TIME motherhood

Egyptian Woman Who Lived as a Man to Find Work Honored with Motherhood Award

Sisa Abu Daooh, a woman who passed for a man for decades while working as a shoeshine, in Luxor, Egypt, on March 25, 2015.
Bryan Denton–The New York Times/Redux Sisa Abu Daooh, a woman who passed for a man for decades while working as a shoeshine, in Luxor, Egypt, on March 25, 2015.

Sisa Abu Daooh dressed as a man for 42 years

An Egyptian woman who was forced to live as a man in order to support her daughter was recently awarded the country’s highest award for motherhood.

Sisa Abu Daooh has been dressing as a man for 42 years in order to find work after her husband died. “I worked in Aswan wearing pants and a galabeya,” she told the New York Times. “If I hadn’t, no one would have let me work.”

Daooh was forced to dress as a man not as an expression of gender identity, but because otherwise she would have been unable to find work. In the early 1970s, when her husband’s death left Daooh and her daughter destitute, it was extremely difficult for women to find paid work. For seven years, she worked as a manual laborer making less than a dollar a day before finding less physically demanding work. She now works as a shoe-shiner.

When Daooh’s husband died, it was almost unheard of for Egyptian women to work, but even today, very few Egyptian women participate in the labor force—only 26%, compared to 79% of men, according to the World Economic Forum. If women and men participated equally, Egypt’s GDP would increase by 34%, according to an analysis conducted by the Clinton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Between the lack of economic opportunity, the prevalence of female genital mutilation, and the near-universal experience sexual harassment (over 99% of women say they’ve been harassed,) Thompson-Reuters voted Egypt the worst place in the Arab world to be a woman.

[h/t New York Times]

TIME movies

Here’s What Former Sex Workers Think of Pretty Woman

Richard Gere And Julia Roberts In 'Pretty Woman'
Hulton Archive/Getty Images Richard Gere and Julia Roberts in a scene from the film 'Pretty Woman', 1990.

It’s been 25 years since Pretty Woman was released, and even though it’s still one of the most beloved romantic comedies ever, it presents a ridiculously sunny idea of what it’s like to sell sex. Vivian, the prostitute played by Julia Roberts, meets a cute john (Richard Gere), eats some strawberries, goes on a shopping spree, and ultimately ends up with the john, who happens to be a rich and charming guy who buys her necklaces and takes her to the opera.

“I love romantic comedies,” says Marian Hatcher, a sex trafficking survivor who now works as a project manager at the Cook County Sheriff’s office. “Before I was prostituted, raped, beaten, kidnapped, and incarcerated as a result of prostitution, I looked at it as a romantic comedy.” But soon enough, she says, the movie “became an ugly reality.”

“There is nothing pretty about prostitution,” Hatcher says. “Nothing pretty about it at all.” For more thoughts from her, you can read a Huffington Post article she wrote on prostitution.

More Dear Johns: Actually You Should Be Ashamed to Buy Sex

The movie didn’t always have such an optimistic ending. Screenwriter J.F. Lawton told Vanity Fair his original script ended with Vivian (the Julia Roberts character) staring “emptily ahead” as she rides Disneyland-bound bus with her friend Kit, after getting a final check from Edward. Pretty Woman was originally supposed to be “dark and gritty”– the idea that Vivian and Edward would end up together only happened once director Garry Marshall started to think of the movie as a “combination of fairy tales.”

And a fairy tale, says Hatcher, is just what it is. “There are no Vivians,” she says. “There are no women who are being rescued by a Prince Charming like Richard Gere.

Not all former sex workers agree. Melissa Petro, a freelance writer and former sex worker who worked as a call girl on Craigslist, says she’s heard of women who have had clients turn into boyfriends, if not husbands. “I had a couple experiences where the lines got fuzzy, including one man who took me on an all expense paid trip to Paris,” she says. “You might say we dated awhile after that. He was young, attractive, intelligent, wealthy– if I were looking for my Richard Gere, I suppose he would’ve been it.”

Petro, who worked in the sex industry to help put herself through college, thinks the movie is more about class climbing than prostitution. “For many sex workers, that’s what prostitution is about– a means of improving one’s socioeconomic condition,” she says.

