TIME Parenting

If a Toddler Getting Yelled at Makes You Happy, You’re a Bad Person

Darlena Cunha is a journalist who writes about parenting.

Any parent with a crying child needs a helping hand, not a tongue-lashing

Over the past few days, we’ve seen that Americans—or at least many of those engaged in Internet comments sections—think it’s OK to yell at a baby. Not just OK, but laudable.

After Darla Neugebauer, the owner of Marcy’s Diner in Portland, Maine, yelled at a 21-month-old child for crying, the child’s parents complained on social media, and many came to the diner owner’s defense.

According to these commenters, kids these days need to toughen up. They are all special entitled snowflakes. This teaches the child a valuable life lesson: that she is not the center of the universe. And the parents are even worse. They’re indulgent, they’re weak, and they never care if their spawn is throwing a tantrum. Thank goodness a stranger finally had the temerity to do what irritated adults having to share a space with a toddler have wanted to do for ages.

It takes a village, after all.

That refrain has been circling the Internet. It takes a village to raise a child. So the Internet is raising one from afar.

Only, we have no village. This adage stems from a time when real-life communities actually existed, when neighbors and friends and extended family lived close together. It refers to a time when people could discipline someone else’s child if necessary because they had earned that right by being a presence in that child’s life long before any reprimand occurred. These village adults knew not only their names, but their ages and who their siblings were and how incredibly irrationally frightened they were of bees. They had asked the kids for help gardening or mowing lawn, and they had offered emergency child care when their parents needed help. They were, in all actuality, a village working together to raise the children.

A diner owner pointing and yelling at a child she’d never seen before in her life and will likely never see again is not “a village raising a child.” It is an adult reacting to a toddler like a toddler and totally overstepping her bounds as a business owner and a professional. A further dress-down on social media is not a life-lesson for the family members, who were likely tired and frazzled, just passing through on their way to visit family in another state. It seems to be the ranting of someone so entirely fed-up that she could no longer contain herself and took out her angst on an innocent, albeit hungry, baby.

It’s an understandable reaction: Who hasn’t wanted to tell a disruptive kid to shut up? But most of us haven’t. Because we know we are not that child’s village. It is not our place.

Our “village” raised the businessmen and women who shout on their cellphones at swanky lunch places as though the details of their lives are more important than anyone else’s dining experience. It raised the party-goers who drunkenly interrupt others’ meals with their self-centered revelry. It raised Neugebauer to think that going off on strangers as a professional in her business setting is not only acceptable but necessary.

I, for one, would rather raise children to respect others, have empathy for others, and reach out in obvious times of need. Any parent with a crying child for more than a few minutes needs a helping hand, not a tongue-lashing. It takes a village. So let’s bring the village back.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME politics

That Cartoon of the Rainbow Flag Replacing the Confederate One Is Dangerous

Darlena Cunha is a journalist who writes about parenting.

It's possible to celebrate a victory for one marginalized group without trampling all over another

June marked a string of historic changes nearly unprecedented in minority communities in the U.S. The Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal, resulting in more than 26 million Facebook users changing their profile pictures, the White House lighting up in rainbow colors, and many around the country excitedly saying “I do” for the first time. Meanwhile, after a shooting in Charleston, S.C., a raging debate over whether or not the Confederate flag should be taken down continues amid violence and protests.

Right there for the taking, it seemed, was a beautiful, poignant comparison—one that Mother Jones called “iconic.” A cartoon in five panels, side-by-side, shows a Confederate flag lowered as a rainbow flag is raised. On the surface, the image appears to capture the intense battles oppressed groups have overcome in recent days, marking a celebratory victory for all. In reality, that is far from the case.

By making one snapshot of two very different battles, we are implying a correlation that does not exist, and, further, we are assuming a victory of race where there is none. The URL for the Mother Jones piece—”the-gays-won-the-civil-war” —instead of being cutesy and funny is a travesty. It’s an act of ignorant privilege that this joke can even exist. Those who have not had to live through this, those whose ancestors never experienced the institution of slavery, are glibly conflated one cause with another.

Don’t forget: The Confederate flag still flies over South Carolina’s statehouse. And a black woman was jailed for physically climbing the pole and taking it down. While it is an incredible victory that Confederate flag merchandise is being stripped from store shelves, and some people are choosing to cover up their Confederate tattoos, we must not forget that the cause for such action was the brutal killing of nine black Americans who were studying the Bible.

