What Women Really Think

Dec. 9 2014 11:59 AM

Best Way for Professors to Get Good Student Evaluations? Be Male.

Many in academia have long known about how the practice of student evaluations of professors is inherently biased against female professors. Students, after all, are just as likely as the public in general to have the same ugly, if unconscious, biases about women in authority. Just as polling data continues to show that a majority of Americans think being a man automatically makes you better in the boss department, many professors worry that students just automatically rate male professors as smarter, more authoritative, and more awesome overall just because they are men. Now, a new study out North Carolina State University shows that there is good reason for that concern.

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Dec. 8 2014 5:25 PM

The Newest Crisis Pregnancy Center Offer: “Abortion Reversals”

In order to justify the crush of medically unnecessary regulations on abortion clinics in recent years, it's become common for anti-choicers to pose as the protectors of women's health. Considering how much more dangerous childbirth is than abortion, this has always been a farcical claim, but now it appears some anti-choice activists are taking it a step further and actively encouraging women to take what could be a very serious risk to their health. Elizabeth Kulze at Vocativ reports that a crisis pregnancy center in Iowa (called the Women's Choice Center, one of the more obnoxious examples of anti-choice centers trying to trick you into thinking they provide abortion) is offering "abortion reversals" to women who are halfway through a medication abortion.

Dec. 8 2014 4:28 PM

The Newsroom’s Nightmare Campus Rape Episode

Watching the Newsroom always feels like a nightmare. The show lifts news stories from the recent past, rewinds them, and plays them back at Aaron Sorkin speed. Human characters are recast as looming, metaphorical figures, who move through the journalistic scenery unbound by the waking rules of logic, speaking as if they’ve all been programmed by the same half-processed psyche. Sorkin's psychodrama is typically bent on criticizing easy tabloid fodder while venerating "serious" journalism—when the series took on the Anthony Weiner sexts, it invented a clownish, money-grubbing accuser who his high-minded journalists loathed; when it covered the Gabby Giffords shooting, it set a valiant reporting montage to the tune of Coldplay's "Fix You." In last night’s episode, the specter of campus rape entered Sorkin’s moralistic dreamscape.

The ludicrous contours of the plot are these: Don Keefer, executive producer for the fictional cable network Atlantis Cable News (representing: Fairness and Integrity), is compelled by his ratings-hungry overlords (representing: Corporate Soulnessness) to track down Mary, a Princeton student who says she was raped by two fellow students at a party and has created an anonymous website encouraging campus rape victims to publicly name the alleged rapists who have evaded justice. Don’s bosses want him to convince Mary (representing: Digital Vigilantism) to come on ACN to live debate one of the men she has accused of attacking her.

Dec. 8 2014 11:16 AM

What’s Behind Conservative Support for Peggy Young?

When it comes to the issue of employment discrimination against women, the conservative response is usually to deny it's a problem, say that women "choose" to make less money by prioritizing domestic concerns, and fight efforts to rectify the problem, like filibustering equal pay legislation. But now a peculiar exception to that rule seems to be taking hold: When it comes to the fight against pregnancy discrimination, suddenly women have some conservative allies. 

Last week, the Supreme Court heard arguments for Young v UPS, which tests whether the 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act should force employers to accommodate pregnant workers in the same way they accommodate disabled workers. Peggy Young, who was put on unpaid leave from her UPS job during her pregnancy when her doctor said she couldn't lift more than 10 pounds, is suing on the grounds that UPS could have switched her to light duty instead. Many feminist organizations are supporting Young in her suit, but so are many conservative organizations, mostly of the anti-choice variety.

Dec. 8 2014 10:55 AM

Trolls Are Outing UVA’s “Jackie.” That’s Rolling Stone’s Fault Too.

It’s probably inevitable that the name of the victim from Rolling Stone’s story about gang rape at the University of Virginia would come out. Once again, we have Rolling Stone to blame for that. In the story, reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely called her subject by the name “Jackie,” which I think many reading the story assumed was a pseudonym (many of the other characters in the piece go by pseudonyms). After the story got a ton of positive attention for focusing light on a horrendous campus gang rape and a university’s apparently poor handling of it, Erderly then told a Washington Post reporter that the young woman’s real first name was “Jackie.” There are only so many undergraduates named Jackie at UVA, and the school’s directory is publicly accessible. From there, it’s a short distance to some vicious trolls, including the singularly vile Charles C. Johnson, threatening to doxx her.

