TIME

When One Twin is More Academically Gifted

My son tested into the gifted program at school, but my daughter didn't. Should I split them up?

Splitting up twins in school is never easy. But splitting up twins so that one goes on the advanced learning track and the other follows the regular program is one of the most agonizing decisions a parent can face. And no amount of Internet searches will give you helpful advice. The consensus: Figure it out, parents. That’s what you’re (not) paid for.

As you may have guessed, I have twins, a boy and a girl, and they’re in the first grade. I happen to be a fraternal twin myself, so I’m sensitive to always being compared to a sibling. My son is like his engineer father —completely committed to being a lovable nerd. The other day he found a book of math problems at Barnes and Noble and was so excited it was as if Santa arrived, handed him a gift, and then let him ride a reindeer. My daughter is like her freelance writer mother – studying is not really her thing. She reminds me of the prince in Monty Python and the Holy Grail who is to inherit a large amount of land and says, “But I don’t want any of that. I’d rather sing!” That’s my girl.

We were first introduced to our school’s Spectrum (advanced learning) program last year in Seattle, Washington at the beginning of kindergarten. The kids could be tested that year and would enter the program—or not—in first grade. I hadn’t really thought about whether to have my kids tested. Other parents apparently had. One asked: “Should we have our child practice at home with the same kind of mouse they’re going to use in the test?”

In the beginning, my husband and I laughed at the idea of advanced learning in the first grade. We joked about “Level Two Crayons” and “Expert Alphabet.” But then, as the day to decide about testing came closer, we started hearing from our son’s teacher about how gifted he was. What first grader wants to practice math and reading on his own during the evenings and weekends? My son. And then there was my daughter, who was right on track, but, like most kids her age, was happy to leave school stuff at school. “Let’s just get them both tested and see what happens,” I said.

As far as my kids knew, they were just going to school to talk about what they know and what they don’t. They were never told that the results of the test had any sort of consequences and weren’t the least bit curious. But when we got the results–my son tested into the advanced program and my daughter didn’t–I immediately became anxious. I wanted to let my son move into the advanced program because I knew he would love it and thrive. But I worried for my vibrant, passionate daughter who at the age of six doesn’t think she has any limits. How was I going to separate her from her brother because he could do something better?

As a child I never felt smart enough. Not because of my twin sister, but because of my mother, who was brilliant. She used her intelligence to get off of the Kentucky farm where she grew up and into a New York City law firm. She placed a lot of value on the power of education and what good grades could do. I felt perpetually unable to meet her high expectations. Now I had a daughter who, in kindergarten, was already resistant to doing her reading homework. I was terrified that placing her brother in a higher academic track would affect my daughter’s self-esteem.

I contacted Christina Baglivi Tingloff from the site Talk About Twins. She’s a mother of adult twins and author of six books, including Double Duty and Parenting School-Age Twins and Multiples. “It’s tough when twins differ in abilities,” she says, “and I’d say that it’s the biggest challenge of parenting multiples. [But] kids take their cues from their parents. If you make this a non-issue in your household, I think your kids will follow suit.”

My husband and I have no lofty goals for our kids besides wanting them to be able to pay their own bills, not hurt themselves or anyone else, and be happy. “So many parents of twins try to even the playing field,” says Tingloff. “In my opinion, that’s a bad course of action because…kids then never develop a strong emotional backbone. Your job as a parent is to help them deal with the disappointments in life.”

We ended up putting our son in the Spectrum program and our daughter in the regular learning track. In the years to come, I will make sure that they understand that advanced or regular doesn’t mean better or worse, it just means different. I want both of my children to do the best they can, whether that means taking advanced classes or singing the hell out of the school musical.

When my daughter wanders through the house making up her own songs and singing at the top of her voice, I support her…most of the time. “Really encourage your daughter in the arts,” says Tingloff. “Find her spotlight. At some point her brother will look at her accomplishments and say, ‘Wow, I can’t do that.'” While I had been worrying all this time about my daughter feeling outshined by her brother, I had never considered that he might also feel outperformed by her.

Despite all of my talk about how my daughter’s interests were every bit as valid as her brother’s, I had not been treating them the same. I saw the dance and drama as diversions and hobbies. I never gave those talents the respect that I gave to her brother’s academic interests.

Now that I am more aware of how I have been valuing their different strengths, I’ll be able to give my daughter’s interests the same amount of focus and praise as her brother’s. Hopefully, I can assure them that our only concern is their happiness. Then my husband and son can go do math problems together, and take things apart to see how they work, and my daughter and I will lay on the grass and find shapes in the clouds while we wonder about the world and sing.

The truth is, both my kids are gifted.

 

TIME Opinion

Confessions of a Lumbersexual

Jordan Ruiz—Getty Images

Why plaid yoga mats and beards are the future

Several years ago I was riding in a van with two female friends in the front seats when one of them pointed out the window and yelled “Wait! Slow down…is that him?” We were passing the bar that employed her ex-boyfriend.

“I don’t know,” said her friend who was driving. “A guy in Brooklyn with a beard and a plaid shirt? Could be anyone.”

I looked down over my beard at my shirt and both girls looked at me and we all laughed.

I’ve had a beard most of my adult life and my wardrobe is comprised largely of cowboy cut, plaid shirts and Wrangler blue jeans. On cold days I wear a big Carhartt coat into the office. In my youth in Oklahoma I did cut down some trees and split firewood for use in a house I really did grow up in, but in those days I dressed like a poser gutter punk. I nurture an abiding love for outlaw country and bluegrass, though, again, during my actual lumberjacking days it was all Black Flag, Operation Ivy and an inadvisable amount of The Doors.

After a decade living in urban places likes Brooklyn and Washington, I still keep a fishing rod I haven’t used in years, woodworking tools I shouldn’t be trusted with, and when I drink my voice deepens into a sort of a growl the provenance of which I do not know. I like mason jars, and craft beer and vintage pickup trucks. An old friend visiting me a few years ago commented, as I propped a booted foot against the wall behind me and adjusted the shirt tucked into my blue jeans, that I looked more Oklahoma than I ever did in Oklahoma.

I am a lumbersexual.

The lumbersexual has been the subject of much Internet musing in the last several weeks. The term is a new one on me but it is not a new phenomenon. In 2010 Urban Dictionary defined the lumbersexual as, “A metro-sexual who has the need to hold on to some outdoor based ruggedness, thus opting to keep a finely trimmed beard.” I was never a metrosexual and I’m actually most amused by Urban Dictionary’s earliest entry for lumbersexual, from February 2004: “A male who humps anyone who gives him wood.” But I do think defining the lumbersexual as a metrosexual grasping at masculinity gets at something.

