James Franco accusers are ‘jumping on the #MeToo bandwagon’, say actor’s lawyers

Franco denies allegations and asks Los Angeles county superior court to dismiss lawsuit against him

James Franco has responded to allegations of sexual harassment by two former students by claiming they were an attempt to jump on the [#MeToo] bandwagon and played into the medias insatiable appetite to ruin the next celebrity.

In a demurrer filed on 28 February to the Los Angeles county superior court, Francos lawyers asked that the lawsuit filed in October by Sarah Tither-Kaplan and Toni Gaal be dismissed, saying none of the alleged events detailed had happened, and the statute of limitations had passed for the accusations.

Tither-Kaplan and Gaal have alleged that a now-defunct programme run by Francos Studio 4 acting school had enabled Franco and his male collaborators to engage in widespread inappropriate and sexually charged behavior towards female students by sexualizing their power as a teacher and an employer by dangling the opportunity for roles in their projects. Among other claims, Tither-Kaplan say Franco allegedly removed plastic guards that had been placed over actors genitals while he simulated oral sex.

In the demurrer, Francos lawyers state: The salacious allegations in the complaint have made great tabloid fodder, but like most tabloid stories, they are false and inflammatory, legally baseless and brought as a class action with the obvious goal of grabbing as much publicity as possible for attention-hungry plaintiffs.

The filing by Franco denies that actors were pressured to participate in nude scenes, saying that all performers had signed nudity waivers and no complaints were made at the time. It also denies that vaginal guards were removed as Tither-Kaplan alleged, saying that all of the performers using them confirmed this was the case.

In a statement the plaintiffs lawyer James Vagnini rebutted the filing. Mr. Francos aggressive effort to position himself as the victim and smear the reputation of the survivors who have come forward is, unfortunately, a tactic commonly used by perpetrators of wrongdoing We firmly believe Mr Francos claims to be without merit and we are confident that, as we work through the legal process and hear from numerous other witnesses and survivors, we will achieve full justice.

In 2018, he was accused of sexual misconduct by five women (including Tither-Kaplan), which he denied, and was sharply criticised only, including by Breakfast Club actor Ally Sheedy, after wearing a Times Up badge to the 2018 Golden Globes.

Franco is described in the statement as an ardent believer in the righteousness of the #MeToo and Times Up movements.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Belgium gets first female PM as Sophie Wilms takes office

Caretaker leader replaces Charles Michel, who will be European council president

Belgiums first female prime minister in its 189-year history has taken office, after Sophie Wilms was named as the head of the countrys next caretaker government.

Wilms succeeds the liberal leader Charles Michel, who will become president of the European council on 1 December. Her role has been described as a poisoned chalice, as linguistically divided parties struggle to form a government.

Belgium has had a caretaker government since December last year when Michels four-party coalition collapsed as the Flemish nationalists quit in protest at a UN migration pact.

Elections in late May have so far failed to yield a fresh government and reinforced the countrys political divide, with the wealthier Dutch-speaking Flemish north voting in large numbers for the nationalist right, while the francophone south handed victory to traditional socialists.

Describing her appointment as a great honour and a great responsibility, Wilms acknowledged leading a caretaker government does not leave us with much opportunity to act and urged the formation of a fully fledged government as soon as possible.

Belgium went 541 days without a government in 2010-11, a world record for a country in peacetime. Northern Irelands Stormont assembly and executive, which has not sat for more than 1,000 days, overtook the Belgian total in August 2018, but is not considered eligible for the record since laws can still be passed at Westminster.

Wilms, 44, has had a rapid rise in politics since joining Belgiums federal government in 2015 as budget minister. Born in Brussels to a political family, she began her political career as a local councillor in the Belgian capital. Wilms was later elected to local government in Rhode Saint-Gense (Sint-Genesius-Rode), one of six Flemish communes encircling Brussels that have large French-speaking minorities, leading to frequent disputes over language rights.

Her task as prime minister is complicated by being a member of the francophone liberal party, which lost ground in the May elections and is only the fourth-largest party.

Wilms is seen as an ally of the outgoing prime minister and has been criticised in the fiscally conservative northern Flanders region for not doing more to deliver a balanced budget.

The Dutch-language daily De Standaardpointed out Wilms was little known in Flanders, but said she spoke good Dutch and had a good dose of charisma.

