World Cup champs’ real win: inspiring a generation of girls

Congratulations & top marks to the US Women’s National Team for scoring their second straight World Cup with Sunday’s 2-0 win over the Netherlands.

They embody excellence not just as global champs, but as one of the top teams ever.

Co-captain Megan Rapinoe was the clear star all tournament long, the top scorer and rightful winner of the Golden Ball award for best player. That she nailed what proved to be the winning score, her sixth goal of the tourney, is just yummy icing on an extremely sweet cake.

Here’s hoping the USWNT can score one more win, in their suit against the US Soccer Federation for pay equal to the men’s team. It’s now hard to see why the women don’t earn more: They’re not only markedly more successful, they also bring in more revenue.

In any case, Mayor Bill de Blasio was clearly right to invite America’s newest champions to a ticker-tape parade on Wednesday, the city’s first such celebration since the one for the 2015 USWNT.

That was the city’s first ticker-tape honor for a women’s team. Perhaps the most important legacy of this team is that they’ve surely inspired countless girls to pursue athletic excellence themselves — and make women’s team marches a regular future Canyon of Heroes feature.


Henry Sapiecha

Female Soldier Reveals Terrifying Truth about Life in North Koreas Army

Jieun Baek, author of the book North Korea’s Hidden Revolution, told the BBC, “The famine in North Korea resulted in a particularly vulnerable period for women in North Korea. More women had to enter the labor force and more were subject to mistreatment, particularly harassment and sexual violence.” In Lee’s case, starting working life meant joining the army.

Baek counsels that evidence from defectors needs to be handled with circumspection. She points out, “There is such a high demand for knowledge from North Korea. It almost incentivizes people to tell exaggerated tales to the media, especially if that comes with [a] nice pay check.”

UIJU, NORTH KOREA – OCTOBER 11: A female North Korean soldier stands guard on the banks of the Yalu River, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong October 11, 2006 in Uiju, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. China could face an influx of North Korean refugees with an expected cut in already diminishing aid and investment following Pyongyang’s announced nuclear test, a US refugee aid group has warned.

“Many defectors who don’t want to be in the media are very critical of ‘career defectors,’” Baek continued. “It’s worth keeping this in focus.” But in the case of Lee, Baek says her story fits in with other accounts. And as the BBC did not pay Lee for her interview, it lends her account added plus AAA credibility.

Lee So Yeon’s first bid to defect in 2008 ended when she was arrested at the Chinese border. She served a year in a prison camp. But she succeeded on her second attempt, swimming the Tumen River to China before finally ending up in South Korea. Now Lee works with the New Korea Women’s Union, an organization dedicated to publicizing & exposing the plight of women in Kim Jong-un’s oppressive one-party state.

Female North Korean soldiers stand at a fence near Pyongyang on April 12, 2012. North Korea’s five-day window to launch a rocket opened with Asian countries on alert, as Washington told G8 world powers that the communist state was in flagrant violation of a UN ban.

In theory at least, the North Korean Army takes a serious view of rape. Anyone found guilty of the offense can be jailed for up to seven years. According to Juliette Morillot, though, the reality is much different. “Most of the time nobody is willing to testify,” she told the BBC. “So men so often go unpunished.”

Shockingly, female soldiers also had to put up with gross sexual harassment, including rape. Although Lee says she was not raped, many others were. “The company commander would stay in his room at the unit after hours and rape the female soldiers under his command,” she told the BBC. “This would happen continually over and over without an end.”

Meanwhile, the promise of bountiful food that had lured Lee into the armed forces was not all that it had seemed. Although there was a mouthwatering menu posted on the mess hall wall, it was far from the reality. “It was brilliant. Meat and tofu and those little rice cakes – and it changed throughout the week,” Lee remembered. “In reality, we just got bowls of rice with a little corn, over and over… I was always hungry.”

A woman in traditional Korean dress holds a dish of the Korean national dish Kimchi on the sidelines of the Asia Pacific Cooperation (APEC) summit in Busan 16 November 2005. Asia Pacific leaders are set to tickle their tastebuds at a royal banquet here with the fiery taste of kimchi washed down by goblets of mushroom wine.

Lee recalled other details of her military service in an interview with The World. “I slept in a female barracks with about 30 other women,” she said. “We all slept on bunk beds. Each of us had a little cabinet with photos of [North Korea’s founder] Kim Il-sung and [his now deceased heir] Kim Jong-il on top.”

North Korean soldiers march during a mass military parade at Kim Il-Sung square in Pyongyang on October 10, 2015. North Korea was marking the 70th anniversary of its ruling Workers’ Party.

And when any of the women did menstruate, they were left to fend for themselves by the North Korean Army. Lee says that women on their periods frequently had no choice but to reuse sanitary towels. And some bases had no women’s toilets, denying the recruits the most basic of privacy.

Lee remembered, “After six months to a year of service, we wouldn’t menstruate any more because of malnutrition and the stressful environment. The female soldiers were saying that they are glad that they are not having periods. […] Because the situation is so bad if they were having periods too that would have been worse.”

North Korean female soldiers march during a military parade to mark 100 years since the birth of the country’s founder Kim Il-Sung in Pyongyang on April 15, 2012. The commemorations came just two days after a satellite launch timed to mark the centenary fizzled out embarrassingly when the rocket apparently exploded within minutes of blastoff and plunged into the sea.

