What Women Really Think

Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM

Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness

Last year, actress Ellen Page expressed disappointment that many of her fellow actresses have disavowed the feminist label. “How could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?" she told Guardian reporter Hadley Freedman. Feminism, she said, “always gets associated with being a radical movement—good. It should be.” But at this point, the feminist label is no longer particularly radical, or even necessarily political. It’s just good branding.

This week, Karl Lagerfeld promoted his spring 2015 Chanel line with a runway feminist march where models led by Cara Delevingne carried picket signs reading things like “Be Your Own Stylist,” “Feminist but Feminine,” and “Free Freedom,” to the tune of Chaka Khan’s “I’m Every Woman.” And Emily Ratajkowski—the topless dancer from Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video turned Gone Girl movie star—told Cosmopolitan magazine that she feels lucky that she can "wear what she wants, sleep with whom she wants, and dance how she wants, while still being a feminist.”

These feminist statements are sublime in their lack of substance. Are figures like Lagerfeld and Ratajkowski promoting feminism, or just using feminism to promote themselves? It’s impossible to tell. For a new crop of celebrities, feminism can signify absolutely anything—or to put it another way, nothing. The important thing is just saying the word where somebody hears you.

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Oct. 1 2014 4:58 PM

The Religious Right Is Not Happy With Republicans  

Tuesday, my colleague Will Saletan chronicled the various ways that Republican candidates are running away from "culture war" issues like gay marriage and reproductive rights. "Republicans are mumbling, cringing, and ducking," he notes, before providing a number of examples. "They don’t want the election to be about these issues, even in red states."

Saletan's not the only who noticed the sudden cowardice of Republican politicians on social issues. At this year's Values Voters Summit, held this past weekend, religious right leaders were showing fear of being left behind. "There was a palpable fear throughout the conference that the Republican Party is moving away from the Religious Right," writes Brian Tashman at Right Wing Watch. At one panel, social conservatives tried gallantly to argue that opposition to abortion and gay rights is actually somehow libertarian, because supporters of those rights are "using the government to impose this new, strange sexual orthodoxy." And at one point, Brian Brown from the National Organization for Marriage defensively said, "It's not our fault" that Republicans keep losing.

Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM

Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?

At this point, it's hard not to wonder if the people being hired to do outreach to women on behalf of Republican candidates aren't all a bunch of Democratic moles. The College Republican National Committee created this ad for Rick Scott, who is running for re-election as governor of Florida, and it appears to be written by men who learned everything they know about women from reading bridal magazines. It's modeled after TLC's popular show Say Yes to the Dress, except it's called "Say Yes to the Candidate" and the "dresses" in this case are Rick Scott and Charlie Crist. 

"The Rick Scott is perfect," says our blond and youthful heroine, Brittany, admiring herself in the mirror while wearing a wedding dress, which is a thing Republicans have heard women like to wear. Her friends ooh and aah. But mom, who is of course a harridan because she dared age past 35, has other ideas. "I like the Charlie Crist," she says, as we see Brittany—an undecided voter, by the way—in a frumpier dress. "It's expensive and a little outdated, but I know best." Ominous music.

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It's cute that the Republicans who created this ad think young women are still getting married! Hopefully it will be a smashing success, leading us to the next one, where Brittany has to decide between two cupcakes, one called "the Scott Walker" and the other "the Mary Burke." Just remember, only one tastes good if you're considering an abortion!

Oct. 1 2014 2:08 PM

We Need to Talk: Terrible Name, Good Show

Midway through last night’s premiere of We Need to Talk—CBS Sports Network’s new hour-long weekly talk show that’s produced and directed by women, and exclusively stars female athletes, journalists, and commentators—WNBA player Swin Cash sat on the set’s couch and offered her opinions on domestic violence in the NFL. It was unfair to Janay Rice, she said, for the media to constantly replay the video evidence of her abuse on national television, while criticizing her for failing to respond to that abuse in the correct way. “Why is it OK to shame the victim?” Cash asked. When Cash herself was abused by a partner, she said, she was allowed to “deal with it privately,” but even then, she feared the sting of public scrutiny. No wonder we’re living in a country where “women don’t speak up.”

Lisa Leslie (three-time WNBA MVP, four-time Olympic gold medalist) respectfully disagreed. When a victim of domestic violence has “a voice” and “an opportunity,” she said, she has an obligation to advocate for herself. After Leslie’s fiancée and the love of her life “hit me, beat me, choked me,” she said, she knew that “this is the end.” She left him barefoot with just a pair of keys in her purse, and she wants young girls to know that they can do it, too. “You don’t have to be married,” she said. “You should not be in a situation where you could be hit.”

“That’s great, Lisa. That’s for you,” Cash countered. But domestic abuse “is psychological,” too, and not every woman is as capable as Lisa Leslie is of leaving an abuser. “I’ve never talked about this publicly,” Dara Torres (world-record-holding swimmer, 12 Olympic medals) chimed in. Torres said she initially didn’t see herself as a domestic abuse victim because her partner controlled her verbally and psychologically, not physically. But when she started discussing the issue before the show aired, her co-hosts implored her: “Don’t you dare downplay mental abuse.” Now she sees that abusers can use a variety of tactics to keep women in “relationships you don’t deserve.”

Oct. 1 2014 1:01 PM

Can Activists Save Reyhaneh Jabbari?  

