Women, men and the whole damn thing

Since the beginning of recorded time, most cultures worshipped some version of the goddess. In ancient Mesopotamia, the vulva of Inanna, the Sumerian goddess, was a sacred site and Sumerians sang hymns to her “lap of honey”. Agrarian societies honoured their female deities, as menstrual cycles were interconnected with the lunar-based agricultural cycles. The earth was Gaia, the ancestral Mother of life. She was inherent to all of Nature. She was nature, until the rise of patriarchal religions began declaring goddess worship and female sexuality the devil’s work. Nature and woman needed to be tamed.

At the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival, writer and director Jill Soloway (Transparent) offered an intriguing insight into this when they (Soloway prefers “they” to the gender-specific he or she) said: “Five thousand years ago cavemen saw women getting their periods and bleeding, and they bled in time with the moon, and they didn’t die when they bled. And so prehistoric man thought that women were magic and they got scared. So they created language to just fuck with us.”

Man has been fucking with Woman for a long time … and not just through language.

“Family violence is mostly a man choosing to use violence against his partner. Violence is almost exclusively the domain of men. Who’s doing the vast amount of killing? It’s men. Who picks up the pieces, and fights to hold families together? It’s women.

“Women build life, while we are adept at destroying it. Unless, as men, we begin to look at what it is in the male psyche, in the versions of masculinity we’re born into and enforce upon each other, and begin actively engaging each other to become the solution to this issue, we’ll be having the same conversation 500 years from now.”


Why domestic abusers thrive in Trump’s White House

It’s no secret that Trump respects men who keep women in their place: “You have to treat ’em like shit.” Perhaps that’s why top White House staffer Rob Porter got a hero’s goodbye this week, even as a picture of his ex-wife’s battered face was splashed across the news.

Porter, accused of assaulting both of his ex-wives and a former girlfriend, gave his resignation but “was not pressured to do so”, according to press secretary Sarah Sanders. In fact, Sanders lauded Porter as having the full confidence of the president and Gen John Kelly, and took the time to read Porter’s statement, in which he called the accusations “vile” and a “smear campaign”.

This came less than a day after Kelly called Porter “a man of true integrity and honor” in response to the allegations. So much for women being “sacred”. As it turns out, the White House knew for quite some time about Porter’s history of domestic violence – he couldn’t get security clearance because of it – but continued to rally behind him. In fact, Kelly promoted Porter soon after finding out about the abuse.

The truth is that Porter’s history of abuse allegations is less of an anomaly than a feature of this administration.

This is an administration overflowing with men who hurt women. Even so, we can’t become jaded as to how incredibly remarkable this all is. The White House, knowing that Porter abused multiple women, called him a man of integrity. They looked at a picture of his battered wife and defended him, still. He left the administration not in shame or disgrace, but honored.

“You have to treat ’em like shit” is no longer an embarrassing old Trump quote. It’s a mandate.


Arizona bill would give unlimited free pads, tampons to female inmates

The Arizona Legislature is considering a bill that would provide incarcerated women with an unlimited supply of feminine hygiene products, including tampons, pads, cups and sponges.

Currently, incarcerated women automatically get 12 free padseach month. They must ask an officer if they need more and may possess up to 24 at a time. Unlike in other states, if they want tampons, they must buy them.

The average menstruation lasts two to seven days, according to Mayo Clinic, and happens every 21 to 35 days. Most hygiene-product companies advise changing a pad or tampon every four to six hours to prevent odor and infection.

If a woman has an average menstruation of five days and follows guidelines to change her pad or tampon every six hours, she would need 20 pads or tampons per period. Some women experience heavy menstruation and require more.

Separate from the health risks, a woman who doesn’t have enough pads or tampons will likely end up bleeding on her clothes.

Base pay for prisoners starts at $0.15 per hour, which means a pack of pads would require about 21 hours of work.

A 20-count box of Playtex Super Gentle Glide tampons is $3.99. So a woman who wants tampons and uses one box per period would have to work up to 27 hours to cover the cost of her own menstruation.

Sue Ellen Allen, who served seven years in Perryville, said officers can and do deny requests for more pads.

“The humiliation is really something you carry with you forever,” she said.


How to close the female orgasm gap

In middle school sex ed classes, drawings of female anatomy often don’t even include the clitoris, as if women’s reproductive function is somehow separate from their pleasure. Female pleasure remains taboo and poorly understood.

This silence has real consequences. Almost 30% of college-age women can’t identify their clitoris on an anatomy test, according to a study from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Another survey by the UK gynecological cancer charity, Eve Appeal, finds that women are more familiar with men’s bodies than their own: while 60% could correctly label a diagram of the male body, just 35% of women correctly labeled female anatomy. (For the record, men scored even worse.)

Lack of sexual health knowledge is associated with lower rates of condom and contraceptive use. It also contributes to pleasure disparities in the bedroom. While gay and straight men climax about 85% of the time during sex, women having sex with women orgasm about 75% of the time and women having sex with men come last at just 63%, research from the Kinsey Institute shows. The reasons for this “orgasm gap” are surely multifaceted, but we can start to address it by talking more about the importance of women’s pleasure.


The ‘motherhood penalty’ stings no matter how much governments do

The fact is that kids still hurt a woman’s earnings and career options, significantly more so than they hurt the earnings and careers of men. And no amount of affordable childcare (although that would certainly help) and paid parental leave can account for the massive cultural shift that’s needed.

The motherhood penalty affecting a woman’s earnings can start immediately, especially with one in two mothers in Australia saying they have experienced discrimination related to duties, pay or other conditions while pregnant or shortly after having a baby. As we’ve seen in example after example on Women’s Agenda, pregnant women are made redundant. They’re overlooked for promotions. They’re penalised during pay negotiations because they’re going on leave. They’re seen as being less committed to their work.

