When a sexual assault victim reports a rape, there are many factors which can count against them in court. Why did they show no emotion, or even laugh? Why can't they recall specific details? How can they be believed if they can't even form a concrete timeline of events? Often, these signs cast doubt on the legitimacy of the reports—but now, neurobiology research has formed a more complete picture of how trauma operates, and the research is being disseminated to help the first responders—police officers—understand the reactions. “That’s simply because their brain has encoded it in this fragmented way,” says David Lisak, a clinical psychologist and forensic consultant. Two-week trainings are being offered to law enforcement to ensure all claims are taken seriously—often the line between an arrest and conviction.
June 21, 2013 4:30 PM
Former Seattle councilwoman Judy Nicastro writes on her own abortion in the New York Times, describing the difficult choice of aborting her son at 23 weeks. She conceived late, at the age of 40, and 20 weeks into her pregnancy learned that one of her twins was malformed. Further investigation revealed his organs were misplaced, and if he were carried to term, he would be born with one partial lung and be on life support for as long as he could survive outside of the womb. She was crushed, and could only see suffering ahead. Nicastro writes, “We were good parents who wanted what was best for our children...these decisions belong with the mother.”
June 21, 2013 4:28 PM
Times, they are a'changin
Formerly, Americans who identified with a gender other than the one they were born with could change the assignment on their passport with a simple doctor's note; but for a matching social security card, they had to show they had actually undergone gender reassignment surgery. On June 19, however, the Social Security Administration enacted a new procedure that matches that of the passport office. Though social security cards themselves do not explicitly identify gender, social security info is used for everything from banking to education—making the new measure an important step for trans rights.
June 20, 2013 12:08 PM
Police in Cuyahoga County, which includes the Cleveland metro area, are cracking down on rapists with an energetic new initiative that relies on old rape kits to identify sexual offenders. Ongoing analysis of 3000 rape kits has been crucial to identifying the perpetrators in cold cases—and preventing them from striking again. At least 16 serial rapists have been indicted so far. Part of the credit goes to Cleveland's The Plain Dealer newspaper, which published several withering editorials and investigative stories about untested rape kits. Cleveland's success has inspired similar efforts in Detroit and Houston, which also have significant backlogs of rape kits.
June 20, 2013 11:38 AM
Put a ring on it
In India, a court ruling that equates sex with marriage has sparked a huge controversy. “If any couple choose to consummate their sexual cravings, then that act becomes a total commitment with adherence to all consequences that may follow, except on certain exceptional considerations,” said Justice C.S. Karnan. He also said that marriage ceremonies, or lack thereof, were inconsequential. Indian media outlets from talk shows to Twitter feeds have erupted in confusion: is it a liberal or conservative ruling? Young Indians expressed confusion over the weight of premarital sex and one-night stands. Others were concerned that the ruling may reinvigorate the archaic tradition of making a rape victim marry her rapist.
Read it at the Washington Post
June 19, 2013 1:25 PM
Tuesday, the lawyer for a pregnant Muslim woman targeted in a street attack announced she had miscarried due to her injuries. On Thursday, two men in the Argenteuil region in France assaulted her, ripping off her headscarf and cutting her her hair while yelling slurs. At one point, the woman, four months pregnant, was kicked in the stomach. A separate incident on Saturday in a different region of France saw six Chinese youths harassed with racial epithets, which led to a protest in Beijing.
June 19, 2013 1:24 PM
Women are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to attaining high-ranking academic positions, writes Mary Ann Mason for Slate. Mason, a Berkeley law professor, is the author of “Do Babies Matter? Gender and Family in the Ivory Tower.” You don't need to read the book to reach her answer: the article states unequivocally that babies are a factor in promotions. Because of family considerations, women, even those who forgo family life, are resigned to “second tier” positions such as junior faculty and adjunct professors. Sometimes female academics quit before they really even start to develop a career, cognizant of the challenges. In a survey of Berkeley doctoral students, 70 percent of women said faculty careers at research universities are “not friendly to family life.” “For women, each child reduces her pay. This is mostly as a cumulative effect from time and money lost earlier,” notes Mason, but she attests that structural changes to ensure equity would go a long way towards fixing the situation.
June 19, 2013 1:15 PM
A new bill restricting a woman's right to abortion to within 20 weeks after inception was approved by the House of Representatives on July 18. At the Daily Beast, Michelle Goldberg tackles the heart of the issue: whether fetuses are capable of feeling pain, as purported by passage of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Act. The capacity for pain at 20 weeks is debated among scientists, some of whom claim that the neural connections necessary are not developed until 29 or 30 weeks into the pregnancy. Others are less sure. “Nevertheless, unlike other scientific claims put forward by the anti-abortion movement—about the putative connection between abortion and breast cancer, for example—there is a genuine empirical debate about these issues,” writes Goldberg. The bill may have passed the House, but it's considered likely that the Democrat-heavy Senate will block passage.
