Feb 21
Her eye on the news
No take backs

Governments for the U.S. and U.K. have moved to bar two women who defected to ISIS from returning home, and to strip them of citizenship in the process.

Hoda Muthana, 24, had issued multiple pleas to be allowed to return home to her family in Alabama after fleeing ISIS’s last pocket of territory in Syria in January. Despite her past fervor for the terror group — and her social media history of agitating for domestic terrorism within the U.S. — Muthana insisted that she deeply regretted joining ISIS as a 19-year-old. But on Wednesday, U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo declared that Muthana was “not a U.S. citizen,” that she had no “legal basis” to claim citizenship, and that the state department would intervene should she try to come home.

Hassan Shibly, an attorney representing Muthana’s family, said that the administration was employing a dubious legal loophole to deny Muthana her birthright citizenship — despite the fact that she was born in Hackensack, New Jersey.

“They’re claiming her dad was a diplomat when she was born, which, in fact, he wasn’t,” Shibly told The Associated Press.

British national Shamima Begum, 19, has also reportedly been denied the right to return home by her government. After joining ISIS as a 15-year-old, Begum had two children — both of whom died — and recently gave birth to a third child while in custody at a camp in Syria. Begum has said she doesn’t regret joining the terror group, but that she wished to return to England for the sake of her newborn. In a letter sent to Begum’s mother’s home on Tuesday, the Home Office wrote that an “order removing [Begum’s] British citizenship has subsequently been made,” according to ITV News. According to the family’s attorney, Tasnime Akunjee, such a move is illegal under British law as it would make the teenager stateless. The lawyer added that the family would pursue “all legal avenues to challenge this decision.”

Read the full story at NPR and The Guardian.


With ISIS in retreat, more Western women who joined them ask to come home

‘We’re not animals’: French mothers who fled ISIS are ready to come home

2 women who joined ISIS as teenagers plead to be allowed to return home with their children

Body shaming

Coaches at a Wisconsin high school have been accused of humiliating school cheerleaders and their parents at an annual March banquet by giving out awards to the girls with the biggest breasts and backside, and to the skinniest “String Bean.”

According to parents in attendance at the banquet for Tremper High School’s cheerleading squad, a coach handed out a “Big Boobie” award to one girl while joking that her boobs bounced so much when she ran that she risked giving herself a concussion. Another girl, the winner of a “Big Booty” award, was told in front of her peers and their parents that “everybody loves her butt.”

“I looked around and thought, ‘Did that just happen?’” recalled one mother. “If my daughter would have won one of those awards, I would’ve absolutely been rushing the stage. It was just so wrong, in so many ways.”

In May, cheerleading coach Patti Uttech was told by the school districts’ head of human resources to submit her resignation and write a letter apologizing to her students. She and another coach, Nely DeThorne, sent out emails saying they were sorry for “any embarrassment or distress,” but neither resigned, according to a memo from Tremper’s principal, Steve Knecht. In an email sent to Knecht, Uttech complained that the world had become too “politically correct,” and that the awards were actually “a huge hit and truly lots of laughs and fun.”

Speaking anonymously out of fear of retribution from coaches, two current Tremper cheerleaders told The New York Times they disagreed with Uttech vehemently.

“When the girl went up to accept the Big Boobie award, what do you think everyone in the room was looking at? I would’ve died,” said one girl.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union said they had been contacted by one of the girls’ mothers and issued the school district a formal warning of potential legal action should the district “fail to take any meaningful corrective action.” Coaches, the A.C.L.U. said, were found to be using “harassing language towards cheerleaders during practices.” The district was enabling sexual harassment, it claimed, and in doing so was violating federal nondiscrimination and equal protection laws.

“The incidents described all reveal a culture in which female students are objectified and sexualized,” the ACLU wrote in its demand letter, the Washington Post reports. “The objectifying awards are just one example of a broader culture of body shaming, victim blaming, and harassment throughout KUSD.”

“It’s so important that we intervene at a young age and girls are taught their worth and are treated equally,” said A.C.L.U. lawyer Emma Roth. “When that doesn’t happen, they carry this message for the rest of their life.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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'It hurts my heart'

In an impromptu late-night conversation conducted via Skype, Willow Smith recently voiced her thoughts on how African-American women have historically been excluded from the feminist cause.

