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Women’s Sex Toy Start-Up Sues NY Transit System Over “Sexism” and “Censorship”

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  • A sex toy company that makes products primarily for women had an ad campaign rejected by New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
  • The company claims that the MTA has a double standard when it comes to ads it will approve and is filing a lawsuit against them.
  • The company is accusing the MTA of gender bias, arguing that more explicit ads promoting sexual health to men have been allowed to run in the past.
  • The MTA says it plans to defend itself in the lawsuit.

MTA Rejects Marketing Campaign

A sex toy company by the name of Dame Products announced Tuesday that it is suing New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, accusing the organization of gender bias after their ad campaign was denied.

Dame is a Brooklyn-based start-up that makes vibrators and sex toys primarily for women. The company says that its contact with the MTA began back in July, when it reached out to propose a product marketing campaign that would run on subways, buses, and other MTA locations. The company claims it was given the green light to start developing ads.

Dame started working with the MTA’s ad agency, Outfront Media, to create them. However, Dame says that once their team submitted those advertisements, they were rejected.

The MTA cited their newly updated policy on advertising and said these ads promoted a “sexually oriented business,” which their policy does not allow. The MTA then posted an FAQ on their advertising policy that included this rule.

“The MTA Advertising Policy prohibits any advertisement that promotes a ‘sexually oriented business,’ and advertisements for sex toys or devices for any gender fall within this category,” their statement reads.

Dame, however, thinks that the MTA’s choice reflects a double standard with what the MTA does and does not consider to be too sexually explicit.

In their lawsuit, Dame is seeking damages and rights to run their ads with the MTA. Alexandra Fine, a co-founder and CEO of Dame, told Vice that she thinks their decision violates Dame’s first amendment right to free speech.

“We’re arguing that the MTA’s arbitrary censorship is unconstitutional because they have not clearly defined the term ‘sexually-oriented business,” Fine said. “It’s fully at their discretion who gets to use their platform, and that sort of censorship violates our first amendment rights.”

Comparisons to Other Ads

The ad in the campaign all depict images of the vibrators. Some include customer reviews on them, along with the slogan: “Toys, for sex.”

Photo via Dame
Photo via Dame

One just shows the slogan, while another includes the phrase “you come first.”

Photo via Dame
Photo via Dame

The only one with any human body parts shows a man and a woman’s hands touching, holding one of the products, along with a statistic about satisfaction rates that does not include any explicit language.

Photo via Dame

Dame claims that these ads are not nearly as suggestive as other ads that run on subways. Specifically, ads that are targeted to men. On their website, they point out companies that make medication for erectile dysfunction often use phallic imagery in their ads, but still are allowed to run on the subway.

Ad by Hims. Source: Dame.
Ad by Hims. Source: Dame.

In other cases, the companies also use suggestive phrases, ideas, or spell out what the product is directly.

Ad by Hims. Source: Dame.
Ad by Roman. Source: Dame.

Dame also pointed to ads run by the Museum of Sex and a bedsheet company called Brooklinen that include more explicit images and phrases. Those ads are also allowed to run on the subway.

Ad by Museum of Sex. Source: Dame.
Ad by Brooklinen. Source: Dame.

In their lawsuit, Dame claims that the MTA allows ads for breast implants and condoms as well. Dame argues that in comparison, their ads were not as suggestive or graphic.

In a complaint obtained by Vice, Dame says that the MTA tolerates ads that cater to the sexual needs of men, but not women.

“The MTA’s decision to reject Dame’s advertisements reflects no legitimate principle of law. Instead, it reveals the MTA’s sexism, its decision to privilege male interests in its advertising choices, and its fundamental misunderstanding of Dame’s products, which have transformed the sexual health and wellness of more than 100,000 consumers,” the complaint reads.

On its website, Dame goes on to say that this issue also goes beyond basic sexual pleasure. They claim that their products are catered towards health benefits as well.

“Vibrators are regularly prescribed by doctors as a drug-free, affordable solution for low-libido, arousal disorders, and sexual function issues for those recovering from abuse, cancer, and more,” a statement reads.  “If vibrator companies can’t advertise, those people won’t know what options are available to them.”