In an unexpected move by Iran’s justice system, the country has allowed for a 10-day delay in the execution of a 26-year-old woman, accused of murdering her alleged rapist seven years ago, who has become a cause for human rights activists and Iranian citizens alike.

In 2009, Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death for the killing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Human rights groups within Iran and beyond its borders have criticized the handling of the case. Jabbari had no lawyer when she was questioned during a two-month stay in solitary confinement and though she admitted to stabbing Sarbandi in the shoulder in self-defense, she also claimed there was another man in the house with them that day and that he was the one who killed Sarbandi. According to Amnesty International, Jabbari’s version of incident  has never been fully investigated. Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran, has said that Jabbari’s confession for the murder was produced under duress and that she was acting in self-defense. Shaheed has  called for the authorities to review her case and re-try it.

According to an April statement by Shaheed’s office, Sarbandi hired Jabbari, an interior decorator, to redesign his office. Under those pretenses, he took her to “a residence where he physically and sexually forced himself upon her.” The medical examiner’s report found that a glass of juice at the scene contained a tranquilizer. Versions of Jabbari’s story have also made their way online through what Facebook posters allege to be translations of her letters from prison.

Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

There are many things that get blamed for teen pregnancy, from rap music to kids liking 16 and Pregnant a little too much, but the main cause is not actually that exciting: poor contraception use. Teenagers, even more than adults, need contraception that has little margin for error, but instead they are using condoms, mostly because they're easy to get. Condoms are great, don't get me wrong, but as the sole means for preventing pregnancy, they have a relatively high failure rate compared to other methods, with 18 percent of condom users experiencing an unintended pregnancy in the course of a year.

Enter the IUD, which is a nearly error-proof form of contraception that you insert once and forget about for the next 10 years, giving it a failure rate of .05 percent. Which means that one in 2,000 IUD users will get pregnant in a given year, compared to 18 out of 100 condom users. Which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics released new recommendations this week, advising doctors to prioritize IUDs over other forms of contraception for teenage patients. From the Washington Post:

Sept. 29 2014 9:39 PM

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Last week, a 20-year-old Nova Scotia man pled guilty to one count of manufacturing child pornography. In an agreed statement of facts read in court, the man acknowledged that nearly three years ago, when he was 17, he threw a small, booze-fueled party at his house with three other teenage boys and a 15-year-old girl. That night, he took a photograph of one of those boys, then 16, penetrating the girl from behind. She was naked from the waist down, and was leaning out of a window to vomit onto the ground. The 16-year-old boy was smiling into the camera, holding the girl’s hip with one hand, and giving a thumbs up with the other. The person who took the photo is awaiting sentencing. The boy in the photo is now 19, and is awaiting trial for distributing the image. The girl died last year.

Sept. 29 2014 1:52 PM

Do Not Fear California’s New Affirmative Consent Law

On a classic episode of the sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dennis, the most sociopathic character of the bunch, explained to another character why he wanted to buy a boat. "The whole purpose of buying a boat in the first place is to get the ladies nice and tipsy topside so we can take them to a nice, comfortable place below deck and, you know, they can't refuse. Because of the implication."

When another character protests that this sounds an awful lot like rape, Dennis defends himself: "Because if the girl said no, then obviously the answer is no. But the thing is, she's not going to say no. She would never say no. Because of the implication." He clarifies, "The implication that things might go wrong for her if she refuses to sleep with me." 

Sept. 29 2014 11:38 AM

Sometimes I Say I'm Married, Sometimes I Pretend I'm Not

This article originally appeared in The Cut.

This summer, I went on two very different reporting trips. One was to Austin, Texas, where I mostly hung out with conservative, Christian, stay-at-home PTA moms. Seemingly the only thing I, a 30-year-old lefty feminist from New York City, had in common with these women was the fact that we were married. One casual mention of my husband and they "got" me. In their eyes, I wasn’t slutty or career-obsessed; I was someone with whom they could relate.

A month later, I was shadowing a few strapping freshmen boys at a small liberal arts school in New England. I couldn’t help but be flattered that everyone mistook me for a student. By the third day, I was tapping into my single, collegiate self. So when one of them asked me if I lived with roommates, I said, “no, I live with my … boyfriend.” All of a sudden, I wasn’t old, boring, or spoken-for. I was just like them.

My friend Mercedes calls it the “marital code-switch.” It can happen with newlyweds, who may still feel stuck between two worlds. It can also happen with feminists, who might wrestle with their ambivalence about marriage. There’s much to gain (respect, inclusion, relief from a sleazy asshole’s advances) but also, perhaps, something to lose (sex appeal, mystery, a right to self-definition) by offhandedly evoking a husband. Marriage can be both a giant privilege and, in less tangible ways, a disadvantage. But unlike race or gender, marital status is invisible, and married people can choose to wield it or not depending on the situation.

Sept. 29 2014 9:17 AM

Consensual Sex: There’s an App for That

Last June, Reason’s Robby Soave called for an iPhone app that would clear up pesky he-said, she-said rape cases by recording two parties’ “mutual consent” to engaging in sexual activity before they do the deed: “Maybe they would have to input a password and then touch phones, or something?” he proposed. Last week, his prayers were answered: The Good2Go sexual consent app isn’t as touch-and-go as the app of Soave’s dreams, but it does encourage sex partners to assess their mutual interest in sex and record their intoxication levels before getting busy.

Here’s how it works:

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