What Women Really Think

Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM

Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause

“What is more offensive? A little girl saying ‘fuck’ or the fucking unequal and sexist way society treats girls and women?” That is the premise of a new ad for progressive apparel company FCKH8, which recruited a group of little girls, dressed them in frilly princess costumes and plastic tiaras, and instructed them to swear like sailors to promote feminist causes. (Also: to sell T-shirts.) “What the fuck? I’m not some pretty fucking helpless princess in distress!” one shrieks. “Here’s a hot tip!” another yells. “Stop telling girls how to dress, and start teaching boys not to fucking rape.” Later, a special co-star joins in: A boy, also dressed like a princess, screaming, “Bro, when you tell a boy it’s bad to act ‘like a girl,’ it’s because you think it’s bad to be a girl.” As one of his fellow little princesses says: “Fuck that sexist shit.”  

As BuzzFeed notes, ad producer Mike Kon has “defended” the ad, writing: “Some adults may be uncomfortable with how these little girls are using a bad word for a good cause. It is shocking what they are saying, but the real shock is that women are still paid less than men for the same work in 2014, not the use of the F-word.” Eh. Videos of kids cursing are YouTube staples that are mostly passed around for the adorable factor, not shock value. The ad works because it’s fun to watch girls and boys shatter precious princess tropes and refreshing to see little kids straightforwardly announce the necessity of feminism at a time when grown men and women are still tip-toeing around the word. Plus, it's hard to criticize cute little kids, even when the statistics they spit out about the pay gap and the rates of sexual assault are a little fuzzy, and mining political causes to sell T-shirts is a little crass. Well-played, adults.  

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Oct. 23 2014 8:51 AM

The Male-Dominated Culture of Business in Tech Is Not Great for Women

A few weeks ago, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella put his foot in it at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women and Computing. He said women shouldn’t ask for raises because, “It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise.” A new report out today from Catalyst shows that the system isn’t working out so great, at least for women who are on the business side of tech companies.

Catalyst surveyed nearly 6,000 MBA grads working in business roles in tech companies in the U.S. and Canada. Women with MBAs are six percent less likely to take their first post-MBA job in the tech industry, compared to men. Of those who do enter tech, women MBAs are hobbled by their gender: They are significantly more likely to start off at an entry-level job than their male counterparts (55 percent of women start off entry-level, compared with 39 percent of men), and because they’re starting at a lower level, they earn less money. (The Wall Street Journal has a good accounting of how these salary differentials can have huge impacts over time.)

It’s not just the pay gap that’s an issue for women. I talked to two women who work on the business side of tech companies, and their experiences jibe completely with Catalyst’s research.

Oct. 22 2014 4:27 PM

Three Ways Your Text Messages Change After You Get Married

This article originally appeared in Science of Us.

When you’re in a new relationship, you waste endless words telling your partner how much you looove him or her. After you’re married, the conversations shift to the things that really matter. Things like dinner. 

That’s what one data scientist discovered about her own relationship, anyway. For a recent anniversary, Alice Zhao analyzed all the texts she and her husband had ever sent each other, from the first flirty days of dating to their current status as newlyweds. Here’s her interpretation of how her relationship changed, judging strictly from the ever-so-romantic world of text-message logs:

Oct. 22 2014 1:19 PM

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Abstinence-only sex education has fallen out of favor in recent years, after repeated studies show it not only doesn't convince kids to abstain but that it is likely to discourage kids from using contraception when they do have sex. But while it's good to shift toward a more realistic sex ed approach that accepts that most people will start having sex in their late teens, we still have to educate younger teenagers, particularly middle schoolers, who should delay having sex for a few more years at least. Does an abstain-for-now message work better on young teens than the abstain-until-marriage message did? New research from the the Wellesley Centers for Women shows that yes, a comprehensive sex education program that includes messaging about abstaining for now produces impressive results.

Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM

On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.

This summer, the Pew Research Center surveyed 2,849 web users about their experiences with online harassment—anything from being “called offensive names” to being physically threatened or stalked. In a report released today, Pew found that 44 percent of men and 37 percent of women who use the internet reported experiencing harassment there. Men “are somewhat more likely than women to experience certain less severe forms of harassment like name-calling and being embarrassed,” Pew found, but they’re also more likely to receive physical threats—I’d call that “severe.” Meanwhile, “women are significantly more likely than men to report being stalked or sexually harassed on the internet.” And women aged 18 to 24 are at a heightened risk of receiving harassment of every kind: They are “uniquely likely to experience stalking and sexual harassment, while also not escaping the high rates of other types of harassment common to young people in general,” like physical threats.

At a glance, Pew’s findings conform to the gender split in crime victimization in general: Men are more likely to be murdered or violently assaulted by strangers, while women are more likely to be abused by their partners, stalked, or sexually assaulted, and young women in particular are targeted for gendered forms of violence. But while offline crime victimization surveys deal in precise definitions—even if they don't always define crimes the same way—“online harassment” remains an amorphous category. Pew did not define terms like “offensive names,” “physically threatened,” “stalked,” “sexually harassed,” “harassed for a sustained period,” or “purposefully embarrass” in its interviews. (What’s the difference between being stalked and “harassed for a sustained period?”) The survey questions were often devoid of context: Eighteen percent of users said they believed online dating sites to be more “welcoming to women” than men, but were they referring to the likelihood of women actually getting a response on these sites (high) and not considering the probability of women getting harassed in the process (also high)? It's impossible to know. Meanwhile, while men were much more likely than women to report being harassed on gaming sites, 44 percent of users agreed that online gaming was more welcoming to men than women. Because half of harassed users said they didn't know the identity of the person harassing them, the gender breakdown of online harassers remains unclear.

Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

When Jerry Maguire hit theaters in December of 1996, 27-year-old Renée Zellweger was tagged as Hollywood’s new “It Girl.” By January, Toronto Star lifestyle reporter Judy Gerstel was praising the actress’s staying power: “In a business that regards lovely young things as a raw, renewable resource—witness Alicia Silverstone and Liv Tyler of recent memory—Zellweger is here to stay.” But by March, Gerstel had replaced Zellweger with another young blonde: Hope Davis, she wrote, was “This year's Renée Zellweger.” Wasn’t Renée Zellweger supposed to be that year’s Renée Zellweger? “It Girl” is both a welcome and a warning shot.

Actresses who receive the label are said to possess an ineffable quality that defies the vocabulary of even the most competent critics. Gerstel pegged Zellweger as a “beguiling concoction of wholesomeness, ingenuousness, vulnerability and sensuality.” And in her review of Jerry Maguire, New York Times critic Janet Maslin praised Zellweger’s “open, eager, unconventionally pretty face,” and noted that her “fetching ordinariness” was somehow “quite extraordinary.” The word these writers were searching for was “young.”

Oct. 21 2014 1:12 PM

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Right of Free Speech

In 2010, Scott Roeder was sentenced to 50 years in prison for the 2009 murder of Kansas abortion provider George Tiller. But that doesn't mean he's given up his hobby of threatening abortion providers. Roeder is now in a court battle with the Kansas Department of Corrections, arguing that they violated his freedom of speech rights when they disciplined him for making threats against Julie Burkhart, the woman who reopened an abortion clinic in the Wichita location where Tiller's clinic used to be. Roeder got "45 days in disciplinary segregation with no outside communication," reports the Topeka Capital-Journal, for comments he made during a phone call with David Leach of the radical anti-choice group Army of God. 

Leach posted a recording of the phone interview on YouTube in 2013, which RH Reality Check reported on at the time. Here's Roeder:

It is a little bit death-defying for someone to walk back in there... and reopen a murder mill where a man was stopped. It’s almost like putting a target on your back, saying, “Well, let’s see if you can shoot ME!" I have to go back to what Pastor Mike Bray said: If 100 abortionists were shot, they would probably go out of business. I think eight have been shot, so we’ve got 92 to go. Maybe she’ll be number nine. I don’t know, but she’s kind of painting a target on her.

Earlier in the call, Leach said that reopening an abortion clinic is "not the act of someone who values their own safety," to which Roeder eagerly agreed.

Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM

I Am 25. I Don’t Work at Facebook. My Doctors Want Me to Freeze My Eggs.

The day Apple joined Facebook in deciding to pay for its female employees to freeze their eggs, I joined a hundred or so fashionably dressed women—most in their 30s and 40s—at the Harvard Club in New York City to hear doctors discuss this game-changing technology over cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. This was the second egg freezing party I had attended over the past two months. I wore my reading glasses so that I’d look older and not attract as many stares as I did at the last event, the ones that said, You and your young eggs don’t belong here. I am 25, a decade younger than most of the women seriously considering freezing their eggs. But they are not the ones for whom this technology was developed. I am.

In 2001, when I was 12, doctors removed my right ovary and fallopian tube in an emergency surgery. A benign cyst had caused a torsion that cut off blood supply—when I got to the emergency room, my ovary was dead on arrival. Eight years later, when I was 20, a cyst burst on my left ovary. This time, I was luckier: The doctors were able to save my remaining ovary in surgery. They said I could probably still have children later in life, but recommended I consider freezing my eggs. “Who knows what your ovary will do next,” they said.

Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM

Women Are Still Losing Jobs for Getting Pregnant

It's been one year since New York City passed the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which is supposed to prevent employers from pushing pregnant women out of their jobs by making physical demands that the women cannot handle. While some women have been helped by the new law, Rachel Swarns of the New York Times found that enforcement leaves much to be desired.

Swarns interviewed one woman, Angelica Valencia, who lost her job at the Fierman Produce Exchange due to her high risk pregnancy. The new law requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodation" of a pregnant worker's temporary health care needs, but when Valencia tried to get such an accommodation—asking to not work overtime at the request of her doctor—she was met with significant resistance.

But when Ms. Valencia told her supervisors in July that she had a high-risk pregnancy, they told her she could work only without restrictions, she said. After taking time off to try to negotiate an accommodation with the company, she returned when her co-workers volunteered to handle the heavy machinery and lifting.
In August, she said, her supervisors insisted that she work overtime. Ms. Valencia felt so ill after two lengthy shifts that she went to the hospital and then to her doctor, who gave her the letter that she handed to her boss.

Oct. 17 2014 4:23 PM

A Former FBI Agent On Why It’s So Hard to Prosecute Gamergate Trolls

For months, a slice of the gaming subculture has waged a campaign of online harassment against prominent women in the videogame industry, including game developers Zoe Quinn and Brianna Wu and feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian. The reasoning behind the targeting of these women is too batshit to unspool here—if you’re interested in falling down the rabbit hole, Deadspin has a decent primer on “Gamergate”—but what’s clear is that some people just don’t like seeing women play, design, and discuss video games, and seek to punish them with “virtual” violence.

Quinn has previously detailed how her online critics have spread revenge porn, harassed her family, and released her personal information in an attempt to terrify and silence her. Last Saturday, Wu fled her home after an online stalker posted her address and threatened to rape and kill her in a series of gruesome tweets. And this week, administrators at Utah State University received an anonymous email threatening to carry out “the deadliest school shooting in American history” if they went through with a planned campus event featuring Sarkeesian; she cancelled the talk over Utah’s gun laws, which prevent the school from banning concealed firearms at the event.

So far, the anonymous perpetrators of these threats have yet to be unmasked. How hard is it, really, for law enforcement to catch them? I called Tim Ryan, a former FBI supervisory special agent who led investigations into cybercrimes ranging from the distribution of child pornography to corporate espionage, to find out.