I have spent a lot of my career representing women who have been fired, who have been denied tenure, who after a turf war with a male colleague get frozen out while the man gets promoted. Many decades after equality legislation came into force, this steady stream of cases where capable and excellent women get the short end of the stick remains the simple reality of work. …

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When the Great Plague swept through London in 1665, the grim work of tending to the sick and dead fell to women, often vulnerable women, the elderly, widowed, and penniless. They received no public accolades for this necessary but unenviable work. Rather, they were reviled and shunned as pestilential bandits, preying on corpses. Thankfully, amid the current Coronavirus pandemic, much has changed.

Yet not nearly enough. The rapid spread of COVID-19 has set in motion frightening fears and restrictions unknown to most Americans and the rest of the world for several generations. …

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The first woman candidate for the presidency, Victoria Woodhull, faced real challenges. For one, only men could vote. For another, her stance on equal say in marriage and divorce was raucously ridiculed. A cartoon in Harper’s Weekly sketched her as the devil, horns and all. She had, in the language of pundits and politicos today, “a likeability problem.”

So did Elizabeth Warren. …

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Since its inception in the early 20th century, the Rhodes Scholarship has produced more than a few members of the American ‘power elite.’ The roster includes a president and presidential candidates, ambassadors and cabinet members, and among the women (only admitted in 1977), a National Security Advisor and Secretary of the Air Force. So how the Rhodes Trust, which operates the Scholarship, operates can have an impact outside academia. …

The tragi-comic difference between a female politician felled by a consensual, but “unethical” same-sex relationship and the male politicians (and CEOs and religious leaders) surviving numerous credible allegations of sexual assault and harassment is hard to ignore.

But what effectively killed Katie Hill’s career in Congress wasn’t so much her relationship with a congressional aide (unethical as that may have been because of the power differential) — it was revenge porn. I should know: I see its devastating effects every day in my practice.

We will all be seeing more of it. Katie Hill will not be the last female politician to be brought down with this weapon. It’s far too effective at kneecapping the women who’ve achieved public prominence and power, and who’ve committed the increasingly common act of posing for or taking intimate photos of themselves. …

Last presidential election cycle it was conveniently easy to lay the faults of Democratic defeat at the feet of singularly “shrill”, “robotic” and “uninspiring” (but popular-vote winning) Hillary Clinton. This cycle we have an actual handful of diverse female candidates, and strangely enough, they’re all lacking in charisma and that ineffable “it” quality that moves journalists to write fevered paeans to their bold vision and authentic, inevitable leadership.

It’s become harder to pretend that systemic bias doesn’t play a part. As a feminist it’s become practically impossible to not see that the Trump/Clinton dynamic has depressingly become the Beto/Warren dynamic, (or the Buttigieg/Gillibrand, make you your own combination as you please). …

Calling the National Enquirer’s bluff might just work for Jeff Bezos. Everybody else still needs the law.

Victims of revenge porn have gained an unlikely new champion: Amazon’s founder (and the Washington Post’s owner) Jeff Bezos. Apparently blackmailed by the National Enquirer over leaked sexy selfies sent to his girlfriend, Bezos turned the tables on the tabloid by posting the threatening emails on Medium, complete with the phone number of the Enquirer’s lawyer. Bezos has been lauded for his courage, and now, in the spirit of Mae West’s “too much of a good thing is wonderful,” there are calls for him to preempt the Enquirer completely by posting his nude selfies himself.

Dan Savage, an American sex and romance columnist, argued earlier this week: “by self-publishing your own nude photos, you can turn the tables on the sexual and cultural hypocrisy that allows people like him to weaponize nude photos in the first place. “ As a lawyer focusing on revenge porn, I’d be thrilled to see Bezos up the ante like this. As he points out himself: “If in my position I can’t stand up to this kind of extortion, how many people can?” But the answer, as Bezos acknowledges, is “not that many people.” While the shame blackmail depends upon would evaporate if everyone always called blackmailers’ bluff, we shouldn’t rightly expect everyone to follow his example. I applaud him for exposing the maddening hypocrisy of the norms (usually much harder on women) that say your nakedness is something other people get to exploit. But unfortunately, that solution is, unlike his business empire, not scalable. Bezos can do this because he’s literally the richest man on earth. He’s also straight and white and, frankly, his selfies seem safely on the tamer side. Releasing those pictures would cost him some privacy but not much else — unlike for most people, including my clients. …

Ryan Broll, assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at the University of Guelph, published an op-ed in The Star this week about revenge porn. He argues that, even if revenge porn laws in his native Canada were strengthened, they could only provide victims recourse after the crimes have occurred rather than any sort of preventive cure. Perpetrators of revenge porn, furthermore, often act impulsively without considering the consequences of their actions, so laws do not necessarily provide big enough deterrents to prevent people from posting non-consensual content in the first place.

Broll proposes that educating children about the impact of revenge porn and about how to maintain healthy relationships online could help taper the surge of revenge porn that has risen over the past few years. Educating boys, in particular, about how to effectively deal with feelings of anger through open dialogue and empathy could help prevent a number of gender-based crimes. …

It is OBSCENE that Women’s Equality candidate in Nimco Ali has to carry the burden of fearing for her safety, it’s obscene that the hard-working volunteers at the Women’s Equality Party have to fear for their lives reading a message of “I’m 10 minutes away”, and it’s downright perverse that the murder of Jo Cox is invoked, as a gruesome example, to scare us into silence and submission.

But it’s also disappointingly predictable. We know this monster we’re fighting — it’s the rankest, oldest kind of sexism, the kind that is not afraid to kill and maim to keep us quiet and down. The kind we’d all like to pretend died out long ago. …


Dr. Ann Olivarius

Lawyer & Feminist, Senior Partner at McAllister Olivarius. Litigation in US/UK, and Title IX. +44 (0)7983531539 http://www.mcolaw.com and www.consentlawyers.com

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