While You Were Out: Charlize Theron’s Secret to Equal Pay, the New Harry Potter Spin-Off Movie, and More

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“While You Were Out” is a Friday feature of short notes and commentary from the week. Whether it’s something you’d discuss at the water cooler or at happy hour, you’ll find it on our grid together with our opinion as to if it’s praiseworthy or cringeworthy. We’re pleased to bring you the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

John Oliver Calls for Universal Maternity Leave

This past week on his HBO show, comedian John Oliver remarked on how curious it is that in America we celebrate Mother’s Day and talk a lot of talk about how we love and respect moms, yet we remain among the two countries in the world that haven’t mandated any form of paid maternity leave for new moms. Even the U.S. unpaid maternity leave legislation has stipulations that could leave pregnant women who work for small organizations with no job security.

Until now the assumption has been that mandating paid maternity leave would be a drain on businesses, but that may not be the case. Not only are individual businesses finding it economical to offer paid maternity leave, but some states employing new family-friendly programs have found it to be true as well. According to one report,

“Research in California and New Jersey has shown that the ability to take time off after birth has resulted in a substantial boost to mothers’ long-term employment while having little to no negative effect on companies’ bottom lines.”

I’m not currently pregnant, so I’ll drink to that!

Mary Rose Somarriba

Charlize Theron Shows One Way to Get Equal Pay in Hollywood

. . . by asking. The actress admits in the latest issue of ELLE that she has long been annoyed by evidence of the pay gap between men and women in her industry. When Sony’s information was leaked, for instance, it was revealed that actresses Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams earned less than their equally famous and talented male counterparts for the same work in the film American Hustle. Since then, actresses and women’s advocates have thought about how to tackle the wage discrepancy. Patricia Arquette made memorable remarks about it in her Oscar acceptance speech, to Meryl Streep's standing ovation—in other words, spreading awareness has seemed like the only strategy at this point.

That is, until Theron revealed her novel strategy: Asking up front. For her upcoming film The Huntsman, Theron ensured she got paid the same amount as male costar Chris Hemsworth by asking for it upon accepting the role. It was that easy. Someone famous once said, “Ask, and you shall receive,” right? Kudos to Theron for standing up for herself—and sharing her story so others can as well.

MRS

Harriet Tubman Wins Unofficial Contest to Be on $20 Bill

A petition has been sent to President Obama asking him to “order the Secretary of the Treasury to change the current portrait portrayed on our American $20 bank note to reflect the remarkable accomplishments of an exemplary American woman who has helped shape our Nation’s great history.”

That petition, filed by the Women On 20s campaign, which seeks to put a female face on the $20 bill, has announced that Harriet Tubman, the escaped slave whose ingenuity and courage led other captives to freedom, narrowly edged out Eleanor Roosevelt as the favorite honoree. Tubman finished with 118,328 votes to Roosevelt's 111,227. More than 600,000 votes were cast over ten weeks, including more than 350,000 in the final round that began on April 5.

Tubman's appearance on the $20 bill would have a special historical resonance: That's the same amount she eventually received from the U.S. government as her monthly pension for her service as a nurse, scout, cook, and spy during the Civil War, as well as for her status as the widow of a veteran.

Although it takes years for the treasury to design and roll out new or redesigned money, the Women On 20s organization explains where it thinks things should go from here: “President Obama already has publicly expressed an interest in featuring more women on our money. With at least 100,000 votes, we can get the President's ear.”

Other women on the ballot included Rosa Parks, who came in third, Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to become the chief of the Cherokee Nation, who placed fourth, and Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Clara Barton, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Hannah Allen White

Pitch Perfect 2 Opens in Theaters, and Rebel Wilson Starts a Plus-Size Fashion Line

Pitch Perfect 2 is released in theaters this Friday, looking to recreate the fluffy magic of the original. Stars Anna Kendrick, Rebel Wilson, and Brittany Snow are all back, with Hailee Steinfeld adding to their star power. The original Pitch Perfect was such a success because it knew how to make fun of itself, and if director Elizabeth Banks follows that formula (which I very much hope she does), viewers can expect super-catchy music, a healthy dose of girl power, and a lot of laughs as the Barden Bellas compete on an international stage.

Fans of the movie are also getting excited about the announcement of star Rebel Wilson’s plus-size clothing line, in partnership with the clothing retailer Torrid. Wilson remarked, “I’ve never really felt like there’s a brand out there in the plus-size world that is creating cool stuff, that fits well, and is good quality yet affordable.” The line is sure to incorporate Wilson’s infectious sense of confidence and fun, and for the non-plus-size ladies out there, Wilson assures her fans via Twitter that “if you're too skinny for it, you can buy the bag.”

