Dec 05
Her eye on the news
Racial tensions

In a small racially-diverse town in North Carolina, a group of black cheerleaders who kneeled for the national anthem before a high school football game have found themselves front and center in a tense discussion on race.

At South Robeson High School in Rowland, which lies in the midst of one of the poorest parts of one of North Carolina’s poorest counties, the student body is almost entirely African-American and Native American. The town is split by a railroad track into two sides — “the white folks’ section” and “the black folks’ section” — though residents said they had felt good about the progress in the town had made. But after the cheerleaders for South Robeson High decided to protest against discrimination, police brutality, and the rise of white nationalism by taking a knee, hidden racial tensions in the county swiftly made their way to the surface.

The day after the protest, 14-year-old Aajah Washington saw posts on social media in which locals made cruel insults about her and her fellow cheerleaders — one woman, she said, suggested that her parents should have broken her knees before letting her kneel.

“I watch TV every day and that’s all we see, police brutality or the KKK is coming out,” said Aajah. “It just seems like the world is changing, where everything from back then is coming back now.”

Aajah’s mother, Tiona Washington, said that her daughter hadn’t told her about the plan to protest, but that after hearing her reasons for doing so, she decided to support her daughter. Washington, who admitted that she had almost voted for Trump, said that as a child she remembered vividly when her family drove past a KKK march, and that her own mother had faced racism as part of Rowland’s newly-integrated high school in 1971. The current climate, she added, scared her as well.

“This is the most lost I’ve felt racially in my entire life,” she said. “We are seeing things that happened in eras we thought we were past.”

Cary Lewis, a retired state trooper who was one of the first to disapprovingly share news of the cheerleaders’ protest on social media, said that he thought the girls’ action was proof that America needed leaders like Donald Trump.

“People in this country … they’re already losing respect in a lot of areas. It’s the national anthem and the flag now. What’s going to be next?” he said. “Think of … China or Korea. What if they did not respect their country like these people are not respecting ours? Just think what they would do to them. I’m not saying we should do that to our people … but they teach their people respect.”

Watch video coverage of the story below.

Read the full story at The Associated Press.


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Discussion over the acceptability of bringing one’s baby to work has erupted on social media after a Twitter user shamed a woman she saw carrying a baby while working the counter at a Dunkin’ Donuts. In an apparent attempt at drawing the company’s attention to the employee, a Twitter user shared a picture of the woman in a since-deleted post, writing, “Really @DunkinDonuts?” In response, users across social media jumped to the woman’s defense, noting that women who don’t have or can’t afford childcare often have to choose between either bringing their child to work or losing their job.

The Twitter user then hit back at critics, writing that the baby was “sneezing all over the food I was about to buy” and that people should “mind your own damn business and stop speaking on stuff you know nothing about.” Some defended the Twitter user as well, writing that they wouldn’t want to see someone who worked with food carrying a baby either.

Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle, Carla Moquin, the founder of the Babies at Work program, said that bringing one’s baby to the work is good for both the infant and the mother, but that “there needs to be a formal, structured policy in place for people to benefit.” Within the last year or so, photos of multitasking moms have gone viral online — but in those cases, the women were praised for their poise, not criticized.

Read the full story at Yahoo News.


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Civil rights icon and Congressman John Conyers has announced his retirement in the wake of claims that he demanded sex from multiple female staffers who worked for him. In response to denials from Conyers, Marion Brown, a staffer who worked with Conyers for 11 years, went so far as to break a non-disclosure agreement she signed as part of a settlement with the Congressional Black Caucus co-founder in order to publicly defend herself and other women who accused him of sexual misconduct. In recent days, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi had called on Conyers to resign, describing the accusations against him as “serious, disappointing, and very credible,” and the House Ethics Committee had opened an investigation into his behavior.

In a radio interview given on Tuesday with station Praise 102.7, Conyers said he was “retiring today.”

“I’m in the process of putting my retirement plans together and I’ll have more about that very soon,” Conyers said, adding that he still denied the accusations against him. “My legacy can’t be compromised or diminished in any way by what we are going through now. This too shall pass. My legacy will continue through my children.”

Conyers said that he wanted his son, John Conyers III, to fill his vacant seat, setting up a potential conflict with his great-nephew, Ian Conyers, a state senator, who also told The New York Times on Tuesday that he “absolutely” intended to run for the seat.

Read the full story at The Daily Beast.


