Visible Women

From protesters to film producers: the women making waves this week

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Moya Crockett
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Dropping every Friday, Women Making Waves is a series highlighting the women who rocked the boat, pushed for change and made history around the world this week.

Therese Okoumou scales Statue of Liberty to protest Trump’s immigration policies

On Wednesday (4 July), Therese Patricia Okoumou made international headlines when she climbed to the base of the Statue of Liberty and refused to get down, in protest at the Trump’s zero-tolerance policy on immigration and the practice of separating families at the US-Mexican border.

Okoumou was eventually arrested by police for her protest and appeared in court in Manhattan on Thursday, facing charges of trespassing, interference with government agency functions and disorderly conduct. She pleaded not guilty to all charges, and was cheered by a waiting crowd as she left court.

Addressing reporters, Okoumou quoted Michelle Obama to explain her decision to scale the iconic statue on Liberty Island. “Michelle Obama, our beloved first lady that I care about so much, said when they go low, we go high,” she said. “And I went as high as I could.”

Donald Trump signed an executive order on 20 June ending the policy of separating children from their parents at the border – a policy his administration introduced in the first place. However, thousands of families have yet to be reunited. In a statement, Okoumou’s lawyer said she would “keep fighting until family separation is a thing of the past”. 

Andrea Riseborough creates her own women-focused production company     

Andrea Riseborough at the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party

From Margot Robbie to Reese Witherspoon and Gemma Arterton, increasing numbers of actresses – fed up with the dearth of meaty film and TV roles for women – have set up their own production companies. Now, Andrea Riseborough has joined their ranks.

The Newcastle-born star of films including Made in Dagenham, Battle of the Sexes and Birdman announced this week that she had launched production company Mother Sucker after growing tired of the roles on offer for women.

“There’s a very narrow version of women in film, who are either chaste, pure, and irrepressibly good, or are hyper sexualized. [They’re] just very boring stereotypes of women,” she told Rogue magazine, per KGMI.

“I was motivated by there not being any female producers or female storytellers, but also because I wanted to create work and set up an environment in which I can help them do that and support other women who work on what they want to see,” she said. 

Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo becomes Mexico City’s first elected female mayor 

Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo after her election victory 

On Sunday (1 July), Claudia Sheinbaum Pardo became the first woman and the first Jewish person ever to be elected mayor of Mexico City. While Rosario Robles served as interim mayor in the Mexican capital between 1999 and 2000, Sheinbaum’s victory represents the first time a woman has been elected to the post.

More than 3,000 women ran in state and local elections across Mexico in June, in what Mexican media dubbed “the year of the woman”. At a press conference on Sunday night, Sheinbaum said: “We are going to lead a democratic government that makes this city a city of rights – a city that promotes social rights and that respects the human rights and dignity of the people.”

Before getting involved in politics professionally, Sheinbaum worked as a scientist specialising in green energy and sustainable development. She was elected environment secretary for Mexico City in 2000, and went on to serve as defence secretary for Mexico’s national government and governor of the Mexico City borough of Tlalpan.

In 2008, she helped organise women’s brigades called adelitas – a reference to the legendary female fighters of the Mexican Revolution – to protest government plans to privatise some of Mexico’s oil supply. In a recent speech at a rally, she promised that she would tackle Mexico City’s crime problem: “Just because I might look like a skinny scientist doesn’t mean I’m not going to crack down on crime here. I will.” 

Spanish feminists protest famous running of the bulls festival 

Every year, hordes of tourists descend on the northern Spanish town of Pamplona for the famous San Fermin festival, otherwise known as the running of the bulls.

This week, however, the notoriously macho event has been taken over by feminist activists, protesting against sexual violence. In 2016, 20 sexual assaults were reported at the festival, when five men sexually assaulted an 18-year-old women, filmed the attack, and left after stealing her phone.

There was widespread outrage in Spain earlier this year when the men, who referred to themselves as la manada (“the wolf pack”), were acquitted of rape charges and jailed for nine years on lesser sexual assault charges. More protests ensued in June when a court ordered the men to be released on bail pending an appeal.

The decision to free the men early prompted a hashtag, #cuéntalo – meaning “tell it” – that has been compared to the #MeToo movement. Women going to this year’s San Fermin festival were encouraged to wear black and purple, rather than the traditional red and white, to the opening ceremony.

Laura Berro, Pamplona’s equality commissioner, told the Associated Press that she welcomed “feminist ideas”, adding: “Until recently there was very backward thinking that justified men assaulting others under the effect of alcohol and in the party context.”

Women Making Waves is part of Stylist’s Visible Women campaign to raise awareness of women who’ve made a difference. See more Visible Women stories here.  

Images: Getty Images