TIME feminism

I’m Not Oversensitive! What Even Harvard Guys Somehow Still Don’t Get About Feminism

Kirkland House At Harvard University
Harvard University. Boston Globe—Boston Globe via Getty Images

When men in the Ivy League don't believe that women will ever be able to achieve parity in leadership and economics, it's time to have a conversation.

Last week, I asked four of my male friends whether they considered themselves feminists. All four said no.

It was an issue of terminology, they said. One was totally down with equality, just not down with a word that inherently implies one sex’s superiority. Another said that, since he isn’t a part of any feminist organizations, he doesn’t feel comfortable claiming the label. I guess these are both fair responses. I, too, have my own issues with the word “feminism” because it brings to mind a movement largely composed of white, middle-upper class women who failed to recognize that certain women of minority groups face a twofold battle.

I should have made my definition clearer, perhaps by reference to the Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie sample in Beyoncé’s “Flawless” that defines feminist as “a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.”

But, when three out of my four male friends agreed that a world vision in which half of our countries and companies are run by women and half of our households are run by men could never be realized, our differences graduated from lexicon to something much more fundamental. Women carry children, one said. Another chimed in and said we can’t expect women to have the same aspirations as men because of those nine months they spend carrying their child and the time they must spend breastfeeding after that.

They told me they didn’t intend me to take their comments personally. But how could I not? How could they tell me that biology destines my sex to be less ambitious and then expect me not to feel offended?

Forgive me for being emotional (I hear women tend to be that way), but I was deeply hurt. Perhaps my naive belief that all of my friends would be on board with woman’s liberation stems from the fact that I am lucky enough to have a feminist father who tells me that I can do anything I want and an entrepreneurial mother who doesn’t apologize for her success.

She told me to never make excuses: “When you face discrimination, don’t listen or pay it any mind. Just laugh all the way to the bank instead.” I know that I have the power to achieve anything a man can (except for standing up and peeing, although this might change soon).

What I realize now, though, is how necessary that conversation was, even if it made me upset at first. If I had not asked those friends for their opinions, I would never have known what they believed. I am happy that things got personal, and I am not mad at the boys who disagreed with me. I just know that we both deserve another conversation—another chance to say exactly what we mean and truly listen to each other. The feminist movement will never be effective if it fails to appeal to a broader audience. The people whom I don’t usually talk to about feminism are exactly the people who should be involved in changing gender dynamics on this campus. Because, frankly, there are moments when I feel crushed by the need for change.

One of these moments was the day during my freshman year when I noticed that only one of the guest lecturers for Economics 10 was female. One of my male friends told me I was oversensitive for noticing or caring. I guess he didn’t understand that, while he, as a white male, never has to look very far to find someone who looks just like him in a position of power, others do not have the same privilege.

I also see our social scene pleading for change. Despite the fact that we perpetually question whether we should attend final club parties, I would be lying if I said that these male-controlled spaces weren’t the most consistent source of parties for my friends and me. And when, in an attempt to maintain capacity and admit only those individuals whose name were on the list that night, a boy whom I would call my friend asked a group of girls outside his club to “please stand in single file against the wall,” I could not help but wonder what kind of attitude this social set-up promotes among the male members of these clubs and the women who wait to enter them.

And, as I wait for the day when Harvard will finally adopt a policy of affirmative consent in an official capacity, I remain frustrated about the fact that the conversation about sexual assault on this campus remains confined to people who are not the real source of the problem. How about the men who have hurt my friends? And the ones who still fail to understand that a woman saying “no” isn’t an invitation to convince her otherwise? These are the ones who must be engaged.

Boys, I don’t want you to feel offended or alienated by these statements. I believe in the political, social, and economic equality of the sexes. And, when I tell you this, I don’t want you to run away from the pile of burnt bras you might imagine next to me. Instead, I want you to ask questions. Female solidarity should never threaten you—it should invite you to want to learn more.

Jennifer A. Gathright ’16, a Crimson editorial writer, is an economics concentrator in Currier House. This piece originally appeared in The Harvard Crimson.

TIME health

Here’s Why This Woman Filmed Her Own Abortion

Emily Letts believes abortions are safe and not necessarily a huge deal, so she made a video of her own operation to help convince others

Emily Letts works as an abortion counselor at Cherry Hill Women’s Center in New Jersey, so when she herself got unexpectedly pregnant, she didn’t take long to decide she would terminate the pregnancy.