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Woman who said she dated Roy Moore when she was 17 — and he was 34 — provides ‘proof’ of their relationship

Tarnished memories

A woman who said she publicly dated Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore when she was 17 has contradicted his claim that he doesn’t know who she is by sharing a high school graduation card she said she received from him. Five women have accused Moore of sexually harassing or assaulting them when he was in his 30s and they were teenagers — including one woman who said Moore stripped her to her underwear and fondled her when she was 14 — and four other women have also accused him of groping and unwanted sexual advances. Moore, who had previously admitted that he knew at least two of his accusers, Gloria Thacker Deason and Debbie Wesson Gibson, revised his story last Monday by claiming he unequivocally did not “know any of [the women]” who have spoken out against him.

Gibson, 54, said that she had “very carefully said absolutely nothing” after the Post first published news of her relationship with Moore when she was 17 because of the threats and hate mail she had received. She also told The Washington Post that she had not wanted to believe the allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Moore. She revealed that she had always worn her relationship with the then 34-year-old “like a badge of honor.” But she said she was forced to reevaluate after seeing reports that Moore had serially targeted other teenagers — including Beverly Young Nelson, who accused Moore of sexually assaulting her when she was 16, and who also shared an inscription in high school yearbook that she said Moore wrote.

“I just couldn’t imagine him doing something like that,” Gibson said. “And then when I saw the interview from Beverly, and I saw his handwriting in her yearbook, my heart just sank. And when I saw what I knew to be Roy Moore’s handwriting, I just began to sob openly.”

She decided to share a scrapbook from high school with the Post after hearing Moore claim that he didn’t know her. Included in the scrapbook was a marking of her first date with Moore in 1981, and a graduation card that she said Moore gave to her.

“Roy S. Moore and I went out for the first time. We went out to eat at Catfish Cabin in Albertville. I had a great time,” read an inscription on a page titled, “the best times.” The word “great” was underlined twice. In a note next to the graduation card, she wrote: “Roy Moore inspires me because he is such a successful man himself. Also, he is about the only person I know of who seriously believes in me. I appreciate that. He’s got to be one of the nicest people I know.”

Those positive feelings, Gibson admitted, have now been permanently tarnished.

“It takes what I thought was a very lovely part of my past, and it colors it, and it changes it irrevocably. It changes it permanently,” she told the Post. “He called me a liar. Roy Moore made an egregious mistake to attack that one thing — my integrity.”

Speaking with The Post, Gibson also shared other stories about Moore from after they dated — including the time she introduced him to her fiance.

Watch video of Gibson’s interview with the Post below.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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In response to the veritable tsunami of news surrounding allegations of sexual harassment, women have taken to Facebook to commiserate with their friends and voice their frustrations with the general male populace. Movements like #MeToo have inspired women to share their thoughts on the current state of gender relations and empowered them to speak out. But for many who’ve chosen Facebook as their platform of choice, a sarcastic comment or witty retort to a particularly hateful male troll has had an unexpected consequence: a temporary ban ranging in severity from one, to as many as 30 days.

Posts ranging from the banal, “all men are ugly” to the quippy “men ain’t shit” have been removed from women’s pages, and then followed up by some form of a ban imposed on their profiles. In response to the alarming trend, more than 500 women — many of them female comics — staged a protest on November 24, pledging to post some derivative of “men are scum” on their pages. Nearly every female participant was banned from Facebook.

According to a ProPublica investigation released in June, white men are classified by Facebook as a “protected group,” therefore any defamatory statements such as “men are scum” are considered by the platform to be in violation of community standards and subject to removal. A Facebook spokesperson later clarified that under the platform’s current moderation policy gender, religion, race, and sexual orientation are among those considered to be “protected categories.” But even with more than 7,000 site moderators, punishments can sometimes be handed out unequally.

The problem has become so prevalent that Boston comedian Kayla Avery — who is currently serving a 30-day ban imposed by Facebook (her 10th ban, according to her records) — created, a website dedicated to allowing women to share stories of being punished by the world’s largest social network. Many of the women punished with Facebook banishments, having themselves been the subjects of vitriolic and violent messages, have found common ground on Avery’s in discussing what seems to be a blatant bias on the part of the social media giant toward men who post derogatory insults without fear of repercussion.

“Sharing anything is nerve-racking. It’s like, ‘What’s OK? What’s not OK? What’s going to cross the line this time?’” Avery explained. “It makes me feel crazy, like Facebook is gaslighting us. Facebook is absolutely silencing women.” While Facebook has stated that the site is dedicated to addressing any issues of harassment, they maintain that all posts found to violate community standards are removed.

Read the full story at The Daily Beast.


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Innocent inmate

Prison law in Afghanistan dictates that when women are sent to prison, their children can go with them. It has been estimated that hundreds of children in the country live behind bars, either because they have no living relatives, or because none will take them. The New York Times recently interviewed a young girl named Meena, who has never seen the outside of the Nangarhar provincial prison in Jalalabad. Her mother is the notorious serial killer Shirin Gul.

