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Europe Grieves After a Terrorist Attack in Brussels and Other Notes from the Week


Brussels Reels After Europe’s Second Terrorist Attack in Four Months

At least thirty-one people were killed and hundreds more injured in a suicide bomber attack at a city airport and metro station in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday. ISIS has since claimed responsibility for the attacks, and two Belgian-born brothers were identified as two of the three men who killed themselves in the attack. The brothers had links to last November’s terror attacks in Paris, authorities said on Wednesday, and their attack came shortly after the capture in Belgium last week of a man involved with the Paris attacks. The latest violence is raising fresh fears for the safety of Europe in the face of the Islamic State’s agenda. Nicolas Hénin, a journalist who was held hostage by ISIS in Syria for ten months, wrote on Wednesday for The Guardian: “It is one of the goals of ISIS to sow division and make us afraid of one another. That was one of the things I learned during my captivity.” Back in November Paris reminded us exactly how to give the response the terrorists would least expect (and want) with their #TousAuBistrot movement, and the people of Europe are responding to the Brussels attacks with a similar show of solidarity and celebration of all things Belgian. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone affected by the violence. —Sophie Caldecott

‘How Do You See Me?’ Asks a 19-Year-Old with Down Syndrome

To mark World Down Syndrome Day on March 21, Olivia Wilde starred in a moving public service announcement video called “How Do You See Me?” that aims to change the way we look at people with Down syndrome. AnnaRose Rubright, who does the voiceover for the video and appears at the end, is a 19-year-old full-time college student from New Jersey who works part time at a physical therapy center and loves swimming and basketball. As someone with Down syndrome, she describes how she sees herself—a normal teenage girl with relationships, joys, and sorrows—and how she wishes others would see her, too. “I see myself as an ordinary person with an important, meaningful, beautiful life. This is how I see myself. How do you see me?” she asks.

The PSA was created for CoorDown, an Italian organization for people with Down syndrome. CoorDown President Sergio Silvestre explained to ABC News why his organization felt the PSA was needed, saying, “A real problem for people with Down syndrome is the way people look at them because of their condition. The metaphor in the video aims to . . . [show] how people with Down syndrome see themselves whilst revealing the inherent prejudice and discrimination that they face based on society’s preconceptions and stereotypical low expectations.” With an estimated 92 percent of women who receive a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome choosing to have abortions, the number of people with Down syndrome in the United States is dropping and the risk of discrimination increasing. We could all use a few more reminders like this one from Wilde and Rubright. —SC

Serena Williams Takes Another One for the Team

Poor Serena Williams has had to handle more than her fair share of insulting comments in the course of her career, including plenty of ludicrous body shaming and sexist comments about female tennis players not being as talented or interesting as male tennis players. This latest one will really stun you, though: Raymond Moore, the tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open (commonly known as Indian Wells), one of the sport’s top events, commented Sunday night that female tennis players “ride on the coattails of men; they don’t make any decisions—they’re lucky, they’re very, very lucky. If I [were] a lady player, I’d go down every night on my knees and thank God that Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal were born because they have carried this sport. They really have.” He later apologized for the comments, but the WTA said his comments were under review and would not be tolerated.

All this on the night before the women’s final, no less. Phew. Williams responded by saying that “we as women have come a long way, and we shouldn’t have to drop to our knees at any point.” She also pointed out that at last year’s U.S. Open event, the women’s finals sold out well before the men’s. “I think there are a lot of women out there who are very exciting to watch,” the tennis star added. “I think there are a lot of men out there who are exciting to watch. I think it definitely goes both ways.” Game, set, and match to Williams! —SC

Our Children Could Use a Little Marie Kondo in Their Lives, Too

Here at Verily we believe in the value of leisure time and the benefits of embracing a less-cluttered (both mentally and physically speaking) lifestyle. The Huffington Post recently shared an article that proposes that our children could also benefit from this way of thinking. Tracy Gillett shares that in a study where the lives of children with attention deficit disorder were simplified, an incredible “68 percent went from being clinically dysfunctional to clinically functional” within the space of four months. She goes on to say that the children in this trial “also displayed a 37 percent increase in academic and cognitive aptitude, an effect not seen with commonly prescribed drugs like Ritalin.” As Gillett writes, “We enroll [our kids] in endless activities. And fill every space in their rooms with educational books, devices, and toys, with the average Western child having in excess of 150 toys. With so much stuff, children become blinded and overwhelmed with choice.” It sounds like modern-day parents need to apply Marie Kondo’s theories to their kids’ lives, as well as their own, for the sake of everyone’s mental health. —SC

Kelly Osbourne Keeps it Real

Thirty-one-year-old former Fashion Police cohost Kelly Osbourne is opening up about her struggles with body image in the spotlight as part of Mogul’s #IAmMogul campaign. “A big misconception about fame is that sometimes people forget that you are human; that you too deal with the issues that all women face, ranging from self-worth, body image, societal beauty standards, and the feeling of needing to be perfect,” Osbourne says.

