Keeping Score: Record Number of LGBTQ Athletes Compete in Tokyo; Police Arrest Congressional Black Caucus Chair; Louisiana Eliminates ‘Pink Tax’

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.


Keeping Score: Record Number of LGBTQ Athletes Compete in Tokyo; Police Arrest Congressional Black Caucus Chair; Louisiana Eliminates 'Pink Tax'
Clockwise from top left: Allyson Felix of team U.S.A. launches a child care fund for women athletes (Flickr / Citizen59); Congressional Black Caucus chair Rep. Joyce Beatty is arrested by Capitol police while protesting for voting rights (Twitter); Mj Rodriguez becomes the first transgender actress nominated for an Emmy in a top category (Instagram); Louisiana legislature eliminates the “pink tax” on diapers and menstrual hygiene products (AXTHEPINKTAX.com); Zaila Avant-garde is the first African American winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee (Instagram).

Lest We Forget

“Perhaps we should give athletes the right to take a mental break from media scrutiny on a rare occasion without being subject to strict sanctions. …

“I always try to push myself to speak up for what I believe to be right, but that often comes at a cost of great anxiety. I feel uncomfortable being the spokesperson or face of athlete mental health as it’s still so new to me and I don’t have all the answers. I do hope that people can relate and understand it’s O.K. to not be O.K., and it’s O.K. to talk about it. There are people who can help, and there is usually light at the end of any tunnel.”

—Tennis champion Naomi Osaka in a TIME op-ed on why she prioritizes her mental health as an athlete in the national spotlight.

“Voting rights is a reproductive justice issue, and our leaders must act with urgency to ensure all voters can cast their ballots without government interference. Attacks on voting rights disproportionately disenfranchise Black communities. These attacks are designed with precision to stifle a progressive agenda that includes reproductive justice for women and people of color who have the right to have children, not have children, and raise the families they have in safe communities.

“The same state lawmakers and advocates who support enacting discriminatory voting restrictions that disenfranchise Black and brown voters are also the ones trying to impose extreme abortion bans. Our work to liberate our communities from their tyranny cannot be siloed as separate issues. They are, and always have been, connected.”

—Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong, in a statement on the importance of voting rights.

“Imagine what you can achieve if you follow through on commitments to build safer platforms: an online world where a journalist can engage with feedback on her reporting, not assassinations of her character. Where a politician may read complaints about her policies, but not threats of rape and murder. Where a young woman can share what she wants to on her terms, knowing there are systems to keep her safe and hold harassers accountable.

“If you build this better internet for women, you will build a better internet for everyone. You have the way. Now show the world that you also have the will.”

—”Prioritize the Safety of Women,” an open letter to the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, TikTok and Google from 200 women actors, musicians and public figures.

“We can only end the current epidemic of violence against women and girls when we listen to the voices of the vulnerable and insist their stories are properly heard. This bill is important twice over: It cuts through the forced arbitration process that is used by the unscrupulous to bind survivors to silence and it drags those employers out into the light of public accountability.

This legislation is a hugely powerful first step. It shows that someone in power is listening.”

—A statement from women’s rights attorney Dr. Ann Olivarius of McAllister Olivarius on a bill limiting private arbitration processes for perpetrators of sexual violence.

“I’ve been wanting to express, and feel, and spread love all my life, and I’ve always wanted to spread it through my art, and I finally feel like I can do it; I finally feel like people are seeing it.”

Pose actress Mj Rodriguez reacting to her Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series, making Rodriguez the first transgender actress to earn an Emmy nomination in a top category.

“In America, if you lose, you accept the results. You follow the constitution. You try again. You don’t call facts ‘fake’ and then try to bring down the American experiment just because you’re unhappy. That’s not statesmanship. That’s selfishness.

“That’s not democracy, it’s a denial of the right to vote. It suppresses, it subjugates, the denial of full and free and fair elections, the most un-American thing that any of us can imagine, the most undemocratic, most unpatriotic.”

—President Joe Biden condemning the spike in racist voting restrictions coming out of Republican state legislatures in 2021.

Milestones

+ Louisiana residents will no longer be subjected to the infamous “pink tax” on menstrual hygiene products. Governor John Bel Edwards (D) signed a bill on Monday, June 28 implementing a tax break for period products and diapers as of July 2022. Currently, people who menstruate are required to pay a 4.45 percent sales tax in the state.

+ Mary Simon, an Inuit advocate, will be Canada’s first Indigenous governor general after being appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Simon called her nomination “an important step forward on the long path towards reconciliation” and towards “building a more inclusive and just Canadian society.”

+ New guidance released by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) prohibits the detention or arrest of pregnant and nursing individuals. Director Tae Johnson says the shift from Trump-era hostility “reflects our commitment to treat all individuals with respect and dignity while still enforcing our nation’s laws.”

