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The Woman Breaking Ironman Records and Other Notes from the Week


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

Daniela Ryf: Ironman World Champion

The largest paycheck in the history of triathlon–the individual sport of competing in races consisting of swim, bike, and run portions—was paid out last week. To a woman. On December 6, Daniela Ryf, a 28-year-old Swiss woman, took home first place at the Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championship race, which just so happened to be the third race in a Triple Crown series that Ryf swept to earn a $1 million bonus. Her 2015 triathlon earnings more than double those of any other triathlete in history, man or woman. “It’s a lot to take in, a lot of attention, which you have to get used to,” Ryf commented before the race. She represented Switzerland in the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympics in triathlon, placing seventh and fortieth, respectively. In 2014 she competed in her first Ironman distance triathlon, which is more than twice as long as the Olympic distance race, and took home first place. “That’s when I began to believe that Ironman could be my thing,” she says. Just more than a year later, the proof is in the paycheck. Ironman is definitely her thing. —Anna Quinlan

Angela Merkel Named TIME Person of the Year

Last month we shared the stories of some of the incredible women nominated for Time’s Person of the Year award. On Wednesday Time announced that Germany’s chancellor and leader of the European Union, Angela Merkel, is the winner, and its well-written account of her incredible life and career is well worth a read. —Sophie Caldecott

A ‘Hairbrained’ Idea?

This week IBM launched a hackathon aimed to scout female scientists’ engineering skills and ended up with a big social media fiasco on its hands. The innovative company had chosen a device to “hack” and see if participants could come up with a better version of the commonly used technology. But its choice of a hair dryer ended up being a volatile one. The social media backlash came almost instantaneously, as if to say, “What, you think women only care about beauty?” While there’s room for criticism in the way the campaign was marketed, female scientist Rachel Wilkerson shared with Verily why she was not among the offended. For one, she finds hair dryer physics kind of cool and is curious about what kinds of improvements can be made to the popular tool. But mostly, as a user of the device herself, she reminds us that even as a hair dryer–loving female, “I don’t think I lose any street cred as a woman scientist because I happen to like having dry, shiny hair.” The lady has a point! —Mary Rose Somarriba

Making It Rain

Forbes released its list of the twenty-five highest-paid musicians of 2015 this week. Katy Perry topped the list at no. 1 (bringing in a cool $135 million), but only four women in total made it into the top twenty-five—Perry, Taylor Swift (no. 4), Lady Gaga (no. 10), and Beyoncé (no. 14). Although those four amazing ladies deserve congratulations and praise for an amazingly successful year, it is important to note that with all the amazing female artists out there, the list raises a couple of frustrating questions about the wage gap in the music industry. We need to continue to look at why consumers and sponsors alike seem to be more willing to put their money where their interests lie when it comes to male performers. —Monica Weigel

Sexism on the Soccer Field

The U.S Women’s Soccer Team took a stand for better playing conditions when it backed out of a game against Trinidad & Tobago earlier this week, citing poor and potentially dangerous field conditions at the stadium in Hawaii. According to the team, “There were sharp rocks ingrained all over the field. They were everywhere. The artificial turf was actually pulling up out of the ground, and the turf itself was both low-grade and aging. This was a playing surface that looked like it hadn’t been replaced in years.” Although women’s soccer skyrocketed in popularity this year with the U.S. team bringing home the Women’s World Cup championship, the majority of attention and financing still goes to men’s soccer, and artificial turf has become a hot topic among those citing gender discrimination. (The men’s World Cup is played on grass fields, while the women had to play on artificial turf this year.) —MW

You Can Wear Whatever You Want; You Just Can’t Say Whatever You Want

Last weekend, Ayesha Curry posted on Twitter that she prefers to use discretion in her clothing choices in order to “keep the good stuff covered up for the ones who matter.” The wife of NBA star Stephen Curry added that she prefers to dress in a “classy” manner. While Curry is completely justified posting her opinion, some responded that the tweet was a form of “slut shaming.”

