The Daily Beast

American Nuns Hope For Sister-Friendly New Pope

“There were two investigations of Catholic sisters undertaken during Pope Benedict’s era,” Sister Florence Deacon, the current president of the [Leadership Conference of Women Religious], told The Daily Beast after Pope Benedict’s resignation announcement. One damning report quoted Pope John Paul II’s gratitude for the sisters’ “deep love of the church and generous service to God’s people” but then lashed out at the sisters for not toeing the Vatican’s party line. “While we appreciate this expression of gratitude, we found the whole process of the investigation flawed and question the findings and the mandate given to LCWR,” Deacon says. “We hope a new pope would be open to dialogue with the U.S. Catholic sisters and work with us to support our mission.”

Laudable optimism, but the Vatican doesn’t exactly have a rich history of proactively empowering under-represented or oppressed groups. I’m guessing the first papal retirement in nearly 600 years doesn’t indicate impending upheaval; you can bet that someone with the pope’s power and responsibility only retires voluntarily if he has an ironclad succession plan in place, and people generally want their successor to behave as much like themselves as possible.

"The Best Interests of Prostitutes"

This profile of a Polk County, Florida Sheriff at The Daily Beast bothers me. It paints the man, Grady Judd, as an unorthodox but well-intentioned demi-hero because he rigorously enforces prostitution laws and frequently posts pictures of the arrested johns online. Witness this glowing excerpt:

Now, despite criticism that his stings wrongly target consensual adults, Judd is happy that his operation has become a national model. More and more communities have been conducting such sweeps, often publicizing the names of johns and prostitutes on the Web, as Judd does. (See here, for example.)

“People say you shouldn’t mess with prostitutes, but they don’t know about some of the mean, nasty folks who try to procure them,” Judd says in his own defense. “We save girls’ lives because they were arrested by us and there wasn’t some weirdo who killed them.”

If you click through to the example, you’ll see that Judd does indeed post pictures not only of johns but of prostitutes. How does that help those women? By exposing them as sex workers, a group many already despise? By shaming them for engaging in sex for money? Or, alternatively, if the Sheriff believes these women engage in prostitution against their will, does posting their mug shots help them break free of forced labor? I just can’t think of any benefit to be gained for prostitutes by posting their images online.

Indeed, it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that even posting the johns’ mug shots online constitutes a violation of their civil rights, but I suppose that varies from county to county and state to state. I can, though, at least make a devil’s argument for the social good this might do. I can’t say the same thing about posting the prostitute’s pictures.

Also, I do not submit to this idea that prostitutes are better off being outed publicly by the Sheriff’s department because this definitely prevents them from returning to sex work and ultimately being murdered by a “weirdo”. Let’s see some data, Judd.

Afghanistan's First Female Rapper

Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau at The Daily Beast profile Susan Feroz, a young woman who took to hip-hop and acting when a language barrier prevented her from studying to become a doctor or engineer, as she originally planned.

Born in Afghanistan and raised in neighboring Iran, Feroz—who speaks Farsi—began rapping a year ago to express the suffering that her family and fellow Afghan refugees experienced during their exile in Iran and Pakistan. Her first recording, “Our Neighbors,” details the difficulties of immigrant life. The song quickly became popular, as well as controversial—conservative Afghans were opposed to the idea of a girl rapping, while others protested against her comments on Iran. “I’m surprised how famous I became with one song,” she says.

In “Our Neighbors,” Feroz recalls the insults and humiliation she endured abroad. In Iran, where she lived with her family for seven years, she was rarely allowed to go to school. Some bureaucratic excuse always surfaced to prevent her and other refugees from registering, she says. The daily trip to the bakery to buy bread was often a harrowing ordeal. More than once, men would take her by the ear and pull her to the back of the queue, telling her, “The place for you dirty Afghans is at the end of the line.” She says she always shot back at them: “We are working in your country and not begging.”

Sound familiar?

Uganda's Anti-Gay Bill Is a Smoke Screen

Remember the terrible bill that could imprison gays for life? The Daily Beast’s Jocelyn Edwards thinks it’s just a political gambit to distract from other, bigger issues:

The latest outburst of rhetoric over the bill, which lawmakers say no longer contains the death penalty but retains jail terms of up to life in prison, comes just as the government is under pressure on a number of fronts. In October, the news broke that $15 million dollars earmarked for the recovery of parts of the country devastated by Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army had ended up in the private bank accounts of officials in the prime minister’s office.

I’d be thrilled to learn that Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has no plans whatsoever to sign the bill, but the fact that it actually could arrive on his desk through legitimate legislative process still means it has significant support from the population.

