What Women Really Think

Jan. 16 2015 12:53 PM

FIFA Won’t Put in Natural Grass for the Women’s World Cup. So the Women Are Suing FIFA.

A group of nine senators from the United States just joined an increasingly ugly controversy over the upcoming Women's World Cup, scheduled for this summer in Canada. At stake is the issue of artificial turf, which FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, has installed in three of the four stadiums commissioned for the World Cup, claiming that Canadian weather outside of Toronto doesn't allow for growing natural grass fields. But the players, including stars Marta from Brazil and Abby Wambach from the United States, disagree, arguing that FIFA's unwillingness to do what it takes to give them natural grass to play on constitutes discrimination, because players in the men's World Cup aren't expected to play on artificial turf. Marta and Wambach, along with other players, are suing FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association in Canadian court, citing the country's strong anti-discrimination laws in hopes of forcing FIFA to allow them natural grass, which they say is safer and more conducive to good play.

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Jan. 16 2015 9:18 AM

Police Investigate Family for Letting Their Kids Walk Home Alone. Parents, We All Need to Fight Back.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a 10-year old Maryland boy named Rafi and his 6-year old sister Dvora walked home by themselves from a playground about a mile away from their suburban house. They made it about halfway home when the police picked them up. You’ve heard these stories before, about what happens when kids in paranoid, hyper protective America go to and from playgrounds alone. I bet you can guess the sequence of events preceding and after: Someone saw the kids walking without an adult and called the police. The police tracked down the kids and drove them home. The hitch this time is, when the police got there, they discovered that they were meddling with the wrong family.

Jan. 15 2015 5:54 PM

Are the Oscars Biased Against Female Directors?

The Academy for Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced its 2015 Oscar nominees this morning, sparking analysis over the films it has blessed (Birdman, Boyhood) and those it has snubbed: namely, Selma, which was nominated for Best Picture and Best Song, but failed to yield a Best Director nod for Ava DuVernay. Since the Academy switched up its rules in 2010—allowing for up to 10 Best Picture nominations, but sticking with just five directors—a handful of directors of nominated films have ended up in the rejection bin every year. Joining DuVernay this year are American Sniper director Clint Eastwood, Whiplash’s Damien Chazelle, and The Theory of Everything’s James Marsh; Bennett Miller got a nomination for directing Foxcatcher, though the film was ignored in the Best Picture category.

The omission of DuVernay stings more than the others. She would have been the first black woman nominated for best director in Oscar history, and just the fifth woman, following Lina Wertmüller for Seven Beauties, Jane Campion for The Piano, Sofia Coppola for Lost in Translation, and Kathryn Bigelow for The Hurt Locker. Instead, she’s been added to the list of female directors who have seen their films get nominated while they’ve been snubbed: Randa Haines for Children of a Lesser God in 1987, Penny Marshall for Awakenings in 1991, Barbra Streisand for The Prince of Tides in 1992, and Valerie Faris (who shared directing credit with Jonathan Dayton) for Little Miss Sunshine in 2007. When the Academy switched up the rules in 2010—allowing for 10 Best Picture nominations, but sticking with just five directors (a similar arrangement to the one it used in 1931 to 1943)—the list of left-out women expanded: Lone Scherfig for An Education in 2010; Debra Granik for Winter’s Bone and Lisa Cholodenko for The Kids Are All Right in 2011; Kathryn Bigelow for Zero Dark Thirty in 2013. And in two cases, female co-directors have been denied credit as their male partners snagged nominations, sparking controversy and speculation over the extent of their contributions . In 2004, Fernando Meirelles was nominated for City of God, but his co-director, Kátia Lund, was not; in 2009, Slumdog Millionaire co-director Loveleen Tandan—who started as a casting director but was promoted to a co-director when her role expanded during filming—was left out, while Danny Boyle went on to win. Tandan has expressed embarrassment at the suggestion that she should be honored alongside Boyle, saying, “It would be a grave injustice if the credit I have should have the effect of diminishing Danny Boyle's magnificent achievement.” But Lund seemed pissed. ''If I was not directing,” she told the New York Times in 2004, “what was I doing?''

Vanity Fair sees this as a “troubling pattern” for female directors”; HitFix calls it a “disappointing Academy statistic.” But in the academy’s history, male directors of nominated films have been snubbed over 180 times. That was particularly true between 1931 and 1943, when eight to 12 films and just five directors were nominated each year, but it’s also happened consistently when the categories were well matched. In fact, there are only five years in Oscar history when a director of a Best Picture-nominated film wasn’t snubbed. Among the dissed are Francis Ford Coppola for The Conversation, Martin Scorsese for Taxi Driver, and Bruce Beresford for the Best Picture-winning Driving Miss Daisy. The year Bigelow was rejected, Ben Affleck was also robbed of a Best Director nomination for Argo, which went on to win Best Picture. And Wertmüller actually accomplished the opposite feat: While she snagged a directing nomination for the Italian Seven Beauties in 1977, her film was not nominated for Best Picture; it was nominated in the Best Foreign Language Film category.

