Justin Bieber’s New Underwear Ads Are Part of the #MyCalvins Social Media Phenomenon
Calvin Klein’s spring campaign asks stars, with Mad Libs–ian glee, what they do in #theircalvins. Or #mycalvins. The hashtag-centered ads refuse to be hemmed in by things as trivial as the rules of possessive pronouns.
What do superstars, musicians, models, actors and artists do in #mycalvins? Find out in the Spring 2016 Calvin Klein global advertising campaign, featuring @justinbieber, @kendricklamar, @fkatwigs, @kendalljenner, @abbeylee, @fettywap1738, @teriyakipapi, @saskiadebrauw, @adwoaaboah, @joeybadass, @karate_katia, @princessnokia and more. Photographed by Tyrone Lebon.
In photographs and short clips, personalities like Kendall Jenner, FKA Twigs, Fetty Wap, and more complete the statement “I _____ in #mycalvins” with action words and phrases like stand tall, excel, and am a star. Justin Bieber, who headlined last year’s ads for the brand, is back, and his accompanying verbs include flaunt, dream, and glow.
In the flaunt photo, which surely would not pass muster for the president of Iran, Bieber, a fine art expert of sorts, wears boxer briefs and stands with his legs in George-Washington-crossing-the-Delaware position, one foot on the ground, the other perched on a platform holding a nude Greek-style statue of a woman. (“Justin Bieber Flaunts His Ripped Body In His Calvins Next To Sexy Older Woman,” the website Hollywood Life cheekily headlined the photo.) His arms are in a self-conscious “model” pose, one on his hip, one bent behind his head. Then in the dream one, he’s lying in bed with his eyes closed, again just in boxer briefs, but obviously also one hand is on his crotch. In the glow photo, he is somewhat more clothed, but still his chest, abs, and platinum hair glisten. The photos are good encapsulations of Bieber’s image: playful, provocative, slightly lacking in self-awareness, and likely to make anyone who remembers his moptop days uncomfortable, which is probably intentional.
Why do so many stars want to model for a brand anyway? In October, Racked reported on the success of Calvin Klein’s #mycalvins campaign, pointing out the brand’s skillful use of social media—its follower count went up 3.6 million across platforms since it launched in 2014. According to Racked, Bieber courted Calvin Klein aggressively. “I have been wearing Calvin Klein underwear for years in hopes of getting to model for the brand one day,” he said last year. Historically, Bieber hasn’t cared about seeming like a tryhard or a sellout, an attitude he seems to share with the rest of the artists and “influencers” featured in the campaign.
Perhaps Calvin Klein sweetened the deal by letting each star pick their verb themselves. Flaunt and dream—so blunt and uncreative—seem so perfectly Bieber. Kendall Jenner also chose dream, and no one bothered telling the stars they weren’t allowed to overlap. And doesn’t Bieber know that flaunting is just a giant joke perpetuated by Us Weekly? Daniel Hivner (a model, apparently) is pictured with the verb go see, as in, “I go see in #mycalvins,” which does not make a whole lot of sense to the layperson. Whereas someone like Kendrick Lamar, with reflect, is a little more, well, reflective in his choice. But what do I know? I blog in #myoldnavy.
Congress Still Has a Panel Investigating Fetal Tissue Donation. It Should Follow the Evidence Instead.
In the wake of a Texas grand jury’s indictment of two anti-abortion activists instead of Planned Parenthood after a months-long investigation, reproductive-rights advocates are calling for a redirection of a congressional panel convened last year to examine U.S. practices around abortion and fetal-tissue donation.
The panel was established by House Republicans in October as the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. (Democrats, too, have little taste for sublety, calling the panel a “Select Committee to Attack Women’s Health.”) After several congressional committees failed to find reason to defund Planned Parenthood in several hearings prompted by the Center for Medical Progress’ undercover videos, the select panel was formed to probe further. The panel was backed by $300,000 from a reserve fund to pay for the panel’s activities through Jan. 2, but its work continues.
