Good morning, Q-MHI readers!
It’s exactly a year ago that women, in response to two investigations accusing high-profile Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault and rape, started what felt like an enormously powerful, unprecedented global movement.
A group of women tired of being sidelined at the African Union have revealed the systematic discrimination they face at the union’s Addis Ababa headquarters and beyond. A group of women staffers sent two memos to senior officials and spoke out to the press about the various ways they have been held back by prejudice at the organization that is mandated to protect African women.
The memos challenge the continental body’s outward dedication to gender equality as just lip service. Despite declaring 2010 to 2020 the decade of women, being headed by a woman for five years and championing numerous gender programs, it seems the AU is struggling to empower women within the organization. An image from a recent meeting was just a hint that the AU was still very much a boys club.“We, female employees of the AU Commission, are totally appalled by the entrenchment of professional apartheid against female employees in the commission as manifested in the Peace and Security department,” read the first memo, sent in January.
It began with women sharing their stories of abuse, harassment, and violence. The hashtag #MeToo quickly seemed to take over the world; it traveled from the US to other countries and languages. It was translated, adapted.A survivor of sexual violence and a life-long community organizer, Burke never wanted another girl—especially a girl of color—to feel silenced by her abuse. So 10 years after that conversation, Burke created Just Be Inc., a nonprofit helping victims of sexual harassment and assault. She named her movement Me Too, and over the next decade, Burke—who is now senior director of Brooklyn-based Girls for Gender Equity—expanded the Me Too movement through after-school and youth-training programs, along with written and multimedia resources helping sexual-abuse survivors of all ages heal through shared empathy.
Ultimately, Burke’s movement seeks “to radicalize the notion of mass healing.” Speaking days after #MeToo broke, Burked explained, “As a community, we create a lot of space for fighting and pushing back, but not enough for connecting and healing.”It was not a fight for a tangible result—suffrage, for instance, or reproductive rights. It was the dogged, contagious pursuit of something as elusive as it is fundamental: equality. Of worth, freedom, opportunities. It took a while, but China’s #MeToo movement finally gained momentum this summer as women came forward to accuse prominent men—including journalists, charity organization leaders, and even a Buddhist monk—of sexual harassment. And now, it’s hitting the country’s tech industry.
The momentum #MeToo gained was so enormous that, to many, it felt like a tsunami. It was going to hit the world with the force of millions of angry women, topple the patriarchy, and quickly even the playing field, once and for all. Women spoke up about sexism, and abuse. At the Oscars, at Cannes. In newsrooms. In politics. In the workplace. Other women, and their allies, supported them, celebrated them—believed them. It was galvanizing. A revolution.
Over the past week, #MeToo has outed some powerful men in the Indian media and entertainment industry over alleged sexual assault and harassment. Several male journalists, standup comics, and movie personalities have either quit their senior positions or have been removed, even if temporarily, or lost lucrative deals. Significantly, a handful of industry insiders are shepherding the snowballing movement.
These journalists, Anoo Bhuyan, Sandhya Menon, and Rituparna Chatterjee, among others, have been compiling accounts of harassment and coordinating resources for the survivors. They have also acted as conduits for the stories of women wary of speaking out—publishing their accounts anonymously. Now they are also organising legal help and trauma counselling for victims. “It’s very conflicting in an emotional sense, because we’re journalists and journalists we know for some time have been named as predators,” Chatterjee told Q-MHI
That’s why it’s especially disappointing for the many who believed things were going to change—had changed, even—to see Brett Kavanaugh all but ready to be confirmed as a US Supreme Court judge, despite protests and outrage. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who (like others) accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault, was not believed, at least not enough to grant a serious investigation.Although the point of the hearing is to determine whether Kavanaugh is a good choice for a lifelong government appointment, much of the hearing seemed designed to put Ford on trial, with prosecutor Rachel Mitchell attempting to scrutinize every detail of Ford’s memory. Ford was emotional but thorough, clear about what she did and did not remember, and cautious in her descriptions. Alleging that Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand to prevent her from screaming, she said she had feared he might kill her. But she qualified that her fear was that he might do so “accidentally.”
Has nothing changed?
Of course it has. Previously untouchable men have had to deal with the consequences of their behavior. More women and minorities than ever have raised their voices. The awareness of sexism is firmly in the zeitgeist. It’s a cultural revolution well in the making. But a revolution alone, let alone a cultural one, won’t change the dynamics of social and political power.
This is a game with rules rigged against women, and yet they have no choice but to play by it. True change will take time, electoral cycles, setbacks. But the game can be won—one vote, one law at a time. —Annalisa Merelli (Q=MHI).
FIVE THINGS ON Q-MHI WE ESPECIALLY LIKED
Priscilla Chan understands inequality in a way many Silicon Valley titans don’t.
As the co-founder of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Chan is working to direct some $45 billion worth of funds toward a range of ambitious philanthropic goals, from eradicating disease to reforming public education. As Robert Safian reports, “Chan—who grew up in a low-income immigrant family and previously worked in pediatric trauma—also has a deep level of empathy and insight into the plight of marginalized people.She brings a very direct perspective on what it means to struggle, what it looks like to have inequity in an environment,” says CZI education adviser Jim Shelton. “Mark did not have that exposure.”
“Giving back has been part of my life before I even met Mark,” Chan explains near the start of our first conversation, in the Stuart Little conference room at a CZI office on Tasso Street in Palo Alto. “And then over the course of our life together, I was first in teaching and then in medicine. I kept seeing problems affecting children, students and adults. As a practitioner, there’s a fundamental lack of hope. There are solutions that exist out there, but they aren’t scalable and replicable. So what if we take that lens of a frontline practitioner, if we take the tool set of building technology, what niche might we be able to fill in the world of actually making social impact?”
