TIME feminism

Seriously? This Is What Passes for Feminism in America

Karin Agness is the Founder and President of the Network of enlightened Women.

Stunts like young girls yelling the F-word get attention. Sadly, that is what much of feminism has been reduced to

On Tuesday, I listened to Malala Yousafzai speak at the Forbes Under 30 Summit on her work fighting for girls’ education. Malala was shot in the head on October 9, 2012, by the Taliban for her outspoken views. She survived. But many girls don’t.

She has become a public figure, fighting for education for girls. Appropriately, she learned that she won the Nobel Peace Prize this year while in class. Her courage and grace are inspiring.

Today, I returned home to the so-called “war on women” in America. The latest antic? Apparel company FCKH8 posted a video of young girls dressed as princesses using the F-word and gesturing with their middle fingers to try to bring attention to sexism. It’s uncomfortable to watch—not in the sense that it causes viewers to rethink long-held beliefs, but because it’s a cheap ploy. Toward the end, two adults appear hawking “This is what a feminist looks like” and “Girls just want to have fun-damental rights” t-shirts. The video ends with a young girl saying, “Swear jar? I don’t give a f**k.” This isn’t courageous or graceful.

This for-profit t-shirt company recognizes that young girls yelling the F-word gets attention. And sadly, that is what much of feminism has been reduced to today—nothing more than offensive, crude attempts to draw attention away from the real issues.

Take equal pay. In the video, the girls recite the tired and debunked statistic that women supposedly make only 77 cents for each dollar that men make. Using the number this way has been discredited by people across the political spectrum, including Hanna Rosin, writer and author of The End of Men.

The problem is that this FCKH8 effort isn’t an outlier in feminism in America today. Comedian Sarah Silverman starred in a video as a woman who decided to get a sex change operation because she would supposedly get paid more as a man. What? This was an effort to raise money for the National Women’s Law Center, which “has worked for 40 years to expand, protect, and promote opportunity and advancement for women and girls at every stage of their lives—from education to employment to retirement security, and everything in between.” Maybe this silly ad helped them raise money, but wouldn’t a serious attempt have been better for women?

The battles that women and girls like Malala are fighting each and every day make the so-called “war on women” in America appear laughable. In some parts of the world, women would give about anything to be able to go to school. And some give it all. These women probably can’t even imagine testifying before Congress to try to get their university to pay for birth control and then turning that fame into a political candidacy.

It’s no wonder that only 20% of Americans self-identify as feminists, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov poll.

The FCKH8 “F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty-Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Word for Good Cause” is the latest example of feminism gone wrong in America. Feminists should start using their words, including the F-word, more wisely, because what they say could benefit women around the world.

Karin Agness is the Founder and President of the Network of enlightened Women.

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

TIME feminism

What’s a Dad To Do When His Daughter Wants To Dress as Han Solo?

Courtesy of Tom Burns

…put on a Princess Leia costume, of course

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Ever since my daughter was old enough to make special requests, I’ve let her pick my Halloween costumes. Having kids at Halloween is a lot of fun and watching the sheer delight that my daughter receives from having me dress up to meet her normally very polite requests is tremendously satisfying. Over the past three years, I’ve been Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Phineas & Ferb, Wreck-It Ralph, and Grunkle Stan from the fantastic kids’ show Gravity Falls. All year, my daughter had been expressing her interest in going as Hermione Granger for Halloween, so I was preparing myself to throw together a Snape or Professor Lupin costume. But then, after I showed my seven-year-old Star Wars for the first time, she turned to me and asked…

“Do you think I could be Han Solo for Halloween?”

Immediately, I responded “Yeah, why, of course, you could. That would be amazing. Why couldn’t you be Han Solo?” And, even though I didn’t want her response to come, it did. “Well… I’m a girl.”

Screw that. I grabbed my laptop and started showing her some really excellent examples of other girls and women cosplaying as Han Solo. She nearly shrieked when I showed her one of the members of Team Unicorn (a geek-girl pop culture group that she loves) in full Solo regalia and then I found this extremely cool tutorial on how to make a Han Solo costume for a woman from The Stylish Geek.

My daughter’s eyes went wide. She was sold on the idea. This could happen. But then she turned and looked at me, “But what are you going to be?” She thought for a second and said “Well, if I’m a Han Solo, you should probably be Princess Leia, I guess…” She looked at me with an implied question in her eyes. And, c’mon, if I immediately told her “YES, a girl can be Han Solo,” it would’ve been pretty hypocritical of me to say “Nope, a boy can’t be Princess Leia.” So, as quickly as I could, I said, “That would be FANTASTIC. I totally should be Leia.” And that’s exactly what I did. Because that’s what dads do.

I’ll admit—my take on Princess Leia Organa isn’t 100% flattering to Carrie Fisher, but, you know, I made due with what I had. I found an incredibly cool Princess Leia hoodie at HerUniverse.com that came with the trademark Leia hair buns on the hood, which made it hard to resist. The skirt is a Red Cross nurse’s skirt from a local uniform store. And the thermal underwear and crappy sneakers? Well, it’s Michigan and it was cold and we were going to an event at the local zoo, so, yeah, I dropped the ball on that one. I need to find some better Leia boots for actual Halloween.