If Johnson has his way, the next few days are likely a significant setback for the cause of encouraging women to report sexual assaults. Johnson tweeted Jackie’s full name on Sunday, and wrote that he would give Jackie until midnight "to tell the truth," or else he will "start revealing everything about her past." (It is unclear if Johnson actually knows anything “about her past,” or is making idle, but dangerous, threats.) Others are already a few steps ahead of him, posting pictures from Jackie’s Facebook feed—and even her mother’s Facebook feed—and adding nasty captions.

Dec. 6 2014 11:45 AM

Key Player in UVA Rape Story: Rolling Stone Never Talked to Me

Is that such a good idea? Her reputation will be shot for the next four years.

She's gonna be the girl who cried "rape," and we'll never be allowed into any frat party again.

These two quotes, from Rolling Stone’s fast unraveling story about a gang rape at the University of Virginia, were possibly the most suspicious in the story. The quotes are part of a scene that happens after the alleged gang rape, when Jackie, the woman who said she was raped, calls three friends who come to help her. One suggests they take her to the hospital, but then the other two respond with the above. It’s not that I found it hard to believe that college kids could be dismissive of a friend’s claim that she was assaulted. That probably happens all the time, and it especially happens in the nervous first few weeks of freshman year. It’s just that the quotes are a little too perfect, a little too exactly what you would write in an ABC Afterschool Special script attempting to teach teenagers how not to behave. Also, if you read the scene closely, you realize that it isn’t at all clear that the reporter, Sabrina Rubin Erderly, talked to the friends in question, that she was instead relying solely on the recollection of Jackie.

Well, apparently she didn’t talk to the friends, or at least one of them, who told the Washington Post last night that the account of what transpired after the alleged rape was not accurate. “Andy” said that he and the other two friends did not find Jackie in a bloody dress with the Phi Psi house looming in the background, as it was told in Rolling Stone. Neither, he says, did they debate the “social price” of taking her to the hospital. He said Jackie told him that she had been at a frat party and a group of men forced her to perform oral sex, although she did not specify which frat. He said she did not have any visible injuries but the friends offered to get her help, and then spent the night with her in her dorm room to comfort her at her request. [Update, Dec. 7: It appears Erderly also did not talk to the friend identified in the Rolling Stone article as "Cindy," who told the Washington Post a similar story to Drew's.]

Dec. 5 2014 9:06 AM

Sony Pictures Hack Reveals Stark Gender Pay Gap

The massive Sony Pictures hack—by who? North Korea? A disgruntled employee?—has revealed a lot of intimate detail about the people who work at Sony. Reporters who’ve combed through the compromised internal documents say they include social security numbers, passwords, medical records, disciplinary files, and, inexplicably, “the breastfeeding diet of a senior executive.” And, because salary data was also breached, we now know for a fact something we assume about most major American companies: The women who work at Sony are being paid less than the men.

Over at Fusion, Kevin Roose has been parsing the numbers. According to a spreadsheet listing the salaries of 6,000 employees, which Roose cautioned had not been confirmed by Sony, 17 U.S. employees are making $1 million or more. Only one of those is a woman. Roose followed up with a piece looking at the salaries of co-presidents of production at Sony’s Columbia Pictures division, Michael De Luca and Hannah Minghella. They have the same job and—oh dear, this is awkward—he’s making close to a million dollars more.

Dec. 4 2014 12:34 PM

Chicago Will Raise Its Minimum Wage to $13, and No Longer Exempt Nannies

On Tuesday, Chicago's city council voted to raise the city's minimum wage from $8.25 an hour to $13 an hour by 2019. The move is a boon to all low wage workers, but especially domestic workers, specifically nannies, because the council also closed a loophole that had previously exempted domestic workers from the law. Parents in Chicago can no longer equate their kid's regular nanny with a teenage babysitter who does a couple of hours on the weekend. Nannying is a real job and has to be paid like one in the city of Chicago now. 

"This groundbreaking vote means that Chicago’s household workers will finally gain the same protections that most other workers have had for decades,” Myrla Baldonado of the Latino Union of Chicago said in a statement. "Domestic workers often go unrecognized, but the caring work that they do makes all other work possible.”

