Kerry Washington Reacts to Her Photoshopped Cover and Other Notes from the Week

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We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.

New York to Mandate Paid Parental Leave

Last week the New York State Legislature finalized a budget deal that included a bill mandating twelve weeks of paid family leave time for most employees, as well as a promise to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour. This means that New York is the fifth state in the United States to accept legislation mandating paid parental leave. The law will allow either parent to take leave to "(1) bond with a new child (including adopted and foster children); (2) care for a seriously ill child, parent, parent-in-law, spouse, domestic partner, grandchild, or grandparent; or (3) address certain military family needs." As New York Magazine reports, "The duration of the leave, while still far from the forty weeks guaranteed in the U.K. or even the sixteen weeks provided in Bangladesh, doubles the six weeks allotted in California and New Jersey, and triples the four weeks of paid leave offered by Rhode Island [the three states where mandates for paid parental leave have already come into effect]." The mandate won't take effect until January 1, 2018, when it will be gradually phased in. —Sophie Caldecott

Threats of More Terror Attacks from Extremists in Pakistan

The Taliban faction behind the Easter Day bombings that killed at least seventy-three people in Pakistan have confirmed the identity of the suicide bomber behind the attack, and it claims to be planning more "devastating" attacks on Christians and other religious minorities and government in the area. Meanwhile, the Pakistan government has announced plans "to launch a paramilitary crackdown on Islamist militants in Punjab," Reuters reports. The attack happened at a crowded public park on Easter Day in the provincial capital of Lahore. —SC

France Makes Paying for Sex Illegal

This is news you might not have expected from France—the place where stories of Moulin Rouge and madames and call girls evoke more “ooh la la” responses than any pearl clutching—but it’s good news nonetheless: This week France has made it a crime to pay for sex. As NPR covered the story: “Clients will be fined about $1,700 for the first offense—and that increases to more than $4,250 on the second.” To which I say: It’s about time! Let’s get this pronto in the United States!

It's impossible to deny the inherent sexism of countries that only criminalize women for prostitution while giving men a free pass. Often the reason women are in prostitution—or more to the point, trafficked into it—is because the demand from johns keeps this exploitative black market booming. For an industry that relies on countless girls being sex trafficked into the industry before age 18 and is rife with mental and physical abuse, curbing demand is what the most knowledgeable organizations such as Shared Hope International and Equality Now say is the key to combatting sex trafficking. Thank you, France, for truly standing up for women. —Mary Rose Somarriba

March Madness Comes to an Exciting End

On Monday night, thousands of people tuned in to watch what would become a legendary NCAA Men's College Basketball Championship game. Whether or not you won your office bracket, it was an exciting game from start to finish. The University of North Carolina, the number one seed in the tournament, went up against Villanova University, the number two seed. With only 4.7 seconds left in the game, the teams were tied at 74 after a three-point shot by UNC's Marcus Paige. Villanova took the ball with captain Ryan Arcidiacono passing it to Kris Jenkins, who flicked the ball with 0.5 seconds left on the clock . . . to sink a three-point shot that sealed the championship victory for Villanova. After thirty-one years, the Wildcats claimed another win in one of the most competitive and unbelievable championship games of all time. —Mary Grace Mangano

Joke’s on You, Google

Google had to release an official apology when its April Fool’s prank went a bit wrong last Friday. The prank involved Gmail users seeing a "Mic Drop" button next to the "Reply" button. This "Mic Drop" button served the same function as the "Send and Archive" button that's usually there, except it also added a GIF of a minion (from the Despicable Me movies) dropping a microphone. Unfortunately, some users didn't realize that the GIF would be added to their communication if they pressed it; one user said that they lost their job because their boss thought they were being disrespectful. "I just woke up to a very angry voicemail from her, which is how I found out about this ‘hilarious’ prank," they wrote. Google quickly removed the button when it started getting complaints, saying, "Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year." Oops. —SC

In Other April 1st News: Thigh Gap Jewelry . . . Let’s Keep It for April Fools’

No doubt you've seen thigh gap jewelry cross your favorite social media platforms. No doubt you share the same opinion about the ridiculousness of celebrating a feature based on arbitrary skeletal structure that breeds insecurity about weight for everyone from girls to celebrity women. Well, turns out that's the whole idea behind this jewelry, which, incidentally, isn't even real. Soo Kyung Bae, a third-year industrial design student at the National University of Singapore, is the person behind the site that went viral this week. "If we let the media to keep popularizing such unrealistic body ideal, will this eventually become reality," Bae says.

"One can use design to spark debate and reflection, to be a catalyst for people to decide for themselves about their position on this matter." We'd say the clever conversation starter reached its objective. Let’s hope a less socially conscious company doesn’t see it as an opening to capitalize. —Hannah Allen

Kesha Continues to Have a Hard Week

Kesha recently published on her Instagram page a powerful statement, updating everyone on her current legal battle with Sony and alleged abuser Dr. Luke. Kesha said, “So. I got offered my freedom IF I were to lie. I would have to APOLOGIZE publicly and say that I never got raped. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS behind closed doors. I will not take back the TRUTH. I would rather let the truth ruin my career than lie for a monster ever again.” As Emily Mae Schmid wrote this week for Verily, unfortunately, Kesha’s story is fairly common. Typically, the victims of sexual assault are stuck, whereas the assaulters remain in a more powerful position while the case is pending.