All in all, I think my daughter and I will make a great pair for Halloween. We got nothing but smiles at the Halloween event we attended last night and even got a few laughs when I came face-to-face with a mom dressed as Princess Leia and said “Well, this is embarrassing…”

But, I think, my big take-away from all this will be—equality goes both ways. If I’m going to tell my daughter that she can do almost anything a man can do (excepting some very specific biological acts), then I also need to show her that a man can do almost anything a woman can do too… especially when it’s something awesome like dressing up as a character from one of the best movies ever.

Tom Burns originally wrote this piece for The Good Men Project.

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

TIME Culture

‘Law & Order: SVU’ Ripped an Episode From My Headline

Belle Knox
Courtesy of Belle Knox

I don’t write or discuss my rape often, because I don’t want to be viewed as a porn star cliché

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I’m obsessed with “Law & Order: SVU.” But that obsession is reaching a whole new level of absurdity.

You know that whole “ripped from the headlines” tagline? They just ripped mine, and it’s incredibly hard — but insanely riveting — to watch.

Warren Leight, the executive producer of the show was nice enough to let me see an advance copy of “Pornstar’s Requiem” and he agreed to answer my questions about how this entire episode came to be.

When I asked Leight (who used to be executive producer on HBO’s “In Treatment”) why he chose to dramatize my story, he explained, “As usual, we tried to distill several stories and headlines into one character’s journey. You, and others, have made the case that sex work is legitimate professional work, a potentially empowering choice individuals should be able to make without repercussions or stigmatization. Other students who’ve done pornography have not survived the harassment that followed. We wanted to tell their stories, too.”

From the very beginning scene of the episode, which shows “Evie Barnes” (played by actress Hannah Marks), a college freshman at “Hudson University” nervously doing her first porn scene on the day of her 18 birthday, my jaw dropped. Not only is Marks a slim brunette who could be my sister, she is also eerily semi-recreating one of my earliest scenes which was for a rough sex website (I will not give the company any more publicity than they’ve already received). The entire sequence soon after of a frat guy uncovering my secret through watching porn himself was all too real. I’ve never made so much noise watching an episode of “SVU” before as I did watching this, and there were certain instances where all I could say was “Oh my God, oh my God.”

Not unlike how I created the alterego of “Belle Knox,” Evie Barnes takes on the stage name of “Roxxxanne Demay” in the world of hard-core pornography.

She is eloquent but naïve, delivering many speeches during the episode with a few lines cutting me to the core. At one point she says something that felt like hearing my heart speak: “I knew I would be opening myself and my family to judgment and humiliation. But I chose to send a message that people who work in adult entertainment are still people, just like everyone else.”

Since March, when I was outed by a fellow student at Duke, I’ve felt like I was sleepwalking through a David Lynch-style dream that has included everything from hugging Whoopi Goldberg on “The View” to facing a crowd of screaming paparazzi and flashing lights to being asked to trademark a replica of my vagina. This episode of “SVU” flips that dream into a nightmare of how things could just as easily have gone very horribly terribly wrong for me.

I don’t write or discuss my rape often, because I don’t want to be viewed as a porn star cliché, nor do I want people telling me that this is why I’ve made the choices I’ve made, but I know well the chilling rape culture entitlement that comes along with men discovering that I’m a porn star. This is the scenario that plays out on the episode. One of the frat boys accused in “Pornstar’s Requiem” even goes so far as to say to the police the following jaw-dropping line: “I didn’t think you could rape a girl like that.”

Have I heard this before?

Not in those exact words, but in actions and in snide remarks, in the assumptions people make with my body and my livelihood because they have watched me in porn or heard that this is my profession. One man I was associated with professionally actually lent his key card to his friend, and at 2 in the morning, this large and loud, older and incredibly drunk stranger wandered into my hotel room — with his own key. I was terrified. Did he think that because I was a porn star he could just come in? Did he think he could do something with me? And this came from someone I thought I trusted.

Since my outing, when I’ve gone on dates, there have been times when a man has told me quickly, easily and creepily, “You like this [sexual act], right?” without asking for consent or having any discussion to imply that we might make the decision to be intimate together later on. I shut things down, but as occurred in my rape earlier in my life, this has not always been the case.

And this sexual entitlement and double standards (how could a girl who plays out a rape fantasy ever be given the privilege of consent; doesn’t she relinquish that forever if she ever engages in rough play?) is the crux of the episode. Similar to the rough scene I filmed that was my entrée into porn, Evie is smacked — hard — in the course of her filming and the appearance could be interpreted as rape fantasy. While I do not consider what I did to be that, I have heard from others that they do consider it within this purview, and I respect their right to feel that way.

