May 24
Her eye on the news

Katelyn Ohashi wowed the world when a video of her fierce floor routine went viral in January, but she had a long road to the perfect 10 she scored for that performance.

In a new video interview with the BBC, the former UCLA gymnast, who graduated this spring, opened up about the body-shaming she endured from coaches and spectators as a child growing up in gymnastics, saying that at one point, she was left feeling so self-conscious, she “hated everything” about herself.

“You start normalizing things because that’s what you know, and you grow up surrounded by people that are going through the same thing as you,” Ohashi said, explaining that female gymnasts face extreme pressure to become as thin as possible. They don’t learn about healthy eating, she said — they learn not to eat.

“When you look back on it, I do think it’s a form of abuse,” she says. “I was told I didn’t look like a gymnast. I was told I looked like I’d swallowed an elephant, or looked like a pig.”

Things changed when she she began attending UCLA. There, the coaches made it clear that her mental well-being would be prioritized over her body shape. She began to regain her love of the sport and stop worrying about her appearance. She became a national champion in floor exercise and an Internet sensation as videos of her performances went viral.

Ohashi, who graduated with a degree in gender studies, says she now hopes to work to support women’s empowerment. “Being comfortable with the only person that matters — yourself — is something that you can forever work towards,” she said. “You’re the only person that has your back, and you’re the only person that has your skin 100 percent of the time.”

Watch the video interview at BBC News.


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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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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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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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Digi Police

Public transit in Japan is notoriously crowded, and groping on trains is a rampant problem. The cities of Tokyo and Osaka have tried to curb sexual assaults on transit by introducing women-only train cars, but as the Guardian reports, some women are now turning to another method of warding off unwanted attention: an app that yells at molesters.

The app is called Digi Police, and it lets users activate a voice that loudly shouts “Stop it!” Those less willing to make noise can pull up a screen that reads, “There is a molester. Please help,” and show it to fellow passengers. Tokyo police developed the app three years ago, according to the Associated Press, adding the function to bust molesters a few months ago. Since then, Digi Police has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times.

“Thanks to its popularity, the number [of downloads] is increasing by about 10,000 every month,” police official Keiko Toyamine told the Guardian.

In 2017 alone, Tokyo police recorded 900 cases of groping and other forms of harassment on the capital’s public transit. But the actual number of assaults is likely to be much higher. Fewer than 10 percent of groping victims report their attacks, according to the Japan Times.

Cultural attitudes toward chikan, meaning sexual molestation or groping, are complex in Japan. Until relatively recently, the word wasn’t even used. The words shōbōryoku (nuisance) or meiwaku (annoyance) were the preferred terms.

The country’s groping problem began making headlines in 1988, according to the Japan Times, when a woman on a train in Osaka saw a man molesting a girl and told him to stop. The enraged perpetrator and another man subsequently dragged the girl off the train and raped her — leading to the notion that when it comes to sexual assault or harassment, it is better for people to say nothing.

Indeed, speaking out about sexual assault often elicits criticism in Japan, according to the Associated Press. With Digi Police, groping victims don’t have to make the move to publicly call out molesters — the app does at least some of the hard work for them. And it is much needed. “I want to download the app,” Reina Oishi told the Guardian, as I have been groped so many times.”

Read the full story at The Guardian.


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