Hey, Creeps: It's Legal to Take Pictures Up a Woman's Skirt
Creeps, rejoice! Taking pictures up a woman’s skirt when she doesn’t know it is perfectly legal, according to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which ruled yesterday that the practice, called “upskirting,” is not covered under the state’s Peeping Tom laws. The case involved one noble citizen named Michael Robertson, who was picked up on a Boston trolley in a sting operation after two fellow riders told the police that he had been taking pictures under unsuspecting women’s skirts. (In a fine act of sisterly revenge, one of the women who turned him in took pictures of him taking the pictures.)
The state ruled that Robertson could not be charged under the current law because one of the five criteria for being a “Peeping Tom” was that “the subject was another person who was nude or partially nude,” and the women whose photos showed up on his cell phone were, like most riders on the Boston trolley, dressed in clothing at the time he took their pictures.
"A female passenger on a MBTA trolley who is wearing a skirt, dress, or the like covering [private] parts of her body is not a person who is ‘partially nude,’ no matter what is or is not underneath the skirt by way of underwear or other clothing,” the court said in a unanimous ruling written by Justice Margot Botsford. What is (or is not?) underneath the skirt, of course, can be found on various upskirting websites, where pictures of thighs, crotches, and panties abound.
Shorter, Fatter "Average Barbie" Is No Match for the Original
In 1996, Iran officially banned the sale of Barbie dolls, citing her “destructive cultural and social consequences” on its nation’s girls. But the girls did not want to stop playing with Barbie. In 2002, the country started production on “Sara,” a state-approved Barbie alternative who was realistically proportioned, dressed in loose fitting traditional clothing, and paired with “Dara,” the Iranian version of Ken. But the girls did not want to stop playing with Barbie. In 2012, Iranian police raided toy stores to crack down on its longstanding Barbie ban, forcing shop owners to hide their Barbie boxes behind their Sara boxes to avoid detection. But the girls did not want to stop playing with Barbie. “My daughter prefers Barbies,” one mother told Reuters in 2012. “She says Sara and Dara are ugly and fat.”
Sexual Aggressors in Bars Aren't Necessarily Drunk, But Their Targets Are
In college, I knew women who assigned themselves drunken alter egos based on Snow White’s seven dwarves: Happy, Sleepy, Grumpy, etc. The idea was that alcohol could reveal and intensify a person’s true character—“Happy,” for instance, already had an effervescent attitude, while after a few beers “Sleepy” lost the ability to pretend she cared about your theory of animals in Wuthering Heights. As a society, we sometimes play a similar game with men who drink, except the game has heavier consequences, and all the players get the same sorts of names: Cad. Caveman. Creep.
You know who I’m talking about: the sloshed dude in the bar who tragi-comically thinks women welcome his sexual advances when they don’t. But between 2000 and 2002, researchers from the University of Toronto and the University of Washington sent 140 observers into 118 alcohol-serving establishments in Canada and discovered something surprising: zero relationship between a man’s level of intoxication and his sexual aggressiveness. That doesn’t mean that alcohol is irrelevant to boob-grabbing, butt-slapping, and verbal harassment, though. A strong association emerged between a man’s aggression and his target’s degree of intoxication.
The study, published Monday in the online journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, found that 90 percent of sexually aggressive incidents in bars involved male initiators and female victims (no surprise there) and that two-thirds of the exchanges featured nonconsensual touching. Observers were sent out in pairs, one man and one women, to reduce bias. They rated the bar-goers’ drunkenness based on their behavior and how many drinks they consumed. And they took detailed notes on the guys’ persistence, observable intent, and the role of third parties and staff. What they found was that no correlation exists between how much the men drank and how likely they were to harass women and that harassers targeted the women who had been drinking more.
According to the researchers, “the dominating role of masculine identity in public drinking settings” both emboldened harassers and prevented bystanders (even bouncers) from intervening in instances of sexual aggression. And while some of the men might have misread their cues, hallucinating reciprocity where there was none, the fact that they tended to go for drunker women suggests that they knew their overtures were unwanted: A tipsy target can’t protect herself as effectively as a sober one.