Because Evie does not appear to be giving consent in her rough sex porn film, these frat boys decide that is what she likes. They don’t need her to say yes! Even when she is crying and saying no, it doesn’t count! Why, they have the other film of her as proof.

It makes me want to barf.

I won’t get into the spoilers of the episode (you should watch on NBC), but I’ll share with you what the executive producer told me about the writers’ room and the process for putting the script together.

“The writers’ room had been hashing out a number of overlapping issues lately,” Leight told me. “The increasing number of students who’ve turned to pornography to pay their tuition. How for some of those students, it’s been empowering, but for others, it’s led to horrific slut-shaming. And how a few students have been so stigmatized when their sex work becomes public, they felt driven to suicide. We also had long wanted to do an episode about how hard it is for sex workers to get justice when they are victims of sexual assault. The more we talked about these issues, the more we felt they’d combine well into one episode.”

Evie says at one point during the episode what could be the anthem of anyone who has ever done sex work: “I’m not a slut. They think just because I do porn they can do anything they want to me.”

And then she explains something that many people refuse to accept no matter how many times I try to delineate real life versus porn life. Describing her alterego of “Roxxxanne Demay,” Evie says: “I followed a script. I created a character that was different from myself. I followed an act.”

Because that’s what it is. Porn is an act. Porn stars are acting. In our personal lives we are often still sexual and flirtatious and there might be some crossover, but to categorize porn stars and sex workers as being this lesser-status breed of women who are “unrapeable” is so offensive and mind-boggling, it physically makes my head hurt.

As soon as I heard that my story was being “ripped” for an episode, my gut assured me that “SVU” would give a fair and balanced account “inspired by” what happened and have a strong feminist message against slut shaming. But soon after that, my gut turned nauseous. Happily, all of that nervous energy turned to excitement when I realized what was really happening, bottom line, through the show tackling this important topic: “SVU” was accepting the challenge of viewing consent through the lens of pornography and sex workers, a multifaceted and very necessary dialogue.

Because while Evie is brutally gangraped in a bathroom at a college party, the video evidence taken by her rapists is in no way the slam-dunk that it should be for the prosecution. Instead, it forces a question so insane, so absurd, so enraging I can barely type it without screaming.

Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba (played by Raúl Esparza) actually has to ask, “Do you believe any woman, even a porn star, can deny sex?”

I also found myself cheering whenever Sgt. Olivia Benson (played by the inimitable Mariska Hargitay) said something profound (which was like, all the time), and covering my face when things felt too real. At several points, my cheeks burned hot with rage listening to the evil defense attorney (played by Delaney Williams) who mocks and shames and aims to discredit Evie. It is brutal. It is condescending. And it brought back painful memories of the betting pools started online as to when I would kill myself, the detailed and dedicated websites all devoted to telling the world what a slut and whore I am, and why I deserved to be punched and kicked and hit and destroyed.

Then there was Judge Briggs (played by Richard T. Jones), who says something I have heard so many times from my friends, family and peers it practically feels like my first name: “I hope going forward you find a way to respect your body and yourself.”

Yeah, thanks. I wish the same for you. I also hope you going forward you find a way to be less of a passive-aggressive sanctimonious concern troll — but you know, we can’t all have everything we want, can we?

After viewing the episode, I didn’t get much that sleep that night.

Memories of last semester came rushing back to me.

My public outing and the subsequent media storm that put every private, painful detail of my life on display seemed to play over and over in my mind. The most excruciating line from the episode was from Evie, who said, “They think just because I do porn they can do whatever they want to me.”

There is this sense of ownership of porn stars from strangers, which is, quite frankly, chilling.

I’ve found this to be exceedingly true in these past months, as strangers behind their computer screens have threatened me with rape, murder, and public humiliation. And then there are the students who have done pornography who have not lived to survive the harassment that follows, like the beautiful young woman Alyssa Funke, which is nothing short of a Shakespearean tragedy. This is a narrative that “SVU” confronts compassionately in the episode.

The episode hit close to home to say the least.

“SVU” has showed us time and time again that we should never take a character at face value, and there is so much more to a person than a tabloid headline (which in the case of this episode is: “From Straight As to XXX”) will ever reveal.

I am happy that “my” character was not portrayed as a caricature of the porn industry, but as an imperfect young woman who made some controversial choices that did not define her. Watching the episode was an emotional, at times nausea-inducing experience, and one line in particular I will never forget, as Evie tells the detectives why she will not stop doing porn. Because, she says: “At least here when I say ‘no,’ they stop.”

I asked the executive producer about what he thought about this haunting moment in particular. Leight said, “The sadness comes from Evie’s desperation, her absence of alternate options outside of porn, the confiscation of her choice. It wasn’t porn that brought her to a place of isolation and depression, but rather her sexual assault, her support system, and of course the academic system — the very one she was attempting to pay for.”

In other words, the sex industry wasn’t the problem. Society was.

Belle Knox is an adult film star and student at Duke University.

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 marketing

Watch These Little Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism

Because there are worse words than curse words

Think the F-word is a dirty word? These little girls can think of a few that are worse — like “pay inequality” or “rape and violence.”