It wasn’t a difficult decision for her, she wrote in a Cosmopolitan essay, because she knew she wasn’t ready to have kids. But Letts took it one step further– she decided to film the abortion to show other women that it wasn’t scary.

“Patients at the clinic always ask me if I can relate to them — have I had an abortion? Do I have kids?,” she wrote. “I was so used to saying, “I’ve never had an abortion but…” While I was pregnant and waiting for my procedure, I thought, “Wait a minute, I have to use this.”

Letts decided to let a camera crew film her first trimester abortion in order to dispel some myths about what it’s like to get one. She knew from her work that most women still think abortions are hugely risky and painful.

“We talk about abortion so much and yet no one really knows what it actually looks like. A first trimester abortion takes three to five minutes. It is safer than giving birth. There is no cutting, and risk of infertility is less than 1 percent. Yet women come into the clinic all the time terrified that they are going to be cut open, convinced that they won’t be able to have kids after the abortion. The misinformation is amazing, but think about it: They are still willing to sacrifice these things because they know that they can’t carry the child at this moment.”

But Letts also said her decision to film her abortion was also about showing her total calmness about the procedure, that it wasn’t something to feel tormented about. “I talk to women all the time, they’re like ‘of course everyone feels bad about this, of course everyone feels guilty’ as if it’s a given how people should feel about this, that what they’re doing is wrong,” she says in the video. “I don’t feel like a bad person, I don’t feel sad… I knew that what I was going to do was right, because it was right for me and no-one else.”

But even though Letts clearly intends the video to be an asset to the pro-choice movement, it’s possible that pro-life activists could turn this around and accuse her of callousness for videotaping the procedure.



TIME movies

Here’s Some More Bad News About Gender Equality in Hollywood

Amma Asante
Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Amma Asante, and James Norton on the set of 'Belle' David Appleby—Fox Searchlight

There's been no increase in the number of women filling behind-the-scenes roles in the festival-film world

Here’s the latest surprise-free report from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University: most people who make movies are men, even in the more open world of film festivals. The Center, led by Martha Lauzen, is the source of scads of research confirming what’s not so difficult to guess — that filmmaking is far from equal on the gender front.

Their latest “Independent Women” report, released May 6, looked at domestically and independently produced feature-length films (narrative and documentary) that showed at about two dozen American film festivals during the 2013-2014 festival season. The researchers counted up the directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors and cinematographers.

Among the movies considered, the gender breakdown was:

  • Producer was the most equal — one-third are women. (Cinematographers, at 10% female, were least.)
  • Women made up 23% of directors considered and 22% of writers, both down slightly from 2011-12 and up from 2008-2009.
  • Though the percentage of women working on documentaries decreased from 2011-12 in most roles, the world of documentaries is still far more equal than the world of narrative film. Among directors, for example, 28% of the documentary directors were women (the same number as in 2008-9) whereas 18% were women among narrative directors.

Even though the numbers aren’t all that impressive — women only made up about a quarter of those people when taken all together, which is no improvement from the 2011-2012 season — the results were dubbed “stunning” (in a good way, based on the context) by the Center when compared to mainstream, high-grossing films. Among the directors of those blockbusters, for example, only 6% were women.

As Lauzen pointed out to The Hollywood Reporter, only one of this summer’s upcoming studio movies (Jupiter Ascending, from the Wachowskis) was even co-directed by a woman — and festival movies don’t always get seen by larger audiences, which isn’t good for the women who are making a dent in these figures.

But some festival movies directed by women are making it to theaters in the next few weeks, and so audiences who want to endorse female filmmakers can keep an eye out for titles like these:

Belle: In theaters now, directed by Amma Asante

Palo Alto: In theaters May 9, directed by Gia Coppola

Fed Up: In theaters May 9, directed by Stephanie Soechtig

Night Moves: In theaters May 30, directed by Kelly Reichardt

Obvious Child:In theaters June 6, directed by Gillian Robespierre

TIME feminism

Shailene Woodley on Why She’s Not a Feminist

Shailene Woodley Feminist
Shailene Woodley attends the 2014 MTV Movie Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. on April 13, 2014 in Los Angeles. Christopher Polk—Getty Images

Shailene Woodley, in the upcoming The Fault in Our Stars, talked to TIME about sisterhood, revenge and her reasons for avoiding the "F" word: "I think the idea of 'raise women to power, take the men away from the power' is never going to work out because you need balance"

One of the hottest topics in Hollywood lately has been the ‘F’ word. Beyoncé, Miley Cyrus, Ellen Page and Lena Dunham have come out as feminists, while Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have said that they are not. (Katy Perry is on the fence.) And though many define feminism simply as equality between men and women politically, socially and economically, what constitutes the movement is up for debate among stars.