The great thing about a grand jury investigation is that its members get to hear from both sides. The congressional hearings never called on David Daleiden, Sandra Merritt, or other CMP members to testify about the making of the videos that inspired the investigation in the first place; by contrast, the Texas grand jury was able to consider actual evidence about their tactics. Though it was tasked with investigating Planned Parenthood, the jury found reason to charge Daleiden and Merritt with tampering with a governmental record; Daleiden, the jury decided, deserved an additional charge of violating a ban on the purchase and sale of human organs. Congress now has more concrete reason to believe that anti-abortion activists are trying to buy and sell fetal body parts than it does Planned Parenthood.
Last week, the Feminist Majority Foundation joined with Rep. Donna F. Edwards, the National Organization for Women, and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan D.C. to recommend that the House panel either disband or change its focus to the anti-choice extremists behind the rising harassment of and violence against abortion providers. FMF President Eleanor Smeal says Monday’s indictment of Daleiden and Merritt is even more reason for Congress to listen. “[CMP’s] vilification and harassment and false representation works people up and creates a climate in which violence ensues,” she said in a phone conversation. “They’re emboldened to say anything they want, whether its true or not.” Smeal sees a direct link between CMP’s anti-abortion rhetoric and fatal attacks like the November murders at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, Colorado, where the shooter justified his attack with language cribbed from the CMP videos: “No more baby parts.” If the videos warrant a federally funded investigation into Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, the video’s makers and its effects deserve a similarly rigorous investigation.
But Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton performed the public relations equivalent of sticking their fingers in their ears and humming when they heard the grand jury’s decision earlier this week, insisting that the state’s other ongoing investigations into Planned Parenthood will continue. “The fact remains that the videos exposed the horrific nature of abortion and the shameful disregard for human life of the abortion industry,” Paxton said.
Meanwhile, the district attorney who launched the Texas grand jury probe said she respected the jury for following “where the evidence [led] us.” The congressional panel could and should do the same. “What we think Congress should do is follow the evidence,” Smeal said. “I’m hoping this is a break for people to say, ‘Wait a minute, we should be suspicious when so many people are telling us these are false accusations.’ ”
A Trump Presidency Would Make Us Nostalgic for “Fair and Balanced” Fox News
Tuesday night, Donald Trump announced that he would boycott Thursday’s Fox News Republican debate because of the involvement of anchor Megyn Kelly, who he believes has been unfair to him. Right afterward, Trump held a rally in a school gym in Marshalltown, Iowa. Departing from his usual format of delivering meandering, improvised speeches, he structured the event as an interview, with local radio host John Jacobsen serving as his interlocutor. The questions were almost comically sycophantic—the sorts of queries a broadcaster in a totalitarian state might pose to the Supreme Leader while his family is being held hostage by the secret police. Juxtaposed with Trump’s refusal to debate on Fox, the event was a telling statement of how the Putin-admiring Trump—who calls reporters “scum” and “such lying disgusting people,” though he has magnanimously said he won’t have them killed—views the role of the press.
Here are some of the questions (and statements of praise) Trump responded to:
• “Mr. Trump, they had to open up the balcony tonight, there was such an overflow crowd. This is my 11th cycle, and we’ve never seen crowds like this throughout Iowa.”
• “Mr. Trump, it’s said that by their fruits you will know them, and you have a marvelous family. ... They’re just tremendous leaders of great character. Obviously that speaks a lot about the home they grew up in and their father. Tell us about the kids and what they’re doing in the business and how they’ve helped in the campaign.”
• “Talking with your current and former employees, they are very loyal to you. They have a great love for you. Talk about that relationship you have with your employees and how you feel about the little people as they’re trying to live the American dream.”
• “Mr. Trump, in the last debate—I’m an old debater, and I think you scored very strongly, particularly in the economics and trade portion of the debate.”
