We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Legendary Newswoman Cokie Roberts Passes Away
Pioneering journalist and best-selling author Cokie Roberts died on Tuesday at 75. Born Mary Martha Corrine Morrison Claiborne Boggs, she often told the story of being nicknamed “Cokie” by her older brother, who couldn't wrap his tongue around “Corrine.” Her father was a Democratic congressman from Louisiana; after he died in 1972, her mother, Lindy Boggs, was elected to his seat and eventually ended her own career as the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.
Cokie, meanwhile, was blazing trails at CBS, NPR, and ABC News at a time when few professional journalists were women. Along with Nina Totenberg and Linda Wertheimer, she was one of the “Founding Mothers” of NPR, becoming one of the most recognizable voices on the radio. On television, Roberts anchored ABC's This Week alongside Sam Donaldson and was a correspondent for the MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour on PBS. Throughout Roberts’ success, she insisted that family was most important: when asked what she considered the best part of her career, she replied by talking first about her husband, children, and grandchildren. She and fellow journalist Steve Roberts celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 2017.
In 2002, Cokie was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her treatment was successful and allowed her to continue working for more than a decade. Her last appearance on This Week was in August, and her physical condition sparked concern from viewers. That prompted her to release a statement saying she was “fine” and expressing her anticipation for covering the next election.
We will all miss Cokie Roberts' unique voice and the weight of history she brought to political analysis and journalism. May she rest in peace, and may her family and friends be comforted. —Margaret Brady
Research Suggests Millions of Women Were Assaulted the First Time They Had Intercourse
A heartbreaking new study indicates that 1 in 16 American women were raped the first time they had sex.
Between 2011 and 2017, public health researchers for the CDC studied more than thirteen thousand women, asking them about marriage, divorce, sex, and other topics. More than six percent of respondents said their first experience with intercourse was a result of force or coercion. That equates to more than three million women nationwide, with lead study author Dr. Laura Hawks telling PBS that the numbers represent “the tip of the iceberg.”
Seven percent of the women who'd been forced into their first sexual encounter said it happened to them before they turned ten. In total, 75 percent of these women said their assault occurred when they were girls younger than eighteen.
Among other consequences for them: a higher incidence of abortion and reproductive health problems, compared to women who'd consented to have sex. Females of all ages and socioeconomic statuses were represented in the numbers, but poor and minority women were more likely to report their first time having sex was rape.
The new research sheds additional light on the huge ranks of women all around us—our friends, co-workers and family members—who are bearing the burden of sexual trauma. More than ever we need to be there for each other, as so many of us continue to cope with the aftermath of intimate violence. —MB
Dr. Leana Wen and Planned Parenthood End Employment Dispute
The conflict between Planned Parenthood and its former president, Dr. Leana Wen, flared up this week, with Wen accusing her erstwhile employer of trying to silence her voice. On Tuesday, the two sides abruptly settled their dispute.
Over the weekend, a letter Wen wrote to the board of the nonprofit was leaked to the New York Times. In it, she assailed Planned Parenthood leaders for insisting she sign a restrictive confidentiality agreement in exchange for honoring her severance benefits, including health insurance. “No amount of money can ever buy my integrity and my commitment to the patients I serve,” the Times quoted the letter as saying. Wen was abruptly fired in July after less than a year at the helm of Planned Parenthood, reportedly due to conflicts over the direction of the organization.
On Tuesday, both sides issued statements declaring the conflict over. “I am relieved that the dispute with Planned Parenthood has been resolved & I will not comment any further on this private employment matter,” Wen posted on Twitter. Earlier, she had tweeted about a new role as a visiting professor at George Washington University, as well as announcing her current pregnancy. Just prior to her firing this summer, Wen had gone public with news about a miscarriage.
These developments add a chapter to a story that has developed over the last year, in which Planned Parenthood has found itself at odds with some of its most high-profile employees. Reports continue to emerge from former workers of problems with the organization's business practices. —MB
Instagram Restricts Underage Users’ Access to Harmful Dieting Ads
This past week, Instagram in partnership with actress Jameela Jamil announced new restrictions surrounding weight-loss products. The new rules “restrict any posts promoting weight-loss products or cosmetic procedures with an "incentive to buy" or a price attached so that under-18s can't see them,” and “remove any content that makes a "miraculous claim about certain diet or weight loss products" and comes with a commercial offer such as a discount code.”
This is huge news, especially as many influencers including members of the Kardashian family have profited off of ads promoting anything from diet pills to detox teas. Kim Kardashian-West faced backlash for promoting sponsored posts for a brand of weight-loss lollipops. Instagram eventually took the posts down, although they later apologized. Jamil has been at the forefront of the “I Weigh” campaign and she has publicly condemned how Photoshop negatively affects body image and she has called out celebrities and influencers for their promotion of unhealthy and unproven methods of weight loss. "This is a huge win for our ongoing fight against the diet/detox industry," Jamil said in a statement.
