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May 23
Her eye on the news
Perseverance

After Isabella de la Houssaye was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer in 2018, she decided to embark on outdoor adventures with each of her five children: hiking a medieval pilgrimage route through Spain, running marathons in Alaska and Kazakhstan, completing an Ironman in South Korea. The New York Times followed her as she made a grueling trek up Argentina’s mount Aconcagua with her 22-year-old daughter, Bella. De la Houssaye said she hoped to teach Bella about “joy and suffering alike.”

Before her diagnosis, the 55-year-old mother was an ardent mountain climber, marathon runner, and athlete who imparted her love for athleticism and the outdoors to her children. But cancer treatments have weakened her severely; she now weighs less than 100 pounds, has brittle bones from chemotherapy, and struggles with nausea.

And mount Aconcagua is by no means an easy climb for even the healthiest athletes. Over the course of two weeks, those who undertake the mission must endure freezing temperatures, frigid winds, and altitudes so high, it becomes difficult to breathe. Only 40 percent of climbers make it to the top, according to the Times.

Both de la Houssaye and Bella struggled throughout the journey, worn down by exhaustion and the harsh environment. The altitude made de la Houssaye vomit and, on one morning, she refused to leave her tent. Bella, too, had breakdowns brought on by exhaustion. But mother and daughter ultimately made it to the top of the mountain.

“It was so important to me that Bella and I have this experience together,” she told the Times. “I really wanted her to see that when things get hard, you can find a place inside yourself to keep going.”

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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Taken to task

In the wake of a damning New York Times report that claimed Nike reduced or withheld payment from athletes who were pregnant or had recently given birth, two congresswomen are pressing the company for details about its treatment of sponsored female athletes.

Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.) wrote a letter to Nike chief executive Mark Parker saying they “are deeply concerned by recent reports that Nike has reduced sponsorship payments, or ceased payment entirely, for female athletes during their pregnancy and postpartum recovery,” according to The Washington Post, which obtained a copy of the letter.

Beutler and Roybal-Allard, who are co-chairs of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Maternity Care, asked Nike to specify how often it has stopped paying female athletes for reasons linked to pregnancy and childbirth, and whether male athletes are subjected to similar pay cuts after they become fathers.

The congresswomen also asked if there are protections that are in place for pregnant women who receive Nike sponsorship. Following the Times report, Nike said it would add pregnancy protection clauses to new contracts, but did not specify whether existing contracts would also be updated.

In the Times report and an accompanying video, Olympic runner Alysia Montaño and other athletes called out Nike for the discrepancy between the messages of female empowerment in its ads and its treatment of the women athletes behind the scenes.

Montaño said Nike told her that it would pause her contract after she revealed she wanted to have a baby. She also lost her health insurance with the United States Olympic Committee because she did not place in top-tier races while having her children.

Olympian Kara Goucher told the Times that Nike would not pay her while she was not racing. When her infant son became seriously ill, she felt compelled to leave him in the hospital so she could prepare for a race. During her pregnancy, which was high risk, she also made unpaid appearances on behalf of the company.

“Proclaiming the principles of equal treatment and fair pay is laudable — but it should be accompanied by corresponding action,” Beutler and Roybal-Allard told the Post. “While we welcome Nike’s response, we’ll be watching to see what happens next.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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Delayed

The Obama administration said in 2016 that abolitionist and activist Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill by 2020 — in time for the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. But on Wednesday, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the redesign of the bills would be delayed — by eight years.

Addressing lawmakers on the House Financial Services Committee, Mnuchin said he needs to prioritize anti-counterfeiting measures for the $10 and $50 bills, according to The Hill. The task of redesigning the $20 bill, he said, would likely fall to one of his successors.

“The primary reason we’ve looked at redesigning the currency is for counterfeiting issues,” Mnuchin said. “Based upon this, the $20 bill will now not come out until 2028; the $10 and the $50 will come out with new features beforehand.”

Mnuchin’s predecessor, Jacob Lew, set the redesign in motion around three years ago. He had initially planned to bump Alexander Hamilton from the $10 bill and replace him with a woman, but was met with a swell of outrage from fans of the musical Hamilton.

The decision to replace Jackson’s image with that of Tubman is particularly significant. Jackson, in addition to being a military hero and the country’s seventh president, was a slave owner; Tubman was an escaped slave who helped usher other slaves to freedom along the Underground Railroad.

President Trump, an admirer of Jackson, said during 2016 campaign that the bid to redesign the $20 is “pure political correctness.” He added that he thinks Tubman is “fantastic,” and suggested putting her image on a new $2 bill.

A woman’s image has not appeared on American paper currency since Martha Washington was briefly honored on the $1 silver certificate in the late 19th century.

According to The Hill, lawmakers have introduced bipartisan legislation ordering the Treasury Department to move forward with the redesign, but it is not clear if the legislation has sufficient backing to pass through both chambers.

Read more at The Hill.

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Monumental

NEW DELHI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The Taj Mahal, built as a monument to a woman who died in childbirth, is set to get a baby feeding room, in a first for India, where conservative attitudes toward public breastfeeding mean nursing mothers are often shamed and told to cover up.

Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, a top official at the Archeological Survey of India in Agra city — home to the Taj Mahal — said the baby feeding room would be set up by July to help the “millions of mothers who visit with their babies.”

A regular visitor to the 17th century monument to eternal love, Swarnkar said he got the idea last week when he spotted a mother hiding under a staircase and struggling to breastfeed her baby despite her husband providing extra cover.

“I could see it was so difficult for her [to feed her child], which is a basic motherhood right. So I thought we have to do something,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Public breastfeeding still carries a social stigma in India, where mothers are expected to be covered, head-to-toe.

Last year, mothers in the eastern city of Kolkata protested outside a mall where employees told a woman to nurse her baby in a toilet and mocked her complaint.

The Taj Mahal attracts up to 8 million visitors annually. Swarnkar said he has ordered two other historical monuments in Agra to set up similar feeding rooms.

The ASI said this was the first time it was providing such a facility at any of India’s 3,600 plus monuments.

“My hope is that more and more monuments — not only in India but around the world — replicate this [plan] so that women can feed their babies comfortably,” said Swarnkar.

In 2017, the director of London’s Victoria and Albert museum apologized to a mother who was asked to cover up while breastfeeding her baby. Two years earlier, another was expelled from Spain’s Corral del Carbon monument for nursing her baby.

(Reporting by Annie Banerji @anniebanerji, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith, Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters that covers humanitarian issues, conflicts, land and property rights, modern slavery and human trafficking, gender equality, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org to see more stories)

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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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05.23.19

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