Good morning, Quartz readers!
Centuries of patriarchal history were captured in this week’s pictures of policemen on the beach in Nice, France, forcing a woman to take off her shirt and headscarf to comply with the so-called “burkini ban.”
Across countries and cultures, women have been seen as offensive for showing their ankles, necks, faces, hair, arms, legs—or, in turn, for failing to do so. Shaving is immoral. Not shaving is dirty. Wearing make-up is immodest. Not wearing it is sloppy. High heels are provocative. Flat shoes are unprofessional.
In the 1920s, US law required women to wear a full bathing suit—and a record-breaking swimmer was arrested for showing her knees on the beach. A century later, a full bathing suit got a Muslim woman in Cannes fined; the ticket she was given literally said her outfit was not respectful of “bonnes moeurs,” good morals.
Men, or societies, that force women to undress are no better than or different from those that force them to cover up. What freedom or progress is there in armed men demanding that a woman take off her clothes? This wasn’t about protecting France’s secularism; it was about a man’s right to police a woman’s body—still.
Naturally, there was Islamophobia at the core of this, too. Nuns, Orthodox Jewish women, and surfers were not fined. But before a court overturned the ban, its apologists resorted to absurdities to justify it: Nice’s deputy mayor Rudy Salles told the BBC that even Catholic nuns shouldn’t be allowed to wear their habits on the beach.
The message is clear: no woman’s right is sacred enough to get in the way. Even as women might be just about to run the world, their bodies are still the easiest battlefield, their freedom still the first casualty.—Annalisa Merelli
FIVE THINGS ON QUARTZ WE ESPECIALLY LIKED
Down with the political press conference. Journalists are dinging Hillary Clinton for not holding enough pressers. In fact, as Tim Fernholz clearly demonstrates, these performances are largely a waste of time that do nothing to hold politicians accountable—and Clinton’s one-on-one interviews have revealed far more.
The last-ditch call from the Mediterranean. When refugees find their boats sinking—or are simply scared they will—their only recourse is often a satphone with one number stored on speed-dial. Annalisa Merelli reports on the well-oiled rescue protocol that saves tens of thousands of lives each year.
23andMe has a race problem. In a wickedly funny (and razor-sharp) critique of the gene-sequencing service, Euny Hong recounts how she discovered serious gaps in its database—like the fact that ithas all of 76 Koreans. “How about a disclaimer attached to the ancestry part of the report?” she asks. “Like, ‘for entertainment purposes only?’”
Food in the US is safer than it seems. E. coli, norovirus, salmonella… there’s been a rash of food scares. But they’re actually signs of a food safety system that is, at last, starting to work properly, Chase Purdy explains.
The neglected America between the coasts. The floods that killed 13 and made thousands homeless in Baton Rouge, Louisiana got little national attention. Sarah Kendzior argues that declining local media and disaster fatigue mean many Americans know more about troubles overseas than in their own backyard.
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FIVE THINGS ELSEWHERE THAT MADE US SMARTER
The “Millennial Whoop” has infected music. It’s a simple alternation between the fifth and third notes of a major scale, and it will sound familiar to you, because it’s in pop songs everywhere. Patrick Metzger on The Patterning documents the prevalence of this viral melodic snippet and looks at how these phrases create familiarity—a key to the popularity of songs dating back at least to European classical scales and chord progressions.
How America fails troubled teenagers. Treatment centers meant to rehabilitate teens with behavioral and substance-abuse problems often exacerbate them instead by over-medicating, isolating, and physically punishing their residents. The Huffington Post’s Sebastian Murdock reports on the “tough love” that is ultimately just tough.
Why you need baking soda in earthquakes. Beyond broken bones and internal bleeding, victims of natural disasters are likely to suffer kidney failure. For Stat, Eric Boodman explains how crushed muscles overwhelm the kidneys, and how the humble cooking ingredient saves 15% of earthquake survivors before they’re even freed from the rubble.
The world’s most exclusive restaurant? In an almost fantastical tale, the New Yorker’s Nick Paumgarten profiles ultimate locavore chef Damon Baehrel and savors his thinly sliced daylily tubers stacked between wild honey mushrooms and drizzled with dried milkweed pods cooked in birch sap. Baehrel says his tables are booked until 2025. Are they?
We could have cheaper drugs. In the past 10 years, the Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative has gotten six new treatments approved—from malaria to sleeping sickness—and has another 26 drugs in development, all for just $290 million. Big Pharma typically spends over $1 billion getting a single drug to market. In Nature, Amy Maxmen asks whether the initiative’s process could upend the pharmaceutical industry.
PLUS A BOOK THAT MADE US SMARTER, TOO
Seeing the present from the future. This week’s discovery of a potentially habitable planet upends the way we think about a post-Earth humanity, a paradigm shift that doesn’t surprise Chuck Klosterman. The author’s But What if We’re Wrong?: Thinking About the Present As If It Were the Past, wonders which of today’s fundamental truths—from gravity to great art—are tomorrow’s naive beliefs… if tomorrow is 2516. Publisher’s Weekly called it Klosterman’s “most thought-provoking and memorable book yet.”
Our best wishes for a relaxing but thought-filled weekend. Please send any news, comments, baking soda, and spare Damon Baehrel resevations to email@example.com. You can follow us on Twitter here for updates throughout the day.