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Emma Watson Invites You to Join Her New Book Club 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.

Emma Watson Is Taking a Year Out to Read, and You Can Join Her

In a recent conversation with feminist writer Bell Hooks in Paper Mag, 25-year-old actress Emma Watson shared that she would be taking some time out from acting this year. She mentioned that she was doing it for two main reasons: to focus on her work as ambassador for the UN "HeForShe" campaign and for her own personal development. "I'm reading a lot this year, and I want to do a lot of listening," Watson said. "My own personal task is to read a book a week and also to read a book a month as part of my book club." Yes, that's right, Watson has set up an online feminist book club called "Our Shared Shelf" that's open to anyone, hosted by Goodreads. Thanks for the inspiration, Emma! —Sophie Caldecott 

Beyoncé Launches #BeyGood Campaign to Help Children in Flint’s Water Crisis

Beyoncé's philanthropic organization, BeyGood, just announced a campaign to help residents of Flint, Michigan, who are suffering from a water crisis. The singer has set up a fund to provide aid to children in Flint, as well as to address the long-term challenges of the corrupted water supply. She is encouraging fans to donate to the campaign, which has partnered with United Way to provide water filters, replacement cartridges, and bottled water to residents, as well as catering to the “developmental, education, nutrition, and health needs” of the area's children. Find out more at the campaign’s Twitter feed. —SC

RIP Harper Lee

Last week, the world lost an incredible soul and a beautiful author: Harper Lee. Many have been impacted by her work, most notably her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Not only is the story intriguing, but the timeless wisdom and life lessons of the novel give it a universal relevance to all kinds of readers. Verily’s Sophie Caldecott shared some of these powerful takeaways in a celebration of Lee’s contributions to the literary world. —Diana Stancy

The 24-Year-Old Campaigning for an Important Change to Rape Legislation

Many agree that the system for prosecuting sex crimes is broken, and a newly proposed bill is attempting to tackle this. The Sexual Assault Survivors' Rights Act is unique in that it focuses on the legal protections of survivors of assault rather than on law enforcement. It proposes increased access to trained sexual assault counselors, as well as easy access information about the legal options for victims. It also proposes that people who have submitted a rape kit should have the right to know the location of the evidence, whether it has been tested, and the results—a right that is not currently protected by all states. The driving force behind the bill is a 24-year-old aspiring astronaut who works for the State Department. Her own experience fighting to make sure her rape kit got tested after her assault inspired her to create an organization called Rise to support the rights of sexual assault survivors. "Basically, I had to pen my own rights into existence," said Amanda Nguyen in a recent interview. There's a good chance this bill could have bipartisan support, because in the past campaigns to change legislation on rape kits has had support from both Republicans and Democrats. —SC

Kesha’s Court Case Prompts Support from Celebrities and Assault Survivors Alike

As Kesha lost a legal battle this week to her producer “Dr. Luke” she also has been receiving significant support for her courage. That support has manifested itself in a variety of ways, including Taylor Swift donating $250,000 to assist Kesha during this trying time. Even though the gesture is incredibly considerate, some have criticized Swift. Fellow female artist Demi Lovato said she wouldn’t be impressed unless Swift spoke out or took “something to Capitol Hill.” But Baleigh Scott points out that Swift’s actions are a form of action. She writes: “Sure it's always good to start important cultural conversations. But words need to be supported by action and sometimes a monetary gift is just that. Communities often come together to charitably rally around those in need, and in a way (albeit in a larger and more public way than most of us experience), Swift's donation is just that—one female entertainer to another." —DS

Ronda Rousey Said She Was Suicidal After Losing Undefeated Record

Ultimate Fighting Champion Ronda Rousey confessed to Ellen DeGeneres last week the impact losing a title fight last year had on her as it tainted her undefeated record. According to Rousey, she even struggled with suicidal thoughts shortly after the loss. While each person struggles with various identity crises at some point or another, Rousey’s admission is something to keep in mind as a good reminder: your identity separate and in fact more than solely your accomplishments. Although the two may be difficult to separate at times, accomplishments are just one facet of who we are as people. As Anna Quinlan writes this week for Verily: “Although most people will never have to wrestle with the loss of an undefeated mixed martial arts fighting record (I certainly won’t), forging a path through life’s disappointments and surprises and upsets is part and parcel of the human experience. The path that Rousey is suggesting is one of honesty and self-encouragement. I think that’s even more impressive than an undefeated record.” I couldn’t agree more. —DS

