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Movie industry’s prejudice against people with disabilities still strong

More than half of the films (58) evaluated in 2018 did not include a single character (even non-speaking role) with a disability, a four-year high. Furthermore, 83 films had no female characters with a disability. This is an increase from 2017 but on par with 2015.

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Unlike in television, where disability representation has gone up in recent years, the percentage of characters with disabilities in the top 1,200 films has hit a four-year low. Just 1.6% of the 4,445 speaking characters analyzed have a disability, according to a study by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Five of these films revolved around an underrepresented leading character with a disability and one showcased a leading character from the LGBT community.

“Including characters with disabilities does not happen by accident,” said Lauren Appelbaum, who leads RespectAbility’s Hollywood Inclusion efforts as the organization’s VP of communications and author of The Hollywood Disability Inclusion Toolkit. “What we see on screen influences how we act in real life, but that is dependent on filmmakers choosing to include individuals with disabilities in diverse and accurate portrayals. Thus, when just fewer than two percent of films include speaking characters with disabilities, the disability community is pretty much erased on screen. When filmmakers choose to include characters with disabilities, they can help to remove the stigmas that currently exist about interacting with individuals with disabilities.”

When the Annenberg study began tracking disability four years ago, it found 2.4% of speaking characters had disabilities, staying fairly consistent at 2.7% in 2016 and 2.5% in 2017. In each of those years, at least one film (two in 2015 and 2017) had proportional representation of characters with disabilities, compared to the US Census information. None of the films evaluated from 2018 featured proportional representation of characters with disabilities when compared to the US population.

“With more than a quarter of the US population identifying as having a disability, these numbers are dismal,” Appelbaum added. “In fact, the difference between the percentage of speaking characters with disabilities and reality in the US population is the largest difference in the inclusion crisis in film, at 25.6 (27.2% of US population versus 1.6% of speaking characters).”

More than half of the films (58) evaluated in 2018 did not include a single character (even non-speaking role) with a disability, a four-year high. Furthermore, 83 films had no female characters with a disability. This is an increase from 2017 but on par with 2015.

“You’re basically seeing the erasure of whole communities,” said Marc Choueiti, program director at the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and one of the study’s authors.

“Entertainment contributes to our values and ideals,” RespectAbility’s president Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi added. “With just 1.6% of speaking characters having disabilities in film, compared to 25% of American adults having a disability, we will continue to work with entertainment leaders to promote positive, accurate, diverse and inclusive media portrayals on TV and in film. Disability impacts every gender, race, age and sexual orientation. We want the film industry to understand that accurate, authentic and diverse portrayals of disability benefit everyone.”

Disability Affects All

Despite the fact that people of all races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, etc., have disabilities, the films evaluated in this study do not show it.

Nearly three-quarters of the characters with disabilities were male (72.5%) and 27.5% were female. Most characters with disabilities were white (63.1%), while 36.9% were from underrepresented racial/ethnic groups. Just two characters with disabilities were LGB.

One statistic represents improvement, however. The percentage of underrepresented characters with disabilities increased 9.9% points compared to 2017. A corresponding decrease in white characters occurred. However, the numbers leave a lot of room for additional improvement.

“Once again, the predominant picture of characters with disabilities is one of a straight, white, male,” the study reports. “These results have remained consistent across the four years of films examined, which means that for nearly half of a decade, audiences have seen persistent under and misrepresentation of individuals with disabilities in top movies.”

Disabilities Represented

A total of nine films had a lead or co-lead character with a disability. These individuals experienced depression, dyslexia, disfigurement, blindness, heart conditions, HIV/AIDS or missing limbs. Five of these films centered on an underrepresented leading character with a disability, and one movie showcased the story of an LGBT leading character with a disability. In terms of ensemble casts, two films featured leading characters with disabilities, one male and one female, both of whom were white, and one was bisexual.

In terms of all characters with a speaking role, more than half of the characters (38) were shown to have a physical disability (55.1%), including mobility issues, amputation or severe disfigurement. Nearly one-third (30.4%) of characters have a cognitive disability, such as depression, anxiety or PTSD. And 27.5% of characters were shown with a communicative disability, such as blindness or deafness. As a character could experience a disability in more than one domain, the percentages do not total to 100%.