Past Complaints Against MTA

This is not the first time a company has accused the MTA of gender discrimination when it comes to advertising. In 2015, Thinx, a period underwear company, was told by the MTA’s ad agency that its ads depicting a grapefruit and egg yolk were too explicit. Its photos of women wearing the product accompanied by the slogan “underwear for women with periods” were also allegedly rejected.

Photo via Thinx
Photo via Thinx
Photo via Thinx

They went public with this rejection and ended up getting approved to run their ads.

Dame is also taking a very public approach with their situation. The company is encouraging people to use the hashtag #DerailSexism to join a conversation about the MTA’s decision. One user pointed out that while these ads are banned on the subway, women who use public transport are often subject to sexual harassment.

Still, a spokesperson for the MTA defended their decision. They told Reuters that the organization is “constitutionally entitled to draw reasonable content-based distinctions.”

The MTA also says they plan to defend themselves against the lawsuit.

See what others are saying: (Vice) (Reuters) (Forbes)

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Amanda Gorman Wows the Nation With “The Hill We Climb”

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  • Amanda Gorman, a 22-year-old poet, impressed the nation when she read “The Hill We Climb” at President Biden’s inauguration, making her the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history.
  • Gorman’s said the Jan. 6 attack on the nation’s Capitol inspired her to focus on a message of hope, community, and healing in her poem.
  • Big names like Oprah Winfrey, Anderson Cooper, Barack Obama, and Lin-Manuel Miranda have all praised her work.

Amanda Gorman Becomes Youngest Inaugural Poet

Inaugural poet Amanda Gorman wowed the nation on Wednesday as she spoke of healing, unity, hope, and what it means to be American while reading her poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

At 22-years-old Gorman is the youngest inaugural poet in the nation’s history. Born and raised in Los Angeles, she was the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles in 2014 at the age of 16. She then became the first national youth poet laureate in 2017. 

Now, her books are topping Amazon’s Best Sellers list and they are not even scheduled to be released until the fall.

First Lady Dr. Jill Biden became a fan of Gorman after watching her give a reading at the Library of Congress. She then suggested that Gorman be a part of the ceremony. 

“Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true: That even as we grieved, we grew. That even as we hurt, we hoped That even as we tired, we tried,” Gorman recited during inauguration. “That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious. Not because we will never again know defeat but because we will never again sow division.”

Like President Biden, Gorman has struggled with a speech impediment and has been open about her experience overcoming it. She actually used poetry as a tool to correct it. First, she used it as a way of expressing herself without having to speak. Then she used it to bring her poems to life.

“Once I arrived at the point in my life in high school, where I said, ‘you know what? Writing my poems on the page isn’t enough for me,” she told CBS News. “I have to give them breath, and life, I have to perform them as I am.’ That was the moment that I was able to grow past my speech impediment.”

What Inspired “The Hill We Climb”

Gorman said the inaugural committee gave her freedom and flexibility when it came to choosing what to write about. She was well on her way before the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Those events then influenced her writing. 

“It energized me even more to believe that much more firmly in a message of hope, community and healing. I felt like that was the type of poem that I needed to write and it was the type of poem that the country and the world needed to hear,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.  

That message came across clearly and the insurrection was depicted in part of “The Hill We Climb.”

“It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit. It’s the past we step into and how we repair it. We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it, would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy and this effort very nearly succeeded,” she said. “But while democracy can be periodically delayed it can never be permanently defeated. In this truth, in this faith we trust. For while we have our eyes on the future history has its eyes on us.”

Nation Impressed by Gorman

“Wow…Wow, I just, wow you’re awesome,” Cooper said when closing his interview with her. “I am so transfixed.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda also cheered Gorman on. “The Hill We Climb” notably references a line of scripture that appears in a “Hamilton” song. Gorman also said she used to sing the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” to help her say her R sounds and correct her speech impediment. 

“I have never been prouder to see another young woman rise!” Oprah Winfrey wrote. “Brava Brava Amanda Gorman! Maya Angelou is cheering—and so am I.”

Winfrey also gave Gorman a ring with a caged bird on it—a reference to the famous Angelou poem— which Gorman wore during the inauguration. 