In a front-page editorial, Le Soir said her nomination was an elevator to the scaffold, calling Wilms a prime minister that hid a political vacuum. While describing her appointment as a big step forward for women in Belgium, the leader writer Batrice Delvaux accused the countrys politicians of great hypocrisy. She pointed out Michels government had failed to reach gender parity during its five years in office.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Ireland has changed utterly: the cruel eighth amendment is history | Ivana Bacik

An end to our 35-year struggle for safe, legal abortion is at last in sight, writes senator and campaigner Ivana Bacik

Ireland has spoken and we have made history. The clause inserted into our constitution in 1983 that bestowed on the unborn a right to life equal to that of a pregnant woman can at last be removed. Exit polls project and official results are expected to confirm later on Saturday that the referendum to repeal the eighth amendment has been passed by a resounding majority.

After 35 years, we will now be able to reform our abortion laws and provide women in Ireland with access to the reproductive healthcare we need. We will end what has been described as an English solution to an Irish problem. Our women will no longer need to travel abroad to access abortions, and we will no longer need to import abortion pills illegally and without access to medical care or support.

How did we succeed in achieving such a result? Over the many weeks of this long campaign, I have been out canvassing extensively for a yes, in Dublin and elsewhere. The growing public awareness of the immense harm and hardship caused by the eighth amendment became increasingly apparent to me over the campaign. That awareness explains the immensely significant referendum vote in support of reform on Friday.

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‘A monumental day for women in Ireland’, says Orla O’Connor video

In truth, many people in Ireland had already recognised the reality that the eighth amendment represented an absolute bar to any lifting of the prohibition on abortion even in cases of rape, risk to womens health or fatal foetal abnormality. The constitutional clause had generated or been implicated in a series of tragic cases. These included the 1992 X case, where a pregnant 14-year-old rape victim was denied the right to travel to the UK to terminate her pregnancy. This case led to a ruling by the supreme court which said that where pregnancy posed a real and substantial risk to a womans life, in the case of X the risk that she would take her own life, abortion should be allowed.

A more recent, and utterly tragic, case was the death in 2012 of Savita Halappanavar. Here was a young woman whose request for a termination of pregnancy when she presented while miscarrying at Galway University hospital was denied on grounds that the risk was only to her health and not to her life until it was too late. She died of sepsis as a result.

Over the years, public opinion had thus shifted towards supporting repeal of the constitutional ban and for legal abortion to take place in Ireland. This change was also influenced by a number of international law cases in which the Irish state was found to have breached womens human rights by forcing them to carry pregnancies to term even in cases where they knew their babies would not be born alive.

The political momentum for change led to the establishment in 2017 of two processes to review the amendment: a citizens assembly and a cross-party parliamentary committee. Both recommended repeal and called for the Irish parliament to bring in legislation enabling doctors to offer compassion and care to women in crisis pregnancies.

As a result, the referendum was announced, and the government also proposed a framework for legislation based on the findings of the committee. This legislation would provide for legal abortion up to 12 weeks without restriction as to reasons; and for abortion to be legally available after that point only on grounds of risk to life, serious risk to health or fatal foetal abnormality. The introduction of such a law was vociferously opposed by no campaigners, who argued that it would lead to abortion on demand and asserted that it would be dangerous to leave the job of making law to elected legislators, on the basis that politicians cant be trusted a profoundly populist and anti-democratic argument.

The resounding yes vote we appear to have now achieved shows that the majority of Irish citizens simply rejected the scaremongering tactics of the no side. It shows that as a society we recognise the need for our democratically elected legislators to introduce an appropriate legal framework for the regulation of lawful termination of pregnancy. We can now proceed to legislate.

As a student campaigner in the 1980s I was taken to court and threatened with prison for distributing information to Irish women on where to access abortion. I am very grateful to my fellow Irish citizens who appear to have voted so overwhelmingly for a more democratic, equal and progressive Ireland.

  • Ivana Bacik is an Irish Labour party senator and campaigner for abortion rights

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Men, you want to treat women better? Here’s a list to start with

Over the last week, theres been a lot of talk about how women are treated in the workplace and elsewhere. TV writer Nicole Silverberg argues that if men want to step up, they can

Hey men, what are you planning to do better? Because you need to do better. Here are ideas on how you should treat women better.