As well as these domestic duties, Lee and her comrades were subjected to rigorous physical training and drill regimes. Indeed, so grueling were the demands on the young recruits that many actually stopped having periods. Physical exertion, stress and poor diet combined to take a terrible toll on the young recruits.

Korean People’s Army (KPA) soldiers march on Kim Il-Sung sqaure during a military parade marking the 105th anniversary of the birth of late North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung, in Pyongyang on April 15, 2017.

French author Juliette Morillot is a pro. on North Korea. She told the BBC, “North Korea is a traditional male-dominated society and traditional gender roles remain. Women are still seen as ttukong unjeongsu, which just translates as ‘cooking pot lid drivers,’ and means that they should ‘stay in the kitchen where they should be.’”

Lee was only 17 when she joined the army, and initially she was content with her new life. Small things, like the fact that she was given a hairdryer, were a real bonus. Unfortunately, though, regular power outages meant it was all but useless. And she discovered that women were expected to do domestic tasks like cooking and cleaning, while this was not required of the males.

Henry Sapiecha

Victoria Beckham may be the real icon for Girl Power – here’s perhaps why

(L-R) Ginger, Sporty, Scary, Posh and Baby Spice at Sydney Opera House during their 1997 promotional visit.

WHEN Scary, Baby, Ginger and Sporty Spice reunited on the red carpet five years ago, there was one noticeable absentee.

The Spice Girls were premiering their musical – Viva Forever! – and while Melanie B, Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton and Melanie C arrived arm in arm, Posh Spice Victoria Beckham was nowhere to be seen.

Victoria was one of the last guests to arrive, dressed down in a pair of black cropped trousers and a trench coat. Clearly, she couldn’t care less. Without any words, she was sending a message, loud and clear.

Public disagreements with the girls in the past were no secret; she famously hated Geri (“it must be very lonely for her, I think you have to feel sorry for her,” she said after a bitter row over Halliwell’s shock departure from the group) and Melanie B has admitted that “Victoria was one end and I was at the other … it’s like any relationship with her and me. We fight, we argue, we make up … it’s always been like that.”

But this time, it was not quite the same. This time, it signalled a shift in power. And it hasn’t been the same since.

L-R: Spice Girls Melanie Brown, Geri Halliwell, Emma Bunton and Melanie Chisholm pose at the premiere of the Spice Girls musical “Viva Forever” — sans Posh. Picture: Leon Neal

Once upon a time Posh Spice was simply the pouty popstar in a PVC catsuit, the Spice Girl who slayed with a simple stare.

Along with Scary, Baby, Ginger and Sporty, Posh forced the world to spice up their lives and armed with a minidress and a microphone, introduced a generation to Girl Power.

“I was called Posh because I liked the nice restaurants, and the nice clothes, and that was my character. I didn’t smile, even in those days,” she said in the documentary, The Spice Girls Story: Viva Forever!.

“There was this very strong image. And I am very much that person, even now.”

The Spice Girls’ unapologetically brash brand of feminism took the world by storm and blazed the trail for dozens of icons to follow. The Fab Five’s first single Wannabe is still the best-selling debut single by a girl group of all time and combined, they’ve sold 85 million records worldwide.

Solo Spice: Victoria Beckham attends ‘Viva Forever’, without her Spice band mates.

Victoria Beckham was always considered the least talented member of the Spice Girls. Hers was the voice that lay deep in the background, the one given less solo time. For Victoria, success inside and outside of the Spice Girls never came easy.

“They used to turn it off [microphone] and just let the others sing,” Beckham told Vogue of her time in the Spice Girls.

Critics have also never been far from the 43-year-old fashion designer, model, and singer. The naysayers came from every corner. One minute she was “Porky Posh”. The next, “Skeletal Spice”.

“If Victoria hadn’t had the lucky breaks she had and the people having faith in her to make her what she is, she probably would have been singing and dancing on a cruise liner,” Victoria’s former Principal, Joy Spriggs, told the documentary, Being Victoria Beckham.

“There are lots of girls with more talent, I’m being quite honest here, that are doing less than Victoria is doing.”

The “skeletal” days. Victoria makes her debut for designer Maria Grachvogel at London Fashion Week in 2000.

Her solo career was equally disappointing – she is the only Spice Girl without a #1 solo single to her name. NME called her self-titled solo album, “a new low in shameless pop slaggery”.

The reviews came at a time when Girl Power was divided, at a time when the world was questioning whether Victoria Beckham should consider a career change and disappear completely. The knife was dug in that much deeper from bandmate, Sporty Spice Melanie C. Why chase a pop career so relentlessly when so encumbered by a lack of talent?

“If I was Victoria, I would enjoy my husband, enjoy my family, enjoy the money that they’ve got and give the music a rest,” she said in a British radio interview in 2004.

“She’s got such a great life – I don’t know why she doesn’t just sit back and enjoy it.”

Victoria’s self-titled solo album was a fizzer.

Not that Victoria cared.

Two decades since Spice Up Your Life, revenge has been served cold – and from the critics to the catwalk, Victoria Beckham is back on top.

“I got the last laugh – and now my mic is well and truly on, finally,” she told Vogue last year.

It’s no secret the success of any Spice Girls reunion now lies in the hands of the one Spice Girl who never seemed to matter: Posh.

