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Friends?
Friends?

-OpEd-

Over the past week or so, it's been hard not to feel disoriented by what is constantly being thrown at us, in this hyperconnected planet of ours, and not to get the feeling from our social media feeds that the world might just be going mad.

Let's begin with the open letter signed by Catherine Deneuve and 99 other prominent French women to condemn the "puritanical," "witch-hunt" aspect of the #MeToo movement. I, for one, happen to agree with what this letter denounces, though I'm very much opposed to some parts of it, especially when the signatories seem to casually dismiss women being rubbed up against in public transport as a mere "freedom to bother." But the paranoia, the outrage, and the frenzy the letter seems to have provoked worldwide is beyond all proportion.

The same could be said for the ripple effects of the Weinstein scandal, as evidenced the story of the British mother calling for Sleeping Beauty to be banned from primary school because the kiss is non-consensual, or by the ridiculous accusations recently thrown at Aziz Ansari.

Not that we should be surprised. Ours, after all, is a world whereFriends (The Hollywood Reporter"s all-time favorite TV show) has suddenly become homophobic, sexist and fat-shaming. Yes, you read that well. According toThe Independent, some millennials — who are just discovering the show now, courtesy of Netflix — are "shocked" by the storylines and "uncomfortable" by the obvious "homophobia" of Chandler and Ross.

They also take issue with the show's "lack of diversity," because, as everyone knows, the quality of a work of fiction is equally proportionate to the number of minorities it positively represents. Star Wars: The Last Jeditaught us that much, right? As Chandler himself would say: Seriously, could this BE any more insane?

Well, turns out that in Switzerland, it can. Though the scientific jury is still out on whether lobsters can feel pain, the Swiss Federal Council decided last week to give the popular and delicious crustaceans the benefit of the doubt and issued an order that bans cooks from placing them alive in boiling water. The government considers "knocking them out first" — either by electrocution or "mechanical destruction of the brain" — a more "humane" way to kill them, according to Swiss broadcaster RTS.

Not that we should be surprised.

We are reaching a point where any idea that, as far-fetched as it may sound to most, may very well turn into a genuine activist battle royale a few years in the future. Can anybody be certain there won't be, at some point, campaigns to raise awareness about the pain trees may feel when farmers shake them to harvest olives? Or that there won't be calls, at some point, to ban lawn mowing on grounds that it's an inhumane, barbaric practice?

Personally, I'd be tempted to wager that in the not-so-distant future, we'll see the emergence of groups — let's call them "non-walkers' — who will try to convince us to stop walking on grass because it risks killing insects. If you think that's crazy, just look at how a number of Parisians reacted to the city's response to its worst rat crisis in decades: They denounced it as a "genocide."

Naturally, all these excesses stem from genuine and legitimate battles: against sexual harassment, discrimination and animal abuse. But the response to these issues has to be proportionate and reasonable. Defending genuine sexual harassment makes no sense. Why would anyone even try? But I find it equally preposterous to argue that a man complimenting a woman's looks is harassment.

Surely there's a more balanced position to be found, one that won't lead to more estrangement and resentment in female-male relationships. The same goes for the rest, lobsters and all. More and more, reason and temperance seem to never show up in our social media feeds.

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Society

How India’s Women Are Fighting Air Pollution — And The Patriarchy

India is one of the world's worst countries for air pollution, with women more likely to be affected by the problem than men. Now, experts and activists are fighting to reframe pollution as a gendered health crisis.

A woman walking through dense fog in New Delhi

*Saumya Kalia

MUMBAI In New Delhi, a city that has topped urban air-pollution charts in recent years, Shakuntala describes a discomfort that has become too familiar. Surrounded by bricks and austere buildings, she tells an interviewer: "The eyes burn and it becomes difficult to breathe". She is referring to the noxious fumes she routinely breathes as a construction worker.

Like Shakuntala, women’s experiences of polluted air fill every corner of their lives – inside homes, in parks and markets, on the way to work. Ambient air in most districts in India has never been worse than it is today. As many as 1.67 million people in the country die prematurely due to polluted air. It is India’s second largest health risk after malnutrition.

This risk of exposure to air pollution is compounded for women. Their experiences of toxic air are more frequent and often more hazardous. Yet “policies around air quality have not yet adequately taken into account gender or other factors that might influence people’s health,” Pallavi Pant, a senior scientist at the Health Effects Institute, a nonprofit in the U.S., told The Wire Science.

“It’s unacceptable that the biggest burden [rests on] those who can least bear it,” Sherebanu Frosh, an activist, added. People like her are building a unique resistance within India.

Keep reading...Show less

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