+ Zaila Avant-garde, a 14-year-old contestant from Louisiana, became the first African American winner of the Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday, July 8. “I’m hoping that in a few years I’ll see a whole lot more African American females, and males too, doing well in the Scripps Spelling Bee,” she said.

Avant-garde also boasts three Guinness World Records for her basketball skills. She was one of 11 finalists who traveled to Lake Buena Vista, Fla. for this year’s Bee.

+ Up until its repeal in 1979, a California law condoned the forced sterilization of over 20,000 people deemed “unfit to have children” due to their disabilities or mental illness, according to the Associated Press. Over 40 years later, the state budget includes $7.5 million worth of reparations set aside for the living victims.

+ Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio)—chair of the Congressional Black Caucus—was arrested while protesting for voting rights at the Capitol on Thursday, July 15. She was the first person arrested out of the 12 activists participating in the peaceful march.

+ A Texas federal judge ruled on Friday, July 16, that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) cannot approve any new applications for the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. Judge Andrew S. Hanen wrote that implementing DACA was beyond former President Barack Obama’s scope of authority, and it is therefore an unlawful initiative—though current Dreamers will remain protected for the time being.

In Colorado, however, undocumented immigrants can receive free birth control pills as of January 2022. Oregon and Washington had previously passed similar laws making contraception available to all residents, regardless of citizenship status.

+ Allyson Felix, a U.S. sprinter who boasts the most Olympic track and field medals in history, launched a child care grant of $200,000 for female athletes. The nine athletes selected thus far include Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry and Olympic saber fencer Mariel Zagunis, who will each receive $10,000 to put towards child care while they compete in the Tokyo Olympics.

+ On Thursday, July 15, California became the first U.S. state to approve a guaranteed income program. The the state-funded payments—totaling $35 million—will be allocated to new mothers, as well as young adults who recently aged out of foster care. Recipients can spend the money without restrictions.

Nationwide, the Biden administration rolled out child tax credits of up to $300 a month per child. The program is expected to cut child poverty in half—a historic achievement.

+ After the Biden administration submitted a bold budget proposal excluding the Hyde Amendment—legislation that “prohibits the use of federal funds for any health benefits coverage that includes abortion”—the House Appropriations Committee passed the spending bill on Thursday, July 15. Restrictions on federal funding for abortion disproportionately impact people of color, and the Amendment’s exclusion would alleviate the financial burden for many abortion seekers.

How We’re Doing

+ “There will be more out LGBTQ athletes in Tokyo than all the previous Summer Olympics combined,” reports Outsports. The 157 openly LGBTQ+ athletes headed to Tokyo is more than double the number in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

+ Indigenous Americans were one of the hardest hit groups when COVID-19 swept the nation in March 2020, with an infection rate 3.5 times that of white Americans, and higher incidences of hospitalization and death. But in 2021, tribal communities are getting vaccinated quicker than any other demographic.

The “language you hear throughout Indian country is ‘be a good relative,’” said Kerry Hawk Lessard, the executive director of Urban Indian Health program Native American LifeLines. “Do this for the grandmas, do this for the ceremony, do this for the language, because our people are precious….We already lost a lot. We can’t afford to lose more.”

+ Of the 20,000 annual victims of military sexual assault, a new survey found that 100 percent suffered suicidal ideations or even attempted to take their own lives. “What happens in the military is the 24-hour nature of life makes victims feel trapped. And when policies aren’t followed and their cases are not handled … and when members of the unit isolate them, choose sides between them and the alleged offender, bully or ostracize them, it feels overwhelming. And that can result in suicidal ideation,” said Lynn Rosenthal, chair of an independent commission examining military sexual assault prevention for the Department of Defense.

+ In 2020, women reported 40 percent of stories in news media, compared to 37 percent in 2015. But according to the Global Media Monitoring Project (GMMP), the gender gap won’t entirely close until 2087. The analysis included 116 countries and over 30,000 stories.

Keeping Score: Record Number of LGBTQ Athletes Compete in Tokyo; Police Arrest Congressional Black Caucus Chair; Louisiana Eliminates 'Pink Tax'
The Global Media Monitoring Project analysis shows gender equality gap in traditional news media will not close until 2087. (PressGazette)

+ Of President Biden’s federal judicial nominations to date, more than three-quarters (77 percent) are women. More than half (57 percent) are women of color, and one federal appeals court nominee—Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson—could be the first Black women justice on the Supreme Court.

+ In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, nursing homes are struggling to keep their doors open due to financial strain and staff shortages. Only a quarter of nursing homes are confident they’ll survive 2021.

If you found this article helpful, please consider supporting our independent reporting and truth-telling for as little as $5 per month.

Up next:

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_.