Feminist Fix: Serena’s Magic, Walking Into the Room “Like a White Man” and Even More Handmaids

Welcome to Feminist Fix, our weekly round-up of feminist news and updates. While you’re getting caught up, check out our posts from this week!

Feminist News

+ The Speaker of the House has long had the power to determine what is “appropriate attire” in the Capital. Apparently, Paul Ryan’s interpretation doesn’t allow for women reporters to wear anything sleeveless.

According to CBS News, women —  including reporters, lawmakers and staff — are required to cover their toes and shoulders while in both the House chamber and the Speaker’s lobby. As U.S. News and World Report notes, the dress code has been in effect for decades and applies to men as well, requiring them to wear suit jackets and ties in order to enter those areas. The dress code has been enforced in the past and apparently is once again being enforced. At least three reporters have confirmed that their outfits were deemed “unacceptable” in recent days and they were issued a warning that should they violate dress code again, they would be removed from the chamber. One reporter who was wearing a sleeveless dress, according to a witness who spoke with CBS News, even went to extreme lengths to create some makeshift sleeves, only to still have her attire deemed unacceptable.

+ President Trump was greeted by a group of Handmaids when he landed in Poland ahead of the G20 summit.

+ Simone Veil—Holocaust survivor, first woman president of the European Parliament and champion of the so-called 1975 “Veil Law” legalizing abortion in France—has died at 89. She will now be one of the few women laid to rest in the Pantheon, joining the nation’s “most revered figures.”

Mr. Macron made the announcement at a ceremony in Paris that paid tribute to Ms. Veil with military honors. He praised her for making France “better and more beautiful.”

“Just as you leave us, Madame, please receive the immense thanks of the French people to one of its much cherished children, whose example will never leave us,” Mr. Macron said in front of Ms. Veil’s coffin, which was draped with a French flag at the center of the Invalides courtyard.

+ Washington legislators just passed one of the best paid leave laws in the nation.

+ France’s High Court granted new rights to gay parents.

+ 18 states are suing Betsy DeVos over student loan protections.

+ The House GOP hid a pro-gun measure inside an energy appropriations bill.

+ Voters spent the 4th of July weekend pushing lawmakers to save health care.

+ Tenant activists in 22 cities are mobilizing against housing cuts.

+ Phumzile Mlambo-Ngucka has been elected to a second term as Executive Director of UN Women. “Together with Member States and all our partners,” she said in a statement, “we are fiercely ambitious for the women and girls of this world, and positive that greater equality bears fruit for all.”

+ Over 200 British girls under 18—150 of whom were under 15—have had labiaplasty.

Movers & Shakers

+ The Atlantic Q&A with Nannerl Keohane, chair of Princeton’s Steering Committee on Undergraduate Women’s Leadership, and Catherine Ettman, a student on the committee.

KitchenerThe tech industry—and Uber in particular—has been in the news lately for having a culture that’s not hospitable to women. Could mentorship programs embedded within companies help to solve these kinds of problems?

Keohane: The concept of building a women’s network, I think, can be even more important than the concept of mentoring individually. A great example is the incident at Harvard when the men’s soccer team created this “scouting report” about their female counterparts. The response of the women’s soccer team when they learned about this is, for me, Exhibit A of the importance of a women’s network. They came together to write this statement that basically said, “We know we are not reducible to body parts. We refuse to accept this characterization.” The last sentence was something like, “We can offer you our forgiveness, which is the only part of us you can ever claim as your own.” Isn’t that awesome? They experienced each other as a powerful network. They were a team.

+ Maxine Waters isn’t backing down.

+ Coraline Ada Ehmke opens up about her year at GitHub:

GitHub touts its values, but has consistently failed to live up to them. Values that are expressed but that don’t change behavior are not really values, they are lies that you tell yourself.

I think back on the lack of options I was given in response to my mental health situation and I see a complete lack of empathy. I reflect on the weekly one-on-ones that I had with my manager prior to my review and the positive feedback I was getting, in contrast to the surprise annual review. I consider the journal entries that I made and all the effort I put in on following the PIP and demonstrating my commitment to improving, only to be judged negatively for the most petty reasons. I think about how I opened up to my manager about my trauma and was accused of trying to manipulate her feelings. I remember coming back from burying my grandmother and being told that I was fired.

