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While You Were Out: Move to Ban Ultra-Thin Models, Beyonce’s New Song, Maternity Leave Policies, and More


“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.

Open Season

With the Super Bowl and March Madness behind us, it is time to turn our attention to the glory of America’s pastime—baseball. The 2015 Major League Baseball season officially kicked off on Monday, and the earliest predictions show the Washington Nationals as the favorite to win it all this year. But as true baseball fans know, anything can happen. So head out to the ballpark, have a hot dog, a beer, or some cotton candy (or maybe all three) and show your team spirit. Spring is here!

Monica Weigel

Mad Men’s Last Season

The last season of Mad Men aired its season premiere this past Sunday on AMC. In its seventh and final season following the high-powered Madison Avenue advertising firm, the series picks up right where it left off. We don't want to spoil anything for those of you who haven't watched it yet, but click here if you're ready for a recap of the episode. Past seasons are available on Netflix for epic binge-watching. (Can't wait until the next episode? Add some of the show's sartorial inspiration into your spring wardrobe.)

Mary Rose Somarriba

Verdict Reached in Boston Marathon Bombing Trial

"Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, his face a blank, stood with his head bowed and his hands clasped as the guilty verdicts tolled one after another for what seemed like an eternity: Guilty of using weapons of mass destruction, guilty of bombing a place of public use, guilty of conspiracy and aiding and abetting. Guilty, guilty, guilty: The word was spoken 32 times," CNN reported Wednesday.

A dramatic account, to be sure, but one that captures the somber gathering in the courtroom after the jury's 11 and a half hours of deliberation over the verdict concerning one of the men responsible for the worst attack on American soil since September 11, 2001. Federal prosecutors will now focus on the next phase of the trial: punishment for Tsarnaev's heinous crimes. The next wave of news headlines: the State of Massachusetts does not allow the death penalty, but this was tried as a Federal case, and thus may be on the table.

Hannah Allen White

Rolling Stone Sets Story Straight

This week Columbia University School of Journalism issued a report assessing the journalistic integrity of Rolling Stone’s November 2014 cover story on campus rape at the University of Virginia, and the magazine has retracted the article. The author of the article, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, also issued a statement of apology: “Reporting on rape has unique challenges, but the journalist still has the responsibility to get it right. I hope that my mistakes in reporting this story do not silence the voices of victims that need to be heard.” MTV’s Laci Green published a short video assessing why victims of sexual assault aren’t believed, and while she may be onto something, surely bad journalism doesn’t help.

Also this week, Mark Hemingway reports at Verily on male initiatives to combat sexual assault on campus and the challenges they face.


Apple Watches, Anyone?

If you're one of those people who feels attached to your smartphone through an invisible but very real umbilical cord, Apple may have a solution to help sever ties from your mobile device. Apple will release the much anticipated Apple Watch on April 24. You remember watches? Those things we used to wear on our wrists before we had a phone to reach for in order to check the time?

The watch has received mixed reviews from critics, citing growing pains not unlike any first generation product. We'll be interested to see if this latest iCraze catches on and frees us from being stuck to our phone screens, or goes the way of the Google Glass.


Billboard Nominations

The Billboard Music Award nominations were announced this week, with Taylor Swift leading the pack with her 14 nominations—including Top Artist, Top Female Artist, Top Billboard 200 Album, and Top Digital Songs Artist. Sam Smith ran a close second with 13 nominations. Other notable finalists include Iggy Azalea, Meghan Trainor, and Ed Sheeran. Azalea, Swift, and Trainor will be competing for the fan-decided Billboard Chart Achievement Award. The awards show will be broadcast live on ABC on May 17, hosted by the slightly odd pairing of Ludacris and model Chrissy Teigen, who will no doubt be cheering for husband John Legend.


Beyonce & Rihanna Debut Songs on Jay Z’s Music Streaming Service

Jay Z launched a new music-streaming service this week called Tidal, and at least two artists close to him have released singles to coincide with the launch. Rihanna’s motivated ditty “American Oxygen” is one of the tunes that listeners will now have to pay $10 to $20 a month to access as a part of Tidal’s membership. And Beyonce, in honor of her seventh wedding anniversary with Jay Z, released “Die with You” exclusively on the new platform. Promoting the song via a short video, she sang, “I wake up just to sleep with you / I open my eyes just to see with you…” With lyrics like these, Beyonce shows once again, at least in my view, where her real strength lies as a singer. When it’s done right, love is more powerful than sex appeal, 10 times out of 10. (Doubtful? Give “All of Me” another listen.)


France Proposes A Ban to Ultra-Thin Models & Photoshop

This week, France took one small step for womankind, one giant step for the fashion world. The country’s lower Parliament passed a bill that bans models with a BMI of less than 18 (that’s about 115 pounds for a 5’7” woman). Models will now have to present bills of health listing their BMI at potential jobs—and have to maintain that weight for at least a few weeks following. The ban imposes heavy fines or 6-month imprisonment to agencies and companies that knowingly hire underweight models. Pro-anorexia websites and those who use images Photoshopped to appear thinner could also face strong recourse. The proposed ban will come to a vote in Parliament on April 14.

