What Women Really Think

Oct. 1 2014 1:01 PM

Can Activists Save Reyhaneh Jabbari?  

In an unexpected move by Iran’s justice system, the country has allowed for a 10-day delay in the execution of a 26-year-old woman, accused of murdering her alleged rapist seven years ago, who has become a cause for human rights activists and Iranian citizens alike.

In 2009, Reyhaneh Jabbari was sentenced to death for the killing of Morteza Abdolali Sarbandi, a former employee of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence. Human rights groups within Iran and beyond its borders have criticized the handling of the case. Jabbari had no lawyer when she was questioned during a two-month stay in solitary confinement and though she admitted to stabbing Sarbandi in the shoulder in self-defense, she also claimed there was another man in the house with them that day and that he was the one who killed Sarbandi. According to Amnesty International, Jabbari’s version of incident  has never been fully investigated. Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran, has said that Jabbari’s confession for the murder was produced under duress and that she was acting in self-defense. Shaheed has  called for the authorities to review her case and re-try it.

According to an April statement by Shaheed’s office, Sarbandi hired Jabbari, an interior decorator, to redesign his office. Under those pretenses, he took her to “a residence where he physically and sexually forced himself upon her.” The medical examiner’s report found that a glass of juice at the scene contained a tranquilizer. Versions of Jabbari’s story have also made their way online through what Facebook posters allege to be translations of her letters from prison.

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Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

There are many things that get blamed for teen pregnancy, from rap music to kids liking 16 and Pregnant a little too much, but the main cause is not actually that exciting: poor contraception use. Teenagers, even more than adults, need contraception that has little margin for error, but instead they are using condoms, mostly because they're easy to get. Condoms are great, don't get me wrong, but as the sole means for preventing pregnancy, they have a relatively high failure rate compared to other methods, with 18 percent of condom users experiencing an unintended pregnancy in the course of a year.

Enter the IUD, which is a nearly error-proof form of contraception that you insert once and forget about for the next 10 years, giving it a failure rate of .05 percent. Which means that one in 2,000 IUD users will get pregnant in a given year, compared to 18 out of 100 condom users. Which is why the American Academy of Pediatrics released new recommendations this week, advising doctors to prioritize IUDs over other forms of contraception for teenage patients. From the Washington Post:

Sept. 29 2014 9:39 PM

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Last week, a 20-year-old Nova Scotia man pled guilty to one count of manufacturing child pornography. In an agreed statement of facts read in court, the man acknowledged that nearly three years ago, when he was 17, he threw a small, booze-fueled party at his house with three other teenage boys and a 15-year-old girl. That night, he took a photograph of one of those boys, then 16, penetrating the girl from behind. She was naked from the waist down, and was leaning out of a window to vomit onto the ground. The 16-year-old boy was smiling into the camera, holding the girl’s hip with one hand, and giving a thumbs up with the other. The person who took the photo is awaiting sentencing. The boy in the photo is now 19, and is awaiting trial for distributing the image. The girl died last year.

Sept. 29 2014 1:52 PM

Do Not Fear California’s New Affirmative Consent Law

On a classic episode of the sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dennis, the most sociopathic character of the bunch, explained to another character why he wanted to buy a boat. "The whole purpose of buying a boat in the first place is to get the ladies nice and tipsy topside so we can take them to a nice, comfortable place below deck and, you know, they can't refuse. Because of the implication."

When another character protests that this sounds an awful lot like rape, Dennis defends himself: "Because if the girl said no, then obviously the answer is no. But the thing is, she's not going to say no. She would never say no. Because of the implication." He clarifies, "The implication that things might go wrong for her if she refuses to sleep with me." 

Sept. 29 2014 11:38 AM

Sometimes I Say I'm Married, Sometimes I Pretend I'm Not

This article originally appeared in The Cut.

This summer, I went on two very different reporting trips. One was to Austin, Texas, where I mostly hung out with conservative, Christian, stay-at-home PTA moms. Seemingly the only thing I, a 30-year-old lefty feminist from New York City, had in common with these women was the fact that we were married. One casual mention of my husband and they "got" me. In their eyes, I wasn’t slutty or career-obsessed; I was someone with whom they could relate.