Dec. 4 2014 12:08 PM

This Cowboy Dude Really Wants You to Stand With Hillary

Hillary Clinton might still be playing coy about whether she’ll run for president in 2016, but her fans sure aren’t. One of the newest Clinton-supporting super PACs, Stand With Hillary, released a three-minute music video supporting her yet-to-be-announced presidential bid. The group aims to promote Clinton’s image among working families, according to the Washington Post. I’m not sure it’s hitting its mark.

The video features a country singer performing in front of a barn in a cowboy hat and boots, men at work (the cowboy is also apparently a construction worker), and a woman on a motorcycle, riding down a lonely road, to attract … we’re not sure which voters, actually. “And now it’s 2016, and this time I’m thinkin’ guys, put your boots on and let’s smash this ceiling,” cowboy dude belts, echoing Clinton’s glass-ceiling meme from her 2008 primary bid for the Democratic nomination and making a memory for us all.

hillary

Amid clapping, lyrical singing of “Hillary,” and pointing at the sky, the country hottie reminds listeners that Clinton is a “great lady like the women in my life,” and a “mother, a daughter, and through it all she’s a lovin’ wife.” At the end, he mounts the motorcycle behind its female driver, and they ride off into the sunset—much like, one must imagine, the nation would do, should Clinton win the presidency in 2016.

The video does not appear to be a joke. According to the Post, the super PAC “is the project of Daniel Chavez, a longtime Democratic political operative, and media producer Miguel Orozco, who wrote a series of Latin-flavored songs celebrating Barack Obama in the 2008 election.”

Dec. 2 2014 12:50 PM

Will Integrating Women Into Fraternities Help Reduce Sexual Abuse?

The shocking story of a fraternity house gang rape at the University of Virginia published by Rolling Stone last month caused the school to temporarily suspend all the frats on campus, and it reopened the discussion about whether fraternities are an outdated institution that should be ended altogether. As Jay Hathaway at Gawker noted in his call to ban frats, "The events reported in that story are an especially gruesome version of an act that is far too common at America's fraternities—according to a 2007 study, men who enter fraternities are three times as likely to commit rape as their fellow students who do not." It makes sense that these archaically single-sex organizations would magnify already existing problems stemming from sexism, so it would follow that ending this tradition would do a lot of good.  

Or what about just ending the existing single-sex form and making fraternities co-ed? Perhaps that could curb some of the excesses? As a case study, it's worth looking at the eating clubs of Princeton, which have all been integrated for a couple of decades now. Tiger Inn, which is still the most traditionally fratty of the eating clubs, made the New York Times on Monday after ousting two officers for sending out sexist emails:

The first email, dated Oct. 12, showed a woman engaged in a sex act with a man in one of the public spaces of the club, Tiger Inn. It was sent out by Adam Krop, the club’s vice president, to all the names on a club-wide mailing list, and it was accompanied by a crude joke and a reference to the woman as an “Asian chick.”
Later that night Andrew Hoffenberg, the treasurer, sent an email to the same list regarding a lecture by the Princeton alumna whose lawsuit forced eating clubs to admit women. “Ever wonder who we have to thank (blame) for gender equality,” the email began. “Looking for someone to blame for the influx of girls? Come tomorrow and help boo Sally Frank.”

The Hoffenberg case was particularly interesting, in that he was deliberately emailing everyone—including the women—in the club to express his belief that women don't belong. The story shows that integrating single-sex social clubs and fraternities is hardly a cure-all for sexism.  

That said, two officers of the Tiger Inn were formally disciplined with relative speed, and a criminal investigation has even opened to determine whether the photos in the first email violated New Jersey's "revenge porn" law. Contrast that with the UVA culture of fear surrounding even reporting sexual abuse, as detailed in the Rolling Stone article. Considering how much more serious sexual assault is than some jerk sending out a sexist email, the difference is all the more noteworthy.

Of course, these are just two examples out of a sea of universities dealing with the problems of sexism and sexual abuse on campus. It's a complex issue that resists easy solutions, though taking the problem seriously instead of sweeping it under the rug really is the minimum requirement here. But it's telling that even a notoriously "fratty" club like the Tiger Inn was capable of dealing with its problem, suggesting that getting more women in the mix might contribute to an atmosphere of more accountability.

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