Shakespeare’s Words Repurposed In An Inspiring Short Film About Rape Culture

A woman jolts awake, and for a moment she?s disoriented. She gathers up her clothes, and hears a shower running, presumably the morning sounds of a partner she?s not happy to see.

?Let me be severe to myself, but not unjust,? she says, words borrowed from a play called ?Double Falsehood,? which is attributed to William Shakespeare by some scholars. ?Was it a rape, then??

It?s the opening scene to a short and potent film produced by Thaddeus Shafer and Kari Lee Cartwright. Called ?Was It Rape, Then??, the story borrows lines from Shakespeare?s plays to recreate the multitude of dire experiences that can arise from rape culture.

The short film ? adapted from an onstage performance by Charissa J. Adams for a burlesque show called ?Cabaret Consensual? ? follows several women as they navigate social situations and private thoughts about non-consensual sex. Over the course of the film, a chorus of women questions the injustices done against them, but go on to turn their pain into personal triumph.

Early lines lament ?what men daily do,? but as the film progresses, its heroines find it in them to ?fight,? ?with hearts more proof than shields.?

?Shakespeare played with context all the time ? double meaning, double thoughts, double lives. When we hear it live, we?re always halfway firmly rooted to the present moment onstage, and halfway floating in an imagined reality,? Shafer told HuffPost in an interview. ?Flipping genders is not unusual in Shakespeare […] It?s an especially powerful device when you can pull women into leading the rousing, militant speeches against a mortal enemy. We wanted to portray the fight of sexual assault survivors as, yes, an internal one, but also an external real battle for survival and autonomy, for truth and dignity.?

Shafer went on to explain that the aim of the short film is to explore the nuanced range of experiences that can fall under the descriptor of ?rape.?

?We are so locked into our strict definitions in this culture, so much so that it can be very difficult to be expressive with words without painting yourself into a corner. ?Rape? is one of those words, and we wanted to find a way to let rape, and the question of rape, permeate without boundaries and without needing to divide our protagonists legalistically,? Shafer said. ?They are all a part of one fight.?

Cartwright echoed that idea, and elaborated on it. She hopes that project will make viewers feel ?connected, empowered, emboldened and energized.? She also hopes the film will generate empathy for assault survivors, and to look beyond the ?harsh line between rape/not rape.?

?This has been happening for millennia, not just in the situations portrayed in our 3.5 minutes,? Cartwright said. ?We also stand in solidarity with the countless forms of sexual violence all over the world, crossing all class and cultural boundaries, overt and subtle, whether in schools, or the military or minority communities.?

Need help? In the U.S., visit the National Sexual Assault Online Hotline operated by RAINN. For more resources, visit the National Sexual Violence Resource Center?s website

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Broadening ‘Buy American’ Is The Path To Prosperity

Most taxpayers want their tax dollars spent on American-made goods and services. Democrats and Republicans alike share this patriotic ?fair trade? value that our government should spend our money at home ? whether it?s state and municipal contracts or big federal infrastructure investments. That?s why Buy American laws that give preference to U.S. companies in government contracts are so popular, except with the foreign companies that want to underbid American manufacturers and the other countries that want to take jobs away through bad trade deals.

Those bad trade deals with their generous government procurement chapters have undermined the letter and spirit of our Buy American laws and undercut American workers in manufacturing and the public service sector. The U.S. is a party to the Government Procurement Agreement, for example, a 47-nation side deal to the WTO. It was the subject of a recent report by the Government Accountability Office, which revealed that foreign firms are able to bid on far more U.S. opportunities than U.S. firms are able to bid on foreign ones. Referring to that report, an administration official admitted that ?the U.S. may not be getting its fair share of the global government procurement market through its free trade agreement concessions.?

We appeal to the administration and the Congress, American business and labor, workers and taxpayers to rally around Buy American.

We agree. And we hope the administration and the Congress will work together to strengthen Buy American laws and regulations. Fortunately, we have good reasons to be optimistic about dramatic bipartisan reform, especially when it comes to government procurement. Democrats in the Congress are leading the legislative way to defend and improve Buy American. Some of the early activities of the Republican in the White House indicate that he may share their goal. While we were disappointed when President Trump reneged on his commitment to insist on U.S.-made steel in the construction of the Keystone pipeline, we were heartened when he issued an executive order on Buy American.