But there’s a reason for their potty-mouthed exclamations — these young girls, dressed up in princess costumes, are cursing to protest inequalities that are even more shocking than curse words. The video was made by FCKH8.com, a for-profit company that produces clothing that advocates for social change. And while FCKH8 is famous for equality-themed T-shirts like “Some Chicks Marry Chicks” and “Straight Against Hate,” this particular video is meant to promote its feminist line, with T-shirts that say things like “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun – damental rights.”

You can watch the whole video here.

 

TIME feminism

Annie Lennox: ‘Twerking Is Not Feminism’

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Show
Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards Kevin Mazur—2013 Kevin Mazur

The artist explained why she doesn't subscribe to Beyoncé's brand of feminism

After making headlines for asserting that Beyoncé represents feminism “light” last month, singer Annie Lennox expanded on that during an interview with NPR published Tuesday to promote her new album Nostalgia.

“Listen,” Lennox told Steve Inskeep, “Twerking is not feminism. Thats what I’m referring to. It’s not, it’s not liberating, it’s not empowering. It’s a sexual thing that you’re doing on a stage; it doesn’t empower you. That’s my feeling about it.”

Lennox clarified that her comment about “feminist light” figures weren’t directed specifically towards Beyoncé, but rather all sexualized female performers.

“The reason why I’ve commented is because I think that this overt sexuality thrust, literally, at particular audiences, when very often performers have a very, very young audience, like seven years [old], I find it disturbing and I think its exploitative, and it’s troubling,” she said. “I’m coming from a perspective of a woman that’s had children.”

You can listen to the whole interview below:

TIME women

I’d Like to Talk to You About Not Talking About Beyoncé’s Bangs

Beyonce is seen leaving Harry's Bar, Mayfair on October 17, 2014 in London, England.
Beyonce is seen leaving Harry's Bar, Mayfair on October 17, 2014 in London, England. Niki Nikolova—GC Images

Female celebrities and women in media are also picked apart with alarming regularity

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is an extremely famous pop singer known for quality vocals and sexy radio singles. She is married to Shaun Corey “Jay-Z” Carter, and they have a lovely daughter named Blue Ivy. Beyoncé has won 17 Grammys and is Time’s Most Influential Person, and oh, she went out a few days ago with a new hairstyle and nearly broke the Internet.

Reporters and commenters alike felt the need to say something about Beyoncé’s hairstyle, which appeared to be a wig with short, choppy bangs. Everyone with an Internet connection was invited to Weigh In: Love It or Leave It! And the general consensus was negative.

I know it’s rough to devote a page of writing to how much I don’t want to talk about something, but I got tired of shrugging it off when people asked and would like to go on record with my reasons why.

I’ve already written a call to not discuss her daughter’s hair, and this one goes out to Queen Bey herself. I feel sort of silly, like I’m shaking a proverbial angry fist at the sky; this type of non-event is the perfect conflagration of celebrity worship and pop culture phenomenon that really irks me, but becomes more common each day in our Join The Conversation culture.

These days, it seems as though no “conversation” is deemed too trifling, and though slow news days have been around as long as reporting the news has, social media can make a frenzy out of a single picture. And since you know I keep it real with you, dear readers, I will now acknowledge that here at xoJane we share about all sorts of things at all levels of relative importance. We cover many bases. But the endless reportage of Beyoncé and The Day She Banged is something else.

At best, it’s continued commodification of this woman as a product that exists either for our consumption or our scrutiny, and at worst it’s just plain mean. So many people were slinging insults and creating rude memes, and even the ones that weren’t directly cruel felt the need to “report” on Beyoncé’s Bangs: The Happening.

Real talk: I don’t think that’s the most flattering hairstyle I’ve seen Mrs. Knowles-Carter rock. And she’s also probably changed it already. And it also doesn’t matter at all what I, or anyone else looking at a picture of her on the internet thinks of Beyoncé’s hair. While this is not strictly a racial issue, the politicization of black women’s hair is a reality, with #TeamNatural in one corner and certain relaxed and visibly Anglicized styles in another and all sorts of questions and assumptions about our identity weighing heavily in the center of the ring.

Overall, female celebrities and women in media are also picked apart with alarming regularity. I won’t name names, but there are more than a handful of male celebrities who are allowed to roam freely looking every level of disheveled or trying out a new ‘do without inspiring Internet memes and hashtags. There are also other women in the industry who don’t get the kind of head-to-toe scrutiny that Beyoncé gets.

The other thing that has me miffed about the Incident On Beyoncé’s Forehead is that she was photographed on vacation with her family. Beyoncé’s job description is not “24-hour hair model.” She is a stellar entertainer and a pop star, and goddamnit she was off the clock. Celebrities do not exist solely for public consumption.

Had Beyoncé gotten on stage at the Superbowl half time show or opened her recent arena tour On The Run with this hairstyle, we might be having a different conversation. She may not be an accountant, but work is work and if your job is to entertain and something gets in the way of that, even just by pulling focus or being a distraction, that bears mentioning and possible critique.