  • Talk to your friend who is kind of a creep at work.
  • Dont talk over women.
  • If you are asked to be on a panel/team and see that its all men, say something. Maybe even refuse the spot!
  • When you see another guy talk over a woman, say: Hey, she was saying something.
  • Learn to read a fucking room.
  • Dont call women crazy in a professional setting.
  • Dont use your feminism as a way to get women to trust you. Show us in your day-to-day life, not in your self-congratulatory social media.
  • Dont touch women you dont know, and honestly, ask yourself why you feel the need to touch women in general.
  • Do you feel that any woman on earth owes you something? She doesnt. Even if youre like, Hm, but what about basic respect? ask yourself if youve shown her the same.
  • Dont send pictures of your penis unless she just asked for them.
  • If a woman says no to a date, dont ask her again.
  • If a woman has not given an enthusiastic yes to sex, back the hell off.
  • If a woman is really drunk, she cannot consent to you and she also cannot consent to your buddy who seems to be trying something. Your buddy is your responsibility, so say something and intervene.
  • If you do the right thing, dont expect praise or payment or a pat on the back or even a thank you from that woman. Congratulations, you were baseline decent.
  • Involve women in your creative projects, then let them have equal part in them.
  • Dont make misogynistic jokes.
  • Dont expect women to be nice or cute and dont get upset when they arent those things.
  • Dont make assumptions about a womans intelligence, capabilities or desires based on how she dresses.
  • Pay women as much as you pay men.
  • If a woman tells you that you fucked up, and you feel like shit, dont put it on that woman to make you feel better. Apologize without qualification and then go away.
  • Dont punish women for witnessing your vulnerability.
  • Dont get defensive when you get called out.
  • Dont need to literally witness a man being horrible in order to believe that hes horrible. Trust and believe women.
  • Dont use your power to get womens attention/company/sex/etc.
  • Be aware of your inherent power in situations and use it to protect women, especially via talking to other men.
  • Stop thinking that because youre also marginalized or a survivor that you cannot inflict pain or oppress women.
  • If womens pain makes you feel pain, dont prize your pain above hers, or make that pain her problem.
  • Dont read a list like this and think that most of these dont apply to you.

(These also apply to how to better treat transgender and non-binary people, who are in more danger than cis women).

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Saudi Arabia to allow women to obtain driving licences

King Salman ordered the reform in a royal decree delivered on Tuesday night, requesting that drivers licences be issued to women who wanted them

Women in Saudi Arabia have been granted the right to drive, overturning a cornerstone of Saudi conservatism that had been a cause clbre for activists demanding reforms in the fundamentalist kingdom.

King Salman ordered the reform in a royal decree delivered on Tuesday night, requesting that drivers licences be issued to women who wanted them.

Following the decree, women will no longer need permission from a legal guardian to get a licence and will not need a guardian in the car when they drive, said the new Saudi ambassador to Washington DC, Prince Khalid bin Salman bin Abdulaziz.

I think our leadership understands our society is ready, he told reporters.

Asked by reporters if Saudi Arabia planned to relax the guardianship laws, or take any other steps to expand womens rights, Salman would not comment.

The US state department welcomed the move as a great step in the right direction.

The decision comes amid a broad reform program that last week led to women being allowed into a sports stadium for the first time.

It is the most significant change yet to a rigidly conservative social order in Saudi Arabia that has strictly demarcated gender roles, and severely limits the role of women in public life.

Earlier this month, a Saudi cleric was banned from preaching after saying that women should not be allowed to drive because their brains shrink to a quarter the size of a mans when they go shopping.

The move had been widely anticipated amid a transformation of many aspects of Saudi society that has been branded by one senior minister as cultural revolution disguised as economic reform. Recent months have seen live concert performances in Riyadh albeit to male-only audiences while the powers of the once-omnipresent religious police have been curtailed.

Saudi Arabia had been the last country in the world in which women were banned from driving a fact that was frequently used by critics as proof that female citizens of the kingdom were among the worlds most repressed.

The most recent campaign to allow female drivers started in Saudi Arabia about 10 years ago, and reached a peak in 2013, when several women who had sat behind the wheel on the countrys roads were briefly arrested by police.

In response to the announcement, Manal al-Sharif, who became the public face of the campaign, after she was imprisoned for driving, tweeted: Today the last country on earth to allow women to drive we did it.


#NewProfilePic#Women2Drive @LatuffCartoons pic.twitter.com/KQ4n0Zblp1

September 26, 2017

Loujain Hathloul, who was detained for more than two months after she tried to drive into Saudi Arabia from Dubai tweeted simply: praise be to God.

Strict guardianship laws, which mean that husbands or fathers can prevent their wives or daughters from leaving the home gave cover to the driving ban, which has long been accepted by many in the intensely conservative kingdom.

A committee formed by senior officials will now have 30 days to study how to implement the move.

