Feb 12
Her eye on the news
Free the Nipple

In a contentious split decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court voted 3-2 on Friday to uphold the convictions of three women’s rights activists arrested for going topless. Ginger Pierro, 30, was arrested for doing topless yoga at a beach at Lake Winnipesaukee in Laconia on Memorial Day weekend in 2016. Three days later, Kia Sinclair, 27, and Heidi Lilley, 58, went to a beach topless only to be accosted by police just 20 minutes after they arrived.

Lilley and Sinclair, who in 2015 helped start the Free the Nipple movement in New Hampshire, said they deliberately allowed themselves to be arrested in order to challenge the state’s indecent exposure law. The law, they said, is used in discriminatory fashion to target topless women but not topless men.

“I had never thought about it until I was a breastfeeding mom,” said Sinclair. “How come men are just running around with their shirts off, mowing the lawn and going swimming, and I can’t do so when I’m feeding my baby?”

“It’s pathetic how highly sexualized a woman’s breast is,” added Lilley. “I thought that it was necessary that we make a change to that.”

But in a majority ruling, Associate Justice Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi upheld the women’s original convictions. Citing a 1975 case from California in which an appeals court judge wrote that “nature, not the legislative body,” made the distinction, Marconi ruled that the law was not discriminatory because social norms dictate that women’s breasts be treated as sexually provocative. Free the Nipple activists have long argued that men’s breasts were also considered sexual until male activists fought for the right to go topless. According to The Washington Post, it was illegal for men to be topless — even at the beach — in most American states and cities until the 1940s.

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Even after New York state lifted its male nipple ban in 1936, publicly shirtless men still risked arrest if they were perceived gay. In 1947, for instance, Harvey Milk was among a group of shirtless men arrested for indecent exposure in Central Park, yet the barechested married men in the park weren’t harassed. But on the whole, men’s shirtlessness was a freedom swiftly won, thanks in no small part to male law enforcement officials and judges who could personally emphasize with male body politics. Meanwhile, many male lawmakers continually deemed female nipples prurient outside of the home or strip club. In other words, the major takeaway from how men freed their nipples is that the issue isn’t about nipples at all, but about how flesh is rendered gendered and moralized accordingly. It's time women start doing the same. This is about having the choice. It's about #Equality

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In an interview on Saturday, the women’s lawyer, Dan Hynes, said that they were disappointed by the decision, but encouraged by how close the case came to reversing the law. In his dissenting opinion, Associate Justice James P. Bassett characterized the ordinance as discriminatory, noting that women were being prosecuted for “wearing the exact same clothing on the beach” as men.

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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‘A better world’

Renowned three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn is setting new standards for excellence in the San Francisco restaurant scene — including in terms of gender equality. Crenn, a French national, became the first America-based woman restauranteur to be awarded the prestigious Michelin restaurant guide’s top honors in November for her restaurant Atelier Crenn. Only 15 restaurants in the U.S. have a three-star Michelin rating. Crenn’s excellence, fellow chefs say, have helped to smash the glass ceiling in the historically male-dominated business — and set new standards for how female staff are treated within the industry.

In wake of the #MeToo movement, some of the most prominent chefs in the restaurant industry were exposed as serial harassers and abusers of women, revealing what many decried as a systemic culture of misogyny and abuse. Speaking to The Guardian, Crenn said that she too faced harassment from a colleague early in her career. When she complained, she said, she was told she could either shut up about it or go work somewhere else. She left.

“It’s almost in a way like I was a burden for them being a woman in the kitchen,” she said.

Within the confines of her own kitchen walls, Crenn has instituted a zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment and similar misogynistic behavior that has helped create another rarity in the world of high-end cooking — gender diversity. At Atelier Crenn, her staff is 50 percent women. At her other restaurant, Petit Crenn, the staff is 80 percent women. Embracing diversity, Crenn says, can only push the world of cooking — and the world in general — to greater heights.

“Diversity is going to bring us to a better world,” she said. “Right now we are in a place where we’re suppressing diversity … For me, this is not what America is about.”

Crenn appeared at the 2018 Women in the World New York Summit to discuss how cooking can serve as a tool for social change. Watch video of that discussion below:

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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7-point plan

Hungary’s prime minister, who is vehemently opposed to immigration, has proposed a solution to the nation’s plummeting population — income tax exemption for life for women who have four or more children.

Right-wing nationalist Viktor Orban has also proposed young couples be offered interest-free loans of around $36,000, to be cancelled once they have three children.

The remarks were made as Orban delivered his state of the nation address, drawing applause for his announcement of a seven-point plan to increase the birth rate, that also included state support for the purchase of seven-seat vehicles.

Hungary’s population is currently falling by 32,000 per year, but Orban is opposed to welcoming migrants — particularly Muslims. “Hungarian people think differently,” he said, comparing his thinking to that of “the West.”