Former Fox Sports lead sideline reporter Pam Oliver was the subject of intense criticism because her hair generally looked quite unkempt and literally got in the way, blowing all over in sometimes inclement weather conditions. She was called all manner of terribly insulting names on social media and compared to animals and such, and at the time, I made a few comments saying I wished she worked with different styles so that her hair wasn’t such a distraction. Some people on social media were upset with me, questioning how I could “attack” a fellow black woman, especially over her hair.

I would never call her ugly or any of those things, but she was at work when we saw her on television; I wasn’t commenting on candids or random paparazzi photos. Her job was as a television reporter, and her unflattering hair was stealing every shot she was in and undermining her expertise and decades of experience in her position. I wished that she could find the most flattering style for her face that also worked for her job, a basic standard that I could apply to almost anyone.

Being “camera-ready” is a job requirement for a television reporter, not a life requirement for Beyoncé’s trip to France. Still, she knows she’s heavily photographed whenever she’s in public. By all appearances, Beyoncé embraces or at least manages her role as an international celebrity, including awareness of paparazzi and that so many people care how she looks. All the time.

So I believe that if she went out on the town with her family during a vacation, she probably felt fine with the way she looked. That’s good enough for me.

By the way, Beyoncé is routinely attacked by certain news outlets and has been called a “whore” for things she does while on the clock; entertaining huge audiences and doing it well. She’s repeatedly been the subject of author and feminist scholar bell hooks’ scathing criticism of her “faux” feminism. She’s had to endure insults to her daughter’s looks on a national platform. If we must keep her name in our mouths and devote endless bandwidth to mentioning her, I think it’d be cool to recognize her achievements in her field, salute her owning her sexuality and being vocal about feminism, acknowledge her as her own woman who does not belong to us, who is also a wife and mother… pretty much anything but analyze that bang.

Some people told me, in the course of recommending that I locate some chill on this topic, that the issue is that Beyoncé usually looks so good that it’s a big news story that her bangs looked so… you know what? I’m not even going to finish that sentence. We’ve all got other things to talk about.

Pia Glenn is an actress and writer.

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

TIME feminism

Halle Berry’s Child-Support Fight: Female Breadwinners Can’t Have It Both Ways

Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - May 24, 2009
Nahla, Gabriel Aubry and Halle Berry at the Topanga Canyon Festival on May 24, 2009 in Topanga Canyon, California. David Aguilera—FilmMagic

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

We need to shed the notion that providing for one’s family is an essential part of masculinity

The latest celebrity tussle over child support has an unusual twist. The parent seeking a reduction in child-support payments is the mother, Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry. The parent collecting the checks is her ex-boyfriend, French-Canadian fashion model Gabriel Aubry, who shares custody of their 6-year-old daughter Nahla. The gossip website TMZ reports that Berry has petitioned the judge overseeing the couple’s custody arrangement to reduce the monthly child-support payment of $16,000 to just $3,000, alleging that Aubry is refusing to get a job. Is this what equality looks like? Sometimes, it is—though the reactions to this skirmish show that a double standard definitely persists when it comes to men “living off” women.

TMZ ran the story under the headline, “Halle Berry: GABRIEL AUBRY IS A BUM; I Want Child Support Slashed.” A piece on Gawker’s Defamer blog sarcastically complimented Aubry on finding a great gravy train and suggested that Berry could not be blamed for wanting to put a stop to it. When a Gawker commenter posted a crude remark questioning Aubry’s manhood and joking about “medical bills to reattach his penis,” blogger Jordan Sargent’s only response was, “Strong comment.”

Would a woman collecting a lot of child support from her wealthy ex be derided as a lazy bum? Certainly not. (She might be attacked as a greedy vixen, but such attacks would likely be seen as misogynist.) For all the feminism-inspired changes in cultural beliefs about what it means to be a woman or a man, the idea that providing for one’s family is an essential part of masculinity has endured. While 40% of mothers in the U.S. are now their family’s primary breadwinner—including nearly a quarter of married moms—nearly a third of Americans still agree it’s best for everyone when the man provides for his family. One person’s Mr. Mom is another’s Mr. Bum.

While men are somewhat more likely than women to hold traditional views on gender issues, there is evidence that in their personal preferences, women may actually be more wedded—as it were—to the male-breadwinner ideal. In a 1994 study based on U.S. survey data of single adults, men were almost as willing to marry “someone who earns much more” than them as “someone who earns much less.” For women, a higher-earning partner rated 6 points out of a maximum of 7, compared with 3.5 for a lower-earning one. Women were also much less willing than men to marry someone who did not have a steady job.

Have things changed in 20 years? Perhaps not, in this regard. In the latest Pew Research Center poll on marriage, one of the biggest gender gaps for singles is in how important people consider employment for a spouse or long-term partner: 78% of women regard having “a steady job” as “very important” in choosing a mate, while only 46% of men do. Sorry, Gabriel Aubry.