Saudi Arabias new Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman, had viewed allowing women to drive as a key plank of reforms, insisting that the move would lead to higher female participation in the workforce and a breakdown of gender roles that limit social interaction between men and women outside immediate family environments.

However, the Crown Prince and his father, King Salman, had feared that moving too quickly on reforms would cause anger among the clerical establishment and elements of Saudi society who adhere to rigid interpretations of Sunni Islamic teachings that have taken root in large parts of the country over more than a century.

As well as being allowed to enter the National Stadium in Riyadh on Saturday to celebrate the 87th anniversary of the founding of the kingdom, women were also allowed to attend a concert in Jeddah.

In November 1990, 47 Saudi women drove their cars around Riyadh to protest the driving ban. They faced severe punishment at the time and the campaign died away until 2008, when Wajiha Huwaider dared to drive a car around the eastern provinces, escaping arrest.

From 2011 Sharif and another woman, Najla al-Hariri, became global figureheads of a cause that drew the attention of global leaders, who had urged the kingdom to overturn the ban.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

I called Hugh Hefner a pimp, he threatened to sue. But thats what he was | Suzanne Moore

Now that hes dead, the old sleaze in the Playboy mansion is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Quite the opposite, writes Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore

Long ago, in another time, I got a call from a lawyer. Hugh Hefner was threatening a libel action against me and the paper I worked for at the time, for something I had written. Journalists live in dread of such calls. I had called Hefner a pimp. To me this was not even controversial; it was self-evident. And he was just one of the many libertines who had threatened me with court action over the years.

It is strange that these outlaws have recourse in this way, but they do. But at the time, part of me wanted my allegation to be tested in a court of law. What a case it could have made. What a hoot it would have been to argue whether a man who procured, solicited and made profits from women selling sex could be called a pimp. Of course, central to Playboys ideology is the idea that women do this kind of thing willingly; that at 23 they want nothing more than to jump octogenarians.

Now that hes dead, the disgusting old sleaze in the smoking jacket is being spoken of as some kind of liberator of women. Kim Kardashian is honoured to have been involved. Righty ho.

I dont really know which women were liberated by Hefners fantasies. I guess if you aspired to be a living Barbie it was as fabulous as it is to be in Donald Trumps entourage. Had we gone to court, I would like to have heard some of the former playmates and bunnies speakup in court because over the years they have.

The accounts of the privileged few who made it into the inner sanctum of the 29-room Playboy mansion as wives/girlfriends/bunny rabbits are quite something. In Hefners petting zoo/harem/brothel, these interchangeable blondes were put on a curfew. They were not allowed to have friends to visit. And certainly not boyfriends. They were given an allowance. The big metal gates on the mansion that everyone claimed were to keep people out of this nirvana were described by one-time Hefner girlfriend no 1 Holly Madison in her autobiography thus: I grew to feel it was meant to lock me in.

The fantasy that Hefner sold was not a fantasy of freedom for women, but for men. Women had to be strangely chaste but constantly available for the right price. Dressing grown women as rabbits once seen as the height of sophistication is now seen as camp and ironic. There are those today who want to celebrate Hefners contribution to magazine journalism, and I dont dispute that Playboy did use some fantastic writers.

Part of Hefners business acumen was to make the selling of female flesh respectable and hip, to make soft porn acceptable. Every mans dream was to have Hefners lifestyle. Apparently. Every picture of him, right to the end, shows him with his lizard smirk surrounded by blonde clones. Every half-wit on Twitter is asking if Hefner will go to heaven when he already lived in it.

But listen to what the women say about this heaven. Every week, Izabella St James recalls, they had to go to his room and wait while he picked the dog poo off the carpet and then ask for our allowance. A thousand dollars counted out in crisp hundred dollar bills from a safe in one of his bookcases.

If any of them left the mansion and were not available for club nights where they were paraded, they didnt get their allowance. The sheets in the mansion were stained. There was to be no bickering between girlfriends. No condoms could be used. A nurse sometimes had to be called to Hefners grotto if hed had a fall. Nonetheless, these young women would have to perform.

Hefner repeatedly described as an icon for sexual liberation would lie there with, I guess, an iconic erection, Viagra-ed to the eyeballs. The main girlfriend would then be called to give him oral sex. There was no protection and no testing. He didnt care, wrote Jill Ann Spaulding. Then the other women would take turns to get on top of him for two minutes while the girls in the background enacted lesbian scenarios to keep Daddy excited. Is there no end to this glamour?