When looking behind the camera, there are no statistics for people with disabilities. Currently, no major production company tracks disability status for any of its employees, so the data does not yet exist.

Room for Improvement

While the statistics for characters with disabilities – as well as those who are LGBTQ – are lackluster, the overall numbers for women and people of color as leads increased in meaningful ways.

“The good news is companies are making more of an effort to be inclusive,” said Stacy L. Smith, director of the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and one of the study’s authors. “We’re seeing movement. Of course, we always want it to be faster, but all of the activism and advocacy appears to be yielding results.”

She added, “We’re seeing that studios are recognizing that all that mythologizing about who can lead a film or carry a film was just that — mythologizing.”

NEWSMAKERS

Proposed bill aims to save Filipino women from complications, deaths from lack of safe abortion in Phl

Because of the country’s restrictive abortion law, around 610,000 Filipino women were estimated to have induced abortions in 2012 alone — with at least three women dying each day, and 100,000 others hospitalized due to complications. PINSAN is pushing to change this by giving women their rights, while dealing with misinformation.

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Women continue to die from the lack of access to safe abortion, making it “a public health emergency we should all care about” even if “this fact has been buried under decades-worth of misinformation.” This is according to the Philippine Safe Abortion Advocacy Network (PINSAN), which is proposing a bill to decriminalize abortion in the Philippines.

The proposal comes as the world marks on September 28 the “International Safe Abortion Day” to remind everyone of women’s right to access safe and legal abortion.

In a statement from Atty. Clara Rita Padilla, who initiated the drafting of the bill — “Act Decriminalizing Induced Abortion to Save the Lives of Women, Girls, and Persons of Diverse Gender Identities, Amending Article 256-259 of the Revised Penal Code” – while governments around the world have almost unanimously removed abortion restrictions in their respective countries, the Philippines has not followed suit and still has its restrictive abortion law.

“In the Philippines, our restrictive abortion law has not stopped women from inducing abortions but has only forced women to seek out unsafe methods to end their pregnancies. These women are at risk of dying when they induce abortion unsafely,” Padilla said.

Unsafe abortion happens when women: 1) rely on persons lacking the necessary skills; 2) are forced to go to an environment not conforming to minimal medical standards; 3) use tablets without access to proper information or to trained health providers; or 4) insert foreign objects into their bodies.

Because of the country’s restrictive abortion law, around 610,000 Filipino women were estimated to have induced abortions in 2012 alone — with at least three women dying each day, and 100,000 others hospitalized due to complications, Padilla said. All these can be prevented if women could openly access safe medical abortion, without stigma or discrimination.

“How can this be done? By decriminalizing abortion.”

Decriminalizing abortion

This bill – when passed into law – will provide access to safe abortion and avert maternal deaths resulting from unsafe abortion complications.

“The restrictive, colonial, and antiquated 1930 Revised Penal Code abortion law never reduced the number of women inducing abortion,” said Padilla. “It has only endangered the lives of hundreds of thousands of Filipino women who are forced to undergo an unsafe abortion.”

Women continue to die from the lack of access to safe abortion, making it “a public health emergency we should all care about” even if “this fact has been buried under decades-worth of misinformation.”

Padilla added that “prosecution of women who induce abortion and those assisting them is not the answer. Deaths and disabilities resulting from unsafe abortion complications are preventable with access to safe abortion and post-abortion care.”

So for Padilla, “decriminalizing abortion will save the lives of women who can be anyone’s daughter, partner, mother, sister, niece, or granddaughter. It would also help reduce maternal deaths related to unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions during humanitarian crises like the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Ending the stigma

The stigma around abortion has limited people’s access to accurate information on the topic. This leads to discrimination against women who seek or have already sought basic healthcare for abortion care, emergency abortion care, and post-abortion care.

Misconceptions about abortion mostly occur when it is made into a religious moral issue, but Padilla said that “access to safe abortion is a medical issue, not a religious moral issue.”

“We must respect a woman’s personal decision-making, her right to bodily autonomy, life, health, privacy, equality and non-discrimination, equal protection of the law, and right against cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment,” Padilla said.

The restrictive, colonial, and antiquated 1930 Revised Penal Code abortion law never reduced the number of women inducing abortion. It has only endangered the lives of hundreds of thousands of Filipino women who are forced to undergo an unsafe abortion.

