What Women Really Think

Aug. 12 2014 4:38 PM

Local Mom Decides Important Sports Case

The first thing that the New York Times wants you to know about Claudia Wilken is that she is a devoted parent. “For years, Claudia Wilken has been known in her neighborhood mostly as a familiar face at school meetings,” the Times’ John Branch begins. “When her two children were teenagers about a decade ago … Wilken spent several years on Berkeley High School’s Site Council” where “hers was a measured voice,” Branch writes. “Let’s figure out how we can work together, she would say. She encouraged compromise and dialogue.”

But—here comes the twist—Wilken is not just a former standout member of the Berkeley High PTA. She’s also the federal judge who recently presided over O'Bannon v. NCAA, the landmark case that has challenged the NCAA’s longstanding treatment of its college athletes. “And to think: It was only in recent weeks that Wilken, apparently not a huge sports fan, playfully admitted that the abbreviation S.E.C. brought to mind the Securities and Exchange Commission, not the Southeastern Conference,” Branch continues. Wilken, “a woman few sports fans would recognize by name or face,” will now “forever be remembered as the judge who helped reshape college athletics.” What an incredible turn of events for a person who has spent the past 30 years working her way up the judicial branch—not putting in the hard time of sitting on her ass and watching basketball. Who did sports fans expect to see on the bench, anyway? Allen Iverson?

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Aug. 12 2014 3:05 PM

John Oliver and Seth Meyers on Diversity in Late-Night Writers’ Rooms

Could things be getting slightly better on the diversity front when it comes to the coveted spots in late night comedy writers’ rooms? Seth Meyers, who has been hosting Late Night with Seth Meyers since February, was interviewed on Monday by BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti and the question of getting people that aren't white men into comedy writing rooms came up. "So I heard that you made a real effort to hire a diverse writing staff," Peretti said toward the end of the interview. Meyers has 12 writers, including three women and at least three people of color, one being Amber Ruffin, who is reportedly the first black woman to write for late night network comedy.

"Well, we have a diverse writing staff," Meyers said, but went on to suggest that it wasn't really a major effort to get there. "I feel it's easier and easier to have a diverse writing staff, because the field has diversified. When you look at packs, when you go to see shows, there are more diverse candidates. We have a diverse staff, but we didn't hire them because of that. We hired them because they made us laugh."

Aug. 12 2014 1:58 PM

When the Illness You Live With Becomes Breaking News

It is jarring when a beloved celebrity dies of something you could possibly die of yourself—when all of a sudden everyone is talking about the illness you have, the one that they usually don’t want to talk about at all. The experience you live with every day is, in an instant, “breaking news,” and the mental health talking heads you haven’t seen since the last tragedy come marching back on to CNN.   

I struggle with depression, and I am very sad about Robin Williams. Not because of that scene from Good Will Hunting, but because he was yet another person who couldn’t live anymore with this disease I am living with.

There were a lot of comments on Twitter about how much Robin Williams was loved, and what a shame that he didn’t know it. I didn’t know Robin Williams, but I bet he did know that he was loved. I know that I am loved. Maybe not on a Robin Williams scale, but I have friends and family who would do anything for me, and I absolutely know this. But there comes a point where love does not matter. When things are bad, I don’t care that people love me. All I can see is that I’m a burden, that everything I have ever done is wrong, and that these good people who love me are wrong as well. At my lowest, love cannot save me. Hope, prayers, daily affirmations—none of these can save me. Therapy and medicine are what matter, and those don’t always work either.

Aug. 12 2014 12:05 PM

Dudes Say “Uh”; Ladies Say “Um”

This article originally appeared in Science of Us.

So, um, this is weird. There’s an apparent gender split in use of the filler words uh and um, according to a recent post on the linguistics blog Language Log: Men tend to say “uh,” whereas women tend to say “um.” 

Mark Liberman, a linguistics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, noticed the trend after digging into two data sets from Penn’s Linguistic Data Consortium, which contains audio samples from 11,972 speakers. He writes that, on average, women in this sample said “um” 22 percent more than men, and men said “uh” an incredible 250 percent more than women. But men also use filler words (either uh or um) more than women overall—38 percent more often than women, to be precise. He also found that, over time, the gender divide here seems to level out, and that older people of both genders use uh more and um less.

Aug. 12 2014 11:51 AM

California School District Won't Use Sex Ed Textbook Because It Shows Sex Can Be Fun

Fremont Unified School District, which is located in California's Bay Area, has caved under pressure from conservative parents, at least temporarily, on the question of whether or not kids should learn about sex in sex ed. At issue is a textbook called Your Health Today, which was being taught to 9th graders in the area. The main objections center around the book's forthrightness about the fact that people have sex for fun.

Asfia Ahmed, a mother who is one of the parents leading the charge, likened the book to pornography in her letter of complaint to the school board. The San Francisco Chronicle, however, has screenshots of the pages causing the most fuss, and let's just say that the only way you'd mistake it for pornography is if you never logged onto the internet or walked through a gas station magazine section. The fact that people have sex for pleasure is indeed covered in the textbook, but the information is not packaged in a stimulating manner so much as in the dry, descriptive prose that you'd find in any textbook.

Aug. 11 2014 5:55 PM

It’s Time to Stop Shaming the Steubenville Rapists

In March of last year, Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays were found delinquent of raping a 16-year-old girl in the town of Steubenville, Ohio. This week, Richmond is back in the news. What did he do now? He served his time at a juvenile detention facility, re-enrolled in high school, and played some football. So local reporters are following him around the field, posting videos of his workout, and rehashing the details of his crime. Jezebel is serving up the news to the dismay of the site’s commenters, who are calling for his expulsion (or better yet, imprisonment!), because allowing him to secure a high school degree is “just going to feed the entitlement that led him to rape in the first place.”

