We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily's quick takes on the happenings of this week.
More than 5 million women lost jobs in 2020, many of them mothers
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, millions of women have lost their jobs, and mothers have been impacted most of all. In December, women accounted for 100 percent of net losses in the labor market. That put the final 2020 toll at more than 5 million jobs lost for American women.
Research indicates that the pandemic may have disproportionately impacted women for a variety of reasons. Leisure and retail industries, more likely to have high numbers of women, have been hit especially hard by the pandemic. On top of that, even male-dominated industries have seen higher rates of women dropping out, partially because of the strain the pandemic has placed on mothers with children at home. A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics explains, “The interaction of high rates of layoffs in occupations that employ women and extended in-person school and childcare closures may have long-run impacts on maternal labor supply, especially in a situation in which grandparent care has become more dangerous.”
When the kids are at home taking online classes, and letting grandma watch them for the day puts her life at risk, that means mom may feel like she needs to quit or scale back to part-time work. One of four women say for them, this shift could be permanent. But fathers don’t seem to feel the same pressure. One study of dual-income households with Pre-K to elementary school-aged children found that mothers “reduced their paid work hours by about 2 hours per week, while fathers of these children did not reduce their paid work hours.”
Just one year ago, women held slightly more jobs in the United States than men. Now that trend has reversed, and with more than 2 million women saying they’ve dropped out of the workforce entirely, the pandemic’s impact on women in the workforce is likely to linger for years to come. —Madeline Fry Schultz
Censorship concerns abound as Big Tech bans Trump and Parler is kicked off Amazon servers
President Trump was permanently banned from using his personal account on Twitter last week after his tweets appeared to support the rioters who stormed the Capitol. Twitter explained in a statement, “After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.” (Next, Twitter banned more than 70,000 accounts linked to the QAnon conspiracy theory.)
Cutting off a sitting president from his favorite form of communication is no small move, and not everyone was happy with Twitter’s decision to suspend @realDonaldTrump. Reacting to the decision, counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who has been no fan of @realDonaldTrump, said, “it should concern everyone when companies like Facebook and Twitter wield unchecked power to remove people from their platforms.” Congressional and world leaders, including Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, expressed concern over the lack of transparency surrounding Twitter’s decision and the threat that poses to free speech.
Just a few days later, Twitter’s public policy account tweeted that “access to information and freedom of expression, including the public conversation on Twitter, is never more important than during democratic processes, particularly elections.” And no, this wasn’t about Trump getting banned; it was about the upcoming Ugandan election, ahead of which internet service providers have reportedly been ordered to block social media and messaging apps. Conservative commentators were quick to point out the hypocrisy of this policy tweet. Not only did the platform ban Trump, but it also previously censored a New York Post story on Hunter Biden’s allegedly shady dealings during election season.
Twitter isn’t the only platform courting controversy with its selective censorship. Trump himself, or content related to his claims of election fraud and the storming of the Capitol, has now been banned from more than 15 platforms. Facebook and Instagram banned him until Biden takes office; Reddit took down the thread r/DonaldTrump; TikTok and Pinterest are removing or redirecting hashtags like #stormthecapitol; YouTube is cracking down on election fraud claims; and Trump has been banned from Twitch and Shopify.
At present, these platforms can legally choose who to host and who not to. But these recent decisions raise questions about Big Tech’s outsized power to influence our national conversations. They’re also making it hard for competitor platforms to emerge. Parler, a Twitter alternative founded in 2018, was pulled this week by Amazon hosting services, and Apple and Google app stores. The question now is whether the deplatforming will stop with Trump and his supporters or if it will continue—now that Pandora’s box seems to have been opened—with the removal of other ideas that are unpopular, could be labeled “dangerous,” or are simply unfavorable to the tech giants. Who decides where to draw the line? For his part, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey doubled down on the Trump ban this week, saying it was the right decision but adding, “I feel a ban is a failure of ours ultimately to promote healthy conversation. And a time for us to reflect on our operations and the environment around us.”
And if the social media ban wasn’t enough, on Wednesday the House impeached President Trump, again—making him the first president to have been impeached twice. —MFS
The United States executes only woman on death row
Federal death row inmate Lisa Montgomery was executed via lethal injection late Wednesday, making her the first federal execution of 2021 and the first female inmate executed since 1953, when Bonnie Brown Heady was killed for her brutal kidnapping and murder of a six-year-old boy.
Montgomery had been found guilty of a grisly 2004 kidnapping and murder, having ripped out a gestating baby from the womb of 23-year-old Bobbie Jo Stinnett and absconding with the newborn. Attorneys arguing against her execution pointed out that Montgomery was not mentally sound, drawing upon evidence of horrific childhood trauma in order to mitigate her role in the murder; they claimed Montgomery was raped repeatedly by her stepfather and his friends, and threatened by her mother when she discovered the sexual abuse. Criminal psychologists diagnosed her as severely mentally ill and suffering deeply from depression, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress syndrome. But though mentally ill, Montgomery was also cunning, having devised an elaborate ploy to steal a baby and present it as her own in order to sway the judge’s decision in her pending child custody case for her four biological children.
