In tonight’s Dispatch: fired FBI director James Comey condemns Trump’s treatment of women; British-Somali poet Momtaza Mehri is named young people’s laureate for London; feminist protestors respond to sacking of Ulster rugby players; and research reveals how female inventors empowered Victorian women to start cycling.
James Comey says Trump “treats women like they’re pieces of meat”
The former director of the FBI has said that President Donald Trump “treats women like they’re pieces of meat” in a wide-ranging and fiercely critical interview.
James Comey was fired by Trump in May 2017, and is now on a publicity tour for his new book, A Higher Loyalty, which he says is “about ethical leadership”. In an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulous on Sunday night, Comey said that he saw Trump as being morally unfit for office.
“A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they’re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person’s not fit to be president of the United States, on moral grounds,” he said.
Trump has been accused of sexual assault and sexual harassment, including non-consensual kissing or groping, by at least 15 women. Not all of these allegations became public knowledge once he announced his bid for the US presidency: in 1989, his then-wife Ivana claimed that he had raped her (a claim she later withdrew), and in 1997 businesswoman Jill Harth sued him for nonviolent sexual harassment (she also withdrew this claim when another was settled). Former contestants of the Miss Universe franchise, including Miss USA and Miss Teen USA, have also alleged that Trump – who owned the pageants – would enter their dressing rooms while they were getting ready.
CNN Politics has more on this story here.
Poet Momtaza Mehri named young people’s laureate for London
A 24-year-old Somali-British poet from Kilburn, north-west London, has been chosen as the new young people’s laureate for London.
Momtaza Mehri is the author of the short book sugah.lump.prayer, has been shortlisted for the Brunel African poetry prize and won the Out-Spoken Page poetry prize in 2017. She said that she often heard oral poetry while growing up, but only began writing for publications in 2014.
“Over time I honed, or found, my voice, and that allowed me to feel comfortable, finding the poetic voice I felt was most suited to me,” she said, adding that she is interested in exploring “questions or ideas around disruption or movement, whether it’s movement of people or places, movement between different ideas, between how things change over different generations, and in themes of migration and urban spaces.”
During her time as young people’s laureate, Mehri said she hopes to encourage Londoners aged between 13 and 25 to discuss their concerns and experiences through poetry. She will work on youth-focused residencies around London and co-host a special project for young London poets.
Read more on this story at The Guardian.
#IBelieveHer: protesters react to sacking of Ulster rugby players
Feminist activists have responded after two rugby players accused of raping a woman were sacked by their club.
Paddy Jackson and Stuart Olding were unanimously cleared on 28 March of raping a female student at a house party. However, their acquittal did not change the decision by the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) and Ulster Rugby to sack them.
In a statement on Sunday 15 April, the IRFU and Ulster Rugby announced that Jackson and Olding’s contracts had been revoked with immediate effect. The groups cited their “responsibility and commitment to the core values of the game – respect, inclusivity and integrity.”
This appeared to be a reference to details about the players’ conduct that emerged during the trial, including messages they exchanged over WhatsApp the day after the party in which they called the young woman a “slut” and congratulated themselves for being “top shaggers”.
The Belfast Feminist Network (BFN) organised a demonstration outside the home of Ulster Rugby last week, with many protesters holding banners reading “#IBelieveHer” (the hashtag that went viral after the news of Jackson and Olding’s acquittal broke).
In a statement, the BFN said they viewed the decision to fire the pair as “a victory for all the people who joined with us to say that they could not accept anything less than full accountability”.
Read more on this story here.
How female Victorian inventors used fashion to protect women cyclists
New research has revealed how female inventors in Victorian England designed mechanised clothes to enable women to ride bicycles.
Dr Kat Jungnickel is a senior lecturer in sociology at Goldsmiths University who has written a book about Victorian women inventors. During her research, she discovered a number of devices designed by women to get around the fact that female cyclists were regularly pelted with stones or verbally abused.
One inventor, Londoner Alice Bygrave, created a pulley system that adjusted the height of a skirt, and dressmaker Julia Gill created a ‘semi-skirt’ filled with concealed rings on which to gather fabric when cycling. Women’s rights activist Henrietta Miller, meanwhile, created a “cycling suit” featuring a skirt that could be “raised in height via loops sewn into the hem”.
“These inventions are just some of the fascinating ways early female cyclists responded to challenges to their freedom of movement,” Dr Jungnickel wrote in The Guardian.
“Through new radical garments and their differently clad bodies they pushed against established forms of gendered citizenship and the stigma of urban harassment.”
Read more on this story here.
Throughout 2018, Stylist is raising the profiles of brilliant women past and present – and empowering future generations to follow their lead – with our Visible Women campaign. See more from Visible Women here.
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