• “[T]he article in the Constitution about the executive branch says that the president shall be the chief executive officer of the United States. You are one of the candidates that can lay claim to having the best record and experience as an executive. How will that background and business savvy help you?”
• “Do you think that, kind of like the Gipper, you might be an ambassador of goodwill and rejuvenate the zeal among our young people for this beautiful free market enterprise system that we have here?”
• “On the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, you wrote a beautiful op-ed piece in the Washington Examiner … it was an outstanding essay on why you believe the culture of life is so important. Do you care to share a general view of your stance there? It was an excellent essay.”
Finally, after noting that the daughter of Iowa-born John Wayne—a man known as the Duke—has endorsed Trump, Jacobsen concluded with this:
• “Do you think that Iowans are maybe going to win one for the Duke and adopt you as one of theirs come caucus day?”
During the administration of George W. Bush, a lot of us on the left thought of Fox News as an American Pravda. I’m not sure, however, that the network ever toadied to anyone quite like this. It’s hard not to feel a bit of schadenfreude as Trump explodes the institutions of the Republican Party, one after another. Yet it’s also clear that Trump intends to replace them with something worse. In the dystopia of a Trump presidency, we might think of the slogan “Fair and Balanced” and feel not contempt, but nostalgia.
Florida Lawmakers Want to Make Abortion a Felony, Advance Bill Citing “The Creator”
For a brief, shining moment on Monday, sanity prevailed on the issue of abortion when the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that North Dakota’s “fetal heartbeat” law, which would ban abortion at the sixth week of pregnancy, is unconstitutional. On Tuesday, America returned to normal as the Florida House of Representatives moved forward with a bevy of anti-abortion legislation. One of the bills would classify abortion as a first-degree felony—a move so extreme that even its author is clearly under no illusions about getting away with it.
The Legislature finds that all human life comes from the Creator, has an inherent value that cannot be quantified by man, and begins at the earliest biological development of a fertilized human egg.
The Legislature finds that the establishment of viability as the point at which the state may restrict abortions, as well as the ‘undue burden’ standard of Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania v. Casey... is arbitrary and provides inadequate guidance for this state to enact meaningful protections for unborn human life.
The Legislature urges the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade … and Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania v. Casey.
This raises some questions, such as “Is voting on bills that flout decades of Supreme Court precedent a good use of the Florida legislature’s time?” and “Has anyone ever talked to the bill’s author, Rep. Charles Van Zant, about the separation of church and state?” As so often happens when the pageantry of reproductive politics meets the neutrality of newspaper style, the advancement of HB 865 produced a moment of unintentional comedy in the pages of the Herald, which could only observe, “It’s likely that Van Zant’s proposal, if passed by the Legislature, would lead to lawsuits citing the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe vs. Wade.” Yes, yes it is.
Unfortunately, the other bills that Florida’s legislature is considering are far less outlandish, and far more worrisome. One of them, HB 233, would require abortion clinics to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, or perhaps to exceed them, even though the costly measures necessary for clinics to comply wouldn’t improve the already-safe practice of abortion. The other bill, HB 1411, also includes “TRAP measures” aimed at shutting down clinics (one example: the requirement that doctors have formalized admitting privileges at local hospitals). Both bills share elements with the Texas abortion law that the Supreme Court will consider this year—giving abortion-rights supporteres yet another reason to watch that case.
Does Lots of Sex Change a Vagina’s Size and the Labia’s Color? Reddit Answers.
An anonymous hero is doing God’s work in the TwoXChromosomes subreddit this week. Spurred by an overheard conversation between two co-workers, the author—who’s since deleted his or her Reddit account—decided to explain the fallacy of the statement “the darker the vag the more dudes she's been pounded by” and debunking “some nonsense about vag lip size and number of sex partners.”
“I've had darker and external labia for as long as I can remember yet I have zero previous sex partners,” our champion wrote. “Even reading a few comments on Reddit there seems to be too many people who equate larger labia with number of sex partner[s].”
