Keeping Score: Afghan Women Hopeless Ahead of Taliban Rule; Cuomo Resigns Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations; Senate Passes $1 Trillion Infrastructure Bill

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.


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Clockwise from top left: Beyoncé features on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar (Instagram); Canadian soccer player Quinn competes in the Tokyo Olympics, becoming the first openly transgender person to bring home a medal (Instagram); with natural disasters worsening around the globe, world leaders in climate science warn “global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century.” (Flickr / Erick Pleitez).

Lest We Forget

“I want to show that you can have fun and have purpose, be respectful and speak your mind. You can be both elegant and a provocateur. You can be curvy and still be a fashion icon. I wish this freedom for every person. I have paid my dues and followed every rule for decades, so now I can break the rules that need to be broken. My wish for the future is to continue to do everything everyone thinks I can’t do.”

—Beyoncé in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar.

“While some states have taken action to support survivors of sexual assault, it is egregious that survivors still are not guaranteed rights or protected in the majority of our 50 states. To create a more uniform criminal justice system that wholly supports survivors and ensures accountability, every state must pass legislation that protects these rights. My bill incentivizes states to do just that by codifying and standardizing survivor rights. I’m proud to help lead efforts in the Senate to change the culture around sexual assault and ensure survivors are supported in our justice system.”

—Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) on reintroducing the Survivors’ Bill of Rights in the States Act to enforce protections for sexual assault survivors at the state level.

“At the end of my term, whenever it ends, no one will ever describe my administration as a toxic work environment. … I want people to know that I’m ready for this.”

—Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, who will replace governor Andrew Cuomo of New York upon his resignation, effective Aug. 24.
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Kathy Hochul will be sworn in as New York state’s first woman governor on Aug. 24, 2021. (Twitter)

“We are deeply concerned about the future of Afghan women and girls as the Taliban retakes control of the nation. When the Taliban last controlled Afghanistan more than two decades ago, women were subjugated and girls weren’t allowed to access education.

According to reports issued by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, in the past 20 years, Afghan women and girls have made tremendous gains. … This tremendous progress must not be allowed to evaporate. Women must be able to continue participating in all aspects of society and shape the path forward toward a sustainable peace for their country, not only because it is right, but because it makes peace and prosperity more likely.

We are encouraged by the president’s remarks this afternoon and urge this administration to take immediate steps to direct funding and resources to protect, support and evacuate Afghan women activists, politicians, journalists and other highly visible women leaders. We also call on and stand ready to assist the administration in working with our allies and partners to ensure the preservation of human rights, including women’s rights, in Afghanistan and that Afghan women are at the table in determining the future of their country.”

—A statement released by Democratic Women’s Caucus (DWC) co-chairs Reps. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and vice chairs Reps. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas).

Milestones

+ The U.S. military spent two decades at war in Afghanistan, initially pursuing al-Qaeda and backing a non-extremist national government and security force. But with two weeks still remaining in Biden’s withdrawal of American troops, the militant Taliban group has already seized power in many parts of the country, including its capital of Kabul.

Civilians are fleeing to the airport en masse, and Afghan women fear what life could look like if the regime of the late 1990s returns. “Back then, women were barred from attending school or working outside the home. They had to wear the all-encompassing burqa and be accompanied by a male relative whenever they went outside. The Taliban banned music, cut off the hands of thieves and stoned adulterers,” the Associated Press reports.

+ Under the threat of impeachment, and after the New York state attorney general found that governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) had sexually harassed 11 women, Cuomo announced his formal resignation effective two weeks from Tuesday, Aug. 10.

“I think that, given the circumstances, the best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing,” Cuomo said, though he largely denied the accusations against him and their severity. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul will take his place, becoming the state’s first ever female governor.

+ An unprecedented number of openly LGBTQ+ athletes competed in the Tokyo Olympics this summer, including Canadian soccer player Quinn—the first trans person to win an Olympic medal. Their team took home gold after beating Sweden’s soccer team on Friday, Aug. 6.

