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This week:

The U.S. women’s soccer team files a gender discrimination lawsuit, a mother of two faces deportation to Liberia, and an opportunity to participate in an upcoming Lily photo project.

Study finds that breast size affects women’s physical activity

A new study has found that women’s chest sizes are correlated with their level of physical activity: As breast sizes grew, women’s participation in exercise declined. This was especially acute if that exercise was vigorous, such as jogging. These findings stayed consistent even when age and body mass index were taken into account; women with larger breasts, no matter their age or BMI, exercised less on average and were more likely to feel that their breast size interfered with moving. Celeste Coltman, a professor who led the study, told the New York Times that these findings should encourage women to learn how to find high-quality sports bras that offer adequate support, and that large-breasted women who have not been exercising due to discomfort should try low-impact activities, such as swimming.

UN report attributes pay gap to ‘motherhood wage penalty’

(iStock/Lily illustration)
(iStock/Lily illustration)

Ahead of International Women’s Day last week, the United Nations released an International Labor Organization report that found that women’s job opportunities have “barely” improved in the past 27 years. According to the report, on a global average, women’s pay is 20 percent lower than men’s — a result, it said, of a “motherhood wage penalty” and a “wage premium” for fathers. The U.N. says that, from cooking and cleaning to taking care of children and the elderly, women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men — a detriment to their ability to engage in paid labor.

The report says a “quantum leap” in policy changes is necessary as a solution, including passing laws that establish equal rights for all sexes in work, creating more flexibility in working hours, and encouraging men to share unpaid care work more equally.

After week of controversy, R. Kelly is released from jail for child support payment

R. Kelly gestures during an interview with Gayle King on “CBS This Morning.” (Lazarus Jean-Baptiste/CBS via AP)
R. Kelly gestures during an interview with Gayle King on “CBS This Morning.” (Lazarus Jean-Baptiste/CBS via AP)

R. Kelly, the R&B singer who has been charged with 10 counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, was taken into custody Wednesday by a judge who said Kelly hadn’t paid $161,633 he owed in child support. On Saturday, Kelly was released from jail after an undisclosed individual paid the remaining child support. Upon his release, Kelly told reporters, “I promise you, we’re going to straighten all this out” — a strong contrast to his explosive interview with CBS’s Gayle King that aired earlier in the week, in which Kelly vehemently defended himself against allegations of sexual abuse. Kelly’s next court hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

Report says Denmark has a ‘pervasive rape culture’

While Denmark is often heralded for its gender equality policies, a new Amnesty International report shed light on the country’s process for reporting rape. The report argued that Denmark has a “pervasive ‘rape culture’” in which victims are often “met with dismissive attitudes, victim blaming, and prejudice influenced by gender stereotypes and rape myths.” The country defines rape on “the basis of physical violence or threat thereof, the presence of duress, or the victim’s inability to resist the act,” which means that cases based on consent are often difficult to win legally. Amnesty International recommended that officials change this official definition, as well as improve training for police officers and lawyers who deal with victims.

Meet the women of war in Congo

Capt. Rebecca Bandu, 39, right, leads an all-women unit of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Allison Shelley)
Capt. Rebecca Bandu, 39, right, leads an all-women unit of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Allison Shelley)

The Democratic Republic of Congo has been racked by conflict since 1994, when perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide spilled over its eastern border. Women are often mentioned in the context of the war as being victims of rape, but in reality they have always played a number of roles: working as combatants, child-care attendants, medics, cooks and spies. In this Washington Post photo essay, photojournalist Allison Shelley captures the experiences of several different women involved in the war.

Capt. Rebecca Bandu, 39, leads an all-female unit of the government army. “I was married to a man; the man abandoned me,” she told Shelley. “After the divorce, I decided to join the army, so men cannot play with me anymore.”

Sen. Martha McSally says she was raped while in the Air Force

Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on preventing sexual assault on Capitol Hill. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on preventing sexual assault on Capitol Hill. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

During a Senate hearing on preventing sexual assault in the military on Wednesday, Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) said she was raped by a superior officer while serving in the Air Force. Addressing witnesses set to testify about their own assaults while serving, McSally told them, “Like you, I am also a military sexual assault survivor. But unlike so many brave survivors, I didn’t report being sexually assaulted. Like so many women and men, I didn’t trust the system at the time.”

McSally served in the Air Force for 26 years; she said Wednesday she “witnessed so many weaknesses” in the system during her time serving. According to the Pentagon, a total of 6,769 sexual assaults were reported in the U.S. military during the last fiscal year.

A mother of two faces deportation to Liberia this month

Afomu Kelley. (Orion Donovan-Smith for The Washington Post)
Afomu Kelley. (Orion Donovan-Smith for The Washington Post)

In the midst of Liberia’s civil war in 1990, Afomu Kelley, 11 at the time, and her mother left the country for the United States. On March 31, Deferred Enforced Departure, the program that allowed them and 800 other Liberian immigrants to live in the United States, will end because of the Trump administration’s efforts to halt immigration protection for Liberians. Kelley — a mother of two — may be forced to return to Liberia at the end of the month.

“It is cruel to tell me that I have to go back to a place that I don’t know,” Kelley told The Post. The 40-year-old, who grew up in Northern Virginia, is the mother of two girls, 9 and 11. On Tuesday, House Democrats are expected to reintroduce the Dream Act with language that adds new protections for recipients of Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure.

—Macy Freeman, Washington Post multiplatform editor


• On Friday, 28 players on the U.S. women’s soccer team — including stars such as Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe — filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer. In their suit, the players allege that U.S. Soccer has “utterly failed to promote gender equality,” and said that a comparison of pay schedules shows a discrepancy of more than $150,000 in maximum earnings for members of the men’s team compared with members of the women’s team.

• A district judge ordered the Trump administration to reinstate an Obama-era rule that requires large companies to report pay data by race and gender.

• Google — the tech giant facing a lawsuit that alleges it denied career opportunities to women and paid them less — announced last week that when it reviewed its own pay structure, it found it was actually underpaying more men than women for doing similar work.

For the next month, we’re featuring a single-panel editorial cartoon by artist Katie Wheeler in each Monday newsletter. Let us know if you like this addition to Lily Lines by sending a note to lily@washpost.com. All views expressed are the opinions of the artist.

(iStock/Lily illustration)
(iStock/Lily illustration)

The Lily is launching a new photographic project, and we’re looking for women who want to document their lives. We’ll send you a plastic disposable camera; all you have to do is snap photos throughout the course of a week and send the camera back to us. If you’re interested in participating, please fill out this form.


#31days31firsts is a series honoring Women’s History Month. Check in with us every day on Instagram as we highlight moments in history and the women behind them.

I’m half Jewish and half Chinese, which means I inherited a hard-to-manage combination of wavy and coarse hair textures. It has always been difficult finding the right products for my hair. That’s why I was so excited when a friend told me about Miss Jessie’s multicultural curls styling lotion— and the fact that, at $16, it was affordable and I could buy it at Target. The company was co-founded by two sisters and named after their grandmother, Miss Jessie. “Growing up as bi-racial babies, we were always searching for just the right product,” the description says. “Now, we celebrate our mixed-race heritage and the curls that come with it.”

—Maya Sugarman, Lily video editor

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