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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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Nearly 700,000 People to Lose Food Stamp Aid Under New Policy

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  • A new rule was finalized on Wednesday that tightens work restrictions for the federal food stamp program.
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that 688,000 people will be cut from the program when the rule takes effect next year.
  • Those in favor of the change argue that it will push unemployed individuals to find jobs, while critics say it will hurt them more than it will help them.

New Rule

Trump administration finalized a new rule that could remove almost 700,000 people from the federal food stamp program. The rule, announced in a press release on Wednesday, creates stricter work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) final rule promotes work for able-bodied adults between the ages of 18 and 49 without dependents,” the press release said.  

Under current regulations, this demographic can receive three months of SNAP benefits throughout a three year period, unless they work or undergo professional training for at least 20 hours a week. 

States have had the ability to waive this time limit to account for economic turbulence, and counties with unemployment rates as low as 2.5% were eligible for these remissions. The new rule will make 6% the minimum unemployment rate to qualify for these waivers, according to the Washington Post.

It will take effect on April 1, 2020.

Impact on Americans

While the USDA originally estimated that up to 750,000 people would be cut from SNAP with this change, now they have adjusted that number to 688,000. 

The finalized regulation is the first of three proposed measures to limit access to the federal food stamp program. A new study by the Urban Institute found that if the other two rules are approved, nearly 4 million people would lose access to food benefits.

After the new rule was proposed in February, there was an abundance of public comments imploring the administration not to go through with it. 

But the USDA was not swayed and held strong in their argument that SNAP should be a form of temporary assistance instead of a long-term lifestyle. 

“Government can be a powerful force for good, but government dependency has never been the American dream,” said Sonny Perdue, Secretary of Agriculture. “We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”

Those who support the rule are optimistic that it will push unemployed individuals to find jobs. 

“The changes reflect the belief that more Americans can enter and reenter the workforce,” Brandon Lipps, the USDA’s Deputy Under Secretary, told the Washington Post. “So they can know the dignity of work.”

Critics of the change were extremely disappointed upon the news of the rule’s finalization, deeming it a step in the wrong direction.

“The Trump administration is driving the vulnerable into hunger just as the Christmas season approaches,” Senator Chuck Schumer, the Democratic leader, said on the floor Wednesday. “It is heartless. It is cruel. It exposes a deep and shameful cruelness and hypocrisy in this administration.”

Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, chairwoman of the House Agriculture Committee’s subcommittee on nutrition, released a press statement on Wednesday after hearing the news.

“The Administration refuses to take an honest look at the people they are targeting with this rule and what challenges they face that contribute to their hunger…” she said. “…Instead of considering hungry individuals and their unique struggles and needs, the Department has chosen to paint them with the broadest brush, demonizing them as lazy and undeserving.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (NPR) (NBC)

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Melania Trump Blasts Law Professor for Dropping Son’s Name in Impeachment Testimony Joke

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  • Stanford law professor Pamela Karlan made a joke referencing President Donald Trump’s son in her impeachment hearing testimony on Wednesday. 
  • Melania Trump criticized Karlan on Twitter for bringing her child into a political matter.
  • Some condemned Karlan while others thought her wordplay was harmless. 
  • Many Twitter users called the FLOTUS hypocritical for defending her child but staying silent on her husband’s treatment of other minors, including teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and migrant children experiencing inhumane treatment at the border.

Karlan’s Joke

Pamela Karlan, a Stanford law professor, dropped a controversial joke while testifying in the ongoing impeachment hearing against President Donald Trump on Wednesday. 

While explaining the difference between the POTUS and a king, she used a play on words with the name of his teenage son, Barron.

“The constitution says there can be no titles of nobility,” Karlan said. “So while the president can name his son Barron, he can’t make him a baron.”

Karlan’s joke received a scattering of laughter around the room, including a chuckle from Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who posed the question of how the president compares to royalty.  

Melania Trump took to Twitter to defend her son, condemning Karlan’s name-dropping comment. 

“A minor child deserves privacy and should be kept out of politics,” the first lady wrote. “Pamela Karlan, you should be ashamed of your very angry and obviously biased public pandering, and using a child to do it.”

