Byte Me #14: Bat Woman, Britney Spears, and social distance warriors

Byte Me #14: Bat Woman, Britney Spears, and social distance warriors

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Welcome back to Byte Me, our feminist newsletter that makes everyone mad <3

Some updates from us: Gigi has taken up a heavy drinking habit (she’s drinking red wine as she types this), yesterday was Anouk’s birthday (old)… and Cara needs her expired IUD taken out. PLUS the actual, real life Hot Priest from Fleabag came to her flat for an open viewing — and this is just about the best thing that’s ever happened to us.

[Also read our previous issue: Byte Me #12: Lost IUDs, Jess Bezos, and a hidden vagenda]

Each month, our gloriously gifted designer, Saïna, illustrates a weird comment or tweet we receive from one of TNW’s misogynistic, or just funny, readers. This month, Cara wrote a story on how many Indian startups don’t hire women to save on maternity costs. Cue sexist comment:

Wow! Interesting insight, Kasun. We sincerely hope all your startup ambitions fail. Here’s Saïna’s artistic interpretation:

Not to brag, but every month we get numerous shows of admiration from people writing in or tweeting to tell us how much they love this newsletter, and by extension, us. Shout out to Danny <3 We agree that we’re great, but we still love to hear it. Now onto the news!

the bloody news

  • The Atlantic did a piece on why the coronavirus is a disaster for feminism: “One of the most striking effects of the coronavirus will be to send many couples back to the 1950s.”
  • Scientific American profiled Shi Zhengli, aka Bat Woman, who hunts down viruses such as SARS and the coronavirus — she’s one of the many virologists who have been preparing for this moment for decades.

    Credit: Wuhan Institute of Virology.

  • A UK abortion law briefly changed during the COVID-19 outbreak. The quickly deleted change would have allowed women to take early medical abortion pills at home. (The Guardian)
  • We love Table Manners, a podcast hosted by pop singer Jessie Ware and her mum, Lennie, who argue while cooking dinner for, and interviewing, a guest. This episode with Vanessa Williams — actor, singer, and the first-ever black Miss America — was one of our faves.

  • A study found that almost half of Indian startups don’t hire women to save on maternity costs. Well AS A stARtUp tHEY ShoUld dO THaT. cAn’t BLamE theM.
  • Women say they’re washing their hands significantly more than men as the coronavirus spreads around the world. Are we surprised? (Business Insider)
  • Japan Airlines finally ditched its compulsory high heels and skirts for air hostesses, marking a big win for the ‘#KuToo movement.’ (The Guardian)
  • (tweet deleted)

  • If you haven’t subscribed to The New York Times’ weekly ‘In Her Words’ newsletter, you should. A couple of our recent favorites:
    • This one about how domestic violence victims are coping in times of lockdown.
    • This one about how mothers are managing while working from home: “I feel like I have five jobs: mom, teacher, C.C.O., house cleaner, chef.”
  • Ukraine’s traffic controllers and safety officers are mainly women. This photo essay from The New York Times shows “how certain things in this country stand firm in the present as a defiant nod to the past.”
  • The Cut wrote about why there’s no better time than now to get a vibrator.

that’s what she said: should we shame people for being shit at isolation?

Because we’re all magical and unique snowflakes who don’t always agree on feminist issues — and subsequently feel like we’re “bad” women — we’re going to discuss something we found online in each newsletter.

For this month’s that’s what she said, we’re discussing social distancing and shaming. Read the full discussion here, and included the TL;DR below:

Georgina: Ladiez — there’s a pandemic right now, dunno if you heard. Many people act like they haven’t. Should we cut people slack for being shit at isolation? For example, a bunch of people were publicly shamed for exercising here in Amsterdam — do you think it was fair?

Cara: I think people need to use their common sense too. We know how the virus spreads — close contact with other people. Not to mention how you can be a carrier without having any symptoms. It’s obvious, at any point in the pandemic, to avoid being in groups, exercising or not.

Anouk: I agree, but it seems rules also change daily and many people seem to struggle to keep up.