Shailene Woodley has previously been quoted on the importance of movies’ empowering messages for women. So we decided to ask the star of the upcoming The Fault in Our Stars about her views on feminism.

TIME: You’ve talked about before—with Divergent specifically, too—about being conscious of the kind of messages that you’re sending to young female fans when you’re taking on roles. Do you consider yourself a feminist?

Shailene Woodley: No because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance. With myself, I’m very in touch with my masculine side. And I’m 50 percent feminine and 50 percent masculine, same as I think a lot of us are. And I think that is important to note. And also I think that if men went down and women rose to power, that wouldn’t work either. We have to have a fine balance.

My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism. I don’t know how we as women expect men to respect us because we don’t even seem to respect each other. There’s so much jealousy, so much comparison and envy. And “This girl did this to me and that girl did that to me.” And it’s just so silly and heartbreaking in a way.

It’s really neat to see: there’s that new Judd Apatow [sic] movie coming out, The Other Woman, and that looks really good because I think it’s really neat that it shows women coming together and supporting each other and creating a sisterhood of support for one another versus hating each other for something that somebody else created.

TIME: So even though what they’re coming together for is to bring down a man…

SW: Yeah, but they create a sisterhood. And he did something wrong, and they’re, you know. They’re going to go after him for it. I think it’s great.

Not everyone agrees The Other Woman (which was not made by Judd Apatow) is so empowering. Some applaud the film for featuring strong female leads, while others argue that its egregious inability to pass the Bechdel test—a simple rule that questions whether two women in a film talk to one another about something other than a man—and its objectification of women is degrading.

Whatever her views on The Other Woman and feminism, Woodley has been lauded so far for selecting powerful female roles: both of her summer flicks, Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars, pass the Bechdel test.

TIME feminism

SNL‘s Leslie Jones Uses Slavery to Make a Point About Being Black and Beautiful

Saturday Night Live - Season 39
Leslie Jones, Colin Jost and Cecily Strong during Weekend Update on May 3, 2014. Dana Edelson—NBC/Getty Images

Slavery's legacy means that black women get to be strong, exotic and hypersexual, but rarely beautiful, as this sketch expertly critiques

Saturday Night Live faced a great deal of well-deserved criticism for the lack of diversity among the show’s writers and cast. This year, they finally responded by hiring actor Sasheer Zamata and writers Leslie Jones and LaKendra Tookes. There is still work to be done toward making the show more diverse and inclusive, but this is a start.

The thing is, when we call for diversity, we often have a very specific idea of what that diversity should look like. There is an unreasonable burden on people who are thrown into such a glaring spotlight. We wanted Saturday Night Live to become more diverse, but it has to be the right kind of diverse—offer up the right kind of message—and everyone has a different opinion of what right looks like.

Each year, People produces a list of the most beautiful people—an arbitrary assortment of famous people with preternaturally good looks, beaming out at you from glossy magazine pages. This year, Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong’o is People’s most beautiful person—as well she should be. Nyong’o is a stunning young woman with a luminous smile and a depth of talent.

During this weekend’s episode of Saturday Night Live, Jones gave a monologue on Weekend Update about the pick. “The way we view black beauty has changed,” Jones says. “I’m six feet tall and I’m strong, Colin. Strong!” Jones goes on to say that she would have been the “number one slave draft pick” and how “massa” would have hooked her up with the best slave on the plantation to breed even better slaves. She referred to herself as a “mandingo,” who, with the right partner, would push out babies like Shaq and LeBron. What she had to say was uncomfortable and, at times, downright painful. She was being funny—or not. Humor is relative. Regardless, Jones was accurately commenting on one of the many travesties that took place during the slave era.

