What Women Really Think

Jan. 8 2015 8:52 AM

Do You Really Need a Hysterectomy?

One in three American women will have her uterus removed by the time she turns 60. Hysterectomies have declined over the past decade—430,000 procedures were performed in the U.S. in 2010, compared to 680,000 in 2002—but some medical experts warn that the number is still unnecessarily high. In a new study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, researchers at the University of Michigan and Wayne State University examined the medical histories of more than 3,400 women who received hysterectomies at 52 hospitals across Michigan in 2013, and found that nearly one in five of them may not have been necessary.

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Jan. 7 2015 9:00 AM

When a Spouse’s Career Always Comes First

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 we’ll be in touch. [Update, Jan. 14, 2014: We are no longer accepting emails.]

Name:  Jessica Ash

Age: 37

Occupation: financial trader

Partner’s Occupation: product manager

Location: Fort Wayne, Indiana

Children: a 9-year-old and four-year-old twins

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

I was going to have it all [laughs]. I was going to go to law school and be very successful. I just never thought there would be anything that would stop me working my way up the corporate ladder.

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 expected it in the future. I had no husband, no kids at the time. Thinking forward, I guess I thought we’d be a dual income family, and just…American: Everybody goes to day care, the kids would be taken care of, and I’d work and come home at night and take care of them.

How does your current work situation match up with your earlier expectations?

Jan. 6 2015 12:08 PM

Even When They Don’t Have Jobs, Men Do Less Housework Than Women

By now, it is well-documented that working women do more housework and child care than working men. This is what we call the "second shift": Men and women both go off to work, but it's women who come home to a whole other job. Conservatives like to argue that this is because men work more hours. But what happens when the men are out of work? Josh Katz at the Upshot put together charts, using data from the annual American Time Use Survey, comparing how much housework and caregiving non-employed Americans do. He found that even when they don't have an outside job to take up their time and energy, men still manage to do way less housework and child care than women.

Jan. 6 2015 8:46 AM

An Interview With Lacey Noonan, Rob Gronkowski Erotica Author

You may not have asked for it, but here it is: 38 pages of erotica starring New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski. In A Gronking to Remember: Book One In the Rob Gronkowski Erotica Series, mild-mannered New Englander Leigh becomes so aroused by watching Gronkowski handle the ball that she embarks on a quest to land in his end zone. (A relatively safe-for-work sample: “My sewing could wait, I thought—go to hell for all I cared. Suddenly all I wanted to do was watch Gronk do his thang-thang in the zone place there. My vagina demanded it.”) I interviewed author Lacey Noonan (a pseudonym) in advance of the Patriots' Saturday playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens. We talked over Gchat about the meaning of A Gronking’s scintillating climax, the sexual appeal of Flo from Progressive, and what she does when she’s not writing postmodern NFL erotica.

Slate: Why Rob Gronkowski?

Jan. 5 2015 11:35 AM

Russell Crowe Says Older Women Don’t Get Movie Roles Because They Refuse to Act Their Age

In 2013, Robin Hitchcock of Bitch Flicks published this telling stat: 62 percent of Oscar winners for Best Actress are 35 or younger, while only 14 percent of Best Actor winners are. In the world of Hollywood movies, men outnumber women, but older men vastly outnumber older women. The usual explanation for this divergence is plain old discrimination, with the men who run the studios and make the majority of movies assuming that audiences don't want a bunch of aging females in their epic tales of elderly men performing feats of strength. But Russell Crowe has a different explanation for the disparity.

Jan. 2 2015 12:43 PM

Mario Cuomo Made the Case for Catholics to Be Pro-Choice

Former New York governor and liberal lion Mario Cuomo died Thursday. With a storied career like his, there are a lot of highlights to remember, but one of major importance to women was Cuomo's role in the abortion debate in the nascent years of the religious right's power in the early 1980s.

The New York Times obituary briefly mentions an important speech Cuomo gave on the issue:

He was similarly resolute when he defied his church in 1984 by flying to the University of Notre Dame to proclaim that Roman Catholic politicians who personally opposed abortion, as he did, could appropriately support the right of a woman to have an abortion.

It's worth remembering that it wasn't always a given that politicians would be dogged by conservatives demanding that they apply their religious beliefs to public policy. On the contrary, the concerns raised about John Kennedy during his 1960 political run were the opposite, with opponents worrying out loud that Kennedy would be too busy answering to Rome to do his duties as the president of a secular nation. (They needn't have worried.) The anti-abortion movement was essential in flipping that script, and it's been the longest, most powerful, and most consistent movement trying to inject what is fundamentally religious dogma about abortion into public policy.

