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The dancehall divas who set the pace in Egypt’s roaring 20s

Sun, 05/02/2021 - 01:00

Midnight in Cairo tells how the city’s vibrant nightlife was driven by female cabaret entertainers and club entrepreneurs

The birth of the women’s movement in Egypt is not usually associated with music hall singers, dancers and actresses. But it was on the stages of theatres and nightclubs in Cairo, in the roaring 20s, that early feminists first asserted themselves, a new book will argue.

The capital’s biggest stars were independent, transgressive Arabic-speaking women who, in the 1920s, were seeking to redefine their place in the world, according to Raphael Cormack, the author of Midnight in Cairo, out on 6 May.

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Biden urged to end US aid ‘abortion ban’

Fri, 04/30/2021 - 03:41

More than 140 rights groups call for repeal of 1973 Helms amendment widely misinterpreted as total ban on funding abortion services overseas

Joe Biden is being urged to clarify a longstanding US law restricting overseas aid that has been misinterpreted by successive administrations as an outright ban on funding abortion for any reason.

As the US president marked his first 100 days in office on Friday, more than 140 human rights and global health organisations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International US and the Global Justice Center, signed a letter asking him to confirm that US aid can be used for abortion care in cases of rape, incest and when the woman’s life is in danger.

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Female political prisoners in Iran facing ‘psychological torture’, say campaigners

Fri, 04/30/2021 - 01:01

Reports of deteriorating treatment of human rights activists, with an increase in moves to ‘dangerous’ jails often far from families

Female human rights activists imprisoned in Iran face increased jail terms and transfers to prisons with “dangerous and alarming” conditions, hundreds of miles away from their families, according to campaigners.

Warnings of the deteriorating treatment of female prisoners in Iran come days after Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British-Iranian national who has served a five-year prison sentence in Iran, was sentenced to a further year in jail and a year-long travel ban by the Iranian courts.

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Some conservative commentators in Australia say it’s a ‘tough time for men’. Are they serious? | Van Badham

Thu, 04/29/2021 - 15:54

Frank conversations about sex and consent aren’t oppressive for men – they’re liberating for everyone

A lot of distressing news broke in Australia in the last week. There was the story of a Gold Coast woman allegedly murdered by her partner – also, her carer – and the discovery of her body stuffed into a furniture chest. There was another woman in Queensland, set alight and allegedly murdered by her own estranged partner. In Adelaide there was the brutal death of a little baby, a girl, allegedly murdered by her father. The man reportedly had a history of violence against her mum.

Amid this heartbreaking, senseless ruination of so many human lives, it’s understandable that readers may have missed some other big stories. Namely, that some conservative male commentators simultaneously complained, in national media: “Who’d want to be a young bloke these days?”

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‘Devastating for women and girls’: UK cuts 85% in aid to UN family planning

Thu, 04/29/2021 - 01:48

UNFPA says £130m being withheld would have helped prevent 250,000 child and maternal deaths in poorest countries

The British government is slashing its funding to the UN population fund (UNFPA) in a move described as “devastating” for women and girls.

The agency confirmed on Wednesday that the UK, its largest donor, is cutting funding for contraceptives and reproductive health supplies by 85% this year – from £154m to £23m – and cutting core funding from £20m to £8m.

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Blue plaque honours Caroline Norton, ‘unsung hero of women’s rights’

Wed, 04/28/2021 - 19:00

19th-century campaigner helped change divorce law after being ruined by abusive husband

Caroline Norton, a woman at the centre of one of the most publicised court cases of the 19th century and an “unsung hero in the fight for women’s rights”, is being celebrated with a heritage blue plaque in London.

The biographer Lady Antonia Fraser this week unveiled the plaque for someone she said deserved to be far better known, a woman who was in an abusive marriage and was ruined by her husband, but fought back and helped change the law.

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The big squeeze: welcome to the pelvic floor revolution

Wed, 04/28/2021 - 19:00

There are books, podcasts, apps and devices devoted to it. But what’s behind this new obsession with a strong pelvic floor?

If you want to know about the wonders of a healthy pelvic floor, you could do worse than look to Coco Berlin, who styles herself “Germany’s most famous belly dancer”. Berlin started belly dancing in 2002, but it wasn’t until a few years later, when she went to Egypt to study dancers there, that she wondered why they were so much better. She concluded they were seriously in touch with their pelvic floor, the internal muscular structure that supports the internal organs and prevents incontinence, among other important functions.