The ?Buy American and Hire American? EO could help jumpstart an investment in domestic production that would employ U.S. workers and boost the economy at the same time. It outlines federal procurement policies that focus on utilizing goods, products and materials made in this country. Most importantly, it directs federal agencies to reduce the use of waivers and exemptions that have allowed them to bypass Buy American laws up until now. We concur in AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka?s reaction to the EO, that it is a ?good first step toward making Buy America provisions more effective and discouraging excessive waivers, but more needs to be done to pivot the U.S. economy toward steady wage and job growth.?

Union members in manufacturing and the building trades depend on pro-U.S. trade and procurement policies and, from where we sit, the President?s EO, coupled with the passage of legislative initiatives like Senator Stabenow?s new bill, S 908, and Congressman Lipinski?s Buy American Improvement Act, HR 904, promises good outcomes for American workers. The Democrats? approach to these issues mirrors the objectives of the renewed interest in Buy/Hire American. And our members and American taxpayers generally will benefit when federal and state procurement policies are made stronger, more transparent and less susceptible to abuse and avoidance through waivers. Accordingly, we appeal to the administration and the Congress, Democrats and Republicans, American business and labor, workers and taxpayers to rally around Buy American and commit ourselves to hire American.

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Why So Many Rape Victims Don’t Simply ‘Fight Back’

Last winter, a judge in Turin, Italy, acquitted a 46-year-old man who had been accused of sexually assaulting a female colleague. His rationale for tossing the case, The Washington Post reported, was that the woman did not react strongly enough. She said ?stop it!? and ?enough? while being attacked, but did not scream. 

Saying that a woman cannot have been raped because her response was too muted is a deeply flawed argument, but the Italy case is not an anomaly. Women are expected to fight back, and when they don?t, their stories are questioned and even discredited ? sometimes by the very people and systems meant to protect them. 

But a startling new Swedish study, published in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica on Wednesday, shows just how ?normal? it is for victims of sexual assault to experience a temporary paralysis that keeps them from fighting back or screaming. The researchers spoke to nearly 300 women who went to an emergency clinic in Stockholm within one month of a rape or attempted rape. Seventy percent of the women said they experienced significant ?tonic immobility,? or involuntary paralysis, during the attack.

And nearly 50 percent reported extreme paralysis, such that they were effectively catatonic. 

?It really confirms that a significant number of women who experience sexual assault do not respond in what we think of as the typical ?fight or flight? pattern; they respond by freezing,? Laura Palumbo, communications director for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, told HuffPost. Palumbo, who did not work on the study, said the findings confirm just how complex the neurobiology of trauma is, and that there is no one-size-fits-all response.

Tonic immobility is believed to be an evolutionary defense mechanism in animals. When they cannot fight back ? and when other resources are not available to them ? their bodies freeze. 

Women who have shared their experiences with sexual assault have put words to that feeling. ?When he started pulling down my pants and underwear anyway, my body seemed to freeze over,? writer Jackie Hong said in a piece for Vice. ?A million thoughts rushed through my head and then stopped, and my mind started drifting somewhere else, somewhere safer, as I lay in the back of his car stiff and silent.? Other pieces describe the shame women feel after the fact. ?More than anything, I think I felt stupid for freezing up and not getting away sooner,? another person wrote

The researchers also found that women who experienced paralysis while being assaulted were at higher risk of subsequent post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. The reasons behind that correlation are not fully understood; however, tonic immobility, depression and PTSD all have a strong neurobiological component to them.

Palumbo said that people who work with survivors of sexual violence have understood for a while that paralysis is a normal response, but the new study shows just how prevalent it is. She hopes future research will explore the topic in men who have been sexually assaulted. (The current investigation was limited to women simply because the clinic only served female patients during the time of the study, not because its authors hypothesized that temporary paralysis is somehow an inherently female response to trauma and assault.)

?So much of what we think someone ?could? or ?should? be doing is not an option when a person?s counter response kicks in, and that?s incredibly valuable information for anyone who is working in the medical field to understand … it?s important for police and investigative officials, for attorneys and judges,? Palumbo said. ?But it?s also important for the rest of us who come into contact with sexual assault survivors on a daily basis, whether we think about that intentionally or not.?

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Mischa Barton Successfully Prevents Ex From Distributing ‘Revenge Porn’

Mischa Barton?s court battle with an ex-partner has come to an end.

Barton announced in March that she would be taking legal action against a man she dated in 2016 who allegedly offered nude images taken without the actress? permission in exchange for payment.

In a tweet posted Monday, Barton?s attorney Lisa Bloom revealed that ?The O.C.? actress was successful in preventing the dissemination of the images. Per a settlement, the former partner will also be required to stay 100 yards away from Barton at all times.

In a statement, Bloom said that the Los Angeles Superior Court will retain jurisdiction over the case, ?in case we need further enforcement.?

