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May 16
Her eye on the news
Milestone

Next week, 34 black women will graduate from West Point military academy—a record in the prestigious school’s 216-year history.

“Last year’s graduating class had 27,” West Point spokesman Frank Demaro told CNN. “And the expectation is next year’s class will be even larger than this year’s.”

In 2014, West Point created an office of diversity, with the goal of recruiting more women and minority students and diversifying its leadership. Two years ago, Simone Askew became the first African-American woman appointed First Captain and West Point, and in 2018, Lt. Gen. Darryl A. William was made West Point’s first black superintendent.

“Also, this year’s class will have the highest number of female Hispanic graduates along with graduating our 5,000th female cadet since the first class of women to graduate in 1980,” Demaro noted.

These milestones represent a significant departure from much of the school’s history. As the Philadelphia Tribune points out, the first black cadet did not graduate from West Point until 1877—some 75 years after the school was founded in New York State. No black cadets graduated during the first decades of the 20th century, until the arrival of Benjamin O. Davis Jr. in 1932; he was forced to eat and room separately from his white classmates.

Tiffany Welch-Baker, who is part of the 2019 class, told Because of Them We Can that she initially wondered whether attending West Point was the right choice for her, but was ultimately reassured by meeting “so many cadets that looked like me, and that offered me some comfort.”

“My hope when young black girls see these photos,” she added, “is that they understand that regardless of what life presents you, you have the ability and fortitude to be a force to be reckoned with.”

Read more at CNN.

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Reproductive rights

This spring, the United States has seen an intense crackdown on women’s reproductive rights. First, Georgia signed a law banning abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected—which can happen as early as six weeks post conception. Then, on Tuesday, the Alabama Senate approved the strictest anti-abortion ban in the country, which makes almost all abortions in the state illegal; exceptions will not be made for cases of rape and incest.

Among those outraged by the recent news is actor Jameela Jamil. Responding to the Georgia law—which she called “upsetting, inhumane, and blatantly demonstrative of a hatred of women”—Jamil revealed on Twitter that she had an abortion when she was younger, as Glamourreports.

“[I]t was the best decision I have ever made,” Jamil wrote. “Both for me, and for the baby I didn’t want, and wasn’t ready for, emotionally, psychologically and financially. So many children will end up in foster homes. So many lives ruined. So very cruel.”

The latter part of her comment, Jamil noted, was not made in denigration of foster homes. “I’m in awe of people who take in children in need of a family and a home: but if Georgia becomes inundated with children who are unwanted or unable to be cared for, it will be hard to find great fostering for them all,” she said.

Jamil was not the only public figure moved to speak out about her abortion experience. Also in response to the Georgia law, Busy Phillips revealed on her talk show that she had an abortion when she was 15. And after Alabama voted to pass its anti-abortion bill, the actor took to Twitter to ask women to share their abortion stories using the hashtag #YouKnowMe.

“1 in 4 women have had an abortion,” she wrote. “Many people think they don’t know someone who has, but #youknowme.”

Thousands have responded to Phillips’ call. “The anti-abortion people in this country are so vocal, and for all of those reasons I think women have remained silent,” she told the New York Times. “And I felt like, well, maybe there’s actually value in sharing.

“We need to be as loud as they are, but with the truth. That’s the only thing we have.”

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Just … no

The Harvard Lampoon, a venerated satirical publication run by the college’s students, has apologized after it published an image of Anne Frank’s face on the body of a woman wearing a bikini.

“Gone Before Her Time: Virtual Aging Technology Shows Us What Anne Frank Would Have Looked Like if She Hadn’t Died,” read the headline above the image, according to the New York Times. The text below it said: “Add this to your list of reasons the Holocaust sucked.”

The Lampoon was met with swift backlash for its sexualization and trivialization of a 15-year-old Holocaust victim. Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg, director of Harvard Hillel, a Jewish campus group, told the Times that he contacted the editors of the Lampoon and likened the image to “the obscenity of the Nazis.” A change.org petition signed by 450 people called for individual apologies from the author of the Anne Frank article and the editor of the issue, among others. The petition also demanded a report detailing how the content came to be published and what steps the Lampoon would take to prevent a similar incident from happening again.

The image appeared in the publication on Sunday. On Tuesday, the Lampoon issued an apology. “We realize the extent of offense we have inflicted and understand that we must take responsibility for our actions,” the editors wrote. “We as individuals and we as an organization would like to apologize for our negligence in allowing this piece to be created for and printed in our latest issue. We are sorry for any harm we have caused. Furthermore, we want to both affirm and emphasize that the Lampoon condemns any and all forms of anti-Semitism.”

Additionally, the editors promised to restructure the Lampoon’s review process, and to publicize their improvement plans on the publication’s website this summer.