It doesn’t take a lot of deep self-reflection to see that my lumbersexuality is, in part, a response to the easing of gender identities in society at large over the last few decades. Writing for The New Republic nearly 15 years ago, Andrew Sullivan observed “many areas of life that were once ‘gentlemanly’ have simply been opened to women and thus effectively demasculinized.” The flipside of this happy consequence of social progress is a generation of men left a bit rudderless. “Take their exclusive vocations away, remove their institutions, de-gender their clubs and schools and workplaces, and you leave men with more than a little cultural bewilderment,” writes Sullivan.

If not a breadwinner, not ogreishly aggressive, and not a senior member in good standing at a stuffy old real-life boy’s club, what is a man to be?

On the other hand, the upending of gender norms frees men in mainstream culture to do things verboten by a retrograde man-code once enforced by the most insecure and doltish among us. We carry purses now (and call them murses, or satchels, but don’t kid yourselves fellas). We do yoga. That the ancient core workout is so associated with femininity the pop culture has invented the term “broga” only goes to show what a sorry state masculinity is in. The lumbersexual is merely a healthier expression of the same identity crisis.

Which is, I think (?), why I dress like a lumberjack (and a lumberjack from like 100 years ago, mind you; real lumberjacks today, orange-clad in helmets and ear protection, do not dress like lumbersexuals). As a 21st-century man who does not identify with the pickup artist thing or the boobs/cars/abs triad of masculinity on display in most 21st-century men’s magazines (Maxim et al), is not particularly fastidious or a member of any clearly identifiable subculture and who is as attracted to notions of old-timey authenticity as anyone else in my 20s-30s hipster cohort (all of you are hipsters get over it), I guess this is just the fashion sense that felt most natural. I am actually fairly outdoorsy, in a redneck car-camping kind of way. Lumbersexuality just fit right, like an axe handle smoothed out by years of palm grease or an iPhone case weathered in all the right places to the shape of my hand.

There is a dark side to this lumbersexual moment however. It’s an impulse evident in Tim Allen’s new show Last Man Standing. Whereas in the 1990s, Tim the Tool-Man Taylor from Home Improvement was a confident and self-effacing parody on the Man Cave, complete with silly dude-grunting and fetishizing of tools, Mike Baxter, played by Tim Allen in Last Man Standing, is an entirely un-self-aware, willfully ignorant reactionary. The central theme of the show is Baxter in a household full of women struggling to retain his masculinity, which is presumed to be under assault because of all the estrogen around. He does this through all manner of posturing, complaining and at times being outright weird. In an early episode, Baxter waltzes into the back office at his job in a big box store modeled off Bass Pro Shops and relishes in the fact that it “smells like balls in here.” The joke is a crude attempt at celebrating maleness but it rings distressingly hollow to anyone who has spent any time in rooms redolent with the scent of actual balls. In later seasons the show softened but the central concern of a man whose masculinity is under assault because he is surrounded by women speaks to this moment in our popular culture.

If my beard is a trend-inspired attempt to reclaim a semblance of masculinity in a world gone mad then so be it. Beats scrotum jokes.

TIME Family

Why Your Kids Don’t Thank You for Gifts

images by Tang Ming Tung;Getty Images/Flickr RM

And how to help them develop some gratitude

When we shop for holiday gifts, many of us look for things that will make our children happy. We can’t wait to hear their appreciative cries of “thank you! thank you!” once the wrapping gets ripped off.

But here’s a tip: Don’t count on it.

In this season for thanks and giving, even the most thoughtful children may not offer much gratitude for the gadgets, gizmos, and games they receive. And you’d be wise not expect it.

I’ve spent the last year living more gratefully because of a book I’m writing on the subject, so I’m confident that gratitude can make us happier, healthier, and even fitter. Seeing the world through grateful eyes can lower depression and improve sleep. It creates a pay-it-forward spirit that is good for the world. Encouraging children to write down events that made them grateful—and not just on Thanksgiving—can begin a habit that lasts a lifetime.

Read: What I’m Thankful For, by Nick Offernan, Wendy Davis and others

But gratitude for the endless stuff we buy them? All the research I’ve done has convinced me that it’s not going to happen. And there are several reasons why.

In one study, Yale’s assistant professor of psychology, Yarrow Dunham, found that 4- to 8-year old kids responded differently when given a gift they thought they earned versus one that was granted out of simple generosity. He called the earned gift an “exchange relationship.” The children were happy for the trinket but didn’t experience the deeper resonance of gratitude that might also make them more generous to others. The gift given for no reason, however, had a different emotional impact and the children showed thanks by being more likely to share candies they received in a follow-up game.

As parents, we don’t consider our holiday gifts an “exchange relationship” since we know the time, money, and effort we put in to buying them. But kids have a different view. One mom told me that when she asked her 16-year-old son to thank her for buying him a cellphone, he said, “But that’s what moms do, isn’t it?” He wasn’t being rude—just practical.

From a teenager’s vantage, it’s a parent’s responsibility to take care of the family, and playing Santa is part of the job. According to Dunham, “when teenagers code it that way, a gift is no longer something given freely and voluntarily”—it’s just mom and dad living up to their obligation. And who’s going to be grateful for parents doing what they’re supposed to do?

Read: 40 Inspiring Motivational Quotes About Gratitude

Asking our children to be grateful for gifts is sending the wrong message, anyway. Cornell psychology professor Tom Gilovich has found that people are more likely to be grateful for experiences than for material possessions. A family dinner, a songfest around the fireplace, or even a hike in the woods creates a spirit of gratitude that outlasts even the nicest Nintendo.

Parents may get exasperated when a teenager tosses a new cashmere sweater on the floor, and gratitude aside, and we do have the right to demand good manners. Children should know to say thank you (profusely) to every parent, child, aunt, and uncle who gives them something.

But kids can’t know how blessed they are unless they have a basis for comparison. And they don’t learn that by a parent complaining that they’re ungrateful. We need to give our children the gift of a wider world view. Take them to a soup kitchen instead of to the mall. Become the secret Santa for a needy family. Show by example that gratitude isn’t about stuff—which ultimately can’t make any of us happy anyway. It’s about realizing how lucky you are and paying your good fortune forward.

My favorite idea: Collect all the charitable appeals you get this time of year into a big basket and find a night when the whole family can sit down together to go through them. You set the budget for giving and the kids decide how it’s distributed. Going through each request, you have the opportunity to discuss with children and teens (and also your spouse) what it means to need a food bank or to live in a part of the world where there is no clean water. You can talk about teenagers who are caught in war zones or those suffering from disabilities. Then write the checks together or go online and make your contributions.

