What Women Really Think

Sept. 8 2014 9:51 AM

What Victory for Women's Rights Looks Like

When the curtain fell on California's legislative session, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins released a bland statement celebrating its accomplishments. In it, she singled out a water bond, an on-time budget, and a bill that would cut down plastic bag use. What Atkins failed to mention: The state's first openly gay speaker had just wrapped up one of the most women-friendly legislative sessions ever.

That puts California on vastly different footing than many state legislatures around the country that have been hacking away at women's rights— including an astounding 200-plus restrictions on reproductive rights over the last three years, according to the Guttmacher Institute. But in California, "Women came out in a much better position than they have in past years," Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, told me.

None of the legislature's work is a done deal. Gov. Jerry Brown has until the end of the month to veto bills passed this session. But even if the governor tosses any of the bills (and it’s unlikely that he will), the sheer number of measures passed is a very positive sign for California’s women, and, in turn, women across the country.

Here's what passed:

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Sept. 7 2014 10:15 PM

How to Have the Consent Talk With Your Kids

Thousands of parents have just sent their kids off to college in America, releasing them to an exciting new social and educational environment where new students experience a heightened risk of being sexually assaulted, where dozens of schools are being investigated for mishandling campus rape cases, and where one Ivy League victim has become so frustrated by the process that she's pledged to haul a mattress around campus until her administration takes her claims of assault seriously. Maybe parents should bring that up? I asked Heather Corinna—founder and director of the sex education and advice website Scarleteen—to weigh in on when parents should start teaching their kids about consent, how technology has changed the sex talk, and whether we should be sending different messages to college-aged boys and girls.

Slate: I imagine that the idea of “the talk,” where parents sit their kids down and tell them how sex works, is pretty obsolete at this point. So when should parents start having conversations with their kids about consent and sexual assault?

Sept. 5 2014 2:16 PM

The Oakland Raiders Finally Gave Their Cheerleaders Minimum Wage. Yay?

The two Raiderette cheerleaders who revolted against the team this year—suing the Oakland Raiders for paying them less than minimum wage, withholding paychecks until the end of the season, and never reimbursing them for business expenses—have declared victory. Lacy T. and Sarah G., who filed a class-action suit on behalf of their fellow Raiderettes this spring, have reached a settlement with the NFL franchise. The team will pay out a total of $1.25 million to 90 women who cheered between 2010 and 2013. That translates to an average $6,000 payout per cheerleader per season for the first three seasons covered by the suit, and an average of $2,500 each for the final season. (Right before Lacy’s lawsuit hit, the Raiders unexpectedly padded the 2013 cheerleaders’ checks with additional cash). According to Sharon Vinick, lawyer for the Raiderettes, future Raider cheerleaders will be paid minimum wage for all hours worked, receive checks every two weeks, and be reimbursed for business expenses they incur in the course of the job.

“We are excited that the Raiders have decided to pay their current cheerleaders in accordance with the law,” Sarah G. said in a statement through her attorney. “This was our goal and I am pleased to say I was a part of an organization whose management decided to make these changes. Now we can just go back to dancing, being respected and taking down the Niners when they try to step onto our field!”

Is the settlement fair? $1.25 million sure sounds like a big number, and for many current and former Raiderettes, the split ain’t bad: The women who cheered for all four seasons covered by the suit could stand to receive checks for more than $20,000. (As for the naysaying cheerleaders who complained that Lacy T. and Sarah G. were making them look bad by speaking up: If they fail to cash their checks, the money will be donated to Girls Inc., an Alameda County nonprofit that provides enrichment activities for local girls.)

It’s depressing to remember, though, that the payout is not a surprise bonus: It represents money the Raiders stole from these women. Lacy T. in particular had to work long, unpaid hours to recoup the money she had rightly earned. (She cheered only last year, putting her in the $2,500 range.) Lacy knew that working to change the system would not be a lucrative endeavor: “I never dreamed that my decision to find a lawyer and file a lawsuit would lead to the kind of sweeping changes we are now seeing for the women of the NFL,” she said in the statement. “But as a mom, it makes me proud to know I’ve stood up for myself, other women, and my daughter.”

Cheerleaders for the Bengals, Bills, Jets, and Buccaneers—all of whom filed similar suits against their teams after Lacy took on the Raiders—have reason to be encouraged by the Raiders’ payout and policy shifts. Still, I wish the changes here were a little more sweeping. The Raiders have begrudgingly agreed to pay future cheerleaders—women they march out as the face of their organization, and hold to extreme standards of conduct—the minimum wage. It’s the least they can possibly do. That is indeed cause for celebration on the NFL sidelines. But it doesn't exactly communicate respect.