While some have argued that clothing shouldn’t matter, it’s hard to deny that it does. Clothing creates a first impression and speaks about who we are as people—showing a glimpse into our style and our personality. “From where I stand, insisting that our clothes ought not matter is as absurd as insisting that words ought not matter,” writes Baleigh Scott for Verily this week. “Clothes, like words, are powerful. Clothes, like words, can distract, offend, or disconcert. Allowing the fact that others might see you to influence how you dress is no more absurd than allowing the fact that others might hear you to influence how you speak.” I completely agree and am glad that this incident has gained attention. Read the full story here. —Diana Stancy

A Rare Win for Barbie!

Barbie dolls don’t have the best reputation as a children’s toy, but this week, a limited-edition Barbie doll was released, modeled after Selma director Ava DuVernay. Selma was nominated for the best picture Oscar, and DuVernay was the first African-American woman to have directed a film nominated for that award. What made headlines is how the doll sold much faster than the average Barbie—within an hour of its release, it had completely sold out.

This reflects well both on our culture and on Mattel, a company that has seen a decline in revenue for its famous doll that has increasingly gained criticism for exposing girls to unrealistic body proportions. Both consumer and company are recognizing the value of less narrow standards of beauty, and as a result, products that embody real, genuine people are being created. As Monica Weigel noted in Verily this week, “This is a good sign that the company is beginning to understand that its future lies in showcasing REAL women—women who inspire with their accomplishments, and that these inspiring women come in many colors, shapes, and sizes. It makes me very happy to think about the little girls who were lucky enough to snag one of the coveted dolls playing make-believe and shaping their own stories of a successful, artistic woman of color.” Hopefully, more dolls like the DuVernay doll will be created in the future. —DS

Kelly Clarkson Bids Winter Greetings

This week, Kelly Clarkson’s family revealed its Christmas card online with the message “Winter is coming.” The Game of Thrones–inspired design showcased Clarkson and her husband Brandon Blackstock with their children in a family photo against a stark backdrop. But easily the most striking part of the card was the huge smile on their 17-month-old daughter River, who didn’t catch on to the serious facade. “Merry Christmas from the Blackstock clan! @GameOfThrones #gameofthrones #winteriscoming #riverisnotworried,” Clarkson tweeted. River is not worried, indeed! Maybe she’s psyched that her mama’s pregnant and she’ll have a new playmate in the new year. All the best to the Blackstocks! —MRS

Is That a Rumor of a Hunger Games Prequel I Hear?

If, like me, you’re a total Hunger Games addict and felt a pang of loss as you left the cinema after the Mockingjay, Part 2 recently, never fear: Apparently there may be some prequels in the works. As a loyal fan of the books, my first reaction was that I didn’t want them spinning out the film franchise just for the sake of it, but hear me out because I think this could actually be a lot of fun. After all, there are plenty of characters with interesting backstories to tell, including Finnick and Annie and their original battles in the arena. I’ll be listening for more news with excitement. —SC

A Prince Who Keeps His Promises

A young British homeless person, Sophia Kichou, first met the Duke of Cambridge, aka Prince William, four years ago. After mentioning her dream of becoming a journalist, he promised to let her interview him for the charitable homeless magazine, The Big Issue, if she realized her dream. Four years later, and this young lady is in her final year studying journalism; true to his word, the prince sat down with her to talk about his work with the Air Ambulance, the issue of homelessness and his work with homeless charities, and more. —SC

Adele and Pink Comment on Motherhood

This week two awesome accounts of motherhood made the celebrity news file. Adele revealed that she had trouble writing songs for a while after the birth of her son, now 3, because “I wasn’t sad.” While that may be an occupational hazard for a singer known for her breakup ballads, she still managed to find a way. “Hello,” it turns out, is more about her returning to public life after having her baby than it is about a lost love. In a similar vein, Pink revealed in an interview that since having her daughter, she has experienced remarkable “healing” in her life. It all goes to show that though motherhood may come with a lot of challenges, Anna Quinlan wrote this week, it doesn’t come out with the ability to add depth and beauty to our lives. —MRS