What Women Really Think

Dec. 1 2014 3:48 PM

No, Feminism Is Not the Cause of Police Shootings

When cops gun down unarmed black men (or, in some cases, children), conservatives cast around desperately for someone besides the actual triggerman to blame. Now conservative commentator and Fox News stalwart Dr. Ben Carson has stumbled on an exciting anyone-but-the-shooter scapegoat: feminists. Carson was being interviewed by phone on American Family Radio’s “Today’s Issues” to elaborate on his theory that police shootings are the result of insufficient deference to authority on the part of young black men. 

"Certainly in a lot of our inner cities, in particular the black inner cities where 73 percent of the young people are born out of wedlock, the majority of them have no father figure in their life," Carson said, ignoring the fact that Ferguson, where the shooting of Mike Brown that kicked off this discussion happened, is hardly an "inner city"—it's actually a suburb of St. Louis. "Usually the father figure is where you learn how to respond to authority. So now you become a teenager, you’re out there, you really have no idea how to respond to authority, you eventually run into the police or you run into somebody else in the neighborhood who also doesn’t know how to respond but is badder than you are, and you get killed or you end up in the penal system."

Host Lauren Kitchen Stewards jumped in to widen the discussion and talk about how the kids these days are irredeemable screw-ups, regardless of race. "My husband and I talk about the importance of teaching our children not only biblical principles, but one of those being to respect authority. Because you're doing them a favor when they learn to go, OK, that person's an authority over me." She added, "I've been aghast, especially at this generation, the sense of entitlement that just dominates all that they are." Presumably, by "this generation" who disrespects authority, she doesn't mean the older folks playing at being revolutionaries in tri-cornered hats because they don't like the president, but those wicked millennials who feel entitled to not be shot by cops. 

Carson wholeheartedly agreed and put the blame on, where else, the '60s and, of course, feminists: 

I think a lot of it really got started in the '60s with the "me generation." "What’s in it for me?" I hate to say it, but a lot of it had to do with the women’s lib movement. You know, "I’ve been taking care of my family, I’ve been doing that, what about me?" You know, it really should be about us.

You know what this means. Give up your independence and suffer unhappy marriages, ladies, or else it's your fault if your son is gunned down in the streets by an overly aggressive police officer. 

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Dec. 1 2014 11:27 AM

Janay Rice Answers Those Asking Why She Stays

Reading Janay Rice's interview with Jemele Hill of ESPN, in which Rice explains why she is standing by her husband, Ray Rice, after he punched her out cold in an Atlantic City elevator, is hard. It's hard reading her make excuses for his behavior and hard reading her blame herself. It's hard reading about how much she lives in his world, which no doubt makes it that much harder to imagine life without him. It's hard reading about how Ray Rice put his wife in a position to comfort him and tiptoe around him, like he was the victim, mere hours after the incident. But it is important reading, if you want to understand the dynamics of domestic abuse and really get answers to that perennial question of why she stays. 

"We know our incident led to very important discussions to hashtags of 'why I stayed' and 'why I left,' " Janay Rice told Hill. "If it took our situation becoming headline news to show domestic violence is happening in this country, that's a positive." A lot of feminists, when discussing why domestic violence victims stay, put the emphasis on financial dependence and fear. Rice's testimony, however, shines light on some of the more personal reasons that victims stay: They believe their abusers' apologies. They believe they are the ones to blame for the abuse, which leaves them to believe they can prevent future incidents. They are so accustomed to catering to the abusers that they don't have much room for concern about their own well-being. As Rice explains, "I still find it hard to accept being called a 'victim.' " In a culture where accusing someone of "playing the victim" is a common discrediting tactic, it should be no surprise that victims will minimize their own experiences rather than be sneered at in just this way. 

Rice clearly hopes that the interview will exonerate her husband, but it does the opposite in many ways. For one thing, she shows that her understanding of what happened that night is mostly, perhaps completely, filtered through her husband. "The only thing I know—and I can't even say I 'remember' because I only know from what Ray has told me—is that I slapped him again and then he hit me," she says. When she did crack and watch the video of the incident, she turned to her husband to interpret it for her:

The video didn't make me rethink our relationship, but I did want more of an explanation from him. I asked him why he left me on the floor like that. I asked him how he felt when he saw that I was unconscious. He told me he was in shock. I asked him what happened when we got out of the elevator. He told me he was terrified because security was there. I asked him how he felt seeing me like that. He said he was thinking, "What did I just do?" I didn't watch the video again.

Because physical violence is so jarring, it sometimes overwhelms discussion about the emotional aspects of domestic abuse. But in many ways, the emotional aspects are just as, if not more, important. While there's no way to know for sure what's going on in the Rice marriage beyond what Janay Rice has told us, it's fairly typical for abusers to manipulate their victims to become dependent on the abusers to interpret life events for them. One common strategy is called "gas-lighting," defined by the National Domestic Violence Hotline as "an extremely effective form of emotional abuse that causes a victim to question their own feelings, instincts, and sanity." Constantly telling victims they remember things wrong, they are hysterical and over-reacting, or that others are filling their heads with ideas are common strategies. In the end, according to the NDVH, "they start relying on the abusive partner more and more to define reality, which creates a very difficult situation to escape."

