TIME Religion

5 Lessons America Can Learn From Black Churches

Obama's eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney offered an illuminating glimpse into African American religious life

When President Obama sang the first few notes of “Amazing Grace” on Friday at the memorial service for Rev. Clementa Pinckney and the other 8 victims of the Charleston massacre, the mourners inside the church weren’t the only ones who rose to their feet and joined him. In that moment, much of America stood to her feet as well, supported by the smooth notes of the organ; united, comforted and hopeful.

It’s safe to say that for that brief moment, America went to black church.

And it isn’t the first time. Every so often – when tragedy strikes or when politicians perform – the nation gets a peek into the pews of a place that has for centuries uplifted spirits and soothed broken hearts, even those broken by hatred and evil. At times like this, even in the rich tapestry of our multi-ethnic, multi-racial, religiously pluralistic society, there remains a distinct appreciation for the colorful, thick threads of the black church. It is, in this way, among many others, an authentically American institution.

But outside of these galvanizing, transcendent events, it’s an institution that gets very little love and even less respect.

The mainstream narratives about the black church range from civil rights era relic to a manipulative made-for-tv mega-church. In TV and movies, on Twitter and Vine, it is a hilarious punchline full of shouting, dancing and excessive displays of emotion. In either case, it is rarely more than a caricature, one that either comforts, humors or repels.

As a pastor’s daughter, church leader and passionate, card-carrying lifetime member of the big, diverse community we call the black church, I know how deeply sad this reduction is. To see people misunderstand an institution that taught me my history, grounded me in my identity and gave me the tools to grow into a woman as well as a civic and moral being, is to see millions of people misunderstand the most valuable gift I have ever been given – and miss out on so much more.

So if, after turning off the TV you’d like to take some souvenirs home from the space that our ancestors spent years building and that today many (myself included) still fiercely love and find sacred, here are five that mean a bit more than just an organ and a drumbeat:

1. How to build community. Born at a time where there were few other places for African Americans demonstrate their full humanity with one another, today, the black church is where the hard work of building beloved community never stops. Where people show up for one another and have hard conversations. Where people offer money, food, emotional care, physical presence and touch. In an era when support often means no more than a tweet or a text, the black church is one of the few places where people still regularly come together to nurture one another, grow together and meet each other’s needs. It is where people share stories, wrestle with ideas, fight, forgive, break bread, and,literally and figuratively, wash one another’s feet. Where tears flow freely and accountability matters. The American community could learn so very much from this model and how wonderful would it be if our human community did the same?

2. How to honor the young and the old. This one seems oddly specific, I know, but in a society that often patronizes the young and isolates the old, the church is one of the few spaces that brings both together and holds each up on a pedestal of preciousness. How many other public spaces in America would have found a 26 year old out with his 87 year old aunt on a Wednesday night as was the case with Charleston victims Tywanza Sanders and Susie Jackson? Where else in America facilitates regular intergenerational dialogue and lift up the voices of both in the process? In the black church, each generation is appreciated for its unique wisdom and insight. Both the very young and the very old typically have seats reserved for them, are encouraged to take on roles of leadership and esteem. And most importantly, their happiness and engagement are seen as key measurements for the health of the community as a whole. Would that society at large operate the same way.

3. How to survive. This one speaks for itself. In the face of bombings, fires, shootings and attacks of all kinds, the people remain. Many black churches, still today meet in basements, movie theaters, schools, warehouses and storefronts. They push through obstacles and hardships to come together and commit to never letting go of their faith, their community, and most importantly, the act of living. This doesn’t just “happen”. It isn’t some superhuman, magical force that allows black churches to bounce back and hold on. They practice the deliberate, strategic art of survival every single day.

4. The nobility of faithfulness. How easy it is for us to abandon the hard things today. Work, relationships, causes that don’t yield immediate results – all can be discarded and replaced with the click of an email. But from the black church we learn the importance of commitment and faithfulness. The practice of showing up Sunday after Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday, week after week and year after year, come rain or come shine builds the character necessary to stick with the fights that our livelihood and democracy depend on.

5. How to fight a righteous fight. I am not sure when or where the narrative of the “prayerful and passive” church mother came from, but I’m convinced it was created by the same kind of people who created the pernicious welfare queen stereotype (Don’t quote me on that. It’s my own personal conspiracy theory.) The idea of the black church only bowing on our knees in times of hardship, is not only a historical and theologically inaccurate, but it flies in the face of those who, like Rev. Clementa Pinckney did, work every day to combat injustice armed with faith and sharp, strategic action. From time immemorial, the black church has known how to fight and has been inherently activist and political, even in its very formation. It is that same history that has always made the church such a beacon for those who have wanted to engage large swaths of black America in campaigns – and also for those who want to stop it’s powerful civic organizing through efforts as subtle as voting rights restrictions and as extreme as shocking acts of violence. It is this history that makes me hopeful about those within the church who lift up their voices against sexism, patriarchy, homophobia, and all other forms of oppression that still exist.

These lessons are certainly not unique to the black church or to religious institutions in general for that matter. But they are central to the identity of a place that is often only acknowledged for it’s music and jubilee with no regard for the experiences and practices that root said joy.

All of this is of course, when the church is at its best. The black church is, like most American institutions, deeply flawed. For as many for whom it represents freedom and love, it also represents pain and shame. Anyone who has been hurt by abuses of power and dangerous religious interpretations that shackle and bind instead of liberate has also learned lessons worth sharing. That history too, must be reckoned with. But even for those who longer call it home, the church will always be more than a caricature. It will always be more than something to watch and admire for it’s “soul”. If you dare look a little closer, you will find a well of joy that most only briefly drank from last Friday. Underneath the surface you will find that the black church in America is so, so much more than just a funeral and a song.