People are reacting. I am not here to judge those reactions, but I understand where Jones is coming from. To be considered beautiful as a black woman, you need to be exceptionally beautiful. You need to be slender and smooth, with the sharp cheekbones of a Lupita Nyong’o. All too often, you also need to be fair-skinned, which has made the darker-skinned Nyong’o’s rise to such great heights so spectacular to see.

Some people are bristling about how cavalierly Jones dealt with what we know was rape, and how black women and men’s bodies were used to produce more stock for white slave owners. As a critic sensitive to how popular culture deals with sexual violence, I understand. But there is so much more taking place within Jones’s monologue. I have watched the clip several times now. Beyond the surface of the joke, I see pain. I see rage. I see a woman speaking her truth.

The “black is beautiful” movement has worked to challenge damaging notions about black beauty since the 1960s, but more than 50 years on black women rarely get to be beautiful. Black women get to be strong. We get to be imposing and intimidating. We get to be thick, hypersexual bodies. We get to be exotic. We get to be the dirty secret you won’t take home to your family. That is all people want to see in us. When black women are considered beautiful (and this is quite a narrow space), too many people want to be congratulated for briefly expanding their understanding of beauty. Look at how some people have fallen over themselves to express how beautiful they find Nyong’o, how they wait to be praised for such aesthetic benevolence.

Black women are rarely seen for who we are. We are rarely seen or held with any kind of tenderness. We are rarely wanted. Jones was making a joke—or perhaps she wasn’t. On Twitter, she defended her monologue and, among other things, she said:

“I’m a comic it is my job to take things and make them funny to make you think. Especially the painful things. Why are y’all so mad. This joke was written from the pain that one night I realized that black men don’t really f–k with me and why am I single. And that in slave days I would have always had a man cause of breeding.”

We got diversity on Saturday Night Live, but we don’t get to control the narratives that rise from that diversity. We don’t get to hear and see only that which makes us comfortable.

Look at Jones’s face at the end of her monologue. See what is there. I am haunted by what I see. She was expressing a very specific loneliness I instantly recognized—having a big black body that may never be seen as beautiful or desirable, while carrying so much desire that goes unsatisfied.

It hurts to watch Jones share her rage and hurt veiled in humor. It hurts to realize how the legacy of slavery lingers. I want to take Jones’s face in my hands and tell her she is beautiful. She is beautiful. I want to hold all her hurt and rage so she can be free of it, even for a little while. I want to remake this world into something better so black women don’t have to recognize this kind of hurt and rage. I want all black women to see the ways in which we are endlessly beautiful even if few others do. I want to believe I am beautiful.

TIME relationships

Why ‘I Have a Boyfriend’ Is Still the Best Way to Turn a Guy Down

Getty Images

An argument for efficiency by a feminist

You’re out with your friends at a bar, and a guy comes over and starts talking to you. You exchange pleasantries and start chatting. But it soon becomes clear that you’re just not that into him. What’s the best way to turn him down without being a total jerk? A 2013 XOJane column that went viral over the weekend by Alecia Lynn Eberhardt makes the argument that the age-old excuse of “I have a boyfriend” (whether it’s true or not) undermines a woman’s autonomy by suggesting she’s unavailable because she’s “taken” by a man. Eberhardt pulls a popular quote from Tumblr to explain why this excuse deprives a woman of all agency:

Male privilege is “I have a boyfriend” being the only thing that can actually stop someone from hitting on you because they respect another male-bodied person more than they respect your rejection/lack of interest.

While in theory I agree with this sentiment, I’m going to still argue for the efficacy of the “I have a boyfriend” excuse. When I am out with my friends at a bar trying to enjoy myself, the last thing I want to do is take precious time away from my friends to explain to a stranger why I have no interest in him. Eberhardt’s sketch of how this debate might play out sounds exhausting:

“I’m not interested.” Don’t apologize and don’t excuse yourself. If they question your response (which is likely), persist — ”No, I said I’m not interested.”

“Oh, so you have a boyfriend?”

“I said, I’m not interested.”

“So you’re a lesbian, then?”

“Actually, I’m not interested.”

“You seem crazy.”

“Nope, just not interested.”

Et cetera. You could even, if you were feeling particularly outspoken, engage in a bit of debate with the man in question.