Still, I can understand why we cling to the character of the inebriated goof naively trying his luck with unimpressed ladies. He’s a far less threatening figure than the cold-eyed operator cruising for easy marks. Viewing scenes of aggression as misunderstandings feels nice in a lite-FM kind of way, but this mindset introduces some glaring problems—the first, most obvious, and most important being that we can’t stop predators we insist on underestimating. But also: Normalizing the come-ons minimizes women’s feelings of violation and advances a pretty insulting and unproductive vision of men. If all it takes to transform an average Joe into a total asshole is a little chemically assisted inhibition-lowering, what does that say about Joe?
The truth is, if you imagine a bar as a watering hole where safari animals gather to socialize and drink, sexual harassment has less to do with frisky male antelopes tossing their antlers around too freely and more to do with lions. The men who violate women are their own species. One needn’t believe that guys are all secretly terrible, primed to turn into sex-crazed monsters when liquor courses through their veins. But we do have to recognize that some men are worse than we perhaps hoped, that they coolly target women they perceive as vulnerable, that they know their advances are unwanted and proceed regardless. The price of absolving guys as a group is more thoroughly condemning sex offenders as a group. Despite our cultural myths, there is really no logical overlap between masculinity and groping a woman’s breast under a strobe light.
Beyond the Monocle: Five Ideas for Future New York Times Hipster Trend Pieces
With “One Part Mr. Peanut, One Part Hipster Chic"—a rousing meditation on the return of the fashion monocle—the New York Times Style section appears to have reached peak hipster trend story. “The one-lensed eyepiece, an item favored by 19th-century military men, robber barons and Mr. Peanut, is finding itself wedged anew into the ocular sockets of would-be gentlemen seeking to emulate the stern countenances of their stuffy forebears,” Allen Salkin reports. Also appearing in the piece are the phrases “tiny brass telescopes kept in satchels,” “Warby Parker,” “hipster subspecies,” “British trend forecaster,” “old artisanal and craft-based technology,” “aspiring Miami rap musician,” “gin ads,” “effete English lord,” and "SoundCloud page.” Where can the Times go from here? We plugged five outmoded fashion trends into Grey Lady language to forecast the future of the Times trend piece:
Nation's First Birthing Center/Abortion Clinic Opens in Buffalo. This Is Huge.
It's a step forward in the necessary integration of abortion into other forms of OB-GYN care: Feministing reports that the nation's first-ever birthing center/abortion clinic has opened in Buffalo, N.Y. The clinic, run by Dr. Katharine Morrison, offers a traditional slate of gynecological services, including abortion up to 22 weeks, under the name Buffalo WomenServices. But they also have a freestanding birthing center called the Birthing Center of Buffalo, where women who want a nonhospital birthing experience can go while having the benefit of being attended by a certified nurse midwife and an OB-GYN who has admitting privileges at the local hospital in case of complications.
Do Men Wager More Than Women in Jeopardy? A Slate Investigation.
Last week, Alex Trebek appeared on Fox News to talk about latest Jeopardy! mastermind Arthur Chu, and to speculate as to why women are less likely to win at the game than men are. “Women contestants, when it comes to a Daily Double, seem to want to wager [less] because they figure, ‘Oh, this is is the household money, this is the grocery money, the rent money,’” Trebek said. “Guys say, ‘Wait a minute, I’m playing with the house money, I’m not taking any money home unless I win the game, so I can go whole hog on this wager.’ Women are more cautious in that regard.” But “that’s changing,” Trebek added. “We’ve attracted more women to the show … and they’re getting a little more adventurous.”
Do women wager less in Jeopardy!? And is that a bad thing? We crunched the numbers of Daily Double bets dating back to 1984—the year that Trebek first took the podium to kick off the quiz show’s current iteration—and found that while there is no drastic gender difference in bet size, there is a consistent gap in male and female wagers that’s persisted over the show’s 30-year run.
After Racially Charged Debate, New Abortion Restrictions Pass Alabama House
Alabama is on the verge of eradicating most legal abortion in its state. Tuesday evening, the state House of Representatives passed four major abortion restrictions. The most provocative and most likely to be shut down in the courts is the ban on all abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detectable, which not only necessitates a transvaginal ultrasound, but also means that abortion would be banned as early as six weeks. In case some women do have enough hustle to get that abortion in the couple of weeks between early pregnancy detection and the ability to find a heartbeat, the legislature bumped the waiting period up to 48 hours from 24 hours. The ostensible reason is so women can think it over, but at this point, it's clear the real reason is to drag out the preparations for the abortion until the abortion is no longer legal. Abortion for teenagers will mostly be impossible. They will need a certified birth certificate and a notarized consent form, all paperwork that is too much hassle to get together in the brief window of opportunity to get an abortion.