TIME Video Games

How the Oculus Rift Could Help Xbox Crush PlayStation

Oculus Rift
Oculus Rift Oculus Rift

It's all about Windows 10

No one expected this: Oculus VR said Thursday its Rift virtual reality headset will ship with Microsoft’s Xbox One controller as the Rift’s de facto way to play games.

Yes, there’s a crazy new contraption called Oculus Touch, hyped by founder Palmer Luckey himself during Thursday’s Oculus VR presser. The Touch looks like a pair of left/right Fitbits glommed onto Wii U nunchucks. It’s at least one possible future for VR input, if Luckey has his druthers. But let’s talk about the Oculus/Xbox One gamepad partnership, because in my view, the reason it’s happening at all is pretty straightforward when you think about Windows 10.

Oculus Rift has been a PC-centric technology from the outset. Maybe that changes in half a decade and we’ll all be dongled in to our smartphones or tablets. But today, if you want to tango with the half dozen head-mounted conceptual thingies scrambling to vie for our hearts and wallets, you generally need a good ol’ fashioned computer. And what do the lion’s share of good ol’ fashioned computers run now? Microsoft Windows.

Microsoft’s Xbox One gamepad, whether you agree with Palmer Luckey’s contentious claim that it’s the best controller in gaming (“It just is,” he said, as if his words might subliminally objectify reality on the spot), is certainly the best gamepad Redmond’s crafted to date. And it’s formally part of the Windows ecosystem, driver and developer supported and backward compatible with anything that worked with the company’s old Xbox 360 controller. It’s how you game with a gamepad in Windows right now as well as how you will when Windows 10 finally arrives this summer (sure, you can jury rig Sony’s DualShock 4 PlayStation 4 controller to work with Windows, but Sony doesn’t offer its own Windows drivers).

So in hindsight, not having some sort of partnership with Microsoft ought to have been the head-scratcher. If we assume Oculus Rift’s early adopters are going to be predominantly PC gamers — and I’d bet almost anything that’s going to be the case given how not consumer-friendly as well as culturally exotic these headsets are going to be for non-geeks — then the Xbox One deal becomes a natural corollary.

 

Folding the Rift into the Xbox One ecosystem then becomes just a baby step sideways. That’s especially true when you factor in Microsoft’s plan to load Windows 10 onto its dedicated gaming system in the near future, solidifying its promise to have a single, unified operating architecture across all of its platforms (both a first for Microsoft as well as anything else in gaming).

Where the Rift-Xbox partnership goes down the road, by all means speculate freely. But it’s an unambiguous coup for Microsoft — or the Facebook-owned Oculus, depending whom you think’s the more important water-carrier.

And however well Sony’s PlayStation 4 has been doing sales-wise, the Oculus-Microsoft news has to be chilling for the company’s own VR effort, Project Morpheus, confined to Sony’s platforms. That, and given how competent HTC’s Windows-centric Vive VR headset looks already, at this point…well, Windows has been a continuous, indefatigable, interface-leaping platform, whereas the PlayStations have all been devices-of-the-moment. That Oculus is thinking about this in those terms is why you should, too. Because this is bigger than the console wars trope, and it’s why challenging Microsoft in the long term is about so much more than monthly platform sales.

TIME Opinion

How School Dress Codes Shame Girls and Perpetuate Rape Culture

Laura Bates is the co-founder of The Everyday Sexism Project which collects stories of sexual harassment and gender discrimination from minor incidents to more severe situations.

When teachers punish girls for wearing clothes deemed 'too distracting' for boys to handle, it teaches a damaging lesson

Some of our most powerful and lasting ideas about the world around us are learned at school. Hard work pays off. Success comes from working together. Girls’ bodies are dangerous and harassment is inevitable.

This might sound inflammatory, but it is not an exaggeration. It is the overriding message being sent to thousands of students around the world by sexist school dress codes and the way in which they are enforced.

In the past month alone a Canadian teen says she was given detention for wearing a full length maxi dress because it violated her school dress code by showing her shoulders and back and a UK school announced plans to ban skirts altogether.

These are just the most recent cases in an ever-growing list that has seen shoulders and knees become a battleground, leggings and yoga pants banned and girls in some cases reportedly told to flap their arms up and down while their attire was inspected, or asked to leave their proms because chaperones considered their dresses too ‘sexual’ or ‘provocative’.

Many schools respond to criticism of dress codes by citing the importance of maintaining a ‘distraction free’ learning environment, or of teaching young people about the importance of dressing appropriately for different occasions.

But at the Everyday Sexism Project, where people from around the world share their experiences of gender inequality, we have received over a hundred testimonies from girls and young women who are affected by the dress codes and feel a strong sense of injustice.

One such project entry read:

“I got dress coded at my school for wearing shorts. After I left the principal’s office with a detention I walked past another student wearing a shirt depicting two stick figures: the male holding down the females head in his crotch and saying ‘good girls swallow’. Teachers walked right past him and didn’t say a thing.”

Girls are repeatedly told the reason they have to cover up to avoid ‘distracting’ their male peers, or making male teachers ‘uncomfortable’…

“At my school our dress code dictates everything about a girls outfit: knee length shorts or skirts only, no cleavage, no bra straps, no tank tops. We can’t even wear flip flops, and girls will be given detentions and sent home for breaking any one of these rules. There’s no dress code for men, and the reasoning? Girls can’t dress “provacatively” [sic] because it could distract and excite the boys.”

