TIME Humor

Right Before the End of the Roman Empire the Citizens of Rome Had a Lengthy Debate Over the Color of a Toga

Gold White Toga
Getty Images

When a fellow American Photoshops not one but two llamas into a different color it means a conversation has ended. (One llama means things are winding down.)

If you are talking or thinking or anythinging about that dress, stop it now. Because all the scientists who have been busy for the last 36 hours telling us about color theory and the size of the lens and how it gets bigger when you get older and blue lights and how one day someone shined a light on some scientist’s Volkswagen and he could have sworn it was actually the Battleship Potemkin are today busy coming up with a new theory about #thedress. This theory is that arguing about what color a dress is will make your brain atrophy.

It will also cause you to be so overstimulated that you will drink three martinis tonight instead of two and black out, and the last thing you will remember is showing someone a picture of the blue and black and the white and gold llamas, which is, incidentally, the last comment that should have been made about that dress. For future reference, when a fellow American Photoshops not one but two llamas into a different color it means a conversation has ended. (One llama means things are winding down.)

I have been annoyed before by technology naysayers who have bravely stepped forward and declared that Twitter is bad and does not constitute real engagement and that we should all be sitting around drinking Nescafe and talking about Norman Rush. But the dress to me actually seems like something that might give those kinds of people ammunition, or, put more simply, it may be a new frontier in stupid.

Would I be elitist in assuming that at least most of us attended 6th grade? And we do remember discussing things like color blindness and perception and how different people saw different things? Yes, I am aware some of the theories that were offered up yesterday were slightly different, but they were variations on that theme. And while that was one of the more interesting days of 6th grade, I don’t know that I could maintain that fascination for a lifetime. #Dressgate proves that I am alone there.

Millions and millions of people, who I am pretty sure have at some point had some conversation about how different people see different things differently, seemed like they were learning this for the very first time. And since they presumably weren’t, well, it kind of made me sad.

I got sad in three stages.

The first came when I got the sense that people had filled up their brains with so much stupid internet stuff (prior to the dresses, prior even to the llamas) that they’d forgotten all the simple things they learned in elementary school.

And then, the sadness intensified when it dawned on me that some people truly had never actually learned this stuff in elementary school because they were from a generation that doesn’t learn anything in school anymore because when their teachers tell their parents that they don’t pay attention their parents tell the teachers to shut up or they’ll get them fired.

And the sadness really solidified when I realized that the people who probably did understand why the dresses appeared to be different colors were only freaking out about it because they’d been triggered—“have a sense of wonder about this now!”—or because they thought appearing to have no conception of basic science might make them feel younger or more attractive.

I’m not going to sit here and judge you because yesterday ISIS destroyed priceless art and you were sitting around screaming “BLUE BLACK!” or “WHITE GOLD!” In everyone’s defense, perhaps this debate was leapt into with such eagerness because it was less emotionally charged than the one about whether ISIS is killing lots of people because they’re Muslim or just because they love killing people or both, or whether Patricia Arquette is a terrible person because she didn’t have a P.R. firm write her Oscar speech. That said, if you’re composing a tweet or a Facebook update about #dressgate maybe you should pick up a basic science text because next week everyone on Twitter might “discover” that the dinosaurs are extinct and you might want to prepare to be a voice of reason.

If you are, however, composing a meme about #dressgate that you think may actually turn out to be funny, could please mail it to me? I’m staying off social media until the #dressgate smoke clears, but I never like to miss the really quality memes.

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

And the Award for Dumbest Hashtag Feminism Goes To…

Reese Witherspoon arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills
Danny Moloshoko—Reuters Actress Reese Witherspoon arrives at the 2015 Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills on Feb. 22, 2015.

Campaigns like #askhermore take fun out of a frivolous night while distracting from the real issues

I am alternately disgusted and saddened that women continue to be valued for their beauty and their reproductive capabilities over their accomplishments. I fully support Patricia Arquette’s dutiful writing out of her acceptance speech for Best Actress in a Supporting Role so that she could thank everyone and fit in a call for gender equality, even if she got some legitimate criticism for it. Yet, despite my ardent support for feminism, I found that the #AskHerMore campaign, which advocates that reporters talk to actresses about what’s inside their minds rather than what they’re wearing, and which was begun by Amy Poehler—and re-ignited for Oscars 2015 by Reese Witherspoon—to be eye-rollingly annoying. It is yet another offering from a brand of feminism that includes things like the Dove Real Beauty Campaign and lowers the movement into something cheap and silly, and suggests that a simplified, liberal critique around the importance of female beauty can have an effect on real, systemic oppression.

First, I found it painful watching the red carpet reporters tie themselves up in knots to not ask beautiful women in beautiful dresses anything about being beautiful women in beautiful dresses. Robin Roberts, talking to The Theory of Everything’s Felicity Jones, mentioned upwards of 70 times how great it was that Jones was at the Oscar’s with her family. Then she asked Jones about the film’s subjects, Stephen Hawking and his ex-wife, and Jones said something about both of them being alive and how therefore the actors “brought everything they had to it,” which led you to wonder, if Hawking and his ex-wife were dead, would the actors have all slacked off? Mostly, it made you wish that this awkward moment would be saved by, oh, I don’t know, a question that was actually relevant like: “So you wore Alexander McQueen tonight when you’ve worn Dior this whole awards season—why?”