Once the conversation about gratitude gets started, it’s much easier to continue all year. Set up a family ritual at bedtime where kids describe three things that made them grateful. When kids go off to college, text them a picture each week of something that inspired your appreciation. Whether it’s a friend, a snowflake, or a sunset, the spirit of the photos will help you (and them) see the world differently.

Teaching children to focus on the positive and appreciate the good in their lives is perhaps the greatest gift we can give them. And we can all learn together that the things that really matter aren’t on sale at a department store.

So I hope my kids will thank me for the gifts I buy them this year. But gratitude? That needs more than wrapping paper and a bow.

TIME Opinion

Feminist Is a 21st Century Word

Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Robin Morgan, Co-Founders of the Women's Media Center
From left: Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan, co-founders of the Women's Media Center on CBS This Morning in New York City on Sept. 18, 2013 CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Robin Morgan is an author, activist and feminist. She is also a co-founder, with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, of the Women's Media Center

I know, I know, TIME’s annual word-banning poll is meant as a joke, and this year’s inclusion of the word feminist wasn’t an attempt to end a movement. But as a writer — and feminist who naturally has no sense of humor — banning words feels, well, uncomfortable. The fault lies in the usage or overusage, not the word — even dumb or faddish words.

Feminist is neither of those. Nevertheless, I once loathed it. In 1968, while organizing the first protest against the Miss America Pageant, I called myself a “women’s liberationist,” because “feminist” seemed so 19th century: ladies scooting around in hoop skirts with ringlet curls cascading over their ears!

What an ignoramus I was. But school hadn’t taught me who they really were, and the media hadn’t either. We Americans forget or rewrite even our recent history, and accomplishments of any group not pale and male have tended to get downplayed or erased — one reason why Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and I founded the Women’s Media Center: to make women visible and powerful in media.

No, it took assembling and researching my anthology Sisterhood Is Powerful to teach me about the word feminism. I had no clue that feminists had been a major (or leading) presence in every social-justice movement in the U.S. time line: the revolutionary war, the campaigns to abolish slavery, debtors’ prisons and sweatshops; mobilizations for suffrage, prison reform, equal credit; fights to establish social security, unions, universal childhood education, halfway houses, free libraries; plus the environmentalism, antiwar and peace movements. And more. By 1970, I was a feminist.

Throughout that decade, feminism was targeted for ridicule. Here’s how it plays: first they ignore you, then laugh at you, then prosecute you, then try to co-opt you, then — once you win — they claim they gave you your rights: after a century of women organizing, protesting, being jailed, going on hunger strikes and being brutally force-fed, “they” gave women the vote.

We outlasted being a joke only to find our adversaries had repositioned “feminist” as synonymous with “lesbian” — therefore oooh, “dangerous.” These days — given recent wins toward marriage equality and the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the military, not to mention the popularity of Orange Is the New Black — it’s strange to recall how, in the ’70s, that connotation scared many heterosexual women away from claiming the word feminist. But at least it gave birth to a witty button of which I’ve always been especially fond: “How dare you assume I’m straight?!”

Yet in the 1980s the word was still being avoided. You’d hear maddening contradictions like “I’m no feminist, but …” after which feminist statements would pour from the speaker’s mouth. Meanwhile, women’s-rights activists of color preferred culturally organic versions: womanist among African Americans, mujerista among Latinas. I began using feminisms to more accurately depict and affirm such a richness of constituencies. Furthermore, those of us working in the global women’s movement found it fitting to celebrate what I termed a “multiplicity of feminisms.”

No matter the name, the movement kept growing. Along the way, the word absorbed the identity politics of the 1980s and ’90s, ergo cultural feminism, radical feminism, liberal/reform feminism, electoral feminism, academic feminism, ecofeminism, lesbian feminism, Marxist feminism, socialist feminism — and at times hybrids of the above.

Flash-forward to today when, despite predictions to the contrary, young women are furiously active online and off, and are adopting “the F word” with far greater ease and rapidity than previous feminists. Women of color have embraced the words feminism and feminist as their own, along with women all over the world, including Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

As we move into 2015, feminism is suddenly hot; celebrities want to identify with it. While such irony makes me smile wryly, I know we live in a celebrity culture and this brings more attention to issues like equal pay, full reproductive rights, and ending violence against women. I also know that sincere women (and men of conscience), celebs or not, will stay with the word and what it stands for. Others will just peel off when the next flavor of the month comes along.

Either way, the inexorable forward trajectory of this global movement persists, powered by women in Nepal’s rice paddies fighting for literacy rights; women in Kenya’s Green Belt Movement planting trees for microbusiness and the environment; Texas housewives in solidarity with immigrant women to bring and keep families together; and survivors speaking out about prostitution not being “sex work” or “just another job,” but a human-rights violation. From boardroom to Planned Parenthood clinic, this is feminism.

The dictionary definition is simple: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Anyone who can’t support something that commonsensical and fair is part of a vanishing breed: well over half of all American women and more than 30% of American men approve of the word — the percentages running even higher in communities of color and internationally.

But I confess that for me feminism means something more profound. It means freeing a political force: the power, energy and intelligence of half the human species hitherto ignored or silenced. More than any other time in history, that force is needed to save this imperiled blue planet. Feminism, for me, is the politics of the 21st century.

Robin Morgan, the author of 22 books, hosts Women’s Media Center Live With Robin Morgan (syndicated radio, iTunes, and wmcLive.com).

TIME Culture

How the Cult of Early Success Is Bad for Young People

Photograph by Martin Schoeller for TIME

Taylor Swift and Malala Yousafzai are great role models. They've also set an impossible standard for success

Taylor Swift is on the cover of TIME magazine this week as the new queen of the music industry. She’s been in the business for more than 11 years, but at 24, she’d still have trouble renting a car.

It should be inspiring for young people to see someone so young achieve such phenomenal success. “Other women who are killing it should motivate you, thrill you, challenge you and inspire you rather than threaten you and make you feel like you’re immediately being compared to them,” she told my colleague Jack Dickey. “The only thing I compare myself to is me, two years ago, or me one year ago.”

But despite her best efforts to set a positive example, Swift also represents a generation of super-youth to which normal young people are inevitably compared. “You see someone so young, your age or even younger, being so wildly successful, and you can think ‘they just have it, they have something I don’t have,’” says Dr. Carol Dweck, a professor of Psychology at Stanford University and author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. “You think, ‘I’m so young and already I’m doomed.’”