A human-rights win for the LGBT community based on a court ruling cannot be compared to a tremor of anti-racist solidarity stemming from a mass murder. Let us not forget the black churches still burning in the South, a clear indicator that this rift has not magically healed itself, and racism is not suddenly over.

These two issues cannot be placed side by side because they share very little common ground other than the most superficial tenets of the notion of justice. In showing the replacement of a flag that still flies over South Carolina, we are, perhaps accidentally, erasing a painful piece of black history, co-opting it in the name of peace and justice. We cannot pave over the still-bleeding wounds of those in the trenches of one war because we want a nice, tidy, social-justice box of peace.

It also dangerously allows viewers to ingest that image and subconsciously assume the work has been done, and the fight has been won. To rewrite current events in this way will only make it harder for activists fighting against racism.

Symbolism is an important guide for cultural thought, and false comparisons are dangerous in any venue. It’s possible to celebrate a victory for one marginalized group without trampling all over another. Being sensitive to the plight of one group of people amid the joyous, rightful, and hard-won victory of another allows us to be better allies to both.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

Don’t Blame Women When Family Policies Backfire

Getty Images

Darlena Cunha is a journalist who writes about parenting.

Businesses should be doing more to ensure fair hiring practices

Women in the U.S. have fought long and hard for better family policies that would support the choice to have children while continuing to work. Unlike the majority of industrialized nations, the U.S. does not offer paid maternity leave guarantees. There aren’t many facilities that offer child-care or paternity packages, either. On top of that, mothers are often viewed as less-stable employees with less commitment to the business.

A recent New York Times piece seems to defend our archaic system, arguing that family-friendly policies can actually backfire on the women they’re supposed to protect. For example, after Spain passed a law in 1999 allowing employees with children under 7 to request reduced hours without the fear of being laid off, almost all of the workers who took advantage of it were women. In the decade following, businesses became 6% less likely to hire women, 37% less likely to promote them, and 45% more likely to dismiss them in comparison to men of the same age, according to a study from the IE Business School in Spain.

We should be outraged that those businesses were being permitted to display such blatant unfairness. Instead, many of the conclusions drawn from this article seem to blame the women and family policies involved, as seen in the comments section here.

Labeling these predatory practices as “unintended consequences” of better family-care packages is misleading at best and ultimately harmful to the structure of our society. It’s not the fault of women that businesses act in such an unethical manner, and to advise these women to ask for less and accept what they’re given to avoid such practices is short-sighted and wrong.

The Times article pushes for packages that are “generous but not too generous,” suggesting that more than nine months of maternity leave could hurt women’s prospects in the workplace. It mentions finding ways to implement family-friendly policies that the companies don’t have to finance. It seems to defend the paltry leave program we have in this country and absolve the businesses of blame and responsibility toward their workforce.

That’s the wrong approach. We shouldn’t be loosening these policies so they hurt businesses less in the hopes that those businesses will then turn around and act appropriately. Instead, we should tighten policy further. Companies need to be held accountable for unfair practices toward women. It’s not the job of a woman to make her company more comfortable. It’s the businesses’ responsibility to treat their workforce like human beings.

It’s also in their best interests, as about 70% of women with children under 18 years old will work at some point, according to the most recent statistics by the Department of Labor. That is a large percentage of workers, not to mention consumers, that businesses risk angering for their bottom line.

Why are businesses getting a free pass to treat women employees as second-class citizens? Why are we counseling women on what they should and shouldn’t ask for lest they be at risk of losing their jobs or passed over for promotion? We don’t need to accommodate the businesses in this model to protect women. We need to scrutinize the businesses causing these “unintended consequences” and issue them directives on how to make the workplace an inviting and encouraging place for all of their employees.

As we struggle to catch up to the rest of the world in terms of women’s rights in the workplace, the way up is not through counseling women to be meek and thankful. It’s though demanding ethical practices from our companies that ensure the rights of all who hold a job.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

Don’t Like Minimum Wage Increases? Be Mad at the Top Earners

Darlena Cunha is a journalist who writes about parenting.