Now worth a cool $450 million, Posh Spice’s success is the real lesson in girl power; never underestimate the underdog.

Beckham is riding high from the success of her fashion line; this week she celebrated her ten-year anniversary at New York Fashion Week, after inviting sceptical editors and buyers to a suite in the Waldorf Towers to see her debut collection in 2008.

“Victoria Beckham made her first appearance at New York fashion week a decade ago as a novelty act, but she leaves as a headline one,” writes The Guardian.

And once there was a sniff of success, how quickly the tide turned.

“The magic trick on which the Victoria Beckham brand is based is a sleight of hand. On the one is her relatable persona as a working mother of four, and on the other her aspirational level of polish and glamour. It is a compelling balancing act, and one which has made her a significant player in the luxury industry.”

According to the Telegraph, insiders say Victoria’s business enjoyed significant growth during the first half of 2017, thanks to a collaboration with Target and an Estée Lauder make-up deal.

In December, 2017, Victoria’s fashion business alone was valued at £100m (AU$176m), a far cry from Emma Bunton’s $30 million net worth. Meanwhile lawyers for Melanie B’s estranged ex Stephen Belafonte claim that Scary Spice had “wiped out all her Spice Girls money” – said to be £38m (AU$67 million).

“Victoria Beckham may be dismissed by many as less talented than her superstar footballer husband David Beckham, but behind the big sunglasses lies a cute business brain,” writes The Richest.

“Wag no more, Victoria Beckham is firmly out from under husband David’s shadow. Her fashion collections have won critical acclaim, along with a devoted celebrity following. Stars from Kate Winslet and Gwyneth Paltrow to Oprah Winfrey have worn her sharply tailored dresses, which carry four-figure price tags”.

Once the woman the Spice Girls could have done without, Victoria is now the woman the Spice Girls need.

Despite appearing alongside the girls in an Instagram post last week, setting the world alight with rumours of a reunion, she quelled rumours overnight, telling British Vogue: “I’m not going on tour. The girls aren’t going on tour.

“There’s something so strong in the message of what the Spice Girls stood for. What is that in the future? What does that look like? We were just bouncing ideas around. Brainstorming.”

After making a brief comeback in 2012 for the London Olympics and embarking on a World Tour that was cut short earlier than expected, Victoria has continually dismissed suggestions of a reunion. And she continues to play us all.

“It is not happening,” she said in 2017 amid rumours of a 20-year anniversary reunion.

“At some point you’ve got to know when it’s time. I don’t think I’ll be slipping into a PVC catsuit anytime soon.”

Despite hinting most recently at the idea that a reunion is ahead, the beauty for Victoria lies in the tease.

Despite the expectations that she should settle as a WAG and quietly step away from the spotlight and into her role as a dutiful housewife and celebrity mum, she kept working.

Even when her solo album failed and she was dropped from her record company, the same one that shot the Spice Girls to stardom, she kept going.

Even when her attempt to set up a life in Los Angeles and introduce the Beckham brand to the US with her one-hour TV special, Coming to America, failed miserably, she pursued her dream.

Victoria Beckham may be guilty of many things – excessive cosmetic surgery and a bad haircut or three – but despite being one of the world’s most underestimated performers, she has shown us all.

When she relocates her runway show from New York to London no doubt Girl Power will be sitting front row and centre. But while the rest cling on for publicity and a reunion, the one woman we all scoffed is ultimately, the last woman standing.

Now that’s Girl Power.

Henry Sapiecha

22 Things people once believed about women’s bodies

People used to believe a lot of things that now seem completely bizarre to us, thanks to modern science. Most people today would scoff at someone saying the earth is flat or that everything in the universe revolves around it, even though that’s what most people believed just a few centuries ago. People today also know that bloodletting is not a good healthcare practice, that there is no secret process with which to create the philosopher’s stone, and that smoking is terrible for your health.

Some of the strangest beliefs, however, revolved around some truly outlandish things about women and their bodies. Many of these beliefs stemmed from superstition and the patriarchal concept of women being naturally inferior to men. While science still hasn’t proven all the mysteries of the universe, it has definitely debunked all of these old-fashioned theories!

1…Menstruating women can kill swarms of bees

Ancient Roman author, philosopher, and naturalist Pliny the Elder compiled an encyclopedia, titled Natural History, in which he devoted a section to the various “powers” that menstruating women allegedly possess.

As Pliny believed, a woman on her period is a force to be reckoned with. Side effects of a woman’s time of the month include cursing plants in her path, dimming the “brightness of mirrors,” driving dogs crazy, and killing swarms of bees. According to his writings, iron would rust, ivory would lose its polish, and steel blades would be made blunt. If a woman’s menstrual fluid somehow was exposed to lightning during a thunderstorm, the storm would be driven away by the power of the woman’s flow.

It is scary to think about living in a time when the female body was so misunderstood. While women today have it much better than they did in the past, things are still far from perfect.

A recent global study showed that three out of four women believe their country has unequal rights. Nearly half of the women in the world say that they do not personally feel they have equal status to men. One in five people still believe that women are inferior to men.

We might live in a more enlightened time, but there is still work to be done.

2…Women have fewer teeth than men

It wasn’t just the ancient Romans who held unflattering views of women. The ancient Greek philosopher and scientist, Aristotle, has had a huge impact on Western philosophy. While hailed as a great thinker and teacher, his views on women were more than a little problematic.