The bill seeks to eliminate this stigma by helping Filipinos better understand the imperative need for access to safe abortion.

Treaty monitoring bodies also recognize access to abortion as a human right. “Our government must comply with its international human rights obligation to decriminalize abortion as a means for women to have access to safe abortion, emergency abortion care, and post-abortion care,” Padilla said, stressig the need to save women’s lives by supporting this bill to decriminalize abortion.

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Trans woman killed; body found in lake in Caloocan

Transgender woman Donna Nierra was killed, with her body found floating in a river in Caloocan City.

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A member of the LGBTQIA community – transgender woman Donna Nierra – was killed, with her body found floating in a river in Caloocan City.

Donna reportedly had head wounds when found on Monday, September 28, at Barangay 176 sa North Caloocan.

When interviewed by ABS-CBN News, Donna’s father – Ricky – said Donna left home to be with friends last Sunday. She wasn’t seen since.

It was Donna’s friends who informed her family that her body was found in the river.

Donna’s family said they are not aware of anyone wanting to harm Donna, as she did not have enemies.

In a tweet, Bahaghari Kamaynilaan – an LGBTQIA group – stated that “it is time the State acknowledge(s) this is an emergency.”

Donna was 23, and the third among six children.

The Caloocan police is now investigating Donna’s death.

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Health & Wellness

LBG individuals use stimulants at higher rates than heterosexuals

Higher drug use among LGB individuals is likely a result of minority stress – that is, the fact that exposure to stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation results in health disparities. Structural stigma (e.g. employment or housing discrimination) drives psychological and physical health morbidities among LGB populations, and perceived stigma is associated with cocaine use.

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Lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) individuals report higher rates of medical, non-medical, and illegal stimulant use compared to heterosexuals, mirroring patterns seen in other substance use.

The study by Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health researchers provides the most detailed picture to date on stimulant use by LGB subgroups and gender. Findings are published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The researchers analyzed data from the 2015-2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health to examine associations between sexual identity and past-year use of medical and non-medical stimulants (i.e., Adderall, Ritalin) and illegal stimulants (i.e. cocaine, crack, methamphetamine). They found that bisexual women’s illegal stimulant use in the past year was fivefold that of heterosexual women (7.8% vs. 1.5%), while gay men’s use was threefold that of heterosexual men (9.2% vs. 3.2%).

Non-medical use of prescription stimulants was higher among gay and bisexual men than heterosexual men (5.4% and 6.6% vs. 2.4%) and among gay/lesbian and bisexual women versus heterosexual women (3.3% and 6.8% vs. 1.6%). Past-year medical use of prescription stimulants was higher among gay men than heterosexual men (6.6% vs. 4.1%) and bisexual women than heterosexual women (7.9% vs. 4.9%). There were no differences between bisexual men and women compared to their gay/lesbian counterparts.

Potential consequences of stimulant include substance use disorder and overdose, particularly given increases in fentanyl contamination in illegally produced pills and cocaine and methamphetamine. As many as half of LGB individuals who reported nonmedical and illegal stimulant use also reported nonmedical prescription opioid use.

“This study highlights the need for future interventions to target stimulant use among LGB populations, with a particular focus on harm reduction approaches,” says first author Morgan Philbin, PhD, assistant professor of sociomedical sciences. “The findings have important implications across sexual identities, and demonstrate the need to disaggregate stimulant use by subgroup and gender, particularly related to polysubstance use.”

Higher drug use among LGB individuals is likely a result of minority stress – that is, the fact that exposure to stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation results in health disparities. Structural stigma (e.g. employment or housing discrimination) drives psychological and physical health morbidities among LGB populations, and perceived stigma is associated with cocaine use.

Bisexuals can also experience “double discrimination” from heterosexuals and lesbian and gay communities, which the researchers say may account for the particularly high substance use among bisexual individuals.

The paper outlines several avenues to address stimulant use, including by educating healthcare providers who focus on LGB communities to screen for and discuss substance use, including stimulants. Communities and providers can also scale-up access to medication disposal and harm reduction services.

