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Michelle Williams on What Motherhood Really Is—and Other Notes from the Week

Catch up on all the news you might have missed with our handy summary of the week’s top stories.

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

Study Shows Women with Advanced Breast Cancer Are Surviving Longer

Research Thursday by the National Cancer Institute reports that the five-year survival rate among women under 50 has doubled between 1992 and 2012, increasing from 22.3 months to 39 months. Angela Mariotto, the lead author of this study, credits better treatments such as a new drug, Herceptin, that was approved in the 1990s and more aggressive therapy. Unfortunately, the number of patients with advanced stage 4 breast cancer is projected to increase by a third through 2020. But new therapies and studies targeting breast cancer triggers and better palliative care mean women “can and often do live for years with reasonable quality of life, albeit undergoing constant treatment to keep their disease under control,” the authors said. —Krizia Liquido

Michelle Williams Describes How Motherhood Helped Her in Her Latest Role

Speaking to USA Today this week, Michelle Williams had some empowering words to say about motherhood. In Cannes promoting her latest film, Wonderstruck, in which she plays the single mom of a 12-year-old boy, Williams said her real-life experience with motherhood informed her role. Motherhood is “at the center of everything I do,” she said. “Being a mother is not only who I am in my relationship with my daughter, but it’s a part of the kind of work that I wanna make and the relationship with the person that I want to be for her, so there is really no area of my life that is untouched.”

“What I find most interesting about motherhood in this film and everything that I make about being a mother is being responsive to the child that you are connecting to,” Williams continued. “Personally and professionally, the great (trick to) working with children and knowing children is listening to children, and responding to who they are. Not your idea of a perfect child, not who you want them to be, but who they really are. For Mother’s Day, my daughter gave me a card that said, ‘Mom, thanks for letting me be me,’ and it was a picture with somebody in high heels on a skateboard. That’s my ultimate (goal); that’s what I want them to do,” Williams said. —Mary Rose Somarriba

A Late Pulitzer Prize–Winning Journalist’s Final Story of Slavery in Modern America

For The Atlantic’s June cover story, "My Family's Slave," Pulitzer Prize–winning Filipino-American author Alex Tizon tells a secret that he carried with him his entire life. “Lola” Eudocia Tomas Pulido lived with and served his immigrant family for fifty-six years without freedom or pay. It is a heart-wrenching narrative of hidden domestic servitude in a modern world—and of Tizon coming to terms with and ultimately attempting to atone for his family’s sins. “Having a slave gave me grave doubts about what kind of people we were, what kind of place we came from. Whether we deserved to be accepted. I was ashamed of it all, including my complicity.” Published posthumously after the author died of natural causes in March, The Atlantic’s editor Jeffrey Goldberg wrote that “stories like Alex’s help us understand slavery’s awful persistence,” and the work that still needs to be done to resolve human trafficking today. —KL

More American Women in Their 30s Are Having Their First Child Than Previous Generations

If your Facebook timeline is full of your friend’s baby pictures, it might pique your interest to learn that women in their early thirties are now having more babies than younger women in the United States. Last Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released studies revealing that the average age of most women’s first birth is 28. In the previous three decades, women in their earlier twenties had the highest birth rate. Experts say this change is due to women waiting longer to have children and an ongoing drop in the teen birth rate. —Lilly Bozzone

Rape on Campuses Has Tripled in Past Decade, According to Study

Just as schools prepare for summer recess, we’re met with yet another grim look at what exactly is happening on these campuses. The National Center for Education Statistics released its 2016 report last week. In it were sobering statistics about the increase in campus sexual assault. According to the summary, “The number of reported forcible sex crimes on campus increased from 2,200 in 2001 to 6,700 in 2014 (a 205 percent increase).” Looking at all the crimes reported on the surveyed campus for the year 2014, “forcible sex offenses” accounted for 25 percent, second only to burglaries and showing a 34 percent increase from 2013. The 2014 figure accounts for reports of “rape and fondling,” which were combined to reach that statistic.

This week Madelyn Parsons wrote for Verily why she believes the often controversial statistic that one in five women are sexually assaulted. While there’s validity to arguing for clarification as what that statistic entails exactly, Parsons says her own experience hooking up in college was more than enough to confirm the worst case scenario. “I had heard the statistics before, and I grew up with enough privilege to mistakenly think I was not at risk,” she wrote. “As it turns out, I became a living testament to the statistics I had so casually tossed aside.” 

Education is a distinct privilege and one of the best means for anyone to advance in life. The fact that conduct on campuses continues to be more and more sexually threatening to women is an urgent concern for us all. The best thing we can do is arm ourselves and those just beginning their college experience with the necessary information to understand and navigate this nuanced landscape. —Megan Madden

Chris Cornell, Voice of Audioslave and Soundgarden, Dies at 52

Singer and songwriter Chris Cornell passed away this week in a death that was ruled a suicide. The loss of the singer whose iconic voice made him famous for his work with Audioslave, Temple of the Dog, and his solo work has “shocked” his wife and family and has shaken the music world. Cornell’s most recent single was a beautiful song called “The Promise,” written to accompany the upcoming film on the Armenian genocide, the proceeds for which Cornell indicated will go to the International Rescue Committee. Our thoughts and prayers are with Cornell’s family. —MRS

‘NY Times’ Piece Suggests Motherhood Is to Blame for Wage Gap

Two new studies suggest that the sudden widening in the gender pay gap for women in their late twenties and early thirties is due to the fact that "having children, and even marrying in the first place, hurts women’s pay relative to men’s," the New York Times reported last week. Both papers were written by a group of American and Norwegian economists. The research shows that even in cases where both spouses are working full time, the division of labor in the home is still unequal, "women are more likely to give up job opportunities to either move or stay put for their husband’s job," and "married women might also take less intensive jobs in preparation for children, or employers might not give them more responsibility because they assume they’ll have babies and take time off." The findings aren't particularly surprising, especially to women who have experienced the struggle of juggling a career while having children, but the question remains: How can we create an equal society that also values the unique contribution of women and mothers, whether they work while their kids are young or not? —Sophie Caldecott

Miss USA Speaks on Women in STEM

The Internet was atwitter this week after D.C. native and nuclear scientist Kára McCullough was crowned Miss USA. The controversy? McCullough insisted that women have just as much opportunity as men in the field of science. As someone with firsthand experience in the field, she said, “women we are just as equal to men when it comes to opportunity in the workplace.” She goes on to explain that she would like to use her role as Miss USA to further encourage this kind of leadership. This didn’t compute for many feminists this week. How could a strong woman be so off script?

Cosmopolitan even went as far to claim that she must not have meant what she said, claiming McCullough “inadvertently” diminished gender equality. But for Verily this week, Tiffany Owens explains that if we look at the research, we’ll see that McCullough was more on point than many would like to portray her: “The equality problem for women in STEM, McCullough seemed to suggest, is not an opportunity problem. Women have the option to get into the field; it’s an issue with them getting into positions of leadership.” Maybe strides could be made for women in STEM if we took a closer look at the facts and revised the script? —Monica Gabriel Marshall

James Corden Will Return to Host Grammys 2018

This week it was announced that late-night TV host James Corden, the man who’s responsible for the phenomenon of Carpool Karaoke, is returning to host the Grammys in 2018. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed Corden’s hosting of last year’s Grammys, I approve of this message. —MRS

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