For a man regarded as a scientist, Aristotle had some pretty unscientific views about women. A woman was believed by Aristotle to be an “incomplete” version of a man, and even had fewer teeth than their male counterparts.

According to Aristotle’s social hierarchy, women were ranked higher than slaves, but below men. In Politics, the philosopher argued that men are superior as they possess “intellectual virtue in completeness.” Women, according to Aristotle, were meant to serve men because they were physically and intellectually inferior to them.

3…Women have wandering wombs 

Another ancient Greek, the physician Hippocrates, deserves the credit for identifying the “disorder” of hysteria. The term “hysteria” was a catch-all phrase that described pretty much anything that went awry with a woman’s mental or physical health. The cause? A “wandering uterus.”

For centuries, people believed that a woman’s womb roamed all over her body like a living parasite. Aristotle used the diagnosis of hysteria to further discredit women. Yet another ancient Greek, Aretaeus of Cappadocia said that the womb is “closely resembling an animal” and “moves itself hither and thither.” Even after people understood more about the human body and its functions, hysteria continued to be used as a diagnosis.

4…Women don’t have sexual urges 

The idea of hysteria persisted through the Victorian Age. Sex during this time was such a taboo topic that it seems like people went out of their way to deny that it was anything but a mechanical process. While men might indulge their sexual urges, such desires in women were considered to be low class. Sex was a burden that women were meant to endure, not enjoy. A popular (though fictional) anecdote has Queen Victoria advising one of her daughters that on her wedding night she should “lie back and think of England.”

Sexual impulses were so repressed, that women went to the doctor to be relieved of their “hysteria.” Symptoms included erotic fantasies, irritability, and wetness between the legs. Doctors would manually stimulate the woman’s clitoris to induce “paroxysm.” This treatment for hysteria led to the invention of the vibrator. Despite all of this, no one involved admitted that women had sexual needs and that doctors were not providing a needed medical treatment, but were, instead, giving women orgasms.

5…Self-pleasure leads to being flat-chested

In the Victorian era, masturbation was a huge no-no. Some of the myths about touching yourself down there are still spread as old wives’ tales. People today don’t really believe that the practice will drive you insane, or make you grow hair on your hands, though these rumors still persist.

But back in the Victorian era, however, people thought that stimulating oneself was not only immoral but could lead to developmental delays, such as girls being flat-chested. John Cowan wrote in The Science of a New Life that “girls who have followed masturbating habits…show usually strong indications of it in the failure of their glandular development. Such persons are apt to be flat-breasted, or, as we term it, flat-chested.”

Myths about the harms of solo-sex were so pervasive that people went to great lengths to prevent their children from touching their private parts. Devices were marketed to prevent masturbation, and doctors even performed clitoridectomies on young girls to prevent the practice.

6…Reading makes women infertile 

In contrast to modern women who tend to outnumber men in universities in much of the world, it was once thought that women who read too much would be rendered infertile. This theory was widely spread by a Harvard professor named Edward H. Clarke who wrote in Sex in Education, or A Fair Chance For The Girls that, while women are capable of learning, too much book learning could lead to infertility and irritability. Clarke recommended that girls receive limited schooling so as not to damage their health or baby-making abilities.

Thankfully, well-educated women took it upon themselves to disprove Clarke’s theories. An 1885 study by Annie Howes, of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae, and an 1887 paper by Mary Putnam Jacobi, debunked Clarke’s treatise.

7…Viewing ugly things while pregnant makes ugly babies

In the 18th century, many people thought that the things a woman thought could affect what her baby looked like. In The Pregnant Imagination, Fetal Rights, and Women’s Bodies: A Historical Inquiry, Julia Epstein writes that there was a debate over whether or not “imaginative activity in the minds of pregnant women could explain birthmarks and birth malformations.”

Many people thought that a woman could directly influence the appearance of her child and that looking at unattractive things could cause the child to be born, well, unattractive. It was widely recommended that women avoid “unwholesome” things, lest they deform their developing child.

8…A woman on her period is unclean

The idea that a woman on her period is somehow unclean dates back to antiquity. According to the book of Leviticus in the Bible, not only was a woman on her period unclean, but so was everything she wore and touched. The thirteenth century De Secretis Mulierum (The Secrets of Women) was written by a man claiming to be a monk, Albertus Magnus. According to Magnus, “Menstrual matter is extremely venomous” and a woman on her period gives off “fumes” which can poison children.

These ideas persisted in Western culture through the 20th century, well past the point you’d think people would have dismissed such clearly irrational thinking. In the 1920s, a doctor named Bela Schick described “menotoxin,” an alleged “menstrual toxin” that was secreted in a menstruating woman’s sweat and had the power to cause flowers to wilt. Other “studies” claimed that menotoxin in breast milk caused colic in infants and that a woman who was “menotoxic” during pregnancy gave her baby asthma.

9…Tampons can make women lose their virginity

This myth is still getting some traction, even though there is no truth to it. When Tampax was introduced in the 1930s, many people thought that they shouldn’t be used by young girls. The main fear of moral conservatives was that inserting a tampon would result in the loss of virginity.

Consumer Reports released an article in the 1940s telling people that it was okay for virgins to use tampons. In case there’s still any confusion, the only thing that can make someone lose their virginity is actually having sex.