Forget Forbes’s 30-under-30 list: when it comes to “freshness,” 30 is the new 40. At her age, Taylor Swift isn’t even considered precociously successful– she’s just regular successful. In fact, it’s been a banner year for wunderkind, and not just in entertainment (which has always been fixated on the young and beautiful.) 18-year old Saira Blair just became the youngest American lawmaker when she was elected to the West Virginia Legislature. 18-year old fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson took up a second career—as a Broadway star—as her magazine Rookie rakes in 3.5 million hits a month. 17-year old Malala Yousafzai became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Prize.

As most millennials are moving sluggishly through their twenties, the hyper-visible hotshots are getting younger and younger, whittling away at the maximum age limit at which someone can get their “big break.”

For every young cultural force like Lena Dunham or genius app-creator like Evan Spiegel, there are thousands of other twenty-somethings sitting in their parents’ basements wondering why they haven’t invented an app or started a fashion line. According to a Pew survey, young people today have more debt and less income than their parents and grandparents did at their age, which means we’re the least financially stable generation in recent memory. We’re are making life decisions later than ever, delaying marriage and babies longer than previous generations did (partly because of the cash flow problems), and taking much longer to settle into a career. Yet, thanks to platforms like Youtube and Kickstarter that remove the traditional gatekeepers, there’s a pervasive expectation that young people should be achieving more, faster, younger.

“There’s a lot of attention paid to people who have success very young, like Taylor Swift and Mark Zuckerberg, but the average young person is not coming into their career until later these days,” says Dr. Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me. “Across the board, what you can see is much higher expectations among millennials compared to Boomers and Gen Xers, but a reality which is if anything more difficult than it was for those previous generations when they were young.”

Middle-aged sourpusses have long complained about America’s cultural fixation on youth and to be fair, the Beatles weren’t much older than Taylor Swift. Bill Maher even devoted a whole segment of last Friday’s “Real Time” to ageism, calling it “the last acceptable prejudice in America.” But today, the world is dominated by tech, and tech is dominated by young people. “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical,” Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in a speech to a Y Combinator startup at Stanford in 2007. “Younger people are just smarter.”

But even for those of us who happen to be young, a youth-obsessed culture is a pretty raw deal. Because the perception that young people are “smarter” implies they should be getting successful more quickly, and often, they’re not. “In the internet age, the idea that fame is just out of reach has become more common,” says Dr. Twenge, noting that technological advances like YouTube helped launch careers of stars like Justin Bieber. “I think there’s an impression that it’s easier to become famous now, or easier to be discovered… There’s a perception that it’s easier, but that may not be entirely true.”

That expectation that it’s easy to get rich and famous may also contribute to some of the negative stereotypes about millennials, especially the reputation for laziness or entitlement. In other words, next to Lorde, the rest of us look like schlubs.

“I don’t think they’re comparing themselves to those wunderkind necessarily, but maybe their elders are, who are so critical of them,” says Dr. Jeffrey Arnett, who coined the phrase “emerging adult” and says he’s found little evidence to support the claim that millennials are lazy. “I wonder if that’s partly related to the fact that you have these amazingly successful young people, and people are saying ‘well, if Mark Zuckerberg can do this, why can’t you?’”

Of course, none of these comparisons are Taylor Swift’s fault, and she does everything in her power to nix that competitive instinct, especially among other women. But the fact that young superstars seem to have been born fully formed implies that growth and learning aren’t part of the recipe for success. “It not only tells them they don’t have time to grow, it saps them of the motivation to grow,” Dr. Dweck says.

Even Taylor recognizes that her darling days are numbered. “I just struggle to find a woman in music who hasn’t been completely picked apart by the media, or scrutinized and criticized for aging, or criticized for fighting aging,” she said. “It just seems to be much more difficult to be a woman in music and to grow older.”

When politicians proclaim that “young people are the future,” they mean we’ll inherit mountains of debt and a destroyed environment. But when young people think about our own futures, we should look at the way middle-aged and older people are treated—because like it or not, that’s going to be us one day. If young people were really so smart, we wouldn’t forget that.

Read next: The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram

TIME

Reasons It’s Ok to Dress Your Kid in Kardashian Baby Clothes

Kim Kardashian takes baby North West on late night flight from LAX Airport
Kim Kardashian takes baby North West on a late night flight from LAX Airport in Los Angeles, CA, on August 10, 2014. Diabolik/Splash News/Corbis

Kim Kardashian has thrived in male-dominated businesses like television and gaming. Shouldn't she be celebrated as a successful businesswoman by us and our leatherette-wearing kids?

Kim Kardashian and daughter North West have certainly made their mark in the fashion world recently. On Monday, the reality TV star showed up to a meeting in Woodland Hills sporting a stylish Birkin Bag with a one of a kind design: the fingerpainting by daughter Nori. What else? And yes, this was obviously Kanye West’s idea.

Speaking of bold fashion moves, Kim and her sisterhood of the traveling pants (AKA Khloe and Kourtney) recently released a line of children’s clothes at Babies R Us, and it’s causing even more drama than Bruce Jenner’s mane of free-flowing hair. To put it simply, there are three types of people in this world: people who love the idea of dressing their infants in “leatherette skirts,” people who have no idea what a “leatherette skirt” is and people who fear a “leatherette skirt” will doom their innocent baby to a lifetime of sex tapes, 72 day marriages and questionable taste in floral print.

Professional Concerned Mother, Amie Logan of Roeland Park, Kansas, falls into the third category and tried to rally fellow moms in a petition to ban Kardashian Kids from Babies R Us. “I don’t want my child to grow up to be a sex tape star,” Logan’s Change.org petition initially read. “You pulled the Breaking Bad toys because they promoted drug use. You should pull this clothing line because it promotes bad behavior as well. The madness has to stop. If the toys are damaging so is the clothing.” Logan later withdrew the petition, saying that she had just wanted to start a conversation.

Considering that Babies R Us is a company that until recently felt totally comfortable selling action figures of meth dealers, it’s unlikely it will pull Kardashian Kids. (In fact, the store recently said as much to The Huffington Post.) But Logan’s concern–and that of the 2,941 moms who signed her petition–is just one more example of the shaming that’s been associated with Kim Kardashian’s name ever since she made her sex tape.

