Celine Dion has a new handbag line.
Ethan Miller—Getty Images
By Claire Zillman
September 4, 2017

A female challenger to Russian President Vladimir Putin? Russian financial paper Vedomosti reported last week that it could happen.

Hold your applause.

Fielding “candidates” to challenge Putin is a charade the Kremlin performs every presidential election cycle. It puts forward a somewhat respectable opposition candidate whose bid for the presidency will make the inevitable Putin win appear somewhat genuine, according to Quartz. The scheme has worked better in some years than others.

And in next year’s election, the Kremlin seems keen to field a female stand-in. Vedomosti reports there are seven women currently on the shortlist. It won’t be the first time a woman runs for Russia’s highest office, but it’s been a while. No woman has given it a go since Irina Hakamada in 2004, and coverage of next year’s possible female candidates may explain the long hiatus.

“A colorful and elegantly sexual female politician would bring intrigue to the elections and inspire a new generation of Russian women to take up politics,” analyst Aleksey Chesnakov said, according to Vedomosti.

Analyst Konstantin Kalachev, meanwhile, seemed in favor of a female candidate—not for diversity’s sake, but rather to “build up some kind of drama.” At the same time, he warned against the prospect as a “dangerous dream” since women are a huge chunk of Putin’s constituency.

Putin’s own spokesperson said the Kremlin hasn’t considered a female challenger. “We haven’t thought about that in the Kremlin,” he said.

It’s not just experts and insiders who feel this way. During Putin’s tenure, the Russian public has grown less interested in seeing women hold high political office; only a third of Russians support the election of a female president in the next 15 years.

 

—@clairezillman


EUROPE/MIDDLE EAST/AFRICA

Shedding labels
British department store John Lewis has become the first retailer in the U.K. to remove gender labels from its children’s clothing. It’s doing away with “girls” and “boys” tags, plus it’s eliminating the separate sections in stores. Caroline Bettis, head of children’s wear at John Lewis, said the store made the move so it wouldn’t reinforce gender stereotypes but rather allow “the parent or child [to] choose what they would like to wear.”
Independent
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Model behavior
Early last week, L’Oréal Paris U.K. named model Munroe Bergdorf as its first-ever transgender ambassador. But just a few days later, it fired her for a Facebook post that called all white people racist, a comment L’Oréal said was “at odds with our values.” Bergdorf later clarified that her remarks were in response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and stated that if L’Oréal really wants to empower underrepresented women, then it must “acknowledge THE REASON why these women are underrepresented within the industry in the first place.”
Fortune
.
Get in gear
British cycling magazine Cycling Weekly has apologized for identifying cyclist Hannah Noel as a “token attractive woman” in a photo. Editor Simon Richardson blamed the “idiotic caption” on a low-level employee. Noel called the caption “sexist and derogatory to female cyclists,” while others pointed to it as evidence of a larger cultural problem in the sport.
Washington Post

THE AMERICAS

Building blocks
The New York Times has a close look at the “bitter, exhausting fight” to change the name of Yale University’s Calhoun College, named for John C. Calhoun—a vice president, South Carolina senator, and founding forefather of the Civil War. The battle will finally end tomorrow when the college is rededicated to Grace Murray Hopper, a computer science pioneer and Navy rear admiral. 
New York Times
.
Out of this world
American astronaut Peggy Whitson returned to Earth on Saturday after a 288-day stay aboard the International Space Station. With her most recent tenure in orbit, Whitson has spent a total of 665 days, 22 hours, and 23 minutes in space—131 days more than her closest NASA competitor. At 57, she was also the oldest American woman ever in space. It’s no wonder the ISS’s new commander Randy Bresnik calls Whitson an “American space ninja.”
NPR
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It’s all coming back
After mourning the death of her husband last year, singer Celine Dion has reemerged as a fashion icon, shooting a couture video for Vogue, wearing custom Versace to the Met Gala, and donning a white Stephane Rolland dress for the Billboard awards. Now she’s channeling her style into her own handbag line—one that looks to tap into the devoted fan base that continues to follow her. 
New York Times

ASIA-PACIFIC

Stars align
India PM Narendra Modi yesterday reshuffled his cabinet, appointing Nirmala Sitharaman defense minister—only the second woman to hold the post. The first was former PM Indira Gandhi, who held it two separate times in the 1970s and 1980s. Sitharaman, who previously served as trade minister, attributed her promotion to a higher power. “Somebody who has come from a small town, grown into the party with all the support of the leadership, and if given such responsibility, it just makes you feel sometimes that cosmic grace is there. Otherwise it is impossible,” she said after being sworn in.
Times of India
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Striking a chord
The three teenage girls who make up Voice of Baceprot—a rising heavy metal band in Indonesia—are blowing away local audiences with their head-banging music, while challenging ingrained gender and religious norms in the Muslim nation. “A hijab is my identity, and metal is my music genre,” says guitarist and lead singer Firdda Kurnia, 17. 
New York Times

IN BRIEF

How a transgender Chechen escaped Russia and found asylum in the United States
Washington Post
These are the top 10 universities for female entrepreneurs
Fortune
Roxane Gay: All-male movie remake pitches
McSweeneys
This entrepreneur is changing lives in El Salvador
Fortune
What happens when men don’t conform to masculine clothing norms at work?
Harvard Business Review

PARTING WORDS

"It’s nice to have a crazy dream that pushes you out there. Mine is to reach the stars—not just space, but another star system.”
- —Space scientist Maggie Aderin-Pocock, co-presenter of 'The Sky at Night' on BBC Four who was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire for services to science and education in 2009.

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