US Open: Serena Williams’ Defeat Remains a Victory, And More Feminist News

Serena Williams US Open 2019 Bianca Andreesu - Openletr Feminist News.jpeg

US Open: Serena Williams’ Defeat Remains a Victory

Serena Williams lost the US Open Final on September 8, 2019 against opponent Bianca Andreescu. It was a big disappointment for fans yearning to watch the working mom take home her 24th Grand Slam. It was, therefore, undoubtedly difficult to celebrate Andreescu’s victory as many of us came of age associating tennis to the Williams sisters on the women’s end. Will she move up the ranking? As of now, Williams earned 23 titles, behind the all-time number one Margaret Smith Court, who won 24 and the latest three of which in 1973 in Australia, France, and the United States. Nobody knows what is ahead for Williams, but let’s note that these women’s achievements are, by far, higher than their male counterparts. Not only just that, apart from Roger Federer with 20 Grand Slam titles, it is only this past weekend that Rafael Nadal earned his 19th title to reach the fourth-ranked woman on the list of top 5 players.

Triumphing the Australian Open while pregnant, coming back on the fields after an arduous childbirth which nearly cost Serena Williams death, and at 37 years old playing as if her life depended on it is a testimony to women’s strength at large, and perhaps winning 23 Grand Slams is already a long stretch in the realm of tennis. Let’s celebrate this as a victory in itself and remain open to new and upcoming players such as Bianca Andreescu, the 2019 US Open champion, who showed matured strategic and tactical skills at such a young age and so early in her sports career, Coco Gauff, and Naomi Osaka 2019 Australian Open and 2018 US Open winner.

Billie Jean King: Pioneer in Equal Pay Activism

Billie Jean King, who won the famous “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in 1973 against Bobby Riggs, is a hallmark in women’s sports and a highlight in our great national conversation on gender inequality. At the time of that match, she was the highest-paid woman athlete in the world. Still, men were, on average, getting paid eight times what women made in tennis. King is now a big proponent of equal pay. “I’m big on equal pay for equal work,” she tells the Washington Post magazine. “Money matters. Money talks. Money gives you opportunity. A quarter of single parents are men, and three-quarters are women. And when women make less money, they take less money home for their family. And it is baloney. It has to change.” When King was asked to recount the first time she started fighting for equal pay, she responded: “[…] First we fought for $14 a day in amateur tennis. Then I fought for open tennis — pro tennis [for] men and women. Finally, we got it in ’68. So we got paid. But at the first [open] Wimbledon tournament, Rod Laver and I both won in our events. He got 2,000 pounds, and I got 750 pounds. When I got my check, I looked down and went, ‘Oh, criminy. Now we’re going to have to fight for something else.’” Read the full interview here.

Sexism in Hollywood: Crazy Rich Asians’ Co-Writer Quits the Show

Who says sexism is dead and buried in La La Land? The co-writer on the sequel of the smash hit Crazy Rich Asians has left the hot project upon learning that her male partner is making around ten times her salaryThe Hollywood Reporter story rounds the figures out according to multiple sources at $800,000 to $1 million for Peter Chiarelli, a white man, and $110,000-plus for Adele Lim, a Malaysian born writer. Says the Hollywood Reporter: “‘Being evaluated that way can't help but make you feel that is how they view my contributions,’ says Lim, who believes that women and people of color often are regarded as ‘soy sauce’ — hired to sprinkle culturally specific details on a screenplay, rather than credited with the substantive work of crafting the story.”

The argument that Warner Brothers uses is that Chiarelli is an experienced writer of feature films. Swell and lovely! But is that enough to justify the gap in pay between him and Lim, an experienced TV writer who was invaluable for the first smash hit lauded for its authentic references? “Now, without disputing that pair have different experience levels (and acknowledging that Hollywood writers function within the bounds of a union) it’s difficult to see how a studio could justify paying one co-writer nearly ten times more than the other—particularly given Lim’s proven success on the first movie,” write Kristen Bellstrom and Emma Hinchliffe for Fortune.

Despite the gains of the last few years, the situation of women in film remains dire in front of and behind the camera. In 2017, actresses had 31.8% of speaking roles in film, according to the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, in 2018 that number was 33.1%. Researchers at USC also found that 54 of the 100 most popular films were missing Asian women characters, 70 lacked Latina characters and 33 were missing black women characters.

Women’s Political Participation and Maternal Mortality

It is no surprise that women legislators are more effective at targeting women’s health, which, for them is an existential issue. Now a fascinating new working paper out by the Brookings Institute India titled Maternal mortality and women’s political participation provides actual statistics proving that Maternal Mortality Rate (hereafter MMRs) decreases with the election of women to parliaments. “Interestingly, the decline in MMR, beginning in the 1990s, is coincided by an increase in women’s representation in Parliaments. After the Beijing Convention of 1995, 21 developing countries made reservations for women in their national legislatures. This abrupt change of quotas is used to capture the causal effect on MMR,” says the Brookings blog. The gender quotas have led, apparently, to a greater quality of life for girls. increase in prenatal care utilization, a decline in birth rate and an increase in girls’ education. “The authors estimate that the introduction of quotas for women in parliament results in a 9% to 12% decline in maternal mortality.”

Underrepresentation of Women in STEM

After examining more than 500 institutions, teams from the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute (NYSCF) and the University of Michigan have used the NYSCF Institutional Report Card to report on women in STEM. Their findings, released the first week of September, showed systemic underrepresentation (surprise!). “Women are well-represented amongst undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate students (constituting over 50% of each population), but among faculty, as seniority increased, representation of women decreased (averaging 42% of assistant professors, 34.2% of associate professors, and 23.4% of full professors),” says the press release of the four-year study. Further: “women made up less than 10% of tenured faculty recruits in nearly one-third of institutions.” How can we improve those grim statistics? The New York Stem Cell Foundation presents seven actionable strategies here.

Parental Leave For Men in Denmark

This summer the majority of the European Parliament voted for the enactment of earmarked parental leave for men. Denmark is fighting for even more gender equality in parental law. The average Danish father takes 31 days of parental leave compared to 298 by mothers. “In 2017 it was revealed that Danish men struggle to compare to their Nordic brethren in terms of taking paternity leave,” writes Christian W in the Copenhagen Post. “In Denmark, fathers account for just 10 percent of the total parental leave period afforded to families – a far cry from the 30 percent taken by fathers in Sweden and Iceland.” In Sweden, where “daddy leave” is quite famous, new parents are given 240 days off between them; in Iceland about 90 percent of fathers take paternity leave.

Cover photo via The Standard