Still, there is some ammunition to the argument that the Academy may be particularly biased against female directors. Every Academy voter can vote in the Best Picture category, but individual categories like Best Actor and Best Director are voted on by their peers. A 2012 survey conducted by the Los Angeles Times found that overall, academy members are 94 percent white and 77 percent male, and that their median age is 62. But some branches are even less diverse than others: Women make up 19 percent of the academy’s screenwriting branch and 18 percent of its producers branch, but only 9 percent of its directors branch. Perhaps a body that’s 77 percent male is slightly more likely to recognize women-driven films than one that’s 91 percent so.

I suspect that the outrage over omissions like DuVernay’s doesn’t hinge on the idea that female directors are being ignored while their films are being celebrated. The central problem is that female directors and their work are so disadvantaged across the board in Hollywood, from mentorship to funding to awards. And each year that the Academy fails to nominate a woman—in 2010, Bigelow became the first, and so far last, female director to win—the frustration mounts. It doesn’t help that the industry’s most powerful body sees no need to improve. Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, herself the first black woman to gain that role, told Vulture today that the Academy doesn’t have a diversity problem “at all.”

Jan. 15 2015 11:05 AM

Obama to Announce New Family Leave Plan for Federal Employees

President Obama's project of un-lame-ing the lame duck period continues this week with Thursday's expected announcement that he will direct federal agencies to offer up to six weeks of paid leave to employees after the birth or adoption of a child. It's part of a larger White House push to improve the family and sick leave rights of workers. "For the majority of American families, it is no longer the case that one parent is the breadwinner while the other is the caregiver," a White House fact sheet on the issue for the Council on Women and Girls explains. "The economic stability of American families depends in part on policies that help them balance work and care-giving obligations." Obama will also call on Congress to pass a bill giving all American workers up to seven paid sick days a year and to create a $2 billion fund to help states start up their own family and sick leave programs.

Unfortunately, according to the New York Times, Obama "needs congressional approval to require federal agencies to provide the six weeks of paid parental leave," which is as likely to happen under this Republican Congress as passing a law protecting abortion rights. Without that approval, however, "the president will sign a memorandum to mandate that agencies advance new mothers and fathers a six-week chunk of paid time off." The solution falls well short of the White House goal of "workplace flexibility and access to paid leave; affordable, quality child care and elder care" for everyone, but it's a start.

Jan. 14 2015 11:00 PM

There Was a Rape on Broad City, and It Was Hilarious

A few minutes into Wednesday night's season two premiere of Comedy Central’s Broad Citystarring comedy duo Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer as the wacky, winkingly fictionalized BFFs “Abbi” and “Ilana”—Abbi rapes a guy. It’s summer in New York, and when Abbi finally gets her date Stacy (played by guest star Seth Rogen) to stop cooking fajitas over a hot stove and have sweaty sex with her, he passes out from the heat with her on top—and she keeps going until she’s finished. The next day, when Abbi recounts the episode to Ilana, she informs Abbi that she's totally a rapist, then riffs on the idea—“You know, I’ve never been to this neighborhood before, but I’m not scared because I’m with a stone cold rapist”—until she circles around to a justification: “Hey, it’s OK. It’s reverse rapism. You are raping rape culture. Yes!”

Jan. 14 2015 4:34 PM

Indiana Considers Banning Abortions for Down Syndrome

In this month's federal and state legislative anti-abortion frenzy, it takes a lot for a bill to stand out, but Indiana state senator Travis Holdman has managed to pull it off. Holdman introduced a bill that would make it a felony for a doctor to abort a pregnancy for sex-selective reasons or because of "a diagnosis or potential diagnosis of the fetus having Down syndrome or any other disability." According to RH Reality Check, "The term 'any other disability' includes: a mental disability or retardation; a physical disfigurement; Scoliosis; Dwarfism; Down syndrome; Albinism; Amelia; and physical or mental disease." Like many other anti-choice bills percolating through the state legislatures, this one is based on model legislation crafted by Americans United for Life.

Jan. 13 2015 1:16 PM

It Is Better to Move for Your Spouse Than Make Your Spouse Move for You

Over the past few years, there has been a great deal of discussion about why women aren’t achieving as much in their careers as their male counterparts, even though women have been enrolling in and graduating from college in greater numbers than men since the 1980s. Explanations for this gender gap range from women aren’t “leaning in" enough, to entrenched sexism in the workplace, to husbands’ careers taking precedence, to a lack of social supports for mothers in American society.

But when we discuss the issue in a macro way, we don’t hear the stories of men and women who are making career choices not as statistics in a think piece, but as part of an often complicated balancing act between various interests and responsibilities in their lives. Here is the third interview in an occasional series, "Best Laid Plans," about how career decisions get made over time, and are altered by the unpredictability of life.