Hatcher, who was forced into prostitution as a result of domestic violence and who works with trafficked women, disagrees. She notes that, while not all women who do sex work are trafficked, the majority of prostituted individuals she’s worked with have been victimized by someone who has benefited from their abuse. And according to a report cited by the U.S. State Department, 89% of people who work in prostitution globally want to escape. But Hatcher says that for her and the other survivors she counsels, the idea that escape might come from a man who buys sex is preposterous.

“It’s ridiculous. Nobody’s thinking it,” she says. “They’re thinking of how to stay alive, they’re thinking of how to please the next man in order so the man that she has to report back to doesn’t beat her… not riding into the sunset with anyone.”

Instead, she says, it’s usually the opposite. Instead of taking them to the opera, the men who buy sex are often violent towards prostituted women. “Personally, I was raped, beaten, and kidnapped,” she says. “My victimization in terms of the physical trauma was at the hands of the johns. I experienced very little abuse from pimps, mostly from johns.”

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who has led a national movement to criminalize sex-buyers from his jurisdiction in Illinois, says he thinks Pretty Woman is not just unrealistic, it’s dangerously misleading. As part of his initiative to criminalize the johns over the trafficking victims, Sheriff Dart hires survivors to work in his office– Hatcher is one of them– and he says he’s never heard of a prostitution story ending like this.

“I don’t know if it could be more unrealistic if it were animated,” he said. “Of all the backpage.com arrests we’ve made, I’ve never heard of any instance where the prostitute ends up marrying the john. Never ever ever ever ever.”

“I’ve never heard anyone talk about what a great guy he was,” Dart continues. “I’ve never heard, ‘this all worked out so well.'”

“There’s no benefit to anything that suggests there’s a happy ending involved,” he says.

Read next: How to Spot a Sex Trafficking Victim at a Hotel

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TIME

UN Women Breaks Off Partnership with Uber

Just weeks after they announced partnership to create 1 million jobs for women

UN Women has cancelled a partnership with Uber that aimed to create jobs for women at the company after objections were raised about Uber’s safety record with women and treatment of its drivers.

On March 10th, UN Women and Uber announced a partnership to create one million Uber jobs for women by 2020, as part of their endeavor to increase economic empowerment for women around the world. But on March 12th, the International Transport Federation published a letter criticizing the partnership, noting that Uber drivers often lack basic job protections like minimum wage and health care. “Women already make up a high percentage of the precarious workforce, and increasing informal, piecemeal work contributes significantly to women’s economic dis-empowerment and marginalization across the globe,” the ITF wrote. Uber jobs, they said, would “not contribute to women’s economic empowerment and represents exactly the type of structural inequality within the labor market that the women’s movement has been fighting for decades.”

So in a speech last week, UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka quietly cancelled the partnership. “Not only are we listening, we are aligned,” Mlambo-Ngcuka said. “I also want to assure you that UN Women will not accept an offer to collaborate on job creation with Uber, so you can rest assured about that.” (UN Women is the branch of the United Nations that works to empower women and girls and to end gender discrimination.)

[H/T Buzzfeed]

TIME Opinion

Before You Pick a College, Decide If You Want to Go Greek

Fraternity house exterior
John Greim—LightRocket via Getty Images Fraternity house exterior

Why deciding whether to join a fraternity or sorority should be a major part of the college selection process

As the college acceptances roll in over the next few weeks, kids and parents will be making some tough decisions about which school to pick: city or country? Big school or small school? Close to home or far away?

But there’s a major consideration that few kids take seriously, one that’s almost as important as financial aid and academic opportunity. Lost in the frenzy about dorm style and class size and sports ranking is one factor that could have an enormous effect on you for the next four years: Greek life.

The truth is, deciding to join a fraternity or sorority is as much about the campus dynamic as it is about a student’s own preferences. At a campus with a prominent Greek scene, so much of the social scene is dominated by fraternities and sororities that deciding not to join may have social consequences. That’s why students should decide how they feel about Greek life before they pick a campus, not after.