And then there was Naomi Watts standing there in a controversial and great Armani gown with Ryan Seacrest asking her, horribly, about frittatas — which people got upset about, reasonably — oh if we can’t talk to a woman about what she looks like, let’s talk about cooking. But people. We’re talking about Ryan Seacrest here. Suddenly told he can’t discuss the elephant in the room, what can we really expect from him? You can’t be the nation that puts Ryan Seacrest in charge of things and then suddenly demand that he become Christiane Amanpour.

And then there were the moments where #askhermore “worked.” Julianne Moore — resplendent in a dress Karl Lagerfeld made himself — informed us that Alzheimer’s is actually a disease and not just something you get when you’re old. Upworthy tweeted this as a meme with Moore’s photo, a quote and #askhermore. Yes, Alzheimer’s is a disease that needs more visibility, and yes, I applaud Moore, an intelligent, successful actress, for taking up the cause. But, I also just wanted someone to ask her regular dumb stuff. Like what you were wearing when Karl told you he’d make you the dress? Did you guys drink Coke Zero together? Did you meet Choupette?

Robin Roberts introduced the subject with Witherspoon by abruptly shouting “askhermore!” with such jubilation, it was as if Reese had just discovered how to perform cold fusion instead of promoted a hashtag to convince reporters not to ask people about their fashion at what is basically a fashion show. “This is a movement to say we’re more than just our dresses. This is a group of women — 44 nominees this year are women — and we’re so happy to be here and talk about the work that we’ve done,” Witherspoon said. Well, I like Reese Witherspoon and I have without interruption ever since I saw her in Freeway. But, sue me, I’d rather hear her talk about Tom Ford on the red carpet — even about his sunglass collection — than to hear more about her role in Wild.

You’d have to be a complete moron to think that Hollywood isn’t sexist. It is desperately in need of an overhaul, both to improve the quality of its output and to increase opportunities for the non-male and non-white artists who might bring this to fruition. I realize that men are asked about their work more on the red carpet than women, but the truth it, it’s just a night of stupid questions, and I’m not sure why awards ceremonies are the place where women need to showcase their intelligence and interests. It seems like a positive thing — what kind of animal doesn’t care what women think? Not I! But I also think it plays into a sort of weird notion, that women never get to stop working, that they always have to set some kind of perfect example, “Oh, we’re not just beautiful, we’re also smart, we also care.” #AskHerMore seems to me to be the celebrity version of having it all — another manifestation of the pressure on women to be everything at all times. Women created this movement, and many seem to be empowered by it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if others wanted to just talk fashion.

Also, this night is really not just about the actors, it is about the thousands of people who have labored to get them there looking as great they do. And this is their night to get recognized, and to get their names spoken, and a lot of them didn’t, because we had to hear hacky questions about movies and frittatas and “how does it feel to be here?” and watch Lara Spencer rub Patricia Arquette’s shoulder, uninvited, instead of hearing hacky questions about clothes.

I don’t mean to make light of women wanting to be taken seriously in Hollywood. I think it was very serious when Charlize Theron got a $10 million raise in the wake of the Sony hack. I think Arquette’s concerns were serious, even if she did not express them perfectly, and I think it’s extremely serious and a crime that most directors are men, and that they are regularly paid handsomely to make movies that most women would be laughed at for even proposing. But, I feel like demanding to be asked more thoughtful, probing questions by not terribly serious journalists on the night of an awards show when people want to know what you’re wearing like they want to know who did it at the end of a whodunnit is maybe not such a great use of time, energy… or even a hashtag.

Read next: Sorry, Haters: America Loved Lady Gaga at the Oscars

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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

Uma and Renee: I’m 45. Do I Have To Get a New Face Now, Too?

"The Slap" Premiere Party
Jim Spellman—WireImage Actress Uma Thurman attends "The Slap" premiere party at The New Museum on Feb. 9, 2015 in New York City.

Forgive us as we mourn a more innocent time when we all freaked out about Meg Ryan’s lips.

Imagine my surprise when I returned home from doing errands yesterday and discovered that Uma Thurman had a brand new face.

I Googled “Uma face” and clicked on some article by some guy who insisted that Uma Thurman “doesn’t look that different,” that Uma Thurman simply “doesn’t look how she did in Pulp Fiction, crawling around with a black bob,” and that Uma Thurman merely looked “smooth.”

I sent a friend of mine a link and called her. “Would you say that she ‘doesn’t look that different’ or that she simply ‘doesn’t look how she looked in Pulp Fiction?’ or that she just looks ‘smooth?’” I asked.