Meena was conceived in prison, after her mother was convicted of aiding in the murders of 27 men. Gul confessed to luring the victims into her home and serving them drugged kebabs. Four family members — her lover, her son, her uncle and nephew—then robbed and killed the men. Gul was initially sentenced to hang, but after Meena’s birth, her punishment was commuted to life in prison.

“My whole life has passed in this prison,” Meena told the Times. “Yes, I wish I could go out. I want to leave here and live outside with my mother, but I won’t leave here without her.”

The reality may be more complicated. There are programs that will take in the children of imprisoned women, but Meena’s mother — a seemingly volatile woman who threatened to have ISIS cut off the Times reporter’s head — said that she will not allow her daughter to be taken unless she is also granted freedom.

Read the entirety of the dramatic interview at The New York Times.

‘Female slavery’

Chinese authorities in the city of Fushun have shut down a “female morality class” that taught women to be quiet, do more housework, and resign themselves to a passive role in society.

As Agence France-Presse reports, the class came to the attention of authorities after a video of one of the sessions went viral. The clip shows an instructor telling students to “talk less, do more housework and shut their mouths.” The teacher also said that “women should not strive to move upwards in society, but should always remain at the bottom level,” and opined that ordering take-out instead of cooking violated “rules for women.”

Chinese schools sometimes offer so-called “female morality classes,” which typically focus on promoting traditional culture through the teaching of Confucian principles, calligraphy, and martial arts. The class in Fushun, however, strayed beyond that curriculum.

“This is female slavery, not female morality,” one person wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-esque social media platform.

Education authorities said the class in Fushun had been launched by the Fushun Traditional Cultural Research Association without proper authorization and would be shuttered immediately.

Read the full story at Agence France-Presse.


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Controversial art

A recently launched petition is demanding that the Metropolitan Museum of Art remove a Balthus painting, which, the petition says, “depicts a young girl in a sexually suggestive pose.”

The 1938 painting, Thérèse Dreaming, shows a prepubescent girl reclining in a chair with her arms folded over her head. Her leg is raised, and her undergarments are visible. It is one of 10 works that Balthus, the French artist born as Balthasar Klossowski, painted that depict Thérèse Blanchard, the daughter of a restaurant worker who was 11 years old when Balthus met her.

“Balthus had a noted infatuation with pubescent girls and this painting is undeniably romanticizing the sexualization of a child,” the petition states. “Given the current climate around sexual assault and allegations that become more public each day, in showcasing this work for the masses, The Met is romanticizing voyeurism and the objectification of children.”

Thérèse Dreaming (1938) by the painter known as Balthus.

To date, the petition has been signed by nearly 8,000 people.

Questions have long surrounded Balthus’ preoccupation with young girls. “Balthus always denied any hint of paedophilia,” Jason Farago wrote in a 2013 Guardian review of a Met exhibition devoted to artist’s work. “But get real: these are erotic images of children.”

A representative for the Met has said that the museum will not take down Thérèse Dreaming.  “[Our] mission is to collect, study, conserve, and present significant works of art across all times and cultures in order to connect people to creativity, knowledge, and ideas,” spokesperson Kenneth Weine said, according to the New York Post. “Moments such as this provide an opportunity for conversation, and visual art is one of the most significant means we have for reflecting on both the past and the present.”

Read more at The New York Post.


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Taking over

After more than a dozen men accused Kevin Spacey of sexual harassment and assault, the actor was fired from his Netflix series House of Cards. Production on the show was suspended. But as USA Today reports, Netflix has announced that it will proceed with its sixth and final season of House of Cards by elevating Robin Wright’s character to the lead role.

Wright plays Claire Underwood, the wife of Spacey’s Frank Underwood and his partner/occasional enemy in slithery political machinations. And fortunately for House of Cards’ showrunners, the way the fifth season left off paved the way for Claire to take the reins (in the interest of avoiding spoilers, nothing more will be said).

“[W]e’re really excited about bringing some closure to the show for fans,” Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos said at the Global Media and Communications Conference in New York.

Wright is not the only woman to take over for a male public figure disgraced by accusations of harassment and assault. In the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against veteran journalist Charlie Rose, PBS has announced that it will replace Rose’s show with a program hosted by another legendary reporter: Christiane Amanpour.

Rose had hosted his eponymous interview program for decades, before the allegations him prompted PBS to cut ties. In place of Charlie Rose, CNN reports, PBS will now run Amanpour, an existing CNN show that focuses on public affairs. PBS has said that Amanpour will air “on an interim basis,” until the network can settle on a permanent replacement.


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