10…Only willing women can get pregnant 

This myth is particularly terrifying, in that many people still believe it. In 2012, Missouri Congressman Todd Akin claimed that rape victims can’t get pregnant since in a “legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Akin isn’t the only modern politician to have expressed that idea. In 1995, North Carolina state representative Henry Aldridge, said that women “who are truly raped” cannot conceive a child as “the juices don’t flow” and “the body functions don’t work.” In 1998, Republican Senate candidate Fay Boozman said that stress of assault will trigger a biochemical response in rape victims that makes conception next to impossible. Pennsylvania state legislator Stephen Freind claimed in 1988 that the odds of a rape victim becoming pregnant were “one in millions and millions and millions.”

The impossibility of rape leading to conception has been used as a legal defense since at least the 13th century. Vanessa Heggie, a historian at the University of Birmingham, wrote in a blog piece for The Guardian that Fleta, a British legal text from that time period, says “without a woman’s consent she could not conceive.”

11…Women’s brains are smaller and less capable

Women fought a long and arduous battle to win the right to vote. It wasn’t until 1920 that women in the United States were allowed to cast a ballot, and Switzerland’s women couldn’t vote until 1971.

One of the reasons given for not allowing women to vote was that their smaller brains made them mentally inferior to men. Members of anti-suffragist movements such as the National Association Opposed to Women’s Suffrage (NAOWS) claimed that women did not have the capacity to understand politics and therefore should not be given the right to vote. This idea was so accepted that even women believed it and joined anti-suffragist groups, lending some credibility to a claim on a pamphlet issued by the NAOWS that most women had no interest on how the country was run.

Women’s brains function just as well as men’s brains. They are physically smaller on average, but this correlates to body size and has no impact on intelligence.

12…Female virgins can cure men with venereal diseases

A long-held belief that some people still have faith in is the idea that sleeping with a virgin will cure a person of a disease. There is, of course, no credence to this belief, but it has resulted in the abuse of countless young women throughout history.

People in England and the United States believed well into the twentieth century that sleeping with a young virgin would cure them of syphilis and other venereal diseases. The virgin’s pure and untouched state was somehow thought to have restorative properties that would be transferred to the afflicted man. Even more alarming is the fact that many of the men who sought out young girls for such purposes believed that the disease would be cured in him but passed on to the girl.

In modern times, there are still men who believe in this myth. Men afflicted with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa along with parts of India and Thailand have reportedly sought out young girls in search of this “cure.”

13…Infertility is all the woman’s fault

Women in ancient Egypt were generally viewed as equal to men, but that doesn’t mean that their society understood how women’s bodies worked. Ancient Egyptians were particularly perplexed by what made a woman fertile and assumed that a couple’s ability to conceive rested solely on the woman. It was thought that women with wide hips and large breasts were more fertile than those with narrow hips and flatter chests.

In order to test a woman’s fertility, a clove of garlic or an onion would be placed inside a woman’s vagina. That belief was that if the woman was, fertile her uterus would be linked to her alimentary canal and her breath would smell like garlic or onion the next day. If the smell of garlic or onion didn’t travel to her mouth, then the woman was blocked and would not be able to conceive. This particular fertility test was also utilized by the ancient Greeks.

14…Exercise is dangerous for women 

Strenuous activity was thought to be dangerous for women as it could harm their reproductive parts. It was the general consensus of the Berlin Medical Association in the 19th century that the “ailing health” of women during menstruation and pregnancy was proof that they were the weaker (and therefore inferior) gender.

One 19th century German doctor strongly advised against girls jump-roping as “it made the feet flat, damaged the lungs, and caused twisting of the bowels as well as chronic headaches.” A director of a 19th century gymnastics teachers training institute agreed that women should avoid “exercise which requires sudden and jerking movements… on account of the particular position of the female reproductive organs.”

15..Breast milk is coagulated menstrual blood 

From ancient times through the Middle Ages, most people thought that breastfed babies were being given blood. The dominant belief in these times was that breast milk and menstrual blood are the same substance, but that breast milk “had been heated, coagulated, and whitened by hot air.” This bizarre idea persisted for centuries and was taught by prominent philosophers including Aristotle and Galen, and can also be found in the Jewish Talmud.

16…The uterus has seven cells 

Before people understood the science behind reproduction, they believed that a baby’s sex depended on which chamber of the uterus it was carried in. It was commonly believed that the uterus had seven chambers or cells, with the right three developing males and the left three developing females. If a baby developed in the center cell, it would be intersex, having both male and female features. The concept of the seven-chambered uterus reigned throughout the Middle Ages and persisted long after anatomical dissection proved that there is only one space in the uterus.

Renaissance thinkers eventually replaced the debunked myth with even more ridiculous notions. They believed that the father’s sperm turned the mother’s menstrual blood into milk which also formed the fetus. In order to ensure male offspring, women were encouraged to eat “hot” foods, while foods such as fish and fruit (characterized as “humid” and “cold”) were to be avoided as they could form a female child. It was also thought that sex (provided it was gentle enough not to harm the baby) could help to develop a baby boy due to the exposure to a male presence.