All workers should have equal opportunity to a livable wage

Los Angeles has become the first city of its size to approve a minimum wage increase from $9 an hour to $15 an hour by 2020. Since the federal minimum wage was instituted in 1938, it has increased 22 times, but the increases haven’t always kept up with rises in inflation and the cost of living. Los Angeles’s minimum wage increase is a welcome step to address that disconnect, and criticism of it distracts from the larger benefits of ensuring that low-wage workers are given equal opportunity to a livable wage.

Some argue that increasing the federal minimum wage would be bad for the economy, would cause layoffs, and would kill small businesses. These arguments have been disproven not only by time and experience, but also by longitudinal research studies, according to the Department of Labor.

But the most troubling argument against increasing the minimum wage is made by working-class people who fear that an increase in the minimum wage would give less-experienced workers more money while their salaries remain the same, rendering years of work, education, and experience useless. Small business owners often argue that as the minimum wage rises, more-experienced employees would want a raise, too, and the business would be forced to make cuts to accommodate.

Director Kevin Smith helped perpetuate this fear by poking fun at the Los Angeles minimum wage increase on Facebook. “Los Angeles raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. F— film: for that kinda money, I’m going back to work at convenience stores again.”

What Smith and others fail to realize is that increasing the minimum wage is not meant to equalize all people regardless of experience, but to raise the bottom pay level up to a livable amount. The Center for Economic and Policy Research found that raising the minimum wage has no effect on hiring, meaning people need not fear for their jobs, and the Economic Policy Institute has estimated that raising the federal minimum wage could increase salaries for 30 million Americans.

Others fears that an increase in the minimum wage would cancel out the value of having a college education. Many with college degrees are working hard at jobs, unable to make ends meet, and drowning in school loans. But it isn’t the fault of the unskilled workers that a college education isn’t paying for itself anymore.

An increase in the minimum wage would have positive effects on many other jobs at all levels. Christina Romer, a University of California, Berkley, economics professor, economist and former chairwoman of President Barack Obama’s Council of Economics found that higher wages lead to lower employee turnover rates, meaning both companies and employees benefit from job stability and experience when wages match skill sets and start at a livable level. Less money needs to be spent on training, and less turmoil exists in the workplace when people are content in their jobs.

The bottom line is that giving people the chance to work for a living wage does not chip away at those who have worked hard to already be able to afford their lives. An increase like the one in Los Angeles should be celebrated. Those unhappy with their own economic standing shouldn’t focus their ire on the bottom income earners, but on the top.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME health

Americans Are Crowdfunding Health Care. They Shouldn’t Have To.

Darlena Cunha is a journalist who writes about parenting.

Health care costs are the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in the United States

Would you ask Internet strangers for financial help if it meant saving your child?

Owen Provencher has everything an infant could want, including two loving parents with modest income, an extended family close by, and above average motor skills. But he also has a condition called Metopic Synostosis, and if left untreated it could result in blindness, seizures, brain damage, or even death. His parents, Michael and Amber Provencher, have health insurance through Michael’s employer, but after the surgery they were left with thousands of dollars of medical costs. They decided to ask for help — online.

Nearly two million people a year file bankruptcy due to unpaid medical bills, making health care costs the No. 1 cause of bankruptcy in the United States. According to the National Bureau of Economics Research, half of all Americans could not afford an extra $2,000 should an emergency crop up. With insurance deductibles for the middle class anywhere from $500 to $7,000, an unforeseen downturn in health could toss nearly anyone into financial distress. People are turning in droves to the do-it-yourself answer: They are crowdfunding their medical bills, hoping their stories will touch the hearts and minds of their friends, families, and strangers alike.

Based on the old church-basement fundraising model, crowdfunding sites act as central hubs for people in need to match with people wanting to donate. With the streamlined use of professional fundraising coaches and social media platforms, these pleas can be heard around the world—if you’re lucky.

Recently, “Success Kidput out a call for help. His father needed a kidney. But he didn’t leverage his Internet fame, and as just a regular family looking for help, the campaign was vastly underfunded. After a Buzzfeed story last week about it, the Internet recognized the meme, and donations came pouring in. The family has now raised more than $100,000, well over what they needed. A viral picture saved a father’s life.