Following pregnancy, it’s estimated that mothers returning to work after 12 months of parental leave will suffer a wage penalty of 7%, which will later increase to 12%. That penalty increases again with every subsequent child she has. For Dads, it’s different. A number of studies have found that fathers can often see their earnings increase after having children.

Of course the ramifications run deeper that the immediate wages lost from all of the above. The loss of earnings women experience around the time they have children often becoming irreversible – resulting in them retiring with half the superannuation of men.


Winter Olympics: women’s long race to parity

The proportion of women at the Winter Olympic Games reached 40% in 2010, after a slow but consistent increase over time, rising from only 4% in 1924 to over 25% in 1992 . The sharpest rise was noticed in the 1990s, when female athletes started to finally gain approval to compete in traditionally male sports, such as biathlon or ice hockey.

In 2018, the percentage of women taking part in the Games is 43%.

As more events were opened to women, most countries sent more female athletes to the Olympics.

Some, though, didn’t follow the trend. Three nations, Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, banned women from competing altogether until the 2012 Summer Games in London, and have yet to send a female athlete to the Winter Olympics.

Even in disciplines where female athletes have achieved equal participation, many of their events have different durations and distances, stereotyping women as weaker and less skilled than men.


Women working for Wellcome Trust ‘earn 21% less than men’ on average

Women working at Britain’s largest charity earn 21% less on average than men, gender pay gap figures reveal.

The Wellcome Trust, one of the world’s biggest funders of biomedical research, is the latest major institution to make public its record on gender and pay under new government rules.

The pay imbalance at Wellcome is linked to a disproportionate number of men in the top jobs, rather than men and women being paid different salaries for doing the same work, the charity said.

The figures showed that while women make up 64% of Wellcome’s workforce, they represent a minority in the top pay quartile and this imbalance was greatest at the very top tier of pay. The median difference in pay between men and women was 20.8%, above the national median of 18.1%. The most dramatic difference was in mean bonuses, where men earned 78.8% more than women on average.


Women Seeking Safety: BWSS Forum on Violence against Women, Children and the Law

The assumption that there is value in shared parenting time even if a father is abusive is a dangerous one and can have fatal consequences.

“Women are hesitant to use the family court system to expose his violence in the fear that she will be punished by shared parenting time and decision, that she will be viewed as speaking ill of the father or trying to limit his access to the children, or on occasion accused of alienating the children from the father. When in reality her only goal is to protect her children from an abusive man. Yet the court, in particular the family court, has the authority and ability to air on the side of caution to believe the women and restrict or deny his access to the children. Instead what we hear over and over again is although they believe there was violence in the home directed to the mother, this should not dictate his ability to be a parent to his children. YES, it does mean he should not have access to his children. Yes it does mean he is not capable of being a good father to his children. And this 100 percent means that shared parenting time not only continues to put her safety at risk but the safety of her children is also at risk. Men who resort to hurting or killing their children do so because they have lost control over hurting her and therefore will hurt, what is most important to her, her children”, Summer Rain Bentham, BWSS Manager, Indigenous Women’s Program.

“At present time, the false notion of gender neutrality has lead to the belief that both parents are equally situated and share equal parenting abilities. Men have power in society and this is reflected in their power over women. Women continue to be the primary caregivers of children. After separation and divorce, many women are relegated to a position of relative poverty which is held against them as it is demonstrated repeatedly through our experience that the legal system will hold women accountable to patriarchal standards but are unwilling to hold fathers to female standards when it comes to parenting. Gender neutrality and standards based on it may appear to be democratic and fair but in reality, this concept pretends that social inequalities between women and men do not exist” , Angela Marie MacDougall, BWSS Executive Director, BWSS Open Letter to Minister Eby.


The problem with women eating crunchy chips?

And I dare say that the ‘crunch’ chips make when you’re eating them is not high on the list of key grievances affecting women in 2018. Nor is the fact that flavour gets stuck to fingers as you’re attempting to dive down to collect those last few broken chips at the bottom of a pack.

But PepsiCo, parent company of Doritos, has felt the need to deny it will be releasing “female-friendly” chip product following a global backlash to CEO Indra Nooyi’s comments on the Freakonomics podcast that women eat and enjoy chips differently to men, and that female-friendly chip packaging could be on its way, with the company getting ready to “launch a bunch” of such products soon.

According to Nooyi, women are looking for snacks with a “low crunch” sound, that we can enjoy with less flavour sticking to our fingers, and in packaging that can fit in our purses.


‘Most of the children still have parents’: behind the facade of a Bali orphanage

An orphanage using the name of an Australian Bali bombing victim has been accused of sourcing children with living parents from a remote island to help solicit donations from western tourists.

Former volunteers and staff, in interviews with the Guardian, said up to five tour groups could be moved through the orphanage each day, bringing donations, potential sponsorships, food and gifts.

Only a handful of the children are orphans, despite the institution marketing itself as an orphanage for more than a decade.

In recent months, as pressure mounted in the Australian parliament to stop orphanage tourism, the institution rebranded itself as Jodie O’Shea House. The word “orphanage” has been removed from parts of its website.

The formal complaint alleged the centre was operating without a proper licence, and helped facilitate an adoption to a western tourist.

The Guardian has seen photos of the baby who was allegedly adopted and a copy of the passport of a Canadian man who staff said took the child.

“The baby was just gone,” a former worker, Tim*, said. “Someone very quickly adopted the baby. I think he is from Canada, and I’m not happy with that part.”

The complaint also alleged lax child protection measures were putting children at risk. Tourists had been able to take children on unaccompanied trips away from the orphanage, the complaint said.