I, for one, hope this bill becomes law. While it would be nice to see this attitude coming from within the industry and addressing the demands of women, it seems to be a step in the right direction. France is one of the biggest and most influential fashion centers in the world. This proposed ban would affect models at Paris Fashion Week—and if Paris is affected, so, too, would be Milan, London, and New York. The promotion of extremely thin bodies as a standard of beauty will never go away unless serious changes are made. And it’s going to take more than just a verbal declaration or simply turning away models from a fashion show until the following year.

Maggie Niemiec

Lane Bryant’s #ImNoAngel Campaign

Retailer Lane Bryant is challenging beauty standards with its new social media campaign #ImNoAngel. The campaign's name suggests a swipe at the narrow Victoria's Secret Angel beauty standard and features models Ashley Graham, Marquita Pring, Candice Huffine, and more, styled in Lane Bryant's exclusive bra collection Cacique.

Cacique seeks to define "sexy" in new ways by spotlighting women with proportions we're not typically used to seeing in advertisements. Lane Bryant's website also includes bios for each of the women, who appreciate their bodies exactly as they are and advocate for healthy body image. This campaign comes on the heels of author Ajay Rochester's trending phrase #DropThePlus, model and activist Tess Holliday's #EffYourBeautyStandards, and the general debate surrounding the term "plus-size."

While we could do without some of the more hyper-sexualized parts of the campaign, it's nice to continue to see expanding standards of beauty being explored.


Sofia Vergara Doesn’t Care What Critics Think About Her Wearing The Same Dress

There's a reason Modern Family star Sofía Vergara has become as successful as she has in the last few years. She tellsVanity Fair in this month's issue that she started playing to her strengths as far back as the 1990s. She droped exhaustive speech therapy classes and began embracing her accent, and she learned to unapologetically dress in a way that best suits her body shape. Vergara found success when she stopped worrying about what others thought of her. “Sometimes you read in the press like, oh, Sofía is wearing again the same shape dress," Vergara says. "And I want to answer them and say, What the f--- do you want me to wear?” The lady has a point.


Dove Does It Again

If you haven't already seen the latest Dove ad campaign, it will probably make its way onto a newsfeed near you soon. The video, which coins the hashtag #ChooseBeautiful, shows women in different cities around the world choosing between entering a public space through a door labelled “average” or through a door labelled “beautiful.” Sadly, most choose the “average” door. With more than 2 million views so far, the video touches on something more than meets the eye. Why is it so hard for women to walk through the “beautiful” door? Do we think we're average looking? Or do we think that people will believe we're arrogant if we claim to be happy with how we look? Perhaps it's a mixture of both.

The cosmetics company launched its “Campaign for Real Beauty” in 2004, and founded the Dove Self-Esteem Fund a few years later, aiming to act as "an agent of change to educate and inspire girls on a wider definition of beauty and to make them feel more confident about themselves." Critics may say it's only an ad campaign, but it's a step in the right direction—now more than ever, we need to pick up where Dove left off and change the culture that tells women that their value lies solely in how they look.

Sophie Caldecott

Amy Winehouse's Story Coming to Film

The trailer for Amy, a documentary about late singer Amy Winehouse, came out this week ahead of the film’s summer debut. (The movie will be released in Britain in July, with a U.S. release date still unannounced.) Winehouse’s death from alcohol poisoning in 2011 was a blow to music lovers around the world and cut short the life of a true talent. In many ways, the documentary seems to let Winehouse tell her own story, using archival performances and never before heard interviews to highlight her desire to make music, her path to superstardom, and her unease with the spotlight. In a sobering reminder of the potential pitfalls of notoriety, Winehouse is heard in the trailer stating “I'm not a girl trying to be a star or anything other than a musician… I don't think I'm going to be at all famous. I don't think I could handle it."


Seth Meyers Invites Jon Snow for Dinner

Game of Thrones season five starts this Sunday on HBO. While I’m not feeling particularly compelled to watch it, I did get a laugh out of Seth Meyer’s skit this week in anticipation of the premiere. Basically imagine what it would be like having GOT character Jon Snow over for a dinner party.


Maternity Leave Survey at The Atlantic

The Atlanticreleased a video survey of maternity-leave statistics from countries around the world, including the often-envied Sweden. But before you start packing your bags and planning your ex-pat life in the land of 480 days of paid maternity leave, listen to this must-watch interview. Turns out moms in Brazil, Israel, Egypt, Italy, China, and Sweden all feel overwhelmed, unappreciated, and as if they're filling the role of the default parent—no matter how much time off they're given.

While British company Vodafone recently announced a pretty sweet deal for childbearing women—that seems to speak to the modern bottom-line mindset rather than the typical women's advocacy angle—it's worth remembering (not that any mothers forgot) that motherhood is still exhausting, hard work.

The Atlantic hit the nail on the head with this one. I may have gotten choked up during the final segment when they asked the respective mothers what they ultimately wanted for their children. There's a practical side of being a working mom, and then there's the profound universal experience of motherhood, no matter your working situation or country of origin.


Feel-Good News of the Week, Literally

An art gallery in Madrid has used innovative 3D printing techniques to recreate masterpieces in a form that the visually impaired can appreciate. In the exhibit, “Touching the Prado,” visitors are encouraged to feel the replicas of famous Spanish artists such as Goya and Velazquez to explore the different textures and shapes that compose the artworks. The ingenious idea reminds us that "beauty is more than what we see with our eyes."