Sept. 5 2014 11:07 AM

Republican’s Male-Only Fundraiser Invite: “Tell the Misses Not to Wait Up”

So, how are Republican congressmen fighting the "war on women" accusation this election cycle? For Rep. Steve Southerland of Florida, the answer is apparently to have a male-only fundraiser that's explicitly focused on keeping a woman out of power. "Washington DC is broken and we need to fight for Steve Southerland to return to Congress & prevent the gavel returning to Nancy Pelosi," reads the invitation, obtained by Buzzfeed, to a March fundraiser. And so, a "small group of concerned men" are invited to get together to fundraise and strategize, without any women clogging up the joint. 

The invite eschews subtlety in favor of checking off as many good ol' boy tropes as one can cram onto a postcard while leaving room for illustrations of the manly fare on offer (cigars and steak). It kicks off with nostalgia for the medieval era: "Good men sitting around discussing & solving political & social problems over fine food & drink date back to the 12th Century with King Arthur’s Round Table."

Sept. 4 2014 2:40 PM

The Mindy Project Really Needs an Abortion Storyline

Dr. Mindy Lahiri, the loveable lead played by Mindy Kaling in the sitcom The Mindy Project, is an ob-gyn. Her job functions as more than background decoration, as Jessica Goldstein of Think Progress notes. "One of the most standout things about The Mindy Project is the way its setting has allowed for stories that explicitly deal with women’s health," she writes, citing storylines about birth control, condom distribution, and even The Talk.

But there's one aspect of reproductive health care that Kaling has no intention of touching on in the sitcom: abortion. “It would be demeaning to the topic to talk about it in a half-hour sitcom," she recently said in the October issue of Flare

Sorry, but that's total nonsense.

Sept. 3 2014 5:06 PM

Female Inmates From Danbury Prison Still in Limbo, Lacking Key Services

A year ago, I wrote about a victory for more than 1,000 female inmates at the women’s prison in Danbury, Connecticut, featured in the Netflix show Orange Is the New Black. Like the character Piper in the show’s second season, the women were slated for transfer—to a newly constructed prison, far away, in Aliceville, Alabama. The proposed move would have sent many of the women hundreds of miles from their families in cities in the Northeast. Their beds at Danbury were to be filled with men.

The prisoners’ plight attracted the attention of the real Piper Kerman, who wrote the book the show is based on, and of 11 senators from the Northeast. The federal Bureau of Prisons temporarily suspended the transfers last August and announced that, along with creating a facility at Danbury for men, it would create enough minimum-security beds for women to keep female inmates who were U.S. citizens in the Northeast.

But ten months later, “no ground has been broken at Danbury for new construction, and the BOP has declined to provide a detailed timeline for the completion of the new facility,” according to a new report by the Arthur Liman Program at Yale Law School (where I teach). All but 200 of Danbury’s female inmates have been transferred to other facilities, including jails in Brooklyn and Philadelphia. The jails aren’t far from the families of many of the women, and that’s a significant boon. But the jails aren’t designed for long-term stays. They lack key services, like residential drug treatment, apprenticeships, and decent jobs. The women don’t know how long they’ll stay at these jails, but the BOP now says construction at Danbury could take 30 months.

The 11 Northeast senators released another letter to the BOP on Wednesday, calling the lack of progress on the renovations at Danbury “unjustifiable.” Most of the female inmates who are now being shunted around committed nonviolent crimes. Orange Is the New Black makes its viewers care about a slew of amazingly interesting incarcerated characters. But it’s their real counterparts who need help.

Sept. 3 2014 4:14 PM

Inside AnonIB, Where Hacking Is a Sport and Women’s Bodies Are the Prize

How do you solve a problem like "the fapenning"? Since dozens of private nude photographs of female celebrities were hacked, leaked, and widely disseminated this past weekend, commentators have proposed a raft of remedies: Some have suggested that women themselves can prevent their own victimization by never snapping nude selfies at all. Others insist the American legal system must step up to investigate and prosecute the hackers. Or perhaps Apple’s lax security measures are really to blame. Still others have proposed that incidents like this one can be fixed with a collective attitude adjustment. At Al Jazeera America, for example, Lux Alptraum argues that destigmatizing sex is the key to preventing hackers from exploiting women: If women are no longer forced to view their sexuality as a shameful expression that ought to be hidden from the world, she says, then hackers will have little reason to ever pull back the curtain.