17…Menstrual blood has special powers 

Menstruation has long been one of the most mysterious and misunderstood aspects of the human body. Many believed that menstrual blood has special powers; the 12th century mystic Hildegard of Bingen believed that it could be used to cure leprosy. In ancient Egypt, menstrual blood was thought to have healing properties and was used in the production of medicines. It was also used in an ointment which served to protect babies from evil powers. Indigenous South Americans believed that menstrual blood was the source from which “all mankind was created,” a belief that was also present in Mesopotamia.

18…Pregnancy mood swings are caused by an “irritable” uterus

Pregnancy can be marked by mood swings, thanks to all the hormones coursing through your body. In the 18th and 19th centuries, though, people thought that changes in mood were because “the event of conception stimulated the womb, creating an excitability which in turn affected other organs.”

Thomas Denman, a prominent physician, said that the uterus was prone to “extreme irritability.” The other organs were thought to be so in-tune with the uterus that they would experience sympathy pains, causing morning sickness and the swelling of the breasts. The uterus was thought to also affect a woman’s emotions because “of this general and perpetual irritation,” causing a woman carrying a child to be “sometimes rendered less gentle and patient than is consistent with their usual character.”

19...Female flesh is “spongier” than a man’s

In ancient times, it was thought that women had porous skin, which prevented them from becoming as strong as men. Proof of this could supposedly be found in the breasts, as a woman’s body could hold more moisture than a man’s causing the breasts to swell and grow. It was also believed that when a person was on the verge of madness, blood would collect in the breasts. Since women could hold more blood in their breasts, they were therefore considered to be more likely to be irrational than men.

Men were believed to use up more of the fluids they consumed through physical activity while women instead retained moisture in their “spongy” flesh. Excess fluid would collect in the body and eventually be discharged as menstrual blood. This theory was used to promote the idea that women’s bodies are biologically inferior to men’s.

20…Bad personalities are the fault of the ovaries

If a woman had a bad personality, it was all chalked up to malfunctioning reproductive organs. In the 18th century, it was commonly thought that a woman’s personality was “dominated by her ovaries,” and that “female disorders” could be treated by simply removing them.

Women were frequently subjected to operations to remove their ovaries (and sometimes their clitoris) in order to treat gynecological symptoms. Such operations were also performed for the purpose of “controlling psychological disorders.” Ovaries were removed “for relief of…nervous (psychological) symptoms, menstrual dysfunction, and convulsions.” Ovariotomies were performed on tens of thousands of women in this time period.

At the time, epilepsy was thought to be caused by masturbation, therefore the removal of the clitoris was thought to “cure” the affliction. Clitordectomies were also used to treat “disorders” such as nymphomania and epilepsy. While ovariotomy was discredited as a treatment for psychological disorders by 1906, clitoridectomy was an accepted practice in the United States as late as 1948.

21…Menstrual blood is evil leaving the body

In the 16th and 17th centuries, it was believed that menstrual blood accumulated in the body became “corrupted” and would “attain a malignant and venomous quality.” Menstruation, therefore, was “a monthly purging of those evil humours.”

Women who entered menopause and no longer menstruated each month were thought to be potentially harboring these “evil humours” which were “capable of adding to that complex of female wickedness which could turn aging women into witches.” Because of this, older women were often viewed with suspicion; most of the women accused of witchcraft in Europe during this time were past the age of menopause.

22…We still have work to do

It is scary to think about living in a time when the female body was so misunderstood. While women today have it much better than they did in the past, things are still far from perfect.

A recent global study showed that three out of four women believe their country has unequal rights. Nearly half of the women in the world say that they do not personally feel they have equal status to men. One in five people still believe that women are inferior to men.

We might live in a more enlightened time, but there is still work to be done.

Henry Sapiecha

Charlotte Connell says about her dad “He was my best friend, mentor and surfing buddy”

Get Motivated is a series presented in partnership with the Movember Foundation.

Devastated by the loss of her father to prostate cancer, Charlotte Connell is passionate about improving men’s health for the sake of her son and to prevent men dying too early from cancer and mental illness.

The week her father died Charlotte Connell found out she was pregnant with her first child. After a lengthy battle with prostate cancer her beloved Dad Geoff succumbed to illness he had been diagnosed with in 2007.

“I miss him every day,” Charlotte said. “He wasn’t just my Dad, he was my best friend, mentor and surfing buddy.”

Growing up by the beach her father was a patient and fit man who taught her to surf. And he always told her that she would make a great mum one day.

Sadly he never had the chance to meet his grandson Finn Geoffrey, now 15 months old, but his memory lives on and his positive attitude towards his health is something his daughter wants her son, and other men to benefit from.

“As soon as Dad found out (he was ill) he started talking about it, and it was a good thing he did – he inspired friends and family to get tested and a close family friend caught his prostate cancer early,” she said.

He also inspired Charlotte to raise awareness of both mental and physical health issues in men.

She has been raising money for Movember for the past five years and has managed to rope in friends along the way. But now she has a son she wants Finn to be part of her campaign.

“I have got to do something with my son because he is the future and he’s why I am doing it,” she said. “(When he’s older) I want Finn to ask me why I did all these things so I can explain it to him.”

Not being able to grow a moustache herself has not stopped Charlotte from inventing creative and effective ways to raise funds for Movember.