“No,” my friend said. “And if I did, I would add ‘None of these facts is remotely as significant as the fact that Uma Thurman has a new face.'”

I said goodbye so I could be upset about Uma Thurman’s new face alone.

Uma Thurman? Really? Renee Zellweger you kind of half expected to get a new face. Even the first time I saw her in Jerry Maguire standing in the airport yelling “Ray! Ray!” to that little kid with the glasses, even though I liked her, I may have had the ghost of a thought “she’s going to get a new face someday.” But Uma Thurman? Her father’s a famous Buddhist, and BFFs with the Dalai Lama. Her brother’s a yoga teacher. Getting a new face hardly seemed like a Thurman Family Value.

In the morning I read another article patiently explaining how her makeup was just different. I think this is possible, and I can see why people would want that to be true and how the argument could be made, but really, it seems unlikely. Also I have seen recent photos of Uma Thurman with more minimal or no eye make up and in all of them she had Uma Thurman’s face — and I am sorry I could be wrong certainly but this does not look like Uma Thurman’s face, and again, I understand that she’s aged and that makeup is a transformative substance but age doesn’t do this to a face last time I looked at anyone, or, for that matter, myself.

I confess this whole new face business upset me for personal reasons. (Isn’t that why everything upsets everyone?) Uma Thurman and Renee Zellweger and I are all the same age (Thurman is one year younger). I know that I look different at 45 than I did at 35 or 25. I don’t jump for joy when I look in the mirror and see lines between my nose and mouth or around my eyes, and as of recently I added eyeliner to the list of things I will not be seen without, except at the grossest supermarket I go to where, frankly, looking good seems to only inspire resentment. But I have never ever looked in the mirror and thought, “Whoa, I need a brand new face,” which is good, since I’m not currently making the brand new face dollars.

Being forty-five is weird. You’ve got the new face people. Then you’ve got all this chatter: “Oh my God J Lo is 45 and so hot/oh my Gwen Stefani looks great and she’s 45/oh my God Jennifer Aniston looks so good and she’s 45?! Can you believe that?” And I’m like, yeah, I can, because 45 is really not that old! I mean with the amount of surprise and amazement routinely expressed that all these women are “still” so attractive you’d think they were being unearthed after 100 years in a crypt instead instead of relatively young-ish naturally beautiful women who still have a decent quantity of hormones in circulation and take obsessively good care of themselves.

The other day I read that Iggy Azalea said “I want to be gyrating in a leotard when I’m thirty five,” and I burst out laughing. What does Iggy Azalea think she’s going to be doing when she’s 35? Eating Stouffer’s Creamed Chipped Beef with a spoon and watching Wheel of Fortune? Or burying trinkets in a time capsule “To be opened in ten years, when I get my new face?”

Yes, certainly there’s a lot of pressure on women in Hollywood, and women everywhere, to look young. But forgive me if I don’t then automatically translate that into “Oh, I’m going to just not care about this, or pretend it didn’t happen.” Noticing something and being like “Whaat-the…” about it is not necessarily shaming. Forgive me, forgive all of us, who think it’s a little weird that in the last few months two famous middle-aged women suddenly look like different people. Forgive us as we mourn a more innocent time when we all freaked out about Meg Ryan’s lips. No, I am going to go out on a limb and call the Zellweger/Thurman 1-2 punch a rather significant moment in human history about which people are going to, I don’t know, react? As the owner of a face exactly as old as Zellweger’s and Thurman’s who finds enduring that face’s slow demise fairly tolerable — and at this point, really, kind of mild — I feel I’m entitled to a little head shaking. And I’ll take eyeliner tips if anyone has them.

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 Education

Good Luck Outlawing Hard Liquor, Dartmouth

Alcohol Liquor Store
Ted S. Warren—AP

Here’s a better idea: require all college students, not just the poor ones, to work a part-time job

I did not attend Dartmouth, but I was born at Dartmouth’s Mary Hitchcock Hospital, I attended a college comparable in both prestige and traditions of prurient masculine nonsense, and I also drink liquor. Taken alone, any of these facts might merely qualify me to comment on Dartmouth’s recent decision to ban hard alcohol, but the three of them together almost certainly make me an authority.

And so I offer the following expert assessment of the situation at Dartmouth: LOL.

Hey, I have an idea. Let’s put 4,200 overachieving 18-22 year olds, many of whom came to the place because of its reputation for a certain robust hedonism, in a college in the middle of a small freezing town 2 ½ hours from a major city. (And, we’ll make that city really boring, anyway, and have most of its bars close at 1 a.m.) Then, tell them that they can’t drink hard alcohol, but they can drink wine or beer. Just because we don’t want them getting mega-wasted doesn’t mean we are against them getting wasted at all. Then, let’s have them all live together, in close proximity to almost none of the types of authority figures who seem prepared to enforce this kind of law. I see from Dartmouth’s website that it has something called community directors that live in the dorms, and they have interests like discussing gender theory, birds of prey, rowing, furniture restoration, and cold and snowy winters. Nothing like “and when I’m done kayaking I like to make people three years younger than I am who are basically my friends throw out full bottles of Crystal Palace.”