Hasidic Rabbi Stands Trial for Sexual Assault

An unnamed minor has accused Nechemya Weberman of sexually abusing her repeatedly over the course of three years while he counseled her in private at his home. Allison Yarrow at The Daily Beast provides a thorough summary of the case:

The teen—as an alleged victim of sexual assault, she has not been publicly identified—accuses Weberman of sexually abusing her in a spare room with a triple-locked door, one lock only accessible from the inside. He kissed and groped her body, she says on the stand, forced her to perform oral sex on him, showed her pornographic films, and made her copy the acts. Sometimes, she says, his children played on the other side of the door, or Weberman’s wife might call before entering to use the very computer on which she said the community pillar forced her to watch and mimic sex. She recounts skipping sessions after Passover in 2009, but said Weberman visited her family home and entered her room while she was in bed and abused her there.

The strict Orthodox Jewish sects have frequently been able to handle accusations like this internally, without involving the police, so this case is a huge step forward.

Man Up the Easy Bake Oven

Eighth-grader McKenna Pope wanted to buy her 4-year-old brother an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas, because he loves to make cookies. But she found that Easy-Bake Ovens featuring exclusively girls in their advertising and come only in pink and purple:

“I feel that this sends a clear message: women cook, men work… I want my brother to know that it’s not ‘wrong’ for him to want to be a chef.”

Pope started a petition on to persuade Hasbro to make a non-gendered version of the product. I signed it. If you’re on the fence about signing it, first watch the adorable video she made of her brother mixing cookie dough.

Why Are We Still Talking About Chris Brown?

If you didn’t know we were talking about Chris Brown at all, Tricia Romano summarizes the controversy for The Daily Beast:

Jenny Johnson, who writes regularly for Grantland and has published stories in GQ, is a self-described “writer, wife, a****** and owner of 2 dogs” responded to one of Brown’s innocuous tweets with a scathing riposte. On Sunday he tweeted: “I look old as f***! I’m only 23 …”

Johnson replied: “I know! Being a worthless piece of s*** can really age a person.” (Brown was arrested in 2009 for beating up his then-girlfriend Rihanna. The two have since been rumored to be back together.)

Cue meltdown: Brown responded with a series of misogynistic tweets, each one more lurid and disgusting than the last.

Brown eventually shut down his Twitter account, and Johnson received numerous insults and death threats from his followers, along with accusations of bullying from members of the general public. Others leveled accusations of racism against anyone who too enthusiastically decried Brown’s behavior, since plenty of white celebrities have also beaten up their wives or girlfriends and behaved like pigs in general toward women.

Syreeta of Feministing quotes Roxane Gay to explain why this is (partly) incorrect, and why we need to keep misogynist behavior in the spotlight:

You can’t keep trotting out Sean Penn, Roman Polanski, et al because our cultural memory is short. If social networking were around when Sean Penn abused Madonna in 1987 or when Polanski raped a minor in 1977, the backlash would have been similar. Those examples will not work unless we’re discussing Chris Brown with the same fervor in 2042. Also, we’re still conjuring their names. Polanski still can’t return to the United States and he’s still a rapist pig. Sean Penn has always been an a****** who puts his hands on women. Charlie Sheen is irredeemable. I hold these men and all their cronies in the exact same regard as Chris Brown. We haven’t forgotten these misdeeds as much as people assume.

I don’t generally cover the “celebrity gossip” category of news, so I’ve tried to avoid giving any attention to this incident, but Gay nails it: regardless of race or color, we can’t let behavior like this go unchallenged; silence is approval.

Could Over-the-Counter Birth Control Screw You?

Well, maybe. Writing for The Daily Beast, Dr. Kent Sepkowitz explains the hidden cost of making the pill available without a prescription:

Yes, your life is easier because you will be able to get the pill right this second, without calling my office. No, you don’t need to fill out forms and show insurance cards and wrangle over copay. But guess who is paying for the whole shabang? You. Yes, you.

Sepkowitz is probably right that the out-of-pocket cost for the pill may rise. But he is overlooking the cost of the preventative care appointment required to obtain a prescription and trivializing the hardship of scheduling and attending those appointments. For low-income women, who are among those at highest risk for unplanned pregnancy, those costs are significant.

In any case, I’m always going to support ease of access to contraception.

Binders Full of Women Create Cabinets Full of Women

Amanda Hess gets this exactly right. As many shady aspects as there are to Mitt Romney’s story of proactively hiring female executives, his larger point was that business-driven affirmative action for women is not only acceptable but laudable.

Or, as Justin Green at The Daily Beast puts it: Only Mitt Romney could make liberals bash affirmative action.

The Reality of Anti-Blasphemy Laws

Hussein Ibish, writing for The Daily Beast, gets it exactly right:

This is what anti-blasphemy laws inevitably lead to: the arrest and persecution of religious minorities, including children, in order to “protect sensibilities” of religious majorities. What it shows is that anti-blasphemy laws have nothing to do with “respect” or “sensitivity” to religious sentiments but are all about authority, control and social domination.

Freedom for one religion must mean freedom for all religions.