Read it at the Daily Beast
June 19, 2013 11:35 AM
If division-specific plans go through, women will have a chance to join the elite ranks formerly closed to them: those of the Navy SEALs, Marines, and Army Rangers. The New York Times reports that Tuesday, leaders from each division of the military are expected to unveil plans detailing how women will be integrated into the force. Eyes are especially trained on the elite forces, who must formulate integration plans without lowering their rigorous physical standards. The experience gained there is key to leadership advancement, and the lack of women in combat has naturally lead to a lack of female officials in the higher ranks. This planning comes on the heels of fierce debate about sexual assualt in the military—two issues which may be more closely linked than it appears. In January, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said as much. “We’ve had this ongoing issue with sexual harassment,” Dempsey said. “I believe it’s because we’ve had separate classes of military personnel, at some level.Now, you know, it’s far more complicated than that, but...I have to believe, the more we can treat people equally, the more likely they are to treat each other equally.”
June 18, 2013 12:01 PM
South Korea has its first woman president—but her historic role seems more the exception than the rule. According to a McKinsey & Co. study at the center of a WSJ story, the number of South Korea's working women still fall squarely below some of the country's peer nations. Only 55 percent of South Korean women are in the workforce, as compared to China's 74 percent and Japan's 62 percent, and those that are have difficulty earning high-power berths. Of the 1,787 companies in South Korea's main stock exchange, only 13 have female CEOs. The low participation is in part due to a not unfamiliar debate—how to manage the work/family balance. The government has awarded significant incentives to companies who support female growth, but social barriers persist. However, as the country's economy lags, women are key to preventing a slump. “More participation of women in the economy is a core engine for the nation’s growth,” President Park Geun-hye said last summer. “A work-life balance is no longer just a women’s issue but the country’s.”
June 18, 2013 11:58 AM
A bill proposing a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks will face the House Tuesday in what some call a challenge to Roe v Wade. The AP reports that House Republicans will put the law, titled the “Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” up to vote. The name refers to a debated theory that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks in the womb. Under Roe v Wade, pregnancy can be terminated until the fetus is “viable” (generally agreed to be 24 weeks). Pro-choice advocates—and the White House—are solidly against the act, calling it unconstitutional.
June 18, 2013 11:44 AM
School of Hard Knocks
At Nebraska's conservative Christian Grace University, Danielle Powell was struggling with a secret. A semester removed from earning her bachelor's degree, Powell confessed to her spiritual adviser that she was gay and in a serious relationship with another women. Students at Grace are required to sign a contract explicitly outlawing homosexuality at the cost of, at very least, a hearing with the school judiciary board. Grace stripped Powell of her scholarship and expelled her, and now is demanding she pay $6,000 in reimbursement for her final semester before they transfer her credits to another school. Powell is now married to her partner, who has started a petition to get Grace to forgive the debt.
June 17, 2013 11:31 AM
“She wears short skirts / I wear T-shirts / Neither of us is asking for it” tweeted out @feministtswift Thursday afternoon. Clara Beyer, a Brown University student, is the mind behind the parody Twitter account, which follows a simple formula: Take the pop star's lyrics and rewrite them to embrace feminism...and a Twitter star is born. Beyer is a Swift fan, but not without reservations; she admits to feeling uneasy over some of the values she says the music perpetuates. She teamed up with her friend Kevin Carty, a proud fellow feminist, to revise lyrics into messages they were more comfortable with. Their 140-character messages are spreading fast: as of Monday morning, the account had over 70,000 followers.
June 17, 2013 11:25 AM
Google has announced major plans to make a new effort to eradicate child porn on the Internet. The tech giant's first efforts against child porn came in 2006, when it joined an international coalition focused on ending the problem. Now, Google says it's developed technology which will help automatically identify and delete images of child abuse. In part, the technique employs “hashing,” which tags innappropriate images with a code and identifies similar images across the web to wipe them out. Google plans to build a database of such images and share them with other tech companies and law enforcement, allowing them to swap information and collaborate.
June 17, 2013 11:23 AM
As its Scandinavian neighbors do away with the military draft entirely, Norway is taking things in a different direction. A new law mandating conscription for women passed in parliament with flying colors in a move politicians hope will improve the gender balance in the armed forces. Currently, about 10 percent of Norway's military is female. "We are sending a signal that, once again, Norway's thinking ahead when it comes to equality,” said foreign minister Espen Barth Eide. The draft requires one year of military service, but it's unlikely that many women will be called upon: Norway is a historically peaceful country with a relatively dormant, 24,000-head force.
June 17, 2013 11:21 AM
Researchers have discovered a relationship between two incongruous factors: cable tv access and birthrates. Robert Jensen and Emily Oster studied poor rural villages in five of Indian states for three years—and ultimately cncluded that the correlation existed. Their findings aren't unique; a prior study conducted in Brazil from the 19070s to 90s had similar results. In that study, the correlation existed only when the women had access to a popular telanovela network, leading the researchers to hypothesize that the watchers were drawn to mimic the low birthrates of the characters on the soap operas.
