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Sex-Trafficked Teens Rescued During Super Bowl 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.

Sex-Trafficked Teens Rescued During Super Bowl

In great work by the FBI this past weekend, sixteen teenagers, ranging in age from 13 to 17, were recovered in a crackdown on sex trafficking surrounding the Super Bowl. “It is the most significant operation we’ve had around a big event,” Michael Osborne of the FBI’s Violent Crimes Against Children Unit told ABC News. “This is the most recoveries we’ve had at one time.” Osborne calls them “recoveries” because he is not charging the victims of abuse as if they were juvenile criminals. “These recoveries are victim-focused,” Osborne said. “Many times these young people are kept in this life by pimps using sexual, physical, and emotional abuse.” Further, Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart announced Tuesday that a sting operation led to the arrests of more than five hundred johns seeking to purchase sex, and thirty “men were taken into custody on charges of sex trafficking, pimping, or promoting prostitution.” Whether or not your team won on Super Bowl Sunday, this is some teamwork we can all cheer for. —Mary Rose Somarriba

Wait, There Was a Football Game?

Super Bowl 50 was this past Sunday, and Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos beat Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers for the coveted win. The real spectacle, however, came not from the men on the field but from the women providing the entertainment. Lady Gaga kicked things off by rocking some seriously glittery eye shadow and giving an amazing rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner, prompting people who have been living under a rock to notice that, yes, she can actually sing—really, really well. But the real buzz focused on none other than Beyoncé, who joined Coldplay and Bruno Mars for the halftime show.

Queen Bey had dropped her latest single, Formation, two days prior to the big game, accompanied by its music video depicting her views on the contemporary black female experience. The video went viral almost instantaneously, with supporters celebrating her artistry and her coming into her own as a voice for the Black Lives Matter movement, and detractors upset that Beyoncé was moving beyond a mere entertainer to an activist. This talk only got louder after she stole the show at the Super Bowl, performing Formation with the kind of confidence that very few entertainers can boast, wearing a leather outfit that paid homage to Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl costume from his 1993 halftime show, and backed by a bevy of black female dancers dressed in berets as a nod to yet another fiftieth anniversary that is happening this year—the formation of the Black Panther Party.

Former NYC mayor Rudy Guiliani quickly denounced the performance, calling it “outrageous” and “ridiculous”, and saying that middle America wasn’t interested in seeing such a spectacle during the Super Bowl. Others declared that Beyoncé had “won” the Super Bowl and immediately started saving their pennies for her upcoming world tour. Others couldn’t get past the hot pants worn by the dancers to even have an opinion about the content of the song. Either way, I have come across more commentary on the half-time show than on the game itself.

Like any polarizing incident, I choose to see Beyoncé’s Super Bowl moment as an opportunity to think, listen to the opposing opinions it generates, and really reflect on why that is and what it says about our culture. I see it as an opportunity to do a little homework on the history of the Black Panther Party and why it was formed, to begin to understand the roots of the choreography present in both her performance and the Formation video, and to learn more about all the references, both visual and verbal, that are packed into the song. Because one thing seems clear—Beyoncé is indeed moving past her previous pop princess identity into an artist with a message, and an artist needs to explore not only herself, but the context in which she lives. And even if her ultimate message does not speak to, or represent every individual who encounters it, it doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be acknowledged and reflected upon. —Monica Weigel 

Samantha Bee’s New Comedy Show Debuts

Comedian Samantha Bee’s new late night show, cheekily titled Full Frontal, debuted on Monday and is already making waves in the world of late night television. The Canadian–American comedian, writer, producer, actress, media critic, television host, and mother of three was a contributor to The Daily Show for twelve years. The Daily Show's longest-running fake news correspondent, she was not approached to replace Jon Stewart after his retirement in 2015 and instead left to start her own series.

The inaugural half-hour show, which will air weekly, covered a broad swathe of issues, including the presidential race, local politics, and sexism. Bee is the only female among the late-night hosts, but her opening skit made it clear she’s not interested in discussing how she broke into the so-called “boys’ club” (“We’re all witches,” she explained, alongside a clip of her screaming and convulsing in the midst of what I assume is a satanic ritual).