This misunderstanding of female anatomy exposes both the entrenched social prejudices around the vulva and the odd assumption that penises have such supernatural powers that they can cause immutable changes to a woman’s genitals. But it also speaks to the dearth of medically accurate, comprehensive sex education in the U.S., leaving both men and women with precious little information about their bodies. I once knew a guy in his early 20s who asked a female friend why women didn’t just sit on the toilet for 20 minutes and push when they had their periods, to get all the blood and tissue out at once.
On Monday, Mic dug up an old Reddit thread started by user fuckingisthebest, who tried to dispel the all too pervasive myth that having lots of sex can permanently change the shape of a woman’s vagina. Reddit users on the labia-color thread came up with a few equally plausible theories:
- Vulvas are like mood rings. For example: “Babe, what's wrong? You keep ‘nothing’ but your labia is still dark.” “When you nod your head yes, but your labia says no, what do you mean?”
- A vulva’s layers are like rings on a tree—they convey a woman’s age. The thicker rings correspond to years in which she was particularly well-hydrated, or had sex with more partners than usual.
- Penises get smaller with every vagina they penetrate. “All men start with long ones but they consume them over usage,” wrote user calineko. “This is known in the scientific community as the pencil sharpener effect.”
Despite what seems like never-ending reassurances from doctors that vaginas do not become “loose” after lots of sex, the legend persists, creating an unattainable ideal of a small, inoffensive, barely there vulva and a watertight vagina that’s highly pleasurable for men to have sex with. The labia-color thread evolved into a storytelling session of all the worst metaphors that middle- and high-school sex educators have used to demonize sexuality and exalt virginity: analogies of food that’s been chewed up by many mouths, cookies that have been crumbled, pieces of tape that are no longer sticky after having been stuck to many pieces of paper, or paper hearts that have been ripped with every sex act outside of marriage.
Of course, #notallmen believe the fortunes told by a vulva’s size, color, and shape. “I will say this—I cannot remember the color of any woman's labia that I've ever been with in great detail, nor the shape or anything about it really (other than my current girlfriend),” NotAVeryFlyWhiteGuy confessed on the thread. Oh, but were there a labial middle ground between granular judgment and complete amnesia.
Bradley Cooper’s Sundance Doppelgänger Has Been Exposed
There’s a hoodlum on the loose at the Sundance Film Festival, and his given name is Cradley Booper. On Monday, Page Six reported that a Bradley Cooper doppelgänger was attempting to use his lookalike’s identity to gain entrance to exclusive parties at the annual Park City, Utah hobnob:
We’re told the doppelgänger talked his way into a bash for the film White Girl at Bar 53 at Rock and Reilly’s on Saturday, but organizers “quickly caught on.”
“He said, ‘You’re done for!’ and would not give ID,” said a spy of the “star” when he was confronted by security. “He pushed a button on an iPhone and had a picture of The Hangover as his screensaver.”
So, his plan wasn’t airtight—but who could have known that fancy actor types don’t use screenshots from their films as party identification? “You’re done for” certainly sounds like the kind of thing a celebrity would yell if his identity were in question. Booper would not be deterred: People found a source who claimed the impersonator tried his hand at the Morris from America afterparty, too.
Thanks to the expert sleuthing of a Jezebel commenter, the doppelgänger’s face—that of a goofier, wide-eyed, less angular Cooper—has been revealed:
This image confirms what I’d always imagined of Sundance: that it’s full of people wandering around drunk and starry-eyed, so primed to run into a famous face that they’ll post a Snapchat screenshot on Instagram with just about anybody in a beanie.
But if this imposter isn’t Bradley Cooper, who is he, and what is he doing at the festival? There are two likely options. He could be a Park City townie who’s tried every year since Wedding Crashers to get into the swanky parties like a kid with a fake I.D., poor thing. Or, he’s a cocky out-of-towner who’s been growing some stubble and aging alongside Cooper, saving up for a plane ticket and waiting patiently until their forms aligned enough for him to just about pass. Dim-lit, snowy, besweatered Sundance would be the perfect spot for such a con, out of the spotlight of L.A. where club security can easily separate celebrities from the rest of us.