Many adults don’t see anything wrong with two people filming their consensual “love making,” but ever since Kim’s then-partner, Ray J, sold their x-rated tape to Vivid Entertainment, her public life’s been judged. For those of you who blocked out this harrowing time in early aughts pop culture, Kim filed a lawsuit against Vivid Entertainment and eventually settled for somewhere around $5 million. In other words, she turned exploit into profit, and made the first of many solid business decisions–including Kardashian Kids, which I’m guessing will do quite well considering the Kardashian reign of success.

The tabloid-reading denizens of middle America (myself included) have accepted most of Kim’s business pursuits as a natural by-product of her status as a sex star (of course she’d design lingerie–and more power to her.) But, her foray into children’s clothing crosses a line for parents like Amie Logan, who fear Kim has no place at the family dinner table—or, shall we say, changing table. “I would not choose to put my daughter in these clothes, and because the Kardashians are not people that have the family values that I uphold,” Logan’s petition now reads (having been updated since the initial post). “This whole petition, and the very negative responses I have received, has gotten larger than I ever expected when I started it last week. In the end it did get people discussing the issue…The original article seemed to leave out that this petition wasn’t a crusade, but a means to get people discussing who should be raising their children, and what things retailers have the right to sell.”

While I don’t want Kim Kardashian raising my children (though I would take Khloe as a sassy godmother and I wouldn’t mind an Hermes Birkin bag no matter whose drawing is on the front) I’m fine having my kids grow up with Kim and her sister-friends on the sidelines of their lives. With a net worth of $28 million, Kim has been at the center of a successful reality franchise, owns a chain of boutiques with her siblings, has lent her name to multiple clothing lines and even made a tanning lotion titled Kardashian Glamour Tan. Plus, let’s not forget the highly addictive waste of time that is the game Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, which could earn a predicted $200 million in 2014. In an industry that’s still dominated by men, shouldn’t Kim be celebrated as a successful businesswoman by us and our leatherette-wearing kids?

Feminism is more on trend than ever with stars like Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Miley Cyrus self-identifying with The F-Word. While there’s been some backlash against calling Kim Kardashian a feminist (Jezebel accurately points out that she represents impossible beauty standards that play into “the patriarchy”), there’s no denying that she’s a model of female success among a sea of male entrepreneurs. So, what exactly is the problem with our kids growing up with her name plastered on their clothing?

No child will be fated to a life of sex tapes and loose morals simply by wearing Kardashian Kids at the tender age of two. And, to be honest, most of the clothes look like something you’d find at Baby Gap (only designed by whoever makes Kanye West’s pants). Toddlers would probably go through life blissfully ignorant of their leatherette skirt’s sinister plans if it weren’t for their parents teaching them that there’s something innately wrong with clothing designed by a former sex tape star.

There’s no denying that Kim Kardashian’s empire rests on a foundation of overt sexuality, but let’s admire the fact that she successfully built said empire on her own. Sure, some of Kim’s endorsements are less than inspired (Charmin Toilet Paper, for one), but she did what she had to do to succeed, and her business decisions are only getting more daring –– especially now that she’s a mom to burgeoning fashion icon North West. Just look at Kardashian Kids: instead of a bright pink palette, the line gives off a progressive, cutting-edge vibe with gender-neutral tones and the implied message that girls don’t have to be overtly “girly” to be feminine.

Kim once mused, “I have so much going on in my life. I never wanted anyone to think of me as Kim Kardashian, sex tape star.” There’s no doubt that it’s hard to shake this notion, but fans and haters alike should learn to look past Kim’s tape and start applauding her for being both a successful momtrepreneur and a potential business role model for our children. No, I don’t want my daughter building an empire based on her looks, but I do want her building an empire as successful as Kim Kardashian’s.

TIME Opinion

The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram

Close up of teenage girl texting on mobile in bedroom
Getty Images

Girls have quietly repurposed the photo-sharing app into a barometer for popularity, friendship status and self-worth. Here's how they're using it.

Secrecy is hardly new on Planet Girl: as many an eye-rolling boy will tell you, girls excel at eluding the prying questions of grown ups. And who can blame them? From an early age, young women learn that to be a “good girl” they must be nice, avoid conflict and make friends with everyone. It’s an impossible ask (and one I’ve studied for over a decade) – so girls respond by taking their true feelings underground.

Enter the Internet, and Instagram: a platform where emotions can run wild – and where insecurities run wilder. The photo-sharing app is social media’s current queen bee: In a survey released earlier this month, three quarters of teens said they were using Instagram as their go-to app.

Instagram lets users share their photos, and “like” and comment on their friends’. The competition for “likes” encourages creativity in young users, who can use filters and other devices to spruce up their images. And its simplicity – it’s just pictures, right? — comforts parents haunted by the cyberbullying they hear about on Facebook and Twitter.

But Instagram’s simplicity is also deceiving: look more closely, and you find the Rosetta Stone of girl angst: a way for tweens and teens to find out what their peers really think of them (Was that comment about my dress a joke or did she mean it?), who likes you (Why wasn’t I included in that picture?), even how many people like them (if you post and get too few likes, you might feel “Instashame,” as one young woman calls it). They can obsess over their friendships, monitoring social ups and downs in extreme detail. They can strategically post at high traffic hours when they know peers are killing time between homework assignments. “Likes,” after all, feel like a public, tangible, reassuring statement of a girl’s social status.

That’s not what the app creators intended, of course, but it does make psychological sense: as they become preteens, research shows that girls’ confidence takes a nosedive. Instagram, then, is a new way for girls to chase the feeling of being liked that eludes so many of them. Instagram becomes an popularity meter and teens learn to manipulate the levers of success.

Here are a few of the ways that girls are leveraging Instagram to do much more than just share photos:

To Know What Friends Really Think Of Them

In the spot where adults tag a photo’s location, girls will barter “likes” in exchange for other things peers desperately want: a “TBH” (or “to be honest”). Translation? If you like a girl’s photo, she’ll leave you a TBH comment. For example: “TBH, ILYSM,” meaning, “To be honest I love you so much.” Or, the more ambivalent: “TBH, We don’t hang out that much.

To Measure How Much a Friend Likes You

In this case, a girl may trade a “like” — meaning, a friend will like her photo — in exchange for another tidbit of honesty: a 1-10 rating, of how much she likes you, your best physical feature, and a numerical scale that answers the question of “are we friends?” and many others. Girls hope for a “BMS,” or break my scale, the ultimate show of affection.

As a Public Barometer of Popularity

Instagram lets you tag your friends to announce that you’ve posted a new photo of them. Girls do the app one better: they take photos of scenes where no person is present – say, a sunset — but still tag people they love and add gushing comments. It’s a kind of social media mating call for BFFs. But girls also do it because the number of tags you get is a public sign of your popularity. “How many photos you’re tagged in is important,” says Charlotte, 12. “No one can see the actual number but you can sort of just tell because you keep seeing their name pop up.”