The former reality star goes on to talk about how she was labeled in the media as everything from a drug addict and a brat to overweight. As she began a journey of weight loss, the labeling didn’t stop. Osbourne says she used to go to bed praying she’d wake up as anyone but herself. Eventually she decided she’d had enough and embarked on a paradigm shift. “I discovered that I never wanted to be the skinniest, the prettiest, the smartest, the funniest, the tallest, [or] the best at anything! Because you know what? There will always be someone ‘better,’” she continued. “You can’t change who you are, but you can change your actions. My wish is that girls and women stop competing with each other and learn that we are our best allies.” —Hannah Allen

Jane the Virgin Continues to Surprise

TV series Jane the Virgin continues to surprise us with its insightful exploration of motherhood. Recently the story line involving Petra’s impulsive decision to conceive in a less-than-forthcoming manner tells a very different story than that of our heroine, Jane. Petra started off as a manipulative villain who would do whatever she had to do to get what she wanted. Yael Grobglas’ charming performance of this character has helped her become a character worth rooting for as details of her past came to light.

After the birth of her twin daughters, she confesses to Rafael in a moment of beautiful feminine vulnerability that maybe motherhood isn’t for her. It’s no surprise that Petra would have doubts, considering both her own relationship with her mom and her less-than-maternal instincts. Rafael assured her that she would be a great mother, but the conflicted look on Petra’s face as she gazed at her new baby proved that her doubts are definitely not assuaged.

This series has done an impeccable job so far of tackling real issues that new mothers have to deal with; this one, while a departure from Jane’s story, is no different. Many women feel this way in the beginning, and it’s nice to see that respected on television. Hopefully, Petra, like so many other women, will find her footing in this new role and rise to the occasion, discover instincts she didn’t know existed within her, and find fulfillment in her decision. —HA

Kelly Rowland on Sexism in the Music Industry

Kelly Rowland recently announced her intentions to find the next great girl group as part of a documentary for the BET called Chasing Destiny. The former Destiny’s Child member and current solo artist insists this is not a typical reality show construct and that her goal is to support young women instead of encouraging them to compete against each other. The singer also spoke at length about how it was important to her to foster a sense of confidence that is centered upon who these young women are, not what they look like. “I think it’s just important to know who you are. . . . to know that you are more than your body and that there is talent to the base of who you are,” she says. “It’s fine to follow trends when it comes to fashion. That’s what me and the ladies did when we were coming up. . . . I’m just happy that we grew up with families that really instilled morals in us and told us that you’re more than your body. We’re talented, and we don’t have to do all that.”

Already an ambassador for the Boys & Girls Club of America, Rowland expressed her commitment to empowering young women by harnessing their inherent girl power and encouraging them to find inspiration in the women around them. “For me, what means a lot for the girl groups is seeing young girls seeing women get along and come together,” she reiterated. “There’s power in numbers, and we have to understand that as people.” A very good destiny to chase, indeed. —Monica Weigel

This Music Docu-Series Is Binge-Worthy in a Way You Won’t Regret

It makes sense that jazz was born in America. It’s the expression of freedom created by black Americans whose experience and history was anything but free. And while Americans survived through two world wars and the Great Depression, it continued to search for hope in chaos. This is the rich background of Ken Burns’ acclaimed jazz documentary that begins re-airing on PBS at 9 p.m. Friday, April 1.

If you have twenty hours to invest this spring break, now’s a perfect opportunity for you to learn what jazz is and how it relates to American history, its people, and you. The good news is, you won’t find this to be too long. Be prepared to get lost in the fascinating imagery, stories, and music in this ten-part series. If you think about it, twenty hours is pretty efficient to travel through the entire twentieth century in America. On top of that, an added bonus is that what you’ll learn will forever change your experience in a meaningful way when you encounter jazz music from here on out, whether you hear it on purpose or by accident.