Dartmouth officials say that more of the students who are dangerously drunk, who end up in the hospital, for example, have been drinking hard alcohol. Kevin Kruger, the president of Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education told the Washington Post, “Most of the really horrific things that happened [on college campuses] related to alcohol happen with hard alcohol. … It just takes too much beer to get there.” Oh, Kevin! I guess wherever “there” is, you never wanted to arrive. Or you don’t really like beer. Those who seek “there” will find it. Plus, this fantasy that extreme drunkenness will decline when there is no liquor around only exists because right now, it is around.

Again, I didn’t go to Dartmouth, and I graduated from college 20 years ago. But these Ivy League and elite liberal arts colleges have extremely similar cultures, and they are not into policing students. The dorms don’t have many rules. Visitors come and go freely. Rooms are not inspected. Frat or similar house parties at non-Greek schools sometimes card and sometimes don’t. And even though you might not be allowed to drink in your rooms, you just do. And you know what? You can drink a lot in a room.

In a small community where a third of that community is of age and two-thirds isn’t, getting whatever you want to drink is the easiest thing you’ll do all day. An article written for the Dartmouth paper last year pokes fun at the very idea that underage students there don’t drink. Yeah, I don’t really see the school that inspired Animal House, even if that was almost 40 years ago, turning into an alcohol police state. And what about when pot is legalized? “Smoking pot is permitted, as long as it’s not A-Dub or Tickle Kush.”

Surely you’ve witnessed someone who drinks showing up at an event and discovering that there’s no alcohol. He will exclaim “What? There’s no alcohol here?” and proceed to go on and on: “What kind of party is this! I never heard of such a thing! I can’t believe this!” until he hightails it out of there to hunt down a big fat drink. If, however, beer and wine are being served, the same drinker complains just once: “Only beer and wine! Harumph!” and proceeds, expertly, to get as drunk on beer and wine as the parameters of his life will allow. Adults differ from college students at elite schools in one major way: They work. Here’s an idea: require all college students, not just the poor ones, to work a part-time job. Twenty hours a week. If they miss work more than twice a semester, they’re expelled. That will teach them to sip.

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 weather

Hey, That ‘Moron’ Who Did or Didn’t Cancel School (or Close the Subway, or Shut Down the Roads) Is My Dad

Children play in Central Park as it snows in the Manhattan borough of New York
Carlo Allegri—Reuters Children play in Central Park as it snows in the Manhattan borough of New York City on Jan. 26, 2015.

It’s someone’s job to make those decisions, and they’re not easy to make

My father was the superintendent of a school in a town where it snowed a lot. He was the one with the authority to cancel school, a decision making process which began at dawn. Whenever I woke up in darkness to a ringing phone, I knew before I opened my eyes that outside, in the glow of the streetlight, I would see snow falling.

My slightly older brother and I would then convene on the stairs outside my parent’s bedroom, straining to hear my father’s conversation. Phrases like “pretty icy out there” or “really coming down” were Good, and phrases like “No big deal,” “turning to flurries,” and “Hmm. Pittsfield’s staying open?” were Bad. The dim light, the dead quiet of the whitening landscape and the nail-biting tension gave each of these occasions a Polanski-esque intensity.

If school was cancelled, hooray. Cue snow forts, cocoa, and a Three’s Company marathon. But if we went to school, our day was doubly ruined, first, by being there at all, and then, by everyone complaining to us that our father had not cancelled it.

Obviously the kids were the worst. “Tell your dad he’s a moron!” was a favored comment. But kids were kids — they want what they want and that’s what they understand. What bothered me much more was comments like “My mother said to tell you to tell your father that he is stupid.” Even worse was adults actually complaining to our faces. There was one teacher who would bitch about my father’s not cancelling school all day, and would even call out to us in the hallways “Hey, when did your dad go blind?” Some of our friend’s parents would yap similar things at us into their rear view mirrors as they drove us home from scouts or sports practices.

Forget about the inappropriateness of all of this or the fact that despite the years and an intense meditation practice I still hate all these people. What bothered me the most was people’s confidence in their opinions about the decision despite having so little understanding of what went into it.

First of all, people seemed to think that a snow day was all about how much snow there was. Yes, sure, five feet of snow was a slam dunk. But if there was one foot, these things called snowplows turned out to be very handy, and business might well proceed as usual.

On the other hand, there could be an extremely light snowfall which, if it got warmer and then colder, could melt and then turn to ice. And then of course there were the various textures and stickability of snow and shifting temperatures, which meant roads that were entirely safe in the morning could turn bad in the afternoon.

Finally, there was the fact that the decision wasn’t really my father’s to make. In truth, it was all really up to a guy named Don, who was the head of the Department of Public Works. Although it was my father who technically called off school, his decision was pretty much all about what Don said. That wasn’t just because my father thought Don was awesome. It was because in this situation, doing what Don said was just his job. It was not his job to just do whatever he wanted. And of course sometimes Don was “wrong” — who can totally predict the weather? — and my father would take the hit because that was also his job. (Actually, Don may well have taken abuse, too. I never met him. He was an important figure, but a shadowy one.)