According to police and prosecutors, she had singled out the heavily pregnant Bobbie Jo online, established rapport via their love of canines, and arranged to go to her victim’s home. Once there, she strangled Bobbie Jo and ripped the child out of her stomach, at which point she fled to her farmhouse where she was found the next day with the newborn whom she claimed was her own. Her ex-husband unveiled her strategic motive, explaining that he had accused her of faking a pregnancy and that he was using this fact against her in their ongoing child custody case.
An attorney for Montgomery, who fiercely argued her client’s mental incompetency for death row, was overruled by the Supreme Court in conjunction with the Department of Justice, thus issuing a statement in which she commented that “this failed government adds itself to a long list of people and institutions who failed Lisa... We should recognize Lisa Montgomery’s execution for what it was: the vicious, unlawful, and unnecessary exercise of authoritarian power.” —Mariel Lindsay
Supreme Court okays White House request to limit access to abortion pill
Supreme Court Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s first abortion-related case in her newly minted role centered on the ACLU’s call to increase accessibility to the abortion pill during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday, Amy and the rest of the conservative majority voted to uphold the Trump administration’s request to resume requiring patients receive their abortion drug in-person.
A judge had previously ruled back in June to block the FDA’s previous requirement that the abortion drug mifepristone be picked up in person at a a medical facility, citing the “risks of contracting COVID-19” as the basis for his decision. Then, more recently, the White House requested the Supreme Court ban the block by the lower court judge, a move which ACLU attorney Julia Kaye said needlessly endangers “even more people during this dark pandemic winter.”
Even so, Chief Supreme Court Justice Roberts wrote in his majority decision that he simply did not see sufficient basis “to compel the FDA to alter the regimen for medical abortions.” Liberal dissenting Judge Sonia Sotomayor, meanwhile, accused the “country’s laws” of having “singled out abortions for more onerous treatment than other medical procedures that carry similar or greater risks.”
The ACLU’s Kaye stated that "the Biden-Harris administration must right this wrong on day one and hold firm to its commitment to support both evidence-based regulations and reproductive freedom." —ML
Numbers of women turn to OnlyFans amid economic devastation
OnlyFans, the content subscription service launched in 2016, has joined the ranks of multibillion-dollar empires since the Coronavirus pandemic began, with millions of new accounts created by those facing financial challenges. The website provides an online platform for those seeking to provide private content for a monthly fee. Originally started with social media influencers and celebrities in mind as the primary content creators, OnlyFans has since seen a burgeoning of explicit sexual content on the site.
Some women financially benefiting from the platform have shared their stories publicly, with one single mother of three children telling the New York Times that she started her adult content account after struggling to pay the bills, saying “this is the first year I didn’t have to choose between the electric bill and Christmas presents for my kids.” A sociology professor at the State University of New York explained the upsurge of adult content on the platform, pointing out that “a lot of people are migrating to OnlyFans out of desperation. These are people who are worried about eating, they’re worried about keeping the lights on, they’re worried about not being evicted.”
The platform’s popularity has even reached the socialist dictatorship of Venezuela, where growing numbers of females join the platform as a means to survive constant food and medicine shortages exacerbated by the pandemic. —ML
New movies slated to be released every week on Netflix in 2021
As promised last October, Netflix will be releasing a new movie every week in 2021 on its streaming platform. While other large production studios have been hit hard by the pandemic and closed cinemas, Netflix is quite used to releasing big-budget films for streaming exclusively and will continue to go about business unhindered.
The 2021 slate spans multiple genres, from action and horror, to romance and family—as well as two musicals, including Lin-Manuel Miranda’s tick, tick… Boom! It will see the ending of film trilogies To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Kissing Booth, as well as new films that could spawn franchises of their own, particularly animated feature Wish Dragon.
With drama Pieces of a Woman starring Vanessa Kirby and Shia LaBeouf already out, and action film Outside the Wire starring Anthony Mackie releasing on January 15, the churn-out of new films has already begun. —Alicia Flood
Good News of the Week
In good news this week, we have a story of two women who have maintained long-distance correspondence for seven decades while living worlds apart. Penpals Jill Stretton and Cathie Alexander were connected “in 1950 when 12-year-old Stretton (née Frankling), who hails from Australia, was given Alexander’s (then McIntosh) address by a family friend who’d recently returned from a visit to Scotland,” the Good News Network reports.
While airmail back then took as many as six weeks, “the pair felt an instant rapport after their first communication that’s only grown stronger with time.” The pair shared milestones over the years in writing, and even made in-person visits starting in 1982. “She is just like one of the family,” Stretton told ABC North Queensland of her penpal. “And we are still as together as we ever were 70 years ago. It is quite an achievement.” —Mary Rose Somarriba
Watch of the Week
Whether you’re a sports fan or not, it’s hard not to smile watching this accidental touchdown that happened 14 seconds into the Cleveland Browns’ first playoff win in 18 years. Many of us can relate to being on either side of the fumble.