Duke Ellington said, “Jazz is so free that many people say it is the only unhampered, unhindered expression of complete freedom yet produced in this country.” Sounds to me like something to continue to celebrate, and this week may be just your chance. —Hanna PK

Adele and Beyoncé Say Motherhood Completes Them

Several months ago, Adele was quoted in Vogue for saying that being a mother brought purpose to her life that previously did not exist. More recently, Beyoncé told Garage Magazine her proudest moment was giving birth to her daughter, Blue Ivy. Some feminists are dismayed at these honest words from some of the most successful musicians in the world. But we think it’s nice to see there’s also been a cultural response demonstrating a greater understanding that women can have careers and be mothers simultaneously. As Verily’s Mary Rose Somarriba points out, “It doesn’t always have to be an either/or with career and children. Not anymore at least. And thank God. . . . We’re living in a day when feminists can pursue both career and motherhood and be all the better for it. Rather than rush to build fences between the two, we should celebrate this development, foster it, and try to learn from it.” As someone who aspires to be a mom and have a career, I couldn’t agree more. —Diana Stancy

Speaking of the Beauty of Motherhood

If you’ve enjoyed Verily contributor Samantha Hahn’s beautiful watercolor illustrations in the past, you’ll love her latest work: A Mother Is a Story. The book is a collection of hand-lettered quotes and ethereal illustrations celebrating motherhood in all its joyful and messy reality. The Brooklyn-based artist has also created a colorful journal, Stories for My Child, to help mothers capture their experiences and memories of their children as they grow up, from pregnancy through to adolescence. Both books were released March 22—in plenty of time to make them the perfect Mother’s Day gifts. —SC

A Documentary That Reminds Us Who False Rape Accusations Hurt

Last Sunday, ESPN released a documentary recounting the infamous Duke lacrosse rape case called Fantastic Lies. In 2006, the Duke lacrosse team held a party and hired two strippers, one who was a single mother of two. This woman went to the hospital later and claimed she had been gang raped by three of the lacrosse players. Despite the fact that the remaining lacrosse season was canceled, the coach was forced to step down, and three of the players were indicted, it eventually became apparent that the charges were false.

Unfortunately, this harms those with legitimate rape accusations. For Verily, Baleigh Scott commented: “Not to downplay the ways in which false rape accusations threaten the lives of the accused, but every rape accusation that turns out to be false casts doubt on all legitimate ones, making it even harder for rape victims to come forward. . . . If there’s something the Duke scandal demonstrates, it’s that when we put blind faith before facts, it can backfire on the very people we intended to help.” Sad but true. —DS

Calvin Klein Ads Get Some Heat

Perhaps one of the greatest criticisms of the advertising industry is its portrayal of women. And while many of the criticisms are in response to a negative portrayal, few are as blatantly obvious and offensive as the most recent ad campaign issued by Calvin Klein’s underwear line. Featuring celebs including Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner, the campaign pictures the individuals wearing Calvin Klein with the words, “I [insert verb] in #mycalvins.” While initially this may seem innocuous, the latest billboard in NYC featured actress Klara Kristin with the words, “I seduce in #mycalvins.” Next to this ad, another billboard of rapper Fetty Wap was depicted with the words, “I make money in #mycalvins.”

Understandably, people are upset about this sexist advertisement and the juxtaposition of the billboards. In fact, Heidi Zak, founder and CEO of ThirdLove, a company designed to create bras that properly fit women, initiated a #MoreThanMyUnderwear campaign and published a video of responses from ordinary people about the ad. She also introduced a petition for the billboards to be removed.

How can we facilitate improvement in the advertising industry? As Baleigh Scott writes this week for Verily, “Calling attention to the problem is a good place to start. One doesn’t have to entirely agree with Zak’s gender philosophy to appreciate that the #MoreThanMyUnderwear campaign, and others like it, are holding companies to higher standards. Here’s to calling out sexism and being empowered women—oh, and whatever I’m wearing, I certainly will not be in ‘my Calvins.’” —DS

Marvel Comics Includes Women in More Varied Roles

Marvel recently announced a contest aimed for girls ages 15 to 18 interested in STEM careers, which requires them to create a brief video about a project and STEM’s influence on the project. Finalists will be flown to Los Angeles to present their project, tour Walt Disney Studios and Dolby Laboratories, and attend the world premiere of Captain America: Civil War. Additionally, Marvel also announced last year that the new Spider-Woman series would feature a very pregnant heroine whose superpowers include growing a baby.

Anna Quinlan writes for Verily, “Marvel’s efforts toward gender equity represent an important shift in an industry that has historically portrayed women in narrow sexually objectified roles. . . . With women accounting for 40 percent of attendees at comic book fan conventions in 2014, it appears that Marvel is taking note: Comics aren’t just appealing to men anymore. We believe that all women possess a little (OK, let’s be honest—a lot) of superpower in them, and we’re thrilled to see this acknowledged both behind the scenes and on screen. And maybe one day we’ll even see a superheroine in a loose-fitting sweatshirt. . . . Pow!” —DS