety-inducing process, Lewinsky wrote, partly because she had no control over the final product. The process, she explained, “Forced me to acknowledge to myself past behavior that I still regret and feel ashamed of.” But even more than shame, she said, what she found herself contending with was grief.

“Grief for the pain I caused others. Grief for the broken young woman I had been before and during my time in D.C., and the shame I still felt around that. Grief for having been betrayed first by someone I thought was my friend, and then by a man I thought had cared for me. Grief for the years and years lost, being seen only as ‘That Woman’ — saddled, as a young woman, with the false narrative that my mouth was merely a receptacle for a powerful man’s desire.”

She also touched on the fact that finally after nearly two decades, Clinton is now being asked some of the uncomfortable questions that reporters largely overlooked in the years after the affair and after he left office. Referring to an NBC News interview earlier this year in which Clinton said Lewinsky didn’t deserve a personal apology from him, she wrote, “What feels more important to me than whether I am owed or deserving of a personal apology is my belief that Bill Clinton should want to apologize. I’m less disappointed by him, and more disappointed for him. He would be a better man for it … and we, in turn, a better society.”

In retrospect, Lewinsky said she now understood the process by which Bill Clinton sought to protect his own credibility by “demonizing” her and referring to her simply as “that woman,” — the temptress who led him astray. She also noted that in a 2004 interview with Dan Rather, Clinton said that the reason why he pursued his relationship with Lewinsky was simple: “Because I could.” For those asking her why she chose to participate in the documentary, she said, she would give the same reply — with a minor caveat.

“Reliving the events of 1998 was traumatic, yes — but also worth it if it helps another young person avoid being ‘That Woman’-ed,” she wrote. And given that almost every book written about the Clinton impeachment was authored by men, she said, she felt it was important to also have a history that “embodies a woman’s gaze.”

The Clinton Affair is a three-part series that is set to premiere in the coming week, and it takes an unprecedented look at the scandal and the fallout that has ensued. The New York Post has screened several episodes and reports that the docuseries sheds light on various aspects of the relationship between the two and some of the most infamous evidence that proved it in the end.

“There were always narratives of secrecy in this relationship,” Lewinsky says in the series, according to the Post. “We were both cautious, but not cautious enough.” She added, “I was completely at his mercy,”

Watch two clips from The Clinton Affair below.

Read the full Op-Ed at Vanity Fair.


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Had a blast

A Texas woman who recently divorced her husband threw a party to mark the closing of that unhappy chapter of her life and those close to her came up with a unique way to do away with a piece of wedding day nostalgia that caused her lingering pain.

Kimberly Santleben-Stiteler recently ended her 14-year marriage, but was still haunted by her wedding dress. She decided setting it on fire might be a dramatic way to dispose of the garment. But the 43-year-old Texas woman’s father and brother-in-law had other ideas to make disposing of the dress a wee bit more memorable. Why not blow it up?

“I had a lot of advice and suggestions from friends and family, like donating it for premature babies and baptism gowns,” Santleben-Stiteler told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “However, to me, the dress represented a lie. I wanted to have a divorce party to burn the dress.”

“I told my family (mom, dad, two sisters and brother-in-law), and they thought it was a fabulous idea. My dad and brother-in-law took it to the next level,” she added in an interview with Yahoo Lifestyle.

At her father’s farm in Lacoste, about 25 miles outside of San Antonio, Santleben-Stiteler’s father and brother-in-law loaded up the dress with 20 pounds of tannerite, an explosive substance, and a target that would trigger an explosion when hit. With about 40 people on hand to witness the momentous occasion, Santleben-Stiteler picked up a rifle, fixed her gaze on the dress, which was about 200 yards away, and pulled the trigger. According to Carla Santleben-Newporther, her sister, she hit it on the first shot — a moment that was captured on video.

A massive, fiery explosion erupted, lighting up the night Texas sky — a blast that could be heard and felt as far as 15 miles away. Ahh, catharsis.

Watch the full video of the shot heard round the San Antonio suburbs below.


Read the full story at Yahoo.


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Body issues

Debate over sexist double-standards on body hair have erupted on social media following the publication of a razor ad featuring women with unshaven legs and armpits, and a contrasting Kim Kardashian body fragrance campaign that only showcased women with completely hairless bodies. Commenting online, women having increasingly pushed back against the notion that they need to shave to be seen as feminine. Men, on the other hand, have found themselves facing rising pressure to take up the razor themselves — despite many considering body hair an important symbol of their masculinity.

In a report for BBC News, presenter Frankie McCamley spoke with social media personalities, psychologists, and a variety of other figures in an attempt to understand the debate and the shifting cultural attitudes surrounding the practice of shaving.

Ashley Armitage, a film photographer and director of an advertisement featuring “hairy” models for “female-first” razor company Billie, said that the reason the ad garnered so much attention from women was because razor ads had only ever featured already shaved models — a trend that she said exemplified the “double-standard” on the topic.

“A woman having armpit hair and a man having armpit hair is exactly the same thing,” she explained. “That Billie commercial was the first, to my knowledge, that ever showed women with body hair. The response was overwhelmingly positive, it was incredible. It did get some negative response to it. There are always going to be internet trolls.”

