What Women Really Think

Sept. 24 2014 2:29 PM

Should Domestic Abusers Be Banned From the NFL Forever?

Yesterday, former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison re-signed with the team (just three weeks after announcing his retirement from the NFL), sparking yet another case study in how the league ought to deal with players accused of domestic abuse, post-Ray Rice. Harrison was arrested in 2008 when, as he and his girlfriend fought over whether to baptize their son, he broke down a door she was hiding behind, destroyed her cell phone to prevent her from calling 911, and slapped her in the face. Harrison was charged with simple assault and criminal mischief; the charges were dropped when he agreed to undergo anger management and other counseling, and Harrison kept his spot in the Steelers line-up.

At the time, Steelers chairman Dan Rooney excused Harrison’s abuse because he executed it in the context of attempting to baptize his son. Rooney said that “what he was trying to do was really well worth it.” If the arrest had occurred yesterday, the Steelers would have been compelled to at least try to appear to take the incident more seriously. So some are suggesting that the team’s long-ago leniency with Harrison should catch up with him now: “The Steelers signing James Harrison is a bad move on and off the field,” USA Today’s Mike Foss weighed in.

Should domestic abusers be taken off the field forever?

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Sept. 23 2014 2:32 PM

Politico Asks: Why Is Gabby Giffords So “Ruthless” on Gun Control?

"Gabby Giffords gets mean" blares a Sunday Politico headline for a story attacking Giffords, who was shot in the head at a public event in 2011, for running pro-gun control ads through her PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, against Republicans in various states. Writer Alex Isenstadt calls the spots "some of the nastiest ads of the campaign season" and calls Giffords a "ruthless attack dog." He also implies that the gunshot wound Giffords took to the head is an unfair advantage because it presents "quite the conundrum" for those who might otherwise attack her.

Sept. 23 2014 11:13 AM

Why Is This Mother in Prison for Helping Her Daughter Get an Abortion?

Opponents of abortion claim that they are motivated by a deep concern for the wellbeing of women and girls, and that they push for increasingly harsh restrictions on abortion out of a desire to keep women safe and healthy. This year, that claim was put to the test when the wellbeing of a woman and the daughter she wished to protect clashed with the state of Pennsylvania's restrictive abortion laws. Unsurprisingly, in a conflict between abortion restrictions and the wellbeing of women, women lose.

Jennifer Whalen's teenage daughter needed an abortion, but circumstances (more on that below) made it very difficult for Whalen to get her daughter to a clinic. So Whalen bought a combination of mifepristone and misoprostol online—pills that are 95 percent effective with fewer than one percent of users experiencing serious side effects if taken correctly—and helped her daughter take them. For this, she is now serving a 9-to-18 month sentence in jail, ripped from her family by laws that proponents swear are there to protect women and their families.

Sept. 22 2014 7:43 PM

Emma Watson Threatened With Nude Photo Leak for Speaking Out About Women's Equality

Over the weekend, actress Emma Watson gave a speech supporting the HeForShe campaign, a project run by UN Women in support of women's equality around the globe. Watson, in her role as a Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women, denounced the negative impact that rigid gender roles have on both men and women. 

If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum, not as two opposing sets of ideals.

Watson spoke personally about how she came around to feminism, citing, among many examples, how "at 14, I started being sexualized by certain elements of the media."

Sadly, Watson is continuing to be victimized by that intrusive, objectifying attention. Business Insider reports that users on 4chan, which has been one of the major conduit sites for the stolen celebrity nude photos, have created a website called "Emma You Are Next," which features a clock purporting to be counting down to a leak of naked photos of Watson. "I think it is right that I should be able to make decisions about my own body," Watson said in her speech, but the creators of this site, reacting to the speech, are sending the message loud and clear that they think some anonymous people on the internet should be able to usurp that right whenever they please.

