Meghan Markle is Engaged to Prince Harry

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (E! Online)

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (E! Online)

It’s finally happening! Former “Suits” actress Meghan Markle got engaged to her boyfriend Price Harry (heard of him?), and they announced their engagement a week ago. The two attended a photocall in the morning at Kensington Palance’s Sunken Garden, and sat down for an televised interview revealing more details with the BBC later that day.

This engagement is big for a lot of reasons, but mainly because it’s breaking barriers: Markle will be the first biracial person (and first biracial woman) to join the royal family. (Markle’s mother is Doria Ragland, an African-American woman, and her father is Thomas Markle, who is Caucasian. Markle self-identifies as a “strong, confident mixed-race woman.”) Many are excited because Markle will be the first “Black Princess” (though technically she’s more likely to end up with a Duchess title), but there are more nuances to the situation. “Elle” has a a great piece where 16 Black women aired their reactions to the engagement news; it’s well worth reading in full, so go check it out!

The engagement is also a powerful step towards revolutionizing the British monarchy and the public’s perception thereof. Princes Harry and William have spoken out about their mental health and its importance, and seem to want to make the monarchy more progressive. Along with the fact that Prince Harry will be marrying a biracial woman, he’ll also be marrying a divorcee: Markle was previously married to film producer Trevor Engelson from 2011 to 2013. The last time a British royal married a divorced woman, he had to abdicate the throne. This happened in 1937 when the Duke of Windsor married Wallis Simpson, which caused quite a scandal.

One thing is for sure: this engagement is hurtling the British royal family into the 21st century. As “The New York Times” puts it:

With one heady announcement, it seems, Harry and Ms. Markle have thrown out generations’ worth of quietly repressed tradition and presented a new royal model to a country that will have to adjust to it, whether it wants to or not.

 

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Tampons and Pads Will Be Free in New York City Schools and Prisons

Tampon (Lydia's Lunchbox)

Tampon (Lydia’s Lunchbox)

Last year, the New York City council voted in favor of providing free tampons and pads to women in public schools, shelters and correctional facilities. The measure passed unanimously, and the program will be the first of its kind.

It’s expected that the city will spend $2.4M for menstrual supplies across the public facilities. Within shelters, an estimated “2 million tampons and 3.5 million pads” will be distributed for the 23K women, costing $540K annually.

Here’s how it would work for public schools:

Dispensers will be installed in the girls’ bathrooms at 800 schools, reaching 300,000 students at an initial cost of $3.7 million and $1.9 million annually thereafter.

The bill was created by New York City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland. Regarding why the bill was important, Ferreras-Copeland said, “Menstrual hygiene products are as necessary as toilet paper and should be treated as basic bathroom supplies.”

There’s also the fact that menstrual products are a necessary expense for women of childbearing age. This expense, which has been dubbed the “tampon tax” (though it refers to all types of menstrual products), takes a chunk (around $100 per year) out of women’s already diminished paychecks. Lately, there’s been some pushback on this price of being female-bodied: Last year, five women sued the state of New York to abolish the tampon tax.

No word on when the bill will become law, and the program can begin.

Trends: The Bikini in 1960s Film

Ursula Andress in "Dr. No," 1962 (YouTube)

Ursula Andress in “Dr. No,” 1962 (YouTube)

This year, the bikini turns 70 years old. How can it be that old?! And love it or hate it, the iconic swimsuit isn’t not going anywhere anytime soon.

The bikini’s invention is credited to French engineer Louis Reard. When he went to the beach, he noticed women trying to get a better tan by adjusting their suits. Sensing a hole in the market, he designed the first bikini out of 30 square inches of fabric in 1946.

Though the bikini took some time to catch on with the average consumer, it caught fire on film in the 1960s. The decade featured some instantly iconic bikini moments, ensuring that the garment had earned its place in fashion and film history.

One of the first to appear was in 1962’s James Bond film “Dr. No.” Ursula Andress, playing shell diver Honey Ryder, appears from the ocean clad in a white bikini. Bikini sales rose after audiences saw the movie, and the bikini was later auctioned off for $61.5K in 2001.

After that head-turning debut, bikinis became a wardrobe staple of the beach party genre, starting with 1963’s “Beach Party” with Annette Funicello. In 1966’s “One Million Years B.C.,” actress Raquel Welch rocked a deerskin bikini.

But why were bikinis taking off during the 1960s? There are a few reasons. One is that women’s dress standards had somewhat relaxed due to the sexual revolution. While a woman might’ve felt a bikini was too revealing in the 1950s, many women grew comfortable showing their bodies (up to a point) in the 1960s.

Though the bikini gained popularity a good 15 years after its debut, the classic women’s swimwear item shows no signs of slowing down in the near or distant future.