Other history-making Olympians included Jasmine Camacho-Quinn—the first Puerto Rican gold medalist—and Team U.S.A.’s Allyson Felix, who boasts more track and field medals than any woman in history.

+ A $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed the Senate with bipartisan support on Tuesday, Aug. 10. All 50 Democrats and 19 Republicans voted to approve, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). The legislation will fund repairs to roads and bridges, in addition to investments in internet access and the nation’s climate change response. “This historic investment in infrastructure is what I believe you, the American people, want, what you’ve been asking for for a long, long time,” Biden said.

Just one day prior, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) revealed a follow-up $3.5 trillion budget outline, featuring ambitious spending goals for child care, immigration, climate change and more over the next month. The bill—which would even create a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants—was passed 50-49 on Wednesday, Aug. 11. (Read more on how Congress can advance migrant legalization efforts here.)

+ Airbnb policy previously resolved sexual assault and violence cases by way of private arbitration, but new company guidelines will allow victims to make their claims public and pursue justice in a court of law.

+ A report issued by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirms that “human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land.” World leaders in climate science warn “global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least the mid-century under all emissions scenarios considered. Global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C will be exceeded during the 21st century unless deep reductions in carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gas emissions occur in the coming decades.”

+ In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic collapse in the U.S., President Biden extended the student loan moratorium, allowing borrowers to pause federal student loan payments until Jan. 31, 2022.

+ After fleeing Texas to prevent extensive voting restrictions from being voted upon in the state House, Texas Democrats were under threat of arrest by state law enforcement. Republicans voted 80-12 to ensure their Democratic counterparts be present in the chamber “under warrant of arrest, if necessary.” However, three Houston district judges signed orders protecting 40 Democratic legislators from civil arrest for their absence.

+ In a report by the American Medical Association (AMA), physicians encourage the removal of gender markers from birth certificates, citing that binary sex labels fail to “recognize medical spectrum of gender identity.”

How We’re Doing

+ Of the 113 medals earned by Team U.S.A. in the Tokyo Olympics, 66 were earned by women athletes. Male athletes brought home only 47—or 41.6 percent—of U.S. medals. Women athletes also won almost 60 percent of gold medals for the Team.

However, according to a report by The Representation Project, 82 percent of live Olympic commentators are men, and women are objectified by camera angles 10 times more than their male counterparts.

+ Results from the 2020 U.S. census reveal an increasingly diverse population, with the number of white Americans falling by 8.6 percent to 58 percent. Hispanic residents increased by 12 million, and Asian residents by 5 million.

+ In the U.S.’s second consecutive month of strong job growth, and as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, women filled 70 percent of new jobs in July.

+ A survey of nearly 1,900 adults found that a lack of paid time off is fueling vaccine hesitancy in the U.S. 20 percent of respondents said they’d be more likely to get vaccinated if their employer paid them for time off of work to do so.

+ Although a quarter of American adults experience a disability—and registration among disabled voters is steadily increasing—only 10 percent of elected officials are disabled themselves.

“To reduce the persistent turnout gap between disabled and non-disabled voters, political underrepresentation of the Disabled community, and the gender gap within that underrepresentation, our report suggests a myriad of action items for political parties to adopt, such as accessibility funds and recruitment quotas,” RepresentWomen interns Alisha Saxena and Laura DeMarco wrote for The Fulcrum. “Disabled voters, candidates and officials deserve an equal right to political representation—let’s move beyond promising equity and focus on enacting it.”

+ “Since the coronavirus was first reported in China, people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent have been treated as scapegoats solely based on their race,” the Associated Press reports. Data from Stop AAPI Hate reveals over 9,000 reports of hate crimes against Asian Americans between Mar. 19, 2020 and June 2021.

+ Pregnant people in the U.S. are twice as likely to die from childbirth as compared with their French and Canadian counterparts, Harvard Business Review reports. There is not a single high-income country with a higher maternal mortality rate than the U.S.. But 60 percent of these deaths are preventable, according to the CDC, and artificial intelligence (AI) could help identify and monitor high risk cases.

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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_.