I can’t help feeling there is a powerful irony in accusing a girl of being ‘provocative’ – in projecting that societal assumption onto her adolescent body – before she is even old enough to have learned how to correctly spell the word.

One student says she was given three specific reasons for the school dress code:

“1) There are male teachers and male sixth formers [high school seniors]
2) Teachers feel uncomfortable around bras etc.
3) Don’t want the boys to target you or intimidate you”.

This sends an incredibly powerful message. It teaches our children that girls’ bodies are dangerous, powerful and sexualised, and that boys are biologically programmed to objectify and harass them. It prepares them for college life, where as many as one in five women is sexually assaulted but society will blame and question and silence them, while perpetrators are rarely disciplined.

The problem is often compounded by a lack of any attempt to discipline boys for harassing behavior, which drives home the message that it is the victim’s responsibility to prevent. We have received thousands of testimonies from girls who have complained about being verbally harassed, touched, groped, chased, followed, licked, and assaulted at school, only to be told: “he just likes you”, or: “boys will be boys”. The hypocrisy is breath taking.

Meanwhile, the very act of teachers calling young girls out for their attire projects an adult sexual perception onto an outfit or body part that may not have been intended or perceived as such by the student herself. It can be disturbing and distressing for students to be perceived in this way and there is often a strong element of shame involved.

“I’ve been told by a teacher that the way I was wearing my socks made me look like a prostitute in my first year of school, making me 13, and I’ve been asked whether I’m ashamed of myself because I rolled my skirt up,” wrote one young woman.

The codes aren’t just problematic for sexist reasons. One project entry reads:

“At age 10 I was pulled out of my fifth grade class for a few minutes for a ‘special health lesson’. As an early bloomer, I already had obvious breasts and was the tallest in my class. I thought they were giving me a paper about reproductive health that’s normally given to the 12 year old girls. Instead I was told to cover my body more because I was different.”

Other incidents have also seen boys banned from school for having hair ‘too long’ or wearing traditionally ‘feminine’ fashion, from skinny jeans to skirts. A transgender student said he was threatened with having his photo barred from the school yearbook simply because he chose to wear a tuxedo to prom. Black girls are more likely to be targeted for ‘unacceptable’ hairstyles. The parents of a 12-year old African American student said she was threatened with expulsion for refusing to cut her naturally styled hair. Her mother was told she violated school dress codes for being “a distraction”.

At this point it starts to feel like such ‘codes’ are less about protecting children and more about protecting strict social norms and hierarchies that refuse to tolerate difference or diversity.

This is a critical moment. The school dress code debate will be dismissed by many for being minor or unimportant, but it is not.

When a girl is taken out of class on a hot day for wearing a strappy top, because she is ‘distracting’ her male classmates, his education is prioritized over hers. When a school takes the decision to police female students’ bodies while turning a blind eye to boys’ behavior, it sets up a lifelong assumption that sexual violence is inevitable and victims are partially responsible. Students are being groomed to perpetuate the rape culture narrative that sits at the very heart of our society’s sexual violence crisis. It matters very much indeed.

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 Economy

The Real Way to Fix Finance Once and for All

Bull statue on Wall Street
Murat Taner—Getty Images

Changing the way financial institutions operate will require more than calculations and complex regulation

We live in an age of big data and hot and cold running metrics. Everywhere, at all times, we are counting things—our productivity, our friends and followers on social media, how many steps we take per day. But is it all getting us closer to truth and real understanding? I have been thinking about this a lot in the wake of a terrific conference I attended this week on “finance and society” co-sponsored by the Institute for New Economic Thinking.

There was plenty of new and creative thinking. On a panel I moderated in which Margaret Heffernan, a business consultant and author of the book Willful Blindness, made some really important points about why culture is just as important as numbers, particularly when it comes to issues like financial reform and corporate governance. As Heffernan sums it up quite aptly in her new book on the topic of corporate culture, Beyond Measure, “numbers are comforting…but when we’re confronted by spectacular success or failure, everyone from the CEO to the janitor points in the same direction: the culture.”

That’s at the core of a big debate in Washington and on Wall Street right now about how to change the financial system and ensure that it’s a help, rather than a hindrance, to the real economy. Everyone from Fed chair Janet Yellen to IMF head Christine Lagarde to Senator Elizabeth Warren—all of whom spoke at the INET conference; other big wigs like Fed vice chair Stanley Fischer and FDIC vice-chair Tom Hoenig were in the audience—agree more needs to be done to put banking back in service to society.

MORE: What Apple’s Gargantuan Cash Giveaway Really Means

But a lot of the discussion about how to do that hinges on complex and technocratic debates about incomprehensible (to most people anyway) things like “tier-1 capital” and “risk-weighted asset calculations.” Not only does that quickly narrow the discussion to one in which only “insiders,” many of whom are beholden to finance or political interests, can participate, but it also leaves regulators and policy makers trying to fight the last war. No matter how clever the metrics are that we apply to regulation, the only thing we know for sure is that the next financial crisis won’t look at all like the last one. And, it will probably come from some unexpected area of the industry, an increasing part of which falls into the unregulated “shadow banking” area.

That’s why changing the culture of finance and of business is general is so important. There’s a long way to go there: In one telling survey by the whistle blower’s law firm Labaton Sucharow, which interviewed 500 senior financial executives in the United States and the UK, 26% of respondents said they had observed or had firsthand knowledge of wrongdoing in the workplace, while 24% said they believed they might need to engage in unethical or illegal conduct to be successful. Sixteen percent of respondents said they would commit insider trading if they could get away with it, and 30% said their compensation plans created pressure to compromise ethical standards or violate the law.