The other communist country thriving in the global economy.
While liberal democratic and economic orders turn away from world trade, Vietnam is embracing it. Dan Kopf writes about how the country’s outsized embrace of trade has transformed its economy from a nation of people in extreme poverty to one where there is a shared prosperity and exploding middle class.
Vietnam’s exceptionally globalized economy is a result of its focus on exports for economic growth. Like China before it, communist-run Vietnam has opened up its cheap labor market to foreign investors and become a hub for low-cost manufacturing. The country is now a major exporter of electronics and apparel, with the United States and China as the main destinations for its goods. In order to make those goods, Vietnam is a major importer of machine parts and natural resources from South Korea and China.
Globalization has been good for Vietnam. It’s GDP per person grew from about $1,500 in 1990 to about $6,500 today. Unlike in some fast growing economies, its new prosperity has been shared. The proportion of people in extreme poverty fell from above 70% in the early 1990s to around 10% in 2016. The World Bank credited the jobs created by Vietnam’s export sector for this remarkable poverty reduction, in a recent report.
The Vietnamese people have noticed the benefits of globalization. As my former colleague Matt Phillips pointed out, 95% of Vietnamese people said “trade is good” in a 2014 Pew Research Survey.
It’s time to decolonize philosophy.
In South Africa, many universities still teach philosophy through the lens of dead white European men. Olivia Goldhill explores a growing movement to incorporate African ideas like ubuntu—a humanist principle that holds that the self exists in relation to others—into college curriculums, offering students a new way to look at ethics, morality, and free will.
The rise and struggles of Nigeria’s Afrobeats stars.
Artists like Davido and Wizkid are selling out venues in New York, London, and elsewhere, helped by social media, Spotify, and Nigeria’s vast diaspora—not to mention celebrity fans like Drake. But as Yomi Kazeem notes in the latest episode of Quartz News, that doesn’t mean the artists themselves are benefiting much from all the attention.
Over the past decade, a new generation of Nigerian pop stars, like Davido, Wizkid, Niniola and Tiwa Savage have seen the sounds of their Afrobeats music—not to be confused with the politically charged, big-band Afrobeat style of the legendary Fela Kuti—win fans far beyond Nigeria’s shores. The country’s music stars are selling out concert venues in New York, Paris and London, and performing at major music festivals. Some of Afrobeats’ popularity is due to Nigeria’s vast—and affluent—diaspora around the globe. But crucially, social media, YouTube and access to global streaming sites like Spotify have also contributed to its spread.
Free cold brew is a form of oppression.
Are the cushy perks of modern offices a convenience or a trap? Simone Stolzoff makes a full-throated argument for the latter. “Work should be a means to an end,” he writes. “And in the end, we should go home.”
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FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER
The cult of animality.
Many scientists have long believed that only people have personality—all other living beings merely respond to conditioning. But that’s changing, according to Rose Eveleth at Hakai magazine. Kelly, a dolphin with leadership qualities and a mischievous bent, is part of a growing body of evidence that shows we are not alone in exhibiting distinctive characteristics.
Atlantis sprawls over 692,000 square meters (slightly bigger than Washington, DC’s National Mall) and features, among other things, a 2,800-square-meter marina, a nightclub, thousands of rooms, a casino, a 75-million-liter water park, and 50,000 animals from over 250 marine species, including more than 100 sharks and 42 bottlenose dolphins.
The Chinese military might have infiltrated US data centers.
The People’s Liberation Army pressured manufacturers into installing spyware chips into motherboards in servers destined for companies like Apple and Amazon, 17 anonymous sources told Bloomberg’s Jordan Robertson and Michael Riley. While Amazon and Apple refute the article, if accurate, it shows just how far the PLA will go(paywall) to steal data on American companies and citizens.
The observatory snapping pictures of a black hole.
A supermassive black hole at the core of our galaxy destroys stars that stray too close. The Event Horizon Telescope aims to photograph it. In the New York Times, Seth Fletcher explains the challenges and uncertainties involved (paywall), and speculates upon what we’ll learn from the first results.
The fattest of the fat bears.
Each autumn since 2014, Alaska’s Katmai National Park celebrates Fat Bear Week, when fans vote online for the fattest bear on the Brooks River. As Erin Berger writes for Outside, the event attracts devotees who have created a Real World–style experience out of watching the world’s tubbiest bears—and also highlights the mysteries of hibernation.
Otis, is 22 years old, with blondish brown hair, a straight, narrow nose, and deep scars on his neck and above his right eye. When he’s at the top of his game, fans describe his neck as “relatively thick,” his body “walrus-shaped.”
Otis, also known by his ID number, 480, is a brown bear who lives in Alaska’s Katmai National Park. Otis is fat. So fat that he’s been king of the park’s Fat Bear Week two of the past three years. He’s become the face of a tradition that started in 2014 as a fun way to teach people about ursine health and now attracts devoted fans who’ve created a Real World–style experience out of watching the tubbiest bears on the planet.
Fat Bear Week began as Fat Bear Tuesday, when Katmai employees printed before-and-after photos of some of the park’s 2,000-plus residents as they bulked up for hibernation. They asked passersby at the visitor center to vote for the chubbiest in March Madness bracket-style matchups (Otis won). The next year, they extended the vote to a week in October and opened it to the rest of the world through social media.
The cutthroat world of “cobots.”
Boston-based Rethink Robotics seemed to have a promising future when it launched 10 years ago, offering collaborative robots designed to work safely alongside humans. Others quickly realized that cobots were no passing fad, however, and Rethink fell behind the likes of Denmark’s Universal Robots and Japan’s Fanuc. Hiawatha Bray writes for the Boston Globe on the company’s well-covered launch and quiet exit(paywall).