To Show BFF PDA

That broken heart necklace you gave your bestie? It’s gone the way of dial up. Now, girls use Instagram biographies – a few lines at the top of their page — to trumpet their inner circle. It’s a thrill to be featured on the banner that any visitor to the page will see — but not unusual to get deleted after a fight or bad day, in plain, humiliating sight of all your friends.

A Way to Retaliate

Angry at someone? Don’t tag the girl who is obviously in a picture, crop her out of it entirely, refuse to follow back the one who just tried to follow you, or simply post a photo a girl is not in. These are cryptic messages adults miss but which girls hear loud and clear. A girl may post an image of a party a friend wasn’t invited to, an intimate sleepover or night out at a concert. She never even has to mention the absent girl’s name. She knows the other girl saw it. That’s the beauty of Instagram: it’s the homework you know girls always do.

A Personal Branding Machine

Girls face increasing pressure not only to be smart and accomplished, but girly, sexy and social. In a 2011 survey, 74% of teen girls told the Girl Scout Research Institute that girls were living quasi-double lives online, where they intentionally downplayed their intelligence, kindness and good influence – and played up qualities like fun, funny and social. On Instagram, girls can project a persona they may not have time, or permission, to show off in the classroom: popular, social, sexy. Cultivating a certain look is so important that it’s common for girls to stage ‘photo shoots’ with each other as photographers to produce shots that stand out visually. (Plus a joint photo shoot is more evidence of friendship.)

A Place For Elaborate Birthday Collages

Remember coming to school on your big day, excited to see what you’d find plastered to your locker? Now girls can see who’s celebrating them hours before they get off the bus. Birthday collages on Instagram are elaborate public tributes, filled with inside jokes, short videos, and pictures of memories you may not have been a part of. “There is definitely a ‘I love you the most. I’ve loved you the longest edge to these birthday posts,” one parent told me. Collages that document the intensity or length of a relationship are a chance to celebrate a friend – or prove just how close you are to the birthday girl. Although most girls know to expect something from their closest friends, not getting one is seen as a direct diss, a parent told me. And it can be competitive: another parent told me her daughter’s friend stayed up until midnight just so she could be the first to post.

While girls may seem addicted to their online social lives, it’s not all bad — and they still prefer the company of an offline friend to any love they have to click for. (In a survey that would surely surprise some parents, 92% of teen girls said they would give up all of their social media friends if it meant keeping their best friend.) And, of course, likes aren’t everything. As 13 year-old Leah told me, “Just because people don’t write me a paragraph on Instagram doesn’t mean they don’t like me.”

Rachel Simmons is the co-founder of Girls Leadership Institute and the author of the New York Times bestselling book, “Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls” and “The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls With Courage and Confidence.” Follow her on Twitter @racheljsimmons.

Read next:

TIME Opinion

Is Your Kid Still Eating Halloween Candy? Read This.

What is a parent to do when it comes to squaring off against a bag-full of treats?

It’s Day Seven post-Trick or Treating and while the Halloween costumes are old news, the siren’s call of that big stash of processed sugar goes on. And good luck trying to stand between a child and their yearly candy harvest. It becomes a daily battle that almost always ends with someone near tears. (Usually me.) Is the only course of action left to eat all the candy myself?

I could always blame Jimmy Kimmel. The late night comedian staged his now-annual Halloween prank where he has parents inform their children they ate all their Halloween candy and record the inevitable meltdown. The reactions are both funny and sad, but while some saw the prank as uproarious and others viewed it as a cruel hoax, I thought: Hey, that’s not a bad idea. If the candy just disappeared, the struggle would be over in one fell swoop. Off with the proverbial band-aid and on with the limited intake of sugar. But it’s kind of mean and the ensuing tantrum would not be fun to weather. As a parent, though, do I need to make the healthy choice for my kid, whether he likes it or not?

In general, my kid can usually take or leave sugary junk food, but he spent a lot of energy collecting his plus-sized bag of Halloween treats and seems to view it as his own personal Candy Land version of Mt. Everest. Like a wizened mountaineer, he must surmount it, simply because it’s there. At this point, if the FDA had an RDA, or Recommended Dietary Allowances, of carnauba wax, I assure you, it’s been met as he determinedly makes his way over Mt. CandyCoatedChocolate. He doesn’t care about my equally large mountain of studies showing that while delicious, copious amounts of sugar are simply not healthy.

But what is a parent to do when it comes to squaring off against a bag-full of treats? Some parents are lucky enough to live near wily dentists who will buy Halloween candy for cold hard cash and deliver them to troops via Operation Gratitude. The more organized among us plan in advance with the brilliant Switch Witch gag where a “witch” steals the candy in the middle of the night and switches it out for toys. It’s a great ploy for those of with enough free time to pull it off. (Some of us would pay $2,700 for an extra hour in the day in which to plan a Switch Witch-style swap.)

If a parent doesn’t want to be seen as a real witch, though, what are the options? It’s just us vs. the candy and currently, the corn syrup is winning. At the risk of getting that Frozen song stuck in your head again, should we just let it go? Double up on the vegetables and double down on the flossing and brushing and let the kids eat every last fun-sized morsel and just let the sugar industry win this round, despite the studies that show that sugar is the only cause of tooth decay?

Maybe?

I know it’s something that my hippy mother struggled with when I was a child. Normally we were allowed no processed sweets—seriously, I got a box of sugary cereal from Santa each year, otherwise it was all health food store versions of Cheerios—so Halloween was a bonanza for us and a nightmare for my mother. Each year she had a new approach to the onslaught of sugar. One year we were allowed two pieces a day, which stretched the candy consumption until March and quickly became a supposedly fun-sized thing she would never do again. The next year we were told to eat all we wanted on Halloween and the rest would be done away with, the result being a now-infamous evening of candy-colored vomiting. After that, each year the candy trove seemed to be eaten by the dog, despite the fact that the stash was hidden on a tall shelf in the back of a closet and the dog was an overweight corgi with no vertical lift.

As a parent now, blaming the dog for a disappearing candy hoard doesn’t seem like a bad option at all, but I think I am going to attempt to strike a balance. I’ll let him have a few pieces a day for a few more days, while carefully supervising brushing and flossing and vegetable intake and side-eying a copy of the Year of No Sugar. After a week of daily candy intake, though, it might be time to take a page from my mother’s book and blame the dog when the stash disappears.