June 14, 2013 2:47 PM
CNN News reports that Myriad Genetics just lost its two most valuable patents: BRCA1 and BRCA2, genes whose mutations are known to cause breast cancer. The pair were at the center of the Supreme Court's contentious case on whether or not genes can be patented. Due to their legal claim over the two genes, Myriad was the sole company with the right to test for them in women who feared breast cancer—a two-step, costly procedure. The pricetag involved has discouraged some women from going beyond the preliminary round of testing, leading to increased fatalities. The issue came into the limelight recently after actress Angelina Jolie's NYTimes essay about her double mastectomy, which sparked increased discussion on breast cancer detection and treatment. However, while the court ruled that organic genetic matter is off-limits, it conceded that engineered synthetic material mimicking the original gene may be patentable.
June 14, 2013 2:43 PM
The Comedy Womb isn't your typical open mic. In the male-dominated (and often hostile) world of comedy, it takes a feminist stand with its primary rule: no misogyny. In an attached workshop, participants are encouraged to think critically about their jokes and who they affect. A monthly Seattle fixture that began in April, the Womb is the brainchild of Danielle Gregoire, who wanted to create a space for female comedians to feel safe. The series is thriving—a recent event featured Jezebel writer Lindy West, fresh off an appearance on FX's standup show Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell, where she debated whether or not the comedy scene has a troubled relationship with women.
June 14, 2013 2:41 PM
Life after birth
There's a lot we don't know about women who have abortions and those who have sought abortions but failed to obtain them, says Diana Greene Foster, a demographer. According to an article in the New York Times Magazine, Foster is conducting an ongoing study intended to examine the lives of women denied abortions and their children by comparing them with similar women granted abortions. Most studies simply compare women who've had abortions with women who never sought an abortion in the first place.
June 12, 2013 11:35 AM
20. No XX’s for Xbox
Games blogger Anita Saarkesian, creator of the Feminist Frequency blog, was unimpressed with the array of games presented at this year's E3, the big expo. “Thanks #XboxOne #E3 press conference for revealing to us exactly zero games featuring a female protagonist for the next generation,” she wrote in a Tweet heard 'round the internet, mourning the all-male videogame lineup presented by Xbox. Almost immediately, male gamers began tweeting back, claiming that women have no place either in or playing videogames. Saarkesian has remained calm through the firestorm, posting some of the worst examples to her blog, calling it a “window into what it's like to be a female game critic on twitter.”
June 12, 2013 11:29 AM
you've been served
Tensions were already high in the leadup to Australia's September election, but things kicked up a notch yesterday as photos circulated of a sexist dinner menu from a candidate's fundraiser. Dishes contained references to parts of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's body, and according to the Guardian, the menu was never actually circulated. Joe Richards, the restaurant owner, has come forward as the creator, claiming it was “a mock menu [I made] as a light-hearted joke” and emphasizing it was never intended for public distribution. Mal Brough, the Liberal National Party candidate for whom the fundraiser was held, does not intend to step down despite calls to do so by Gillard, who also attacked LNP leader Tony Abbott as a consistent perpetrator of sexist behavior.
June 12, 2013 11:26 AM
The Pakistani Cricket Board is investigating a club cricket team after allegations of sexual harassment were leveled by female club members. A hearing will be held regarding the Multan Cricket Club's senior officials, who are accused of exchanging favorable team spots for sexual favors. "When I joined the MCC some years ago, a senior player, Nadia Hussain, warned me to beware of the club officials. She said they'll first promise to send you to the national squad, and will then take you to the bedroom," said Seema Javid, a member. In turn, the officials have made counter-attacks on the reputations of some of the women involved to undermine their credibility.
June 11, 2013 2:55 PM
The Equal Pay Act, intended to eliminate the gender gap in pay, hit a milestone June 10th: the big 5-0. Yet decades after it was signed into law, women still earn 82 cents to men's dollar. The Wall Street Journal points out that while men are more likely to go into high-paying science and tech jobs, that's not enough to make up the difference: A woman still earns seven percent less than a man with an identical education and career. Part of the problem lies in base pay, which is often smaller for women, as subsequent raises are all made in proportion to that starting wage. Experts say that secrecy about pay in the workplace, where discussion of wages is often taboo, helps preserve unequal pay by keeping employees ignorant of the gap.
June 11, 2013 2:54 PM
About Last Night
A yearslong struggle has come to an end. After heated debate persisting throughout Obama's tenure as president, the Plan B One-Step contraceptive pill will be available for everyone, regardless of age. Previously, sale had been restricted to a shifting age minimum (most recently, 15). President Obama has stated his discomfort with the new measure on multiple occasions, but the district court decided there was no basis to deny the sale of the product, which prevents egg fertilization. Importantly, Plan B One-Step is the only contraceptive that has been ruled on: other similar brands, as well as the two-step original Plan B, are still restricted.
June 11, 2013 2:52 PM
Women tourists are shying away from visiting India, reports the New York Times, thanks to a number of highly-publicized rapes. In December, the gang rape and subsequent death of an Indian woman in a moving bus sparked mass protests, and and several foreign women were also assaulted in subsequent months. Even female business travelers are wary of the environment. In a separate blog post, the Times reported that tourism to the country has decreased 25% since December, and the number of women tourists has fallen 35% alone. The tourism slump has serious potential to damage India's economy: the travel industry accounts for 6% of the country's GDP, and keeps tens of millions employed.
June 11, 2013 2:50 PM