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May 22
Her eye on the news
‘A bullying strategy’

For decades, Rebecca Gomperts has been helping women terminate their pregnancies in countries with abortion bans. She began in the nineties by launching Women on Waves, using a Dutch ship anchored in international waters to give abortions on board. Now she mails abortion pills to women who contact her, including in America—causing a stir with the FDA.

Gomperts, a medical doctor from the Netherlands, announced last year that she had created a new organization, Aid Access, to help women in places like the U.S., where abortion is becoming increasingly restricted. A few months later, in March, the Food and Drug Administration notified her that she is violating federal law by selling “misbranded and unapproved new drugs,” according to a report in Mother Jones.

Gomperts says she won’t back down, writing on the Aid Access website, “I will not be deterred. When women in the U.S. seeking to terminate their pregnancies prior to nine weeks consult me, I will not turn them away. I will continue to protect the human and constitutional rights of my patients to access safe abortion services.”

Shortly after the FDA letter was sent, 120 members of Congress wrote to FDA Commissioner Norman Sharpless to thank him for taking action, according to Mother Jones. Gomperts told the magazine that she thinks the congressional letter shows that there is political pressure on the FDA to act. “I’ve been doing this for 16 years. This is the first time we’ve ever gotten a letter like this,” she said. “It’s a bullying strategy.”

The abortion pills she distributes, mifepristone and misoprostol, are safe and effective, according to Mother Jones. “Whether law enforcement and the FDA can stop the flow of pills, and whether they have jurisdiction to do so,” the report said, “remains to be seen.”

Read the full story at Mother Jones.

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‘Freedom to love’

Champion sprinter Dutee Chand, 23, has revealed that she is in a relationship with a woman from her rural village in eastern India, Gopalpur, making her the first openly gay professional athlete in the country’s history.

The recent announcement from Chand, a member of India’s national track and field team, comes less than a year after the Indian Supreme Court struck down a ban on consensual gay sex last September. Same-sex marriage remains illegal in the largely conservative country.

“I have always believed that everyone should have the freedom to love,” Chand told The Sunday Express newspaper in India, adding that she hopes to settle down and build a life with her partner following the coming track World Championships and Olympic Games in Tokyo. “There is no greater emotion than love, and it should not be denied,” she said.

Chand is famous not only for her accomplishments as a sprinter, but for her fight for the right to be allowed to compete against other women. In 2014, she was banned from competing by the sport’s governing body due to her hyperandrogenism, a condition that naturally produces high testosterone levels. Chand appealed the ruling, and the ban was overturned in 2015.

She went on to win silver medals at the Asian Games in the 100-meter and 200-meter events last year.

Read the full story at The New York Times.

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‘Bald Black Girls’

Poet and visual artist Ruth Sutoyé will never forget her first barber—due to his sexual harassment.

Her coming exhibition at the Roundhouse Bar and Cafe in London, Bald Black Girl(s), looks at barbershop dynamics for black women who choose to shave their heads. The exhibit, Sutoyé said in a new video interview with the BBC, is also meant to allow black women to connect and share stories of the harassment they too frequently endure in barber shops.

Describing her first barber, she said, “It was a really uncomfortable relationship. Me constantly rejecting him, and being in a position where you have someone with really sharp utensils on your head — it’s really hard how you even navigate rejection. He didn’t take it well after several months of me saying no. So he started messing up my haircuts, as an act of revenge or showing his disapproval. So I went several weeks without cutting my hair because I didn’t know what I was meant to do next.”

She said her decision to shave her head was often met with criticism, with men asking, “Does your husband know about this? Did you lose a bet with your brother? Did you consult a man in your life before you made this decision?”

When she took to social media to ask other women how they deal with this kind of harassment, she found an outpouring of support from women who said they, too, had endured similar situations.

“Bald Black Girl(s) explores the experiences of low-shaved and bald black women. Black women, our hair is highly politicized, as our bodies,” said Sutoyé. “Our existence as black women is politics. I’d rather it not be, but this is what it is , and so let’s talk about it, let’s lean into it, and let’s do it on our own terms.”

Watch the full BBC interview below, and read more about the Bald Black Girl(s) exhibition, which begins in July at Roundhouse.

 

 

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‘Literal perfection’

Ruby Rose plays TV’s first openly gay lead superhero in the coming CW Network series Batwoman, with a new trailer showing her preparing to combat crime in Gotham when Batman goes missing.

In the new teaser, she checks out Batman’s suit, hanging in the bat cave, and says to a cohort, “I need you to fix this suit.”

“The suit is literal perfection,” she is told.

“It will be—when it fits a woman,” she replies.

The gender-fluid actress has said she is “beyond thrilled and honored” for the opportunity to portray Batwoman as an openly gay superhero. While many viewers celebrated her casting in the role, others did not, with trolls attacking her online, spurring her to delete her Twitter account.