Janay Rice has done us all a favor by opening up and explaining her thought process. She repeatedly expresses a desire for this openness to "humanize" herself and her husband, and in this interview, she definitely succeeds. It's easy to judge from the outside, but hopefully her narrative will show how much various social and emotional pressures make it seem, for the person inside the relationship, like staying is the best idea. Yes, leaving is overwhelmingly understood by experts as the long-term goal for someone in an abusive relationship—hanging in and hoping the abuse stops has a dismal track record—but shaming the victims and judging them in hopes of hurrying the process along tends to backfire and makes them more defensive of their relationships. As Janay Rice's interview shows, if you listen, they may just tell you. 

Nov. 26 2014 8:02 PM

A Thanksgiving Guide to Talking to Your Relatives About Women's Issues in the News

Affirmative consent, Bill Cosby, feminism—when you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, women's-issues-in-the-news are bound to be on the table. Here's a guide to talking about some of the stickier gender issues that might come up this holiday season to help get you through.  

Bill Cosby rape accusations

"If all this happened so long ago, why is it only coming out now?" 

Actually, several of these accusations have been out for many years. A comedian named Hannibal Buress recently made pointed jokes about how Cosby is a hypocrite because he lectures everyone else on family values while all these women are accusing him, credibly, of rape, which led to the old accusations bubbling up in the news again, which led to other women coming forward, because there is safety in numbers.

Who is Hannibal Buress?

After dinner, let's watch Broad City on Hulu and I'll show you. 

All these women are just out for attention and money!

Nov. 26 2014 11:23 AM

Thanksgiving Is Becoming Impossible for Low-Wage Working Women

Black Friday has been poaching Thanksgiving itself, as demonstrated by this disturbing piece at Huffington Post showing how major retailers are opening earlier and earlier on the holiday. This, in turn, is increasing the amount of debate over whether or not employers should be allowed to steal the holiday from their low wage service workers. "Increasingly, Thanksgiving is a holiday that only some can afford to celebrate," Jillian Berman of the Huffington Post writes. 

Having to skip the actual meal portion of the day so you can sell cheap TVs to bored shoppers trying to escape their families is already an indignity, but, as Josh Harkinson of Mother Jones reports, the pain is compounded by many who have bosses who don't even bother to tell them they're working Thanksgiving until right before the holiday. As Jodi Kantor reported this summer in the New York Times, fancy new scheduling software at big chain stores has created a situation where many employees don't even know what hours they're expected to work until the last minute. The software, which uses store traffic patterns, weather, and other variables to produce timely estimations of how many employees a store will need during any given shift helps save companies money, but only by forcing low wage workers to live the "on call" lifestyle, not knowing from one week to the next when they're supposed to work. That mentality does not take a holiday for Thanksgiving, with many workers who had made travel or family plans being told at the last minute to drop those plans or get fired for not showing up to work, according to Harkinson's reporting. Susan Lambert, a researcher at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, found that almost half of young retail workers get less than a week's notice of what their schedules will be.

Nov. 26 2014 9:09 AM

Leg of Lamb Instead of Turkey for Thanksgiving: One Family’s Tragic Story

In late 2013, my parents, sibling, cousins and uncle gathered for a secret family meeting. My husband, daughter and I were not present, so I don’t know the details of how it went down. But I do know the outcome. The family decided unilaterally that there would be no turkey at Thanksgiving this year.

My mother, who was the only pro-turkey dissenter at this clandestine assembly, mentioned to me at some point over the summer that we wouldn’t have turkey in 2014. Thanksgiving seemed far away, so I brushed it off and promptly forgot about it until I was reminded of the turkey ban last week. That’s when my husband and I both acknowledged the true horror of the situation: We’re having lamb, instead of turkey.

“But all the fixins are the same!” my mother exclaimed when I cried foul, before adding in a voice that trailed off with the sadness she had hoped to cover up for my benefit, “whether they go with lamb or not...”

Nov. 25 2014 1:39 PM

The Drastic Overreach of the “Rape by Fraud” Bill  

Here is some legitimate overreach when it comes to prosecuting sexual abuse: New Jersey state Assemblyman Troy Singleton has drafted a "rape by fraud" bill that would make it illegal to lie your way into someone's pants. From NJ.com:

Earlier this month, state Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington) introduced the bill (A3908), which would create the crime of “sexual assault by fraud,” which it defines as “an act of sexual penetration to which a person has given consent because the actor has misrepresented the purpose of the act or has represented he is someone he is not.”

The bill was inspired by the case of Mischele Lewis, who lost $5,000 to William Allen Jordan, a man she was dating who pretended to be a British military official in order to squeeze money and sex out of her. Jordan was convicted of fraud but attempts to charge him with sexual assault failed since lying to people to get them into bed isn't actually illegal. Singleton hopes to change that with this bill.