GoFundMe is one of the most successful crowdfunding options, and “Medical, Illness, and Healing” is its most popular section, bringing in 26% of all donations. More and more people are using the site for health-care funding: Last year, it helped raise $147 million for medical costs, up from $6 million in 2012. Still, most campaigns go unseen by the masses, and so thousands of people struggle with the shame of having asked for money and the disappointment of not being able to raise it on their own.

The average amount raised on the site is $1,126 across all categories. That’s almost exactly how much the Provenchers have raised, not enough. “We absolutely raised money that we never would have otherwise, and we’re much better off than we would be without it,” Michael said. “So in that sense, it worked, but we’ve had ours ups for about a month and a half now, and donations stalled out. It seems very unlikely we will actually reach our goal.”

Like many, the Provenchers said they felt embarrassed asking their social network for money, even for a life-saving cause. The majority of donations came from people they knew. Crowdfunding that doesn’t go viral can still help people raise money by alleviating the stress involved in asking individuals directly to give you funds. Families can post a donation call, and those scrolling by can choose to stop and donate or to keep right on going, no questions asked.

What is wrong with our health-care and insurance systems that even people who pay for coverage through their employer or through the marketplace still face staggering costs when they’re most vulnerable? In true American fashion, we are finding our own ways around this issue, but crowdfunding doesn’t address the core problem, which is that these expenses should not be levied at the common working person who has health insurance. And they are.

Crowdfunding is helping thousands of people alleviate their massive medical debts through kindhearted philanthropy. But it shouldn’t have to.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME health

Sorry, Gwyneth Paltrow, Poverty Tourism Is Gross

Actress Gwyneth Paltrow.
Jason Merritt—Getty Images Actress Gwyneth Paltrow.

Darlena Cunha is a journalist who writes about parenting.

Her food-stamp stunt makes a mockery of those who don't have a choice

Gwyneth Paltrow is attempting to eat for a week on a $29 budget to draw attention to what it’s like to live on food stamps as part of the Food Bank for New York City’s #FoodBankNYCChallenge. It’s a well-intentioned idea. It’s also a horrible one.

The food bank is right in trying to raise awareness: Over the past 18 months, Congress has slashed Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits twice. More than 47 million people nationwide have an allowance of $29 a week for food. And Congress wants to cut benefits again. Food banks around the country are already strapped as tight as they can go, with 76 percent citing a marked increase in use immediately after the SNAP cuts went into place in late 2013. Recipients who use the benefits (80% of which are women and children) say they run out by the third week of the month. It is a system that cannot sustain itself.

Yet whether or not Paltrow’s actions actually raise awareness long enough for anyone to donate money or time or food to the cause (which should be the end-goal), what she is inadvertently doing is making a mockery of those for whom poverty is not a choice and does not last for a just few days.

It’s poverty tourism, plain and simple, and it needs to stop.

Paltrow is choosing to eat as if she were reliant on SNAP for a week. The thing about poverty, though, is that people do not choose it. There is nothing about poverty that one week can teach anyone with a safety net in place. It’s a game. “Let’s see how far we get on $29 before we have to use our real money!” The contrast is stark.

The point seems to be lost on Paltrow, who tweeted a picture of her $29 haul which included rice, beans, eggs, some leafy greens, and an exorbitant number of limes. It’s almost as if she were trying to prove that you can eat a really healthy diet in New York City on just $29 a week. Can she live on that for a week? Being Gwyneth Paltrow, probably. Is it feasible that a normal person with normal cookware and normal life stresses could? Much less likely.

Paltrow’s trip to Poorville is comparable, though not as bad, to a callous experiment in Orange County, Cali., where three high-powered families ate nothing but food-bank food for a week, again, to raise awareness for hunger. But people already know that other people are hungry. And telling people that others are hungry by pretending to be like them for a short while doesn’t help the lower-income community. In fact, it could even hurt. In the Orange County example, those families took rare fresh produce from those who really needed it.

Going through “poverty” for a few days makes a vacation out of the lives of families actually living through it on a daily basis, particularly if donations of time, food, and money are not forthcoming. It is absolutely absurd that someone with so much to give would choose to play-act poor for awareness.