Monica Weigel

Eddie Redmayne in Talks to Star in Harry Potter Spin-Off Movies

Doesn't Eddie Redmayne just look like he belongs in the Harry Potter universe? Well, now that the British actor is officially in talks to play the lead in the new series of Potter films based on J. K. Rowling's short spin-off book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, he has the chance to finally step in. The story will focus on the character of Newt Scamander, the author of the textbook that Hogwarts students use in the Harry Potter universe, and will be set seventy years before the start of the first book in the original series. With a story and screenplay dreamed up and written by the author herself, and now potentially with the talented Redmayne on board, fans of the franchise have reason to get excited. Rowling, for whom this is a screenwriting debut, describes the new series of films as “neither a prequel nor a sequel to the Harry Potter series, but an extension of the wizarding world.”

Sophie Caldecott

Cannes Film Fest

Film enthusiasts are gathering in Cannes, France, this week to enjoy the yearly film festival that offers a glimpse of the movies we can expect in the coming year. My favorite thing from the events thus far, however, is this moment when Lupita Nyong’o twirls like an angel on the red carpet. Let’s face it—wearing that dress, who wouldn’t want to twirl in it? But leave it to Nyong’o, who knows the importance of a strong “sense of self” to pull it off so gracefully.

MRS

Picasso’s Still Got It

Looking for an investment that is guaranteed to appreciate in value? Buy a Picasso.

If only it were that easy. This week, a Picasso painting sold for $179.3 million at an auction, making it the highest-grossing piece of artwork ever sold. If nothing else, this news reminds us of the timeless value of good art—yet another good reason to stop at your local art museum this weekend.

MRS

Scott Stapp Gets Back on the Wagon

Remember when Creed front man Scott Stapp shared on Facebook that weird, sad video of himself in pretty bad shape? You’ll be happy to hear that the alternative-rock singer is by all appearances now back on the wagon. This week Stapp acknowledged that he experienced a “psychotic break” from drug and alcohol abuse. Now, after spending some time in a diagnostic recovery facility, he reports he has returned to sobriety and stable mental health. I have to applaud Stapp for getting back up. Now let’s get that man a pen and hope he writes some good songs about it.

MRS

Amtrak Train Crashes in Philadelphia

In a tragic accident that killed eight people, an Amtrak train derailed between Washington, D.C., and New York City this week. The cause? An unexplained jolt caused the train to jump the tracks and crash outside of Philadelphia. I know I speak for the many of us at Verily who have taken this exact train route innumerable times when I say that our prayers and thoughts are with those who were on board and their families.

MRS

Mom Bod Not as Popular as Dad Bod

If you were on the Internet this week, you likely saw (or saw another site talking about) the article “Why Girls Love The Dad Bod.” In yet another weird quirk of relentless coverage of a viral story (anyone remember The Dress?), the post explains the rise of the Dad Bod, the famous frat-boy physique that, as the author describes, says, “I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.” Enter endless photos of Leonardo DiCaprio, unofficial Dad Bod poster boy, and you have yourself a case of Internet infamy.

So where was the fervor over the Mom Bod trend? What, there wasn't one? OK, to be fair, there was a proliferation of “Why Men Love Mom Bod” articles that followed, although it never quite picked up the kind of steam of Dad Bod. But the real win was in moms showing their pride in their Mom Bods on Instagram with #MomBod. Doesn't matter what anyone else thinks; these women love their bodies, and that's a major step forward for womankind.

HAW

What Not to Buy

This week Kim Kardashian hosted a signing event for her new book Selfish at Barnes & Noble in New York. Did Kardashian write essays about her life? No. The small coffee-table book is filled with selfies of the reality TV star in page after page of cleavage-focused photos. While a small book in size, Selfish is a reminder to all of us of a lasting truth for our age: The Kardashian family will stop at nothing to make a buck.

MRS

American Idol’s Last Hurrah

The cultural juggernaut American Idol will come to a close in 2016. The FOX reality show, which launched the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry, and of course host Ryan Seacrest, will be searching for its final idol in season fifteen. The network promises that the final season will be a celebration of the show, which convinced millions and millions of viewers to watch everyday people attempt to realize their dreams of superstardom. Some people tuned in solely for the often cringeworthy audition process; others watched every week and voted religiously to keep their favorite contestant in the running. Still others became addicted to watching the original trio of judges (Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson) bicker and be weird. The show has lost a bit of its original oomph over the years, with other reality singing competitions like The Voice and The X Factor crowding the market, but it cannot be denied that the phenomenon that is American Idol changed the landscape of pop culture.

MW