Destigmatizing female sexuality is an important project, but it is not the remedy to this problem. The central issue here isn’t that the people hacking, leaking, and sharing these photos view women’s bodies as shameful. It’s that they view women’s bodies as property.

Consider the members of AnonIB, an internet message board where anonymous users convene to share naked photographs of women without their consent. Jennifer Lawrence’s hacked photographs surfaced on AnonIB days before they exploded across the web; hackers have set up camp there, advertising their ability to download private photos from the iCloud accounts of a handful of female celebrities and thousands of women you’ve never heard of. After spending a day paging through the board, I haven’t seen any users who seem to care whether their targets are shamed or embarrassed by their actions. In fact, I’m not convinced that they’re aware that women have any feelings at all. To them, women—and here, it is always women—are objects to be passed around between friends and strangers. The prospect that the women exposed might experience humiliation does not enter the discussion, because that would require women to be capable of subjective experience. People who release “revenge porn” do so in an attempt to shame women in their lives who they think have done them wrong, but the people on this board are perfectly content to violate their acquaintances, classmates, and perfect strangers with no additional interpersonal motivation. On AnonIB, women are not framed as mortified or distressed. They are “hot” or “stunning” or “so fuckable” or simply “that ass on the right” or “this firm pair of tits,” or devoid of identity entirely—just a name tied to an explicit photo.

Sept. 3 2014 2:43 PM

The Daily Show Takes on Harassing “Compliments” Women Like Kirsten Gillibrand Are Lucky to Get

The ongoing, uh, debate over the acceptability of harassment and catcalling got The Daily Show treatment Tuesday night, when Jon Stewart covered the fallout from Kirsten Gillibrand's sexual harassment claims. In response to Gillibrand's story about a Southern congressman who told her, “You know, Kirsten, you're even pretty when you're fat,” Stewart joked, “The gentleman from the great state of arousal yields his boner to the gentlewoman from New York.”

Stewart ran a reel of various female pundits agreeing that playing avoid-the-creep is a daily part of life in Washington, including Andrea Mitchell, who declared that there are some men you just know better than to get on an elevator with. “Right. We all have our stories about which person, elected by voters in their state to a six-year term, vested with the powers to advise, consent, and declare war, you would not trust in the three to five seconds it takes to go from two to L,” Stewart answered in exasperation.

But the segment really went to the next level with a clip from Outnumbered on Fox News, the show that basically exists to make excuses for sexism, on which Kimberly Guilfoyle said, “Look, men are going to be that way. What can you do?”

Another Outnumbered clip had male guest Arthur Aidala demonstrating his favorite technique for bothering women on the street who he feels need to give him a little more attention. I'll let Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams handle this one.

Sept. 3 2014 1:24 PM

England’s Basically Unaffordable One-Year Maternity Leave

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 third in our occasional series, from a mother in Uxbridge, a suburb of London, England.

Name: Jade Price

Age: 37

Country: England

Occupation: Public opinion researcher

Partner's occupation: University professor

Children: Charles, 8, and Maggie, 5

Hi, Jade. What are your work hours?

I work four days a week, which works out to 28 hours (a full-time week in the UK is 35 hours). My husband works full-time. Occasionally we work more hours, if things are particularly busy at work, but in general I've tried to choose employers who seem likely to respect the standard workday.

Who takes care of your kids while you work?

There are essentially three options for child care: a nursery (which is like a daycare centre), a child minder (which is like in-home daycare), or a nanny. We've used the first two. When our son was young, we sent him to a nursery. There are several nurseries in our neighborhood; I leaned on the judgment of friends who had visited all of them. It wasn't hard to get a place; I was able to register our son to start at relatively short notice on the date I wanted. This is not necessarily typical for the London area, however. I may have just been lucky! Nurseries are generally privately run in the UK—more on that in a moment.

Sept. 3 2014 12:17 PM

Let’s Stop Idealizing the Home-Cooked Family Dinner

The home-cooked meal has long been romanticized, from ’50s-era sitcoms to the work of star food writer Michael Pollan, who once wrote, "far from oppressing them, the work of cooking approached in the proper spirit offered a kind of fulfillment and deserved an intelligent woman’s attention." In recent years, the home-cooked meal has increasingly been offered up as the solution to our country's burgeoning nutrition-related health problems of heart disease and diabetes. But while home-cooked meals are typically healthier than restaurant food, sociologists Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton from North Carolina State University argue that the stress that cooking puts on people, particularly women, may not be worth the trade-off.