If Paltrow truly wanted to make a difference, she’d throw time and energy and press into the legislation itself. She’d use her star power to shine a light on what Congress is doing. She’d write her representative and tweet the note as a template for others. She’d try to inspire people to donate $29 to the food banks in their area. Of course, there may be fewer limes involved, which would be a near crime.

Read next: Gwyneth Paltrow Will Give Up Expensive Juices to Survive on Just $29 of Groceries This Week

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Culture

Social Media Is Helping Moms Win the War Over Public Breastfeeding

Darlena Cunha is a journalist who writes about parenting.

The enemy is our cultural fixation on women as objects to titillate and entertain

Public breastfeeding is not normal. It should be, but it’s not, and that’s all tied up in how society views women and their bodies, still bent on objectifying us and seeing us as vessels for sexual gratification before seeing us as human beings. Ask any group of mothers anywhere if they’ve ever received complaints about breastfeeding, and odds are, at least a few of them will raise their hands.

However, in recent years, women have slowly begun to win some battles in the “we-should-be-allowed-to-feed-the-tiny-humans” war, and the small wave of awareness can be tied to the uptick in social media campaigns and protests. Tired of being shamed, women are shaming the people and companies who do it to them.

Nothing shows the strange ways in which we view women’s bodies like the Hooters employee who took to Twitter just this week to disparage a breastfeeding mother for taking out her breast to feed her baby. Others jumped in to defended her.

After United Airlines employee told Kristen Hilderman to “cover up” while she tried to feed her infant on a plane, and threw a blanket at her husband last month, she fought back on Twitter. She posted an image of her full complaint, which described how she was treated, and garnered support from people across the United States, who then sent the company a barrage of complaints on Facebook and Twitter. Her tweet was retweeted nearly 2,500 times. Eventually, United Airlines apologized for the incident. Is that enough?

When April Leamy was asked to stop breastfeeding her baby at local Florida restaurant Fia’s Ristorante and Pizzeria in January, she stood up for herself. The complaint had come from a fellow diner, not the staff, but the owner sided with the other customer and told her that as a private business owner he could ask her to leave without stating any reason. She and her family paid their check and left, their dinner only half-eaten. Later, she posted her story to a support group of mothers, and the women took to the restaurant’s Facebook page, launching comment after comment in defense of public breastfeeding. Two days later, the restaurant owner, Chris Paladino sent her a private message, apologizing. Then he took it a step further and publicly declared the restaurant a pro-nursing safe space. A victory for mothers and businesses alike, I’m sure.

After a Goodwill employee used the company’s Twitter account to shame a breastfeeding mom, breastfeeding advocate and blogger Paala Secor used her influence to shut it down. Secor regularly scours Twitter for breastfeeding trolls. When she sees people, particularly businesses, attempting to shame a mother, she posts about it and makes calls to their corporate offices. After multiple phone calls to Goodwill, the company posted an apology on its website and Facebook page.

Even as we band together on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and other social media outlets to fight to normalize what is already perfectly normal (not to mention legal), we sometimes have to fight these networks as well. In spite of finally changing its policy last month to exclude pictures of breastfeeding mothers as nudity, Facebook will still take down pictures reported by users as indecent, and it’s a fight to get them back up, if they ever go back up. Nonetheless, Facebook is home to dozens of pro-breastfeeding pages and groups such as FB vs. Breastfeeding, Nursing in Public, Respect the Breast and others, each with thousands of followers.

The problem isn’t social media; it’s our cultural fixation on women as objects to titillate and entertain rather than women as human beings with lives and hardships. By using social media to mobilize our efforts to gain the right to breastfeed without being harassed, we are turning the tide, slowly — one picture, one instance, at a time. But until we can affect a deep change in the way society views women in general, and breastfeeding mothers in particular, we will not be able to win the war.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Business

Businesses Should Treat Transgender Policies as Good Business in 2015

72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards - Press Room
George Pimentel—WireImage Actor Jeffrey Tambor poses in the press room during the 72nd Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on January 11, 2015 in Beverly Hills, California.

Darlena Cunha is a journalist who writes about parenting.