A month later, I was shadowing a few strapping freshmen boys at a small liberal arts school in New England. I couldn’t help but be flattered that everyone mistook me for a student. By the third day, I was tapping into my single, collegiate self. So when one of them asked me if I lived with roommates, I said, “no, I live with my … boyfriend.” All of a sudden, I wasn’t old, boring, or spoken-for. I was just like them.

My friend Mercedes calls it the “marital code-switch.” It can happen with newlyweds, who may still feel stuck between two worlds. It can also happen with feminists, who might wrestle with their ambivalence about marriage. There’s much to gain (respect, inclusion, relief from a sleazy asshole’s advances) but also, perhaps, something to lose (sex appeal, mystery, a right to self-definition) by offhandedly evoking a husband. Marriage can be both a giant privilege and, in less tangible ways, a disadvantage. But unlike race or gender, marital status is invisible, and married people can choose to wield it or not depending on the situation.

Sept. 29 2014 9:17 AM

Consensual Sex: There’s an App for That

Last June, Reason’s Robby Soave called for an iPhone app that would clear up pesky he-said, she-said rape cases by recording two parties’ “mutual consent” to engaging in sexual activity before they do the deed: “Maybe they would have to input a password and then touch phones, or something?” he proposed. Last week, his prayers were answered: The Good2Go sexual consent app isn’t as touch-and-go as the app of Soave’s dreams, but it does encourage sex partners to assess their mutual interest in sex and record their intoxication levels before getting busy.

Here’s how it works:

Sept. 26 2014 3:29 PM

In Louisiana, Rape Victims Are Billed Thousands of Dollars for Hospital Exams

In 2005, the Violence Against Women Act was amended to provide free medical forensic exams to sexual assault victims who go to the hospital—whether or not they choose to file a police report. These exams—often known as SANE exams, or rape kits—are essential tools for medical and legal professionals to collect evidence of sexual assault and assess the physical effects of the crime. But throughout Louisiana, as Rebecca Catalanello of NOLA.com and The Times-Picayune reported yesterday, rape victims are still returning from the ER with medical bills totaling in the thousands of dollars. The exorbitant price tag for showing up at the hospital as a rape victim may point to some hospitals’ failure to follow the letter of the law—but it also speaks to the limitations of VAWA itself.

Sept. 26 2014 1:24 PM

Why the Pot-Smoking Gender Gap Matters

Feminist writers are too obsessed with gender gaps, argues Alice Robb in her New Republic piece, "Not Every Gender Gap Needs to Be Closed." "It’s possible that in a totally gender-equal society, every activity—from gardening and crocheting to taxi-driving and construction work—would have an equal number of male and female practitioners," Robb argues. "But combatting each and every gender gap just does not seem productive." Yours truly gets singled out for my attempt at addressing the bike-riding gap by telling women it's more fun and easier to ride a bike than they might think. Other gender gaps that Robb says "don't seem worth our concern" include gaming and pot-smoking.

Robb suggests that all this attention to inconsequential gender gaps is a form of sexism itself, because o one is trying to close the gender gaps with male-dominated activities. She quotes our own Jessica Grose, who says, "No one bemoans the gender gap in female dominated activities," such as "knitting or flower arranging." And Robb tosses in spin as another example, since I noted, in my post, that spin classes are female-dominated. "Yet she sees no problem," Robb adds, wondering if "men feel unwelcome at Soul Cycle."

Okay, no one is asking why men don't arrange flowers more, in part because most of us weren't aware that's a thing that people do. I can't speak for all feminists, but it's certainly not true that I don't care about the lack of men in, say, spin class. I'm not going to arrange a protest over it! But I care because it's one more small sign that we live in a society where anything that gets deemed "girly" automatically becomes off-limits to all but the bravest of men. The relentless fear of emasculation that traps the modern American heterosexual adult male does strike me as a problem.

