Elizabeth Holmes, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ruth Bader Ginsburg: Broadsheet September 6
Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Theranos is nearly gone for good, Goop pays a settlement over its vaginal eggs, and we explore the puzzling rape case against the JD.com CEO. Have a fabulous Thursday.
• #MeToo and Richard Liu. Alongside the big political stories in Washington this week—Woodward, Kavanaugh, Sandberg, and Dorsey—a puzzling saga out of Minnesota and China is captivating the business world.
On Friday, the billionaire CEO of Chinese e-commerce site JD.com was arrested, then released a few hours later, returning to China shortly thereafter. Minneapolis police initially said that Richard Liu, who was in town for a Ph.D. program, was the subject of sexual misconduct claims. We now know he was accused of rape by a female student from China who’s attending the University of Minnesota.
The details of the incident are still murky—there was a group BYOB dinner at a Japanese restaurant, a $1,900 tab, and Liu’s booking at a local jail late the next day, the Wall Street Journal reports. And it’s not clear why Liu—who, with a fortune of $8 billion, was an obvious flight risk—was released after being accused of such a serious crime.
JD.com says Liu has been falsely accused. The chief executive has not been charged with a crime and the Minnesota-based criminal defense attorney representing him says he won’t be “ever, ever. Amen.”
As those head-scratching specifics have trickled out, journalists in China have reported on the disturbing public response to the allegations—one marked by commentary on the looks of the women involved. “There's something very wrong in how on Weibo people have turned this into a beauty contest between the wife and the alleged victim (even though it's probably not even the real victim),” Bloomberg’s Lulu Yilun Chen tweeted in response to another reporter’s observation that Weibo was strewn with “images of the alleged victim and lewd comments about her appearance.”
That trend recalls the #MeToo movement’s shaky footing in China, a patriarchal society where female victims say they’ve been urged to drop charges related to sexual misconduct in order to preserve a greater good. The Chinese government, for its part, is wary of #MeToo for the threat it poses to civil stability, and its censors have scrubbed many references to the movement from the Internet.
Experts had surmised that it would be hard for the #MeToo movement to challenge a government official or business executive, given Beijing’s tight rein. Yet, the New York Times reports that Liu's case—sexist tone and all—had become the No. 1 topic among news outlets and on social media in China as the public speculated about what exactly had happened with Liu, whose rags-to-riches story has made him an entrepreneurial poster boy for China’s tech boom.
On that note, it's worth revisiting what King-wa Fu, a media scholar at the University of Hong Kong, told the NYT earlier this year: “Censorship can only stop public discussion for awhile. When something big happens again, it will come back.”
ALSO IN THE HEADLINES
• Bled dry. Theranos is no more, finally. The sham blood-testing firm run by Elizabeth Holmes, once valued in the billions, is set to formally dissolve next week after failing to maintain the cash level required for its $65 million loan. Fortune
• Rethinking Thinx. Remember Thinx, the period underwear startup beleaguered by controversy and harassment claims surrounding its former CEO Miki Agrawal? A year into new CEO Maria Molland's tenure, the company is trying to clean up its image and is experimenting with new products, like a line designed for teens. Fast Company
• Green mountain mess. In Vermont, state legislator Kiah Morris has faced ongoing racist harassment. Morris, the only black woman in the very-white state's legislature, withdrew her bid for reelection after receiving racist threats, suffering a home invasion, and finding swastikas painted on trees. Morris says the harassment—in a state known as progressive—escalated after 2016. BuzzFeed
• Surfing for equality. Professional surfing took a step forward this week with the promise to pay its competitors equally in 2019. The World Surf League, which runs the sport, will offer the same amount of total prize money to men and women athletes alike, a step up from a previous "pay parity" policy that effectively left women with less earning potential than their male peers. Fortune
MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Former Planned Parenthood CEO Faye Wattleton is now co-head of the governance practice at executive search firm Buffkin/Baker. Former Celgene exec Jacqualyn Fouse is the new CEO of Agios Pharmaceuticals. Shailagh Murray, who was a senior advisor to President Barack Obama, will be executive vice president for public affairs at Columbia University.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
• Predator or prey? Joyce Maynard had a relationship with J.D. Salinger in 1971, when she was 17 and he was 53. In 1998, she wrote a memoir describing that experience that was widely condemned by the literary establishment as a tell-all. She has a new essay in the New York Times reflecting on how her story was received 20 years ago and how it would be received today in the context of the #MeToo movement. Her timing is apt: Salinger's publisher is preparing to release new editions of his work in honor of his centennial next year. New York Times
• Out of the loop. Here's yet another way underrepresented groups suffer in the workplace: lack of information. According to new research in the Harvard Business Review, employees are more likely to share information about the workplace with people from similar cultural backgrounds. That keeps employees from minority groups out of the loop and, in turn, harms their performance. Harvard Business Review
• No egg-scuses. Goop agreed to pay a $145,000 settlement over its claims that you should put a jade egg in your vagina. The settlement negotiated with California district attorneys also applies to Goop's unscientific claims about a rose quartz vagina egg and inner judge flower essence blend, which Gwyneth Paltrow's brand said could prevent depression. Bloomberg
ON MY RADAR
Win or lose, Serena Williams's comeback is a win for mothers everywhere Elle
Vanity Fair's Radhika Jones on fashion and the new best-dressed list Business of Fashion
Miss England finalist will be the first to wear a hijab CNN