2014 was a benchmark year for transgender people in popular culture. There are simple things companies can do to be on the right side of history

At Sunday night’s Golden Globes, Jeffrey Tambor dedicated his award-winning performance on Amazon’s original series Transparent to the entire trans community. He thanked them for their inspiration, and for their patience as a world caught up in binary gender dynamics struggles to realize they deserve to be recognized as people with basic rights. When the show’s writer and creator, Jill Soloway, accepted Transparent’s award for Best Television Series, Musical or Comedy, she dedicated it to Leelah Alcorn, a trans teen who committed suicide in December.

The transgender community was in spotlight this year in a way it never has been before, marking 2015 as a year of enlightenment and attempted understanding—at least in the entertainment world. As pop culture comes around to acknowledging transgender people, businesses need to catch up.

In terms of actual equality, or even protection, we have a long way to go in 2015. There are currently only 18 states in which people cannot be fired for being transgender, according to the Movement Advancement Project. Transgender people have double the unemployment rate of their peers, and 97% report some type of harassment at their job, according to The National Transgender Discrimination Survey.

“Once, I was hired for a retail position where gender played absolutely no role in my ability to do my job, and somehow someone there found out I was born with female sex parts,” said Aaron, a friend. “From that day on, I was frozen out. No one spoke to me. I even got anonymous notes that called me an anatomical monster and threatened to slash my tires.”

Aaron (name changed for protection) never reported it because he was afraid of even harsher retribution from his coworkers and/or employer. Whether that would have proved true in his situation, the fact of the matter is that more than 200 transgender people a year are reported murdered, according to The Trans Murder Monitoring Project.

Bill revisions on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) continue to arise and be debated. Before long, protections will be extended to people in the trans community. There’s no need for businesses to wait for that legislation, though, and to be caught unaware. There are simple things companies can do to be on the right side of history. It’s not only good for society, but good for business.

While other discrimination laws, like sex discrimination ones, may cover transgender people, avoiding punishment should not be the main reason employers open their arms to transgender individuals, said Ben Klein, Senior Attorney for the Gay and Lesbian Advocate Defenders.

“Discrimination like this impedes having the most competitive workforce,” Klein said. “If businesses are acting on fears and stereotypes, they are going to miss out on talented employees who can give their business an edge.”

So, how can businesses pave the way for a comfortable, integrated workplace?

Above all, promote diversity and inclusion by hiring people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or physical affiliation, said Christine Walters of The Society for Human Resource Management.

Second, if the business knows on-the-record that one of its employees is transgender, it’s best to ask the employee how he or she would like to handle it. Some people want to further the awareness of the community and will not mind an introductory email including his or her transition, as was the case recently with one of my husband’s coworkers. Some would prefer to keep their private lives private, and nothing is more private than one’s private parts. Businesses should refer to their employees by the name and gender pronouns they prefer. It’s not only common courtesy, but a large part of personal identity and acceptance.

Third, human resources departments should do their best to stop gossip and discrimination, not only from the top down, but also amid lower-level employees. A person’s identity isn’t water-cooler fodder. To accomplish this, it’s important to have an outside agency or your company’s human resource department provide employee training, taking the onus off the transitioned employee.

“Often what happens is that the first transgender employee is forced to educate everyone about their identity and is subjected to invasive questions,” said Missy Sturtevant, founder of MaeBright Group LLC, a consulting firm for companies and groups looking to improve services to LGBTQ people. “Sometimes trans and LGB people are asked to give a company training on LGBTQ identities, which is something we never expect from people of color, people of different religions, or other marginalized identities.”

Also make sure the health insurance offered covers transition-related medical issues, so that transgender people can continue to take the medical steps necessary to complete their transition while on the job, should that arise.

Finally, install a unisex bathroom, or make it clear that transgender people can and will use the restroom of their identification. Restroom issues severely inhibit and cause anxiety for transgender employees who can feel unwelcome taking care of the most basic need of nature.

While getting the best talent and improving the bottom line are important, the real reason to practice non-discrimination is simply that it’s the right thing to do. Pop culture has begun to pave the way for general understanding of the struggles of the transgender community. Now is the time for businesses to act on that understanding and move forward into equality.

Darlena Cunha is a freelance writer for The Washington Post, Gainesville Sun and Gainesville and Ocala magazines. You can reach her @parentwin on Twitter.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.


Ferguson: In Defense of Rioting

A police car burns on the street after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri
Jim Young—Reuters A police car burns on the street after a grand jury returned no indictment in the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri November 24, 2014.

