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Violence Against Women in India 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.

Violence Against Women in India Leads to Mandatory Panic Buttons on Cell Phones

India’s government has made it mandatory for all cell phones to have a panic button to keep women safe starting in 2017. India’s communications and information technology minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted about this on Tuesday, stating its purpose “to help our women in distress, with the power of technology.” Mobile phone manufacturers such as Apple and Samsung will be expected to abide by this new policy. Pressing the button will immediately alert the police and designated friends and family, and in 2018 it will be mandatory for all phones to include GPS tracking.

There has been an immediate outcry on social media about this new policy. On one hand, it seems like a step in the right direction for the Indian government, responding to the push against sexual violence. Still others claim that the change in policy barely scrapes the surface of India’s problems.

On a larger scale, India needs a change in attitude towards women. India has been under scrutiny for the last several years due to the multiple, widely reported cases of violence against women including the gang rape of a young woman on a Delhi bus in 2012. Since 2010 crimes against women have increased by 7.1 percent and from 2010 to 2011 alone the number of rapes went up by 9 percent. 

In India a woman is reportedly raped every fifteen minutes (another study that stated it was every thirty minutes—still, very bad numbers.) Much of this has to do with a society that values family honor above women’s dignity and a justice system relying on archaic laws and overstretched law enforcement. It’s fair to say India needs more than just a panic button, but we hope this is just the start of more policy changes to come. —Gabriella Patti

Chrissy Teigen Deals with Mom Bashing

Earlier this week model Chrissy Teigen went to dinner alone with her husband John Legend—ten days after having their baby. The public response was quick and brutal after social media users responded to photos of the night out. Users chimed in with comments like, "You just had a baby, stay at home"; "Dumb. No normal woman would want to leave her baby so soon"; "That spotlight pull be strong. One week. Who wants to leave a 1-week-old baby to go to a bar?" Lovely.

As writer Simcha Fisher puts it in an article this week at Aleteia: “This is why all American mothers are crazy. Because we are driving them crazy.” Fisher speaks for mothers everywhere saying, "America: where we shred you for going on a two-hour dinner date at a week postpartum but give no sh*ts if you have to go back to work forty hours a week at a week postpartum." It’s about time we stop it with the put-downs of women, not to mention the hypocrisy.

In reality, you could argue Teigen is setting a great example of maintaining a healthy marriage dynamic amid the huge change a baby can make. Yes, dates out with your husband are very important. Not everyone is ready to leave their baby at home for a few hours that soon, and that's OK, too. But let's leave Teigen alone and let her manage her own marriage and family. Then, with all that free time, we can do the actual productive thing and get back to ours. —Hannah Allen

Prince Gets Memorialized on SNL

This week, following the death of Prince, Saturday Night Live broadcast a special tribute “Goodnight, Sweet Prince,” including a variety of performances by the late singer from SNL over the years, along with some skits imitating him. One live performance Prince shared with singer Tamar, performing a song titled “Beautiful, Loved, and Blessed,” strikes me as one particularly applicable for the Verily reader.

Next, Jimmy Fallon, host of the hour and a half feature, went on to introduce some never-before-seen footage of a surprise performance from last year’s fortieth anniversary SNL after-party. As Fallon explains, while countless musicians and actors mingled at the party, he served as emcee for different singers and performers to come onstage in fun improv fashion, much to the enjoyment of all attendees. When Dave Chappelle tipped him off that Prince was among attendees, Fallon took a leap of faith inviting Prince to the stage. What followed was a magical and joy-filled collaborative performance that no one could have expected.

I was surprised when it brought tears to my eyes—not out of sadness for his death, although it is so sad. But tears of joy because it’s heartwarming to see someone be so appreciated in his lifetime, to have such a happy spontaneous moment to shine, and to share it so freely with those around him. Moments like those not only validate my impression that SNL afterparties sound legendarily amazing, but they remind me just how beautiful spontaneous creative collaborations can be. —Mary Rose Somarriba

Kesha Releases New Song Today

We were thrilled to see a photo of Kesha in the studio yesterday on Instagram. The singer, who has been embroiled in a legal battle with Sony regarding allegations of sexual and verbal abuse by her former producer Dr. Luke, posted a photo online with the following caption, "It's a miracle when someone gives you a chance at finding your voice again with no reason other than that he is a f---ing beautiful person with a heart of gold."

DJ Zedd has been an outspoken supporter of Kesha, offering to work with her for free so that Sony's contract wouldn't be breached, and he included the songstress in his set at Coachella a few weeks ago. Their song “True Colors” is due to drop today. We absolutely cannot wait to hear what other songs these two may be cooking up and applaud Zedd's example of promoting creativity before profitability. —HA

Speaking of When Life Gives You Lemons . . .

It’s no secret that Beyoncé’s latest album, Lemonade, was released this week. While many of us had expectations for what her next album would be like, the end result was far from predictable. As Hannah Collins shared this week in Verily, she didn’t like the visual version of Lemonade initially. Why? It captured an emotion struggle that was difficult to embrace. I think many of us can relate to that sentiment in our lives. We try to ignore the thorns in our side from experiences or memories that were painful—but sometimes we do need to embrace those struggles to accomplish healing. —Diana Stancy

Still Lemonade, For Some, Is More Sour than Sweet

Hannah's response to Lemonade was vulnerable and quite poignant. But the album ignited plenty of controversy, with  many pointing out that the album was so full of objectifying and disempowering imagery and vulgar sexual language that no amount of positive messaging could outweigh the negative. 