“When I connected to my pelvic floor, for the first time in my life, I had this feeling of embodiment,” Berlin says. It improved her dancing – before, she says, it had felt “like mimicry” – but also affected the rest of her life. She felt more confident, “I had the feeling that I own my body”. Her enjoyment of sex was greatly improved, and she felt stronger and less stressed. She thinks it is a prime reason why people assume she is much younger than she is (she’s 42 and, speaking over Zoom from her home in Germany, she looks like a woman in her 20s).

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First female west coast Marines graduate at Camp Pendleton – in pictures

Tue, 04/27/2021 - 20:00

After Congress ordered the US Marine Corps to fully integrate women into its west coast training battalions, the first 53 female recruits have become Marines

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‘Bras are a curse!’ How lockdown changed readers’ views of their breasts

Tue, 04/27/2021 - 19:00

A year since the pandemic started, women’s bodies and habits have changed. Here they discuss underwiring, sleep underwear, and how going bra-free helps with polymastia

I was a teen in the 70s and morphed into a feminist. I find bras hideously uncomfortable; I only started wearing one in 2018 when I went back to work and the lack of confidence that often besieges women over 60 made me too self-conscious to face the public bra-free. Lockdown has released me from the bra, and the job, and I doubt I’ll wear one again. Jackie, writer, Midlands

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Oscars fashion trends: midriffs and tuxedos catch up with Gen Z style

Sun, 04/25/2021 - 20:35

On the red carpet, cleavage gave way to abs for Hollywood’s women, while men’s suits stole the show with colour and variety

The dresses at the 2021 Oscars confirmed what a walk through any park or beer garden this weekend would have told you: for the younger generation, a cantilevered cleavage has been replaced by a flash of bare midriff as the key signifier of party dressing.

For Generation Z, a plunging neckline is what mums wear in date-night photos they post on Facebook. A crop top above high waisted jeans, to show a few inches of skin, or a dress with a shark-bite sized cut out to show some side-ab, is a more modern way to power (party) dress.

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Model’s ‘hands off my hijab’ post sparks protest over France’s proposed ban

Sun, 04/25/2021 - 00:43

Rawdah Mohamed, whose Instagram selfie went viral, says she wants to fight ‘deeply rooted stereotypes’

A Somali-Norwegian model whose Instagram post criticising a proposed ban on the hijab in France went viral has said she wants to fight “deeply rooted stereotypes” against Muslim women.

Rawdah Mohamed posted a selfie on Instagram with “hands off my hijab” written on her hand, starting a campaign that has been trending on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok.

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He had an affair when I was at my lowest. Can I trust him again? | Dear Mariella

Sat, 04/24/2021 - 19:00

You’re at a major turning point in life so figure out what you want, says Mariella Frostrup. Don’t waste time digging for more dirt

The dilemma It’s the usual. He was unhappy, he didn’t feel wanted, blah, blah, blah… We’re in our mid-50s, not married and no children. Together for 16 years and friends for 18.

He left me last year. I then discovered the affair, but he told me it started only three months before he left. After nine weeks apart we reconciled and he ended his relationship. I didn’t understand why he was so upset and eventually discovered it was a three-year affair, not three months, and happened three years ago. Why didn’t he just end it? We’ve got no ties. He said it was because he really loves me and was hoping we would be happy again.

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Rape victims in south Asia still face vaginal tests, report finds

Thu, 04/22/2021 - 19:00

Unscientific ‘morality’ examination linked to low conviction rates and violates women’s rights, says Equality Now

Physical vaginal tests are still used to determine whether women and girls have been raped in India, Nepal and Sri Lanka, according to a new report.

The practice remains widespread in all three countries and some courts refer to the test in judgments, despite it having no scientific basis and being banned in India.

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The clitoris, pain and pap smears: how Our Bodies, Ourselves redefined women’s health

Wed, 04/21/2021 - 23:00

First published 50 years ago, the feminist classic was hugely influential, telling truths about women’s bodies long obscured by a chauvinist medical establishment

In 1969, Wendy Sanford was still in the early days of her marriage, living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her husband and their newborn son. A couple of years earlier, she had graduated with high honours from the prestigious Radcliffe College, and yet the path before her was clear: domesticity, home decor, dinner parties. She struggled with this new life. “My husband was so disappointed that I wasn’t happy,” Sanford remembers. “I cried a lot. I was in the middle of postpartum depression, and had no words for it at all.”

Sanford spoke to her doctor, who suggested she find solace in raising the next generation and supporting her husband. He also prescribed a diaphragm. She asked when she ought to put it in, and the doctor gave her the same mantra he gave all of his female patients: dinner, dishes, diaphragm. “So that was the era,” Sanford says. “And he was a very kind man, but he embodied sexist medical care. He had no idea that he was just pushing me into the arms of feminism.”