But for some, the apology does not go far enough. Harvard junior Jacob Schwartz told the times that he thinks the Lampoon’s staff should visit a Holocaust museum and speak to survivors of the genocide. “The issue in general,” Schwartz said, “is to use this as education and awareness of the Holocaust.”

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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‘Gender mainstreaming’

The neighborhood of Aspern in Vienna, Austria, has quietly become the world’s leader in the practice of “gender mainstreaming” — an approach to urban planning that seeks to ensure women and men are accounted for equally in policy, legislation and resource allocation.

Eva Kail, a world-famous expert in gender mainstreaming and strategic planner for Vienna, told The Guardian that cities had long been designed solely by “white, middle-class men” who sought to optimize the lives of working men and “car drivers in the city who looked like them.” But during her time heading Vienna’s first women’s office, the Frauenburo (which Kail has called “a little bit of a feminist utopia”) in the 1990s, she discovered that while men were accounted for two in three car journeys in the city, women were making up two-thirds of the city’s foot traffic.

The lesson, Kail says, was simple. “If you want to do something for women, do something for pedestrians,” she explained.

In 1992, Kail’s Frauenburo was given the chance to put her ideas into action with the creation of Frauen-Werk-Stadt (Women-Work-City), a 357-unit complex deliberately designed to improve the quality of women’s everyday lives. At the time, Vienna was rapidly expanding to the tune of 10,000 new apartments per year, but none of the other 30-odd projects underway in the city at the time had even invited a woman to pitch a design. Kail, by contrast, invited solely women architects to pitch potential blueprints for her project. The result? A massive success, and the beginning of a movement to gender-mainstream the whole city.

Since then, Kail has actively worked on pedestrian friendly measures that include improved street lighting, foot-traffic prioritizing traffic lights, wider sidewalks, more benches, and fewer barriers that would obstruct strollers, wheelchair users, and the elderly. In 1999, she reversed two parks’ declining usage by girls by redesigning them with well-lit footpaths and new facilities, such as volleyball courts, to provide an alternative to the male-dominated basketball courts. In 2005, her success was recognized by the city through the implementation of gender-sensitivity guidelines for all parks citywide based on her efforts.

At 240 hectares, by the time the neighborhood of Aspern is complete, in 2028, it will be home to 20,000 people, plus another 20,000 workplaces, and with an explicitly family-oriented design — and with every street and public space named for women, including Hannah Arendt Platz, Janis Joplin Promenade, Ada Lovelace Strasse, Madame d’Ora Park and more, chosen by 30 experts.

Watch Eva Kail speak about gender-aware redesign of public spaces in the URBANACT video below:

Read the full story at The Guardian.

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The cost of stigma

Victoria Bateman, a University of Cambridge economist who scandalized colleagues at the Royal Economic Society in Brighton last year by attending the annual gathering naked, is calling on her fellow academics to acknowledge “the elephant in the room in the economics profession.”

“Women and women’s bodies … this is what’s being ignored,” Bateman told Quartz..

Bateman says that economists, to their great discredit, have long ignored the unpaid labor of women — including the bearing and raising of children, housework, and providing care for the young and elderly. The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics estimates that the British economy would have been $1.6 trillion larger in 2016 — an increase of 63 percent to the country’s GDP — if housework were included in GDP calculations.

Similarly, 75 percent of unpaid care globally is provided by women — the equivalent of 2 billion women working full time for free, according to the International Labor Organization. These time-intensive unpaid responsibilities, she argues, effectively prevent women from entering the job force and marketplace, dramatically stifling economic growth across the world.

To that end, Bateman believes that ensuring women have full legal control over their bodies is the most surefire way to encourage economic growth. By providing women with access to birth control and abortion services, women would be freed from paying the price for unintended pregnancies that can force them out of the job market and into the role of unpaid carer.

“We can’t underestimate the risk of poverty that comes alongside an unplanned pregnancy,” says Bateman, adding that an estimated 44 percent of pregnancies globally are unintended. In general, she says, women’s freedom across the world — including bodily autonomy — is restricted due to a dominant notion that “women’s bodies are sinful” and “that a woman’s value rests on being very modest about her body.” As a result, she says that many people believe that restrictions must be imposed on women, including limitations on what they can wear and the criminalization of sex work, “to protect them from having their respect undermined by their bodies being on show.”

Her naked protests at the Royal Economic Society and elsewhere, she says, are meant to call attention to how the stigma attached to women and their bodies actively contributes to their continued economic marginalization.

“Women should be free to monetize their body or their brain,” Bateman told Quartz. “It is intellectually elitist and hypocritical for feminists to say otherwise. We should be thinking more about the effect of society on women, the way we judge women who monetize their body and the stigma and the marginalization that they experience.”

Bateman’s new book, The Sex Factor: How Women Made the West Rich, revisits economic history through feminist eyes.

Read the full interview at Quartz.

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05.16.19

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