I don’t have the patience to get into debates with every man who hits on me. I’ve used the “I’m not interested” excuse before only to be regaled for 10 minutes with stories as to why I should be interested. I’ve seen men sit down at a table with a friend, put their arm around her even after she’s said, “I’m not interested.” I even had a man try this strategy while I was on a date with a boyfriend who was sitting across the table from me.

If, on the other hand, you say, “I have a boyfriend,”— even if that’s a bald-faced lie — guys will flee pretty quickly. Some will say, “So?” But that debate can be ended pretty quickly with “I don’t cheat” or “he just got out of prison.”

So yes, if you think you’re dealing with a rational person who will leave you alone after you utter “I’m not interested” or if you feel like spending your night engaged in spirited debate, do the empowered thing and don’t lie. But that’s often not the case, and while I consider myself a feminist, I’m also someone who cares about efficiency. It’s not my obligation to educate men in bars about society’s gender issues. I want to enjoy my evenings. So I’ll be sticking with “I have a boyfriend” and go home still believing in equal pay, leaning in and that a woman should win the presidency in 2016.

TIME celebrities

Gabourey Sidibe and Amy Schumer Agree: You Make Your Own Confidence

Ms. Foundation Women Of Vision Gala: 2014
Gabourey Sidibe and Amy Schumer attend the Ms. Foundation Women Of Vision Gala 2014 on May 1, 2014 in New York City. Astrid Stawiarz—Getty Images

The Academy Award-nominated actress and Comedy Central show runner both shared life insights at the Ms. Foundation for Women's Gloria Awards Gala. Moral of the story: don't let mean fifth graders or bad sex get you down

Gabourey Sidibe and Amy Schumer both made deeply personal speeches about confidence Thursday night at the Gloria Awards and Gala, an awards ceremony to honor “women of vision” hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women. The actress and comedian each described the exact moments they decided to take control of their own narratives.

Sidibe, who was nominated for an Academy Award for playing the lead character in Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire and recently appeared in American Horror Story: Coven, described a lonely childhood, where she was chided by her parents for being overweight and ignored by her classmate for being a self-described “bossy a**hole.”

I was a bossy, bossy a**hole. See, remember when I said that I thought I was more clever than everyone else? Well, I did! And I told them that — every single day! Those kids couldn’t get a word in edgewise, without me cutting them off to remind them that I was smarter, funnier, and all around wittier than them…The point is, I was a snob. I thought I was better than the kids in my class, and I let them know it. That’s why they didn’t like me. I think the reason I thought so highly of myself all the time was because no one else ever did.

Sidibe told the audience about the time she laboriously baked gingerbread cookies for a class party in fifth grade, only to get to the party and find that her classmates refused to eat the cookies she’d made. But she didn’t let it cramp her style.

I just had been rejected by 28 kids in a row. And I was sitting alone at my desk, with an empty Ziplock bag, crumbs in my lap, and I was at this great party that I had waited for all week. I waited all week for this party that I wasn’t invited to. And for some reason I got up, I sat on my desk, and I partied my a** off. I laughed loudly when something funny happened. And when [the teacher] Miss Lowe put on music, I was one of the first ones to get up and dance. I joined the limbo, and ate chips, and drank soda, and I enjoyed myself, even though no one wanted me there.

You know why? I told you — I was an a**hole! I wanted that party! And what I want trumps what 28 people want me to do, especially when what they want me to do is leave. I had a great time. I did. And if I somehow ruined my classmates’ good time, then that’s on them. “How are you so confident?” “I’m an a**hole!”

Even though Amy Schumer now has her own show on Comedy Central, she spoke about the moment where she had to become her “own fairy godmother.” She had thought that her popularity in high school would translate into her college life, but when she got to campus she found she was at the lowest rung of the social ladder, eclipsed by “thinner, blonder, dumber girls.” This low self-esteem drove her to have a one-night stand with a drunk older guy who “smelled like skunk microwaved with cheeseburgers,” while a Sam Cooke CD was playing in the background.

I was looking down at myself from the ceiling fan. What happened to this girl? How did she get here? I felt the fan on my skin and I went, “Oh, wait! I am this girl! We got to get me out of here!” I became my own fairy godmother. I waited until the last perfect note floated out, and escaped from under him and out the door. I never heard from Matt again, but felt only grateful for being introduced to my new self, a girl who got her value from within her. I’m also grateful to Matt for introducing me to my love Sam Cooke, who I’m still with today.