Nov. 25 2014 1:35 PM

The UVA Gang Rape Allegations Are Awful, Horrifying, and Not Shocking at All

Between the time I walked into Old Cabell Hall, which houses the Music Department at the University of Virginia, where I work as a professor, and the time I got to my office Wednesday morning, I heard the word “rape” seven times. Wednesday was the day Rolling Stone published the story of a UVA student who says she was gang-raped in a fraternity. If anyone at the University of Virginia was shocked by this article, then they have not been paying attention.

A very expensive mural called "The Student's Progress" covers the entire foyer and stairwell of Old Cabell Hall, which is also the University’s premier auditorium and the favored space for visiting dignitaries. The mural depicts, among other scenes of daily life at the University of Virginia, a male faculty member standing on a porch and tossing a mostly naked student her bra as his beleaguered wife comes up the stairs. My students and I have pointed out that wildly inappropriate section of the mural to faculty, administrators, students, parents, and donors, but so far, no one has been particularly horrified. The mural is proudly displayed and is prominently featured on UVA tours.

Nov. 21 2014 5:32 PM

Read the Letter Outraged UVA Faculty and Students Are Sending to Their President

The University of Virginia community is reeling from horrifying accounts of sexual violence and rape detailed in a Rolling Stone piece published earlier this week. The story painfully details a campus culture that allegedly silences victims, disregards offenders, and fails to keep the students informed about sexual assaults on the grounds. Now, students, alumni, and faculty are beginning to address the brutal allegations.

UVA president Teresa Sullivan responded quickly, explaining, rather underwhelmingly, that her administration was “marshaling all available resources to assist our students who confront issues related to sexual misconduct.” On Wednesday, Sullivan requested an investigation of a campus fraternity specifically mentioned in the original piece. But for many in the UVA community, this isn’t enough.

A letter making the rounds on social media is garnering support from faculty, students, and alumni alike. Christine Mahoney, Associate Professor of Public Policy and Politics in UVA’s Batten School, penned the message. “[UVA] faculty want to send a very clear message that this will not happen on our watch,” said Mahoney when I spoke to her earlier today. So far, 127 faculty members have signed the letter.

Read the full text below:

Nov. 21 2014 4:30 PM

What Happened When One Canadian Dad Took a 37-Week Parental Leave? (Nothing Bad.)

The state of American child care is pretty abysmal. Day care is not well-regulated, the quality is often poor, and it’s expensive: In 35 states and Washington, D.C., it costs more than a year’s in-state college tuition. We are the only wealthy nation that does not guarantee paid vacation or sick days, so when a snow day or a fever keeps a child out of school, it can mean a career setback for many parents. And for working parents with low-wage jobs, things are even worse.

We point to other countries—often ones in Europe—as models of how to do child care right. But is it really so much easier to be a working parent in Paris than it is in Peoria? We asked working moms and dads from all over the world to tell us their child care experiences. Here is the eighth in our occasional series, from a mother in Montreal, Canada.

Name: Camille*

Age: 31

Location: Montreal, Canada

Occupation: Economist

Partner's occupation: Financial analyst

Children: Two kids, 9 months and 4 years old

Hi, Camille. What are your work hours and your partner's work hours?

I work part-time on an 80 percent schedule, so officially I work 32 hours/week, but in practice is it more 35 to 40 hours of private sector consultation. My husband is employed in the public sector and works 35 hours/week, which is considered full-time. His work typically does not require any overtime hours.

Who takes care of your children while you work?

Nov. 20 2014 11:07 PM

Why Did the AP Suppress the Sexual Assault Portion of Its Bill Cosby Interview?

On Nov. 10, the Associated Press released a video featuring Bill Cosby and his wife Camille, chatting about the collection of African-American art the couple had recently loaned to the Smithsonian. More than a week later, the AP published additional footage from the Cosby sit-down that hadn’t make the original cut.

In the clip, a reporter mentions numerous allegations of sexual assault that have been made against Cosby over the past decade. “I didn’t want to—I have to ask about your name coming up in the news recently,” the reporter told Cosby. “No, no, we don’t answer that,” Cosby replied. The reporter tried twice more to get a comment out of Cosby, and Cosby denied him each time. The clip released by the AP also includes an exchange recorded after the formal interview concluded, but before Cosby had removed his mic. “Now, can I get something from you? That none of that will be shown?” Cosby asked the reporter, adding that he thought the AP had the “integrity” not to ask. “If you want to consider yourself to be serious,” Cosby told him, “I would appreciate it, if [the footage] was scuttled.”

The clip is troubling, because Cosby appears studied in the art of soft intimidation. But I’m also troubled by the ease with which the Associated Press buckles to his demands. Until last night, the AP had opted to suppress the sexual assault portion of the interview, accommodating Cosby at the expense of reporting the news. Why would it do that?