Feb 22
Her eye on the news
‘Male is God’

A bombshell investigation by The Houston Chronicle and The San Antonio Express-News has uncovered 380 credible cases of sexual misconduct by Southern Baptist church leaders and volunteers. In many of the cases, the clergyman’s victims were ostracized by their churches, told they needed to forgive the abuse, and urged to get abortions — all while the church moved rapidly to cover up accusations and reintegrate serial sexual abusers into new parishes. And according to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, the scandal has two major components in common with the Catholic church’s massive problem with sexual abuse — an all-male clergy, and a resulting culture that demands women be subservient, especially when in church. “I suspect it’s no accident that these crimes emerged in denominations that do not ordain women and that relegate them to second-class status,” he writes.

“Underneath it all is this patriarchy that goes back millennia,” Serene Jones, president of Union Theological Seminary, told Kristof. “They both have very masculine understandings of God, and have a structure where men are considered the closest representatives of God.”

In response to The Chronicle’s investigation, the Southern Baptist church has pledged to provide its priests with better training, but said little about holding them accountable for their actions. That theme too has resounded in the Catholic church, where priests have long been absolved for sexually abusing parishioners and nuns who are subject to their power. And as a majority of religious women belong to denominations that see women as incapable of assuming spiritual leadership, perhaps it should come as no surprise that male priests, put in a position of unchecked dominance, continue to abuse their elevated status. The structural inequality of the Church, Kristof argues, endorses a “masculine conception of God that empowers rapists.”

Or as famous feminist theologian Mary Daly put it: “If God is male, then the male is God.”

Watch crusading columnist Nicholas Kristof, with Canadian doctor Fozia Alvi, share shattering eyewitness accounts of the Rohingya refugee crisis, at the 2018 Women in the World New York Summit:

Read Kristof’s full column at The New York Times.


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Virtus & Tyranny

A woman who protested in support of the Equal Rights Amendment by exposing her breast in a reenactment of Virginia’s state seal outside the state Capitol was arrested on Monday and initially denied bail ahead of her March 21 court date. According to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, 45-year-old New Yorker Michelle Sutherland was charged with indecent exposure for posing as Virtus, who on Virginia’s state seal is typically shown posed with her breast exposed as she stands over Tyranny.

“We were here reenacting the state flag and the state seal of Virginia, which says that we shall not give into tyrants, and Speaker [Kirk] Cox and [House Majority Leader Todd] Gilbert are both tyrants who are stopping the Equal Rights Amendment from getting to the floor for a vote,” said fellow protester Natalie White after Sutherland’s arrest.

In wake of outrage over the bizarre and unusual decision to hold Sutherland without bail over a misdemeanor offense, on Thursday Richmond General District Court Chief Judge Lawrence B. Cann III permitted Sutherland to be released on a personal recognizance bond. According to legal experts, it’s unlikely that the protesters will be convicted because indecent exposure charges hinge on proving that the act was intended to be sexual. Online video of Sutherland’s defiant protest has shown no evident indication of sexuality in her actions. News outlets reported that Judge Cann said he didn’t understand the charge stemmed from a political protest when he ordered Sutherland jailed on Tuesday.

A representative for VARatifyERA, an advocacy group working to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the constitution that would, for the first time, explicitly enshrine women equal protection under the law in the constitution, suggested that Sutherland’s arrest and subsequent denial of bail was meant to intimidate her and other women’s rights advocates into silence. In other topless protests, such as a recent event in New Hampshire, equal rights advocates have further claimed that charging women with indecency for showing their breasts is indicative of the way a patriarchal society simultaneously seeks to sexualize and control women’s bodies.

“The system was designed by men for men, and they seem intent on scaring women from political speech,” said Kati Hornung, campaign coordinator for VAratifyERA. “Further, the judge overstepped the boundaries of reasonableness, perhaps to make an example of Ms. Sutherland.”

On Thursday, the GOP-held Virginia House of Delegates quashed Democratic efforts to ratify the ERA.

Read the full story at WHSV.


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Cultural historian Lynn Stuart Parramore is calling on tech companies such as Google and Apple to acknowledge the sexist undertones behind their female-voiced digital assistants — and to delete the so-called “she-bots” from existence.

In an Op-Ed for NBC News, Parramore suggested that the rapid proliferation of A.I. assistants — almost all of which are female — reinforce sexist cultural notions that women should be subservient, obedient, and ever available to respond to the desires of men. Companies, she notes, have justified the decision to use female voices for their A.I.’s by pointing to research that shows people prefer listening to female voices. But the male-dominated nature of the tech world, and longstanding cultural sexism that reduces women to the role of tools to be commanded, she claims, likely reinforces the beliefs of executives who see nothing problematic about their meek and dulcet-toned A.I.’s.