Now I feel strong and beautiful. I walk proudly down the streets of Manhattan. The people I love, love me. I make the funniest people in the country laugh, and they are my friends. I am a great friend and an even better sister. I have fought my way through harsh criticism and death threats for speaking my mind. I am alive, like the strong women in this room before me. I am a hot-blooded fighter and I am fearless.

But Schumer also talked about how, even though she’s found her confidence, it can be stripped away in a second with a mean comment or a backhanded gesture.

I did morning radio last week, and a DJ asked, “Have you gained weight? You seem chunkier to me. You should strike while the iron is hot, Amy.” And it’s all gone. In an instant, it’s all stripped away. I wrote an article for Men’s Health and was so proud, until I saw instead of using my photo, they used one of a 16-year-old model wearing a clown nose, to show that she’s hilarious. But those are my words. What about who I am, and what I have to say?

I can be reduced to that lost college freshman so quickly sometimes, I want to quit. Not performing, but being a woman altogether. I want to throw my hands in the air, after reading a mean Twitter comment, and say, “All right! You got it. You figured me out. I’m not pretty. I’m not thin. I do not deserve to use my voice. I’ll start wearing a burqa and start waiting tables at a pancake house. All my self-worth is based on what you can see.”

But then I think, f*** that. I am not laying in that freshman year bed anymore ever again. I am a woman with thoughts and questions and s*** to say. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story — I will.

BOOM! That’s two confidence boosters for the price of one.

TIME career

Leaning In at Work, Traditionalist at Home: Women Who Hide Their Success

Retro housewife Bojan Kontrec—Getty Images/Vetta

Why we need to stop worrying about emasculating men

I once hid my raise from my live-in boyfriend for a full year before he found out. I was already the decision-maker in our relationship, and I didn’t want him to feel bad that he made less than I did.

It’s the kind of scenario we hear often: ambitious, hard-charging women purposely shaving off a couple digits when talking about money with their partners. Women who subtly downplay their accomplishments in order to protect their boyfriends’ egos. Those who play the damsel in distress to cater to some caveman-like need to save. Even toning down an online dating profile – deleting accolades and advanced degrees – to sound less “intimidating” to potential suitors.

“I would let him make the decisions even when I knew they weren’t the right ones,” one friend told me recently, of her (not coincidentally) now ex-husband.

“I never reveal where I got my PhD on a first date,” said another, who is an Ivy League grad.

“I think my biggest fear in a relationship,” a New York editor quipped over brunch recently, “is emasculating the guy and ending up alone.”

It’s a feminist by day, traditionalist by night way of life, and it would make our Second Wave mothers cringe. By day, these women are successful and self-assured – part of a cohort dominating the working world and outpacing their male peers in college and advanced degrees. The under 30 set are outearning their male counterparts in nearly every major city in America. And when it comes to married couples, the number of female breadwinners has been steadily rising: 24 percent of wives now make more than their husbands.

And yet when it comes to their romantic lives, these women are unabashedly shrinking violets, their behavior influenced by age-old stereotypes about men, women and power that have simply not shifted as quickly as the working world. They’re also being influenced by a bevy of advice books – including a new one, When She Makes More: 10 Rules for Breadwinning Women, by financial advisor and journalist Farnoosh Torabi.

One part financial manual and two parts primer in retro-femininity, the book is a guide, she says, for single women whose success may intimidate potential suitors. Rule No. 1: Face the Facts. And the facts, she explains are clear. “When a woman makes more than her man, the odds are stacked against her in many ways: she’s less likely to get married, more likely to be unhappier in marriage, and there are many psychological and sexual costs,” writes Torabi.

Torabi is wrestling with the contradictions of a particular cultural moment: women are less dependent and passive than ever before. And yet, as Ronald Levant, the editor of the journal Psychology of Men and Masculinity, put it recently, “men are stuck” – caught between caveman-like desires to protect and provide, and the fact that more and more women are the ones doing the providing. One recent study found that men subconsciously suffer a bruised ego when their wives or girlfriends excel — regardless of whether they are in direct competition. Another survey, from Pew, found that 28 percent of Americans believe that it is “generally better for a marriage if the husband earns more than his wife.”