Well now there is, of course. But this man is still being celebrated by people who should know better. You can dress it up with talk of glamour and bunny ears and fishnets, you can talk about his contribution to gonzo journalism, you can contextualise his drive to free up sex as part of the sexual revolution. But strip it all back and he was a man who bought and sold women to other men. Isnt that the definition of a pimp? I couldnt possibly say.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Americas vitriol towards Clinton reveals a nation mired in misogyny | Hadley Freeman

She has a crucial story to tell, yet critics on both left and right are shouting her down, writes Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman

There has been much talk of late from professed fans of American history about how important it is to remember the major figures from the countrys political past. Sure, those statues are celebrating confederate generals who were willing to die for the right to enslave black people. But still we mustnt forget our political legends, fellow Americans! So its rather intriguing that theres one part of American history that many people are desperate to forget to silence, tear down, steamroller and push out on an ice floe: Hillary Clinton.

Clintons memoir about the 2016 election, What Happened, was published this week and, boy, some people are not happy about it. It is too soon for her to be speaking, goes one complaint (reminder: Bernie Sanders published his book a week after the election and no one complained about that). She is riling up her base and dividing the Democrats, cry others, an idea that is almost sweet in the faith it puts in a book that the vast majority of Americans wont read, written by a woman who couldnt even rile up enough people on a campaign trail that all Americans endured for two years.

She is still not accepting blame and that is repulsive, tut other people when, in fact, she accepts quite a lot of blame in the book. Ive tried to learn from my mistakes. There are plenty, as youll see, and they are mine and mine alone, she writes. But because she points out that other factors played a part in her loss (guess what? They did!), and hasnt nailed herself to a cross and thrown herself over Niagara Falls, she is a responsibility-shirking neolibtard.

Themost overwhelming sentiment about Clinton and her book is that she just needs to go away. One poll this week had 61% of respondents saying Clinton needs to retire, but given that she pretty much has done, what they really mean is she needs to shut up. Meanwhile, Amazon is having to weed out vicious reviews from people it reckons have yet to even read the book and are engaged in a coordinated campaign to rubbish it.

Obviously some of this anger has come from the right, because there are a lot of people who see no contradiction in defending statues commemorating racism while condemning memoirs by presidential candidates. But it has also come at least as much from the left.

Last Sunday the New York Times asked Whats to be done about Hillary Clinton, the woman who wont go away?. When Clinton appeared at an event back in May, one writer from New Yorks liberal tabloid, the Daily News, implored, Hey Hillary Clinton, shut the fuck up and go away. The following month, VanityFair, a decidedly anti-Republican publication, ran an article headlined, Can Hillary Clinton Please Go Quietly Into the Night? It surely doesnt need spelling out that no other failed presidential candidate including the many who have written books about their disappointed hopes has been on the receiving end of this kind of vitriol, this determined attempt to silence.

We obsess over what gave Trump the election, but the one person who apparently shouldnt contribute is the one who was in the eye of the storm. Photograph: Rick Wilking/Reuters

You dont need to like Clinton to grasp that she is an important historical figure. As well as being at the centre of the weirdest and possibly most corrupted election in American history, she is the first female candidate from a major party in a US election, and the first candidate who was also a first lady. These factors alone mean she absolutely should write a book, and even if she spent 500 pages writing Not my fault! Not my fault! it would still be a fascinating document. Again and again, things she warned about on the campaign trail have proven correct, not least the dangers of putting the nuclear codes into the hands of a man who you can bait with a tweet.

And yet her book has been bracketed alongside Ivanka Trumps overprivileged wafflings by one columnist who proudly declared she hadnt bothered to read it, and dismissed as spiteful score-settling and blame-shifting by others who say they have. For the past eight months people have talked obsessively about the factors that gave Trump the election Russia, James Comey, voter suppression, sexism, racism. But the one person who apparently shouldnt contribute to the discussion is the one who was in the eye of the storm.

People have been telling Clinton to shut up for as long as shes been in the public eye, then blaming her for their bad choices. When she said in 1992 that she chose to work instead of staying home to bake cookies, voters were incensed. If I ever entertained the idea of voting for Bill Clinton, the smug bitchiness of his wifes comment nipped that in the bud, one reader wrote to Time magazine. When Clinton was made chair, by her husband, of the task force overseeing the 1993 plan to provide universal healthcare, she was derided as a meddling little woman and multiple news organisations insisted there wasnt an healthcare crisis in the US anyway. When she was elected to the Senate, Trent Lott, the then Republican leader, said he hoped shed be struck by lightning before arriving. She has made concessions to peoples fear of a smart woman: she submitted a cookie recipe to a womens magazine in 1992 in penance for her earlier comment. In the Senate, she poured coffee with a smile for men who had openly said they loathed her.