Sept. 25 2014 3:25 PM

Pennsylvania Republicans Compare a Pro-Choice Democrat to Kermit Gosnell

Republican Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett has fallen 21 points behind his Democratic challenger, Tom Wolf, in the polls. So with a little more than a month left before the gubernatorial election, Republicans are getting desperate:

I have no problem with hard-hitting political ads, as long as they're based in truth. But this flier—which Corbett's campaign says was produced by the state Republican Party and which Pennsylvania radio and TV commentator Michael Smerconish posted to Twitter on Monday—implies that Wolf supports policies that would allow another Kermit Gosnell to flourish. There's no reason to believe that. Gosnell was a doctor who was performing illegal abortions—and actually killing babies—in a filthy Pennsylvania clinic and who managed to go undetected for years because the state regulatory agencies ignored repeated complaints about him. His clinic was eventually raided on a warrant related to his role in distributing illegal drugs, and he was eventually found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and one count of involuntary manslaughter.

Wolf is pro-choice and has spoken out specifically against "backward legislation signed into law by Governor Corbett that restricts a woman’s right to make her own personal health care decisions." Corbett did sign a law requiring abortion clinics to meet the same standards for ambulatory surgical centers, even though there is no medical reason to believe these standards make clinics safer. More importantly, there is no reason to think that Corbett's law had any role to play in preventing future Gosnells from operating. The problem in Pennsylvania wasn't a lack of restrictions on abortion providers; it was that the restrictions that already existed weren't being enforced. And there's no particular reason to lay that problem at the feet of Democrats, as Gosnell was finally arrested in 2010, while Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell was still in office. 

Nor does the Gosnell case actually suggest that abortion clinics need to be subject to a more stringent set of regulations than other clinics doing similar procedures like colonoscopies. Any doctor who runs a clinic as filthy and poorly staffed as Gosnell's should be shut down. Any doctor selling prescription drugs illegally is breaking the law. Oh yeah, and any doctor—and person, actually—who kills babies would be convicted of murder. No extra regulations necessary. The only abortion-specific law of which Gosnell was found guilty was not forcing women to wait 24 hours for an abortion, and it strains all credulity to think that's the law that's going to stop future immoral doctors from running shoddy clinics that prey on poor people.

Gosnell's case demonstrated the need for health regulatory agencies to do their job. Corbett—whose party tends to look more askance on government regulations than Wolf's does—has not made a convincing argument that he'll do a better job than Wolf in enforcing the regulations that already exist. Until then, his supporters look like they're more interested in frightening Pennsylvania women than in actually securing them health care.  

Sept. 25 2014 11:22 AM

Fox Host Reaction to Female Fighter Pilot: “Boobs on the Ground”

Kimberly Guilfoyle of The Five on Fox News rolled out a story on Wednesday about Major Mariam Al Mansouri, the first female fighter pilot for the United Arab Emirates. Mansouri led the UAE strikes against ISIS on Monday and will reportedly be leading future strikes. Guilfoyle was excited about this woman's ascent, though it was unclear if it was for feminist reasons or just because she enjoyed thinking about fundamentalist Muslims enduring the added humiliation of being bombed by a woman. "I wish it was an American pilot," she said, but "I'll take a woman doing this any day to them. I hope that hurt extra bad for you, because in some Arab countries, women can't even drive!" 

Naturally, Guilfoyle's story about a woman doing a thing required her male co-hosts to take one of their patented principled stands against modern feminism. "The problem is, after she bombed it, she couldn't park it," quipped Greg Gutfeld, showing off that edgy humor style from 1955 he has finally mastered. Added Eric Bolling: "Would that be considered boobs on the ground, or no?" Apparently, the idea of any woman in any military hurts extra bad for the men of Fox News, too—as does the sight of a female journalist reporting on it. "Why did they have to ruin my thing?" Guilfoyle asked, burying her face in her hand.

In case you were wondering what kind of people are spending their time trolling YouTube for videos made by women so they can write "BOOBS" in the comments, I think we've found your answer.