GitHub has made some very public commitments to turning its culture around, but I feel now that these statements are just PR. I am increasingly of the opinion that in hiring me and other prominent activists, they were attempting to use our names and reputations to convince the world that they took diversity, inclusivity, and social justice issues seriously. And I feel naive for having fallen for it.

In the past several months GitHub has fired at least three transgender engineers and many more cisgender women. Prominent people who were trying to effect positive change in the company culture have quit. They canceled a conference when they got called out for having an all-male speaker lineup. In a return to its meritocratic roots, the company has decided to move forward with a merit-based stock option program despite criticism from employees who tried to point out its inherent unfairness. And the widely publicized results of the open source survey show that the company’s platform is still not appealing to anyone but straight white guys.

So yes, in looking back over my year at GitHub I see that there was, in fact, a real problem with empathy.

But that problem wasn’t mine.

Deep Dives

+ Q: How can women stop sexist legislation? A: Getting involved in state politics.

+ Maternal mortality rates are rising in the U.S.—and African American moms are three times more likely to die during childbirth.

+ Northern Irish women now have access to free abortions in mainland Britain. VICE explores what that means—and how it will take shape.

+ On pregnancy and abortion in Ohio:

I became pregnant knowing that I had the option to terminate my pregnancy if necessary. These new restrictions felt like a personal, physical attack on my family.

I’d done everything “right.” I was financially secure. I was married. I had great health insurance. Prenatal vitamins. Dental exams. Yoga classes. Dog training. Not cleaning the litterbox. I stopped eating sushi. Everything society tells women they have to do if they want to be a good mother, I did. Yet still, somehow, it wasn’t enough. That legislation, a measly piece of paper, suddenly stood between me and my ability to make the best decisions about my pregnancy. I panicked.

I briefly considered having an abortion.

I was desperate to do everything possible to ensure my child’s well-being, even if it meant terminating the pregnancy. Ultimately, I came to the conclusion that I wasn’t going to let legislators who have never met me prevent me from becoming a parent on my terms. Instead I mapped out the closest abortion clinics in nearby states and saved a mental list of places that could help me if doctors in my own state suddenly could not.

Media, Arts & Culture

+ Kesha opened up in Lenny Letter about her re-emergence after nearly four years—on the heels of an ugly trial against producer Dr. Luke, whom she alleged “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused” her.

In the past couple of years, I have grown into a strong, independent woman. I have realized through this long journey of ups and downs that if I’m lucky enough to have a voice that people listen to, then I should use it for good and for truth. I’ve battled intense anxiety and depression, a relentless eating disorder, and all the other basic bullshit that comes with being human. I know I’m not alone in that battle. Finding the strength to come forward about these things is not easy, but I want to help others who are going through tough times.

+ Rob Kardashian’s vengeful posts about Blac Chyna on Instagram weren’t just disturbing. They were revenge porn.

+ Tracy K. Smith is the new U.S. Poet Laureate. Here are eight books by her or containing her work that you should read.

+ Has Jay Z had a feminist awakening?

+ “More female parts need to be written and then produced in theatre, TV and film. Until we start seeing female leads, surrounded by other women in balanced casts, nothing will change.” (The F Word)

+ On Serena’s magic.

+ Ava DuVernay walks into the room “like a white man.”

Discussing her process for pitching A Wrinkle in Time, DuVernay said, “The reason I felt confident about walking into Disney and kind of negotiating how I wanted to make this big ol’ movie is because I knew them. I was able to walk in there like a white man does.”
She clarified: “I always walk into any place as the black woman and queen my mother taught me to be. But the freedom and the accomplishment that white men have is because the industry is built for them. The world is built for them. Political systems are built to center them.”

+ Barbra Streisand is the “Anti-Dream Girl.” That’s why Judy Berman loves her.

Carmen Rios is the Digital Editor at Ms., Managing Editor of Argot Magazine and a Contributing Writer at Everyday Feminism. She’s also the co-host of THE BOSSY SHOW. Previously, she was the Community Director and Feminism Editor for Autostraddle, a Contributor at Mic, Blog Editor at WIYL and a SPARK blogger; her work has also appeared at BuzzFeed, MEL, BITCH and Feministing. She stays very zen in L.A. traffic. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr.

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