What Women Really Think

Sept. 2 2014 2:56 PM

At Least 1,400 Children Sexually Exploited in One English Town. How Could This Possibly Happen?

As the New York Times reported Monday, between 1997 and 2013, in the northern English town of Rotherham, “at least 1,400 children, some as young as 11, were groomed for sexual exploitation while the authorities looked the other way.” The findings of an independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham released last week declared:

It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated. There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone. Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators.

These “appalling” acts, occurring on an unimaginable scale, went on for 16 years, and, as the report notes, “continues to this day.” How could this possibly happen?

The most obvious issue is that law enforcement made little effort to address the problem. The report notes that “Police gave no priority to [child sexual exploitation], regarding many child victims with contempt and failing to act on their abuse as a crime.” It chronicles in mind-numbing detail the various investigations and task forces that achieved nothing. Indeed, the scope of the abuse—1,400 children represents .5 percent of Rotherham’s population—seems to have brought a kind of impunity: An earlier report on the grooming ring “was effectively suppressed because some senior officers disbelieved the data it contained.” If you want to get away with rape, raping hundreds of children is apparently a good way to do so.

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Sept. 2 2014 11:14 AM

“Don't Take Nude Selfies,” Shrug It Off, and Other Gross Advice for Hacked Celebs

On Sunday, dozens of nude photographs of female celebrities—including Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Upton, and Kirsten Dunst—were leaked online. The hacking and nonconsensual publication of these photos—which were kept privately by the women themselves and shared only with partners and friends of their choosing, if with anyone at all—is both a criminal act and a widespread attack on female sexual agency. According to initial reporting by BuzzFeed and Deadspin, those responsible have publicized these images in a bid to fortify their own hacker status, earn Bitcoins, or propose trades for more nude photographs of other women’s bodies. The act is the digital equivalent of approaching a woman on the street, pulling down her shirt, snapping a photo, and passing it around.

Aug. 29 2014 10:42 AM

Kirsten Gillibrand Should Not Name Her Harassers

Whenever a woman tells her story of sexual harassment, there are those who set to work trying to blame her—for everything from what she wore when she was harassed, to her failure to punch the harasser in the nose. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand revealed this week that she has been subjected to sexist comments about her body from her male colleagues, and, with a distressing inevitability, the discussion quickly became about how she, individually, should be doing more to stop this harassment. Gillibrand owes it to us to name names, the argument goes, lest she court accusations that she's lying, and also in order to bring those men to justice. 

Kay Steiger at Talking Points Memo chronicled the concern trolling on Twitter, coming largely from Nick Confessore of the New York Times and Alex Burns of Politico. "Shouldn't Gillibrand name these Senate guys who fat-shamed her," Confessore tweeted. "Doesn't she kind of have a responsibility to name them?"

Aug. 28 2014 6:24 PM

Republicans Court Female Voters By Carefully Explaining That Women Are Wrong

Yesterday, Politico published a leaked report commissioned by two Republican lobbying groups on how the party can better attract female voters. The report, based on a recent poll of 800 female registered voters as well as a series of focus groups, is titled “Republicans and Women Voters: Huge Challenges, Real Opportunities.” The central challenge facing the Republican party is that women—particularly single women and women who have graduated from college—are “barely receptive” to its policies, and are likely to consider the party “intolerant,” “lacking in compassion,” and “stuck in the past.”

Here’s where the “real opportunity” comes in: If only the Republicans could explain to these women that they are wrong, their votes would come flooding in. The report says that it is a “lack of understanding” between women and Republicans that “closes many minds to Republican policy solutions.” Republicans can attract the female vote by attacking the Democratic claim that GOP policies do not promote “fairness” for women and dealing “honestly with any disagreement on abortion” before moving on to “other issues.”

Aug. 28 2014 2:20 PM

Managers Tell Women in Tech They Are “Abrasive” and Need to “Step Back” to “Let Others Shine”

Kieran Snyder had heard about women in the tech word being judged more harshly than their male colleagues for the same traits and wanted to know "how often this perception of female abrasiveness undermines women’s careers." So she asked a group of men and women in tech to share their performance reviews with her, without telling them what the study was for. "The question I wanted to answer was: Did review tone or content differ based on the employee’s gender," Snyder writes in Fortune. It turns out that not only did gender matter, it appears to have mattered a lot, enough to shock even me, a jaded feminist. 


Aug. 28 2014 1:16 PM

Angelina and Brad Finally Wed. Will Billy Bob Thornton Ever Find Happiness?

Finding out that your ex got married is never fun. Especially if you are Billy Bob Thornton. 

Poor Billy Bob. News broke this morning that Thornton’s ex-wife, Angelina Jolie, finally married her longtime partner Brad Pitt in a secret Saturday ceremony at a Provence chateau. How is Thornton holding up? Probably poorly, as he braces for another day of "how are you holding up" looks from his friends. Because if celebrity tabloids have taught us anything over the past decade, it’s that Jolie and Pitt’s happiness is inversely related to Billy Bob Thornton’s sense of self-worth. The wedding will only remind Thornton that he used to be married to somebody really pretty, but now she is married to somebody equally pretty—somebody far prettier than Billy Bob Thornton will ever be—and now every personal and professional accomplishment Thornton achieves will be forever dwarfed by the expansiveness of Brad and Angelina's love for one another. 