Because once you get to school, it may feel like that decision has been made for you. On a heavily Greek campus, choosing not to join can affect your housing and dining options as well as your social life. At many schools, the choice is virtually nonexistent: at University of Texas Pan-American, 100% of women on campus are in sororities and 99% of men are in fraternities, at Washington and Lee University, 82% of men and women go Greek. This kind of overwhelming majority is rare, but Greek life can still feel pervasive even at campuses with far lower rates of enrollment: at the University of Oklahoma, which has recently been embroiled in scandal over a racist chant sung by frat brothers, only 26% of male students are in frats.

True, the vast majority of people who participate in Greek life are thoughtful, productive members of society with no interest in racist chants or hazing anybody to death. Most fraternities and sororities were originally founded as philanthropic organizations, and many still make enormous contributions to their communities. But as we’ve seen recently, it can take just a few bad apples to change the way fraternity members behave as a group.

Going Greek can be risky business. In the last two weeks, five national fraternity chapters have been suspended for unethical and possibly illegal behavior. First, Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat brothers at University of Oklahoma were taped singing a racist chant that resulted in the suspension of the chapter and the expulsion of two members. Then, the Penn State chapter of Kappa Delta Rho was suspended after police found a secret Facebook page full of pictures of nude, passed out women– an incident which could lead to criminal charges. The University of South Carolina chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha was suspended Wednesday after the suspicious death of a student, the same day the University of Houston closed its Sigma Chi chapter after allegations of hazing. And last week, Washington & Lee suspended their chapter of Phi Kappa Psi over allegations that frat brothers hazed pledges with tasers. And that’s not even getting started on the sexual assault statistics: multiple studies have shown that men who join fraternities are statistically more likely to commit rape than men who don’t.

You might be thinking: how could anybody behave like that? But when you join a Greek organization, personal responsibility can get diluted into the group mindset. “People lose their sense of individuality when they become a member of a group,” explains Dr. Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. “Although a group is comprised of individuals, the individuals don’t necessarily think for themselves.”

Even Will Ferrell, a former brother of Delta Tau Delta who played an overgrown frat boy in the movie Old School, thinks fraternities are problematic. “The incident in Oklahoma, that is a real argument for getting rid of the system altogether, in my opinion, even having been through a fraternity,” he said in a Q&A with the New York Times. “Because when you break it down, it really is about creating cliques and clubs and being exclusionary.”

And if you want to avoid that atmosphere, your best bet might be to avoid campuses where the Greek scene rules–the Princeton Review lists the schools that have the most Greek life, and US News & World Report lists the schools with the highest percentage of students in frats and sororities.

But even on campuses where fewer than half the students rush, Greek life can feel ubiquitous. “Going into school I didn’t really have any exposure to Greek life,” says Dylan Tucker, a senior psychology major at Cornell University who chose not to rush a frat. “But once I got here, I was a little bit surprised at how prominent Greek life was, how many people who were in frats.” At Cornell, only 27% of men are in fraternities, but it can feel like much more than that.

Tucker was able to make friends through the basketball scene, but he says if you’re not in a frat, it can be hard to meet people unless you participate in another activity. “If you don’t plan on being in a frat or sorority, people should be aware that it can affect your ability to make friends,” he says. “If you’re going to a school that has a very prominent Greek life, be aware that you will be excluded from a lot of events and things.”

So when it comes to going Greek, you can be damned if you do, damned if you don’t: joining can lead to risky situations, but resisting can feel isolating. That’s why you should decide on Greek life before you decide on a campus, so the choice is actually up to you.

TIME viral

Here’s What Too Many Cooks Would Look Like If It Were About U.S. Politics

Washington is a sitcom

If you loved Too Many Cooks, you’ll love CNN’s version of the viral internet sensation.

With a cast including everyone from Barack Obama to Vladimir Putin to Sarah Palin to Kim Jung Un, the fake ad casts U.S. politics as a bad ’80s sitcom, complete with cheesy footage of hunky cowboys and glorious bald eagles.

There’s also a terrifying demon sheep at the end that will haunt your dreams more than the image of John McCain doing the robot dance.

 

TIME feminism

Shailene Woodley Still Adamant She’s Not a Feminist

"To me it’s still a label"

Shailene Woodley still doesn’t consider herself a feminist.