“It had long lost its place in my life,” she said of Twitter in an interview with Vogue. “It has changed over the years and I found it was breeding a lot more hate and dividing people more than other social media platforms.”

In the moody sneak-peek video, she tries to rescue a love interest and beats up villains in her path. When citizens begin wondering if a recent spate of vigilante crime-stopping efforts could signal the return of Batman, she makes it clear that she intends to stake her own claim on Gotham.

“I’m not about to let a man take credit for a woman’s work,” she says.

Watch the trailer for the series, which starts this fall, below.

Read the full story at CNN and NBC News.

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Newsletter

BATTLE WON, WAR TO COME
The district attorneys of Georgia’s four largest counties say they won’t enforce the state’s new abortion law.

But while their united interview in yesterday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution is worth a read, remember that the end goal of the anti-abortion bills recently passed in several states was never for them to quietly become law. Instead, the mission has always been to put Roe vs. Wade before the Supreme Court by provoking a legal battle sure to end up in front of the nation’s highest court.

And now that Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Edwards says he’ll sign his state’s version of the ban, it’s clear that these attacks on women’s reproductive rights aren’t being led by Republicans — they’re being led by men.

CAN’T STOP KATH
After returning The Guardian to profitability for the first time in decades (the newspaper lost $72.5million the year before she started) Katharine Viner had every right to take the rest of 2019 off.

Instead, the paper’s first female editor-in-chief is making history again in the very same month. In a move we hope to see all publications follow, Viner has rewritten the newspaper’s style guide to ensure that its environmental reporting accurately depicts a planet facing a “catastrophe for humanity.”

As part of the new dictum, ‘climate change’ is becoming ‘climate emergency’, ‘global heating’ will replace ‘global warming’, and ‘climate denier’ will replace ‘climate skeptic’.

WORK, WORK, WORK (x18)
The company that owns Louis Vuitton and Dior hasn’t launched a brand from scratch for more than thirty years. But they didn’t have Rihanna before.

This week, luxury group LVMH is launching Fenty, which will make Rihanna the first black woman to lead a major fashion house. To celebrate, the star has given a rare interview that includes a glimpse at her leadership style (“I’m very smart with my control freak. I welcome other people’s expertise.”), why she used to change her voice in business meetings, and why she has no plans to act again soon: “I’m always like, “Guys, thank you for trusting me, but Angelina Jolie is over there.”

FAILURE TO LAUNCH
In France, the progress of #MeToo — which they call #OutYourPig — may be flatlining.

While President Macron’s impressive Gender Equality Minister has handed out hundreds of on-the-spot fines to street harassers, a new report shows that famous French men who were forced out of their positions for sexual abuses are quietly (and not so quietly) returning to their professions.

And of course, French women fighting for progress have also had to face down attacks from their own: 100 female artists, celebrities and intellectuals famously signed an open letter last year accusing the movement of having gone too far.

HONORING NANCY
“In the name of all who hold fast to an ideal in the midst of the storm, I accept this award with a full and humble heart.”

Late Sunday night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was honored with the prestigious JFK Profile in Courage award. The Speaker used her speech not only to acknowledge her successes, but also to share her hopes for the future — and even to hint at her 2020 candidate preferences:

“I don’t like when people say I’m the highest-ranking woman this or that,” Pelosi revealed, “because I thought by now we would certainly have a woman president. Hopefully that will be sometime in the near future.”

NO SAFE REFUGE
As many as 60% of female North Korean refugees in China are being trafficked into the sex trade.

A damning new report from the London-based Korea Future Initiative confirms what Human Rights Watch began reporting on last November — that thousands of North Korean women and girls are being sold as wives to Chinese men, forced into prostitution and made to livestream sex acts to the internet.

In 2015, Women in the World spoke to then-21-year-old Yeommi Park, who defected from North Korea when she was 13 — only to be sold for $26 into sexual slavery in China. Park eventually escaped by trekking across the Gobi Desert, and now speaks out about rampant sex trafficking and human rights abuses in her homeland. Watch her appearance here.

WE’RE ALSO TRACKING
Austria’s right-wing government is in disarray after one of its senior figures was caught promising government contracts to a woman posing as a Russian oligarch’s niece. The politician has attributed his actions to “alcohol-fueled macho behavior” and an attempt to impress the “attractive hostess.”

Chicago has finally inaugurated Lori Lightfoot as Mayor. Watch her full speech here, including a moving moment with her proud mother in the front row.

NASA is seeking to make up for its female-spacewalk fail in March by announcing a plan to put the first woman on the moon.

Selena Gomez, the third most-followed user on Instagram with 150 million followers, says social media has been “terrible for my generation”.

05.22.19

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