Georgina: I find some of the guidelines here pretty confusing, and hear a lot of mixed messages. I err on the careful side, but I also understand that people are taking their freedom while they still can. BUT I think exercising in a group close together is fucking stupid.

Cara: “Taking their freedom while they can” is being exploited though. In the UK, when the government closed clubs and pubs, everyone used the last 24 hours as ‘freedom.’ The only way to get rid of the virus, other than a vaccine, is to be physically distant from others.

You can check out the full conversation here. Feel free to comment on the document with your thoughts, or send us an email!

the best and the worst

In this section, we ask women much smarter than us about the best and worst piece of professional advice they’ve ever received. This month we asked Alison Wynn, a Research Associate at the Stanford VMware Women’s Leadership Innovation Lab.

The best?
“Some of the best professional advice I ever received had to do with reacting to a rejection. My advisor and I co-authored a paper, submitted it to a journal, and the journal rejected it. My first reaction was to see the rejection (and corresponding feedback) as a sign that the paper was fundamentally flawed and needed a complete overhaul if we ever hoped to publish it. I worried that maybe the reviewers were right, and maybe we didn’t have a real contribution to make.

When I met with my advisor to go over the feedback, her reaction was: “They clearly don’t understand the strengths of our paper. In the next draft, we need to make the strengths clearer.” I was floored. Not only did she interpret their feedback differently, but her interpretation suggested an entirely different course of action. Instead of giving up on our work, or completely overhauling it, she suggested clarifying and emboldening our statements about the paper’s existing strengths. We did eventually publish that paper, and it taught me a valuable lesson: Rather than internalizing negative feedback and becoming discouraged, sometimes all you need to do is focus on communicating your strengths.”

The worst?
“I don’t know if it counts as the WORST professional advice I’ve received, but it was advice that didn’t work for me, personally. A mentor of mine (one I still deeply respect) told me I was taking on too many different research projects, and that I wouldn’t be able to do any of them well if I kept it up. She advised me to focus exclusively on one project and make it great. I ended up rejecting this advice because I’m someone who thrives on having multiple projects going on at once.

When one project hits a setback (inevitable in academic research), the ability to switch to a different project allows me to keep moving forward while still getting some time and space to gain perspective on the first project. It prevents me from wallowing and becoming frozen. I feel comforted knowing my eggs aren’t all in the same basket. I understand where she was coming from, and I think her strategy can be a very effective one, but it wasn’t the best strategy for me personally.”

Read Alison Wynn’s full AMA here

tweets of the month

Love these tweets and want more? Follow @byte_me on Twitter for clear skin!

word of the month: Social Distance Warrior

Next up in our new and improved Dicktionary (sorry):

This month we’re discussing — you guessed it — something coronavirus-related. Because as the world is changing at warp speed, so are our manners. In the past week, some random stranger may have commented “STAY THE FUCK HOME!!!” on your park-jog selfie. Maybe your neighbor hissed “1.5 METERS!” when you entered the elevator. If so, you know who we’re talking about. It’s that person currently championing quarantine — the Social Distance Warrior. 

It’s this guy:

And whoever created this “non-essential!” video within the Derbyshire Police.

The Social Distance Warrior buys toilet paper one roll at a time and counts the number of daily dog walks their neighbor takes. They know 15 different songs to wash their hands to — don’t forget about those thumbs! — and shares #craftsinspo for “day 4 of my corona-cation.”

It’s not THAT fun, Lauren. 

How to use in a sentence:

“Hi, yeah. I’d like to be connected to the FBI please,” Gavin said to the emergency operator as he peaked through the curtains. “I’ve just seen my neighbor go for a second jog today.” 

“No!” yelled Lindsey to her friends on Houseparty. “I’m not fucking meeting you this weekend, whether we’re two meters apart or not.”

*Shares her fourth #craftsinspo Instagram Story of the day* “I wonder why I lost all my followers?” Sarah wondered aloud.

What do you think of Byte Me? Love it? Tell us. Hate it? Tell us — as female journalists we love hate mail.

Don’t forget…

<3 The TNW shrews

Cara ([email protected])
Anouk ([email protected])
& Georgina ([email protected])

Read next: Labs experiment with new and unproven methods to create COVID-19 vaccine

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