The Week in Women

Forced gender segregation isn't equality. The future isn't female in Afghanistan. And new conversations emerge about work, singlehood, and political lesbianism.

Scenes from this life: Amboseli, Kenya, May 2021

Hello, readers, and welcome to The Week in Women, a roundup of women’s rights news from around the world, followed by links to a few good features, longform pieces, podcasts, and radio stories in the universe of gender equality, international human rights, politics, and whatever else is interesting on the internet. I’m sorry I missed you all last week — I was on assignment and didn’t have great wifi access, but glad to be back with you now.

Enjoy, subscribe (or upgrade your subscription!), and share.


What to Know

Words Mean Things: I’m writing in the Washington Post this week about how conservatives talk about wanting to give parents the choice to stay home, when what they really mean is they want to coerce married mothers into quitting their jobs.

The Future Ain’t Female: The future for Afghan women is grim.

Dept. of Irony: The UN just elected Iran, a country with one of the world’s most misogynist governments and some of the most gender-discriminatory laws on earth, to the Commission on the Status of Women.

Her Too: British women are still in the streets, fighting against gender-based violence.

And Her Too: Turkish women are under siege and standing up.

Are Women People? Oklahoma’s far-right state government has passed a clearly unconstitutional near-total ban on abortion.

She Decides: Does Joe Biden have a feminist foreign policy?

Tomb womb: A pregnant mummy was just discovered in Egypt.

Clap Back: European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was publicly insulted by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan when he offered Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, a chair, but denied her one, leaving her to stand awkwardly and then sit on a nearby sofa while the two men met. Now, she’s speaking out — about the man who didn’t offer her a seat at the table, and the one who sat down without advocating for her to take her rightful places, too.

Separate Isn’t Equal: Many mosques already segregate women from men, often putting women in smaller and generally worse prayer spaces. Now, several have closed women’s prayer spaces, even during Ramadan. They’re citing coronavirus concerns — but those concerns apparently don’t require that they shutter their doors to men.

Rest in Power: Lois Sasson, who fought for women’s and gay rights. And Dr. Manisha Jadhav, a true hero who fought Covid at her hospital in Mumbai and undoubtedly saved many lives, only to die from the disease herself.

Slayer: Meet the Chinese feminists fighting back against nationalistic trolls.

Reproductive Justice: Abortion is broadly illegal in Ecuador, but the country’s highest court recently held that rape survivors should not be criminally prosecuted for terminating their pregnancies. Other women still face up to three years for abortion.

Single Ladies: After an Egyptian woman fell to her death from a Cairo balcony after neighbors shamed her because she was single and they suspected was having “pre-marital relations,” women’s rights advocates in Egypt are speaking out about the difficulties of living independently in a conservative nation.

Breaking Barriers: Saudi law is still depressingly misogynist, but Saudi women are working outside the home in ever-greater numbers.

Throwback: French lesbians held their first march in Paris in 40 years, as French feminists start talking about political lesbianism in the wake of their country’s #MeToo movement.


What to Read

What It Was Like Working for Ruth Bader Ginsburg [New York Magazine]

I Was 12 When We Met: Blake Bailey was my favorite teacher. Years later, he forced himself on me. Why did I seek his approval for so long? [Slate]


Take a Break

…and listen to the Huberman Lab podcast, my latest obsession. It has very little to do with women’s rights, but everything to do with better understanding your brain and body.

…or honor mothers everywhere in advance of Mother’s Day by donating to organizations that help women around the world become mothers if they want to, and do so safely. Two of my favorites are Every Mother Counts and MSF.


And that’s it! Thank you for reading, and feel free to share and subscribe.

xx Jill