What Women Really Think

Aug. 14 2014 5:15 PM

The NFL Considers Tougher Punishments for Abusive Players, but Not Tough Enough

Late Wednesday, Mark Maske of the Washington Post reported that the NFL is reconsidering its approach to handling domestic violence, after weeks of criticism for the decision to suspend running back Ray Rice from playing for the Baltimore Ravens for a mere two games after he allegedly hit his girlfriend—now wife—Janay Palmer, and dragged and dropped her unconscious body in an elevator. Many observers, such as Louisa Thomas of Grantland, have pointed out that this suspension is only half as long as what is typically handed out to players who fail a drug test, calling into question whether the league thinks smoking weed or dropping molly is worse than hurting your partner so badly she appears to have lost consciousness. 

"The prospective new policy, if it is implemented, could establish guidelines for a suspension of four to six games without pay for a first offense and potentially a season-long suspension for a second incident," Maske writes, attributing the information to anonymous inside sources. Let's hope so. In fact, ideally the league would have a policy where these penalties are more than guidelines but mandatory minimum penalties. While that might seem extreme, there needs to be a system so that players who abuse their partners can't manipulate the emotions of those doling out suspensions.

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Aug. 14 2014 12:57 PM

BYU’s Sex Ban Is Terrible for Victims of Sexual Assault

Keli Byers is a sophomore in college, and like many Americans her age, she is sexually active. At Brigham Young University, where she’s enrolled, that makes her “a slut by Mormon standards," she says. At BYU, women “who aren’t virgins are treated as inferiors.” This is a social judgment, but it’s also an institutional one: Students who attend BYU are required to sign an honor code committing to live a “chaste life.” For women, that means no sex, but it also means additional rules, like no skirts worn above the knee. Students who don’t comply risk expulsion.

Now, Byers is speaking out in the pages of Cosmopolitan about how the school’s emphasis on chastity—often framed as a device for protecting female virtue—imposes a sexist double standard against women, and is particularly damaging to victims of rape. As a teenager, Byers was sexually assaulted by a man who had just returned from a Mormon mission. When she told her bishop about the assault, “I was banned from church for a month,” she writes. “I was punished because a man had touched me.” And now, at BYU, she is being shamed yet again by policies that have more consequences for women than men, like the dress code that's framed as a way to "help men control their thoughts."

Aug. 13 2014 2:02 PM

Do Women Not Run for Office Because They're Scared of Being Judged?

Women who run for office are just as likely as men to win their races, and yet somehow women continue to be wildly outnumbered by men in public office. The reason is that women simply don’t run for office nearly as often as men, a discrepancy that attracts quite a bit of social science research. The latest study, reported by Derek Willis of the New York Times, tried to measure if there was something about being voted on specifically that discourages women from running.

University of Pittsburgh researchers Kristin Kanthak and Jonathan Woon designed an experiment, described by Willis:

In the experiment, members of a group volunteered to do math problems (with the possibility of a reward) on behalf of their group. In some cases, the person doing the problems was selected at random from among the volunteers; in other cases, the group elected one of its volunteers to do the problems.

When the volunteers were chosen at random, men and women volunteered at the same rate, but women were less willing to volunteer if they knew it would be put to a vote. Women, it appears, are just less interested in having their worthiness offered up for public debate.

“What if there is something about women that makes them not want to run for office that doesn’t have anything to do with external factors?” Kanthak wondered to Willis.

Aug. 13 2014 1:43 PM

When a Kid Is Sick, Why Is It Mom Who Stays Home?

Atlantic.com deputy editor Alexis Madrigal is getting much-deserved kudos for a post he wrote on Tuesday, “Two Working Parents, One Sick Kid.” In the piece, he described a familiar situation: Your kid is too sick for school or daycare, and one parent has to miss work to stay home. At first, the family assumed that Madrigal’s wife, the writer and editor Sarah Rich, would be the one to miss work. But their son decided that only daddy could comfort him in this moment, and so Madrigal took time off.

The overarching point of his piece is to say that mom should not be the default caretaker. But she is: According to one study, moms and dads have similar access to paid leave, and yet 74 percent of moms stay home when their kids are sick, compared with 40 percent of dads. Madrigal writes, “My hunch is that if enough dads stopped leaning on their partners in these situations—talk about unacknowledged male privilege—the culture would change.” That’s part of it for sure, and I’m glad Madrigal’s piece is getting widely shared and tweeted. But I think women have their part to play as well in changing culture, and so I want to give Sarah Rich major props for releasing her guilt over the situation. At first she felt bad because her husband had to rearrange his schedule so much to accommodate their son, but she let it go.

Aug. 12 2014 4:38 PM

Local Mom Decides Important Sports Case

The first thing that the New York Times wants you to know about Claudia Wilken is that she is a devoted parent. “For years, Claudia Wilken has been known in her neighborhood mostly as a familiar face at school meetings,” the Times’ John Branch begins. “When her two children were teenagers about a decade ago … Wilken spent several years on Berkeley High School’s Site Council” where “hers was a measured voice,” Branch writes. “Let’s figure out how we can work together, she would say. She encouraged compromise and dialogue.”

But—here comes the twist—Wilken is not just a former standout member of the Berkeley High PTA. She’s also the federal judge who recently presided over O'Bannon v. NCAA, the landmark case that has challenged the NCAA’s longstanding treatment of its college athletes. “And to think: It was only in recent weeks that Wilken, apparently not a huge sports fan, playfully admitted that the abbreviation S.E.C. brought to mind the Securities and Exchange Commission, not the Southeastern Conference,” Branch continues. Wilken, “a woman few sports fans would recognize by name or face,” will now “forever be remembered as the judge who helped reshape college athletics.” What an incredible turn of events for a person who has spent the past 30 years working her way up the judicial branch—not putting in the hard time of sitting on her ass and watching basketball. Who did sports fans expect to see on the bench, anyway? Allen Iverson?