Airing Mondays at 10:30 p.m., Full Frontal does not follow the usual “late night” script. Foregoing the fake news desk, Bee stood the entire time, and there are no apparent plans to include musical acts or live interviews with authors or actresses publicizing their most recent work. The show's stark departure from the typical format is already garnering rave reviews. And although Bee isn’t here to talk about what it’s like to be a “woman in comedy,” it’s hard not to applaud her contribution to the increasing visibility of funny women. —Baleigh Scott

New C-Section Procedures Aim for Mother–Baby Bonding

Good news for mothers everywhere: Many hospitals are now changing their cesarean section procedures to be more similar to natural births. In the past, babies born via c-section (even non-emergency) have been taken to be evaluated by doctors and then rejoin their mothers in post-op recovery rooms. However, in family-centered (non-emergency) c-sections, the baby is handed to the mother right away, allowing the infant to reap the benefits of skin-to-skin contact and early breast-feeding, which was previously discouraged in operating rooms. The Wall Street Journal reports that some hospitals are even offering dim lighting and soothing music during the operation in an attempt to mimic the natural birthing experience. All mothers will surely benefit from these changes as they choose the best birthing option for their children. —Emily Mae Schmid

Gloria Steinem Misspeaks

Famed feminist activist Gloria Steinem made a not-so-feminist faux pas last weekend in an interview with Bill Maher on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher where she was publicizing her new book, My Life on the Road (which Verily covered here, in case you missed it). Asked why young women “don’t like Hillary [Clinton],” (Eighty-six percent of democrat women under 30 said they supported Sen. Bernie Sanders over Sen. Clinton in the Iowa caucuses), she explained that women tend to get “more radical” as they age and that “when you’re young, you’re thinking, ‘Where are the boys?’ The boys are with Bernie.”

Did we just hear a famed feminist trivializing women’s priorities as only being concerned about boys? Yikes. Steinem is not the first feminist this month to make headlines by disparaging the younger generation of women. First female Secretary of State Madeline Albright drew criticism for a statement she made at a rally in New Hampshire last Saturday. Speaking about the trials and progress of feminism, Ms. Albright said: "We can tell our story of how we climbed the ladder, and a lot of you younger women think it's done. It's not done. There's a special place in hell for women who don't help each other!"

As a reminder to both Steinem and Albright, the tricky part of feminism is that you can’t use sexism to forward it. That means that, when another woman disagrees with you (or in this case, doesn't support the candidate you think she ought to), you don’t immediately write off her opinion simply because she is young and female. To do so would be to perpetuate the same societal problems you’ve been trying to fight in the name of feminism. —BS

Eddie Redmayne Talks About Preparing for Fatherhood 

Award-winning British actor Eddie Remayne may have taken on a variety of challenging parts in the past, but he recently opened up about his most daunting role yet: fatherhood. Responding to a question from an E! News reporter last weekend at the SAG Awards about what part of fatherhood he feels the most unprepared for, he joked, "Do you know what? Pretty much every element of it." We feel you, Eddie! He and his wife are expecting their first child this spring. —Sophie Caldecott

Monica Lewinsky Introduces New Emojis to Counter Cyber Bullying

Monica Lewinsky has become an unofficial ambassador for sufferers of online bullying in recent years, what with her powerful TED Talk on the issue and piece for Vanity Fair. Her latest move has been to team up with phone company Vodafone to create a range of new emojis called #BeStrong designed to give people the tools to show support and solidarity with sufferers of online bullying, even when they can't find the right words. —SC

Misty Copeland Is As Pretty As a Picture

If you need some beautiful and uplifting visuals, look no further than ballet star Misty Copeland's recreations of the famous artwork of Degas. The series was shot for Harper's Bazaar’s latest issue. Commenting on the sculpture titled Little Dancer Aged Fourteen, Copeland said, "I definitely feel like I can see myself in that sculpture—she just seems content but also reserved... I was really shy and introverted at that age. I don't even have an image in my head of what I remember a ballerina being or existing before I took a ballet class. Ballet was just the one thing that brought me to life." —SC