“Dad had this magnificent moustache – he was like a surfer god. When he got sick I thought ‘Oh no! Dad’s going to lose his moustache’ from the chemo so I wanted to do something positive. I thought if I can wear a moustache and suffer the ridicule (of walking around with a fake mo) then men can go and get a health check!”

She’s as passionate about mental illness as she is about physical health. “I think Finn is growing up in a brilliant time when men talk about mental health issues, there is less stigma attached and there is the realisation that it’s totally OK not to be OK.”

And while older generations of men may have ignored their health concerns, male friends have thanked her for encouraging them to seek regular check-ups.

“I want to get the next generation of men on board with this message,” she said.

Charlotte will again be raising funds for Movember this year – along with son Finn.

Get Motivated. Support Movember and help stop men dying young. Sign up at and Grow a Mo or Move to be the difference in a man’s life.

Henry Sapiecha

Psychology student Aleksandra Chichikova crowned first Miss Wheelchair World

A psychology student from Belarus, Aleksandra Chichikova, has been crowned Miss Wheelchair World in the first-ever edition of the beauty pageant held in Warsaw, Poland on Saturday.

“Fight your anxiety and your fears,” the 23-year-old Chichikova said at a gala evening, after the contestants had presented themselves in national costumes and evening dresses in elaborate choreographies.

Lebohang Monyatsi from South Africa was the runner-up ahead of Poland’s Adrianna Zawadzinska in the first contest of its kind on a global scale, which brought together 24 young women from 19 countries.

The goal of the contest was to “change the image of women in wheelchairs so they would not be judged solely by this attribute,” contest co-founder and jury president Katarzyna Wojtaszek-Ginalska told AFP.

Miss Belarus Aleksandra Chichikova greets the audience after she was crowned Miss Wheelchair World.

The pageant organised by the Poland-based Only One Foundation also seeks to show that a wheelchair is a luxury in many parts of the world, she added.

The contestants were chosen either in national rounds or, in countries with no such pageants, by non-governmental organisations addressed by the Polish foundation.

“It is not the looks that matter the most,” said Wojtaszek-Ginalska, who is also confined to a wheelchair.

“Of course, a good look counts but we have focused especially on the personality of the girls, their everyday activities, their involvement, social life, plans,” she added.

Miss Belarus Aleksandra Chichikova greets the audience.

The contestants spent eight days in the Polish capital, busy with rehearsals, photo sessions, conferences and visits.

The inaugural Miss Wheelchair World attracted contestants from Angola, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Finland, France, Guatemala, India, Italy, Mexico, Moldova, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine and the United States.

Henry Sapiecha

‘We will stop the next war’: Watch Women march for Israeli-Palestinian peace

About 5000 Israeli and Palestinian women, calling for peace, have marched through a desert landscape down to the Jordan River where they erected a ‘peace tent’.

Thousands of Israeli and Palestinian women have trekked through a biblical desert landscape, converging on the shores of the Jordan River in a march for peace.

The women, many of them dressed in white, descended through the arid hills leading to the river, where they erected a “peace tent” named for Hagar and Sarah, scriptural mothers of Ishmael and Isaac, the half-brother patriarchs of Muslims and Jews.

“We are women from the right, the left, Jews and Arabs, from the cities and the periphery and we have decided that we will stop the next war,” said Marilyn Smadja, one of the founders of the organising group, Women Wage Peace.

Israeli and Palestinian women march in the desert near Beit HaArava in the Jordan Valley, Israel, near to Jericho, in the West Bank, 08 October 2017.

The organisation was established after the 50-day Gaza war of 2014 when more than 2100 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed. Israel put the number of its dead at 67 soldiers and six civilians.

About 5000 women participated in Sunday’s march, organisers said.

It began last month at several locations across Israel and will culminate in a rally later in the day outside the Jerusalem residence of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Palestinian and Israeli women take phone photographs of thousands of women taking part in a Peace march in the desert near Beit HaArava in the Jordan Valley

The march comes at a time when many analysts see little hope for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is 82 and unpopular, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads what is seen as the most right-wing government in his country’s history.

In 2015, Women Wage Peace members fasted in relays over 50 days, the length of the 2014 war between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.

“The men who have power believe only in war, but with the strength of women we can bring something else, something new,” said Amira Zidan, an Arab Israeli mother of one of the organisation’s founders.

Sunday’s arrival in Jerusalem coincides with the week-long Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which commemorates the Jews’ journey through the Sinai after their exodus from Egypt.

Earlier Sunday, thousands of Jews gathered at Jerusalem’s Western Wall for a priestly blessing held during the holiday each year.

Henry Sapiecha

This 17th-Century “Women’s Petition Against Coffee” Probably Wasn’t About Women, or Coffee

It probably wasn’t written by angry, sex-deprived wives–although stranger things have happened
In the late 1600s, London coffeehouses were a preferred hangout for political men and writers.

“Unlike the tavern, the alehouse or the inn,” writes historian Brian Cowan, the coffeehouse “was a novel institution.” Although coffee-oriented gathering places had been common in the Arab world for hundreds of years, coffee was a new arrival to Britain in the 1600s. The first coffee-houses opened in the 1650s. By 1663, writes Matthew Green for The Telegraph, there were 82 coffeehouses in central London. Part of the reason, he writes, was their novelty. But with this rise came a backlash: In a hilarious pamphlet published in 1674, a group of women came out against the “newfangled, abominable, heathenish liquor called coffee.”