What is he supposed to do? Drop out of school and live under a bridge for the rest of his life? That wouldn’t just be bad for Richmond—it would be bad for Steubenville, because a juvenile’s rehabilitation and reentry into society is integral to preventing rape in the future. As Irin Carmon wrote in Salon last year, the vast majority of juvenile sexual offenders—from 95 to 97 percent of them—who are caught, punished, and treated will never offend again. (And as Slate reported today, recidivism rates for sex offenders of all ages are actually much "lower than commonly believed.") As Mark Chaffin, professor of pediatrics at the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and director of research at the Center on Child Abuse and Neglect told Carmon, “juvenile sex offenders are not simply younger versions of adult sex offenders,” and treating them the same would only impede our ability to prevent future crimes.

Aug. 11 2014 5:40 PM

Jezebel Staff Goes After Gawker for Ignoring Sexist Comments and Rape GIFs

Today, the staff of Jezebel posted an open letter to its parent company, Gawker Media, detailing the constant barrage of vile messages and graphic images that pop up in the comments sections beneath Jezebel posts, and begging the bosses, who have so far apparently been unmoved, to do something about it. "For months, an individual or individuals has been using anonymous, untraceable burner accounts to post gifs of violent pornography in the discussion section of stories on Jezebel. The images arrive in a barrage, and the only way to get rid of them from the website is if a staffer individually dismisses the comments and manually bans the commenter," the Jezebel staff wrote. Once banned, the commenters create new accounts and escalate the abuse. "This weekend, [the comments] have escalated to gory images of bloody injuries emblazoned with the Jezebel logo," the staffers wrote. "It's like playing whack-a-mole with a sociopathic Hydra."

Aug. 11 2014 1:10 PM

Guardian Columnist Gets Attacked for Suggesting Tampons Should Be Free

Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti kicked off the week with a provocative argument: In order to reduce the financial and social burden menstruation puts on women, "women’s feminine hygiene products should be free for all, all the time." For those of us who can easily afford tampons and sanitary pads, this might seem like a silly idea, but, as Valenti points out, for women living in "countries where sanitary products are inaccessible or unaffordable," the lack of access means missing work or school, getting infections from reusing the same rags without cleaning them, and even dropping out of school because your period causes you to fall so far behind in your studies. But while that's more of a problem in developing countries, even in places like the United States, the high price of tampons means "some women resort to selling their food stamps in order to pay for 'luxuries' like tampons."

Aug. 8 2014 5:53 PM

April O'Neil Finally Gets Some Turtle Power of Her Own

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles started as an elaborate joke. In 1983, comic artists Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird drew up some anthropomorphic, nun-chuck-toting, adolescent turtles, named them after Renaissance artists, placed them under the tutelage of a rat sensei, and unleashed them into the New York City sewer in an attempt to poke fun at the absurdity of popular contemporary comics like Daredevil and Ronin. But soon, TMNT grew into a billion-dollar kids entertainment franchise—complete with action figures, morning cartoons, video games, kid-friendly Archie Comics, and a live-action movie trilogy. The turtles lost their parodic context, and the teens evolved into real heroes in a half shell for the children of the late '80s and early '90s.

Some aspects of this mass-marketed Turtle Power tested the bounds of credulity. (If these ninja turtles all grew up in the same sewer, why did one of them talk like a Southern California surfer dude and another a cab driver from the Bronx?) But for a little girl growing up in the TMNT era, one part felt a little too real: The turtles, all boys, spent their time honing their mental and physical skills to achieve their goal of protecting New York City from criminal threats while strengthening their brotherhood bond along the way. Meanwhile, the only girl allowed in the sewer, hard-nosed human television reporter April O’Neil, was constantly sacrificing her own career in order to serve the turtles’ storyline. Girl, why are you sitting around serving pizza to teenagers when you have just stumbled onto the story of the century—a new race of enormous reptiles possessing human intelligence and superhuman strength?

Aug. 8 2014 2:34 PM

A Guide to Avoiding Benevolent Sexism

Gene Simmons, a man who became famous by painting his face and sticking his tongue out over loud bubblegum rock, is concerned about the decline of chivalry. During his stint as the male guest on the Fox News show Outnumbered, Simmons and the female hosts discussed research on the impacts of benevolent sexism—basically, the practice of treating women like they're helpless and need coddling—and Simmons made an impassioned argument against all those scary feminists who won't let men open doors for them. Transcription courtesy of Callie Beausman of Jezebel:

If opening the door means you get special treatment, we want to treat you special. We want to treat you like the princesses you are... If anything, if you were a princess, EVERYBODY would open doors for you! You'd walk through, and — I don't want to do the joke, but — [puts on falsetto voice, waves hand like beauty queen], "We are arriving!" You'd want all the doors to open, and why not?
You know, if you take a look at history, you've been treated badly, you haven't had equal job opportunities, for God's sake, the vote hasn't been yours for that many years in the first place! Why not open the doors?

The woman who angrily dresses down a man for daring to open the door for her is the Bigfoot of feminism. Still, it's hard for some guys to figure out how to treat girls these days with their heads full of liberation. As a non-mythical feminist, I'm here to help them with a few simple Dos and Don'ts when dealing with the frightening modern woman. Not to step on my colleague Troy's toes too much, but here's a gentleman's guide to navigating modern manners in the age of feminism.