Aug. 12 2014 3:05 PM

John Oliver and Seth Meyers on Diversity in Late-Night Writers’ Rooms

Could things be getting slightly better on the diversity front when it comes to the coveted spots in late night comedy writers’ rooms? Seth Meyers, who has been hosting Late Night with Seth Meyers since February, was interviewed on Monday by BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti and the question of getting people that aren't white men into comedy writing rooms came up. "So I heard that you made a real effort to hire a diverse writing staff," Peretti said toward the end of the interview. Meyers has 12 writers, including three women and at least three people of color, one being Amber Ruffin, who is reportedly the first black woman to write for late night network comedy.

"Well, we have a diverse writing staff," Meyers said, but went on to suggest that it wasn't really a major effort to get there. "I feel it's easier and easier to have a diverse writing staff, because the field has diversified. When you look at packs, when you go to see shows, there are more diverse candidates. We have a diverse staff, but we didn't hire them because of that. We hired them because they made us laugh."

Aug. 12 2014 1:58 PM

When the Illness You Live With Becomes Breaking News

It is jarring when a beloved celebrity dies of something you could possibly die of yourself—when all of a sudden everyone is talking about the illness you have, the one that they usually don’t want to talk about at all. The experience you live with every day is, in an instant, “breaking news,” and the mental health talking heads you haven’t seen since the last tragedy come marching back on to CNN.   

I struggle with depression, and I am very sad about Robin Williams. Not because of that scene from Good Will Hunting, but because he was yet another person who couldn’t live anymore with this disease I am living with.

There were a lot of comments on Twitter about how much Robin Williams was loved, and what a shame that he didn’t know it. I didn’t know Robin Williams, but I bet he did know that he was loved. I know that I am loved. Maybe not on a Robin Williams scale, but I have friends and family who would do anything for me, and I absolutely know this. But there comes a point where love does not matter. When things are bad, I don’t care that people love me. All I can see is that I’m a burden, that everything I have ever done is wrong, and that these good people who love me are wrong as well. At my lowest, love cannot save me. Hope, prayers, daily affirmations—none of these can save me. Therapy and medicine are what matter, and those don’t always work either.

Aug. 12 2014 12:05 PM

Dudes Say “Uh”; Ladies Say “Um”

This article originally appeared in Science of Us.

So, um, this is weird. There’s an apparent gender split in use of the filler words uh and um, according to a recent post on the linguistics blog Language Log: Men tend to say “uh,” whereas women tend to say “um.” 

Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, noticed the trend after digging into two data sets from Penn’s Linguistic Data Consortium, which contains audio samples from 11,972 speakers. He writes that, on average, women in this sample said “um” 22 percent more than men, and men said “uh” an incredible 250 percent more than women. But men also use filler words (either uh or um) more than women overall—38 percent more often than women, to be precise. He also found that, over time, the gender divide here seems to level out, and that older people of both genders use uh more and um less.

Aug. 12 2014 11:51 AM

California School District Won't Use Sex Ed Textbook Because It Shows Sex Can Be Fun

Fremont Unified School District, which is located in California's Bay Area, has caved under pressure from conservative parents, at least temporarily, on the question of whether or not kids should learn about sex in sex ed. At issue is a textbook called Your Health Today, which was being taught to 9th graders in the area. The main objections center around the book's forthrightness about the fact that people have sex for fun.

Asfia Ahmed, a mother who is one of the parents leading the charge, likened the book to pornography in her letter of complaint to the school board. The San Francisco Chronicle, however, has screenshots of the pages causing the most fuss, and let's just say that the only way you'd mistake it for pornography is if you never logged onto the internet or walked through a gas station magazine section. The fact that people have sex for pleasure is indeed covered in the textbook, but the information is not packaged in a stimulating manner so much as in the dry, descriptive prose that you'd find in any textbook.

Aug. 11 2014 5:55 PM

It’s Time to Stop Shaming the Steubenville Rapists

In March of last year, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays were found delinquent of raping a 16-year-old girl in the town of Steubenville, Ohio. This week, Richmond is back in the news. What did he do now? He served his time at a juvenile detention facility, re-enrolled in high school, and played some football. So local reporters are following him around the field, posting videos of his workout, and rehashing the details of his crime. Jezebel is serving up the news to the dismay of the site’s commenters, who are calling for his expulsion (or better yet, imprisonment!), because allowing him to secure a high school degree is “just going to feed the entitlement that led him to rape in the first place.”

What is he supposed to do? Drop out of school and live under a bridge for the rest of his life? That wouldn’t just be bad for Richmond—it would be bad for Steubenville, because a juvenile’s rehabilitation and reentry into society is integral to preventing rape in the future. As Irin Carmon wrote in Salon last year, the vast majority of juvenile sexual offenders—from 95 to 97 percent of them—who are caught, punished, and treated will never offend again. (And as Slate reported today, recidivism rates for sex offenders of all ages are actually much "lower than commonly believed.") As Mark Chaffin, professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and director of research at the Center on Child Abuse and Neglect told Carmon, “juvenile sex offenders are not simply younger versions of adult sex offenders,” and treating them the same would only impede our ability to prevent future crimes.