Keeping Score: Olympics Ban Swim Caps Made for Black Hair; Abortion Restrictions Reach Record High in 2021; Biden Administration Boasts Narrowest Pay Gap in History

In every issue of Ms., we track research on our progress in the fight for equality, catalogue can’t-miss quotes from feminist voices and keep tabs on the feminist movement’s many milestones. We’re Keeping Score online, too—in in this biweekly round-up.


Clockwise from left: U.S. Olympic sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson suspended for using weed (Instagram); A pro-choice rally in Philadelphia in 2019 (Joe Piette / Flickr); Miss Nevada winner Kataluna Enriquez will be first transgender Miss USA contestant (Instagram); U.S. passports will allow for “X” gender markers. (Creative Commons / Damian613).

Lest We Forget

“This is a monumental moment for reproductive freedom. We are thrilled to see this year’s first federal spending bill released without harmful bans on abortion coverage that we know disproportionately harm people working to make ends meet, especially women of color, young people, and transgender and non-binary people.

This historic moment was made possible by the leadership of the reproductive justice movement and women of color who have spent decades working to ensure that access to abortion care is not dependent on how much money someone makes or how they get their insurance. Now, Congress must pass this spending bill and bring us closer toward a future where reproductive freedom is truly a reality for every body.”

—NARAL Pro-Choice America chief campaigns and advocacy officer Christian LoBue on the release of a historic bill advancing reproductive freedom by the House Committee on Appropriations

“I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized.I wanted to take the [IUD] out so I could start trying to have another baby. But this so-called team won’t let me go to the doctor to take it out because they don’t want me to have children—any more children. So basically, this conservatorship is doing me way more harm than good. I deserve to have a life.”

—Pop star Britney Spears in a court statement against her 13-year conservatorship.

“The issue with this story is I don’t want little Black girls and little Black boys to look at elite swimming and think it is not open to them because that is completely the wrong idea. … My mum used to have to relax my hair and then braid it to make sure it would fit into a cap and make our lives easier and it’s only when I’ve got older that I could find ways to manage it in its natural form. It’s brilliant to see so many people passionate about this and wanting to make sure that swimming is open and available to everyone because that is the goal.”

—British Olympic swimmer Alice Dearing on the International Swimming Federation’s (FINA) banning of Soul Caps—swimming caps meant to accommodate natural Black hair—from competition.

Milestones

+ “Jan. 6 was one of the darkest days in our nation’s history. It is imperative that we establish the truth of that day, and ensure that an attack of that kind cannot happen in that we root out the causes of it all,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said, announcing the creation of a committee to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection.

+ On Wednesday, June 23, the Supreme Court sided with Brandi Levy, who was suspended from cheerleading as a high school sophomore for writing “fuck school fuck softball fuck cheer fuck everything” on a Snapchat posted off-campus. According to the majority opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, the First Amendment protects free speech for students when they are not on school property.

The Court also declined to hear an appeal by Gloucester County school district over the right of its transgender students to use the bathrooms aligning with their gender identities—a victory for Virginia student Gavin Grimm.

+ In a wave of policy and disciplinary decisions by Olympic officials, Black women athletes are facing disproportionate obstacles. After British swimmer Alice Dearing partnered with Soul Cap—a company which produces swim caps for natural Black hair—the international swimming federation banned the caps from competition, claiming they do not “fit the natural form of the head.”

The same week, on Friday, July 2, American sprinter Sha’Carri Richardson was suspended from competition after testing positive for marijuana. Richardson had turned to marijuana while coping with the loss of her biological mother.

+ Former actor Bill Cosby was released from prison on Wednesday, June 30, when the Pennsylvania Supreme Court determined “the subsequent decision by successor D.A.s to prosecute Cosby violated Cosby’s due process rights.” The move to overturn his sexual assault conviction was a slap in the face to Cosby’s victims, as well as to other survivors of sexual violence. He only served three years in prison out of a ten-year sentence.

+ Wednesday, June 23, the Department of the Interior transferred 18,000 acres of land in Montana’s National Bison Range to Indigenous communities, specifically the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes.

+ Derek Chauvin—the former police officer who in April was convicted of George Floyd’s murder—was sentenced to over 22 years in prison by Minnesota judge Peter Cahill on Friday, June 25. The state’s guidelines indicate a 10 to 15 year range for sentencing, but Cahill said he wanted to “acknowledge the deep and tremendous pain that all of the families are feeling, especially the Floyd family.”

+ President Biden nominated Cindy McCain, widow of late Republican Senator and presidential candidate John McCain, as a U.S. food and agriculture representative to the U.N.

+ The Justice Department has paused federal executions while it reviews Trump-era policy changes, according to attorney general Merrick Garland. The DOJ “must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guaranteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland said in a statement.

+ The Department of Justice announced Friday, June 25, it will be suing Georgia over a voting restriction that would disproportionately impact Black residents.

“Historically, minority voters in Georgia have been disproportionately more likely to wait in long lines to vote in person on Election Day,” said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the Civil Rights Division. “Given those long and protracted wait times, civic groups, including churches, have at times provided food and water to voters in line to make their wait more comfortable. As we allege in our complaint, this needless ban was passed with unlawful discriminatory intent.”

However, the Supreme Court also ruled in favor of two voting restrictions in Arizona—a 6-3 decision which would reverse most of the Voting Rights Act. One law automatically voids ballots cast in the wrong precinct, and the other restricts absentee ballot collection to relatives and caregivers. A federal appeals court had previously ruled against them, citing a disproportionate impact on voters of color.

+ An interim policy announced by the State Department will allow transgender, non-binary and intersex Americans to use an “X” on their passports as opposed to an “M” or “F” gender marker. And in contrast to previous requirements, they will not have to submit proof of their gender transition from a physician.

+ This year’s Miss Nevada, 27-year-old Kataluna Enriquez, will become the first openly transgender Miss USA contestant in November. “Huge thank you to everyone who supported me from day one,” she posted on Instagram after winning the state pageant. “My community, you are always in my heart. My win is our win. We just made history. Happy pride.”

How We’re Doing

+ Until now, 2011 was the worst year on record for abortion restrictions in the U.S., with 89 restrictive laws passed by state legislatures. But as of July 1, 2021 has already topped that number. State legislatures are targeting the right to abortion, while the Supreme Court’s conservative supermajority threatens Roe v. Wade.

+ According to a report from UCLA Law’s Williams Institute, “53% of LGBTQ adults report having experienced threats of violence since the age of 18, and three out of four had been verbally insulted or abused.”

+ No White House in history has recorded a narrower gender pay gap than the Biden administration, according to data released Thursday, July 1. In 2021, women employees earned just one cent less than men—99 cents to a man’s dollar. In contrast, women in the Trump White House earned 69 percent of what men were paid.

+ A study from UNESCO and the International Centre for Journalists (ICFJ) found that three-in-four women journalists experience threats, harassment and abuse online.

+ Less than half of Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana adults are fully or partially vaccinated, putting its rural and Black communities at increased risk, and allowing variants to spread quickly through the South.

+ In a global study, women bore the burden of child care three times as much as men did during the pandemic, spending 173 more hours on unpaid child care.

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About

Sophie Dorf-Kamienny is a freshman at Tufts University. She was a Ms. editorial fellow and assistant editor of social media. You can find her on Twitter at @sophie_dk_.