The real Bradley Cooper has no films at Sundance this year, and he performed at an Arthur Miller Foundation event in New York City on Monday night, so he’s not around to give his impersonator a stern talking-to or warn the who’s-who of the identity theft in progress. Booper may have a bright future in fantasy videos or D-grade spoofs co-starring Leonardo DiCaprio’s doppelgänger, a Swedish bartender who’s never abused his God-given powers à la Booper. That may be his best shot at stardom. Park City bouncers might buy the beard-and-beanie act, but the Illuminati’s a much tougher sell.
Bernie Sanders Just Can’t Get It Right With Women’s Groups
On Tuesday night, Bernie Sanders found himself on the wrong side of a major women’s organization for the second time in as many weeks. The first dust-up came when Planned Parenthood (along with the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign) issued its first-ever presidential endorsement, on behalf of Hillary Clinton. Sanders fired back by calling the nonprofits “part of the establishment” that he’s running to take on. The latest came at an Iowa town hall meeting, where Sanders’ efforts to walk back his Planned Parenthood comments sounded like foot-in-mouth to some feminists, and led a NARAL Pro-Choice America spokeswoman to write: “Senator Sanders once again highlighted the difference between an ally and a champion. … His voting record is sufficient, but it doesn't make him a champion for women. That champion is Hillary.”
Sanders must have been anticipating a question about his relationship to America’s foremost women’s healthcare provider, because when a Drake University student started to ask, “How are you going to fight for women’s rights more effectively than a female candidate with endorsements from organizations like these…” Uncle Bern cut her off with a shake of his finger. “No no, now, that’s not quite accurate,” he started in, presumably referring to last week’s cries that he’d dissed Planned Parenthood rather than the content of the woman’s question.
I have a 100 percent pro-choice voting record. In every speech that I give, what I say is not only do we stop the Republican efforts to try to defund Planned Parenthood, we should expand funding for Planned Parenthood. Now, what I said on a television program, and I did not say it well, is that sometimes the base of an organization looks at the world a little bit differently than the leadership. So if you have a 100 percent pro-Planned Parenthood voting record, 100 percent pro-choice voting record, there are people who are asking, ‘Why is the leadership not either supporting Bernie Sanders, or why are they opposing him?’ And my point is that I will fight… these are great organizations. I met with Planned Parenthood. They do a fantastic job not only in defending women’s rights in general but in talking about sexuality in America. They are a fantastic organization; count me in as somebody who strongly supports them. So this was simply a question of endorsement policy, not whether or not I support these organizations.
It’s true that Sanders has a consistently pro-choice voting record—as, of course, does Clinton. It’s a bit of a stretch, however, for him to characterize Planned Parenthood’s siding with Clinton as “simply a question of endorsement policy.” Since this was the organization’s first foray into presidential endorsements, it would seem that the choice was an active one, not a passive replication of long-standing practice.
But Sanders is right that the general public can’t know whether Planned Parenthood backed Clinton out of genuine gusto or because the embattled healthcare provider made a political calculation that she was its most electable hope—and that she, like Planned Parenthood, might need all the help she can get.
NARAL rightly tweaked Sanders not for what he did say on Tuesday, but for what he didn’t. “When asked a direct question about why he would be the best candidate for women, he ignored the impending crisis that restricts access to abortion,” spokeswoman Kaylie Hanson wrote. Sanders responded to the controversy over his “establishment” comment, but not to the question at hand: of how he would fight for women’s rights in office. He’s made it clear that, in his mind, the economic critique at the center of his campaign trumps the importance of any identity politics, including gender.