Sept. 22 2014 12:29 PM

Escaping the Extreme Christian Fundamentalism of “Quiverfull”

Can religious fundamentalism turn otherwise non-abusive relationships abusive? Vyckie Garrison of the blog No Longer Quivering argued yes in a recent speech given at the American Atheists national convention in Salt Lake City. Garrison is a former adherent to a strain of fundamentalist Christianity called "Quiverfull," an extremist branch of the anti-choice movement that rejects all forms of contraception—including natural family planning—as just an extension of the "abortion culture." In fact, Quiverfull members aspire to have as many children as possible, arguing that to win the culture wars, the faithful must literally "out-populate the 'enemy,'  that would be all of you," as Garrison puts it.

Kathryn Joyce wrote about this subculture in her 2010 book Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement, but Garrison's speech offers the unique perspective of someone who actually tried to live this lifestyle for many years. As Garrison explains on her blog, the Quiverfull movement is about more than just having a ton of kids. It's also a "patriarchal cult" that teaches that men are "leaders, teachers, initiators, protectors and providers" and women are "helpmeets" who serve men by being "submissive and yielding." Submission is also demanded of children, particularly daughters, which is one reason that dating is not allowed and, instead, girls are to be "courted" under the watchful eye of the father, until they can marry and "experience their first kiss at the marriage altar." Even though they don't use the term "Quiverfull," the Duggar family of the TLC show 19 Kids and Counting are the most famous example of adherents to this lifestyle. 

After 16 years—and 7 kids—of Garrison and her husband teaching this kind of Biblical patriarchy to other families, Garrison finally admitted she was miserable and left both her husband and the lifestyle. Now, Garrison is talking about how the movement is abusive to women, even in cases where husbands are well-meaning and don't intend to abuse. From her speech:

Sept. 22 2014 12:21 PM

Watch John Oliver Take on Miss America

Last night, John Oliver took on Miss America in a 15 minute Last Week Tonight segment that skewered the pageant's backwards approach to offering college scholarships to young women—one that, as Oliver puts it, operates on the assumption that "the intelligence portion of the brain is located somewhere on the upper thigh.”

As the pageant struggles to maintain relevance in its ninth decade, it's attempted to put increased emphasis on contestants' intellect without taking its pervy eye off their bodies. (When they weren't parading around in bikinis, which Oliver notes were actually glued to their butts with a spray adhesive backstage, this year's contestants were asked to propose solutions to the wiretapping of civilians, the prosecution of whistleblowers, international hostage negotiation, and ISIS' threat to America, all in just 20-second sound bites.) The disconnect is nothing new, but Oliver's pointed commentary elevates the delicious irony to the next level: "How did the scholarship interview go?" Oliver asks mockingly at one point. “Well, my butt’s still sticky. I think I got it!”

But Oliver's takedown of the pageant goes above and beyond these longstanding complaints of objectification to reveal that the pageant's central claim that it substantively supports women—it aggressively bills itself as “the world’s largest provider of scholarships for women," and claims to make $45 million in scholarship money available to its local and national contestants annually—is a sham. Oliver produces tax documents from the pageant's local and state organizations to show that while the organization claims to "provide" tens of millions of dollars in scholarship money to women, it actually awards just a fraction of that sum every year. That $45 million number? Miss America gets to it by "offering" a handful of winners scholarships to multiple colleges—even though each winner will conceivably enroll at just one school—then counting each scholarship offer in its total sum to get to $45 million, whether they've actually paid out or not. Miss Alabama, for example, claimed to provide nearly $2.6 million in scholarship money to just one college, Troy University, in 2012; Troy told Oliver that because no Miss Alabama contestants accepted a scholarship at the university that year, the actual sum paid out to women was $0. If the horrific sight of the bikini competition isn't enough to take down Miss America in 2014, perhaps its tax forms will.

