What Women Really Think

April 23 2014 3:17 PM

Tips for Finding a Great Mentor: Be White and Be Male

According to Katty Kay and Claire Shipman’s new book, The Confidence Code, the latest scourge for gender equality is women’s crippling lack of self-assurance. Pushback to the book has centered on the idea that female insecurity is a perceptive response to a society that undervalues half its members. Start paying us comparably, punishing sexual harassment, and including our voices in your conferences, and maybe the sparkle will return to our eye.

Now those keeping track of the forces that shape women’s meekness have another data point for their files. In a study released Tuesday, researchers found that professors are less likely to mentor female and minority students. The Wharton School’s Katherine Milkman, together with Modupe Akinola of Columbia Business School and Dolly Chugh of NYU, sent mock emails to more than 6,500 professors at 259 top U.S. universities. The messages were crafted to look like prospective doctoral students had written them—they expressed interest in the professors’ work and asked for a ten-minute meeting to discuss research opportunities. Pretty standard, except for the names at the bottom of the emails: Brad Anderson, Meredith Roberts, Lamar Washington, LaToya Brown, Juanita Martinez, Deepak Patel, Sonali Desai, Chang Wong, Mei Chen. Milkman and team were trying to suss out whether signatures that conjured up one particular background or gender would do a better job of coaxing out teachers’ inner mentor. And, yes, one combo did inspire special generosity in academics: white plus guy.

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Professors “ignored requests from women and minorities at a higher rate than requests from White males,” the researchers write, especially “in private schools and higher-paying disciplines.” The disparities were largest in the natural sciences and business, where, as Milkman told NPR, "we see a 25-percentage-point gap in the response rate to Caucasian males versus women and minorities." She added that she could only speculate as to why more lucrative fields were more likely to resist newcomers to the establishment, but perhaps it had to do with money’s coarsening effects on empathy. (“If you’re very wealthy,” noted NPR correspondent Shankar Vedantam in the same segment, “it’s harder to notice the perspectives of people who don’t have very much.”)

While the gender gap in the hard sciences and in business is noteworthy, we can’t attribute all the favoritism these researchers uncovered to the fact that many of the spammed faculty were themselves white men. The study also examined whether diversity in the halls of academic influence made a difference—and found, shockingly, that it did not. Not only did female and minority professors also respond most effusively to white guys, but “there’s absolutely no benefit seen when women reach out to female faculty, nor do we see benefits from black students reaching out to black faculty or Hispanic students reaching out to Hispanic faculty,” Milkman says. The dynamic at play is more complicated than in-group preference; it could reflect professors’ unconscious desires to “back a winner” or just speak to how society continues to turn up the volume on white men’s requests.

So how to get minority voices to register as more than ambient noise? Bringing more women, blacks, and Hispanics into business and the natural sciences would certainly change perceptions about what a “winner” looks like. But that takes time as well as awareness, and meanwhile the informal modes of discrimination pinpointed here seem tough to overcome. Katty Kay and Claire Shipman would probably advise hopeful students to keep pounding the pavement, if only because studies show that fruitful mentorship “is vital to career success and satisfaction.” Yet maybe it’s also comforting to think that the best faculty-student relationships don’t usually blossom out of vague emails from the sky. Milkman’s messages offered few details about why the “writers” wanted to work with the professors. But in the real world, a prospective mentee’s demonstrated interest in the research, her connections to the field, and the specific qualifications she brings to the table all probably (I hope!) outweigh whatever bias attaches to her gender or ethnicity. Still, starry-eyed students might want to start signing their introductory emails “Brad Anderson” just in case.

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April 23 2014 2:56 PM

Confirmed: The Contraception Mandate Is Very Popular

Despite the barrage of negative press from the conservative media, the requirement that health insurance plans cover contraception is popular with the public. That's according to a new poll published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, which found that 69 percent of Americans believe that contraception coverage should be a standard part of all health care plans. This was lower than the number of Americans who think that vaccines and mammograms should be covered (Eighty-five and 84 percent respectively), but overall, the conservative press has not managed to bamboozle the public into thinking contraception isn't real medical care because it's related to sex.

Women and people of color tended to register more support for the contraception mandate: 77 percent of women are pro-mandate, while only 64 percent of men are. Of the people who supported vaccination coverage but not contraception coverage, the report drily notes that they "included a higher proportion of persons unlikely to use" birth control coverage, a group that presumably includes not just men but women who currently aren’t using birth control.