The 18-year-old daughter of Will and Jada Pinkett Smith spoke to writer and activist Rachel Cargle, who published the transcript of their chat on the Harper’s BAZAAR website. Asked if she identifies as a feminist, Smith admitted that she struggles with the label because of the rift that separates white and black women that’s “still happening in the feminist movement today.”

“It’s complicated because I support the womanist movement, the feminist movement, any movement that’s supporting women. But it really hurts my heart that there was this chasm between white women and black women.”

Smith went on to say that some white women her age downplay the problem. “The reaction that I usually get from my white female peers is, ‘It’s not that big of a deal, you’re making it a bigger deal than it needs to be.’” Despite that, she said, she feels connected to the broader struggle for women’s rights. “The first real connection that I had to women’s rights and freeing women emotionally and politically and all those ways, was with ‘Whip My Hair,’” she said, referring to the debut single she released in 2010. “At the time I didn’t really understand all of those dynamics, but that song… I hope it spoke to other black girls. It spoke to me and kind of, in a way, kickstarted my advocacy for freeing femininity.”

Remarkably, Smith was only nine years old when the song was released. Yet it became an instant sensation as a woke anthem and a commentary on race that was accessible and appealing to younger kids.

“You know, even more now than ever, I’m looking at these issues and I’m like, haven’t we gotten past this? Can’t we just see that you’re a woman, you have light skin; I’m a woman, I have dark skin. We’re both human.”

Read the full story at Harper’s BAZAAR.


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Pamela Anderson unleashes some choice words for #MeToo movement, feminism in general


The fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) have long been a boys’ club. Now, a new study suggests why the under-representation of women in these professions remains so persistent.

Starting in 2003, sociologists at the University of Michigan began tracking the career paths of a group of childless scientists. Eventually, many of those scientists did have children. But this life event affected their careers in different ways, depending on whether they were male or female. Among the new mothers, 40 percent left the STEM sector to find work in a different field, stayed in STEM but went down to part-time, or stopped working entirely. By contrast, only 23 percent of the new fathers changed, scaled back or paused their careers. The results suggest that in STEM professions, like many others, women are expected to assume a childcare role that forces them to choose between their career and their family.

This may be particularly true in the STEM world. “STEM work is often culturally less tolerant and supportive of caregiving responsibilities than other occupations,” said Erin Cech, the lead author of the study. Ironically, this may be precisely because these professions are dominated by men, and are therefore lacking in policies that could accommodate new parents who want to continue their careers, creating a vicious cycle.

“These young women are smart and tenacious,” said Ami Radunskaya, a mathematician at Pomona College in Claremont, California, referring to the women who choose a career path in STEM. Despite this, she said, motherhood often means being forced out of a work environment that is “at best, challenging to everyone and, at worst, openly sexist.”

Read the full story at Nature


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Preventable suffering

New research shows that cervical cancer, a disease that currently kills 300,000 women globally each year, could be effectively eliminated by the end of the century with increased vaccine coverage.

The vast majority of cervical cancer cases are caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted disease whose cancer- and genital wart-causing variants are preventable through vaccination. According to research published in the journal Lancet Oncology, 600,000 women will contract cervical cancer in 2020. By 2069, that number will rise to 1.3 million per year if nothing is done. But with high vaccine and screening coverage, the study found, the global caseload could be reduced to less than four cases per 100,000 women by the year 2100, effectively eliminating the disease.

Last year, the director of the World Health Organization called on nations to build up their vaccination programs. But those efforts have been hampered by logistical and financial challenges, as well as public fears about the vaccine.

Documentary films purporting to link the HPV vaccine to symptoms caused by chronic fatigue syndrome were debunked by the European Medicines Agency in 2015, but not before vaccination rates plummeted in Denmark and Ireland as a result. Disturbing instances of what appear to be psychosomatic reactions have also been reported. In 2014, 600 girls in Colombia who took the vaccine were treated for fainting and twitching.  Such episodes have led nations like Japan to stop proactively recommending the vaccine. But experts insist it is extremely safe, and that unfounded fears about vaccination could cause an entirely unnecessary health crisis among women.

“It is one of the best vaccines we have,” Heidi Larson, director of the Vaccine Confidence Project, told The Guardian. “Hostility and fear has potential to delay the effective implementation of lifesaving vaccines. We must be very clear about this: millions of women can be spared unnecessary, terrible suffering if HPV vaccines can be effectively deployed and scaled up globally.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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HPV vaccine drastically reduces risk of cervical abnormalities in young women


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