The debate over the bill was racially loaded, in no small part because its main advocate, Republican Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, has an affection for invoking Brown v the Board of Education, the Supreme Court decision desegregating schools, when defending it. For instance, she told an ABC affiliate that she doesn't worry about the court challenges to her various anti-abortion bills with this baffling quote: "I'm not really concerned about the challenges. We've had challenges before. We wouldn't have some of the things we have now if it hadn't been for Brown versus Board of Education." It's hard to parse, because presumably she wouldn't want the courts overturning her anti-abortion laws the way the court overturned laws establishing segregated schools in 1954, and yet.
The Man Who Made the Period Safe for the Women of India
My hero of the week is Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man who made the period safe for the women of India. Muruganantham’s decade-long odyssey to create an affordable sanitary pad for village women is the subject of an incredible BBC Magazine story. It’s a tale of an inventor’s obsession, in the face of ostracism, and it ends in triumph, with Muruganantham’s simple, low-cost machine for the production of cheap, clean pads that can replace the dirty rags, sawdust, leaves, and ash women were using to absorb their menstrual flow.
This is a true public health advance. According to a 2011 survey cited by the BBC, only 12 percent of Indian women were using sanitary pads. One reason was cost; another was custom. And as the BBC reports, “Women who do use cloths are often too embarrassed to dry them in the sun, which means they don't get disinfected. Approximately 70% of all reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene—it can also affect maternal mortality.”
Muruganantham’s quest to save the women of his village, including his wife, led him to punch holes in a football bladder, fill it with goat’s blood, and then try to walk, bike and run with it under his clothes to test the absorption rate of his first attempt at a sanitary pad. His village decided he was a “pervert,” he says, who’d been bewitched. His wife left him. And at first, his pads, made of cotton, didn’t work. Muruganantham couldn’t figure out what was going wrong. He wrote to a professor, who helped him get in touch with manufacturing companies. They sent him a sample of their material, and it turned out to be cellulose, from tree bark. The BBC story, by Vibeke Venema, continues:
The Moral Panic Over E-Cigarettes Intensifies
Americans have always struggled over the distinction between disapproving of a behavior because it's bad for people and disapproving of a behavior because it makes people feel good. Unsurprisingly, then, the advent of e-cigarettes—devices that allow you to get the pleasure of smoking without taking the lung cancer risks of actually inhaling tobacco tar—has inspired a new moral panic that looks a lot like the public health campaign against real cigarettes, but might not be anything more than old-fashioned priggishness. Tuesday, the Los Angeles City Council voted unanimously to regulate the indoor smoking of e-cigarettes, or vaporizers, in basically the same way they regulate regular cigarettes. Wednesday, the New York Times ran a piece about fears over the e-cigarette with that perennial phrase of any respectable moral panic, "lure young," right there in the headline.
Male Executives Don’t Feel Guilt, See Work-Life Balance as a Women's Problem
A revealing—and depressing—article in this month’s Harvard Business Review shows that no matter how much power female executives have accrued, or how much lip service male executives might publicly pay, family issues are still seen as a female problem.
Harvard Business School professor Boris Groysberg and research associate Robin Abrahams looked at interviews of nearly 4,000 C-suite executives conducted by HBS students from 2008-2013. Forty-four percent of the interviewees were female. And while the men and women often had the same job titles, the similarities stopped there.
The first difference between male and female execs is in the way they frame work-life conflicts. The men tend to choose work without regret when conflicts arise, because they frame their family role as “breadwinner.” This seems to alleviate any guilt. One interviewee says he doesn’t regret his divorce because he was always a good provider and was able to achieve his goals, and now he spends more time with his kids on weekends. Another says:
“The 10 minutes I give my kids at night is one million times greater than spending that 10 minutes at work.”
As the authors point out, most women would not brag about only spending 10 minutes a day with their children. Contrast this with how a female executive frames her experience: “When you are paid well, you can get all the [practical] help you need. What is the most difficult thing, though—what I see my women friends leave their careers for—is the real emotional guilt of not spending enough time with their children. The guilt of missing out.”