Women hold up half the sky — issue #15

Women hold up half the sky — issue #15


Was there a defining moment in your life when you decided you might be a feminist?

Personally, I don't know when mine was. Looking back, there were fleeting moments ever since I was a young girl. I studied in a convent school, and I remember being perplexed at the instruction that we could not wear shorts under our skirts, because we needed to behave like girls. I remember my mom telling me, "You should not curse; it's unbecoming for a woman", and me retorting quickly, "And men can?"

My identity as a woman rapidly changed when I left university. Navigating the workforce, relationships, and marriage, I began to see how women are disadvantaged in life. Even in Singapore, where there is purportedly little discrimination, we see sexual harassment, unequal pay, and different expectations demanded of our gender. Many of my peers are at the point of their lives when they have to choose between family and career. But why do they have to choose?

In the past few years, we've seen women (and men) all around the world rise for feminism; on national television, at elections, amongst friends, and at the dinner table with their families and spouses. At Kontinentalist, we're proud to be part of this movement, and I'm honoured to work alongside a like-minded team that thinks this is an important topic.

In Asia, the struggle for equality is complex. We've written stories specifically about women and the inequalities they face in religious institutions, the sports industry, and even in the dark world of sex trafficking. We're committed to using our stories to shed light on the myriad experiences women face in the region, and we hope to change minds one conversation at a time.

We'd love to hear your thoughts on how we may achieve this, along with any topics you really think we should touch on. Share with us at


Know their stories

a picture of a female runner in hijab
Religious gestures and superstitions are indelible parts of sports history. Think soccer players pointing their fingers skyward to thank god. So, why are female athletes often singled out for wearing the hijab—a customary headwear for Muslim women? Read about how female athletes like boxer Zeina Nassar are breaking these artificial boundaries—while smashing world records.
an illustration of a sex trafficked victim and the sex trafficking ring she is embroiled into
Here's a chilling statistic: Asia Pacific accounts for 73 percent of forced sexual exploitation victims worldwide in 2018. Almost all of them are women and girls. What makes women in Asia especially vulnerable to sex trafficking? The reasons are as surprising as they are tragic.
Women have fought hard—and succeeded—in overturning the rule that prohibits menstruating women from entering Kerala's Sabarimala Temple in India. But their fight has not ended. After attacking mobs prevented women from entering the temple, the ruling was once again placed under review last year. How will this judgement impact period stigma in India?

Special feature: Hell's Apprentice game

an illustration of chinese hell gates
We created a game!

Hell's Apprentice is about the Buddhist-Taoist folklore of the eighteen levels of hell. In it, you assist the grand magistrate by collecting clues to three mortals' pasts and decide which level of hell they should be assigned to. At Kontinentalist, we're always striving to highlight Asian cultures in innovative ways, and this is our most experimental yet. For a behind-the-scenes look at how we conceptualised the game, check out this Medium post by our writer Bella.

Spotlight: Coxcomb (also goes by "polar area chart" and "rose chart")

How can we do a feature on women without paying homage to the OG data visualiser, Florence Nightingale? The coxcomb chart was her brainchild; Nightingale created it to persuade the British government that improving sanitary practices in hospitals and army camps would drastically save British soldiers' lives.
coxcomb chart by Florence Nightingale
Cast your eyes on the coxcomb chart on the right, which documents the causes of soldier deaths from April 1954 to March 1855. She divided the chart into 12 slices to represent 12 months, with each slice at a 30° (360°/12). The method of visual encoding here is area. See how the shaded area of each month's slice is proportional to the death rate of that month? So, the larger the area, the more the slice extends from the center of the circle.

Nightingale then colour coded the chart by the three causes of death. The blue
and largestrepresents death from five preventable diseases: scurvy, fever, dysentery, diarrhoea, and cholera; the red and black areas represent deaths from wounds and other causes, respectively.

The message is obvious: more soldiers were dying from preventable diseases than wounds sustained from the war. Her visualisation drowned out disbelieving voices like that of England's chief medical officer John Simon, who said that the diseases in the civilian population was unavoidable.

And she was right. A different government took over, and better sanitation was implemented in army camps and hospitals. The results can be seen in the coxcomb chart on your left, which shows a deepening reduction of preventable disease-related deaths from April 1855 to March 1856.

Today, coxcomb charts are popular with consultants for visualising market trends. The readability of the chart means that outliers can easily stand out. In this manner, they resemble radar charts
both are good for visualising large discrepancies, but your readers won't be able to make minute distinctions if your variables only have slight differences. It is also used in football analysis to make comparisons across players and their aptitudes in different skills. 


We're doing something a little different for this issue. Instead of only sharing data stories related to the theme, we're highlighting female data practitioners and their work. Let us  know which other practitioners we should be highlighting; if you're one yourself, we'd love to see your work!