Darlena Cunha is a journalist who writes about parenting.

The violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., are part of the American experience. Peaceful protesting is a luxury only available to those safely in mainstream culture

When a police officer shoots a young, unarmed black man in the streets, then does not face indictment, anger in the community is inevitable. It’s what we do with that anger that counts. In such a case, is rioting so wrong?

Riots are a necessary part of the evolution of society. Unfortunately, we do not live in a universal utopia where people have the basic human rights they deserve simply for existing, and until we get there, the legitimate frustration, sorrow and pain of the marginalized voices will boil over, spilling out into our streets. As “normal” citizens watch the events of Ferguson unfurl on their television screens and Twitter feeds, there is a lot of head shaking, finger pointing, and privileged explanation going on. We wish to seclude the incident and the people involved. To separate it from our history as a nation, to dehumanize the change agents because of their bad and sometimes violent decisions—because if we can separate the underlying racial tensions that clearly exist in our country from the looting and rioting of select individuals, we can continue to ignore the problem.

VOTE: Should the Ferguson Protestors Be TIME’s Person of the Year?

While the most famous rant against the riots thus far comes from Hercules actor Kevin Sorbo, where he calls the rioters “animals” and “losers,” there are thousands of people echoing these sentiments. Sorbo correctly ascertains that the rioting has little to do with the shooting of an unarmed black man in the street, but he blames it on the typical privileged American’s stereotype of a less fortunate sect of human being—that the looting is a result of frustration built up over years of “blaming everyone else, The Man, for their failures.”

Because when you have succeeded, it ceases to be a possibility, in our capitalist society, that anyone else helped you. And if no one helped you succeed, then no one is holding anyone else back from succeeding. Except they did help you, and they are holding people back. So that blaming someone else for your failures in the United States may very well be an astute observation of reality, particularly as it comes to white privilege versus black privilege. And, yes, they are different, and they are tied to race, and that doesn’t make me a racist, it makes me a realist. If anything, I am racist because I am white. Until I have had to walk in a person of color’s skin, I will never understand, I will always take things for granted, and I will be inherently privileged. But by ignoring the very real issues this country still faces in terms of race to promote an as-of-yet imaginary colorblind society, we contribute to the problem at hand, which is centuries of abuses lobbied against other humans on no basis but that of their skin color.

Sorbo is not alone. A webpage devoted to Tea Party politics has hundreds of comments disparaging the rioters, bemoaning the state of our country and very much blaming skin color as the culprit of this debauched way of dealing with the state of our society.

“To hear the libs, one would think that burning and looting are a justifiable way to judge negative events that effect (sic) the black,” one person wrote. “I intentionally used black because of a fact that you do not hear of these events when another skin color is in play. It is about time that the blacks start cleaning their own backyards before they start on ours.”

However, even the Tea Party gets its name from a riot, The Boston Tea Party. For those who need a quick history brush-up, in 1773 American protesters dumped an entire shipment of tea into the Boston Harbor to protest The Tea Act, which colonists maintained violated their rights. In response to this costly protest and civil unrest, the British government enforced The Coercive Acts, ending local government in Massachusetts, which in turn led to the American Revolution and created our great country.

Should the Ferguson Protestors Be TIME’s Person of the Year? Vote Below for #TIMEPOY

Samuel Adams wrote of the incident, claiming it “was not the act of a lawless mob, but was instead a principled protest and the only remaining option the people had to defend their constitutional rights” according to John K. Alexander, author of Samuel Adams: America’s Revolutionary Politician.

That protest back in 1773 was meant to effect political and societal change, and while the destruction of property in that case may not have ended in loss of human life, the revolution that took place afterward certainly did. What separates a heralded victory in history from an attempt at societal change, a cry for help from the country’s trampled, today? The fact that we won.

In terms of riots being more common in black communities, that is true only when the riots are politically aimed.

The obvious example here is the L.A. Riots of 1992, after the Rodney King beating and verdict. I would put forth that peaceful protesting is a luxury of those already in mainstream culture, those who can be assured their voices will be heard without violence, those who can afford to wait for the change they want.

“I risk sounding racist but if this was a white kid there would be no riot,” another person wrote on the Tea Party page. “History shows us that blacks in this country are more apt to riot than any other population. They are stirred up by racist black people and set out to cause problems. End of story.”