A long-running justification for this loathing of Clinton, one that has been trotted out often since her election loss, and now again as an excuse to bash her book, is that she is uniquely unlikable. She was a terrible candidate! go the cries, ignoring the fact she was the most qualified candidate in a generation, who got more votes than any candidate ever, with the exception of Barack Obama in 2008.

What these people are really saying is: Only white voters matter. It is an inconvenient truth (to borrow a phrase from another losing candidate who won the popular vote, and yet was never told to clear off when he spoke afterwards), but the only voters who deemed Clinton insufficient were white ones, women included. On the other hand, 95% of black women and 70% of Hispanic women voted for her. Clinton, we have been told repeatedly by writers such as Mark Lilla, failed because she indulged in identity politics, which never wins elections, as if white people dont have an identity and Trump didnt win by explicitly playing to it, such as by taunting a Muslim Gold Star family and characterising Mexican immigrants as rapists and drug-dealers.

Of course people can argue with Clintons ideas. But to dismiss her book without even reading it, with the demand that she shut the fuck up is yet more evidence of the misogyny that has always, obviously, been behind the outsized vitriol she attracts. Worse, she is now an uncomfortable reminder for white liberals that the majority of white Americans would rather vote for a man with a long history of racism than a woman. For all the talk about how Clinton lost because she neglected the working class, 88% of African Americans, who have endured far worse and longer economic hardship than white Americans, voted for her.

Ta-Nehisi Coates writes in his new book, We Were Eight Years in Power: Certainly not every Trump voter is a white supremacist. But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one. There is no justification for that, no matter howmuch others try to blame Clinton. But national self-awareness is painful. How much easier just to burn the witch, and her book.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Pakistani Taliban starts magazine for would-be female jihadists

Editorial urges women to invite like-minded sisters to secret gatherings and to learn how to use weapons and grenades

The Pakistani Taliban have published the first edition of a magazine aimed at convincing women to join them and practise jihad.

The inaugural front cover of Sunnat-i-Khaula which translates as The Way of Khaula and refers to a 7th-century female Muslim warrior shows a woman veiled from head to toe.

The 45-page magazine attempts to depict support from a section of society traditionally despised by the militant group.

As well as an advice column for would-be female jihadists, the magazine contains an interview with the wife of Fazlullah Khorasani, the head of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). She is not named in the interview, in which she talks about marrying Khorasani at 14.

I ask you why now everywhere there is a hue and cry about underage marriages We have to understand that mature boys and girls if left unmarried for too long can become a source of moral destruction of the society, she says.

An opening editorial says the magazine is aimed at encouraging women of Islam to come forward and join the ranks of mujahideen [holy warriors].

Organise secret gatherings at home and invite like-minded jihadi sisters, the editorial suggests. Distribute literature reflecting on the obligation of jihad, arrange physical training classes for sisters. Learn how to operate simple weapons. Learn the use of grenades.

Michael Kugelman, a south Asia specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center in the US, said it made sense for the Pakistani Taliban to launch a womens magazine.

This is a struggling organisation that is trying to re-establish networks and membership after being hit hard on the battlefield in recent years, he said. Women are a strategic demographic because they have the ability to exert influence over their sons. If women are converted to the militant cause, they can encourage their sons or daughters for that matter to join it as well.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

Tech has become another wayfor men to oppress women | Lizzie OShea

We act as if technology were neutral but its not. The challenge now is to remove the gender bias, says human rights lawyer and writer Lizzie OShea

Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive, despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit, wrote former Facebook product manager Antonio Garca Martnez in 2016. They have their self-regarding entitlement feminism, and ceaselessly vaunt their independence. But the reality is, come the epidemic plague or foreign invasion, theyd become precisely the sort of useless baggage youd trade for a box of shotgun shells or a jerry can of diesel. This is from his insider account of Silicon Valley, Chaos Monkeys. The book was a bestseller. The New York Times called it an irresistible and indispensable 360-degree guide to the new technology establishment. Anyone who is surprised by the recent revelations of sexism spreading like wildfire through the technology industry has not been paying attention.