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Most new mothers say NHS six-week checks fail to focus on their health

Wed, 04/21/2021 - 13:01

Survey finds appointments – required of GPs in England – are often mainly or equally about baby’s health

Six out of seven new mothers in England are not getting a checkup of their health six weeks after giving birth, despite such appointments becoming a new duty on the NHS last year.

Just 15% of women who have recently had a child are having a dedicated consultation with a GP to discuss their physical and mental health, according to a survey by the parenting charity National Childbirth Trust (NCT).

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Melissa Doyle on ageing: ‘We spend so much time worrying about wrinkles when that’s only 0.05% of it’

Wed, 04/21/2021 - 07:30

After 25 years in front of the camera at Seven, the TV presenter has spent the last year out of view working on a ‘very personal’ project

Melissa Doyle had been a major star on Channel Seven for 25 years when she was dumped by the financially struggling network several months after turning 50.

Recovering from the sadness she says she felt, Doyle threw herself into making a “very personal” podcast series, Age Against the Machine, which tackles Australian society’s prejudice against older women.

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Pregnant women need better Covid safety at work, say campaigners

Wed, 04/21/2021 - 03:31

Husband of UK nurse Mary Agyapong, who died in 2020, says government still not doing enough

Five pregnant women wearing “I Am Mary” T-shirts in memory of the nurse Mary Agyapong protested in Parliament Square on Wednesday after figures revealed nearly 1,000 pregnant NHS staff were still working in patient-facing roles.

Despite evidence revealing that pregnant women may be at an increased risk of severe disease and losing their baby if they contract Covid, 984 pregnant staff in 25 trusts across the UK continue to work in frontline roles, a request under freedom of information laws by the campaign group Pregnant Then Screwed has revealed.

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Killing of female polio vaccinators puts Afghan eradication campaign at risk

Tue, 04/20/2021 - 20:30

Rise in cases feared as murders halt campaigns and leave many women too afraid to work

Gul Meena Hotak was on her regular rounds, going door-to-door giving polio vaccinations in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, when she heard gunshots.

The 22-year-old’s immediate concern was for the safety of her friend Negina and other colleagues nearby. “Negina and my supervisor were in a neighbourhood close by when a gunman approached and shot at them. My supervisor escaped with gunshot injuries, but Negina was killed on the spot,” Hotak said.

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Pinky Gloves are just the latest ludicrous attempt to monetise the vagina | Arwa Mahdawi

Tue, 04/20/2021 - 20:00

If ever you feel you’re not good enough, try channelling the confidence of a man who invents pointless feminine hygiene products and pitches them on TV

Do you ever lie awake at night thinking up ways to monetise the vagina? Judging by the number of ridiculous “feminine hygiene” products out there, many people do. The latest are the enterprising German men behind Pinky Gloves: single-use pink gloves you can wear when removing a tampon so you don’t get your hands dirty. Because, as any fule kno, if even the tiniest bit of menstrual blood comes in contact with your skin, it can’t be washed off with soap and water – the poison is absorbed into the body and you spontaneously combust. The gloves, which cost €11.96 (£12) for a pack of 48, can also apparently be used to dispose of period products when a bin isn’t available.

While Pinky Gloves may be the perfect example of a solution in search of a problem, its creators didn’t exactly struggle to find funding. I regret to inform you that the idea was pitched on the German equivalent of Dragons’ Den Die Höhle der Löwen (The Lions’ Cave); one of the male judges was impressed enough to invest €30,000 in the company. When the internet caught wind of Pinky Gloves last week, however, it was not quite so impressed. In fact, it saw red. After the outcry, the Pinky People apologised on Instagram and announced they will have a long hard think about the stigmatisation of menstruation.

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If Boris Johnson has his way, a woman’s work will truly never be done | Catherine Bennett

Sat, 04/17/2021 - 20:45
Once finally retired, female carers are the PM’s choice when it comes to looking after aged parents

Did we miss it? No, of the “clear plan” an incoming Boris Johnson promised within 12 months, thus differentiating his resolve from the way social care funding had been “shirked by governments for about 30 years”, there is still no sign. Nor of promised cross-party talks.

Although to be fair, Matt Hancock, the health secretary, did ask every single MP and peer for any social care hints or hacks they might have – excluding the thrifty tip, inexplicably omitted from Andrew Dilnot’s 2011 report, that where possible, middle-aged men restrict their relationships to future care-givers at least a decade younger than themselves. This is already being trialled.

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