Jan. 2 2015 11:33 AM

FSU's Rose Bowl Loss Was Not a Victory for Rape Victims

The Oregon Ducks trounced the Florida State Seminoles in last night’s Rose Bowl, sending Oregon to the first-ever College Football Playoff national championship, and marking the (likely) end to Jameis Winston's college football career in the most embarrassing way possible. Fans of Oregon football delighted in the team’s win, but critics of FSU quarterback Winston—the guy who finally evaded a rape charge after years of dawdling by Tallahassee and university investigators—reveled in the moral victory suggested by Winston’s loss.


Dec. 31 2014 1:58 PM

Why Was Janet Yellen Excluded From the Economist’s List of Influential Economists?

Janet Yellen's appointment to head the Federal Reserve was a fraught process as her opponents stooped to running a grossly sexist whisper campaign against her, hinting that she was only in the running because of some kind of reverse sexism and not because of her extensive qualifications. Yellen managed to overcome the haters to chair the Fed, but the slights keep coming. This week, The Economist published a list of the 25 most influential economists of 2014, and, as many observers have noted, not a single woman was on it. No, not even Yellen, who is arguably the most influential economist in the world, by dint of her job.

Dec. 30 2014 2:11 PM

2014 Was a Great Year for Feminism. Is a Backlash Coming?

"It was a watershed year for women, and for feminism, as we refused to accept the pandemic of violence against women—the rape, the murder, the beatings, the harassment on the streets and the threats online," writes Rebecca Solnit this week at the Guardian. "Women’s voices achieved a power that seems unprecedented, and the whole conversation changed."

It's true: 2014 was a banner year for feminism, at least here in the U.S., and the clamor of female voices demanding respect, autonomy and equality just seems to be getting louder. While Solnit focuses specifically on the rising tide against gendered violence, that was hardly the only way that feminism gained cultural traction this year. While the courts are busy chipping away at legal abortion and even contraception access, women themselves are actually getting more effective at controlling their own fertility. In pop culture, feminism has become downright trendy, from Beyoncé at the VMAs to Disney, of all companies, getting with the girl power program. Most major publications, including Slate, grapple seriously with women's issues. Even Cosmo set out to remake itself into an overtly feminist publication.

So what's going to happen in 2015? I have no idea! What I do know is that feminism's trajectory tends to be cyclical. Multiple frenzies of feminist energy in American history have been followed by anti-feminist cultural backlash. After WWII afforded many women a relative independence, the "traditional" 1950s came along to put women back in the kitchen. The Reagan years were such a notorious backlash to the second wave of feminism that Susan Faludi wrote a classic book about it. The surge of feminism in the '90s descended into the religious right craze of the Bush era. 

Will the feminist trend continue to expand in 2015, or is the bubble going to burst? Let's look ahead to next year's landscape and try to game it out.

Dec. 30 2014 10:51 AM

The Best Things Written About Women This Year

It was a year of bad news, including for women—which made it a fabulous year for writing about them. Here are some of my favorite pieces from 2014 on the heroines (Diana Nyad), villains (Bill Cosby), delights (1989), and horrors (The Other Woman) visited upon women this year.

Super Heroine” and “Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman” by Tavi Gevinson in Rookie and Elle

Tavi Gevinson, patron saint of smart girls everywhere, kicked off the year by interviewing Lorde—a pop superstar who’s on Gevinson’s wavelength—and followed it up by interviewing Miley Cyrus—a pop superstar who is … not. In the first interview, Gevinson was so nervous she ended up humming “Royals” subconsciously under her breath, but in the second, she’s self-assured, pushing Cyrus to answer for criticism of her appropriative twerking. In both cases, it’s refreshing to see these pop stars through the lens of a peer—or at least a member of their target demo. Gevinson also managed to wring out the best “[sic]” of the year, courtesy of this Miley quote:  “I worked more when I was a kid than I’d ever allow myself to do now. What is it from The Sixth Sense [sic], where he’s like, ‘All work and no play makes Jack a very dull boy’? That was totally me.”

Breaking the Waves” by Ariel Levy in The New Yorker

Levy’s profile of endurance swimmer Diana Nyad is her latest feminist sports story, following deep dives on runner Caster Semenya and boxer Claressa Shields. Levy finds Nyad at age 64, three decades after her ostensible retirement, as she attempts to finally fulfill a lifelong goal of swimming unassisted between Cuba and Florida.

Poison Candy” by Wesley Morris on Grantland

Morris’ reviews of bad movies are so good, they make you wish Hollywood churned out more bombs. His piece on the unintentionally tragic comedy The Other Woman functions as both review and referendum on the faux girl-power flick and a lament of the downward career trajectories afforded to female rom-com stars once they reach a certain age.