“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 watercooler 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.
Get Out Those Tennis Whites
The French Open began this week, which means the start of another exciting summer of tennis. This year could be a turning point for the men’s bracket, as we wait to see who of the Core Four will clinch the clay-court crown. Roger Federer, despite negativity from critics saying he has seen his last major win, is looking better than ever. Novak Djokovic is having a fantastic year as well, reminiscent of his nearly unbeatable 2013 streak. Andy Murray is looking powerful and hungry for a clay win, but the King of Clay—Rafael Nadal—has been beleaguered by injury, though many still think of him as the favorite. It will be an exciting final, no doubt.
As for the women, a few new contenders are causing excitement, as well as seasoned favorites Serena Williams, seeded first, and Maria Sharapova, seeded second. American fans are thrilled to have up-and-comers Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys to cheer to the final rounds. Unfortunately, Venus Williams, American Christina McHale, and Canadian Eugenie Bouchard made early first-round exits, and Caroline Wozniacki was recently defeated in an upset. Game on!
Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors Head to NBA Finals
This week in NBA basketball, the Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets 4-1 in the Western Conference finals, securing a spot in the NBA finals next week. But perhaps what’s most impressive is who they’ll be playing. LeBron James led the Cleveland Cavaliers to sweep the Atlanta Hawks 4-0 in the Eastern semifinals, despite Cleveland playing without two of its best players—Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love—due to injury and James worn from playing through his own minor injuries. As Shaquille O'Neal remarked in the TNT commentary, given James’ prodigal-son return to his hometown of Cleveland this year, if the Cavs win the title this story is set to go down as one of the all-time great sports stories, alongside those of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Muhammad Ali. I, for one, will be tuning in to watch.
Here’s a good excuse to send cards and letters to our friends. The U.S. Postal Service announced this week that it is releasing a forever stamp in honor of Southern writer Flannery O’Connor. The stamp portrays O’Connor, born in Georgia in 1925, wearing her iconic pearls and framed by peacock feathers, which recall her love of peafowl and other exotic birds that she raised at her family’s farm. While battling lupus, O’Connor penned two novels and two dozen short stories in the Southern Gothic style. The acclaimed writer also wrote literary reviews and essays and traveled to speaking engagements. The stamp will be released June 5 and can be used for three-ounce packages, currently worth 93 cents.
Women Who Are Making It Rain
Also this week, Forbes published a list of the fifty wealthiest self-made women. Making number one on the list is Elizabeth Holmes, who is worth $4.5 billion. Yep—that’s billion with a B. Somewhat of a lifesaving genius, Holmes founded a blood diagnostics company called Theranos shortly after leaving Stanford at age 19. Now 31, Holmes is gearing up to expand the reach of her cost-effective blood-testing technology to Walgreens stores across the nation and beyond.
The Sudden Death of a Beautiful Mind
John Nash, the Nobel Prize–winning mathematician who was so movingly portrayed by Russell Crowe in the 2001 film A Beautiful Mind, died Saturday in a car crash with his wife Alicia. The couple was on the way home when the taxi lost control on the New Jersey Turnpike. Nash and his wife had just returned from Norway, where Nash had been awarded another accolade for his achievements in economics and mathematics. Not only will the renowned Princeton professor be remembered for his considerable academic contributions but also for his personal struggles with—and triumph over—mental illness.
Sex Doesn’t Sell Anymore?
According to a snarky rant from a former advertising copywriter this week, sex just doesn’t sell like it used to. Turns out that what used to be the cheap and easy go-to is no longer working, and sometimes even backfiring, when it comes to making sales. Among the examples he cites is a bus in Britain that had an image of a topless woman holding a sign that said, “Ride me all day for [x low price],” which, after public backlash, was removed from bus advertising. And surveys showed that Carl’s Jr. ads tested below average for purchase intent, and nearly a third had a more negative view of the company after seeing the ads. While I still see sex appeal working all over the media and advertising (Equinox ads, anyone?), if it’s on the decline, I’ll gladly take it. It may be making more work for advertising professionals, but it might just help consumers like me go throughout my day without rolling my eyes at yet another brand’s cheap tactics. And, if it means a decrease in the hypersexualized imagery that kids grow up seeing these days, it just might make the world a better place.
Maybe This Explains the Return of the Granny Panty
Apparently the days of the equally provocative and uncomfortable thong underwear are drawing to a close, according to a New York Times piece chronicling the rise of full-bottom undies among millennials. Data provided by the research company NPD Group report that sales of thongs decreased 7 percent over the past year, while sales of fuller styles—briefs, boy shorts and high-waisted briefs—have grown a collective 17 percent.
The reasons for the decline? The ironically trendy “contrarianism” of popular trends, women being more likely to shop for undergarments of their own comfort than to please a sexual partner, and even “feminism.”
Tess Holliday on Cover of People
As if being the first size 22 model to ever be signed to an agency weren’t accomplishment enough, Tess Holliday, who was told she was too short and too large to model at age 14, graced the cover of People magazine this past week.