Like everyone else, big weather events make me think about hot cocoa and marathon television watching, which, thankfully, is a more high-quality experience than it once was. But I also think about the workers who have to make decisions about what roads and bridges and institutions will stay closed and which will be open, and who stand out in the cold at mountain passes telling drivers to put chains on their tires. And I know that those people will get a lot of crap from other people who themselves would hate to take on the responsibility for making these decisions and enforcing these rules.

I’m not saying that all snow storms are handled well and that we should just trust in authority figures because they always know what they’re doing. That would be idiocy. But if you should find yourself wanting to post on Facebook that you’re mad because school was or wasn’t cancelled by some dummy or that how can so and so road be closed because you need it to get somewhere, maybe think about the fact that it’s someone’s job to make those decisions, that they’re not easy to make. Also be aware that these decisions are made by people whose names you don’t necessarily know, and that knowing someone’s name doesn’t mean they’re the right person to be mad at.

Something else to take into consideration: Government officials aren’t perfect, but at least they don’t multiply their salaries by 2.8 every time it snows. Also, don’t ever take anything out on anyone’s child, because they’ll just turn into a writer someday, and make fun of you in print, and even if they don’t mention your name, you might recognize yourself and feel guilty.

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 Media

Tina and Amy Just Showed Us the Right Way To Make a Rape Joke

Show hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler arrive at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills
Danny Moloshok—Reuters Show hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler arrive at the 72nd Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills on Jan. 11, 2015.

If you’re going to make a rape joke, you’re going to also have to prove that you care

After Tina Fey and Amy Poehler made their series of Bill Cosby jokes at Sunday night’s Golden Globe awards show—jokes at which I laughed—I thought, “Well, they’re in for it.” If you’re going to make a rape joke, you expect to hear about it.

Before we get into Fey and Poehler, let’s take a moment to consider some not funny rape jokes. Back in 2012, comedian Daniel Tosh made a joke about replacing his sister’s pepper spray with silly string. That same year, James Franco joked about being raped by Seth Rogen: “[He] forced his way into my dressing room, blew pot smoke into my mouth, pinned me beneath his sweaty, heaving, schlubby body.”

No, I don’t think Daniel Tosh would actually do that to his sister, but the fact that #yesallwomen can probably viscerally imagine the sensation of going to defend themselves and finding that impossible is not funny, at all. As for Franco: Dude. Being an “intellectual” doesn’t mean you’re incapable of sounding like a homophobic a**hole.

Back to Poehler and Fey. Let’s begin with the first part of their two-part Bill Cosby joke: “Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby.” It is typical awards show fare that incorporates the theme of the evening (movies) with current events (Cosby). It takes another step by combining a children’s story heroine with a beloved star and household name accused of drugging and sexually assaulting women. There is something funny about imagining Sleeping Beauty getting coffee with Bill Cosby, because you don’t think of them being together, and then—wait a minute—if Sleeping Beauty was your daughter, you would not let her go anywhere with Bill Cosby, because Bill Cosby is not to be trusted…not even with a fictional character. Yes, the foolishly innocent Sleeping Beauty suffers a little here, but her foolish innocence needs to be there to laugh—albeit bitterly—at Cosby’s evil deceit.

Now the best part of that joke, actually, might be the fact that we thought that was the end of it. “Ok, we went there, and yes, Jessica Chastain got very upset, but it’s over now.” But it wasn’t.

Fey started things up again, saying that Bill Cosby had finally spoken out about allegations against him. Then, in a cartoonishly bad imitation of Cosby’s voice, she exploded with: “I put the pills in the people, the people did not want the pills in them!” Poehler shook her head and in a chastising manner said, “No, Tina. Ok, Tina that’s not right. That’s not right,” and Fey looked a little ashamed. Then Poehler said, “It’s more like: “I got the pills in the bathrobe and I put them in the people!” Fey nodded, both satisfied and a touch rueful at having been bested and said, “You’re right, it’s gotta be like ‘I put the pill in the hoagie,’” and Poehler nods, “Yeah. That’s it.” Then they both muttered to themselves, “That’s fair. That’s fair.”

After Fey’s first imitation, we thought we were going to see a sort of a faux debate about the appropriateness of the subject. The fact that the question wasn’t about whether it was permissible to make fun of the Cosby rapes but merely what was the best way to do so was awesome. The fact that what they were debating was which of their enthusiastic but hackneyed Bill Cosby imitations was better was genius. The joke anticipated its backlash and told viewers, “We so don’t care if this is appropriate or going too far that we’re going to incorporate a joke about the very notion of that bullshit into our joke.”