?[Mischa] did this not just for herself, but for all women and girls,? Bloom said in a statement. ?Mischa wants everyone to know that we have the right to control our own bodies and decide whether or not to have explicit photos out there for the world to see. If a woman wants to do that, fine. If she doesn?t, fine. The choice is hers and hers alone.?

In court papers, Barton alleged that her ex had filmed her while they were having sex and had taken nude photographs of her.

Barton had called the discovery of the ?revenge porn? ? a term that refers to intimate images distributed without permission, typically by an ex-partner ? ?my absolute worst fear? during an appearance on ?Dr. Phil? earlier this year.

?I came forward to fight this not only for myself, but for all the women out there,? she said in a March press conference alongside Bloom. ?I want to protect them from the pain and humiliation that I have had to go through.?

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Massive Coal Mine Closer To Reality As Beloved Reef Crumbles To Climate Change

SYDNEY ? An Indian mining giant announced Tuesday the ?official start? of a proposed $16 billion coal project in Australia that conservationists say threatens the Great Barrier Reef.

Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani said the company had approved its ?final investment decision? regarding the controversial project in central Queensland. The 100-square-mile Carmichael mine would produce millions of tons of the fossil fuel each year.

It has faced severe backlash in the country from environmental groups who say the project would negate Australia?s pledges to limit greenhouse gas emissions and harm the environment ? particularly the imperiled reef, located off the state?s coast.

?We have been challenged by activists in the courts, in inner city streets, and even outside banks that have not even been approached to finance the project,? said Adani, who founded the energy company, at a press conference. ?We are still facing activists. But we are committed to this project.?

In recent months, Australian officials have cleared regulatory hurdles for the project and the federal government announced it had conditionally approved a $750 million loan to help build a rail line to transport coal from the Carmichael mine to a proposed shipping terminal on the coast. At its peak, the mine would produce about 44 million tons of coal annually to ship to India. That?s enough energy to power 100 million homes.

?This is a great day not just for the Queensland economy, but for the Queensland people, and our greatest asset is our people,? said Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk at a press conference.

Environmentalists and scientists, however, have roundly lambasted the project and said it runs contrary to any efforts to address climate change. Australia is still party to the landmark Paris climate accord and has pledged to reduce emissions 26 to 28 percent by 2030.

?You can?t be the world?s biggest coal exporter and at the same time be taking action on climate change,?said Nikola Casule, a climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace Australia. ?It?s completely incompatible.?

Casule noted Tuesday?s announcement doesn?t guarantee the mine would be built because Adani has yet to secure enough funding to start the project. Following public pressure, multiple banks have distanced themselves from the mine, saying they would not fund the project. He said Greenpeace was planning to do ?everything we can? to fight the project, and said the group would take aim at the tax dollars being proposed to fund it.

?We know Australians don?t want billions of dollars of money going to the Carmichael coal mine,? Casule said. ?What is the best way to spend a billion dollars? Is it funding a billionaire?s coal mine or is it for things Australians actually care about.?

Tuesday?s announcement comes as scientists continue to warn about the future of the Great Barrier Reef. The structure has endured back-to-back mass bleaching events that have left large swaths of coral dead, spurred by rapidly warming global temperatures. Climate change remains by far the greatest threat to the reef, and the federal government was this week warned it would need to ?urgently step up its efforts? to tackle the phenomenon if it hoped to save the Great Barrier.

?Without a comprehensive and effective national climate plan to reduce Australia?s pollution ultimately to zero, reefs will continue to be threatened,? said Amanda McKenzie, the CEO of Australian nonprofit the Climate Council, on Monday. ?The future of the world?s coral reefs hangs in the balance. To protect them for the future means tackling climate change by rapidly and drastically reducing our carbon emissions.

Government officials have said the mine wouldn?t impact the Great Barrier Reef. The Queensland government?s Palaszczuk cited 39 approval processes and environmental assessments when she threw her support behind the project at the end of last year.

Scientists, however, disagree.

?We can?t restore the Great Barrier Reef if we allow fossil fuels to destroy it,? wrote Terry Hughes, a leading coral researcher and the director of the ARC Centre for Excellence, on Twitter in December. ?Please, no new subsidized coal mines.?

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Trump, Terrorism, And Why I Can’t Sleep

It?s not the threat of a terror attack on U.S. soil that keeps me up at night; it?s how President Trump will respond to one that worries me most. That?s not to say that attacks like those in London and Manchester don?t scare me ? they do. Like every other parent, I worry about my children attending a concert, or traveling with my family via plane or train.