Blacks in this country are more apt to riot because they are one of the populations here who still need to. In the case of the 1992 riots, 30 years of black people trying to talk about their struggles of racial profiling and muted, but still vastly unfair, treatment, came to a boil. Sometimes, enough is simply too much. And after that catalyst event, the landscape of southern California changed, and nationally, police forces took note.

And the racism they are fighting, the racism we are all fighting, is still alive and well throughout our nation. The modern racism may not culminate in separate water fountains and separate seating in the backs of buses, but its insidious nature is perhaps even more dangerous to the individuals who have to live under the shroud of stereotypical lies society foists upon them.

Instead of tearing down other human beings who are acting upon decades of pent-up anger at a system decidedly against them, a system that has told them they are less than human for years, we ought to be reaching out to help them regain the humanity they lost, not when a few set fire to the buildings in Ferguson, but when they were born the wrong color in the post-racial America.

Read next: What History Books Should Say About Ferguson

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME women

Corporate Egg Freezing Is a Benefit, Not a Mandate

Apple IPads Sales Down
Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images In this photo illustration an Apple iPad displays it's home screen on August 6, 2014 in London, England.

Darlena Cunha is a journalist who writes about parenting.

No matter how nefarious you think Apple and Facebook are, the bottom line is that women are getting more choice

Can everyone ease up on Apple and Facebook already?

Last week’s news that the two tech giants now pay for female employees to freeze their eggs prompted many to say that the program could make women feel as if they have to put their child bearing off until it’s convenient for the companies, forcing women to have their lives “in the right order.” These critics say that if women ignore the egg freezing option and choose to have babies in their 20s or early 30s, they may be indirectly penalized.

I could see reason to protest if Apple and Facebook had replaced their extremely generous (by U.S. standards) maternity and paternity leaves, “baby cash” or adoption and other infertility coverage with their new policy. But they haven’t. This benefit will be provided in addition to the family-oriented programs already in place. It’s a boon for the companies, yes, but also for the women working within them.

It can be incredibly hard to juggle the demands of a job in the technical field and the demands of a toddler. More than 50% of women in tech leave their jobs midway through their career. In an unrelated survey of 716 women who left the tech field never to return, two-thirds cited motherhood as a deciding factor. And now companies are responding in kind. Knowing that infertility issues can increase as maternal age increase, the corporations have decided to fund child-planning programs that speak to a population in their buildings. They’re not telling women they can’t have families while working; they’re offering help to women who have come to the decision not to have families at a young age to begin with.

Let’s not forget that women have free will. They do what they want. Many working in the tech field have toiled for decades to perfect their resume in the competitive landscape. Many simply don’t want to have a family at a young age. By acting like offering egg freezing forces the hand of women in tech to delay families before it has been proven to do so, we are forgetting the many women who are playing that hand of their own volition. We are telling them they must want to delay childbearing only because their work is giving them those cues. We are acting like all women not only want a family, but want one in their 20s. Because biology. Or women-folk. Or something.

For parents, daycare costs, health emergencies, simple lack of sleep and feeling spread too thin are par for the hectic course. Yes, businesses don’t want to have to deal with that, but did anyone pause to think that maybe the women (and possibly men) in the field don’t want to deal with that either? I wonder again, how is giving women the choice a bad thing?

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2008 18% of women remained childless into their 40s. By the time a woman reaches her early 40s, likelihood of pregnancy naturally falls to just 5%, and infertility treatments are costly and not always covered by insurance.

It’s important to mention that Apple and other tech companies already offer help for family planning, including adoption and infertility coverage. In that light, this new policy isn’t much different in kind, and really just an extension of care already being provided.

Egg freezing isn’t the one-and-only, all-inclusive solution to tech’s lack-of-women problem, but it is an olive branch for women struggling to keep their footing in a career filled, so far, with men, whose family responsibilities, even in this day and age, are still viewed as less of a problem than women’s. We may not have won the war yet, but we shouldn’t complain about winning a battle.

Darlena Cunha is a Florida-based contributor to The Washington Post and TIME among dozens of other publications. You can find her on Twitter @parentwin or on her blog at http://parentwin.com.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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