Last year, Woodley told TIME she was against the use of the term as “I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance…My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism.” Promoting her latest film Insurgent, 23-year-old Woodley posed for NYLON’s April cover and elaborated on her evolving thoughts on feminism:

“The reason why I don’t like to say that I am a feminist or I am not a feminist is because to me it’s still a label. I do not want to be defined by one thing. Why do we have to have that label to divide us? We should all be able to embrace one another regardless of our belief system and regardless of the labels that we have put upon ourselves.”

MORE: Shailene Woodley on Why She’s Not a Feminist

She also objects to the media scrutiny of everything she says. “I mean, if we spent as much energy focusing on the genocide that’s going on right now in parts of Africa as we spent on that one article, think about what we could accomplish,” she said, although it was not immediately clear from NYLON’s excerpt to which article she was referring. “Change is not going to come from focusing on the small things that actors say.”

[NYLON]

 

TIME Crime

Former FBI Agent Stole Heroin to Treat Ulcer Pain, Attorney Says

More than 24 drug offenders had their charges dismissed because of evidence tampering

The attorney for a former FBI agent who plans to plead guilty to 64 criminal counts for stealing heroin from evidence bags said that his client took the drugs to treat his ulcer pain.

Matthew Lowry, 33, was found unconscious in his car at the end of September after a heroin overdose and later admitted to stealing heroin from evidence rooms. The evidence tampering resulted in the dismissal of more than two dozen federal drug cases, the Washington Post reports.

“Matt Lowry is devastated by the consequences of his conduct, particularly as it has affected the drug investigations that he, his fellow law enforcement officers, and prosecutors had spent so much time developing and pursuing,” his attorney Robert C. Bonsib said in a statement.

But Bonsib also said that Lowry’s actions could be explained by a series of unfortunate medical events. According to Bonsib, Lowry turned to heroin after he got addicted to powerful pain medications used to treat his ulcerative colitis. The medication was prescribed by a doctor who did not warn Lowry about the addictive potential of the drugs, and subsequently disappeared. Lowry attempted to “go ‘cold turkey,'” Bonsib said, but “the addiction was overpowering and the pain from the ulcerative colitis was unbearable.”

“This is how Mr. Lowry turned to self-medication by the use of the drugs in this case,” Bonsib said.

Lowry, who is married and has a young son, is currently in a drug treatment program. He faces 64 federal criminal charges: 18 counts of falsification of records, 13 counts of conversion of property, 13 counts of possession of heroin and 20 counts of obstruction of justice.

TIME celebrities

Monica Lewinsky TED Talk: ‘I was Patient Zero’ of Internet Shaming

2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals
Anthony Harvey—Getty Images Monica Lewinsky arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter at Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts on February 22, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California. (Anthony Harvey--Getty Images)

She calls for an end to the online culture of humiliation

Almost 20 years after her affair with then-President Clinton, Monica Lewinksy is back in the public eye, reminding audiences about the dangers of internet shaming.

After her emotional speech about online abuse at Forbes’s 30 Under 30 Summit six months ago, and her article for Vanity Fair last year, Monica Lewinsky is back in the news with her talk on the subject of shame at TED2015.

“At the age of 22, I fell in love with my boss,” she begins, “At the age of 24, I learned the devastating consequences…. Now I admit I made mistakes — especially wearing that beret — but the attention and judgment that I received — not the story, but that I personally received — was unprecedented,” she continued. “I was branded as a tramp, tart, slut, whore, bimbo and, of course, ‘that woman.’ I was known by many, but actually known by few. I get it. It was easy to forget ‘that woman’ was dimensional and had a soul.”

Lewinsky also describes how she may have been one of the first people to have her personal communications– her phone calls with former friend Linda Tripp– widely distributed without her consent. “This was not something that happened with regularity back then in 1998,” she says. “And by ‘this,’ I mean the stealing of people’s private words, actions conversations or photos and then making them public. Public without consent, public without context and public without compassion.”

Now, of course, this happens with regularity, from Jennifer Lawrence’s nude selfies to Sony executives’ emails to the recent case of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity brothers allegedly posting pictures of nude girls online without their consent.

Lewinsky is calling for a “cultural revolution,” away from the “culture of humiliation” and towards an internet community of empathy and compassion. “Anyone who is suffering from shame and public humiliation needs to know one thing: you can survive it. I know it’s hard. It may not be painless, quick or easy, but you can insist on a different ending to your story.”