I, too, have called some of Beyoncé's past hypersexualized work more problematic than empowering, so I can understand where the naysayers are coming from. Many were quick to quote her expletive-heavy songs from the album, such as "Hold Up" or "Don't Hurt Yourself," and asked: How can it be good for our young girls to listen to this? To which I respond: This is a concept album about a 34-year-old woman experiencing infidelity in marriage. I doubt anyone in their right mind would say young girls should be listening to this on that basis alone.

Sure, tweens everywhere can't help but heed their obsession with the pop queen, but I don't think that fact should disqualify an artist from exploring adult themes in his or her work. And by adult themes I actually mean adult, not X-rated.

The overarching purpose evident in this album was far more striking and countercultural; far from the flaunted sexuality we saw in past work, this album actually tells a story of what heart-breaking consequences can result when sex is just about pleasure and not about love and commitment. 

The resolve of the album is about finding hope by returning to exclusive marital love. As Mollie Hemingway put it this week at The Federalist, "what begins seemingly as one of the most public dissolutions of marriage ends up a story of the importance of preserving family against great odds." That in itself is remarkably noteworthy. I think it's a mistake to call the whole album a wash on the basis of there being vulgarity in some tracks. Baby with the bathwater, and all. 

Is it an un-feminist album? I'd say no. Sure, there's anger at the "other woman" and her husband early in the album. But those are tracks 2 and 3 of a 12-track album. Those songs are labeled in the visual feature as the "denial" and "anger" phases, respectively. If we stop there, we're missing arguably the richest parts of the album—subsequent phases which she quite explicitly labels "forgiveness," "hope," and "redemption." 

Everyone's entitled to their own taste in music and art; far be it for me to say Lemonade must be everyone's cup of tea. Whether one likes it or not, it remains a story of healing and redemption written in the vernacular. I for one would like to see more of that, not less. —MRS

#MoreThanMean Video Addresses Online Harassment

In a recent video hashtagged #MoreThanMean, female sportswriters Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain watched and listened as men read aloud a selection of the cruel comments they receive on the regular on Twitter. As the men read the misogynistic and threatening statements, they struggled to make eye contact with DiCaro and Spain. The statements included attacks on job performance and looks, with some comments going so far as to say that the women should be killed, raped, or abused.

Online bullying is a huge issue for women in sports. A male-dominated industry, sports have unfortunately become epitomized by the caricature of the shouting, aggressive sports fan, and this clearly has escalated in online conversations. Female sports reporters are often attacked on a more personal level, usually involving looks or sexuality. The idea behind the video was to remove the sense of security that an anonymous username and computer screen barrier can provide—the sense that somehow it’s OK to type online what one would never dare utter in person.

Spain wrote an article for ESPN and said that she usually ignores comments, blocks the user, and moves on. However she said that if she decides to respond, people tell her to “ignore it.” But Spain said that it is difficult to ask women who are accustomed to being regularly harassed to just internalize the cruelty. “Instead of bemoaning a world in which it's OK to tell someone to ‘get raped,’ our culture demands that the victims of the abuse take it in, digest it, own it and say nothing.”

The PSA is a reminder not just of the harassment that women face in sports, but it can be applied to the toxic environments that have been normalized in the online realm altogether. Spain and DiCaro disempowered the cruel words by making them part of a bigger narrative. I am pleased to see that they did not respond with hate, but with a simple message, that we all need a reminder of once in a while, “Don’t be mean.” —GP

Nineties Hit Song “Baby Baby” May Soon Be in Your Head Again

Singer/producer Tori Kelly teamed up with Amy Grant for a new rendition of Grant's nineties hit “Baby Baby,” released this week. Grant’s original song earned her three Grammy nominations in 1992 and went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. Grant announced the collaboration via Twitter earlier this month, saying, "So excited to finally announce this. Amazed by Tori Kelly!" The video was released Thursday and provides a solid dose of nineties nostalgia. —HA

Oh, No You Didn’t

After a social media firestorm, the University of Washington cheerleading squad took down a poster showing a picture of a woman in cheerleading garb, adding "dos and don'ts" of how people should look for their upcoming tryouts. The controversial graphic asked that potential cheerleaders wear only a sports bra and mid-rise black shorts, not to wear any tops "that cover the midriff" or high-waisted shorts. There was also a list of requirements such as for the person to have a "physically fit" physique and "spray tan/natural tan."

Twitter and Facebook users accused the squad of body shaming and argued the list promoted an unhealthy prioritization of appearance over ability. The University of Washington athletic department said they instructed the squad to take down the poster after realizing that it could be seen as offensive "The graphic was removed immediately, after a UW athletic department official saw it and determined that some of the details and descriptions provided were inconsistent with the values of the UW spirit program and department of athletics," they said in a statement.

University of Washington is not the first school to post narrow image-based guidelines for potential cheerleaders. Both Louisiana State University and Washington State University had their own versions, posted before the University of Washington's, on their Facebook pages, as of yesterday. Louisiana State has since removed theirs. Here's hoping the backlash leads to more women being judged on their ability over appearance—especially appearances based on narrow and objectifying beauty standards. —HA

Here’s a First: Astronaut Runs a Marathon from Space

As part of the London Marathon last Sunday, British astronaut Tim Peake became the first man to complete a marathon in space, running the classic 26.2 mile distance while strapped to a treadmill aboard the International Space Station. Peake, 44, saw London's roads under his feet in real time on an iPad as, 250 miles below him, more than 37,000 runners simultaneously pounded the streets.

On a six-month stint on the ISS, the astronaut served as the marathon’s official starter, sending the runners a good luck video message from the station in the ten-second countdown to the race that concluded: "I hope to see you all at the finish line." Peake covered the distance in 3:35:21. The real race winner here on Earth came in at 2:03:05—the second-fastest ever recorded. —HA