And if you don’t have a dog, well, there’s always Jimmy Kimmel to blame.

 

TIME Burma

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Silence on Burma’s Human-Rights Abuses Is Appalling

Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Suu Kyi listens as reporter asks her a question during a news conference in Yangon
Myanmar's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi listens as reporter asks her a question during a news conference at the National League for Democracy party head office in Rangoon on Nov. 5, 2014 Soe Zeya Tun—Reuters

The Nobel laureate's refusal to condemn documented atrocities suggests that political calculation has trumped human rights in her thinking

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is not happy with the pace of democratic change in Burma, officially now known as Myanmar. On Wednesday, the Nobel Peace Prize winner gave a press conference to denounce the “stalling” reform process.

“The U.S. government has been too optimistic,” she said. “What significant reform steps have been taken in the last 24 months?”

This remark comes days before U.S. President Barack Obama’s visit to Rangoon, and after talks to reform the nation’s much maligned constitution broke down between Suu Kyi, Burma’s powerful military generals, the current military-backed government and various ethnic leaders.

The constitution bars Suu Kyi from becoming President in next year’s elections because she was married to a British man and has two sons who are foreign citizens. It also guarantees 25% of legislative seats to military appointees. Since more than 75% of lawmakers are required to enact any constitutional change, this gives the generals a de facto parliamentary veto.

Talks aimed at amending these provisions, which were shamelessly included with the sole purpose of barring Suu Kyi from the nation’s highest office, have gone nowhere, and the 69-year-old is attempting one last throw of the dice — appealing to Obama to put pressure on current President Thein Sein, himself a former junta general.

“Democratic reform would not be successful alone with the parliament,” Suu Kyi told assembled media.

Nobody would argue against Burma’s current constitution desperately needing revision, or pretend that reforms haven’t stalled. In fact, when Obama returns to Burma next week, he will find one of his few foreign policy successes in tatters.

“The hope and the optimism we had in 2012, when the country was opening up, has all been squandered,” Aung Zaw, managing editor of the Irrawaddy magazine, tells TIME, lamenting a “backsliding reform process” akin to watching “a train wreck in slow motion.”

Even so, Suu Kyi’s condemnation is curious.

It comes after her steadfast refusal to criticize the military or the government for myriad human-rights abuses. In Burma’s west, for example, more than 100,000 Rohingya Muslims languish in squalid displacement camps, but Suu Kyi repudiates evidence-based allegations of ethnic cleansing by Human Rights Watch and instead calls the crisis an “immigration issue.”

In northernmost Kachin state, civilians face “attacks against civilian populations, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence, arbitrary arrest and detention, internal displacement, land confiscation, the recruitment of child soldiers, forced labor and portering.” That’s been documented by the U.N., but Suu Kyi has refused to condemn those atrocities. Her silence is so pointed that 23 local NGOs signed an open letter of protest.

Other causes of concern, like the 10 journalists jailed this year on the flimsiest of pretenses, are brushed aside with platitudinous references to the “rule of law.” Meanwhile, Suu Kyi’s own Rule of Law Parliamentary Committee has achieved “nothing at all,” says Aung Zaw.

“We would’ve liked to have seen Aung San Suu Kyi speak on human-rights issues in a more forthright way,” says Matthew Smith, executive director of the Fortify Rights advocacy group. “She’s issued equivocal statements on serious human-rights violations, in some cases amounting to crimes against humanity.”

In fact, when a high-level delegation from Human Rights Watch came to Burma earlier this year for landmark talks, they met with senior government officials including the President but were snubbed by Suu Kyi.

And that’s not all. Suu Kyi’s baffling behavior goes beyond the area of human rights.

In April 2013, peaceful protesters blockaded a Chinese-owned copper mine near Monywa, around 450 miles north of Rangoon. The police attacked them using white phosphorous, leaving dozens with horrific burns, including traditionally sacrosanct Buddhist monks.

Suu Kyi headed the investigation commission but found that the mine must continue operations or else risk “hurting Burma,” despite the fact that it is desecrating the environment, was set up without scrutiny by the junta, and provides no jobs for local people. In unprecedented scenes, the National League for Democracy (NLD) leader was harangued by furious locals.

Suu Kyi has certainly experienced enormous personal sacrifice. Since returning to her homeland in 1988, she has spent 15 years under house arrest, not even being able to see her beloved husband Michael Aris before he died.

But this is also why her current aloofness is so painful to behold.

“The NLD under her leadership has had big question marks,” says Aung Zaw, “and they misread the whole situation.”

In August 2011, Suu Kyi met Thein Sein for the first time, formally marking her belated return to mainstream politics. The following April, she and 42 NLD colleagues were elected to parliament in a landslide amid jubilant scenes.

The common perception among analysts is that some deal was struck to allow Suu Kyi to stand for election in exchange for muting her criticism of the generals. The presumption was that reforms would take baby steps forward. But, three years on, there has been no progress, and she is partly culpable.

When Suu Kyi finally gave her Nobel acceptance speech in June 2012 — the prize having been originally bestowed in 1991 during a period of house arrest — she said that “receiving the Nobel Peace Prize means personally extending my concerns for democracy and human rights beyond national borders.”

But her present recalcitrance suggests that her own political career may be more important, even if we accept the mitigation that it is for some vague greater good.

“There is no version of pragmatism that would make silence on human-rights atrocities defensible,” says Smith. “These are some of the most serious human-rights violations that can be committed.”

Admittedly, Suu Kyi has always said she is a politician, rather than a human-rights defender. But the truth today is that she is pretty awful at both.

TIME Opinion

Lena Dunham and Feminism: Beware the Vitriol of the Sisterhood

The debate over revelations in Dunham's memoir is not just about the propriety of a child's sexual curiosity. It’s about women who make us uncomfortable.

Correction: Appended, Nov. 5.

“Sisterhood is powerful. It kills. Mostly sisters.”

Those were the words of Ti-Grace Atkinson, an author and philosopher, when she resigned from the Feminists, a radical group she had founded in the late 1960s. They were repeated, forty years later, in the New Yorker​ by Susan Faludi​, who ​described them as “one of the lines most frequently quoted by feminists.”

​If Lena Dunham’s latest lambasting is any indication, the words are still applicable today. The vitriol of the sisterhood is alive and well.

The latest controversy over Dunham goes like this: Last month, the 28-year-old creator of Girls published a memoir, Not That Kind of Girl. In the book, much in the same way her HBO series does, Dunham takes on all sorts of taboos, in revealing, unfiltered, at times uncomfortable sections on virginity, sisterly intimacy and platonic bed sharing, date rape, and more. She is graphic in her sexual descriptions, including a passage where she describes, as a 7-year-old, looking inside her younger sister’s vagina (to discover that her sister had placed pebbles in it, presumably as a prank).