[TED 2015]

 

TIME politics

Here’s Why Colorado Lawmakers Are Wearing IUD Earrings

To support bipartisan state legislation to fund long-lasting contraception

When Colorado lawmakers wear earrings shaped like IUDs, it’s more of a political statement than an unusual fashion statement.

The uniquely shaped earrings signify bipartisan support for a bill in Colorado that would provide $5 million to fund IUDs and other long-acting, reversible contraceptives. Men are wearing them too– as pins clipped to their lapels, the Denver Post reports.

MORE: The Best Form of Birth Control is the One No One is Using

Republican state Rep. Don Coram co-sponsored the bill with Democratic Rep. KC Becker–he agreed to push for the IUD bill, even though he opposes abortion. Coram wears an IUD pin next to his American Flag pin on his lapel. “A redneck Republican wearing an IUD — it just doesn’t make sense does it?” he told the Post. He notes that every dollar put into the program could save almost $6 in Medicaid costs over a three-year period.

The IUD earrings, which sell for $20 on Etsy, are made by Ohio OB-GYN Virginia Smith who also makes jewelry.

[Denver Post]

TIME Crime

Ashley Judd Speaks Out About Twitter Abuse and Rape

"The Divergent Series: Insurgent" New York Premiere
Tyler Boye—Getty Images Actress Ashley Judd attends the "The Divergent Series: Insurgent" premiere at the Ziegfeld Theater on March 16, 2015 in New York City. (Tyler Boye--Getty Images)

"It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more."

Actress Ashley Judd wrote an impassioned op-ed for Mic Thursday about the link between online harassment and physical abuse. After she endured hateful online vitriol for a seemingly harmless tweet about basketball, she saw a connection between that Twitter harassment and the cultural misogyny that she believes fueled her experiences with rape and incest early in life.

While watching a basketball game Sunday, Judd tweeted that the opposing team was “playing dirty & can kiss my team’s free throw making a—.” She later got so much hatred and so many sexually violent threats on Twitter that she had to delete the original tweet. She wrote:

What happened to me is the devastating social norm experienced by millions of girls and women on the Internet. Online harassers use the slightest excuse (or no excuse at all) to dismember our personhood. My tweet was simply the convenient delivery system for a rage toward women that lurks perpetually. I know this experience is universal, though I’ll describe specifically what happened to me.

I read in vivid language the various ways, humiliating and violent, in which my genitals, vaginal and anal, should be violated, shamed, exploited and dominated. Either the writer was going to do these things to me, or they were what I deserved. My intellect was insulted: I was called stupid, an idiot. My age, appearance and body were attacked. Even my family was thrown into the mix: Someone wrote that my “grandmother is creepy.”

Soon, Judd realized that the hatred she was experiencing was related to the violence and abuse she had endured as a girl.

The themes are predictable: I brought it on myself. I deserved it. I’m whiny. I’m no fun. I can’t take a joke. There are more serious issues in the world. The Internet space isn’t real, and doesn’t deserve validity and attention as a place where people are abused and suffer. Grow thicker skin, sweetheart. I’m famous. It’s part of my job description.

The themes embedded in this particular incident reflect the universal ways we talk about girls and women. When they are violated, we ask, why was she wearing that? What was she doing in that neighborhood? What time was it? Had she been drinking?

Judd, who in addition to her acting career has been a vocal advocate for women’s rights and even has a degree from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, describes the rape and incest she experienced in her childhood, and recounts how her therapy allowed her to finally come to terms with an attempted oral rape that she also survived. But then, thanks to a single tweet about basketball, she was barraged with violent sexual threats online.

I felt like I had the chance to finally speak, fight and grieve, and be consoled and comforted. But then, on literally the very next day, I received a disturbing tweet with a close-up photograph of my face behind text that read, “I can’t wait to c-m all over your face and in your mouth.”

The timing was canny, and I knew it was a crime. It was time to call the police, and to say to the Twittersphere, no more.

The full essay is worth a read, and you can check it out here.

Read next: Colleges Need to Think Bigger To End Campus Rape

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