When Susan Fowler wrote about her experience of being sexually harassed at Uber, it prompted a chain of events that seemed unimaginable months ago, including an investigation led by former attorney general Eric Holder, and the departure of a number of key members of the companys leadership team. Venture capitalist Justin Caldbeck faced allegations of harassing behaviour, and when he offered an unimpressive denial, companies funded by his firm banded together to condemn his tepidity. He subsequently resigned, and the future of his former firm is unclear. Since then, dozens of women have come forward to reveal the sexist culture in numerous Silicon Valley technology and venture capital firms. It is increasingly clear from these accounts that the problem for women in the tech industry is not a failure to lean in, it is a cultureof harassment and discrimination that makes many of their workplaces unsafe and unpleasant.

At least this issue is being discussed in ways that open up the possibility that it will be addressed. But the problem of sexism in the tech industry goes much deeper and wider. Technological development is undermining the cause of womens equality in other ways.

American academic Melvin Kranzbergs first law of technology tells us that technology is neither inherently good nor bad, nor is it neutral. As a black mirror it reflects the problems that exist in society including the oppression of women. Millions of people bark orders at Alexa, every day, but rarely are we encouraged to wonder why the domestic organiser is voiced by a woman. The entry system for a womens locker room in a gym recently refused entry to a female member because her title was Dr, and it categorised her as male.

But the issue is not only that technology products reflect a backward view of the role of women. They often also appear ignorant or indifferent to womens lived experience. As the internet of things expands, more devices in our homes and on our bodies are collecting data about us and sending it to networks, a process over which we often have little control. This presents profound problems for vulnerable members of society, including survivors of domestic violence. Wearable technology can be hacked, cars and phones can be tracked, and data from a thermostat can reveal whether someone is at home. This potential is frightening for people who have experienced rape, violence or stalking.

Unsurprisingly, technology is used by abusers: in a survey of domestic violence services organisations, 97% reported that the survivors who use them have experienced harassment, monitoring, and threats by abusers through the misuse of technology. This often happens on phones, but 60% of those surveyed also reported that abusers have spied or eavesdropped on the survivor or children using other forms of technology, including toys and other gifts. Many shelters have resorted to banning the use of Facebook because of fears about revealing information about their location to stalkers. There are ways to make devices give control to users and limit the capacity for abuse. But there is little evidence that this has been a priority for the technology industry.

Products that are more responsive to the needs of women would be a great start. But we should also be thinking bigger: we must avoid reproducing sexism in system design. The word-embedding models used in things like conversation bots and word searches provide an instructive example. These models operate by feeding huge amounts of text into a computer so it learns how words relate to each other in space. It is based on the premise that words which appear near each other in texts share meaning. These spatial relationships are used in natural language-processing so that computers can engage with us conversationally. By reading a lot of text, a computer can learn that Paris is to France as Tokyo is to Japan. It develops a dictionary by association.

But this can create problems when the world is not exactly as it ought to be. For instance, researchers have experimented with one of these word-embedding models, Word2vec, a popular and freely available model trained on three million words from Google News. They found that it produces highly gendered analogies. For instance, when asked Man is to woman as computer programmer is to ?, the model will answer homemaker. Or for father is to mother as doctor is to ?, the answer is nurse. Of course the model reflects a certain reality: it is true that there are more male computer programmers, and nurses are more often women. But this bias, reflecting social discrimination, will now be reproduced and reinforced when we engage with computers using natural language that relies on Word2vec. It is not hard to imagine how this model could also be racially biased, or biased against other groups.

These biases can be amplified duringthe process of language learning. As the MIT Technology Review points out: If the phrase computer programmer is more closely associated with men than women, then a search for theterm computer programmer CVs might rank men more highly than women. When this kind of language learning has applications across fields including medicine, education, employment, policymaking and criminal justice, it is not hard to see how much damage such biases can cause.

Removing such gender bias is a challenge, in part because the problem is inherently political: Word2vec entrenches the world as it is, rather thanwhat it could or should be. But if we are to alter the models to reflect aspirations, how do we decide what kind of world we want to see?

Digital technology offers myriad waysto put these understandings to work. It is not bad, but we have to challenge the presumption that it is neutral. Its potential is being explored in ways that are sometimes promising, often frightening and amazing. To make the most of this moment, we need to imagine a future without the oppressions of the past. We need to allow women to reach their potential in workplaces where they feel safe and respected. But we also need to look into the black mirror of technology and find the cracks of light shining through.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us

‘Ugly women don’t sell burgers’ the trickle-down effect of Team Trump

Fast food boss Andrew Puzder is the new administrations labor secretary nominee despite his endorsement of adverts that objectify women

New research has suggested that female employees at fast food restaurants operated by Andrew Puzder, Donald Trumps nomination for labor secretary, face far higher levels of workplace sexual harassment than the industry average. According to the research conducted by Restaurant Opportunities Center (ROC) United, around 66% of female workers reported sexual harassment at brands owned by CKE restaurants, run by Puzder, compared with the average of 40% across the fast food industry.