Actor Mark Ruffalo joined the onslaught of praise, saying that her words will lead the nation. 

Former President Barack Obama echoed that idea as well, and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Gorman promised to run for president one day. 

See what others are saying: (CBS News) (New York Times) (Los Angeles Times)

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SAT Drops Subject Tests and Optional Essay Section

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  • The College Board will discontinue SAT subject tests effective immediately and will scrap the optional essay section in June. 
  • The organization cited the coronavirus pandemic as part of the reason for accelerating these changes.
  • Regarding subject tests, the College Board said the other half of the decision rested on the fact that Advanced Placement tests are now more accessible to low-income students and students of color, making subject tests unnecessary. 
  • It also said it plans to launch a digital version of the SAT in the near future, despite failing to implement such a plan last year after a previous announcement.

College Board Ends Subject Tests and Optional Essay

College Board announced Tuesday that it will scrap the SAT’s optional essay section, as well as subject tests.

Officials at the organization cited the COVID-19 pandemic as part of the reason for these changes, saying is has “accelerated a process already underway at the College Board to simplify our work and reduce demands on students.”

The decision was also made in part because Advanced Placement tests, which College Board also administers, are now available to more low-income students and students of color. Thus, College Board has said this makes SAT subject tests unnecessary. 

While subject tests will be phased out for international students, they have been discontinued effective immediately in the U.S. 

Regarding the optional essay, College Board said high school students are now able to express their writing skills in a variety of ways, a factor which has made the essay section less necessary.

With several exceptions, it will be discontinued in June.

The Board Will Implement an Online SAT Test

In its announcement, College Board also said it plans to launch a revised version of the SAT that’s aimed at making it “more flexible” and “streamlined” for students to take the test online.

In April 2020, College Board announced it would be launching a digital SAT test in the fall if schools didn’t reopen. The College Board then backtracked on its plans for a digital test in June, before many schools even decided they would remain closed.

According to College Board, technological challenges led to the decision to postpone that plan.

For now, no other details about the current plan have been released, though more are expected to be revealed in April. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (The New York Times)

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Biden To Block Trump’s Order Lifting COVID-19 Travel Ban

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  • President Trump issued an executive order Monday lifting a ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil. 
  • Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when the CDC will start requiring all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.
  • The move was cheered by the travel industry; however, incoming White House press secretary Jennifer Psaki warned that Biden’s administration does not intend to lift the travel restrictions. 

Trump Order End To COVID-19 Travel Ban

President Donald Trump issued an executive order Monday ending his administration’s ban on travelers from the Schengen area of Europe, the U.K., Ireland, and Brazil.

That ban was put in place last spring in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. In his announcement, however, Trump said the policy will no longer be needed starting Jan. 26, when new rules from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention go into effect.

Starting that day, the CDC will require all passengers from abroad to present proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight.

The recommendation to lift the ban reportedly came from Alex Azar, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services. According to Trump’s proclamation, “the Secretary reports high confidence that these jurisdictions will cooperate with the United States in the implementation of CDC’s January 12, 2021, order and that tests administered there will yield accurate results.”

It’s worth noting that the ban will stay in place for travelers from Iran and China. Still, Trump’s announcement was generally cheered by members of the travel industry who have been pushing to lift the ban and require preflight testing instead. 

Biden To Block Trump’s Order

Soon after the news broke, the incoming White House press secretary for President-elect Joe Biden, Jennifer Psaki, warned that Biden would block Trump’s order.

“With the pandemic worsening, and more contagious variants emerging around the world, this is not the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel,” she wrote on Twitter.

“On the advice of our medical team, the Administration does not intend to lift these restrictions on 1/26.  In fact, we plan to strengthen public health measures around international travel in order to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” she added.

With that, it seems unlikely that Trump’s order will actually take effect. 

It’s also worth noting that this is one of many executive orders Trump has issued just before inauguration day.

Source: Whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions

Some of these orders could soon be overturned once Biden takes office Wednesday. Biden is also expected to roll out his own wave of executive orders in his first 10 days as president.

See what others are saying: (The Wall Street Journal) (The New York Times) (CNN)

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