But it?s the volatility of our unhinged president, and the incendiary words that come from his Twitter-happy fingers that keep me up late into the night: how he doubled down on his calls for a Muslim ban after the London Bridge incident, the way he attacked the mayor of London throughout the morning Monday.

Mr. Trump?s written assault on Mayor Sadiq Khan was despicable and highly embarrassing, even for him. I can only conclude that Trump chose to go after a man whose city had just endured a terror attack because that mayor is Muslim. Is Trump trying to make enemies of our greatest allies? He certainly started down that road at the G-7 Summit, followed by his idiotic decision to pull out of the Paris Climate Accord.

What will happen when there is another major terror attack on our soil? Because that is not an if. We can be sure that ISIS is patiently waiting to poke the American tiger. They will most certainly test our president, and we can only hope that they will be thwarted before an attack is carried out. But I can?t stop thinking about what would happen if they?re successful ? if we suffered a large-scale attack on American soil.

What will our president and his minions do in the aftermath? Will they tell Americans the truth? Will the president start tweeting and talking before he?s gathered the facts? Will he listen to the U.S. intelligence services that he has so often derided? The first problem in such a scenario will be the credibility of the president and the White House staff, and the information and tone they project to the country and the world.

What will happen when our president unleashes his fury and ignorance on the Muslim world?

Will he drop bombs or worse, nuclear weapons, somewhere in the Middle East and kill thousands of civilians, spark a wider war?

Will the White House shut our borders, register American Muslims and put them in internment camps? Will the government encourage citizens to snuff them out, report their ?suspicious? neighbors to the authorities?

It doesn?t help that I recently watched The Handmaid?s Tale. I don?t think that kind of dystopia will ever happen here. But I do believe that President Trump could consolidate power in a similar fashion under the guise of protecting Americans. I can imagine him seizing bank accounts and companies, sending out the army and the National Guard to patrol streets, making unilateral decisions that would put Americans in even graver danger by stoking the wrath of ISIS and completely disenfranchising Muslim youth here and abroad. And I can picture him further cutting us off from our NATO allies, who came to our aid after September 11th.

Of course Bannon, Miller, Sessions and Conway will gladly go along with him if not lead the way, write his speeches, whisper hateful ideas in his ear long after everyone else has left the White House for the night. And that sad collection of stooges known as Congressional Republicans will keep their mouths shut. His supporters will double down on their love of the president and buy into his lies, as they are wont to do.

If the Paris Accord and Republican reaction have taught us anything, it is that there are too few Republicans who care anything for truth, for ethics, for the planet. This White House and its enablers are comprised of people who make terrible decisions and then conjure ?facts? to back them up. And the country is filled with people who believe them.

I try to tune out the insanity. I?ve tried watching great comedy series like Catastrophe before I go to sleep rather than the news or The Handmaid?s Tale. But in this climate of one political tornado after another, if you blink, you miss it. And as disturbing as it all is, we must be in the know. We can?t hide in the basement to wait out the storm, or stick our heads under our pillows, or dismiss the president?s latest infraction with a shrug. It is better to be sleepless, knowledgeable and on high alert than rested and ignorant.

After all, I can sleep when I?m dead. Now is the time to stay wide awake. It?s the president who needs to get off his phone and get some sleep.

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This Is The Most Pinned Engagement Ring On Pinterest This Year

For BRIDES, by Alexis Hobbs.

Can you imagine your life without Pinterest? It?s every bride?s go-to for all things wedding related, from wedding dress inspo to gorgeous reception themes to mega beauty tips for glowing skin. And although we love spending hours on the social media site crafting our own dream wedding boards, it?s always nice to see what other brides are pinning on their own page. Which brings us to the most popular engagement ring on Pinterest right now. Heads up: It?s a stunner.

See More: The Prettiest Wedding Dresses From the Runway

The ring, a sparkling rose gold solitaire, has been pinned more than a whopping 103,900 times, according to the Daily Mail. Simplicity wins this year, that much is clear.

Sadly, the engagement ring isn?t mass produced for every bride-to-be around the world to sport on her finger. According to the Daily Mail, the bling belongs to Sylvia Billone and was custom-made just for her. She revealed online that the rose gold band boasts a 1.22 karat solitaire diamond. No word on the price of the ring yet, but we have a feeling it wasn?t exactly cheap.

This year?s most popular engagement ring is a far cry from the ring that stole girls? hearts last year on Pinterest. Instead of opting for the minimalistic vibe of 2017, women went wild for an intricate white gold Verragio ring. The diamond twisted split shank paired with lace embellishments was the embodiment of opulence and grace.