Name: Leah Drillas

Age: 38

Occupation: Associate director at a think tank

Partner’s Occupation: Assistant professor

Location: Washington DC

Hi, Leah. What were your career expectations when you first started working?

I took the Foreign Service exam and went to work for the state department. I wanted to be a counselor officer, and be in the Foreign Service until I was 30, and then I wanted to move back to the states and get knocked up. But I wanted this adventurous 20s.

What was your life situation at that time—did you have kids or a partner then, or did you expect to in the future?

I was single. I did have a parent in poor health, and that was a complicated situation and I was torn up about it. What ultimately happened in my career was I passed the Foreign Service test, but didn’t end up getting a job. After passing the Foreign Service Exam and an oral exam, you get placed on what's called a "list of eligible hires." They hire top to bottom, and your position changes as more people pass their security and medical clearances. There are things you can do to get moved up that list, like take a language test, which I didn't do, in no small part because I was in love and waiting to see how a relationship panned out (it didn't).

Jan. 13 2015 11:37 AM

American Cardinal Blames Women for “Feminizing” the Catholic Church

Last year, Pope Francis demoted American Cardinal Raymond Leo Burke by removing him as head of the Apostolic Signatura (the Vatican's high court) and giving him a perfunctory post at the Knights of Malta. This was a big deal because Burke is a fire-breathing reactionary who rose high under Pope Benedict, and his demotion was evidence that Pope Francis's progressive leanings are more than just for show.

But, as Terrence McCoy of the Washington Post reports, Burke has no intention of retiring from the public eye and devoting his energies solely to service for the poor. Instead, he has started a campaign to eradicate what he believes is a toxic femininity that is eating away at the manly manness of the Catholic Church.

Jan. 8 2015 11:52 AM

Women in the Senate Used to Work Together. Now They Fight Like Everyone Else. 

Liza Mundy, writing for Politico magazine, has published an engrossing history of women in the Senate, which is packed with astounding details that show how far women have come in such a short period of time. Until very recently, female senators have had to contend with a boys' club culture that treats them like little more than a temporary annoyance.

The Senate pool was men-only until 2008. It wasn't until 2013 that the Senate cracked and actually gave female senators a bathroom big enough to accommodate them. And then there was the daily sexism from colleagues, ranging from condescending remarks to the fear of being groped if you were left alone with Strom Thurmond in the ’90s. Recounting a time she chose the stairs rather than an elevator trip with Thurmond, Maine Republican Susan Collins said that when a male colleague saw her avoiding the elevator, he “started laughing because he knew exactly why I was turning around and not getting on the elevator.”*

Jan. 8 2015 9:52 AM

“I Was Very, Very Mistaken”: The Reality of Quitting Work to Be a Stay-at-Home Dad

Over the past few years, there has been a great deal of discussion about why women aren’t achieving as much in their careers as their male counterparts, even though women have been enrolling in and graduating from college in greater numbers than men since the 1980s. Explanations for this gender gap range from women aren’t “leaning in” enough, to entrenched sexism in the workplace, to husbands’ careers taking precedence, to a lack of social supports for mothers in American society.

But when we discuss the issue in a macro way, we don’t hear the stories of men and women who are making career choices not as statistics in a think piece, but as part of an often complicated balancing act between various interests and responsibilities in their lives. Here is the first interview in an occasional series, "Best Laid Plans," about how career decisions get made over time, and are altered by the unpredictability of life. If you would be willing to be interviewed for this series (we are looking for both men and women), please email bestlaidplans15@gmail.com with “interview me” in the subject line and a brief description of yourself, and we’ll be in touch. [Update, Jan. 14, 2014: We are no longer accepting emails.]

Names: Monica K. Mann and Dave Mann    

Ages: Both 40

Monica’s Occupation: Medical director

Dave’s Occupation: Freelance illustrator and stay-at-home parent

Location: Franklin, Massachusetts

Children: Two daughters, ages 9 and 7

Hi, Monica. What were your career expectations when you first started working?

My first job was as a Medical Science Liaison (MSL) for a biotech company that specialized in therapies for Multiple Sclerosis. Graduate school had been difficult for me. While I earned my degree, there were many times I thought it would have been just as easy to walk away and join the workforce earlier with fewer qualifications. Expectations are relative. So, other than hoping to not completely suck at it, I cannot say I really had many expectations for my first job. I was excited to learn about working in a business setting (as opposed to an academic one). I was thrilled to earn enough in compensation that I could move out of my parents' house.

Hi, Dave. What were your expectations?

When I first started working? Like first first? I just wanted to pay rent and eat like most people coming out of college, even though I dropped out. So I guess I would say I've never allowed myself to even call what I had a career. I've had lots of jobs though. And jobs come with much lower expectations in my experience. But if the question really refers to what I expected from watching the kids while my wife pursued a career? I expected it would be very easy, very fulfilling and gratifying; the stuff of dreams. I called it my early retirement. And I was very, very mistaken.

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