How to change this? For starters, more collaboration–as Heffernan points out, economic research shows that successful organizations are almost always those that empower teams, rather than individuals. Yet in finance, as in much of corporate America, the mythology of the heroic individual lingers. Star traders or CEOs get huge salaries (and often take huge risks), while their success is inevitably a team effort. Indeed, the argument that individuals, rather than teams, should get all the glory or blame is often used perversely by the financial industry itself to get around rules and regulations. SEC Commissioner Kara Stein has been waging a one-woman war to try to prevent big banks that have already been found guilty of various kinds of malfeasance to get “waiver” exceptions from various filing rules by claiming that only a few individuals in the organization were responsible for bad behavior. Check out some of her very smart comments on that in our panel entitled “Other People’s Money.”

MORE: The Real (and Troubling) Reason Behind Lower Oil Prices

Getting more “outsiders” involved in the conversation will help change culture too. In fact, that’s one reason INET president Rob Johnson wanted to invite all women to the Finance and Society panel. “When society is set up around men’s power and control, women are cast as outsiders whether you like it or not,” he says. Research shows, of course, that outsiders are much more likely to call attention to problems within organizations, since not being invited to the power party means they aren’t as vulnerable to cognitive capture by powerful interests. (On that note, see a very powerful 3 minute video by Elizabeth Warren, who has always supported average consumers and not been cowed by the banking lobby, here.)

For more on the conference and the debate over how to reform banking, check out the latest episode of WNYC’s Money Talking, where I debated the issue on the fifth anniversary of the “Flash Crash,” with Charlie Herman and Mashable business editor, Heidi Moore.

TIME Social Media

How Twitter Can Become the Premier Site for Job-Seekers

The Twitter logo is shown at its corporate headquarters  in San Francisco
Robert Galbraith—Reuters

Twitter should add a traditional job board to its social media platform to enhance its value for job seekers

A new study shows that Twitter has more job openings than other social media sites and more job seekers than even LinkedIn. In addition, the number of Twitter users grew more rapidly than LinkedIn and Facebook in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. Much of this growth seems to be coming from young professionals and high income workers, fertile demographics for employers.

Despite that, only 15% of recruiters have actually found someone to hire through Twitter. A possible reason for this is a lack of response from job seekers to Twitter postings; the people surveyed by Software Advice cited inconsistency of job postings and poor communication by companies with job seekers as reasons for dissatisfaction. 76% of them indicated that their primary interaction with employers on Twitter is to check out company profiles, not necessarily to apply for jobs themselves.

All this begs the question of how Twitter can improve its performance as a matchmaker for jobs. One good way would be for the company to set up a traditional job board, organized by categories, along the lines of a Monster.com.

Currently, the primary way for a Twitter user to find a job is by following specific companies he or she is interested in or by searching via hashtags related to jobs, companies, or industries. While these methods can bear fruit, they’re a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack. For example, a search for the hashtag #jobsearch will produce hundreds of tweets that are only tangentially related to actual jobs, including articles on job hunting, random thoughts, and junk tweets that use the hashtag for promotion.

In addition, unless you search for every possible hashtag an employer might use and unless the employer uses the right hashtags, you could easily miss a posting for your dream job. Not to mention that as new tweets keep appearing every few seconds, the process of finding an appropriate job can be extremely time consuming and difficult.

This might also explain why job seekers tend to use Twitter more for gathering information on specific companies than to check out job postings and even less to apply through Twitter. The pace of Twitter is so fast and the content so diverse and scattered that finding a job directly through the Twitterverse is simply too challenging.

Sites like Monster.com or CareerBuilder, on the other hand, provide a more attractive option by aggregating job postings and making it easy for job seekers to view jobs by different parameters such as functional area, industry, region etc. It’s less dynamic than social media but comfortably static for users.

What Twitter needs to do is add this functionality to complement the strength of its own platform. While traditional job boards are great for active candidates, Twitter can also be useful for general career development and to keep a pulse on the market for a future job hunt. It’s a real-time information medium that also allows users to gain market insight and to communicate directly with companies they may be interested in working for. That’s a huge advantage for Twitter.

The only real service that the company needs to provide is to curate tweets to differentiate between actual job listings and other types of tweets, and to aggregate those tweets under common verticals like function, industry, and region.

There is, of course, tweetMyJobs, a leading social media add-on service that enables job seekers to receive targeted job matches via Twitter and to send resumes to employers. The site also helps employers set up profiles and send out listings to job seekers through social media. But that further illustrates the tremendous opportunity that Twitter is failing to take advantage of.

By becoming a go-to site for job seekers, Twitter could potentially outpace its competitors in the space and create a new revenue stream in the future by charging employers for posting listings. As those looking for employment or career advancement search for new ways to find what they’re looking for, Twitter, by standing at the vanguard of social media, is uniquely positioned to help them.

S. Kumar has worked in technology, media, and telecom investment banking. He has evaluated mergers and acquisitions in these sectors and provided strategic consulting to media companies and hedge funds.

TIME royal baby

What to Expect When Your Name is Charlotte

of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge leave the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital with their new born baby daughter. (R) Chelsea Clinton leaves Lenox Hill Hospital with her baby, Charlotte, husband Marc and parents, Bill and Hillary Clinton.
(L) Anwar Hussein—Getty Images; (R) A. Ariani—Corbis (L) Catherine Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William, Duke of Cambridge leave the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital with their new born baby daughter. (R) Chelsea Clinton leaves Lenox Hill Hospital with her baby, Charlotte, husband Marc and parents, Bill and Hillary Clinton.