Still not sold on either of these rings? Don?t worry. We found the engagement ring trends to look out for this year (and they?re NOT what you?d expect)..

See More: These Are the Top Wedding Trends of 2017 on Pinterest

More From BRIDES:

How To Find The Perfect Wedding Dress For Your Body Type

The 61 Best Celebrity Engagement Rings

The 50 Best Places to Get Married in America

The Biggest Fall Wedding Dress Trends from Bridal Fashion Week

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Inventor Of The Super Soaker Is Supporting The Next Generation Of Engineers

The man who invented the Super Soaker wants to make a positive impact on the new generation of engineers.

Lonnie Johnson is using his nonprofit to help fund high school robotics teams, NBC News reported Thursday. One team he helps, DISCbots, is made up of refugees from nine countries. The team is in its second year and has already qualified for a worldwide robotics tournament in Texas. 

?If I can have a positive impact … clearly it?s something I want to do,? Johnson said.

The inventor, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama, during the Jim Crow era, became interested in engineering as a youth, according to BBC. He built a robot for a fair held by the Junior Engineering Technical Society at the University of Alabama during his senior year of high school in 1968. The only black student in the competition, Johnson won first place for his robot, Linex. 

After graduating from Tuskegee University, he went on to work for the U.S. Air Force, and then became a rocket scientist at NASA. While testing a water pump he designed, he came up with his billion-dollar idea, he told NBC News.

?I thought to myself, ?Geez, this would make a neat water gun!?? he said. ?At that point I decided to put my engineering hat on and design a high performance water gun.?

The toy first went on sale in the 1990s. Johnson went on to create other toys, including the NERF gun. He also created a ceramic battery and hair rollers that set without heat, among other inventions, according to

He recently visited his high school alma mater to speak with students about engineering. 

?Kids need exposure to ideas, and they need to be given an opportunity to experience success,? he told BBC. ?Once you get that feeling, it grows and feeds itself ? but some kids have got to overcome their environments and attitudes that have been imposed on them.?

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Ariana Grande Leads Emotional Performance At Manchester Benefit Concert

Less than two weeks following the tragic attack at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, the ?Into You? singer triumphantly returned to the stage to perform at the One Love Manchester benefit concert. 

Originally organized to mark the May 22 suicide bombing that claimed the lives of 22 people in the Manchester Arena, Sunday?s concert took on added meaning after three assailants killed seven people and injured nearly 50 on Saturday night at the London Bridge and Borough Market in London.  

Grande?s manager, Scooter Braun, said in a statement on Sunday that the singer?s show would go on with ?greater purpose? following Saturday?s attack.  

When the 23-year-old singer, dressed in a One Love Manchester sweatshirt, finally walked onstage, the crowd erupted into cheers. She kicked off her performance with the upbeat ?Be Alright,? and followed up with ?Break Free.? The songs seemed to take on more powerful meanings during the Sunday night performance. 

Grande was visibly emotional, and appeared to tear up as she finished the songs. The singer thanked the crowd multiple times during the concert, at one point telling them, ?The kind of love and unity that you?re displaying is the medicine the world really needs right now.? 

Stars such as Robbie Williams, Niall Horan, Pharrell Williams, Take That and Katy Perry also performed at the concert, infusing messages of strength and positivity throughout the night. Grande performed with various artists, including The Black Eyed Peas and Victoria Monet.

A particularly sweet moment came when Grande joined members of the choir of Parrs Wood High School, located in a Manchester suburb, to sing ?You Are My Everything.? The group had many in the crowd in tears. 

After that performance, Grande introduced her boyfriend, rapper Mac Miller, to the stage to sing ?The Way,? which they collaborated on in 2013. 

?Tonight?s all about love,? she said before he came out to join her. As the two performed together, their love for each other clearly radiated through. 

Then, Grande was joined my Miley Cyrus, who had performed earlier in the night. The singers performed their cover of Crowded House?s ?Don?t Dream It?s Over,? which they first sang as part of Cyrus? Backyard Sessions

In what may have been the most powerful moment of the show, Grande closed out the show by singing ?Somewhere Over The Rainbow? alone onstage. The stunning performance had many in the crowd in tears.

Grande herself was also overcome with emotion, breaking down before finishing the song. The crowd then erupted into cheers and the singer managed to get through the final bit beautifully. 

Proceeds from the benefit concert will go toward the Red Cross? We Love Manchester emergency fund, in support of the victims and families of the May attack.


Doha Madani contributed to this report.

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