In further developments this week, the New York supreme court denied Kesha’s claims on account that there is no evidence they took place in New York and threw out her gender-based hate crime allegations. The case now returns to California to determine whether Kesha will receive monetary damages and be allowed to leave her contract. —Diana Stancey and MRS

A Love Story Continues . . . Thankfully Outside of the Tragic Seven Kingdoms

This week in trending news, the Internet exploded upon finding out that actors Kit Harington and Rose Leslie of Game of Thrones happen to be dating. Why is this news? Well, it’s not, but it’s noteworthy to fans because Harington and Leslie’s characters Jon Snow and Ygritte in the HBO fantasy drama played out something as star-crossed lovers whose impossible relationship ended more tragically than viewers would have liked. Will seeing them on red carpets help GOT viewers cope with the loss? Well, if nothing else, it certainly made me smile. —MRS

Beyoncé Takes a Stand Against Police Brutality

Beyoncé talked feminism, her new sportswear brand, and how she feels about the police in an interview with Elle for the magazine's May issue. Responding to criticism that parts of her "Formation" video were anti-police, she said, “Anyone who perceives my message as anti-police is completely mistaken. I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe. But let's be clear: I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things.” Well said, Queen Bey. —SC

Remember the First Time You Were Catcalled?

Rowan Blanchard, the 14-year-old Girl Meets World star, talked to Interview Magazine recently about her first experience of being approached by a sleazy guy on the street: She was around 12 years old, she recalls, and the experience of being objectified was a kind of feminist awakening for her. "I just remember sitting there feeling my heart sink into my stomach . . . when it happens to you, it's like, 'Oh, crap, this is real; people look at me this way. And people look at other girls this way.' I went home that night and didn't tell anybody. I didn't tell my parents because I was ashamed that it was what I was wearing." Although she doesn't say it in as many words, her experience echoes our culture dditor's thoughts in her piece last week about how if we want to fight sexual harassment, we have to fight to change the way women are portrayed in the media. —SC  

This Girl Has the Smarts

A high school student from Long Island, New York, has been accepted into all eight Ivy League universities. Augusta Uwamanzu-Nna is the second student from Elmont Memorial High School in the space of two years to get offers from all eight Ivy Leagues, and she's the first to be picked as a national finalist in the Intel Science Talent Search. The young scholar wowed us with her humble response though: “It would’ve been a great honor to get into just one Ivy League school, so being able to get into all of them was shocking,” she said. “I think it speaks volumes about my support system—my parents, my teachers, my school.” —SC

When Photoshop Goes Too Far

Actress Kerry Washington shared a thoughtful Instagram post about her recent cover for Adweek, saying that while she was no stranger to Photoshop and, hey, don't we all love using a good old filter every now and again, looking at the image made her feel "weary." "It felt strange to look at a picture of myself that is so different from what I look like when I look in the mirror," she said. "It's an unfortunate feeling." She said that while she felt excited and proud about the interview and some of the images inside, she was "taken aback by the cover." To be altered so much that you hardly recognize yourself? We don't blame her for feeling strange about it. —SC

Company Says Key to Its Success Is Women

San Francisco–based company Man Crates has grabbed our attention for an unexpected reason. Yes, it has amazing gifts for any of the men in your life, but the biggest secret to its success is . . . actually hiring women! Forty-one percent of full-time employees are female and occupy such key roles as VP of Finance & Operations, Director of Product Marketing, and Purchasing Manager. As a result, Man Crates has grown exponentially since its start in 2012. Brittany Prim, director of product marketing, has said, “As a woman on the product team at Man Crates, I have the unique opportunity to develop gifts that hit extremely close to home: Father's Day gifts for my dad, anniversary gifts for my husband, and Christmas gifts for my brothers. I selfishly keep their needs and wants in mind as I do my job every day, which in turn speaks to our female buyers—and that's pretty cool." Just goes to show that capitalizing on the strengths and perspectives of both genders is never a bad idea. —HA

We Sorta Told You So

Singer and songwriter Courtney Barnett has been named Songwriter of the Year by Australian Performing Right Association this week. We at Verily tipped you off that she was special earlier this year in a roundup of our favorite indie musicians on the rise. The past couple years, this APRA award has gone to Sia (whom we also love). If you’ve ever given Sia a listen, you have an idea of how great Barnett’s songwriting is. Her debut album, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit is worth a listen. Here’s to your favorite new artist for the spring, if not already! —MRS

Women’s U.S. Soccer Team Fights for Fair Wage

Despite earning $20 million more in revenue than their male counterparts this past season, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team is paid only a fraction of what the men’s team earns. As a result, the women’s team has filed a wage discrimination action against the United States Soccer Federation. It’s hard to find a good excuse for the huge wage gap. The Equal Pay Act was passed in 1963, and these women are bringing in more than their male contemporaries. As a result, the Equal Employment Opportunity commission is investigating the situation. Emily Mae Schmid covered the story for Verily, noting, “I know, and you know, that these women deserve better.” All the best to these courageous women as they continue fighting for equality. —DS

Jodie Sweetin Shares Powerful Story

On Dancing with the Stars this week, Fuller House actress Jodie Sweetin shared her story of getting herself back up after falling into drug addiction. The child star grappled with life after Full House wrapped in her early teens and says that “drugs and alcohol just sort of numbed everything.” But, for Sweetin, “The darkest moments for me weren’t necessarily winding up in the hospital . . . it was those quiet moments alone when I just hated the person that I’d become.” Now five years sober, Sweetin finds that “through my sobriety I can be happy with simple things now . . . I dimmed my light for a long time, and I don’t feel like I have to do that anymore.” She followed that with a gorgeous foxtrot danced to Andra Day’s inspiring song “Rise Up.” I love it when music and dance come together to uplift the soul. —MRS