What's in a name?

Dear Baby Princess Charlotte,

Congratulations, you’re the most powerful infant in the world! Even better news: the second most powerful baby in the world, the newest member of the Clinton family, is also named Charlotte. (Your brother is a toddler, he doesn’t count.)

On behalf of the small but growing cohort of non-royal Charlottes, thank you for teaching the world how to spell our name. We may soon be free of the scourge of “good guesses” like Charlot, Sharlet, and Sherlit. It’s one small step for a baby, one giant leap for Charlotte-kind, and one big lesson for Starbucks baristas.

But that’s why ‘Charlotte’ is a special name; it’s simultaneously famous and rare. Until the birth of your slightly older future BFF Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, there were relatively few examples of notable Charlottes. But the few were mighty. Charlotte Brontë wrote Jane Eyre, a book you will love in high school. Charlotte Perkins Gilman was a famous American feminist and sociologist who wrote the short story The Yellow Wallpaper, which will make you question your own sanity. Charlotte Hawkins-Brown was an educator and activist who started a school for black students in the South. Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was married to King George III, who was King of England during the American Revolution. That’s something for you and American Charlotte to hash out later.

In fiction, the name has fared slightly better. The best Charlotte is definitely the spider in Charlotte’s Web, a book that is undoubtedly being shipped to your parents at this very instant, from all different parts of the globe. Because of this Charlotte, you may not have the aversion to spiders so common in other little girls. In darker fiction, Charlotte is the love interest in Goethe’s The Sorrows of Young Werther, and Lolita’s mother in Nabokov’s Lolita, which your parents will explain to you later. The most popular Charlotte in recent memory is probably Kristin Davis’s character from Sex and the City, which might have contributed to the resurgence of the name’s popularity.

And yet, there has never been a definitive Charlotte, a woman so important to cultural history that her identity is forever imprinted on the name. There has been a definitive Eleanor (Roosevelt), Nancy (Drew), Marilyn (Monroe) and Victoria (the queen.) But the spot for the definitive Charlotte is up for grabs. All I ask is that you do the name justice.

Until the last few years, Charlotte has not been a hot choice for baby girl names, never having the wildfire spread of Jennifer or Emily. In 2000, Charlotte was the 289th most popular baby name in the US, but in 2013, it was #11. Back in my day, you could not find tiny motorcycle license plates with “Charlotte” on them. Not even in Times Square.

Because of its relative rareness, many Charlottes are not accustomed to sharing their name. Unlike Emilys and Emmas, Sarahs and Sofias, most Charlottes have not yet come to the point where they need to call themselves by their full name or last initial in order to distinguish themselves from their classmates. But as a growing cohort of now-baby Charlottes prepare themselves for kindergarten, that time is coming to a close. As a result, Charlottes may soon be grasping for nicknames, and they may find slim pickings.

Unlike Elizabeth, Margaret and Alexandra, the nicknames for Charlotte are few and peculiar. Charlotte is long on the page but short on the tongue, which gives the impression that the name should be shortened. Charlie, Lotte, and Lottie are nice options, but they don’t suit everyone. Your name will inevitably be shortened to Char, which evokes images of fish entrees or blackened meat. Ultimately, I cannot guide you here. Each Charlotte must find her own path.

A final word of advice, young Charlotte: the best true rhymes for Charlotte are ‘scarlet’ and ‘harlot.’ With that in mind, try to avoid games or songs where a rhyme must be found for your name. You’ll thank me later.

Love,

Charlotte

TIME Economics

The Real Reason the Dollar Is So Strong Right Now

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Purestock—Getty Images/Purestock Close-up of American dollar bills

And why it could seriously hurt American business

When is a stronger U.S. dollar not a good thing? When it causes companies to sell fewer products overseas. That’s one of the big concerns at the moment among American CEOs, many of whom are worried about what the dollar’s strength against currencies like the euro and the yen mean for US exports–and corporate profits.

They have legitimate reason to worry. Each of the five major dips in U.S. corporate profitability since 1970 have occurred following reduced sales after periods of relative dollar strength. The Fed has recently expressed concerns about whether the dollar’s strength could hold back the US recovery, which has been lackluster to begin with. Wages are still growing at only around 2 %, not enough to push up consumer spending, which is the major driver of our economy. If US exports also begin to suffer, it could be difficult for the economy to sustain the 3% a year growth figure that is needed to create more jobs.

Some economists believe the dollar’s strength reflects the fact that the U.S. is still the prettiest house on the ugly block that is the global economy. (Certainly, to employ another metaphor, it’s the strongest leg on the global stool with China slowing sharply and the Eurozone debt crisis flaring back up as Greece looks likely to run out of money next month.) But I think it’s more about central bankers and their actions. The dollar’s strength reflects the Fed’s own recent indications that it will likely raise interest rates by the end of the year.

Indeed, the dollar’s strength almost perfectly tracks Fed statements about the coming end of easy money. The tightening of US monetary policy (or even the hint that policy will tighten at some point) has driven the dollar up (and oil down) even as Europe’s beginning of its own “QE” or quantitative easing program has driven the Euro down. None of it reflects the economic reality on the ground, but rather the fact that central bankers are, as investment guru Mohamed El-Erian frequently says, the “only game in town.” For more on what the stronger dollar might mean for consumers, companies and the economy as a whole, you can listen to Josh Barro from the New York Times and I discuss the topic on this week’s Money Talking.

TIME Executives

Why It Matters Who Steve Jobs Really Was

Apple Unveils iPad 2
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Apple CEO Steve Jobs speaks during an Apple Special event to unveil the new iPad 2 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on March 2, 2011 in San Francisco.