Update, Sept. 22, 2014: A Miss America Organization spokesperson has emailed this statement:

John Oliver reaffirmed that the Miss America Organization (MAO) is the largest scholarship organization for women when he stated the number of scholarship dollars claimed "…is more than any other women-only scholarship we could find."
We highlight the impressive, generous $45 million in scholarships made available in an effort to honor every one of our academic partners nationwide who make available cash and in-kind financial opportunities to the MAO and young women who participate in the program. Each year, more than 8,000 young women compete for scholarships through the volunteer, grassroots-driven Miss America pageant system in more than 950 local, state, and national competitions. These scholarships are awarded not just to winners of each pageant but to runners-up and participants.
As with any scholarship, the full amount awarded may not always be used as recipients’ plans change or evolve. The Miss America Organization works every day to administer these scholarships to young women across the country and encourages our participants to utilize these scholarships provided by colleges and universities nationally who partner to fund education.
The Miss America Organization is dedicated to improving the opportunities available to our program participants and remaining at the forefront of providing opportunities to women.

Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM

Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)

Did you follow the Steubenville rape case and think, “Eh. Needs more firepower”? The Lifetime original movie The Assault is for you.

A Lifetime PR rep describes The Assault, which premieres Saturday, as “ripped from actual news headlines of a case in Steubenville, Ohio” (as well as “other shockingly similar incidents in communities across the country”). But the true facts of the case—girl from across the river is raped by small-town high school football stars, evidence of the assault spreads between the town’s teenagers on social media, and a rift erupts between the town’s football fans and victim’s advocates—are too banal for Lifetime’s melodramatic impulse. So the film begins with the victim, Sam (in the film version, she’s a cheerleader), walking onto the school football field in the middle of a game, pouring gasoline over her head, and lighting herself on fire.

Sept. 19 2014 3:07 PM

Everything Is a "Women's Issue"

Matt Yglesias at Vox reports on an interesting development out of an all-female panel of Democratic luminaries on Thursday: Hillary Clinton kept using feminism to frame her arguments, particularly when talking about the concerns of working class women. 

"Women hold two-thirds of all minimum wage jobs," Clinton observed, and "nearly three-quarters of all jobs that are reliant on tips" and thus eligible for sub-minimum wages.
Clinton discussed the plight of a working-class mother with a service-sector job that provides low pay and little flexibility. "We talk about a glass ceiling," she said, "but these women don't even have a secure floor under them."

Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM

Why Men Never Remember Anything

This article originally appeared in Science of Us.

Recently, I was visiting my family in Seattle, and we were doing that thing families do: retelling old stories. As we talked, a common theme emerged. My brother hardly remembered anything from our childhood, even the stories in which he was the star player. (That time he fell down the basement steps and needed stitches in the ER? Nope. That panicky afternoon when we all thought he’d disappeared, only to discover he’d been hiding in his room, and then fell asleep? Nothing.) “Boys never remember anything,” my mom huffed. 

She’s right. Researchers are finding some preliminary evidence that women are indeed better at recalling memories, especially autobiographical ones. Girls and women tend to recall these memories faster and with more specific details, and some studies have demonstrated that these memories tend to be more accurate, too, when compared to those of boys and men. And there’s an explanation for this: It could come down to the way parents talk to their daughters, as compared to their sons, when the children are developing memory skills.

To understand this apparent gender divide in recalling memories, it helps to start with early childhood—specifically, ages 2 to 6. Whether you knew it or not, during these years, you learned how to form memories, and researchers believe this happens mostly through conversations with others, primarily our parents. These conversations teach us how to tell our own stories, essentially; when a mother asks her child for more details about something that happened that day in school, for example, she is implicitly communicating that these extra details are essential parts to the story.

Sept. 19 2014 11:33 AM

Planned Parenthood Is About to Make It a Lot Easier to Get Birth Control

We've all become accustomed to buying everything from books to clothes to even furniture online, but for many people, getting birth control still means taking the time to go to the doctor and sit through a consultation before getting a prescription, then schlepping that prescription to the local pharmacy. But Planned Parenthood has just launched a pilot program to change all that. Now, patients in Minnesota and Washington will be able to talk to a nurse online and even get their birth control medication mailed to them at home in an unmarked package. In October, the program will be expanded to STI consultation, and even mail-order medications for chlamydia. There's even a phone app!