But as Hanson points out, access to health care—and especially to birth control and abortion, which allow women to time their families around their economic situations and their careers—“is an economic issue, and one that's fundamental to a woman's ability to succeed.” Sanders had a great opportunity to make that point last night, and thereby to signal that he really deserved Planned Parenthood’s endorsement. Once again, he passed.
My 3-Year-Old Thinks the New Sesame Street Is Great, and So Do I
When we learned last August that Sesame Street was moving to HBO, the news inspired a fair amount of outrage. Critics weren’t happy that kids without an HBO subscription would have to wait nine months to watch the latest season for free on PBS—another sign of the ever-growing wedge between the haves and have-nots. Some also saw this as more evidence of the show’s ongoing—and regrettable—gentrification. Over the years, Sesame Street’s vibe has morphed from a gritty urban feel to a more genteel and sanitized city environment; with a premium cable provider as the show’s new home, there was little chance it would reverse course.
These are legitimate grown-up critiques, but Sesame Street’s target demographic isn’t worried about rising income inequality or the lack of representation of the urban poor on TV. So in order to get a sense of whether or not the new Sesame Street succeeds on its own, stripped of its sociocultural context, I sat down with my 3-year-old son to watch the first three episodes of the new season and let him judge. New Criticism, as it happens, comes quite naturally to toddlers.
As many reviewers have noted, the new Sesame Street is a simultaneously shinier and flatter version of its former self. The neighborhood is posher than ever—everything from Hooper’s Store to Oscar’s trash can have been remodeled to make them right at home in tony New York neighborhoods like Cobble Hill or the West Village. Producers have also tidied up the storytelling, with fewer characters and fewer jokes for parents. Life is brighter and more predictable on the new Sesame Street, the tone is more escapist, and the more streamlined storylines and elaborate sets and animation offer less in the way of narrative and visual gaps that kids can fill in themselves.
My son loved it. He appeared utterly charmed by Elmo’s dance moves during the letter-of-the-day intro. “Watch him, Mommy, he is going to move back and then come forward,” he explained. He laughed out loud during “Smart Cookies,” a reccurring segment in which Cookie Monster solves a cookie-related mystery. “He found it in his crown!” he said, giggling wildly, while recounting the plot of the first one. During an underwater scene in the second episode, he told me to “shhh” when I asked him what he thought about it. “We can’t talk,” he said, not making eye contact, “because we are underwater right now.”
“Did you like watching that?” I asked when the first one was over.
“Yes, I did,” he said. Then, sensing there was an opening for more TV, said: “I just really like to watch it again.” After the next two episodes, he felt the same.
I liked it too. The new Sesame Street is warm and welcoming and the characters and plotlines make the world feel like the kind of place where wonder, rather than success, is the most important thing. It’s also nice to see Abby Cadabby take the lead among what has long been a predominantly male cast of characters; HBO says she’s one of a handful of Muppets who will be regularly featured on the show.
I wasn’t a huge Sesame Street fan as a kid. I remember yearning for more cohesive and elaborate plotlines, and feeling frustrated by having to wait for my favorite characters, Bert and Ernie, to appear onscreen. I watched the show because it seemed to be the thing that children were supposed to do, and because nothing else was on. The one aspect of the show that I remember fondly was its distinct sense of humor. Sesame Street’s long had a knack for dishing humor that manages to emphasize humility without sacrificing anyone’s pride or dignity. When Elmo or Cookie Monster mess up, it is fair game to laugh at their mistakes, but we are never laughing directly at them. The show’s changed a lot over the years, but, thankfully, its lessons in humor and good will persist.
Grand Jury Investigates Planned Parenthood, Indicts Anti-Abortion Activists Instead
After months of investigation, a Houston, Texas grand jury has cleared Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast of wrongdoing—instead indicting the two anti-abortion activists who orchestrated last summer’s undercover videos that purported to show evidence of illegal fetal tissue donation practices.