Dueling biographies fight over the story of Steve

In 2011 Walter Isaacson published a biography of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Isaacson’s biography was fully authorized by its subject: Jobs handpicked Isaacson, who had written biographies of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. Entitled simply Steve Jobs, the book was well-reviewed and sold some 3 million copies.

But now its account is being challenged by another book, this one called Becoming Steve Jobs, by Brent Schlender, a veteran technology journalist who was friendly with Jobs, and Rick Tetzeli, executive editor at Fast Company. Some of Jobs’ former colleagues and friends have taken sides, speaking out against the old book and praising the new one. Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO and Jobs’s successor, has said that Isaacson’s book depicts Jobs as “a greedy, selfish egomaniac.” Jony Ive, Apple’s design chief, has weighed in against it, and Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of software and Internet services, tweeted about the new book: “Well done and first to get it right.”

But who did get it right? And why do people care so much anyway?

(This article comes with a bouquet of disclosures, starting with the fact that Isaacson is a current contributor and former editor of TIME magazine and as such my former boss. I’m quoted in his biography—I interviewed Jobs half a dozen times in the mid-2000s, though he and I weren’t friendly. Schlender spent more than 20 years writing for Fortune, which is owned by TIME’s parent company, Time Inc., and Tetzeli was an editor both at Fortune and at Entertainment Weekly, also a Time Inc. magazine.)

Schlender and Tetzeli have given their book the subtitle “The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart into a Visionary Leader,” and its emphasis is on the transformation that Jobs underwent between 1985, when he was ousted from Apple, and 1997, when he returned to it. “The most basic question about Steve’s career is this,” they write. “How could the man who had been such an inconsistent, inconsiderate, rash, and wrongheaded businessman … become the venerated CEO who revived Apple and created a whole new set of culture-defining products?” It’s an excellent question.

Becoming Steve Jobs is, like most books about Jobs, tough on his early years. He could be a callous person (he initially denied being the father of his first child) and a terrible manager (the original Macintosh, while magnificent in its conception, was only barely viable as a product). On this score Schlender and Tetzeli are clear and even-handed. It’s easy to forget that Jobs originally wanted Pixar, the animation firm he took over from George Lucas in 1986, to focus on selling its graphics technology rather than making movies, and if the geniuses there hadn’t been more independent he might have run it into the ground.

Schlender and Tetzeli argue that it was this middle period that made Jobs. The failure of his first post-Apple company, NeXT, chastened him; his work with Pixar’s Ed Catmull and John Lasseter taught him patience and management skills; and his marriage to Laurene Powell Jobs deepened him emotionally. In those wilderness years he learned discipline and (some) humility and how to iterate and improve a project gradually. Thus reforged, he returned to Apple and led it back from near bankruptcy to become the most valuable company in the world.

Schlender and Tetzeli strenuously insist that they’re upending the “common myths” about Jobs. But they’re not specific about who exactly believes these myths, and in fact it’s a bit of a straw man: there’s not much in Becoming Steve Jobs that Isaacson or anybody else would disagree with. What’s missing is more problematic: as it goes on, Becoming Steve Jobs gradually abandons its critical distance and becomes a paean to the greatness of Jobs and Apple. Jobs was “someone who preferred creating machines that delighted real people,” and his reborn Apple was “a company that could once again make insanely great computing machines for you and me.” It reprints the famous “Think Different” spiel in full. It compares Jobs’ career arc, without irony, to that of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story. It unspools sentences like: “Steve [we’re on a first-name basis with him] also understood that the personal satisfaction of accomplishing something insanely great was the best motivation of all for a group as talented as his.”

Read More: Apple’s Watch Will Make People and Computers More Intimate

It’s easy to see why Apple executives have endorsed Becoming Steve Jobs, but it has imperfections that would have irked Jobs himself. The writing is slack—it’s larded with clichés (“he wanted to play their game, but by his own rules”) and marred by small infelicities (it confuses jibe and gibe, twice). It lacks detail: for example, it covers Jobs’ courtship of and marriage to Laurene in two dry pages (“Their relationship burned intensely from the beginning, as you might expect from the pairing of two such strong-willed individuals”). By contrast, a Fortune interview Schlender did with Jobs and Bill Gates in 1991 gets 13 pages. Whatever its faults, Isaacson’s book at least dug up the telling details: in his account of the marriage we learn that Jobs was still agonizing over an ex-girlfriend; that he had a hilariously abortive bachelor party; that he threw out the calligrapher who was hired to do the wedding invitations (“I can’t look at her stuff. It’s shit”); and that the vegan wedding cake was borderline inedible.

Jobs was famously unintrospective, but Schlender and Tetzeli seem almost as incurious about his inner life as he supposedly was. Jobs’ birth parents were 23 when they conceived him, then they gave him up for adoption; when he was 23 Jobs abandoned his own first child. It takes a determinedly uninterested biographer not to connect those dots, or at least explain why they shouldn’t be connected. We hear a lot about what Jobs did, and some about how he did it, but very little about why.

Jobs was a man of towering contradictions: he identified deeply with the counterculture but spent his life in corporate boardrooms amassing billions; he made beautiful products that ostensibly enabled individual creativity but in their architecture expressed a deep-seated need for central control. Maybe making educated guesses about a major figure’s private life is unseemly, or quixotic, but that’s the game a biographer is in. Ultimately there’s no point in comparing Steve Jobs and Becoming Steve Jobs, because the latter book isn’t really a biography at all, much less a definitive one.