These preferences are largely related to family roles. It’s not that women are materialistic gold diggers; rather, most want the option to curtail or interrupt paid work for motherhood. But prejudice against men who aren’t good providers may paradoxically clash with ambitious women’s life plans.

Take one of the women interviewed for feminist journalist Peggy Orenstein’s 2000 book, Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids and Life in a Half-Changed World. “Abbey,” a 26-year-old artist and comic-book sales rep planning a career in the industry, admitted to growing ambivalence about her art-director boyfriend Jeremy. While Jeremy was devoted, supportive of Abbey’s goals and willing to follow her when she had to move, she was put off by his lack of ambition and limited earning potential. Ultimately, Abbey confessed that she’d rather have the choice to stay home after having children—despite being virtually certain that she wouldn’t exercise that choice and being strongly attached to her identity as a professional woman. Yet marriage to a Jeremy may be the best choice for a woman who wants to balance career and family.

Generally, it’s conservatives like RedState.org blogger Erik Erikson who defend the male-breadwinner role as biological (not quite the case if you look at the animal kingdom). Yet when a man and woman are in financial conflict, many feminists will line up in apparent solidarity behind a woman who upholds the most stereotypical of attitudes about gender and providing.

During the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995, prosecutor Marcia Clark sought more child support from her estranged husband—who earned half her salary—because of trial-related child-care expenses. (Imagine the derision if a male attorney had done the same.) When Gordon Clark asked for temporary custody, a chorus of feminist voices rose to defend Clark as a strong woman under attack. Today feminist websites like Jezebel mock affluent men who want to pay less child support as cheap crybabies—but offer no comment on Halle Berry’s bid for child-support reduction.

To be sure, $16,000 a month for a 6-year-old who spends half her time with her dad may raise questions about appropriate levels of child support in cases involving wealthy parents—and about when child support becomes a subsidy for a parent who should be pulling his, or her, weight. But such questions should be raised across the board, without double standards. In his own accidental way, Aubry is a pioneer for gender equality.

Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

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

TIME Media

Misogynist Online Abuse Is Everyone’s Problem — Men Included

The harassment against feminist #Gamergate critics is getting attention now. But the toxicity goes much farther in our culture.

I wasn’t going to write about #Gamergate. Most of the video gaming world is outside my experience. I used to play more, when I had more time and hair, but now I only play a few tablet or iPhone games, and badly. (I get a 384 on Threes, it’s basically a national holiday.) Not my issue, I figured.

Weeks went on, and I kept seeing references to a culture war between gamers and gaming journalists, especially feminist critics of the industry, that had devolved into vile sexist harassment and death and rape threats. So I started reading, and to an outsider anyway, Gamergate led to a vast tangle of ancient grievances and offenses that seemed about as easy to unravel as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (For those interested, Todd Van Der Werff’s explainer at Vox is one of the better I’ve read.) That sounds awful, I thought. But again, not my area. Not my problem.

And then I read this terrific column by the Huffington Post’s Maureen Ryan that made me realize that it is totally my problem, and everyone’s. The abuse that female game critics and journalists and developers have been receiving has been extreme–specific threats to friends and family online, bomb threats, people hoping to drive women to suicide, the threat of a mass shooting at a talk video game critic Anita Sarkeesian was scheduled to give. But it’s not unparalleled.

In TV criticism–in any cultural criticism now–the price of having a female byline and an opinion is getting subjected to torrents of gender-specific, grotesque, sometimes frightening and threatening abuse, which men like me, in general, do not deal with to nearly the same degree. I panned CBS’s Stalker. Mo Ryan panned CBS’s Stalker. But only she received the e-mail, quoted in her column, that told her to “shut the fuck up” because “MEN WE PREVAIL.” (Disclosure, I guess: I’m friendly with Ryan, as I am with a lot of TV critics, and I will confess to being biased against someone calling a friend a “fucking misandry freak.”)

And what’s the offense here, in each case? What were the fighting words? Somebody made some videos criticizing gaming tropes as sexist. Someone said that a TV crime show was exploitative and abhorrent. Someone said, maybe don’t harass women in the video game industry. This is the threat. This is the crisis.

It’s the “War on Christmas,” essentially. (There’s an excellent piece in Deadspin drawing out the parallels between the political and the entertainment-industry culture wars.) It’s the grievance of an identity group, already superserved by the larger culture, outraged that its service has become slightly less super. Their thing used to be the main thing, the default thing, the assumption. And now, if you point out that it is no longer the only thing–as is the case, both in American society and in entertainment–why, you’re persecuting them.

I have to assume that the people making death and bomb threats are, as the saying goes, a “small but vocal minority.” But this sense of disproportionate grievance is not so small. Put simply: someone saying mean things about a thing you like is not an assault on your liberties.

So someone made you feel bad for playing a video game that you like? I’m sorry. Maybe there are valid arguments against them. Maybe you could make those arguments! But nobody is about to haul you off to the Misandrist Re-Education Camps because they caught you playing Assassin’s Creed.