On Monday, ABC13 reports, the Harris County grand jury indicted the Center for Medical Progress’s David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt for tampering with a governmental record, which is a felony. Daleiden earned a further charge of violating a ban on the purchase and sale of human organs—the exact law he was trying to prove that Planned Parenthood broke.
just sitting here thinking about that planned parenthood indictment outcome pic.twitter.com/4r5IO1gid9— darth™ (@darth) January 25, 2016
Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick initiated the probe in August 2015, commending the Center for Medical Progress’s alleged exposure of “the gruesome and barbaric work of Planned Parenthood and what appears to be its profiteering from selling body parts from aborted babies.” After watching the undercover videos, he asked Harris County district attorney Devon Anderson to launch a criminal investigation against Planned Parenthood.
“We were called upon to investigate allegations of criminal conduct by Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast,” Anderson said in a statement. “As I stated at the outset of this investigation, we must go where the evidence leads us. All the evidence uncovered in the course of this investigation was presented to the grand jury. I respect their decision on this difficult case.”
This is a promising development for Planned Parenthood, which filed a lengthy lawsuit against Daleiden, Merritt, and their cohorts earlier this month, alleging that they secretly filmed Planned Parenthood staff, obtained fake I.D.s and credit cards, registered a fake tissue procurement company, and stole the identity of one of Daleiden’s high school classmates to carry out their sting operations.
"I want to assure everyone in Houston that I will use every resource allocated to this office to conduct a thorough investigation,” Anderson said at the start of the Harris County probe. “Should we find that laws were broken, we will prosecute to the fullest extent of the law." Thanks to the publicity Daleiden and his acolytes have earned, there are a lot of reproductive-rights supporters out there popping popcorn right now, rooting for Anderson to keep her promise.
State by State, More Guns Mean More Killing of Women
A new study from Boston University has found a strong correlation between a state’s rate of gun ownership and its rate of women murdered by people they know. The article, soon to be published in Violence and Gender, stands to combat claims from conservatives that guns make women safer. In fact, relaxing gun laws may have dire implications for domestic violence.
Authors Michael Siegel and Emily Rothman studied firearm ownership rates and how they compared with gun-related homicides of both men and women, committed by both strangers and nonstrangers, from 1981 to 2013. After controlling for age, race, region, poverty, unemployment, education, divorce rate, alcohol use, and a number of other potentially extenuating factors, they found that higher levels of gun ownership corresponded to higher rates of women being killed by people they know, but not by strangers.
Most women killed in the U.S. are killed with guns, and gun-ownership rates are associated with more homicides, more homicides by gun, and in particular more homicides by gun by a nonstranger. “Our study confirms that a greater availability of firearms does not appear to protect women from homicides committed by strangers,” Siegel told me over email. “But it does appear to increase the risk for firearm homicides committed by non-strangers.”
The data suggest that a state’s high gun-ownership rate has greater consequences for the killing of women than the killing of men. When they controlled for all other factors, the study’s authors found that firearm-ownership rates accounted for 41 percent of the difference in states’ rates of femicide, and only 1.5 percent of the difference in rates of firearm-related killings of men. Other factors, such as demographic differences between the states, accounted for the other 59 percent of the femicide discrepancies. “This means that the rate of female non-stranger homicide in a state can be predicted well simply by using the prevalence of firearm ownership in that state,” the authors write.
Researchers have known for years that more guns means more gun-related deaths, especially for women. A 2002 Harvard University study found that states with lots of guns have higher rates of women dying of suicide, homicide, or firearm-related accidents. But Siegel and Rothman’s findings hold particular import for policymakers concerned with domestic violence. Ninety-three percent of women killed by men know the person who killed them, and it’s usually a current or former intimate partner. Just having a gun in the home makes an incidence of domestic violence five times more likely to lead to murder. And although convicted domestic abusers cannot purchase guns, in many cases, they get to keep the ones they already own. There are few data-driven proposals for reducing domestic violence and femicide as straightforward as this one: Get rid of the guns that are killing women.