A more interesting question might be, why has the story of Steve Jobs become so important to us? And why is it such contested territory? He’s also the subject of a scathing new documentary by Alex Gibney and an upcoming biopic written by Aaron Sorkin. Was Jobs, to use Schlender and Tetzeli’s terminology, an asshole, or a genius, or some mysterious fusion of the two? It’s as if Jobs’ life has become a kind of totem, a symbolic story through which we’re trying to understand and work through our own ambivalence about the technology he and his colleagues made, which has so thoroughly invaded and transformed our lives in the past 20 years, for good and/or ill. Apple’s products are so glossy and beautiful and impenetrable that it’s difficult to do anything but admire them. But about Jobs, at least, we can think ­different.

Read next: Becoming Steve Jobs Shares Jobs’ Human Side

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TIME Opinion

Monica Lewinsky and Why the Word ‘Slut’ Is Still So Potent

Monica Lewinsky
Amanda Edwards—WireImage/Getty Images Monica Lewinsky in Los Angeles, Dec. 7, 2014.

Lewinsky was a 22-year-old intern when her affair with Bill Clinton branded her with a ​Scarlet ​L​etter​ S. Nearly two decades later, she's still suffering the repercussions.​ Why is the word slut still so damning?

Slut.

​Tart.

​Whore.

That Woman.

​Those were the word​s​ used to describe Monica Lewinsky, the once 22-year-old intern who had an affair with the President. She is 41 now and speaking ​publicly about the impact of that relationship for the first time. When those words weren’t used to describe her, they were simply known as what defined her.

​Almost two decades later, those are the same words — though slightly updated — used daily to harass, threaten and humiliate young women and girls who deviate from the sexual (and sometimes not-so-sexual at all) norm, both at school and online.

History met the present recently at a Manhattan performance of a play called SLUT, where Monica Lewinsky watched the story of a teen girl who is assaulted, reports it, and is slut-shamed by her peers. I sat next to Lewinsky as she watched the drama play out. At the end, ​she stood up, surveyed the young faces in the audience, and spoke​: ​“Thank you,​” she ​told the crowd, “for standing up against the sexual scapegoating of women and girls.” Afterwards, girls crowded around Lewinsky to express their own gratitude for her outspokenness.

The Lewinksy scandal broke in in 1998. ​SLUT the play takes place today. In between, the word has been used by Rush Limbaugh to discredit Sandra Fluke a law student who spoke up for birth control; to debate the validity of sexual assault claims; and more often than one could count, to talk viciously about women on the Internet. (Just this week, Ashley Judd proclaimed she would sue her slut-shaming harassers on Twitter.)

What is it about the word slut that is still so potent?

​Slut didn’t begin as a bad word — or a word for women at all — but merely an “untidy” one. Chaucer (yes, that Chaucer) put it in print in the early 1300s, referring to a sloppy male character as “sluttish” in The Canterbury Tales.

But if the word was used for men more broadly it was only for a second: by the 1400s, it had morphed into a term for maids and unkempt, dirty women (like actually dirty, not sexually dirty). It wasn’t long before that notion was infused with sexual connotations. Today, the term is defined by Oxford Dictionary as a woman who “has many casual sexual partners” or one with “low standards of cleanliness” — though it’s clear that in our modern lexicon, those two might as well be one and the same.

Sure, there have been positive usages or attempts to take slut back: Kathleen Hanna famously scrawled the word across her stomach while on stage with Riot Grrrl in the 90s; there is the SlutWalk movement, an effort to reclaim the word.

But by and large one definition remains: Slut is loaded. Slut is bad. Much in the way that Lewinsky became a kind of public symbol, said the linguist Robin Lakoff, “​of all that is sexually loathsome and scary about women,” ​the word slut — and its linguistic sisters, ho, whore, tramp, and skank — is a stand-in for the same: used to describe women who deviate from the norm.

“Girls are still targeted when they cross some kind of boundary,” said Eliza Price, ​a ​16​-year-old cast member in the SLUT play, which is produced by an all-girl theater group called the Arts Effect. ​​

But that boundary can almost anything: clothing, behavior, attitude or something else. As a group of Mississippi teens described it to the author Rachel Simmons, in her book, Odd Girl Out, a girl can be a slut — or in this particular interview, a “skank” — if she sits with her legs open, wears baggy clothes, wears tight clothes, talks in slang, gets into fights, or shows too much PDA. “In other words: almost anything,” said Simmons. “‘Slut’ and its cousin ‘skank’ are used to denote girls who take up space and break the good girl rules.”

And sometimes that has nothing to do with sex. Leora Tanenbaum, the author of a new book, I Am Not a Slut, has interviewed girls and women who’ve been labeled with the word — coining, in 1999, the term “slut-bashing,” which would later evolve into “slut-shaming.” But being called a slut, she found, actually had little to do with whether or not these girls were sexually active. Rather, anybody could be called a slut, she said. The word was a catch-all to discredit women; for young women, it was a way to define them before they got the chance to define themselves.

And while words like bitch have an action associated with them — i.e., if you change your behavior you might be able to shed the label — the word slut is forever.

“Once you’re labeled a slut, it’s pretty much impossible to rid yourself of it,” explains Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart, 17, the lead actress in the play and a high school student in New York. As another young actress explained it: You can be valedictorian, class president and prom queen, but if more than one person calls you slut, all that gets wiped away.

And the Internet makes that even more the case. “In the 90s, when girls would come to me and say ‘I’m the slut in my school and I can’t bear it, what should I do?’ One of the things I would say is ‘Have you looked into transferring to another school?’” said Tanenbaum. “But you can’t say that anymore, because her reputation is going to follow her. You can’t go off the grid.”