Where that leaves us? If you believe Torabi, with a complicated set of rules to follow – lest we end up, as the Princeton Mom warned, a “spinster with cats.” Not only must we achieve at work, we must stroke our partner’s ego. We can land the big deal, but we still must play the damsel in distress. We can go to Pilates, but might still consider asking him to lift that box – to make him feel like a man. Oh, and we may be the primary breadwinner, but we should still let him pay in public (as Torabi often does with her own husband) – even if it’s coming out of a joint checking account.

“Calling it stroking his ego can sound controversial, but money is a huge source of power and self worth for a lot of people,” she says. “So you have to understand that.”

Or better yet: you can reject it altogether.

Yes, men have been breadwinners for 10,000 years. They’ve been conditioned to be dominant. Hunters, gatherers … you know the drill. But let’s give dudes some credit.

College-aged men and women almost universally say they desire unions in which housework, child-rearing, ambition and moneymaking will be respectfully negotiated and shared. There are plenty of men – as a recent Cosmo survey on the topic helped made clear — who would happily date a woman who made more money than they did (and like it). (Of more than 1,000 straight men ages 18 to 35, nearly half say they’ve dated a woman who made more money than they did. Fifty seven percent say they are “more attracted” to a woman who is ambitious at work.)

We are, as the biological anthropologist Helen Fisher recently told me, “in a time of tremendous transformation.”

So here’s a rule for when you make more than your male partner: Don’t believe everything you read.

TIME Culture

5 Things We Learned from Miley’s Elle Interview

Miley Cyrus on the cover of the May 2014 issue of Elle Magazine ELLE Magazine

The Bangerz artist doesn't want to explain herself to people over the age of 21

A lot of people who have made those comments are older—they were living in a world that was more defined by color. Now that isn’t black culture—that’s just culture in general. That’s pop culture; that’s the way we dance. These pissed-off moms on the Internet—they don’t understand that when you go to a club now it’s not about being black or white or heavy or thick. I’m shaking my ass because I want to shake my ass, not ’cause “I’m dancing like a black girl!”

MC: I’m just about equality, period. It’s not like, I’m a woman, women should be in charge! I just want there to be equality for everybody.

TG: Right! And that’s what feminism is.

MC: I still don’t think we’re there 100 percent. I mean, guy rappers grab their crotch all f***ing day and have hos around them, but no one talks about it. But if I grab my crotch and I have hot model bitches around me, I’m degrading women? I’m a woman—I should be able to have girls around me! But I’m part of the evolution of that. I hope.

Is she really a feminist? Is she broadening the definition of feminism to include objectification of “hot model bitches?” Or would that really mean using “hot model bastards?” These are just some of the questions that the feminist blogosphere will be chewing on for many months.


TIME society

Not All Men: A Brief History of Every Dude’s Favorite Argument

The "not all men" defense against feminist arguments is infuriating and unhelpful, but it also represents a weird kind of progress

On April 10, artist Matt Lubchansky updated his popular webcomic series, Please Listen To Me, with a new comic called “Save Me.” It features a presumably mild-mannered fellow in a polo shirt who spots the “Man Signal” and barrels into a phone booth to emerge as a fedora-masked Not-All-Man, “defender of the defended” and “voice for the voiceful.” He catches the whiff of misandry in the air — a pink-haired woman in the middle of saying “I’m just sick of how men…” — and smashes through a plate-glass window to play devil’s advocate.

Matt Lubchansky (listen-tome.com)

It’s a sharp, damning satire of a familiar kind of bad-faith argument, the one where a male interlocutor redirects a discussion about sexism, misogyny, rape culture, or women’s rights to instead be about how none of that is his fault. And it struck a nerve.

The comic was retweeted and reblogged tens of thousands of times. Nerd hero Wil Wheaton, comedian Paul F. Tompkins, and comics artist Matt Fraction were among its Tumblr boosters. Within a few days, science fiction writer John Scalzi, who frequently wades into feminist discussion, ranted about the “not all men” defense and followed up by posting the comic. Clearly, Not-All-Man is the antifeminist antihero for our times.

But his origin story is shrouded in mystery. Certainly Lubchansky’s comic was not the first humorous deployment of the term. For instance, two weeks before the comic came out, a “Not All Men” Tumblr made the rounds. It featured a handful of movie scenes enhanced with a “not all men” speech bubble — the shark from Jaws jumps in a boat to play devil’s advocate, the chestburster from Alien emerges from a man’s torso to explain that you’re overgeneralizing. And a few days before that, Twitter user @a_girl_irl posted an image of the Kool-Aid man crashing through the wall to deliver the catch phrase.