The man at the top of this particular food chain has repeatedly made sexist statements and expressed his backing for the infamous adverts that have objectified and sexualised womens bodies to sell hamburgers for CKE restaurants chains including Carls Jr. We believe in putting hot models in our commercials, because ugly ones dont sell burgers, Puzder said, in a 2009 press release. Last year he proudly endorsed the adverts, and stated: I like beautiful women eating burgers in bikinis I used to hear that brands take on the personality of the CEO. And I rarely thought that was true, but I think this one, in this case, it kind of did take on my personality.

Fifty six per cent of the 564 female CKE restaurant employees surveyed reported sexual harassment from customers, including sexual remarks, being asked to have intercourse, being asked to expose their breasts and being followed outside the store. Significantly, some reported that perpetrators directly referenced the adverts. Customers have asked why I dont dress like the women in the commercials, one Tennessee-based Hardees employee told researchers. (Elizabeth Johnson, a spokesperson for Trumps transition team, called the report fake news that was paid for by unions and special interests opposed to Andy Puzders nomination.)

When the person at the top of a company normalises objectification, it makes it much more socially acceptable for others to treat women in a similar way. This is one of the clearest illustrations yet of the trickle-down effect we see when people who themselves exhibit prejudiced views are put in positions of great power. It is a phenomenon we must prepare ourselves to see a great deal more of after Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

The election campaign clearly emboldened prejudice. By December last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center had catalogued more than 1,000 bias-related incidents that had occurred since the election, including anti-immigrant, anti-black, anti-Muslim and anti-LGBT abuse. A local Republican politician in Connecticut was arrested for allegedly pinching a female employees genitals, after saying: I love this new world, I no longer have to be politically correct. A Georgia high-school teacher found a note on her desk telling her that her Muslim headscarf isnt allowed any more. The note continued: Why dont you tie it around your neck & hang yourself with it? It was signed: America.

Trump and Puzder are not the only members of the incoming administration to have been associated with prejudiced views. They join a proposed cabinet of mostly white men including figures such as Stephen Bannon, formerly executive chair of a far-right website that has been described as an online haven for white nationalists, and which hosted articles with titles such as: Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy and Heres why there ought to be a cap on women studying science.

When powerful role models condone bigotry and discrimination, they make it much easier for hate-fuelled incidents, already so often dismissed or ignored, to be brushed under the carpet in wider society. And when men in power seem to be able to speak and act with impunity, it is much easier for others to excuse similar behaviour.

The lawyer of the Connecticut politician arrested for allegedly grabbing a womans genitals denied any sexual assault and said there had only been a a playful gesture. When a group of male diners at a New York steak house shouted grab them by the pussies at a group of women, restaurant staff reportedly told the women to calm down because these were good guys.

Such leadership also emboldens those who would like to walk back the civil rights and equality gains of the past decades. Self-styled pickup artist Daryush Roosh V Valizadeh (who has called to make rape legal on private property) wrote on his website, in the aftermath of Trumps victory:

Im in a state of exuberance that we now have a President who rates women on a 1-10 scale in the same way that we do and evaluates women by their appearance and feminine attitude

This is our moment, he claimed. [Trumps] presence automatically legitimises masculine behaviours that were previously labelled sexist and misogynist.

The only way to combat this legitimacy and normalisation is for everyday citizens to redouble their efforts to oppose such bigotry. Each one of us has the opportunity, in our actions and reactions, our choices as bystanders and our daily conversations, to speak out against prejudice. When hate-fuelled abuse is spouted on a public bus; when a biased comment is made in the workplace; when bigoted bullying happens on a university campus; the most important behaviour isnt that of perpetrator or victim, but of the bystanders who have a vital choice to make. Would you put your head down, walk on by and say nothing? Would you silently send the message that this is the new normal? Or could you be the person who dares to stand up and make it clear that this is neither accepted nor acceptable, regardless of who is sitting in the Oval Office.

Thousands of people around the world will start by taking a stand this week, joining the Womens March on Washington (and others around the world) on 21st January, to send the message that rhetoric and division like that espoused by Donald Trump wont be quietly accepted or ignored.

Read more: http://www.theguardian.com/us