May 24
Her eye on the news
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.


‘Stop treating pregnancy like an injury’: Olympian Alysia Montaño turns the tables on Nike’s ‘Dream Crazier’ hype

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Nike recalls Wimbledon women’s tennis dress that’s too revealing


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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Appearing together in a hilarious video, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have taken a moment to share their feelings on that Game of Thrones ending — and they aren’t impressed.

As AOC points out: “We were getting so close to this ending with women running the world, and then at the last minute it was like ‘Nope! They’re too emotional.’ It’s like, ugh, this was written by men! We need to get some feminist analysis up in HBO.”

It’s been a great week for Warren, who on top of enjoying a strong bump in the polls also found time to get on the phone with a Twitter follower who asked for romantic advice.

These days, every news story on abortion seems to be accompanied by visuals of protestors dressed up as characters from the hit show The Handmaid’s Tale.

But could these outfits be doing more harm than good? Washington Post journalist Molly Roberts sure thinks so: “We should be discussing real consequences for real people at a real moment in time” she writes, “not focusing on an imagined future.”

“As long as an image pulled from fiction is used to define reality,” Roberts continues, “reality starts to seem a lot less real.”

The number of women getting liposuction is soaring –– and some surgeons are blaming the ‘athleisure’ clothing trend.

In the U.S., a new report found that liposuction procedures went up 5% from 2017 to 2018. In the United Kingdom, the increase was even greater, at 12%.

Plastic surgeon and researcher Rajiv Grover believes that the trend’s staple items — yoga pants, tight leggings and sports bras — may lead some women to feel more insecure about their appearance, because the style is all about showing “what kind of physique you have, rather than covering it up.”

You can enjoy your fancy salad a little more today. The Sweetgreen salad chain has announced that all employees are to be given a bar-raising five months of parental leave, whether they’re male, female, adopting, giving birth, or fostering.

Meanwhile, Nike has hit a sour note with some members of Congress. The sports giant has just been forced to answer to Congresswomen for refusing to pay female athletes while they were on maternity leave.

The Trump administration says abolitionist hero Harriet Tubman will not be replacing Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill after all.

Rep. Ayanna Pressley’s disbelief was palpable as she questioned Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on why the $10 and $50 notes will be rolled out as planned, but new imagery on the $20 is suddenly being delayed until 2028.

Over 600,000 people were surveyed in 2015 to choose which female hero of American history should be on the $20 in 2020, the year that marks the 100th year anniversary of women having the right to vote. As journalist Farhad Manjoo points out: “Trump wants to get Americans on the moon by 2024, but design problems will delay the Harriet Tubman $20 until 2028.”

After disposing of JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, Rep. Katie Porter wiped the floor this week with Ben Carson, who revealed that, despite being Housing Secretary, he doesn’t know what REO (real estate owned) stands for – and then started cracking jokes about Oreos.

She’s Back: Hope Hicks has been subpoena’d by House Democrats.

The Taj Mahal has become the first Indian monument to get a breastfeeding room.

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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 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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