The researchers note that their dataset started assessing sexual identity among adults in 2015, so these relationships could not be examined in earlier years or among adolescents. The options for gender included only “male” or “female” and thus did not allow researchers to differentiate between transgender and cis-gender individuals. The dataset does not assess sexual behavior, so this study only captured associations based on individuals’ sexual identity.

Authors include Morgan M. Philbin, Emily R. Greene, Silvia S. Martins, and Pia M. Mauro of the Columbia Mailman School; and Natalie LaBossier of Boston University School of Medicine.

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NEWSMAKERS

Women more prone to depression in countries with low gender equality rankings

It’s well established that men and women differ in their self-perception, values, and personality traits, as well as stereotypes held with regards to representatives of one or the other sex. But a paper now says that women are more depressive, especially in societies with low gender equality rankings.

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It is well established that men and women differ in their self-perception, values and personality traits, as well as stereotypes held with regards to representatives of one or the other sex. Men typically find themselves more active, whereas women think of themselves as more sociable. But a paper now says that women are more depressive, especially in societies with low gender equality rankings.

Overall, scientists from 24 countries and regions contributed in the paper, including the UK, Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands, US, Greece, Germany, Brazil, Pakistan, Malaysia, Australia, Argentina, Georgia, Romania, Armenia, Chile, China (with Hong Kong as a separate participant), Turkey, Italy, and Mexico. Overall, 5,320 students were polled. Associate Professor of the KFU’s Department of Pedagogical Psychology Olga Lopukhova was one of the participants.

The paper showed a slightly different picture of sex differences in self-assessment among students than could be inferred from previous such polls.

“In all sampling groups, we cannot find proof of sex differences in a culture as a whole. Instead, we can see that women see themselves as more interdependent in the conditions of low gender equality and more independent in high gender equality. Men self-assess as more closed, whereas women feel more connected with others. There are no noticeable sex differences in the other two parameters of self-construal or in depressive symptoms,” said Lopukhova.

In the Russian version, the researchers added the interaction of the congruence of students to the culture type and their inclusion into social groups with their psychological wellbeing.

“The problem of psychological wellbeing and its factors becomes more and more popular in Russian and overseas research in light of the ever complicating conditions of personality adaptation to the fast-changing values, social norms, types of behavior, and interaction,” said Lopukhova. “Students are such a social group prone to the risks psychological non-wellbeing because of age factors, their changing social standing, and exposedness to adaptation and information overloads.”

Becoming a student is often inextricably linked with a change in cultural environment, be it moving to another country or city or moving from countryside to an urban dwelling. In any case, a student needs to go through adaptation and acculturation processes while starting their studies.

The Kazanian part of the poll comprised 488 respondents, 249 of whom were female and 239 male, aged from 18 to 28 years, from various universities of the city. The results showed that students with median congruence-to-culture ratios showed better psychological wellbeing. About a third of students had pronounced depressive symptoms and unsteady self-esteem, which calls for more attention to psychological support.

As KFU researchers found, the congruence (internally non-contradictory acceptance) of the normative values of the cultural environment is a cultural predictor of subjective wellbeing. Conversely, non-congruence, i. e. non-acceptance of behavioral norms, is a predictor of non-wellbeing and heightened depressive symptoms. Inclusion in social groups is also a predictor.

Overall, the presence of depressive symptoms is highly dependent on cultural congruence, whereas self-esteem is not.

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Child neglect linked to teen pregnancy

Neglected children, in particular, experienced higher rates of promiscuity, cannabis abuse and visual hallucinations as a result of their maltreatment.

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Children who experience neglect are seven times more likely than other abuse victims to have a teen pregnancy say University of Queensland researchers.

A study of the long-term impact of child abuse and neglect found that neglect was one of the most severe types of maltreatment when compared to emotional, sexual and physical abuse.

UQ researcher Emeritus Professor Jake Najman said the 20-year study found neglected children had the highest rates of teen pregnancy, and were at a three-to five-fold increased risk of failing school, unemployment, delinquency, anxiety, depression, psychosis and cannabis abuse problems.

“Although most children in our study experienced multiple types of maltreatment, child neglect and emotional abuse were specifically linked to the worst outcomes,” Emeritus Professor Najman said. “Neglected children, in particular, experienced higher rates of promiscuity, cannabis abuse and visual hallucinations as a result of their maltreatment.”