It also let those watching in on the way that comedians tend to think about the things we think are sacred: “If we can find a way to make this awful thing that no one thinks is funny funny, we’re going to do it, because that’s just what we do.” Finally, the muttering to themselves at the end, the attempt to convince themselves that what they’d done was OK, even though they were really going out on the edge, showed that they didn’t think they were uttering these words in a vacuum. They were aware of the consequences and the criticism, and they were going to do it anyway.

If you’re going to make a rape joke, you’re going to also have to prove that you care, that there’s something at stake here for you. With Tosh and Franco, I just see two dudes hoping that being offensive will do the work required to make something funny so that they themselves don’t have to. But Poehler and Fey—accused by some of getting away with this because they’re women—have an actual target. They are attacking a man who refuses—other than with his own stunningly terrifying joke—to discuss or acknowledge his 32 accusers.

Now of course the question remains, what about Cosby’s victims? Would these jokes have been hurtful to them? My guess is some of the women would hate the jokes, and some of them would have loved them. So should the jokes not have been made so as to spare the feelings of those who would have hated them?

To ignore the accusations against Cosby at Hollywood’s most irreverent public event would have been to surround his alleged crimes with even more silence, and that doesn’t seem like a great option. (Interestingly, Cosby was very well imitated, and skewered, in Season 3 of 30 Rock, by Rick from accounting.) There’s nothing funny about rape and there’s nothing funny about being raped. But there is something funny, there just is, about two women leading an entire nation to laugh in the face of a man who’s been accused by 32 women of sexual assault and thinks maybe ignoring it will make it go away. There is always a risk of a joke offending someone, but politeness in the face of cruelty, well, there’s nothing more offensive than that.

Sarah Miller also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

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 relationships

5 Ways You Can Knowingly Destroy Your Husband And Kill Your Marriage

bride and groom figurine
Getty Images

You might be surprised to figure out how easy it is to willfully make yourself unlovable

I just read Katelyn Carmen’s 5 ways you are unknowingly destroying your husband and killing your marriage and I have to say it that while it was super great advice, it just didn’t work for me. (Yup—he’s still here.) Anyway—and to all the wives out there, I hope this is helpful!—here are a couple things I’m trying out to see if we can really get the ball rolling around here, if you know what I mean. (Caveat: Every woman is different. This is just what’s working for me. :) )

Quitting my job

A week ago, I was head of sales and marketing for a small technology company. But I quit so I could watch Law and Order: SVU all day. My husband came home and saw me on the couch and asked me if that was really how I was going to spend all my time. So I showed him a needlepoint I’d just done of Mariska Hargitay interrogating a suspect. “Really? That’s it?” he demanded, and I showed him a totally different one, of Mariska Hargitay getting out of a taxi, and he was not amused.

Talking a lot without thinking about what I’m saying

I used to try to be interesting, funny, and insightful when I talked to my husband. Now I tell really long stories and refer to everyone I mention as “my best friend.” I narrate my dreams, always relying heavily on the phrase: “Umm, and then, there was like, I don’t know, like, this weird thing, I can’t really describe it.” Naturally, I also narrate entire plots of Law and Order: SVU, and I have added Christopher Meloni needlepoints to my repertoire—even though I obviously have no intention of keeping those, or even giving them as gifts—so I can use them to help act stuff out. (Needlepoints make great handpuppets if you’ve got some rubber bands lying around!)

Wearing flannel nightgowns everywhere

When I was a little girl, my mother, who was always full of the wisest, kindest advice, sat me down, took my tiny hands in her big ones and said, “There’s nothing a man hates more than a flannel nightgown.” Then she winked and said, “Seriously, they really hate them.” When I greeted my husband at the door in it, he went ashen. And it was at that moment I realized how much my mom really loved me.

Doing stuff to look older faster

I sunbathe in an aluminum foil lined pen while working myself into states of great stress, consuming foods with a high content of free radicals, and drinking Bacardi 151 mixed with Coke Zero. But like I said, you have to find what works for you.

Just kind of being a big bitch a lot of the time

I do a lot of bitchy stuff but here’s just one example. The other day my husband said “Maybe for the holidays we can have Christmas with your parents and New Years with mine” and I said “Ugh.” Then he said “What’s for dinner, babe?” and I said “Circus peanuts” and he said “Are you serious?” I thought about how Katelyn Carmen said we should always be open with our husbands about how we really feel. So I dumped a bag of circus peanuts in his lap and I said “Do I seem serious?”

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 feminism

Where Are All the Hacked Pics of Men?

2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party Hosted By Graydon Carter - Arrivals
Venturelli—Getty Images Jennifer Lawrence arrives at the 2014 Vanity Fair Oscar Party on March 2, 2014 in West Hollywood, Calif.

From Scarlett Johansson to Jennifer Lawrence, the victims of hack attacks are almost never men—part of a bigger problem with sexist internet culture

When I read the headlines that someone had hacked into Jennifer Lawrence’s phone and posted her private photos on the Internet — along with many other celebrities — my initial reaction was sadness. I felt awful for her, awful for them, and awful for anyone that could possibly happen to, ever. I imagined the same thing happening to me, and how humiliated I would be to have my personal life made excruciatingly public — how ashamed I would feel if untold numbers of people saw me in a context I meant to be private, always.