Friends Cast Reunites in a TV Special

Fans of the ever-popular sitcom classic Friends have prayed for a reunion ever since the series wrapped in 2004. After one unsuccessful spin-off, we've been told over and over that there won't ever be a reunion. This week, though, we got the closest thing yet, and it was glorious. Five of the six actors came together in an NBC "Must See TV" special honoring directing legend James Burrows. Minus Matthew Perry, who played the sarcastic and funny Chandler Bing, the five actors discussed their experiences bonding early on by playing poker in the greenroom which ultimately served as inspiration to the writers and was written into the show. At one point Jennifer Aniston, who played Rachel Green and has had the most success since the show ended, was overcome with emotion and wiped away tears. We can all relate, Jen. Maybe after this stroll down memory lane the cast will push for that reunion we're wishing for now more than ever. —Hannah Allen

Period Pain ‘Almost as Bad as a Heart Attack’

Tell this to yourself next time you wonder if your pain threshold is just too low when you're experiencing bad period pains: a professor of reproductive health recently told Quartz that many women report that their monthly cramping is "almost as bad as a heart attack." The article from Quartz confirms something we already know to be true: That the medical world needs to start taking women's health issues more seriously. —SC

Angelina Jolie Said She Never Expected to Be a Mom

It’s somewhat hard to imagine that actress and mother of six, Angelina Jolie, recently admitted at one point in her life, she didn’t want to have kids. However, Jolie’s perspective changed during the filming of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider in Cambodia. Somehow, she said, she knew her son was in Cambodia, too. The takeaway from Jolie’s confession is that motherhood is different for each woman. Not everyone experiences the desire to become a mother, pregnancy itself, and motherhood in the same way. As Anna Quinlan notes this week, “The path to motherhood can be winding or straight, surprising or expected, touchy-feely or just plain practical. As Angelina and the other celebrity moms remind us, there's no one-size-fits-all prescription or check-list that comes with it." Just as each person is unique, so is each mother. —DS

Terry Crews Speaks Out About His Porn Addiction

Actor Terry Crews from the TV show Brooklyn Nine-Nine opened up about his struggle with pornography and his battle to overcome the addiction through a series of videos posted to social media. At one point, Crews’ wife threatened to leave him as a result of his pornography addiction. Even so, Crews admitted what changed him was that he viewed people differently; in his words, “People become objects. People become body parts.” While the topic of pornography is not the easiest to approach, Baleigh Scott argues we need to be talking about it more. She writes, “There is no denying that pornography is a controversial subject, but if there's one thing that both opponents and proponents of the phrase porn addiction can agree on it's this: It's a topic that we need more discussion on, not less. Given its rampant and widespread use, the repercussions of porn use are worth taking the time to understand. In which case, regardless of whether you or a loved one struggle with pornography, we can all benefit from hearing Terry Crews out.” Agreed! —DS

The Muslim Fencer Making American Olympics History

The Olympics are historically a time when nations put their differences aside to engage in civil athletic competition, allowing all participating countries to spur on nationalism and unified fandom amongst their citizens. The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro promises to be no different, already offering up a shining American star that seeks to unify Americans during a time of particularly acute polarization. Ibtihag Muhammed, an African American Muslim, will be one of two female fencers poised to contribute to America's medal tally. Muhammed, born and raised in New Jersey, admits that some of the current rhetoric surrounding Muslims in America has caused her to question her safety, but ultimately she has "faith in the greater America." Come August, Muhammed hopes to earn an Olympic medal for a country in which she observes minorities like herself having the opportunity to break barriers and accomplish greatness. "That," she says, "is what makes America great." —Anna Quinlan

We Teach Girls That ‘It’s Cute to Be Scared’

Former San Francisco firefighter Caroline Paul tackled the interesting subject of why we teach girls it's cute to be afraid in an op-ed for the New York Times this past week. She uses her own experience of being asked if her job with SFFD scared her as the impetuous for this discussion since none of her male counterparts were asked this, arguing that the way we teach our daughters fear is not protecting them.

According to a study in The Journal of Pediatric Psychology last year, parents are “four times more likely to tell girls than boys to be more careful” after mishaps that are not life-threatening but do entail a trip to the emergency room. Why do we do this? Is it a reasonable warning or are we cautioning girls away from these experiences and failing to prepare them for life? In the same study, the researchers also remarked: “Girls may be less likely than boys to try challenging physical activities, which are important for developing new skills.” As mothers, godmothers, grandmothers, aunts, and friends, let's make a conscious effort to talk to the little girls in our lives in the same terms we use for boys, encouraging bravery and resilience. Let's go ahead and embolden girls to master skills that at first appear difficult, even dangerous, and see what kind of a generation of fearless women we can help to create. —HA

Facebook Launches New Emojis

For the past many years we have all been "liking" things on Facebook. But that is all going to change now. This week the social network rolled out new alternatives to the 'like' button: 'love', 'haha', 'wow', 'sad', and 'angry'. It is good that Facebook is recognizing the many emotions and reactions a person can have; and it will be interesting to see how they are actually used. What is the appropriate use of 'haha'? Will 'love' be overused? These are the questions that come to mind when I think about using the emoticons moving forward. What do you think? Do you 'love' this? —Emily Mae Schmid