What Women Really Think

April 8 2014 12:02 PM

Republicans Are Totally for Equal Pay, Except When They’re Not

Happy Equal Pay Day! According to the Department of Labor, today is to reflect "how far into the current year women must work to match what men earned in the previous year." To honor Equal Pay Day, President Obama will be signing two executive orders to create transparency in pay for federal employees, so that any existing discrepancies can be sussed out. One order will bar federal employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation with each other and another will require federal employers to submit a data report on what they're paying people these days, complete with information on race and gender. Neither order will require anyone to change what they're paying, but the hope is that greater transparency will make it easier to see if women are being underpaid compared to their male colleagues. 

Despite the feather lightness of these executive orders, the Republican National Committee is against them. Kirsten Kukowski, the RNC press secretary, issued a press release denouncing Obama. After assuring readers that "All Republicans support equal pay for equal work," she goes on to claim that transparency "will cut flexibility in the work place for working moms and end merit pay that rewards good work."

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April 7 2014 4:11 PM

Game of Thrones Is Such a Chick Show

Game of Thrones has a reputation for being a gritty, masculine show about war, kings, and naked prostitutes. But halfway through the premiere of season four Sunday night, during an engrossing scene in which a beautiful young bride-to-be and her charmingly mouthy grandmother argued playfully over jewelry choices for the upcoming wedding, it occurred to me that Game of Thrones isn't just a fantasy series. It's an old-fashioned daytime soap opera. It's a chick show.

Think about it: Nearly all the plots set in motion in this episode are the stuff of traditionally feminine narratives. Marital troubles, sexual jealousy, ungrateful children, and, of course, the intricacies of wedding planning. It's All My Children, just with more amputated limbs.

April 7 2014 3:04 PM

The Lesson From Baseball's Paternity Leave Controversy: Paternity Leave Is Not Controversial

Last week, Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy took his contractually guaranteed three days of paternity leave so he could be with his wife, Victoria, while she had a cesarean section and could help out with their newborn baby. Murphy missed two games, including the season opener, and endured the boneheaded commentary of two sports radio hosts, Mike Francesa and Boomer Esiason.* Most galling was Esiason, who remarked on Wednesday, "Quite frankly, I would've said, 'C-section before the season starts. I need to be at opening day.' " Who cares about ripping a child out of the womb before he is ready when opening day is happening!

But that was last week. What’s notable this week is what a noncontroversy this all turned out to be. And what’s remarkable about Esiason’s comment in hindsight is not the idiotic statement itself, but the monumental backlash to it and his subsequent apology, which came two days later. Among other things, Esiason said, "I apologize for putting [Murphy] and his wife in the midst of a public discussion that I basically started by uttering insensitive comments." That Esiason felt he had to eat such major crow shows how far we’ve come in our cultural perception of a father’s role, and it also suggests a shifting of the tides when it comes to our feelings about paternity leave.

April 7 2014 12:16 PM

Michael Hayden Accuses Dianne Feinstein of Being Too "Emotional" to Judge CIA Interrogation Programs

Is sexism playing a role in efforts to keep hidden the details of the CIA's secretive and harsh interrogation programs? That's the conclusion of the New Yorker's Amy Davidson, who denounces Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA, for trying to discredit Sen. Dianne Feinstein's criticisms of the programs by saying the senator is too "emotional." Feinstein, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said that she wants to declassify a Senate report on the CIA's secretive interrogation programs to "ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted." Hayden scoffed at this to Chris Wallace on Fox News this weekend.

April 7 2014 11:40 AM

Women Won’t Apply for Jobs Seeking “Assertive” Applicants. Should Women Change, or Should Job Ads?

Women shrink from applying for jobs when the job descriptions “sound” male, a new study suggests. Researchers from Technische Universität München presented 260 men and women with employment ads for management positions. If the ads contained words like “aggressive,” “independent,” “assertive,” “determined,” and “analytical,” the women said they found the job unappealing, and that they probably wouldn’t apply. (The men were unfazed.) When the ads used descriptors like “responsible,” “dedicated,” “sociable,” and “conscientious,” the women sent in their symbolic CVs in droves. (Men: equally enticed.) So perhaps men don’t actually read job notices before they submit their resumes. Or perhaps they don’t care whether they meet the stated criteria. (In fact, there’s evidence to support this hypothesis: While most women only chase positions for which they possess 100 percent of the prerequisites, men often undertake the professional climb with knapsacks 60 percent full.) Perhaps, though, guys just identify with a broader range of human traits than ladies, who apparently inhabit a Divergent-like world in which being conscientious precludes the possibility of being independent too.

Now the question is: What should employers do about it? One answer is that companies who want “assertive” candidates should sing it out! If a woman blanches at the scary job posting, she’s a trembling daffodil, i.e., not “assertive,” i.e., not the right person. You find confident managers by designing an application process that rewards confidence.

But you don’t necessarily find talented managers that way. By framing employment ads in a fashion that invites more women to apply, firms can court more overall genius, skill, creativity, and diligence. They have no ethical imperative to use language that sets daffodils at ease, but doing so may actually benefit them: While you can nurture a sense of authority in someone by placing her in a role that demands it, you can't mainline her IQ points. To take a longer view, a big part of why some women fear they can’t perform in leadership positions is that they haven’t seen other women do it well. Start filling the upper echelons of businesses with qualified ladies (imposter syndrome and all), and maybe the notion of a “determined” or “agressive” female manager will begin to inspire less cognitive dissonance.