The scene is cringe-inducing. It’s uncomfortable, no doubt. It’s also funny. I ​laughed, ​turned the page and kept reading. Little kids do bizarre things.

I​t appeared that so did everybody else — until last week. That’s when an article in the National Review – written by Kevin Williamson, a man notable for an article on how “Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman” and seeming to suggest that women who get abortions should be hanged-- eviscerated Dunham for the chapter in her book about rape (he questioned why, if the story of an assault she suffered in college were truthful, she never “felt the need to press charges, file a complaint, or otherwise document the encounter.”) The right​-wing website TruthRevolt then picked up the ​thread, ​homed in on the sisterly vagina scene ​(along with a typo stating that Dunham was seventeen not 7) and declared in a headline (over which Dunham is now allegedly suing): “Lena Dunham describes sexually molesting her sister.”

In the version of things in my head, here’s how I would have expected this scenario to play out: ​

A few right wing publications and gossip blogs would pick up the story. ​The New York Post would write a ​snarky headline. ​Dunham would respond ​on Twitter (which she did). Her sister, who is her best friend and tour manager, would chime in (which she did). Feminists would jump to her defense. What she did as a seven-year-old may bother people, but that’s precisely Dunham’s form of art. That doesn’t make it abuse.

And yet​…​ here is how it did play out. ​Dunham was swiftly called a “predator without remorse” — mostly by other feminists on Twitter.​ She was compared to R. Kelly, Bill Cosby, and Jian Ghomeshi. She became the subject of a hashtag, #DropDunham, which called on Planned Parenthood – which has joined Dunham on a number of stops on her book tour – to disassociate from her immediately.

​And on feminist listservs, Tumblr blogs and elsewhere, the pile-on began. She was “creepy.” “Not normal.” A “self-promoter.” “Full of herself.” A woman who needs to “sit the f–k down and learn something.” ​She was told to “get some boundaries.” To “stop being weird.” Her story was, as one blogger put it, “best kept in the confines of your family kitchen over Thanksgiving.”

This was not the National Review talking. These were fellow feminists.

Yes, she had defenders: Jimmy Kimmel tweeted that suggesting “a 7 yr-old girl is even capable of ‘molestation’ is vile​”; a sex researcher at the Kinsey Institute wrote that “it’s normal for kids to explore with each other;” prominent feminist voices like Roxane Gay (who called Dunham “gutsy” and “audacious” in a review of her book), Katha Pollitt (who donated to Planned Parenthood in Dunham’s honor); and a group of women who launched a Tumblr to curate all sorts of youthful (and at times unsettling) stories of sexual exploration. ​(Dunham responded again, too, writing in TIME that she takes abuse seriously and noting that her sister had given permission for her to publish the story.)

And yet the vitriol from her critics was so intense, so personal, so almost gleeful, that it was hard not to wonder if this was really about Lena Dunham at all.

“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve even seen this level of outrage over Bill Cosby,” one friend commented, referring to the allegations of sexual abuse against Cosby.

Why, whenever there is a powerful woman speaking about feminism publicly (including, ahem: Sheryl Sandberg, and please see the disclosure in my bio) must they become so polarizing as to make feminism, as one journalist put it, “a bipartisan issue“?​ (It’s worth noting that among my cohort, anyway, there has been far more discussion about Dunham than about the elections).

Feminism is about giving women equal opportunity, equal voice, equal power. And yet, over and over again, when female voices attain that power, we – other women – parse and analyze their every move, public and personal, with an absurdly critical eye. We see it in politics, in pop culture, in film. From Hillary Clinton to Sandberg to Anne Hathaway. (As Roxane Gay put it in a piece for The Rumpus, “Young women in Hollywood cannot win, no matter what they do.”)

To be clear: There are plenty of people who think Dunham’s behavior toward her sister was questionable, and that’s a valid argument to have. (Though “inappropriate” is a whole lot different from “molestation” so say the experts.) There are others who’ve argued that acknowledging Dunham’s race, and privileged background, are crucial to this conversation. (I happen to disagree – but that too, is a discussion worth having.)

But this has become a witch hunt – and it has everything to do with​ how we view women like Dunham.

Feminism has a long history of what Ms. Magazine, in a 1976 piece by Jo Freeman, called “trashing.” That is, taking jabs at women who suddenly rise up, helping elevate them, but then tearing them down when they become too successful. “This standard,” Freeman wrote, “is clothed in the rhetoric of revolution and feminism. But underneath are some very traditional ideas about women’s proper roles.”

Dunham is a perfect target for trashing – because she doesn’t fit into our traditional molds. She is loud, out there, imperfect, messy, and some might say maybe even a little gross. She speaks openly about feminism, and sex, the ambiguity of consent, and she doesn’t apologize for it. She makes people uncomfortable. And while she may have risen up propelled by the support of other women, somewhere along the way, she lost her likability – as powerful women often do. She is just a little too loud, a little too unapologetic, a little too overtly sexual, a little … successful.

But that doesn’t make her a molester.

Dunham has always presented herself as flawed. She has never made herself a paragon, or claimed to represent us all. Yes, her character on Girls called herself a “voice of her generation.” She is also not her character (and has said repeatedly that it was just a line). And she’s not a politician, she’s an artist. It is her job is to push boundaries. To speak loudly. And, yes, to self-promote – and sell books.

Dunham’s accomplishments are what feminists should want women to aspire to: she is the writer, director and star, making art about women, from a woman’s point of view, in an industry that is still dominated by men. She doesn’t represent all women — and she shouldn’t have to. But she is willing to say what many other high-profile women won’t (at least not publicly). Yes, she has a voice that creates controversy. Yes, she makes people uncomfortable.

But why do we hold her to a seemingly higher standard? Why must her voice represent us all?

No one can be “everything to everybody,” Freeman wrote back in 1976. And neither can Lena Dunham. Like her, don’t like her. Watch Girls, don’t watch it. But let’s not forget: There is room for more women than Lena Dunham at the top.

Jessica Bennett is a contributing columnist at Time.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. She writes regularly for the New York Times and is a contributing editor on special projects for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s non-profit, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

Read next: Lena Dunham: ‘I Do Not Condone Any Kind of Abuse’

Correction: The original version of this story attributed a quotation to National Review writer Kevin D. Williamson that he did not say. The story has been updated to remove the quotation.

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