The way slut as epithet plays out is multifold:

It’s the reason young women are so obsessed with their “number”— how many sexual partners they’ve had. It might explain why some women lie to their healthcare providers about those numbers, even when it’s not in their best interest.

It’s the reason why, on more than one occasion, as a young woman I would say “no” when I really wanted to say “yes”: yes, of course, would be considered slutty. (You can imagine how that plays into the complicated conversation we’re now having about consent.)

In one case that Tanenbaum describes, a young college woman believed that being called slut contributed to the reason she was raped. “He must have thought, ‘Well, she sleeps around all the time, so she’ll say yes to me,’” the woman told her.

In Monica Lewinsky’s case, that label is the reason she still can’t find work, and has largely stayed out of the public eye for close to a decade. As she said in her TED talk this past week, “It was easy to forget that ‘that woman’ was dimensional, had a soul and was once unbroken.”

Back in 1998, Lewinsky was condemned by the left and the right, by men and women alike, even self-proclaimed feminists (including the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, whose columns on the scandal of President Clinton’s affair and “slutty” Monica Lewinsky won a Pulitzer Prize). Today Lewinsky would be likely to have defenders: there are simply more avenues to push back against a singular media narrative; and we have a new language with which to talk about it.

But the word still has the power to wound, diminish and discredit — as so many victims of sexual assault can attest. Which begs the question: Instead of discrediting women, can we simply discredit the word?

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 nonprofit, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

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

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TIME Parenting

The Grandparent Deficit: Fertility Isn’t the Only Biological Clock

Grandmother and granddaughter walk
Getty Images

There's often one forgotten variable in the decision about having kids later in life

A few months ago I was sitting in the vast dining room of an assisted-living home in Washington, D.C., watching my 5-year-old niece bounce like a pinball between tables of seniors. It was a startling sight–that small, smooth blond blur amid a hundred crinkly faces. Her audience, mostly women in their 80s and 90s, grinned as she navigated all the parked walkers, canes and wheelchairs as if it were a playground.

Sahar is a bit of a celebrity here. Far younger than most of the other grandchildren who visit, she is a rare burst of kindergarten energy in a place where even the elevators move very slowly. She comes frequently to have meals with my dad, her grandfather. He’s 81, and she doesn’t know what he was like before dementia took hold. Nor does she remember her grandmother who died four years ago, except in the funny stories my sister tells so often that Sahar refers to them as if they were her own memories.

She and my two daughters are among a growing number of kids who will see their grandparents primarily as people in need of care rather than as caretakers. They are the leading edge of a generation whose mothers and fathers had children later in life. They’ve seen us juggle our jobs, their school schedules and their grandparents’ needs simultaneously–one day missing work to be at the bedside of a parent who’s had a bad fall, another day trying to call an elder-care aide from the back row of a dance recital.

It seems naive to say this tripart balancing act came as a surprise to me and my sister, but it did. Somehow, while we were worrying about our biological clocks and our careers, it didn’t occur to us that another biological clock was ticking down: that of our parents’ health. And while medical science keeps coming up with new ways to prolong fertility, thwarting the frailties of old age is harder.

Our parents seemed so vibrant, so capable in their 60s that we couldn’t imagine how fast things would change. We knew that three or four years could make a huge difference in our fertility, but it turned out that three or four years could also mean the difference between a grandmother who can take a toddler to the beach and one who can’t lift her newest grandbaby out of a kiddie pool because of arthritis.

My daughters may face an even greater grandparent gap. I was almost 39 when I had my second child. If she has a child at the same age, I’ll be over 80 when that grandchild enters pre-K. And I’m not alone here: about six times as many children were born to women 35 and older in 2012 as they were 40 years ago.

I’m aiming to stay spry, but by the time I become a grandmother, I’ll likely be past the age that my daughter can drop her kids off at my house for a weekend. Will I be one of those exceptional octogenarians who jogs every day? Will I be able to babysit, or will I need my daughter to find me a babysitter? I don’t know. But with about half a million people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s each year, plus the usual maladies of age, there’s a fair chance I’ll need some kind of help.

If I had thought about all that, I might have gotten pregnant a few years earlier, just to give my kids that little bit of extra time with my parents in their prime. Of course, it’s not as if my sister and I could have chosen exactly when we met the men who became our children’s fathers. Nor do I regret spending my 20s and part of my 30s living in different countries, doing all kinds of jobs, soaking up the world. It was glorious, and it made me a better mother. But I do know I’d give anything if my kids could have one more weekend at the beach with my parents in peak grandparenting mode–full of silly jokes and poetry and wry observations from extraordinary lives lived fully.

And now, amid the ongoing debate over when to lean into a job or a relationship or children, my take has changed. I want to tell my daughters, “Don’t forget grandparents in the high-pressure calculus of modern life. I would like to make it easier for you if you want to lean in and have babies at the same time. I’d also like to know your children.” Who knows if I’ll get that chance, given the million variables at play, but I want them to know it’s an option.

In the meantime, I’m leaning into this new phase, one ripe with gratitude even as my father fades, losing more of himself every day. My children are discovering that they are not always the center of the world. And while my little niece may never know what my dad was like when he used to hide Easter eggs or swim after us pretending to be a shark, his white hair pluming like sea foam, she’s learning something beautiful from her mother. She sees my sister visiting him daily, feeding him, talking to him. Sahar is seeing kindness firsthand. And she understands that the thin, confused man in the bed is someone worth loving. That he is family.

Schrobsdorff is an assistant managing editor at TIME


This appears in the March 30, 2015 issue of TIME.

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