Aug. 28 2014 10:37 AM

Kirsten Gillibrand, You Don’t Need to Make Excuses for Your Sexist Colleagues. There Is No Excuse.

In promoting her new memoir Off the Sidelines, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke with People about the way that some of her male colleagues, during her time as a representative and a senator, made comments about her body—some even touching it. People writes:

In Off the Sidelines, Gillibrand, 47, shares a sobering incident in the congressional gym, where an older, male colleague told her, "Good thing you're working out, because you wouldn't want to get porky!" On another occasion, she writes, after she dropped 50 lbs. one of her fellow Senate members approached her, squeezed her stomach, and said, "Don't lose too much weight now. I like my girls chubby!"

The People interview is short, but the New York Post filled it in with some more examples from the book, like the time a congressman told Gillibrand, "You know, Kirsten, you’re even pretty when you’re fat." 

It's not just boorish politicians. Once, a labor leader decided to give her advice on her appearance. "When I first met you in 2006 you were beautiful, a breath of fresh air. To win [the special], you need to be beautiful again," he said.

Aug. 27 2014 3:50 PM

Spanish Mayor Accuses Women of Framing Men for Rape. Citizens Respond With Bras.

Ashifa Kassam of the Guardian reports that the city of Valladolid in Spain was covered in bras earlier this week, hung by protesters who are demanding the resignation of their mayor, Francisco Javier León de la Riva. Riva recently went on a Spanish radio show and mistook it for Reddit. "I have qualms about getting into an elevator," said the conservative mayor. "Imagine you get into an elevator and there is a girl who is out to get you, she enters with you, tears off her bra or skirt and flees shouting that you have tried to assault her. Beware this sort of thing." 

During the same interview, he also said, "you can't have a police officer in every park" and therefore "at six in the morning a young woman should be careful of where she goes."

Aug. 27 2014 12:51 PM

What If Men Weren't Allowed on Facebook?

The internet is an egalitarian wonderland where women are free to voice their opinions, dodge rape GIFs, meet new people, field rape threats, forge communities, and get asked to show strangers their boobs. What would happen if men weren’t allowed in?

Women.com, a new social network exclusively for women, is currently testing that premise. Launched by former Facebook employee Susan Johnson, Women.com—now in an invite-only Beta stage—is a social network that encourages women to pose questions to the community (current queries range from “How do I get paid what I’m worth?” to “Bra or no bra?”), upvote the most relevant answers, and, if all goes according to plan, engage in the type of real talk that doesn’t surface on massive social networks like Facebook or masculine-aligned comment-driven platforms like Fark.

So far, the site feels a little like a Yahoo! Answers stocked with a diverse crew of smart women—the top answer to one user’s question about whether she should pursue a relationship with her married boss is, in its entirety, “NO”—and speaking as a person who has typed personal questions into Google’s abyss on more than one occasion, I can understand the appeal. With a little more firepower—I’d like to see Laverne Cox weigh in on the question of how parents can teach their daughters that they’re worthy, for example, or reps from the Tech LadyMafia on the issue of how to deal with inappropriate sexual behavior from VCs—it has the opportunity to transcend that guilty-pleasure atmosphere and evolve into a necessary resource. (Johnson says that Quora-style expertise identifiers for contributors are currently in the works.)

I talked with Johnson about what women talk about when Facebook isn’t watching, how a community can get big without going negative, and why the site has the potential to make a boatload of cash. Our interview has been condensed and edited.

Slate: What are women talking about on Women.com that you don’t see them talking about on sites like Facebook?

Aug. 27 2014 11:52 AM

In Australia, Moms Are the Default Parent

The state of American child care is pretty abysmal. Day care is not well-regulated, the quality is often poor, and it’s expensive: In 35 states and Washington, D.C., it costs more than a year’s in-state college tuition. We are the only wealthy nation that does not guarantee paid vacation or sick days, so when a snow day or a fever keeps a child out of school, it can mean a career setback for many parents. And for working parents with low-wage jobs, things are even worse.

We point to other countries—often ones in Europe—as models of how to do child care right. But is it really so much easier to be a working parent in Paris than it is in Peoria? We asked working moms and dads from all over the world to tell us their child care experiences. Here is the second in our occasional series, from a mother in Sydney, Australia.

Name: Karen Beilharz

Age: 36

Country: Australia

Occupation: I write, edit and self-publish, mostly comics.

Partner's occupation: Freelance web developer

Children: 2 girls, ages 4 years and 6 months.

Hi Karen, what are your work hours?

I work whenever I get a chance (which is usually when my children are asleep). My husband works mostly normal business hours, but occasionally evenings and on the weekend too.

Who takes care of your kids while you work?

Our four-year-old is in child care two days a week, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Her session can go from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. but we usually drop her off around 9/9:30 a.m. Where we live—in Sydney's Inner West—it's very hard to get a permanent day-long day care spot. When I was attending ante-natal classes for my first child at the local hospital, one of the women in charge of the classes said that the town planners of Sydney assumed that everyone would move out further west to buy a house; they never thought that couples would choose to live closer to the city and start their families here. As a result, the Inner West is exploding with families with young children, to the point where educators are warning that there may not be enough places in local schools in a couple of years. And of course it means that child care can be hard to find, with many people placing their children on multiple waiting lists.