Child neglect was defined in the study as not providing the child with necessary physical requirements (food, clothing or a safe place to sleep) and emotional requirements (comfort and emotional support) a child should receive, as determined by the Queensland Government’s Department of Child Safety.

The study found children who experienced emotional abuse were also worse off than sexually or physically abused children.

“Emotionally abused kids were particularly prone to experiencing harassment, psychosis and injecting drugs,” he said.

Neglected children, in particular, experienced higher rates of promiscuity, cannabis abuse and visual hallucinations as a result of their maltreatment.

The researchers looked at data from 8000 women and children beginning in pregnancy and continuing into early adulthood.

Emeritus Professor Najman initiated the data project called Mater Hospital-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy (MUSP) in 1981.

The study, led by UQ medical school and PhD graduate Dr Lane Strathearn, anonymously linked the data with state government reports of child abuse and neglect to examine how child maltreatment was associated with a broad range of outcomes over two decades, including cognitive, educational, psychological, sexual and physical health, and addiction.

Data showed that sexual and physical abuse led to fewer negative outcomes overall.

“Sexual abuse victims experienced early sexual activity, teen pregnancy, depressive symptoms, and post-traumatic stress disorder, but to a lesser severity than neglected children,” he said. “Physical abuse specifically tended to result in delinquency and externalising behavior problems as well as drug abuse.”

Emeritus Professor Najman said the findings stressed the need to prioritise support for at-risk parents and young children.

“These problems are extremely serious and difficult to treat in adulthood,” he said. “We need to do all that we can to prevent them from happening in the first place. Other studies have shown that simple interventions, such as nurses doing home visits for pregnant women and new mothers, can reduce rates of child maltreatment and help prevent some of these negative outcomes.”

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Atheists are more likely to sleep better than Catholics and Baptists

A new study of sleep, religious affiliation, and perceptions of heaven found that atheists and agnostics are significantly more likely to be better sleepers than Catholics and Baptists.

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A new study of sleep, religious affiliation, and perceptions of heaven found that atheists and agnostics are significantly more likely to be better sleepers than Catholics and Baptists.

Preliminary results show that 73% of atheists and agnostics reported getting seven or more hours of nightly sleep, which is recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine to promote optimal health. In contrast, 63% of Catholics and only 55% of Baptists reported sleeping at least seven hours per night. Atheists and agnostics also reported experiencing less difficulty falling asleep.

“Mental health is increasingly discussed in church settings — as it should be — but sleep health is not discussed,” said lead author Kyla Fergason, a student at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. “Yet we know that sleep loss undercuts many human abilities that are considered to be core values of the church: being a positive member of a social community, expressing love and compassion rather than anger or judgment, and displaying integrity in moral reasoning and behavior. Could getting better sleep help some people grow in their faith or become better Christians? We don’t know the answer to that question yet, but we do know that mental, physical and cognitive health are intertwined with sleep health in the general population.”

The study involved a population-based sample of 1,501 participants in the Baylor Religion Survey, which includes questions on religious affiliation, behaviors, and perceptions. Participants also rated their difficulty falling asleep and their average total sleep time.

Results also show that those participants who reported sleeping seven or more hours per night were significantly more likely to believe that they would get into heaven. However, these perceptions of heaven were unrelated to difficulty falling asleep at night. According to the authors, this pattern indicates that better sleep leads to a more optimistic outlook, which in this case is manifesting as positive expectations of getting into heaven.

The research abstract was published in an online supplement of the journal Sleep.

Religion is, of course, a big issue in the LGBTQIA community. In 2019, for instance, a study found that persistence of “conversion therapy” is directly related to societal beliefs about LGBTIQ people and the degree to which their lives are deemed unacceptable within families, faiths, and societies at large.

Not surprisingly, even allies have been calling out faith-based discrimination. In 2019, for instance, Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Grey said that “religion is never an excuse to hate, put down or act indifferent to the suffering of others. I believe God is love, and I will treat everyone – no matter who they are, to best of my ability, with love.”

But even now in the Philippines, parties opposing the passage of the SOGIE Equality Bill frame themselves – and their arguments – as “for equality” and “for human rights for all”, but stress all the same that they do not support granting LGBTQIA people human rights because it supposedly affects their faith.

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