The ‘Longest-Married Couple’ in America Will Be Taking to Twitter to Give Relationship Advice This Valentine’s Day

An elderly couple who has been married for eighty-three years is going to take to Twitter this Sunday to share their secrets to a happy marriage with the world. At the ages of 100 and 104 years old, John and Anne Betar live in New York and have fourteen grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren. The couple was named the "longest-married couple in America" by The Worldwide Marriage Encounter. The Q&A session has been organized by Handy, a home cleaning and repairs brand, and to ask them a question you can tweet @handy and use the hashtag #LongestLove. —SC

Recent Study Connects Rom-Com Scripts to Stalky Behavior

I remember growing up as a teenager, I wistfully hoped some boy would pursue me like the men in rom-coms did of the female protagonists. But one day my brother astutely pointed out how unrealistic the over-the-top gestures demonstrated by these men and boys was. According to my brother, I would have been “creeped out” by any of these advances from the movies. 

Turns out, he may have been on to something. A recent study from the University of Michigan shows that women who watch rom-coms are more likely to tolerate aggressive and stalkerish behavior from from potential male suitors. Without giving away any spoilers, Verily’s Monica Wiegel breaks down some of the most popular rom-coms and the concerning behavior exhibited by the men. Weigel writes: “I have an unabashed love for rom coms—the more ridiculous the better (especially if they involve a makeover). But this study did make me take a step back and look at some of my favorite movies and the type of behavior they are promoting.” Let’s use this study to reflect and evaluate if the messages we receive in rom-coms is healthy and sets a positive example for healthy relationships. —Diana Stancy

Learning a Second Language is Good for You

Recent research suggests that learning a second language is good for your brain, increasing your white matter and making your mind more resilient, New Scientist reported recently. "Ellen Bialystok at York University in Toronto, Canada, has found that lifelong bilinguals tend to be diagnosed with dementia on average 4.5 years later than monolinguals," they shared, in a fascinating feature tracing the connections between language, brain function, aging, and more. Another researcher discovered that "bilingual children perform better on tests that require them to understand a situation from someone else’s perspective." It seems that language can also influence the way we perceive the world around us: according to The New Scientist,"Greek... has two words for blue — ghalazio for light blue and ble for a darker shade. A study found that Greek speakers could discriminate shades of blue faster and better than native English speakers." Time to brush up on our linguistic skills. —SC

Christina Aguilera Lists the Many Expectations That Society Has of Women

In an interview for Women’s Health magazine last week, pop star and business woman Christina Aguilera called out the double standard our society puts on women to be all things at once. With so many people expecting so much from us: to be a good mother, a good wife, to look fit, to be in a good mood all the time, etc.—it can feel hard to do things for yourself. Hannah Allen writes, “No matter how hectic life can be, no matter how many expectations, and no matter how many people are looking to me to fulfill some need for them, I’ve found great value in continuing to do little things to stay true to myself.”

Thanks to Christina for once again reminding us that it's ok to do things for ourselves rather than feel compelled to impress everyone else all the time. —DS

Playboy’s First Non-Nude Issue Comes Out

This week, Playboy magazine will release its first-ever non-nude issue. Not surprisingly, the magazine will still feature scantily clad women, but no photos with full frontal nudity will be published. While this is an improvement, the implications of this decision are certainly disheartening. According to Playboy’s chief content officer, Cory Jones, porn is more accessible than ever before and as a result, Playboy does not have the same appeal it once did. Verily’s Baleigh Scott thinks this sheds light on cultural trends and we should reflect why these trends are the case. As Scott writes: “What does it say about our culture that we want sexual stimulation to not only be a portion of our day but to utterly saturate it as well? If our society has become so reliant on a steady diet of sexualized imagery, it starts sounding like an alcoholic who spikes his coffee with gin just to get through the day. If we can’t get through the day without sexual stimulation, at work or not, maybe like the alcoholic, it’s time to admit that we have a problem.” I couldn’t agree more. —DS