A Congresswoman Makes History—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.
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Karen

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

Destiny’s Children Have Arrived!

Beyoncé and Jay Z welcomed twins this weekend, after announcing the pregnancy back in February on Instagram. The twins are reportedly being kept in the hospital after having been born prematurely and needing to be “kept under the lights,” a method used for babies born with jaundice. Photos of the infants have yet to be released, and while an official statement has yet to be made, it is rumored that the twins are named Shawn and Bea, which if true would confirm an earlier rumor that Beyoncé gave birth to a boy and a girl. Congratulations to the Carters! —Gabriella Patti

Karen Handel Makes History

Congresswoman Karen Handel made history after winning a congressional seat in Georgia. Handel is the first female Republican representative to be elected from Georgia and is currently the only female member out of the state’s sixteen congresspeople. Democratic Rep. Cynthia McKinney was the last female member elected in Georgia back in 2005. At Handel’s victory speech, she said, "Tonight reminds me, anything is possible."

The race was closely watched, as the special election was the most expensive House race ever and much more closely contested than expected in a traditionally Republican district. According to the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University, women, who make up over half of the U.S. population, only account for less than one-fifth of congressional members. Though there is still gender imbalance, Congress currently has more female members than ever before. —Krysta Scripter

New Study Sheds Light on Male Motivations for Harassing Women

A sad and frustrating reality of day-to-day life as a woman is the undesired street harassment from overconfident strangers. A recent study from Promundo and U.N. Women explored why men feel emboldened to catcall and harass women. The study focused on four areas in the Middle East: Egypt, Lebanon, Morocco and the Palestinian territories. The research showed that men with higher education tend to “hold more enlightened attitudes toward women than those who have had no primary school or schooling at all.” While this is a global phenomenon, researchers believed that there are many regional factors that contribute to this behavior, including high unemployment and political instability. “Perhaps harassing women is a way to assert their power,” suggests Gary Barker, president and CEO of Promundo-US.

As we have written in the past, 65 percent of women have experienced street harassment in one form or another. Understanding the motivation behind these unwanted advances is a step in the right direction and one hopes it will help facilitate a change in our overly sexualized culture. —GP

‘Downton Abbey’ Movie Is the Best News All Week

Ladies and gentlemen, television's favorite aristocrats are reportedly returning to the screen! A Downton Abbey movie was announced to be in the works, with production starting in 2018. President at NBC Universal International Studios, Michael Edelstein, said that they hope to assemble twenty cast members from the beloved TV series. We can hardly contain our excitement, and are keeping our anticipation in check by watching other equally delightful British costume dramas in the meantime! —GP

Uber Founder Resigns Amid Pressures 

The tech community was abuzz this week with the news that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned amid mounting pressure from stakeholders. Uber came under scrutiny this year as allegations of sexual harassment were brought to light through the viral blog post of an engineer, Susan Fowler, that documented interactions with chauvinistic colleagues. Her account of her year at Uber describes a toxic work culture where harassment is systematically discounted. Fowler’s persistence and integrity reinforce standards of transparency and ethics. Women who face sexual harassment in the workplace can “channel their inner Sarah Fowler” by carefully following the chain of command within their organization, documenting notifications, and knowing that harassment is illegal. I hope her courage to blow the whistle and offer substantive suggestions regarding changes to tech work culture provide more far-reaching change than just at Uber. —Rachel Wilkerson

In Other Sexual Assault News: Case Against Bill Cosby Is Ruled a Mistrial, and Bachelor Resumes Filming

If we’re being honest, current news does not make us feel good about the future of women facing harassment, or worse. The sexual assault case against comedian Bill Cosby was declared a mistrial after the jury could not come to a unanimous decision (ABC News reported a juror said it was stalled at a 10-2 decision to convict Cosby). Meanwhile, Warner Bros. announced that filming will resume for the Bachelor in Paradise season, after two weeks of scandal that ended in an internal investigation, in which the show’s producers cleared contestant DeMario Jackson from wrongdoing.

The current national conversation about sexual assault caused author and professor Robert Jensen to write for Verily this week on how rape became “normal” in our society. —KS

Facebook’s New Mission Statement Notes Not All Connections Are Good Ones

This week Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a big change for the social media giant. The company unveiled a new mission statement: "To give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” The new language, which replaced the prior language "to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected,” appears to have come about in response to the trends of Facebook and social media in general correlating with negative emotions, divisiveness, and depression. Connecting people is not enough, Zuckerberg explained in an interview with CNN Tech: “We used to have a sense that if we could just do those things, then that would make a lot of the things in the world better by themselves. But now we realize that we need to do more too.” Zuckerberg added, “It's important to give people a voice, to get a diversity of opinions out there, but on top of that, you also need to do this work of building common ground so that way we can all move forward together."

Zuckerberg emphasized the value of Facebook Groups in contributing to this mission. Currently about 100 million Facebook users are connected to what Zuckerberg calls "meaningful" groups—what CNN describes as “the kinds that become part of your support structure.” According to CNN, Zuckerberg, “says creating these virtual communities is increasingly important as membership in real world organizations like unions, churches, and PTAs decline.” By using artificial intelligence to recommend meaningful groups to people, Zuckerberg says Facebook has “a good shot within five years or so to get to this goal of connecting a billion people to meaningful communities.” Speaking of valuable online communities, isn't it time you joined the VIPs? —Mary Rose Somarriba

The Beguiled Hits Theaters

Sofia Coppola’s Civil War thriller The Beguiled comes out this week in theaters. The movie is a female-centric revival of the 1971 movie starring Clint Eastwood. Coppola won Best Director at Cannes Film Festival for the film, making her the second woman in the history of the festival to win best director.

The film has a star cast, including Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, and Colin Farrell. Farrell portrays a wounded Union soldier who stumbles upon an all-female school in the South. The women take him in, making him the center of attention; eventually chaos and revenge take hold of the house. “I wanted it to be this feminine, gauzy world that doesn’t look threatening at all,” Coppola said, “so that it’s a real surprise when the story shifts.” While Coppola’s film had beautiful cinematography and spectacular acting, it had some unfortunate and cringeworthy sexual undertones that make it difficult to recommend despite many critics' positive reviews. —GP

New Study Shows Men Are in More Commercials than Women

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media revealed new data on advertising media across four years of content. Men appear in ads four times as much as women, the study reports. They also have seven times more speaking roles.

“There’s an expected amount of like, ‘I can’t believe women’s percentages and screen times and speaking time roles [are so] disturbingly low, but the biggest shocker for me was that nothing has changed in the last 10 years,” said Brent Choi, Chief Creative Officer at J. Walter Thompson, an advertising agency in New York.

The data also shows that women are 48 percent more likely to be pictured in a kitchen, whereas men are 50 percent more likely to be shown in a scene at a sporting event.

It’s sort of hilarious that women are more often depicted doing work in their free time, while men are more often depicted at play. If only the Old Spice guy on a horse could come save us from these advertising constraints. In the meantime, enjoy this video the media company Spotlight produced on the topic of women’s work in the kitchen; the Spotlight team took a status update Facebook user snickerdoodle001 wrote at the end of May, edited it to video form, and published it on their Facebook page this week. Food for thought, to say the least. —KS

Photo Credit: The Day After