Annie, an internet personality from Michigan, who is known online as Little Bucket, says,” I haven’t shaved my body hair in almost three years. I realized that I wasn’t shaving because I actually wanted to,” she added. “I was only doing it because society made me feel pressured to just because I’m a woman.”

The ever-present internet trolls have targeted a number of female social media users who have dared to post pictures of themselves sporting body hair. Popular photographer and model Arvida Bystrom revealed in an Instagram post that she received rape threats after posting a picture of herself with unshaved legs to Instagram, an outsized response that at least one expert said could be interpreted as an expression of men’s long-standing desire for control over women’s bodies — including how they dress and present themselves.

“A rape can be seen as a way to express control. So here we can ask ourselves: is body hair something that is out of control and needs to be controlled?” observed psychologist Laura Moazedi, adding that for men being hairless was a choice about “beauty but not masculinity,” whereas for women having a “feminine” body had become conflated with being hairless.

In recent years, studies have indicated that removing body hair — including pubic hair — has become the norm for most American women. A study published in JAMA Dermatology two years ago found that 84 percent of a nationally representative sample of 3,316 women groomed their pubic hair — with 62 percent saying they typically shaved it entirely. The younger generation, however, appears to be pushing back with increasing force. A study from research group Mintel revealed that nearly one in four women aged 16 to 24 didn’t shave their armpit hair in 2016. In 2013, just 5 percent of young women said they didn’t shave their armpits.

Watch BBC News’ full report below.


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A 20-year-old woman is going on trial in El Salvador and facing 20 years in prison on attempted murder charges after she gave birth to her rapist’s baby and then was accused of attempting an abortion.

Imelda Cortez was sexually abused by her stepfather for years. Since the age of 12, her stepfather, now 70, raped her repeatedly. Two years ago, he impregnated Cortez, who comes from a poor family in the rural town of San Miguel, according to The Guardian. Cortez, 18 at the time, said she had no idea she was pregnant. One day, her mother found her in extreme pain and bleeding profusely. Cortez had felt something come out of her when she went to the bathroom, but says she didn’t realize she’d given birth.

Her mother rushed Cortez to the hospital where doctors in the emergency room suspected an abortion had been attempted. They called police. Authorities later found the baby, a girl, alive. Cortez was jailed and accused of attempting to induce an abortion, which is not legal under any circumstance in El Salvador. She’s been in custody ever since and now her daughter is nearly 2 years old — and she’s never even been allowed to hold her baby girl.

Cortez’s lawyer, Alejandra Romero, denounced authorities for criminalizing Cortez, a victim. “Imelda was repeatedly raped by her stepfather from the age of 11,” Romero said, The Independent reported. “DNA tests prove her child is the daughter of her stepfather. Yet Imelda is being treated as a criminal, not a victim of sexual violence.”

While Cortez was hospitalized, her step-father reportedly visited her and threatened that if she came forward about the sexual abuse, he would kill her. But DNA evidence revealed him as the father of the baby and he has now been arrested and charged with child rape.

Cortez appeared in court on Monday and the start of her trial was postponed until next month. She will remain in custody until then, and her case has put a spotlight on El Salvador’s strict abortion ban, which went into effect 21 years go.

Advocates and supporters have launched an online campaign calling for Cortez to be released from jail while awaiting trial. Using the hashtags #JusticeParaImelda and #SalveMosaImelda to promote the campaign on social media, supporters have collected more than 53,000 signatures and counting on a petition demanding that Cortez be freed. And new calls are being made for El Salvador to revise its abortion laws, even if only to allow abortions in the cases of rape or the mother’s life being in danger.

Read the full story at The Guardian and The Independent.


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‘A better way’

On Monday, Democrat Kyrsten Sinema became the first woman to be elected senator in Arizona — and the first openly bisexual member of Congress ever — when she defeated Republican Martha McSally in a remarkable upset victory. Sinema, a former social worker and Green Party spokesperson who was previously elected to the House as a Democrat in 2012, also became the first Democratic senator to serve the state in a quarter-century. In a concession speech posted on Twitter, McSally congratulated her opponent on “becoming Arizona’s first female senator after a hard-fought battle.”

Addressing reporters on Monday night, Sinema echoed the bipartisan promise of Arizona’s late Republican Senator John McCain, declaring that she would always “put country over party.”

“Arizona proved that there is a better way forward,” said Sinema. “We can work with people who are different than us, we can be friends with people who are different than us, we can love and care about people who are different than us, we can keep people who are different than us safe. We can be good people who care deeply about each other even when we disagree.”

While McSally appears to have accepted the results of the narrow and hotly-contested race, President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Friday to claim “electoral corruption” and call for a new election to “protect our Democracy.” While it was unclear what factual basis the president had to support such a wild accusation, some speculated that he was referring to a lawsuit filed by the Arizona GOP that moved to omit ballots verified after election day from the final vote. The lawsuit, which did not contain any claims of “electoral corruption” or fraud, but instead was based on a supposed need to standardize the mail-in ballot system, was dismissed by a judge on Thursday.

Read the full story at BuzzFeed.


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