To her point, she observes that new ads published in The New York Times picture Amazon A.I. Alexa with “large, sensual women’s lips, poised to answer anything you ask.” Software firm Autodesk’s new chatbot — a term for A.I. designed to mimic human conversation — also comes with a 3D avatar that Parramore says is clearly intended to look like a “sexy young woman.”

“Maybe the she-bots are partly a reaction to a century of rapid changes in which women gained professional opportunities and more control over their bodies than they ever had in human history,” Parramore wrote. “The subconscious minds of a million Silicon Valley programmers — mostly male — seem to have devised a counteroffensive: If you can’t have a real woman who will cater to your every whim, buy a virtual one. It’s man-made culture on steroids.”

Read the full Op-Ed at NBC News.


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Federal prosecutors, including U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta, broke the law in agreeing to grant serial pedophile Jeffrey Epstein a plea deal and not notify his victims, a judge has ruled.

Acosta, who was at the time an assistant U.S. attorney, acted illegally in 2008 when he failed to inform Epstein’s underage victims that his office was preparing to offer the  Palm Beach multi-millionaire a non-prosecution agreement, Florida federal court judge Kenneth Marra wrote in an opinion handed down on Thursday.

Under the federal Crime Victims’ Rights Acts, Epstein’s victims — who number more than 30 — were entitled to discuss plea negotiations with prosecutors and also appear at the sentencing.

Instead, the federal case was quietly dropped and sealed, and Epstein quietly pleaded guilty to state court charges in 2008. He served only 13 months behind bars, court documents reveal, paid financial settlements to his victims and is a registered sex offender.

“Particularly problematic was the Government’s decision to conceal the existence of the [agreement] and mislead the victims to believe that federal prosecution was still a possibility,’’ Marra wrote in his Thursday decision. “When the Government gives information to victims, it cannot be misleading. While the Government spent untold hours negotiating the terms and implications of the [agreement] with Epstein’s attorneys, scant information was shared with victims.’’

“Epstein used paid employees to find and bring minor girls to him,’’ wrote Marra. “Epstein worked in concert with others to obtain minors not only for his own sexual gratification, but also for the sexual gratification of others.’’

Epstein, now 66, was released in 2009, and in the decade since has faced various civil lawsuits from his accusers, who are continuing their fight for justice.

Falling short of invalidating the non-prosecution agreement, Marra’s Thursday ruling instead advised prosecutors and lawyers for Epstein’s victims to meet and recommend in 15 days how to move forward.

Asked for a response from Acosta, the New York Post was told that the actions of the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida had been defended for more than a decade, across several administrations. The office’s decisions were approved by departmental leadership and followed departmental procedures,” a spokeswoman with the U.S. Department of Labor said. “This matter remains in litigation.”

Bradley Edwards, attorney for two victims who brought the lawsuit, said the decision should mean the non-prosecution agreement is thrown out — possibly exposing Epstein to federal charges once again. The agreement also granted immunity to anyone who assisted Epstein in finding the underage girls or concealing the abuse.

“Rather than work to correct the injustices done to the victims, the government spent 10 years defending its own improper conduct,” Edwards said in an email to TIME. “It is time for the government to work with the victims, and not against them, to hold everyone who committed these crimes accountable.”

Read the full story at The New York Post and TIME.


Victims of multi-millionaire who targeted underage girls still fighting for justice a decade later

The Week in Women: The Watergate of Sex – Tragedy in South Sudan – Margot Robbie on her new film


‘A step forward’

A new experimental drug has been shown to significantly slow the spread of metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, a deadly variant of the disease that normally kills patients within a year.

Metastatic triple-negative breast cancer occurs in 15 percent of all breast cancer cases, and has thus far resisted successful treatment due to resistance to traditional cancer treatments. Chemotherapy for instance, only slows the disease progress in 10 to 15 percent of patients — and even then, the slowdown only persists for an average of two to three months, according to researchers.

But in a recent trial of new drug sacituzumab govitecan, which was crafted by combining an antibody with a chemotherapy drug, a third of patients showed a significant reduction in the growth of their cancer for up to eight months, while 50 percent of patients in the trial saw the progression of their cancer reduced by five months.

“These patients had a significant reduction of their cancer,” said the lead author on the study, Dr. Kevin Kalinsky. “This is an exciting new therapeutic.”

Over the past 20 years, scientists have been unable to improve the survival rate for women with metastatic triple-negative breast cancer. But with the positive signs of the recent trial, some doctors are daring to hope.

“This is a step forward for women where there were not any real treatment options,” said Dr. J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, interim chief medical officer at the American Cancer Society. “It was not a cure — we still have a long way to go.”

Read the full story at U.S. News.


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