Someone got all righteous about the TV shows you like? Maybe they asked why there aren’t more well-rounded women in True Detective or why there are so many dramas about brooding male antiheroes and serial killers or they said something was a rape scene that you didn’t think was a rape scene? That’s unfortunate. But guess what? HBO’s still making the second season of True Detective! Networks are still going to make all those antihero and serial killer shows! You’re still going to be on the receiving end of a multi-billion-dollar pipeline full of product tailored to your specific tastes. I think you’ll be OK!

But as a larger group, we have a problem–all of us. It’s women, online and in real life, who have to deal with the fear and the abuse and the is-it-worth-it-to-say-this, in far greater numbers. People tweet horrible things at me sometimes, but I don’t pretend writing a post like this is any kind of brave act on my part. I’ll publish it and go on my merry way. I have the Guy Shield, or maybe the Dude Invisibility Cloak. (It’s +3 against trolls!)

It’s still my problem, though. There’s a whole genre of men saying that they’ve become feminist because they have daughters. I don’t; I have two sons. Which is exactly why this kind of toxic crap in the culture is my problem, because they play games and they live in the world, and I want them to grow up to be decent guys with healthy human relationships. I don’t want them immersed in a mindset that says that throwing anonymous abuse at women is somehow retaliation in kind.

It’s my problem because I may not be a big gamer, but no part of the culture is an island. The dudebro attitude is manifest in TV comments sections and movie discussions and literary arguments–the puffing out of chests, the casual gendered insults–and it’s stifling, and it’s depressing, and it makes too many people decide it’s not worth engaging anymore.

It’s my problem because I love ideas and innovative culture and smart conversation. And every time a woman decides she needs to cancel a speech, or decides it’s not worth the risk to keep working in the creative field she loves, or decides, you know what, not today, it’s just not worth it to publish this column on this subject–it costs me and everyone else (even if it costs the women affected much more). It’s my problem if anyone’s engaging in a concerted effort to shut someone up, because I’m a writer and I’m a person and I live in a society.

This toxicity that we’re stewing in may not be All Men or All Gamers or All Anyone. That’s obvious. And it’s besides the point. What matters is that it’s all our problem.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: October 15

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Americans are often oblivious to the role of farming in their lives. To get the smart policies needed to feed our nation and the world, we must reconnect people to agriculture.

By Ian Pigott in the Des Moines Register

2. Even employer-paid health insurance can worsen poverty and increase inequality.

By David Blumenthal in Commonwealth Fund

3. Is “feminist marketing” an oxymoron?

By Chandra Johnson in the Deseret News

4. Helsinki has a plan cities everywhere could try: Combine the sharing economy, transit and mobile technology to eliminate cars.

By Randy Rieland in Smithsonian

5. America’s best bet in Africa is a strong relationship with Nigeria.

By Daniel Donovan in Foreign Policy Blogs

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

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 Opinion

Company-Paid Egg Freezing Will Be the Great Equalizer

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Egg storage Science Photo Library—Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

From Facebook to Citigroup, more companies are covering the cost of elective egg freezing for women who want to delay child-bearing. Is this the key to real gender equality?

Updated on October 16 at 11:25 am.

I spent last Thursday on the 15th floor of a fertility clinic with a dozen women. It was a free seminar on egg freezing, and I listened, wide-eyed, as a female physician described how, by the time a woman reaches puberty, her egg count will already be reduced by half. The women in the room had presumably come for the same reason as I had – we were single, in our 30s and 40s, and wanted to know our options – and yet we might as well have been entering a brothel. We didn’t make eye contact. We looked straight ahead. It was as if each of us now knew the other’s big secret: the fertility elephant in the room.

Women talk about sex, their vibrators, their orgasms – but a woman’s fertility, and wanting to preserve it, seems to be the last taboo. There’s something about the mere idea of a healthy single female freezing her eggs that seems to play into every last trope: the desperate woman, on the prowl for a baby daddy. The woman who has failed the one true test of her femininity: her ability to reproduce. The hard-headed careerist who is wiling to pay to put off the ticking of her biological clock. That or – god forbid – the women who ends up single, childless and alone.

But that may be changing, in part thanks to an unlikely patron saint: the Man.

This week, Facebook and Apple acknowledged publicly for the first time that they are or will pay for elective egg freezing for female employees, a process by which women surgically preserve healthy eggs on ice until they’re ready to become parents, at which point they begin the process of in vitro fertilization. Facebook, which told NBC News it has had the policy in place since the start of the year, will cover up to $20,000 under its “lifetime surrogacy reimbursement” program under Aetna (a typical cost of the procedure is around $10,000 fee, plus annual storage fees.) Apple will begin coverage in 2015.

There are other companies who cover the procedure, too: Citigroup and JP Morgan Chase tell TIME that their coverage includes preventative freezing. According to interviews with employees, Microsoft includes some preventative coverage, too. And sources say Google is weighing the coverage option for 2015.