Then the shame brought me to anger: of course, the person who should feel ashamed is the one who stole the pictures. But anyone who is capable of such a thing is probably incapable of feeling shame. What would motivate someone to do this? It can’t be that you just want to see nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence, because otherwise you’d get the photos, look at them, and be done with it. E-peeping would be bad enough, but at least she’d never have to know, and the rest of us would never have to talk about it or think about it. But to post them on the internet means that you’re not just disrespectful of other people’s privacy but that you actually disdain it, and want to violate it, and want the world to know that.

This latest piece of unsavory, repulsive news is part of a larger theme on the Internet. Women who write about feminism are harassed and stalked. Women tech execs are dismissed on double standards. Female gamers are threatened and belittled. It’s not really a surprise. The world is sexist; the internet is sexist. Maybe the internet is more so, because it is such a haven for cowards.

I wondered briefly if it might help if every Jennifer Lawrence or Ariana Grande or Mary Elizabeth Winstead fan in America posted a nude selfie, as a way of saying that we stand with them, and refuse to be humiliated. Or maybe we should just stop talking about about all the harassment because then they won’t get any attention. But then women would have to suffer in silence.

I just saw a tweet from someone who was really looking forward to seeing what awesome, cool, graceful way Jennifer Lawrence will manage to land on her feet about this. And while I don’t think the person who said this meant to be anything but kind, the tweet made me almost as sad as I was when I first read the news. Not only has Jennifer Lawrence been treated awfully by another human being — now she has to be a good sport about it. She is going to have to make it look like she’s bigger than what happened to her. I am not saying that she isn’t — of course she is, way bigger, just as all people harassed and bullied on the internet and elsewhere are far superior humans to the vermin who try to debase them. But what if Jennifer Lawrence uncharacteristically refused to be “cool” about this at all? What if she called a press conference and sobbed and rent her clothing and said “I am furious, I am angry, I am disgusted, and I beg, I beg, those men out there who spend their time insulting and humiliating and violating women to stop now.”

Sadly, whether Lawrence or the rest of them are blasé or passionate about this, it will have absolutely no impact on the person who did it. Or on all the people who think that he’s awesome, instead of a sad loser, someone closer to a rapist than a grossly misguided web fiend. No one capable of a violation like this has any real sensitivity to the victim. So whether Jennifer Lawrence wants to participate in a self-deprecating wink-wink sketch at next year’s Oscars or take a year off to go eat berries in the woods, well, she’ll probably get the best results from just doing whatever sounds most appealing to her and her alone. I really hope she doesn’t read anything about what she should or shouldn’t have done, because she didn’t do anything wrong. Like the rest of us privacy-respecting citizens, her biggest problem is that she is forced to share the planet with the likes of this excuse for a human being, who used all that talent and creativity for bad, in a world that so desperately needs it for good.

Sarah Miller also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

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

The Knee Defender Is Cheating—And Of Course Guys Love It

No Leg Room
Getty Images

One person should not have the right to determine his own destiny while the rest of us suffer

If you have been busy following real news about people with real problems you might not know that on Sunday, on a flight between Newark and Denver, a woman dumped a cup of water on a man sitting behind her when he prevented her from reclining her seat back with a device called a Knee Defender.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that the man who purchased the Knee Defender and the woman who reclined her airplane seat into the knee defender and subsequently dumped a cup of water on his head are both total jerks. Anyone who can’t control themselves 40,000 in the air and causes stress for their fellow passengers and flight attendants needs to be alerted to the whole “other people in the world” thing. That said, the Knee Defender guy is probably more of a jerk than the woman who reclined. Why? Well, this is perhaps a bit of a sophomoric defense. But…

He Started It.

If you made a list of things you’d expect to see on an airplane, among “fellow travelers,” “suitcases” and “small packets of nuts,” you would also very likely list “reclining seats.” Reclining seats are to be expected, a known entity. They are part of the Social Contract.

What is not part of the Social Contract? The Knee Defender. The Knee Defender has only been around since 2003. Justin Bieber is older than the Knee Defender, and only slightly more obnoxious. When you buy an airline ticket, you think, Oh, maybe I will watch a show about giraffes on the Discovery Channel. Or, maybe I will drink tomato juice. Or, maybe I will sit next to my future wife. Or, maybe I will sit next to someone who smells. But you don’t think, Maybe the person behind me will have a little plastic device with its own key that keeps the seat from reclining, because why shouldn’t one person have the right to determine his own destiny while the rest of us suffer?

Buying a Knee Defender is cheating. It is like insider trading, but worse, because not everyone expects to get rich. Everyone does expect to recline.