Further Backlash

Karlan was put on blast by other prominent figures for her mention of the president’s son. Vice President Mike Pence called her joke a “new low.”

Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Republican from Florida who strongly supports the president, chastised her directly on the floor Wednesday. 

“Let me also suggest that when you invoke the President’s son’s name here, when you try to make a little joke out of referencing Barron Trump, that does not lend credibility to your argument,” he said. “It makes you look mean.”

The Trump campaign released an official statement on the topic.

“Only in the mind of crazed liberals is it funny to drag a 13-year-old into the impeachment nonsense,” National Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said.

Karlan’s Apology

Later in the day, Prof. Karlan apologized for her remarks, but not without mentioning that she wishes Donald Trump would also admit to his faults. 

“I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son. It was wrong of me to do that,” she said during her testimony. “I wish the president would apologize obviously for the things that he’s done that’s wrong, but I do regret having said that.”

Defense of the Professor

While some were outraged by Karlan’s play on words, others spoke up to defend her, deeming the joke harmless.

Some Twitter users criticized the FLOTUS for being quick to defend her own son but staying silent on her husband’s treatment of other minors, including teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg and migrant children experience inhumane treatment at the border.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (NBC) (Newsweek)

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George Zimmerman Sues Trayvon Martin’s Family for $100M, Citing Defamation

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  • George Zimmerman is suing Trayvon Martin’s parents, their lawyer, and a publishing company for $100 million, citing defamation relating to the 2013 case involving Martin’s shooting.
  • The lawsuit cites a documentary titled The Trayvon Hoax, which accuses Martin’s parents of falsifying testimony.
  • Ben Crump, a lawyer for Martin’s parents, called the lawsuit unfounded and reckless.

Zimmerman’s Lawsuit

The man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin is now suing Martin’s family, their lawyer, and a publishing company for allegedly engaging in false testimony during the 2013 trials related to Martin’s death.

According to reports, George Zimmerman and his lawyers are alleging defamation, saying that Martin family and their prosecutors “have worked in concert to deprive Zimmerman of his constitutional and other legal rights.” Because of this, Zimmerman is asking for $100 million in civil damages.

Zimmerman’s suit cites information from a documentary titled The Trayvon Hoax. It also claims that the Martin family lied in court. 

Zimmerman’s suit cites information from a documentary titled The Trayvon Hoax. It also claims that the Martin family lied in court. 

On top of suing Martin’s family, Zimmerman is also suing the publisher Harper Collins after it released a book titled Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People, which was written by Ben Crump, the lawyer who represented Martin’s family in the case against Zimmerman.

While The Trayvon Hoax was scheduled to be screened at the Coral Gable Art Cinema Thursday following a noon press conference giving more details about the lawsuit, the theater later canceled the screening as news of Zimmerman’s lawsuit surfaced.

In a statement responding to the allegations, Crump said he hoped the lawsuit would soon be thrown out.

“I have every confidence that this unfounded and reckless lawsuit will be revealed for what it is – another failed attempt to defend the indefensible and a shameless attempt to profit off the lives and grief of others,” he said.

Trayvon Martin’s Death

Zimmerman shot and killed Martin in Florida on Feb. 26, 2012. At the time, Martin had been visiting his father.

The night he died, Martin had reportedly been walking home after buying candy and a drink at a gas station. Zimmerman, who was part of the community’s volunteer neighborhood watch, then called the police to report a suspicious-looking person in a dark hoodie.

“These assholes, they always get away,” Zimmerman told the dispatcher.

About two minutes into the call, Zimmerman said he saw Martin then began to run. He then chased after Martin despite the dispatcher telling him not to.

Soon after the phone call ended, Zimmerman and Martin reportedly engaged in a violent altercation that ultimately led to Martin’s death.

Zimmerman was then arrested and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.

In the months that followed, the trial gained national scrutiny as many waited to see what would happen to Zimmerman after shooting an unarmed black teenager.

Ultimately, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges in 2013 after claiming self-defense in court.

See what others are saying: (Miami Herald) (Washington Post) (NBC News)

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