With more than 700,000 followers on Instagram, Holliday promotes body positivity in a way that challenges what we’ve come to accept as beautiful. Many Internet users disapprove of the cover, claiming it promotes an unhealthy lifestyle. Holliday has responded by saying in her featured article that she is not “fat recruiting,” and there’s nothing to be afraid of. As I see it, if Miss Holliday can help some of us accept ourselves in a new way, then we should congratulate her boundary-smashing bravery, and take a page out of her book!
The Vintage Challenge
Here’s a Kyleigh challenge we can all get on board with. Model Kyleigh Kuhn has decided not to buy any new clothes for the next few months. The high-end fashion model, born in 1987, will be wearing vintage pieces or items already in her closet for what she calls 87 Days of Vintage to promote a greener, leaner wardrobe—that is, only buying thrift and avoiding adding to the demand of retail, which is harmful to the environment by contributing chemicals and pesticides into the atmosphere. Right on, but can I suggest an even better reason for joining Kuhn's challenge: social consciousness? I love Mother Earth as much as the next earthling, but how about bringing awareness to underpaid (and sometimes underage) sweatshop workers?
Amy Schumer Puts Bill Cosby on Trial
In a skit that turned heads this week, comedian Amy Schumer put Bill Cosby on trial, showing her interpretation of what may explain the general public’s preference to remember Mr. Huxtable as they liked him instead of taking seriously the many sexual assault allegations Cosby has received in past years. The skit is not based in reality, of course, in that Cosby’s allegations are largely not being seen in court due to statute of limitations barring most of them from being heard. So, sure, without legal scrutiny, it’s hard to know the facts. But as Schumer shows in this skit, even though many women who allege they experienced abuse from Cosby may be prohibited from sharing their cases in court, that doesn’t stop Schumer from taking him there. So, Amy Schumer, thanks for that.
Destroyers of Culture
ISIS, the militant Islamic extremist group, captured the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra last week and has since reportedly killed about four hundred civilians. As well as the tragic and ever-rising death toll, this latest conquest has raised international fears over the safety of some of the most magnificent ruins of antiquity in the Middle East; ISIS has a track record of smashing historically prized ruins and even treasured artifacts in museums elsewhere in the region. As The Louvre museum recently said in a statement, “. . . all of humanity’s memory is being targeted in this region that was the cradle of civilization, the written word and history.” Rumors have emerged in the past few days, however, that the terrorist organization will leave many of Palmyra’s archaeological sites undamaged, as the group says that it is only interested in destroying “idols” (any statues of people) and not ancient columns and large buildings. Whatever the damage to these monuments ultimately though, the damage to the Syrian people has already undoubtedly been deep and irreversible.
Not That We’re Surprised by a FIFA Scandal . . .
This week U.S. prosecutors have accused more than a dozen officials of the Fédération Internationale de Football Association of money laundering and engaging in bribery—including one that explains the awarding of the 2010 World Cup to South Africa. FIFA’s president Sepp Blatter, who is not among the fourteen indicted officials, made a public statement that he intends to clean house of the world’s leading soccer organization.
In the Name of “Science”
Did you know that May was supposedly “National Masturbation Month”? Neither did I. That is, until I came across a delightful poster claiming that masturbation “saves time, saves money, and hurts nobody,” amongst other things. I hate to be that person, but isn’t that a really crappy message to be sending out about relationships? “Yeah, relationships are a waste of time and money, and you can’t, you know, have sex whenever you want. But who needs relationships when you can masturbate, amIright?” What about the idea that practicing a little self-control can help you build happy, loving, meaningful, and lasting relationships with others?
And as someone with a loved one who died of prostate cancer, I get so irritated by the misinformation around men’s health: This Buzzfeed article is just one of many that cites research saying that men who have sex or masturbate more frequently have a lower risk of getting prostate cancer. If you actually look into the research, however, it’s a little more complicated than that. There are many conflicting studies, and even some that suggest that more frequent sex as a young adult may increase a man’s risk of prostate cancer. In general, though, most scientists seem to agree that the research to date is inconclusive. Hardly something to base your sex life decisions on, then.
Don’t Eat the Cupcakes at Lilly Pulitzer
This week The Cut toured the office of Lilly Pulitzer, home of neon floral patterns and sellout Target collaborations, posting photos of the office space, a spread of cupcakes and macarons, and some featuring employees. In the middle of the slideshow was one photo, originally posted without a caption, of a mood board with two drawings: one of a woman with the text, “Just another day of . . . Fat, White, and Hideous . . . You should probably just kill yourself . . .” and the other saying, “Put it down, Carb Face.”
The Internet picked up on the cartoons immediately, starting a wave of backlash on Twitter for the company’s fat shaming. A spokesperson for Pulitzer told Mashable that the illustrations “were the work of one individual and were posted in her personal work area. While we are an employer that does encourage people to decorate their own space, we are a female-dominated company, and these images do not reflect our values,” and The Cut article was updated with a caption for the image, which reads, “This image shows an employee’s personal illustrations at her cubicle.”
All I can think is: Really? An employer should be keeping an eye on this stuff, especially if you’re about to invite journalists to come in and take photos of your office. If someone had up nude images of women at work, I would expect the company to reprimand the employee for creating a discriminatory environment, not just think, “Well, hey, it’s her personal cubicle.” Come on, Lilly, you can do better.