Another thing about the Knee Defender that sucks: its tagline (“Standing Up For The Right Of The Tall Guy to Sit Down”). I can just hear the company spokesperson(man) saying, “Women also buy the Knee Defender,” and I am sure that, indeed, the company has five or six female customers. But the fact that “guy” is in the tagline, well, it’s clear that the target market is a man who is absolutely horrified that he might have to be uncomfortable for a few hours, i.e. men.

Putting a giant thing up in the sky that moves through the air and needs to be scheduled in such a way that it doesn’t run into other giant things in the sky is complicated and expensive. I am not going to say that the airlines are our friends, but I think they have a lot to deal with. Gas costs a lot. Employees cost a lot. Weather happens. And you can’t ever make everyone happy.

Yes, the seats on airplanes are very small. I don’t think anyone would argue with that, except of course people who fly First Class all the time, and they are too busy complaining about paying taxes to complain about air travel. But air travel is mostly a miracle and a privilege. You can get from coast to coast in five hours, and you can do so because you have at least some disposable income. We’ve gotten so used to it, however, that we forget how amazing it is.

I can just hear the Knee Defender guy right now: So what am I supposed to do then? Just be squished for five hours? Well, until there’s a better solution, yes, squished—just like the rest of us. When it gets really bad, just think about how the Donner Party crossed the country. Now that is uncomfortable.

TIME als ice bucket challenge

I Figured Out Why I Hate the Ice Bucket Challenge

Two women get doused during the ice bucket challenge at Boston's Copley Square on Aug. 7, 2014.
Elise Amendola—AP Two women get doused during the ice bucket challenge at Boston's Copley Square on Aug. 7, 2014.

I shudder to think what Americans look like dumping freezing cold water over our heads while so much of the world is plunged into acute suffering, and I can tell you exactly why

With much gratitude, somehow my weekend Facebook thread was remarkably free of ALS Ice Bucket Challenge videos. A friend with whom I spent the weekend was not so lucky. Every time she looked at Facebook she exclaimed “Another one! Another one. Oh my God. Sheryl Sandberg! Oh my God! Bill Gates! Russell Crowe! Justin Timberlake!” I actually watched Justin Timberlake’s, not because I am obsessed with Justin Timberlake, but because I found him somehow the most surprising. But he really took to ice water, well, I guess the way a duck takes to regular water.

But my friend and I found ourselves ultimately irritated by the ALS challenge, which has shown no signs of fading. We wondered why. How could we object to an organization raising $80 million dollars to help combat a terrible disease? Charitable fundraising is not a frivolous pursuit. Plus, I myself had done many only-charitable-to-myself frivolous things this weekend. I flew in an airplane. I ate food out of takeout containers. I swam in a lovely pool.

Still exploring our irritation, my friend and I watched one particular video of a woman standing in front of her Malibu beach house, screaming as the icy water fell on her head. I’d seen and heard other ALS Ice Bucketeers scream, but this one was particularly bloodcurdling. In that scream, I knew why the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge rubbed me the wrong way.

At any given time, many people on the planet are enduring war and famine and violence. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb when I say that in the last few weeks the news been especially awful. Around 2,000 Palestinians and 66 Israelis have died in Gaza since that conflict flared up. In our very own country, a police officer shot an unarmed 18-year-old boy, six times. This morning, Sudanese rebels shot down a U.N. helicopter.

And here we are in America dumping ice water on our heads, which, I insist, is more than just harmless fun for a good cause. It is disrespectful to the literally millions of people in the world who are, as I type and you read, in actual physical pain. To then post that experience in public forum is essentially kind of a subtle form of bragging. “My life is so without trauma that I find creating moments of trauma exhilarating, and hilarious.” The fact that there are hundreds of thousands of Americans creating and sharing these videos suggests that we as a nation are making the same boast.

Do I think everyone who did the ALS challenge is a terrible person? Of course not. Do I think that there’s another way that ALS could have raised all that money so fast? Unlikely. It’s certainly better for the ALS Association and the approximately 30,000 Americans who have ALS that this happened. That said, I shudder to think about what we look like dumping freezing cold water over our heads while so much of the world at this time is plunged into acute suffering over which they have no control. Not to mention the fact that we are also in the middle of an historic drought, and most of the challenge water is from the tap, not the toilet or another used source (an exception being Matt Damon, who rightly called dumping clean water on his head “a little crazy”).

Imagine being a suffering person in the world, watching Americans spend the weekend dumping water on their heads as a quixotic impetus to give—or to avoid giving? Which is it?—money. In Gaza, having bombs drop all around you and sharing the one remaining jug of water left in your kitchen with four other people. In Ferguson, Missouri.

I am not saying that Americans should have spent their weekends in hair shirts, flagellating themselves. But if we’re going to be excited about having this connected world, we need to act like citizens of that world and try to be aware that there are other people living in it, whose experience is absolutely nothing like ours. And with that realization, it might be nice to just quietly, without screaming or wasting, send someone who has less than you, someone who suffers more, a check. Just because.

 

Sarah Miller also writes for NewYorker.com and The Hairpin, among other outlets, and has published two novels, Inside the Mind of Gideon Rayburn and The Other Girl.

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