The revelations appeared to unleash more immediate questions than they answered: Were these companies simply putting even more pressure on women to keep working and put their personal lives on the back burner? Was it a narrow effort by prosperous tech companies to recruit , or retain, female talent in an industry whose gender breakdown remains dismal? Or was it a step toward actually legitimizing the procedure, and leveling the playing field for women? Could the move – and the public nature of it — destigmatize the practice for good?

It’s been two years since the American Society of Reproductive Medicine lifted the “experimental” label from egg freezing -- a procedure initially created to help patients undergoing chemotherapy — leading to a surge in demand. Yet because the non-experimental technology is so new, researchers say it’s too soon to give real qualitative efficacy data. (While doctors typically recommend women freeze at least 18 eggs — which often requires two rounds of the procedure – there’s no guarantee that the eggs will lead to successful pregnancy when they are implanted via IVF years later.)

Nonetheless, the very idea that there might be a way for women to build their careers and their personal lives on a timetable of their own choice — not dictated by their biology — is so intriguing that single women are filling informational seasions at clinics and holding egg freezing “parties” to hear about it. They are flocking to financing services like Eggbanxx, which reports it is fielding more than 60 inquiries a week. And on email lists and at dinner parties, women trade egg freezing tips like recipe binders: which insurers cover what, the right terminology to use when asking for it, side effects of hormone injections that stimulate egg production and the outpatient procedure one most go through to retrieve the eggs.

Sometimes, they’re talking about careers: the relief of knowing that – with your eggs on ice – there is simply more flexibility around when to make the decision to give birth. But more often, they’re talking about dating: the “huge weight lifted off your shoulders,” as one single 32-year-old friend described it, knowing that you no longer have assess every potential prospect as a future husband and father.

For women of a certain age, reared with the reliability of birth control, this could, as the technology improves, be our generation’s Pill — a way to circumvent a biological glass ceiling that, even as we make social and professional progress, does not budge. Women today have autonomy – and choice – over virtually every aspect of their lives: marriage, birth control, income, work. And yet our biology is the one thing we can’t control.

“It’s almost as if evolution hasn’t kept up with feminism,” says a friend, a 34-year-old Facebook employee who underwent the procedure using the new policy this year. “But I think that, like with anything, the culture takes a while to catch up. And sometimes it takes a few big people to come out and say, ‘We’re doing this’ to really change things.”

From a practical standpoint, covering elective egg freezing makes sense. It’s an economic issue that could help companies, especially tech companies, attract women and correct a notorious gender imbalance. “Personally – and confidentially – this made me immediately look at Facebook jobs again,” a 37-year-old marketing executive who worked at both Facebook and Google tells me. “I’m looking to control my career and choices around motherhood on my terms, and a company that would allow me to do so — and provide financial support for those choices — is one I’d willingly return to.”

It’s a social issue, against a backdrop that men and women are waiting longer than ever to tie the knot, and there are now more single people in this country than at any other moment in history. (No, you’re not some kind of failure because you haven’t met someone and reproduced by 35. You’re just…. well, normal.)

And for businesses, of course, it’s a financial issue too. As the Lancet put it in a medical paper earlier this month, covering egg freezing as a preventative measure could save businesses from having to pay for more expensive infertility treatments down the line – a benefit that is already mandated in 15 states. As Dr. Elizabeth Fino, a fertility specialist at New York University, explains it: with all the money we spend on IVF each year, and multiple cycles of it, why wouldn’t healthcare companies jump on this as a way to save? And while success rates for IVF procedures vary significantly by individual, and are often low, using younger eggs can increase the chances of pregnancy.

“Companies with good insurance packages have been paying for IVF for a long time. Why should egg freezing be any different?” says Ruthie Ackerman, a 37-year-old digital strategist who had her egg freezing procedure covered through her husband’s insurance.

Egg freezing is also, of course, an issue of equality: a potential solution to the so-called myth of opting out. An equalizer among both gender – men don’t usually worry about their sperm going bad, or at least not with quite the same intensity or cost – and class (the procedure has typically only been available for those who could afford it). The way egg freezing has worked so far, many women don’t necessarily return to retrieve their eggs. Still others get pregnant naturally. And so, even though it’s too soon to say how successful the procedure down the line will be — for women who return, thaw, and begin the process of IVF — it’s almost like an insurance policy. An egalitarian “peace of mind.”

“I have insurance policies in every other area of my life: my condo, my car, work insurance,” says another friend, another employee of one of these firms, another woman who doesn’t want to be named, but for whom hopefully this will soon no longer be an issue. She points to a recent survey, published in the in the journal Fertility and Sterility, which found that a majority of patients who froze their eggs reported feeling “empowered.” “This is my body, and arguably the most important thing that you could ever have in your life,” she continues. “Why wouldn’t I at least protect that asset?”

And if your boss is offering it up to you for free, what do you have to lose?

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 for special projects for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s nonprofit, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

Read next: Perk Up: Facebook and Apple Now Pay for Women to Freeze Eggs

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