Before its meteoric rise as an object of mockery in the early parts of 2014, “not all men” had a past life as an object of frustration. For feminist bloggers it was a classic derail, a bad-faith argument used to shift the focus of a discussion instead of engaging with it.

“I know. Not all men are rapists. Not all men abuse their significant others. Not all men actively oppress women. I get it. Moving on,” wrote blogger elledeevee at Bitchtopia in July 2013.

But while it was clearly a source of irritation by mid-2013, and ripe for parody last month, “not all men” is curiously absent from earlier compilations of derailing arguments, including the ever-popular bingo cards that people who write about activist subjects on the Internet often make.

Of course, this doesn’t mean people weren’t not-all-menning it up before 2013. As early as 1985, author Joanna Russ expressed a familiar weariness in her feminist love story On Strike Against God:

…that not all men make more money than all women, only most; that not all men are rapists, only some; that not all men are promiscuous killers, only some; that not all men control Congress, the Presidency, the police, the army, industry, agriculture, law, science, medicine, architecture, and local government, only some.

But the absence of “not all men” on Internet bingo cards is a striking example of how the phrase, before it rocketed to prominence, went almost unnoticed in online arguments about activist subjects. If a feminist blogger made a derailment bingo card in April of 2013, “not all men” might be the free space in the center. But before last year, the place of prominence currently afforded to the phrase “not all men” was instead held by “what about the men?” and “patriarchy hurts men too” — pleas for inclusion, not for exemption.

Without the assistance of a trained Redditologist, it may not be possible to track down the source of this shift. Most likely “not all men” erupted in several places on the Internet simultaneously and independently, like the invention of calculus — an idea whose time had come. I asked Matt Lubchansky, the Not-All-Man comic’s creator, if he remembered where he first heard it; he told me that in his experience it arose from nowhere, or more accurately, from everywhere.

“I don’t recall a very specific instance so much as it was sort of everywhere, very suddenly!” Lubchansky wrote in an email. “But instead of this being something with a single origin, i think this phrase is unique among this kind of stuff because it was actually coming from the mouths of these dopes. Like some dummy would for REAL be coming at people talking about racial or gender equality stuff, waving their arms and saying ‘UM ACTUALLY NOT ME!’”

It’s true that previous derailment favorites like “patriarchy hurts men too” were paraphrases in a way that “not all men” is not. The demand is the same — “please move me to the center of your discussion” — but “not all men” is, in many cases, straight from the horse’s mouth; even an amateur Reddit spelunker can turn up plenty of sulky or defensive uses of the phrase.

“Not all men” also differs from “what about the men?” and other classic derails because it acknowledges that rape, sexism, and misogyny are real issues — just not, you know, real issues that the speaker is involved with in any way. The “not all men” man, at least in some cases, agrees with you and is perfectly willing to talk about how terrible those other guys are, just as soon as we get done establishing that he himself would never be such a cad. It’s infuriating and unhelpful, but in a way it represents a weird kind of progress.

Lubchansky agreed that the shift from “but what about men’s problems” to “not all men are like that” paralleled his own gradual development into a decent human. Perhaps men arguing on the Internet (though not all men!) follow a developmental path that echoes an individual man growing a social conscience, which in a very simplified form goes something like this:

  1. Sexism is a fake idea invented by feminists
  2. Sexism happens, but the effect of “reverse sexism” on men is as bad or worse
  3. Sexism happens, but the important part is that I personally am not sexist
  4. Sexism happens, and I benefit from that whether or not I personally am sexist
  5. Sexism happens, I benefit from it, I am unavoidably sexist sometimes because I was socialized that way, and if I want to be anti-sexist I have to be actively working against that socialization

Is it possible “not all men” rose to prominence when the level of online discourse moved from stage 2 to stage 3?

The Not-All-Man hero and his minions are paralyzingly obsessed with protecting their own self-concept, to a degree that prevents them from engaging in sincere discussion. But this contrast — between “not all men” and earlier derailing tactics — suggests that maybe they also represent a small and subtle shift towards good-faith argumentation.

Not all men will make that shift, ultimately. But some is better than none.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser