What Women Really Think

Jan. 27 2015 5:48 PM

Watch the First Anti-Domestic Violence Super Bowl Commercial

An anti-domestic violence PSA will air during the Super Bowl this Sunday, courtesy of the No More campaign and the National Football League, which donated its internal ad agency to create the spot and, according to the Wall Street Journal, half a minute of air time on NBC, "where ad time costs roughly $4.5 million for 30 seconds." No More is billing it as the first of its kind.

The NFL and No More previously teamed up for a series of PSAs titled "Speechless," which featured footage of current and former players emoting over domestic violence, that aired during NFL games on Thanksgiving; this ad downplays the NFL’s role, instead borrowing its conceit from a tale first published on Reddit last year by a former 911 dispatcher, who recalled taking a call from a woman who had feigned ordering a pizza in order to get police to respond to her home without tipping off her abuser. In October, BuzzFeed tracked down the Reddit poster—his name is Keith Weisinger, and he’s now a lawyer for the EPA—and his story checked out. (One football-related domestic violence legend that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny is the widespread belief that hotline calls spike on Super Bowl Sunday; hotlines tend to experience an uptick in calls near Christmas and during school breaks.)


The ad will reach a lot of viewers with an important message, is actually an interesting spot, and will boost the NFL’s still-dismal image around taking domestic violence seriously. Then again, it's just a Super Bowl commercial—a 30 second reprieve from ads for beer, cars, or the miracle that is Tim Tebow.

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Jan. 26 2015 4:29 PM

What's Stopping New Orleans From Getting a Brand New Planned Parenthood Clinic

New Orleans is in desperate need of a new Planned Parenthood clinic. The current one is housed in a small, converted one-story house that only has two exam rooms and operates at mass capacity. The need for better facilities is great, because Louisiana has some of the highest STI and unintended pregnancy rates in the country. In New Orleans, lasting damage from Hurricane Katrina means that the need for quality, low cost care is particularly high. Planned Parenthood fully intends to step up its game and help meet this demand, hoping to build a 7,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility in New Orleans that will cost $4.2 million. It was supposed to be built by now, actually, offering affordable Pap smears and contraception to thousands of New Orleans residents, but the lot it was meant to be built on remains empty. 

Jill Filipovic of Cosmopolitan investigated the situation to find out why and learned that anti-choice forces have waged war on Planned Parenthood, scaring off anyone in the community that might make this new clinic a reality.

Jan. 26 2015 1:29 PM

How the Great Blizzard of 1888 Killed the Petticoat

In 1888, a blizzard hit New York City with such ferocity that it propelled the city into the 20th century. Telegraph and telephone wires whipped dangerously in the wind, prompting the New York Times to call for an underground power line system. Thirty-foot snow drifts stranded passengers between elevated railroad stations, spurring plans for a subway system. And heavy petticoats made it so difficult for women to traverse the snow that it’s no wonder a sleeker silhouette would soon come into fashion. Via NYC Subway, here’s the New York Sun account of how the city’s women braved the storm on March 13, 1888:

Few of the women who work for their living could get to their work places. Never, perhaps, in the history of petticoats was the imbecility of their designer better illustrated. “To get here I had to take my skirts up and clamber through the snowdrifts," said a wash-woman when she came to the house of the reporter who writes this. She was the only messenger from the world at large that reached that house up to half past 10 o'clock. "With my dress down I could not move half a block."
It was so with thousands of women; the thousand few who did not turn back when they had started out. Thus women were seen to cross in front of THE SUN office and at many of the busiest corners up town. But all the women in the streets assembled together would have made a small showing. They are said to be much averse to staying in, but they stayed in as a rule yesterday. At half past 10 o'clock not a dozen stores on Fulton street in this city, had opened for business. Men were making wild efforts to clean the walks, only to see each shovelful of snow blown back upon them and piled against the doors again.
"Have the girls come?" an employer asked of his partner. "Girls!" said the porter: "I have not seen a woman blow through Fulton street since I've been here.”

Women who did venture into the storm risked being trapped in a prison of skirt and ice. According to the Sun: “A woman attempting to cross Nassau street was obliged to call for help. She said she had lost her strength, and her clothing was so entangled with her limbs that she could not move.” By the 1890s, the feminine ideal of the "Gibson Girl" wore a tighter, narrower skirt, befitting what the Library of Congress calls her "more visible and active role in the public arena than women of preceding generations."

What fashion trend do we hope will die an icy death in this terrible blizzard? I vote pelvage.

Jan. 26 2015 10:27 AM

Study on Women’s Painkiller Use Causes Concern Over Hypothetical Embryos, Not Actual Women

The Centers for Disease Control released a report Thursday showing that opioid painkiller prescription use is really high among women. Analyzing health insurance data claims, researchers found that an average 39 percent of the women on Medicaid and 28 percent of women on private health insurance filled an opioid prescription every year from 2008 to 2012. These numbers raise a lot of important questions: How many of these women have a pill problem? Are doctors prescribing hard drugs too quickly when aspirin would suffice? How much of this opioid use is due to chronic pain? Is opioid overuse more common in women than men?

Unfortunately, the media coverage of this report has focused primarily on the fortunes of hypothetical embryos that might be lurking in the wombs of the women taking these pills. This NBC News headline is a good example: "Pill-Popping Mommas: 'Many' Pregnant Women Take Opioids, CDC Finds." The story comes complete with a photo of a heavily pregnant woman who is smoking, even though the report is not about smoking and focuses on women between the ages of 15 and 44, not pregnant women specifically. Why does coverage of an important women’s health study ignore actual women and their health problems to instead zero in on how women are treating the pregnancies that may not even exist in their bodies? Even the New York Times headline is, “High Rates of Opioid Prescriptions Among Women Raise Birth Defect Fears.”

Jan. 22 2015 12:21 PM

GOP Women Stopped the 20-Week Abortion Bill. That’s Not Standing Up for Reproductive Rights.

Today, on the 42nd anniversary of Roe v Wade, the Republicans have betrayed the movement. As my colleague Betsy Woodruff wrote last night, Republicans in the House just killed the vote on a bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks, even though a similar bill passed with ease last year in the same Republican-controlled body. Instead, they're going to just vote on another bill attacking Obamacare, which would basically end most insurance coverage of abortion.  

So, what happened here? The short answer is that women happened. Specifically, some female Republicans, led by Rep. Renee Ellmers and Rep. Jackie Walorski, who, according to the Washington Post, wanted to soften the 20-week ban bill, misleadingly named the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, because they felt the rape exceptions were too stringent. The bill only allowed rape exceptions for women who had filed a report with the police, despite the fact that the majority of rape victims don't report the crime

We've come a long way from 2003, when President George W. Bush signed a bill banning the safest method of performing late term abortions amidst a group of grinning men and zero women. And while Republican women in the House are still far from embracing abortion rights, their growing influence could actually shift the party away from the worst attacks on women's bodies. Maybe my colleague Jessica Grose was right when she argued against the idea that the midterm elections were "bad for women."

Jan. 21 2015 11:25 AM

Ultra-Orthodox Women in Israel Launch Their Own Political Party

When it comes to Israel’s ultra-Orthodox Jewish women, we tend to hear mostly about the terrible things that happen to them—from having to sit in the back of public busses to being banned from hosting or even calling into radio shows. Last week, the Israeli ultra-Orthodox newspaper HaMevaser created a stir when they Photoshopped German Chancellor Angela Merkel out of a photo of world leaders at the Paris Solidarity march, yet another example of how women are treated, or, more accurately, erased from the conversation in many ultra-Orthodox circles.

Which brings us to the current state of the Israeli Knesset. The two ultra-Orthodox parties—Shas and United Torah Judaism—are, unsurprisingly, exclusively male. In 2012, a small protest group formed under the name, “Lo Nivcharot, Lo Bocharot,” (if we can’t be elected, we won’t vote)—a modern-day version of no taxation without representation. The group, nicknamed LoNiLoBo, petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court to make it illegal for a political party to prevent women from running, but they lost. The following year, a few Haredi women ran for municipal posts (municipal elections operate differently than national ones). They received threats and one woman ended up pulling out as a result, but Shira Gergi won and became the first Haredi woman to sit on a municipal council.

Jan. 21 2015 10:19 AM

Boehner Applauded Equal Pay at Last Year’s State of the Union. Why Not This Year?

Tuesday night’s State of the Union address covered many of the same themes as last year's speech, but President Obama had a little more fire in his belly, and Republicans appeared more hostile to his message. One big change was how congressional Republicans reacted when Obama declared his support for equal pay for women. Last year, Obama mentioned that women make 77 cents on a man's dollar and added, “That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.” The line drew crazy applause from people on both sides of the aisle, and John Boehner made sure to appear on camera standing and applauding the sentiment. 

Obama used a nearly identical line this year: “That’s why this Congress still needs to pass a law that makes sure a woman is paid the same as a man for doing the same work. Really. It’s 2015. It’s time.” This time, however, Republican butts, including Speaker Boehner's, largely stayed planted to their chairs. There were even some shenanigans as Democrats tried to shame them for it. 


What changed? The 2014 speech mentioned equal pay as more of an abstract principle, whereas this year's speech detailed specific steps Congress ought to take to support it. Republicans have a history of claiming to support the idea of equal pay while shutting down every attempt to turn that ideal into a reality through legislative effort. They're fine with applauding the idea that women “deserve” equal pay but balk when called upon to put their supposed support into action. 

But the Republican messaging on the issue is also shifting. Last year, desperate to shut down the “war on women” narrative, Republicans used the State of the Union response by Cathy McMorris Rodgers to suggest that the party supports working mothers. But doing a little rah-rah-for-moms thing is a lot harder to pull off when the president is laying out concrete policy ideas that women actually need, such as equal pay protections and federally subsidized child care. So while the Republicans once again put a women out front for their State of the Union response speech, their pick this year, Joni Ernst, spent most of her time celebrating the character-building aspects of belt-tightening and largely ignoring overt mentions of gender. 

Certainly, the contrast between the two parties is much clearer this year than last. The president talks about how people, particularly women, need to be paid more and receive more benefits for their work, while Ernst waxes nostalgic about having only one pair of shoes and a family that had “very little to call their own except the sweat on their brow and the dirt on their hands.” Both sides emphasize the value of hard work, but as Obama continues to push the line that people need to get more for that work, expect that Republicans will counter by suggesting that the real reason people are in need is not because of lack of equal pay or child care, but because they aren’t working quite hard enough. 

Jan. 20 2015 10:10 PM

Obama Declares Child Care “a Must Have”

In his 2015 State of the Union address, President Obama told the story of Rebekah and Ben Erler of Minneapolis, your typical middle-class American family with two kids. Rebekah was a waitress when their first child was born; Ben worked construction. When the recession hit, Rebekah went back to school so she could get a better job. They’re both working hard, but they’re struggling to get by, because, as President Obama pointed out, their child care costs more than their mortgage—a fact that’s true for Americans in 20 states and Washington, D.C.

President Obama used Rebekah and Ben as a jumping-off point to make a full-throated endorsement of high quality, affordable child care. “It’s not a nice-to-have — it’s a must-have,” Obama said of child care. “It’s time we stop treating child care as a side issue, or a women’s issue, and treat it like the national economic priority that it is for all of us.”


This is an extremely important rhetorical shift—the move from child care as a mushy, emotional, frivolous extra, to a serious imperative. And it’s a real leap from Obama’s 2013 and 2014 addresses, where he mentioned the need for universal pre-K, but barely discussed child care.

He went even further in emphasizing his support for working moms and dads by talking about paid parental leave and sick leave, too. “Today, we’re the only advanced country on Earth that doesn’t guarantee paid sick leave or paid maternity leave to our workers,” Obama said. “Forty-three million workers have no paid sick leave. Forty-three million. Think about that. And that forces too many parents to make the gut-wrenching choice between a paycheck and a sick kid at home. So I’ll be taking new action to help states adopt paid leave laws of their own.”

We knew some of this was coming, but still: It’s exciting to hear Obama use this moment to make a plea for these things. So how much of it can actually get done? Obama got into some specifics when it comes to child care, saying he will create “more slots” and give middle-class and low-income families a tax cut of up to $3,000 per child, per year. I have some hope that the latter might come to fruition and actually be helpful. The former is going to take a lot more work, considering that as of 2012, there were only enough slots for 4 percent of eligible children in the Federal Early Head Start program, which serves children under age 3.

Unfortunately, although he said he’s outraged that America is one of the only countries that doesn’t have it, the president mentioned no specifics about making paid parental leave happen. As for paid sick leave, Obama asked Congress, “Send me a bill that gives every worker in America the opportunity to earn seven days of paid sick leave. It’s the right thing to do.” I will eat my hat if that happens at any point during Obama’s last two years in office.

But enough griping. Words do matter. I’m glad Obama made the issues of working parents a focus of this speech. Because if we’re ever going to make progress on these issues, they need to be brought front and center over and over and over again.

Jan. 20 2015 1:44 PM

What Happens When Kids Eat Pizza

Your kids are eating too much pizza. That's the conclusion of a paper published in Pediatrics this month looking at how much pizza consumption contributes to overeating in children and teenagers. While overall pizza consumption is down among kids in the past decade, researchers found that when kids eat pizza, they eat too much in general.

Children in this study, which tracked subjects ages 2 to 19 using Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, netted 84 extra calories on days they ate pizza, and teenagers netted 230 extra calories over kids who did not eat pizza on that day. "Pizza consumption as a snack or from fast-food restaurants had the greatest adverse impact," researchers write. One of the co-authors of the study, Lisa Powell, director of the Illinois Prevention Research Center and professor of health policy and administration at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told ThinkProgress that she and the other researchers focused on pizza because "it’s such a prevalent item in children’s diets." 


"This is not saying don’t eat pizza," she explained, but instead emphasized that there are healthier ways to eat pizza—homemade instead of Pizza Hut, for instance—and that parents could make "small changes" to improve their kids' diet. “These observations emphasize that pizza, like sugary drinks, may be a significant contributor to excess caloric intake and obesity, and should become a target for counseling for the prevention and treatment of obesity in pediatric practice,” the study authors write. 

As NPR reported last week, there's a growing understanding in the medical research community that it's difficult, if not impossible, to accurately measure exactly how many calories people are eating during the course of a day. People don't remember what they ate, or they downplay how much. It's easy to see how, if adults struggle to monitor their own caloric intake, it's even harder to do so for kids, especially once they go to school and start making their own food choices. But while counting calories is nearly impossible for most people, the researchers on this paper hope that focusing on specific goals like reducing the amount of pizza you eat or cutting back on sugary drinks could be a better approach. You don't need to know exactly how many calories is in a slice of pizza to know that your kid probably shouldn't have a third slice. 

Jan. 20 2015 1:09 PM

The Pope Tells Catholics Not to Breed “Like Rabbits” but Refuses to Endorse Contraception

This past weekend, during a small press conference on a jet back to Rome from his visit to the Philippines, Pope Francis criticized the tradition—usually encouraged by the Vatican—of Catholic couples having large broods. "Some think that—excuse the word—that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits," the National Catholic Reporter quotes the pope as saying. "No."

Pope Francis illustrated his point by telling the story of a woman he met in Rome who was pregnant with her eighth child, despite the fact that all her previous births had been by Cesarean section. "Does she want to leave the seven orphans?" he asked, declaring the choice to have so many children in a row "an irresponsibility" and calling on Catholic ministry to teach "responsible parenthood."

Don't get too excited. The pope did not just endorse contraception, even though he was returning from a country where Catholic priests' efforts to curb reproductive rights have contributed to overpopulation. Instead, the pope argued that there are ways to avoid both contraception and excessive childbearing. "I know so many, many licit ways that have helped this," he told reporters. "God gives you methods to be responsible."