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Since your direct need for contraception tends to correlate strongly with your support for the contraception mandate, it seems that one thing reproductive rights activists could do is talk up the way that contraception benefits everyone, and not just the women who have the immediate need for it. It's alarming, for instance, that fewer men than women support standardized contraception coverage. These men may think that birth control is a "women's" issue, but most of them benefit, or have benefitted in the past from being able to have sex without getting anyone pregnant. Even if you are one of the very few Americans who never has the desire or opportunity for some recreational sex, you too benefit when women are able to plan for their pregnancies better. Unintended pregnancy costs American taxpayers $11 billion a year, meaning that covering contraception in health care saves everyone money. If people can't be convinced to support the mandate because it's the right thing to do, maybe they'll be persuaded by self-interest. 

Unsurprisingly, women and people of color tended to register more support for the contraception mandate, with 77 percent of women and only 64 percent of men supporting it. Of the people who supported vaccination coverage but not contraception coverage, the report drily notes that they "included a higher proportion of persons unlikely to use" birth control coverage. 

Since your direct need for contraception use tends to correlate strongly with your support for the contraception mandate, it seems that one thing reproductive rights activists could do is talk up the way that contraception benefits everyone, and not just the women who have immediate need for it. It's alarming, for instance, that fewer men than women support standardized contraception coverage. These men may think that it's a "women's" issue, but most of them benefit, or have benefitted in the past from being able to have sex without getting anyone pregnant. Even if you are one of the very few Americans who never has desire or opportunity for some recreational sex, you too benefit when women are able to plan for their pregnancies better. Unintended pregnancy costs American taxpayers $11 billion a year, meaning that covering contraception in health care saves everyone money. If people can't be convinced to support the mandate because it's the right thing to do, maybe they'll be persuaded by self interest. 

April 23 2014 12:45 PM

Justice Scalia Should Recuse Himself From the Abortion Clinic Buffer Zone Case

Should Justice Scalia recuse himself from voting on McCullen v Coakley, the Supreme Court case regarding a Massachusetts law that provides abortion clinic workers and patients a 35-foot buffer zone around clinics? Lauren Rankin of Salon argues yes, on the grounds that Scalia's wife, Maureen Scalia, worked—and may still be working—for an organization that has a direct interest in the outcome of the case.

Justice Scalia’s wife, Maureen Scalia, is a “Pro-Life Advocate” who, until last Monday afternoon, was listed on its website as a board member of the Nurturing Network, a crisis pregnancy organization. In an email to Salon, Ann Granger, director of communication for the Nurturing Network, stated that Maureen Scalia is a past board member of TNN, but no longer on its board. Granger also stated that she would let the webmaster know to update this information. Soon after, Maureen Scalia vanished from TNN’s current Board of Directors page (though this cache of the page on April 7, 2014, shows her listed on the website). Her TNN profile page is still live, as well.

Rankin also notes that, prior to being updated earlier this week, the Nurturing Network’s website lists Maureen Scalia as a “Crisis Pregnancy Counselor” at Hope, a crisis pregnancy center in Northern Virginia. (Hope would not confirm or deny Scalia’s current involvement.)

April 23 2014 11:05 AM

Most of What You Think You Know About Sex Trafficking Isn’t True

When Dr. Anthony Marcus, chair of the anthropology department at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, kicked off a massive study of underage sex work in America in 2008, finding interview subjects was easy. Marcus and his team of researchers met minors working as prostitutes in New York City, then gave each of them three coupons they could redeem for $10 if they brought back more teens for interviews. Soon, their network grew large enough that they had reached their goal of interviewing 300 minors working in the city, the largest data set of its kind. But as soon as they moved the operation to Atlantic City—a much smaller venue, but one that they’d heard had an “epidemic” of commercial sexual exploitation of children—the coupon system fizzled out. Underage sex workers in Atlantic City were almost impossible to find.

Unable to find their subjects, the researchers reached out to members of the city’s anti-trafficking taskforce—including local social workers, law enforcement officials, and religious leaders—for leads. At night, they sat on cinder blocks on the boardwalk with cartons of cigarettes, handing out coupons and sharing smokes with street hustlers and drug dealers. One researcher moved into Atlantic City’s boarding houses to get closer to the market. But when they could only locate a handful of minors to interview, members of the anti-trafficking tax force advised Marcus and his team that the underage sex market was “hidden” in the city. “Researchers like you will never gain their trust,” one member told them. “They all hide under the boardwalk and none of the girls will be brave enough to talk to you. If they do, their pimps will cut their faces and it will be your fault.” An FBI agent admonished the researchers that they were “too academic to do this study” and needed to talk in “police television slang” in order to win their trust.

April 22 2014 4:45 PM

Why Aren't Italian Women Having Babies?  

The Wall Street Journal reports today that more women in Italy are foregoing children. This isn’t a problem on the individual level, but on a societal level, it’s dicey. By 2050, the statistical institute Istat projects that there will be 263 elders for every 100 young people, which means retirees are in big trouble. WSJ writer Manuela Mesco suggests a number of reasons why women are not having children: they’re spending more time getting educated, there aren’t enough jobs to go around, there’s a lack of day care options, and they are living with their parents well into adulthood.

But another big problem is Italian men and the country’s retrograde attitudes towards motherhood. Per Mesco:

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Italian women often find it daunting to balance work against the traditionally demanding expectations for mothers in Italy. Surveys consistently find that Italian men help less at home than their counterparts in other countries do, and that Italian mothers are painstaking in their approach to child care, to the point of hand-washing and ironing baby clothes

There is an association, and not just in Italy, between men’s egalitarian attitudes (or lack thereof) and fertility. A study published in the academic journal Demographic Research in 2008 showed that across eight European countries including Italy, men with more egalitarian attitudes about gender roles had more children.

The study’s authors measured egalitarian attitudes by asking men to agree or disagree with statements like, “It is not good if the man stays at home and cares for the children and the woman goes out to work.” The ones who strongly disagreed with statements like that not only desired more children, but also were more likely to realize those plans by their late 30s and early 40s than men with traditional views about gender roles.  

Another study, also from the journal Demographic Research but just about Italy, showed that working women who already had one kid and were doing the majority of second shift work in their households (i.e. the cooking, cleaning, the ironing of baby clothes) did not want more kids.

All of this is to say that perhaps hand wringing articles about declining fertility rates and women waiting too long to have children should no longer be directed at women. They should be directed at men who shirk the second shift and whose gender attitudes are stuck in the past. We don’t want to have too many kids with you guys.

April 22 2014 3:46 PM

What We Know So Far About the Hollywood Sex Ring Allegations

More names are surfacing in connection to the alleged Hollywood sex ring outlined in a lawsuit by plaintiff Michael Egan III, a 31-year-old actor from Nevada. Those names: Garth Ancier, a network exec who’s worked at Fox, the WB, and NBC; David Neuman, former president of DisneyTV, now part of the Digital Entertainment Network; and Gary Goddard, founder of a firm that designs resorts and movie-related theme park rides, and erstwhile writer for TV shows like Skeleton Warriors, Captain Powers, and Masters of the Universe.

In three separate complaints, Egan accuses these men of “intentional infliction of emotional distress, battery, assault, and invasion of privacy.” Ancier is charged with offering the aspiring actor, then in his teens, wine spiked with drugs before anally raping him. Goddard is claimed to have drugged, groped and sodomized Egan. The case against Neuman also alleges sexual assault and rape. More broadly, the three show biz titans are accused of participating in “pedophile rings” that groomed young boys for sexual consumption in the late 1990s. Allegedly, they promised the teens a leg up in the acting world and at times physically and psychologically intimidated them in order to get sex.

These allegations come on the heels of a complaint Egan filed earlier in April against X-Men director Bryan Singer. Singer stands accused of luring the plaintiff to private gatherings at the M & C Estate in Encino and the Paul Mitchell Estate in Hawaii; there, he allegedly plied the then 17-year-old Egan with cocaine, alcohol, weed, and professional enticements, such as modeling gigs, commercial appearances, and the chance to act in an X-Men movie. The suit says that Singer was one of several powerful Hollywood men who preyed on fresh-faced kids with dreams of making it big. Also accused of frequenting the parties were Marc Rector-Collins, former chairman of the Digital Entertainment Network (where Neuman works), and Chad Shackley, a DEN cofounder. (Rector-Collins, a registered sex offender in Florida, pled guilty in 2004 to charges of transporting minors across state lines to have sex.) Egan and other underage actors were added to the DEN payroll, receiving $1500 a week for “legitimate work” and $600 a week for more nebulous services, the suit claims. A few of the ghastlier allegations:

April 22 2014 1:23 PM

The Autistic Boy at the Center of the Maryland Bullying Case Is More Than a Victim

The Washington Post published more details about what’s emerging as one of the more heartbreaking bullying stories in recent years. A teenage boy identified as Michael and described as autistic started writing love letters to a pretty girl at his Southern Maryland high school. They became friends and started hanging out with the girl’s older friend, 17-year-old Lauren Bush, who was a cheerleader. On days when their parents weren’t around—mostly snow days—the girls began to toy with Michael. Bush put a knife to his throat and scared him, kicked him in the groin, dragged him by his hair, and tried to get him to have sex with the family dog. His younger “girlfriend” took video of the incidents on her cellphone. Once they got Michael to walk on a half-frozen pond. He fell through the ice, and they didn’t help him. Then, Sunday’s Post story revealed they didn’t let him ride in the warm car because he’d get the seats wet.* Instead, they made him ride in the trunk.

April 22 2014 1:18 PM

Women Are Dying From Unsafe Abortions While American NGOs Do Nothing

Preventing injury and death from pregnancy-related complications is the big thing in world development circles these days, for a couple of reasons. One reason is that a lot of these problems are simple to prevent with inexpensive interventions during childbirth, like childbirth kits and prenatal care. But another reason is that the image of smiling mothers cradling babies is a fundraising behemoth, a surefire way to get rich do-gooders to open their wallets. All of which would be great, except, as Jill Filipovic reports for Al Jazeera America, it means that the issue of safe abortion access is being ignored, even though unsafe abortion is one of the three leading causes of maternal mortality around the world.

The importance of safe abortion access in preventing unnecessary injuries and deaths isn’t particularly controversial in the reality-based world, as Filipovic explains:

April 22 2014 9:59 AM

How to Get Revenge on Online Dating Creeps: Draw Them Naked

This post contains drawings that may be NSFW.

When Anna Gensler downloaded Tinder six months ago, the mobile dating app quickly matched her with a selection of her city’s most eligible bachelors. Then, they started texting. “Bet your tight,” Andrew, 19, messaged right off the bat. “If I was a watermelon, would you spit or swallow my seeds,” 20-year-old Kenny wanted to know in his first text. “8==D I love anal,” contributed Mark, 26, by way of introduction. 

Gensler, an artist, was not charmed by their opening lines. In retaliation, she began drawing nude portraits of these online creeps, posting the results to Instagram next to their offensive messages, and then sending the final product back to the perpetrators for review. I talked to Gensler, 23, about the process of turning harassment into art, the psychology behind pickup lines like “your boobs are even nicer than my mom’s,” and why all the men in her portraits are so poorly endowed.

April 21 2014 4:29 PM

Kim Novak Fights Back, Sort Of

Kim Novak has taken to Facebook to protest the mockery fusillade she endured for daring to drag her 81-year-old self onstage at the Oscars. She writes:

Years ago, I walked away from Hollywood partially because I didn’t stand up to the bullies. I caved in to the pressure instead of fighting for what I felt was right … and I didn’t have the courage to prove myself to my peers through my work.
After my appearance on the Oscars this year, I read all the jabs. I know what Donald Trump and others said, and I’m not going to deny that I had fat injections in my face. They seemed far less invasive than a face-lift. It was done in 2012 for the TCM interview special. In my opinion, a person has a right to look as good as they can, and I feel better when I look better.
When I was honored at the Cannes Film Festival last year, I received an overwhelming standing ovation. Yet, in Hollywood, after the Oscars, I was bullied by the press and the public on the Internet and TV. The only difference that night was that I had taken a pill to relax — that I shouldn’t have taken. I had been fasting for three days and it affected my behavior. I regret taking it.
However, I will no longer hold myself back from speaking out against bullies. We can’t let people get away with affecting our lives. We need to stand up to them in a healthy way by speaking out, working out and acting out. I am speaking out now because I don’t want to harbor unhealthy feelings inside me anymore.

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