“We have hyper-normalized flogging nonsense to young impressionable people,” Jamil told Elle UK. “These people are selling hair growth gummies, but wearing extensions or photoshopping themselves to look slimmer and selling a weight loss shake. There are so many lies being told and we’ve accepted that as a cultural norm.” We look forward to seeing how this positive change affects social media culture, and here’s to hoping that this statement will make influencers and celebrities think twice before posting. —Gabriella Patti
New Report Alleges Further Brett Kavanaugh Sexual Misconduct
This past weekend the New York Times published an essay focusing on the culture at Yale when Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh was a student. It provided further details about one of the allegations of sexual assault brought forward against him along with some new information about another assault that had previously gone unreported. The essay, written by journalists Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly, was adapted from their upcoming book The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation.
Allegations against Kavanaugh, most notably from Dr. Christina Blasey Ford, who claimed that while in high school Kavanaugh assaulted her at a party, came to light during his confirmation hearings last year. Deborah Ramirez, who attended Yale alongside Kavanaugh also came forward with allegations of assault, and while she is the main focus of the Times's essay, her story is corroborated both by witnesses to the event in question and by the newly reported, similar allegations. According to the article, “Ms. Ramirez’s legal team gave the F.B.I. a list of at least 25 individuals who may have had corroborating evidence. But the bureau—in its supplemental background investigation—interviewed none of them, though we learned many of these potential witnesses tried in vain to reach the F.B.I. on their own.” The new allegations reported by Yale classmate, Max Stier, who claims to have witnessed Kavanaugh sexually assaulting a woman at a different party, were also reported to the FBI as well as several senators.
The new allegation and the details about the handling of Ramirez’s claim have led to calls for Kavanaugh’s impeachment. While many including President Trump have spoken out in defense of Kavanaugh and have called the ongoing reporting of Kavanaugh’s alleged sexual misconduct a “witch hunt,” the two journalists responsible for the essay and upcoming book have been very open about their journalistic process over the ten-month period when they investigated Kavanaugh. “As women, we could not help but be moved by the accounts of Ford and Ramirez, and understand why they made such a lasting impact,” Pogrebin and Kelly wrote. “As reporters, we had a responsibility to test those predilections. We had to offer Kavanaugh the benefit of the doubt, venturing to empathize with his suffering if he were falsely accused.” —GP
Fans Get a Chance to Check into “Hotel Downton Abbey”
If you've been daydreaming about waking up in Downton Abbey, now's your chance—Highclere Castle, the grand estate that is featured in the TV show, is going to be listed on Airbnb.
The property belongs to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, and it's been opened to the public before for special occasions and on certain days during the year. But now, two lucky guests will get to spend the night on November 26. They'll have dinner with the Earl and Countess and be waited on by Highclere's butler. After coffee is served in the library, the visitors will head up to sleep in one of the castle's three hundred rooms.
The Masterpiece Theatre series Downton Abbey, which ran from 2010 to 2015, combined dramatic storylines with delightful costumes, lush scenery, and a window into glamorous late-Edwardian society. A much-anticipated Downton movie is being released in theaters on September 20, with the plot reportedly revolving around a royal visit to the Abbey by King George V and Queen Mary.
The listing goes live on October 1, and hopeful fans are advised to make sure their Airbnb profiles have positive reviews. Luckily, it's all to benefit the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. —MB
PSA Highlights Children's Fears of School Shootings
A public service announcement “Back to School Essentials,” released this week by the nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise, took a gutwrenching look at the fear and danger that many young children experience when returning to school. In the PSA school children are shown using new school supplies and accessories as weapons and emergency supplies in the case of a school shooting.
According to the Washington Post, since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, more than 228 thousand children and teens have experienced a school shooting. While the makers of the video hope to spread an anti-gun message, for folks on all sides of the political spectrum, it’s likely to evoke a renewed desire for the prevention of further tragedies. —GP
Good News of the Week
Breast cancer survivor Sarah Thomas just became the first person to swim the English Channel four times without stopping. Thomas completed the swim in just over fifty-four hours—a swim that was supposed to be a mere 80 miles, but due to tidal pulls became more like 130 miles.
Thomas, who has used swimming as a way of coping, dedicated her record-breaking swim to all breast cancer survivors, having just completed her own treatment in 2018. Thomas has a background as an experienced swimmer and had swum the English Channel in 2012 and again in 2016. While other swimmers have gone before her and set the previous record of a three-leg journey across the channel, she is now the first to have completed the fourth leg. Swimmer Lewis Pugh tweeted about Thomas’s feat saying: "Just when we think we've reached the limit of human endurance, someone shatters the records." —GP
Watch of the Week
Cokie Roberts recalls her favorite roles as a woman, and expounds on the female ability to caretake and "mother" others, whatever one's state in life.
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