 

 

Burkini Sales Rise by 200% After French Ban

Burkini designer Aheda Zanetti (Saudi Gazette)

Burkini designer Aheda Zanetti (Saudi Gazette)

Earlier this summer, coastal French towns courted controversy when their respective mayors decided to ban burkinis on beaches. The burkini consists of a long-sleeved top with long pants and a head covering, and was developed for women who follow Islamic modesty standards so that they could go swimming while still covered. The term “burkini” comes from a portmanteau of the words “burqa” and “bikini.”

Despite the ban, burkini creator Aheda Zanetti says that online sales of now-famous swimwear have risen over 200%+ recently. (Now, we don’t know what her sales had been previously, or what the year-over-year change has proved to be, so unfortunately we have incomplete information.)

Zanetti says that her customers are not homogeneously Muslim. She reports that about 40% of her customers are from other faith traditions, such as Judaism and Mormonism, that adhere to modest dress standards.

The burkini ban stems from a stringent French view on separating religion from the state. The French government has banned religious symbols from government buildings since 2004. A ban specifically on burqas was passed in 2011.

Right now, about 30 French towns have instituted the ban, though the town of Villeneuve-Loubet has since overturned it.

 

Taiwan Elects First Female President

Taiwan's main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen gives a speech during a news conference in Taipei

Taiwan’s main opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson Tsai Ing-wen gives a speech during a news conference in Taipei April 15, 2015. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Taiwan hit a milestone last week: Citizens elected Tsai Ing-wen, making her the first female president of the country. She heads the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), and won 56% of the vote.

Tsai’s concerns for the country including growing the economy and ensuring that China respects Taiwan’s democracy. It’ll be interesting to see how she implements these measures, and how both Taiwan and China react.

China Ends Its Famous One-Child Policy

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Chinese One-Child Policy poster (The Galloping Beaver)

Whoa. Here’s something I didn’t expect to happen within my lifetime: Last week, China officially ended its one-child-per-family policy. Now, married couples are allowed to have up to two children. Crazy! (Though I kind of doubt that many couples will get crazy, and have more than two.)

The one-child policy was informally adopted (i.e. “strongly encouraged”) in 1975, made into law by the country’s Communist Party four years later. The law followed China’s population exceeding 800M+ people in 1970, with leaders realizing that the then-current growth rate was unsustainable.

However, the law has been relaxed for exceptions. In 1984, parents were allowed to have two children if one parent was an only. In 2013, this became alright if only one parent was an only child.

It’s estimated that the policy has prevented 400M+ births.

But why was the policy abolished, and why now? There are a few reasons. One is that the male-to-female sex ratio is becoming unbearably skewed, which tends to happen when preference for one sex greatly outweighs the other. (In this case, the Chinese preferred boys to girls, even going so far as to commit infanticide if a child was born a girl.) The birth rate is also declining, and the mortality rate is on track to outpace it. Per “The New York Times:”

China’s working-age population, those 15 to 64, grew by at least 100 million people from 1990 until a couple of years ago. But that expansion is petering out, and more people are living longer, leaving a greater burden on a shrinking work force. Now, about 10 percent of the population is 65 or older, and according to earlier estimates, that proportion is likely to reach 15 percent by 2027 and 20 percent by 2035.

China’s population is now 1.3B+, with 30% being over 50. It’s estimated that the decision will affect 100M+ couples.

 

How Has Colorado’s Teen Pregnancy Rate Dropped 40% Within 4 Years?

IUD (NY Mag)

IUD (NY Mag)

Colorado’s teen pregnancy rate has been getting some attention recently. But it’s not for the reason you think; it’s actually for the opposite reason.

From 2009 to 2013, Colorado reported a 40% decrease in teenage pregnancies, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. Below is a graph that shows the decline:

Colorado's Birth Rate 2005-2012 (The Washington Post)

Colorado’s Birth Rate 2005-2012 (The Washington Post)

That seems insane, right? But there’s actually an interesting reason behind it.

In 2008, an anonymous donor (later revealed to be the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation, named after Warren Buffett’s late wife) gave a $23 gift to be parceled out over five years. The gift was to be used for “long-term contraception” for low-income teens and women. Over 30K intrauterine devices (IUDs) were purchased and implemented. This measure was rolled out in 68 clinics, as part of Colorado’s Family Planning Initiative.

The IUDs were found to be a very significant factor in the state’s teen pregnancy decline. The study released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed that “the percentage of young women receiving IUDs and implants quadrupled in participating clinics,” and, in a complementary effect, the women receiving IUDs accounted for 75% of the state’s overall teen birth rate decline.

On a national scale, Colorado rose from having the “29th lowest teen birth rate in the nation to the 19th.” This is significant as seven in 10 teen pregnancies in the state are unplanned.

The program expires this summer, and it’s unclear whether it will be renewed. But the numbers definitely speak for themselves in terms of effectiveness.