We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—the Verily editors’ quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Jane Austen Is Honored in U.K. Banknote
Our favorite literary genius Jane Austen was given her very own 10-pound banknote in honor of the 200th anniversary of her death this week. She is the first female author to be featured on a U.K. banknote—a response to the backlash the bank received for not previously featuring a woman on notes. The new Austen bills will be released September 14.
In a funny twist of fate, the quote accompanying Austen's picture reads—“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” It sounds fitting enough, at first read; but any well-versed Austenite knows that this quote comes from a generally disliked character who doesn’t like to read—none other than Caroline Bingley of Pride and Prejudice. Perhaps more fitting would be one of her quotes about money, such as this line from Sense and Sensibility: “Money can only give happiness where there is nothing else to give it.” —Gabriella Patti
New Emojis Include Breast-Feeding Mom
A sneak peek of the next emoji update was released this week, including a zombie and a puking face. But among the more exciting newbies were a Muslim woman wearing a hijab and a breast-feeding mother. It’s exciting to see more female representation in our messaging media, and hopefully this trend continues. As for the vomiting emoji—did we really need that illustrated? —Krysta Scripter
O. J. Simpson May Soon Be a Free Man
OJ Simpson was granted parole yesterday by four members of the Nevada Board of Parole. Simpson appeared before the board as he approaches the minimum time of his 9- to 33-year sentence. Simpson is serving time for his 2008 conviction of kidnapping, armed robbery, and ten other charges; with the parole grant, he could be released as early as October 1. The board decided Simpson can be released after hearing from him, listening to several testimonies, and calculating his risk score. The hearing was supposed to last fifteen minutes but instead went on for more than an hour.
Former prosecutor Christopher Darden argued that while Simpson has been a model prisoner, he should not be released on account of his "narcissistic tendencies" and past "manipulation." However, one of the board members stated that his former cases—including his acquittal in the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman—would not be considered when determining his eligibility for parole. It was made clear to Simpson that any violation of his parole would be taken very seriously. —GP
Fans Are Split Over the Latest ‘Dr. Who’ Casting
The writers behind the British sci-fi favorite Doctor Who caused a stir earlier this week when they announced that actress Jodie Whittaker was cast as the first female character to play Doctor Who. Fans of the show are used to the constant shake-up of actors—as the story line has it, the time-traveling extraterrestrial’s body regenerates into a new bodily form whenever the current form is weakened or harmed. This announcement marks the beginning of the thirteenth, and supposedly final, regeneration.
When I broke the news to my 13-year-old sister, her reaction summed up what many of the female sci-fi fans are currently feeling: "Well, finally!" Others were not so positive. Many took to social media to share their disappointment, even outrage, that a woman had been cast. While Dr. Who has never been lacking in strong female characters, they have only ever played the role of "companion" or have been part of an episode's general plot. Never before have we had a female given the title of "Doctor," and I must say, it feels pretty sweet. It's not possible to fit all women in the same mold, and so it is lovely news for the female contingency of "Whovians" to have Whittaker, someone who looks like us, as our new Doctor. —GP
R. Kelly Is Accused of Holding Women in Sexual Slavery, Buzzfeed Reports
On Monday, Buzzfeed released an investigative report alleging that R&B artist Robert "R.” Kelly has been holding women hostage in a "cult." Several parents of some of Kelly’s young protégés are working to get their daughters back and spoke to Buzzfeed about the alarming experience. One set of parents said that their daughter is “being held against her will” in one of Kelly's several properties in Atlanta and Chicago. The victim in question has since released a video saying she's fine and happily and willfully living with Kelly. The attorney for Kelly also released a statement denying all claims. Meanwhile, three former members of Kelly’s inner circle have backed the parent’s allegations. Kelly’s former assistant Cheryl Mack said that young women go in expecting to live in the lap of luxury. Instead, she says, "You have to ask for food. You have to ask to go use the bathroom. . . . [Kelly] is a master at mind control. . . . He is a puppet master.” Any breaking of the rules results in physical and verbal punishment.
This horrific news is less shocking when considering all of the past sexual assault and misconduct accusations against R. Kelly. Kelly was last tried in 2008 and subsequently acquitted on charges of producing child pornography with his underage goddaughter. Kelly was also previously married to then-15-year-old Aaliyah, which inspired her album, “Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number.”
Here’s hoping the truth of the situation is uncovered and any victims get the help and recovery they need. —GP
Canceled Wedding Turns Into Charitable Event
What are you supposed to do when the $30,000 nonrefundable wedding you spent two years planning is suddenly called off? For one almost-bride, the answer was "give back to the community." For undisclosed reasons, Sarah Cummins’ wedding was called off just a week before the big day. As a result, she decided to invite people from local homeless shelters to her would-be wedding reception at the Ritz Charles in Carmel, Indiana. "For me, it was an opportunity to let these people know they deserved to be at a place like this just as much as everyone else does," Cummins said.
Eric Jensen, who has been staying at a homeless shelter for five months, says Cummins’ kindness in the wake of her tragedy wouldn’t go unnoticed by those she helped. "It's a great opportunity to spread love. Being homeless is kind of a big loss for all of these guys. This is just a very nice thing to do." We can’t help but admire Cummins for making beauty out of an undoubtedly painful situation. —KS
Math Pioneer Maryam Mirzakhani Dies at 40
Last week, award-winning mathematician Maryam Mirzakhani died at age 40 after a battle with breast cancer. In 2015, I wrote for Verily that she was an inspiring woman to watch, never knowing it would only be a year and a half longer that we would be able to do so.
With uncanny insight and a flair for abstract patterns, Mirzakhani quietly became one of the most eminent mathematicians of our time and a true inspiration to other female mathematicians like myself. I never met Mirzakhani, but I can tell you exactly where I was when the elusive Fields Medal in mathematics was announced in 2014, and the jaw-dropping joy I had knowing that—for the first time—a woman had received the award. I wish she could know how my friends and I sent that press release around in group chats with too many exclamation points to count. In those moments, the “leaky pipeline” of women who leave academia loomed less large, and the fear of being unable to balance a family and an academic career also lessened.
Mirzakhani’s legacy is making waves beyond mathematics. In her memory, the president of Iran, where Mirzakhani was born, posted a photo of Mirzakhani without a hijab, breaking strict laws on female dress to do so. Iran is also making changes to its legal system to recognize interfaith marriages so that her daughter will be able visit the country. For me, and other women in the academy, the subtle waves of her influence inspire us all to dig a little deeper into our work, to persist as we build careers, and to hunt for beauty in mathematical patterns. Her death is a huge loss for women in mathematics; her life is a tremendous legacy. —Rachel Wilkerson