It’s difficult to tell if the writers of the The Women’s Petition Against Coffee were actually women, writes historian Steve Pincus, or if they were representing what women actually thought about coffeehouses. More likely, he writes, the satires were written in order to help make coffeehouses unpopular as they were perceived as sites of political unrest. (Charles II tried to ban the establishments in a year later.)

In the Women’s Petition, the supposed wives of coffee-drinkers bemoaned the fact that coffee-drinking was such an intellectual, effeminate pastime that it had rendered their husbands impotent and “as unfruitful as those deserts whence that unhappy berry is said to be brought.” (Coffee-growing lands are generally very rich and fertile.)

“For can any woman of sense or spirit endure with patience,” they wrote, “that when…she approaches the nuptial bed, expecting a man that … should answer the vigour of her flames, she on the contrary should only meet a bedful of bones, and hug a meager useless corpse?”

The women’s petition also complained that coffee made men too talkative: “they sup muddy water, and murmur insignificant notes till half a dozen of them out-babble an equal number of us at gossipping,” the anonymous authors write.

The writers of The Mens Answer to the Womens Petition Against Coffee, tongue firmly in cheek, noted that far from making them impotent, coffee actually made them better husbands by “drying up” the “Crude Flatulent Humours” that caused them to fart in bed. Besides, they added, “the Coffee house is the Citizens Academy,” the writers pleaded, “where he learns more Wit than ever his Grannum taught him.”

It was just this facet of the coffeehouse that Charles II was afraid of. By this time, coffeehouses had been around in England for a few decades. Spreading from London, Pincus writes, the institution had made it as far as Scotland. During these decades, the British monarchy had been deposed during the English Civil War when Charles I was executed in 1649, and restored when Charles II was placed on the throne in 1660. It was a time when politics was a huge and touchy subject for everyone in English society, and the new king–mindful of what happened to his father–was eager to promote a return to old ways. Coffeehouses, to the king and his supporters, represented a new form of sociability that rose up in the years when England had no king, and should be stamped out. But in the 1600s, as today, it takes a lot to separate anyone from their coffee.

There was probably never a genuine war of the sexes around coffee houses. For women, historian Markman Ellis writes, coffeehouses offered a business opportunity. While it is true, as the satirists of the time wrote, that sex workers used coffeehouses to solicit work, they were far from the only women there. A number of coffeehouses were run by women, he writes, often widows, and women worked in them as servers or in other capacities.

Historians differ in their opinions as to whether women attended coffeehouses as customers–for instance, while Ellis does not believe they did, Pincus writes “there is little warrant for the claim that women were excluded from coffeehouses.” Although there may have been no hard-and-fast rule excluding women, obstacles such as public perception that linked women in coffee houses with sex work may have helped keep women from attending coffeehouses as guests in the same number as men.   However, as Pincus writes, the fact that women could and sometimes did attend these places just shows how much they were places of exchange between people of different backgrounds, leading to the creative and transgressive spread of ideas by these caffeine junkies.

Henry Sapiecha

Empowering women in advertising – ‘SheSays’ launches awards

SheSays-Jane-Steph-Kara image www.goodgirlsgo.com6

Global networking group SheSays is launching a new awards program in Australia to recognise the best female talent in the advertising industry.

The SheSays Awards are open from now until 13 October aimed at women across Australia. They will be judged by a panel of male and female industry figures including Isobar CEO Konrad Spilva, Venus founder Bec Brideson, Isobar creative director Carmela Soares, Reactive creative director Prue Jones and BWM creative directors Jon Foye, Denny Handlin and Amy Hollier.

Other judges include Hardhat Digital creative director Beth Walsh, MASS founder Tim Kotsiakos and Charles Grenfell group creative director Emma Hill, and AdNews editor Rosie Baker.

SheSays Melbourne director Kara Jenkins says the awards aim to challenge and inspire women in the industry.

“Through the SheSays Awards we want to empower women in the creative marketing industries to be more confident and therefore more ambitious,” Jenkins says.

“We’re challenging women to think about their current position in the industry, and where they want it to be in the future. We’re publicly recognising the future and current female leaders who we hope will be role models for all women within the industry to aspire to.”

The inaugural awards have three categories including an Industry Award which recognises a female creative that has shown to have played a key role in producing an idea which has no limits.

One is a Woman of the Year Award which recognises a woman who has made an outstanding contribution to the creative industries.

To shine a light on the next generation of creative women, the program also includes a Student Award for a female creative or creative team (which includes at least one female) who produces an idea in response to a student brief, which involves creating a campaign for SheSays.

Melbourne’s RMIT University has partnered with SheSays for the Student Award, providing a venue for the awards night and exhibiting student work.

Winners will receive an awards trophy and a hand crafted necklace created especially for SheSays by London-based jewellery designer Clarice Rice Thomas.

In addition, the winner of the Student Award will be offered a two-week placement at Isobar.

Spilva says Isobar is excited to be part of the first awards program.

“We’ve been a supporter of SheSays since it’s launch in Melbourne and we’re excited to be one of the official partners of the upcoming SheSays Awards,” Spilva says. “These awards can make a genuine difference through encouraging women in our industry to share their great work.”

The Award Night will be held in Melbourne on Thursday 17 November from 6pm, with tickets on sale closer to the event.


Henry Sapiecha