April 4 2014 4:29 PM

Go Ahead, Give David Letterman's Gig to Another White Guy

Next year, David Letterman will retire from the Late Show after more than 30 years behind the desk. Commentators have been quick to seize on Letterman’s departure as an opportunity to inject some much-needed diversity into the slate of straight white males who have dominated late night talk shows for decades.

Consider the current spread: Letterman and Craig Ferguson are installed at CBS; new Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon kicks off NBC late-night, followed by Seth Meyers and Carson Daly; Conan O’Brien reigns on TBS, Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, and Bill Maher on HBO. Comedy Central just topped off its longstanding Jon Stewart-Stephen Colbert line-up with another white dude, @midnight’s Chris Hardwick. (Update, April 4: Mashable is now reporting that Colbert is CBS's first choice to replace Letterman.) Joining their ranks are one white woman, E!’s Chelsea Handler, who is poised to leave her show when her contract goes up at the end of the year; one gay man, Bravo’s Andy Cohen, the first openly gay late night host; and one black man, Arsenio Hall, whose new syndicated program rebooted his talk show career last year. As the Washington Post’s Alexandra Petri put it, white men named Jimmy are historically better represented at major late-night talk shows than are women and people of color.

April 4 2014 4:21 PM

FSU Charges Jameis Winston's Friends But Not Winston. That Is So Messed Up.

Lawyer up and don’t talk. That’s the lesson of the latest disquieting developments related to the sexual assault allegations against Jameis Winston, star quarterback at Florida State University. A fellow student accused Winston of raping her, when she was too drunk to consent, back in December 2012. It took 11 months for the police to pass the case to Tallahassee prosecutors. A month after that, the state attorney decided not to charge Winston, saying there wasn’t enough evidence. Winston went on to win the national championship for FSU and pick up a Heisman Trophy.

I had nagging questions about the state attorney’s decision, because I think the victim’s allegations are awfully plausible. And I think it’s fishy that the cops delayed the case for so long. They say the victim refused to cooperate; her lawyer says otherwise. There are a bunch of unknowns, but here’s something more certain: FSU’s recent move to charge two of Winston’s friends and teammates with five violations of the school’s code of conduct in relation to the case—but not Winston—is ass backward.

April 4 2014 10:43 AM

A Movie About Steubenville From a Male Perspective Is a Great Idea

Plan B, Brad Pitt's production company that recently financed 12 Years A Slave, grabbed headlines this week with the news that it had purchased the film rights to the Rolling Stone article, "Anonymous Vs. Steubenville." Written by David Kushner, the piece chronicles the efforts of online activists, flying under the name Anonymous, to get justice for a high school rape victim in Steubenville, Ohio. The protagonists of the article are a bunch of young white men who were touched by this girl's suffering and angered by what they deemed a town cover-up of the crime, and set out to make things right.

You can see the appeal of this story from a Hollywood perspective: Young men go up against a football town to rescue a female rape victim. But Tara Culp-Ressler at Think Progress is not happy about the male-centric nature of the story and thinks it is typical of Hollywood's inability to do social justice stories any justice:

April 3 2014 5:30 PM

Mississippi Sex Ed Class Compares Women to Dirty Pieces of Chocolate

In Mississippi, 76 percent of teenagers will have sex before they leave high school. But until this year—when the state finally implemented a policy requiring schools to teach sexual education in class—many teachers refused to discuss the topic with students. Now, some parents are worried that Mississippi’s new sex ed curriculum is more damaging than just not saying anything at all.

According to the Los Angeles Times, teachers in Oxford, Miss., are asking “students to unwrap a piece of chocolate, pass it around class and observe how dirty it became.” Says Marie Barnard, a public health worker and parent: "They're using the Peppermint Pattie to show that a girl is no longer clean or valuable after she's had sex—that she's been used … That shouldn't be the lesson we send kids about sex."

April 3 2014 5:16 PM

I Hope James Franco Is a Creep

I do not talk to God about much of anything and especially not James Franco, and yet I found myself saying a prayer this afternoon. I’d just read an account of how Franco allegedly sent a series of Instagram DMs and texts to a Scottish teenager earlier this week, asking her for her number and whether he should rent a hotel room. They met cute: As Jezebel relates, the girl, 17, took a video of Franco outside his Broadway show, Of Mice and Men, and he told her to tag him. Then he sent her a selfie to get the seduction ball rolling and they started messaging and now we have all these Franconian words of love to pore over, such as “do you have a bf” and “don’t tell.”

That is really creepy, James Franco. It looks, for all intents and purposes, like you just endeavored to pick up a random 17-year-old via Instagram. (“I’ll come back when I’m 18,” the girl wrote at one point. Seventeen is New York's official age of consent.) Except as various colleagues—and Jezebel—pointed out when the “news” broke today, Franco coincidentally has a movie waiting in the wings that concerns a beautiful young soccer player who falls for her high school coach. So maybe he staged the entire thing—including the vague Twitter denial and Instagram profile update—as performance art, to get us thinking about illicit love/buying tickets for his movie.

Which brings me to my afternoon prayer: Please God, let James Franco just be a creep.