“We do not need numbers. We need Hungarian children.”

“Increasing the number of births is very difficult, because we have less and less women of childbearing age,” State Secretary for Families Katalin Novak told the BBC. (That number is set to fall by 20 percent in the next decade.) “So less and less women need to have more and more babies.”

About 600,000 Hungarians have moved to western Europe in the past decade.

Read the full story at the BBC.


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In the face of public alarm over the growing number of rape and sexual assault cases in Sierra Leone, the country’s president has declared the issue a national emergency.

President Julius Maada Bio made the announcement last week in the capital of Freetown, the BBC reports, focusing his attention on sexual violence against minors, which he declared would be punishable by life in prison. Some 8,500 incidences of sexual violence were recorded in Sierra Leone last year, up by 4,000 from the previous year. Bio said one-third of those cases involved attacks on minors. The actual number of incidences is likely to be higher, according to activists; sexual violence, considered a taboo subject in the country, often goes unreported.

A number of tragic and high-profile cases have brought this issue to the fore in Sierra Leone, including the rape of a five-year-old girl who was left partially paralyzed by the attack. The perpetrator is allegedly the child’s 28-year-old uncle, Al Jazeera reports.

Instability in Sierra Leone—wrought by a  protracted civil war, which ended in 2002, and by the more recent Ebola crisis—has created an environment where sexual violence against women has been carried out with impunity, as the New York Times notes. Progress in the realm of women’s rights has come slowly; the country passed its first gender equality laws in 2007, and sex with minors was only criminalized in 2012.

Activists and political figures have been working to raise awareness about the sexual abuse of children. In December of last year, First Lady Fatima Bio, launched the “Hands Off Our Girls” campaign, that focuses on child marriage and gender-based violence.

Now that a state of emergency has been declared, President Bio promised that a police force would be formed to investigate sexual violence reports, and that a special magistrate’s court would hear such cases quickly. He also announced that hospitals have been directed to provide sexual violence survivors with free medical care. Additionally, Bio highlighted the need to shatter the stigma that surrounds sexual assault.

“Some of our families practise a culture of silence and indifference towards sexual violence, leaving victims even more traumatized,” Bio said, according to Al Jazeera. “We as a nation must stand up and address this scourge.”

Read more at the BBC.


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'How we make change'

Elizabeth Warren made it clear that she has her sights set on the Oval Office when she launched an exploratory committee for a 2020 presidential bid on New Year’s Eve. Now, as the New York Times reports, the Massachusetts senator has formally kickstarted her campaign.

On Saturday, Warren addressed a crowd of supporters at the Everett Mill in Lawrence, Massachusetts—the site of a  landmark 1912 strike led by female laborers. It was a deliberate choice of location for Warren, a specialist in bankruptcy and commercial law who vowed to advocate on behalf of American workers.

“Today, millions and millions and millions of American families are also struggling to survive in a system that’s been rigged, rigged by the wealthy and the well-connected,” Warren said, according to the Times.

“Like the women of Lawrence,” she added, “we are here to say enough is enough!”

The presidential hopeful has put forth a plan that would implement a two percent wealth tax on fortunes of more than $50 million, and a three percent tax for fortunes that cross the $1 billion threshold, reports the Guardian. She said that the current system favors big businesses and the wealthy, who “seem to break the rules and pay no price.” Key to dismantling this system, she added, is doing away with the current administration, which she called “the most corrupt in living memory.”

Responding to Warren’s campaign launch on Twitter, President Trump invoked a taunt that he has often used to attack the senator: her purported Native American heritage. “Will she run as our first Native American presidential candidate, or has she decided that after 32 years, this is not playing so well anymore? See you on the campaign TRAIL, Liz!” he wrote on Twitter, in an apparent reference to the forced and perilous relocation of Native Americans in the 1830s, which is known as the Trail of Tears.

Trump has long attacked Warren over her claims that she hails from Native American ancestry, repeatedly mocking her by referring to her as “Pocahontas.” Last October, in an early sign that she was seriously considering a presidential run, Warren released a video in which she revealed the results of a DNA test showing that she had some Native American heritage. Her decision to publicize the results was condemned by Native American leaders, who criticized her for implying that race is determined by blood and for ignoring the importance of cultural kinship and tribal affiliation to Native citizenship.  Warren apologized to the Cherokee Nation earlier this month.

Whether the controversy will continue to dog Warren remains to be seen. But during the first days of her campaign, she has been focused not only on criticizing Trump, but also on repairing what she sees as the injustices of a “badly broken system.”

“So, our job as we start rolling into the next election is not just to respond on a daily basis,” she said during an event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, according to CNN. It’s to talk about what we understand is broken in this country, talk about what needs to be done to change it and talk about how we’re going to do that, because that is not only how we win, it’s how we make the change we need to make.”


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