Gender Discrimination Is at the Heart of the Wage Gap

A Harvard economist demonstrated that inequalities in pay aren't due to job tenure, hours worked or individual choices both sexes make

When Jill Abramson was fired from her post as executive editor of the New York Times last Wednesday, the world took notice. The New Yorker reported on tensions between Abramson and the paper’s owner, which may have been heightened in part by an argument over her pay relative to that of her male predecessor.

Whether Abramson’s pay did or didn’t have anything to do with her dismissal from the Times, one thing is certain: there is a gender wage gap. Among full-time workers, women earn 77% of what men earn. Even after accounting for the fact that women often work in different occupations and industries than men, as well as differences in work experience, union status, education and race, 41% of that gap is still unexplained. When social scientists control for every employment factor that could possibly explain the disparity, women still earn 91% of what men earn for doing the same job.

Female-dominated occupations tend to pay less, often much less, than male-dominated occupations. Women made great progress in the 1970s and 1980s in moving into careers traditionally dominated by men, but since the mid-1990s that progress has largely stalled. Today women still account for the vast majority of waitresses, retail workers, administrative assistants and nurses, but very few engineers, scientists, managers and technicians. Women also tend to work in service jobs and not-for-profit and public-sector organizations, which aren’t highly valued in a market economy. Moreover, though women lost fewer jobs than men did in the recession, they gained fewer during the recovery. And many of the gains were in sectors facing serious budget cuts, like education and social services.

What’s more, education has not effectively reduced the gender wage gap, even though women are now substantially more educated than men. Women surpassed men in college enrollment in the mid-1990s, and the gap has been growing ever since. Today 45% of young women are enrolled in college, compared with 38% of young men; 36% of young women have a bachelor’s or a graduate degree, compared with 28% of young men. Yet women with graduate degrees earn the same as men with bachelor’s degrees, and women with bachelor’s degrees earn the same as men with associate’s degrees.

What’s behind these differences? Part of the problem lies in what women study, which plays a large role in where they work later on. Women aren’t likely to choose high-paying majors like engineering; instead, they often gravitate to low-paying majors like education, psychology and social work. Women represent 97% of early-childhood-education majors but only 6% of mechanical-engineering majors.

Critics of initiatives to close the gender wage gap, or those who deny that it’s a legitimate problem, say gender-based wage inequalities are due to individual choice, and therefore are of no concern to government. When President Obama recently signed two Executive Orders increasing transparency for federal contractors in an effort to deter gender-based differences in pay, critics on the right argued that the differences were due to job tenure and hours worked. But Harvard economist Claudia Goldin demonstrated those claims did not hold water. Using wage data for men and women with identical degrees and experience, she was able to show that gender discrimination is ultimately at the core of the gap.

Even if differences in occupations account for some of the gender wage gap, why should gender-based educational and occupational segregation count as evidence against gender discrimination? Young girls and young women do not make choices about what to study and where to work in a vacuum. They make them under the influence of peers, family members and adults who tell them, through words and actions, the subjects, majors and careers that are acceptable for them to choose — and these influences inevitably inform their later decisions on careers. Gender stereotypes also underlie our decisions on how much dollar value to place on some kinds of work and not on others, or to even put a value on them at all: a female first-grade teacher usually makes less than a male video-game software developer, and for centuries women have borne the brunt of everyday housework and caring for children and the elderly for no pay at all.

It is possible to close the gender wage gap. In the 1960s the gap hovered around 60%. After initiatives such as the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act made gender-based discrimination in the labor market illegal, the gap closed substantially between the 1970s and mid-1990s. Some states have a much lower gender wage gap than others: women earn 90% of men’s salaries in Washington, D.C., for instance, compared with 64% in Wyoming. Similarly, some European countries, such as Spain and Norway, have nearly closed their gender wage gaps, estimated at more than 90%, even before controlling for education level and occupational choice.

Closing the gender wage gap will require initiatives aimed at combatting workplace discrimination. One of these is the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would increase wage transparency and provide legal protections for workers who raise concerns about gender-based wage discrimination. It will also require flexible work options, which build upon women’s rights established under the Family and Medical Leave Act and assuage the slowdown in women’s career trajectories when they decide to start a family. It will also require us to alter the cultural norms and stereotypes we communicate to young girls, through the stories we tell and the people we admire, about what is possible for them.

Carnevale currently serves as research professor and director of the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Smith is a research professor and senior economist at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, where she leads the center’s econometric and methodological work.

TIME feminism

If You’re a Modern Dad, You Might Just Be a Feminist

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The label doesn't have to mean either perfection or rigidity, so don't be afraid to embrace it.

I was raised by a second-wave feminist leader and attended countless feminist rallies, marches and readings as a boy. Last I checked the movement didn’t give out cards; it dispensed ideas that have changed the world and each of us.

For me, feminism is tradition and family legacy, but also a movement I have chosen to embrace. I am a feminist and I am a better dad for it. So are we all.

Whether one calls oneself a feminist, it is undeniable that feminism and feminists have made the modern dad possible. Feminism taught me to be comfortable and proud of who I am, and encouraged self-determination. These are traits we all want to pass along to our kids. But, more significantly, feminism benefited us dads greatly by encouraging increased involvement in our children’s lives, and forever changed our roles.

If you believe that dads are capable of diapering, feeding and raising children as well as women can, you might be a feminist. If you are a stay-at-home dad and your wife (or husband) is the family breadwinner, you might be a feminist. And if you believe that dads deserve better paternity leave policies, you might be a feminist.

Yet using the term “feminist” is questioned even by those, like Dave Lesser, who, to his credit, believes that his daughter should be able to take leadership positions, earn as much as a man doing the same job and be free from sexual harassment, challenges his daughter’s gender norms and wants to ensure that she will never be limited by her gender (I wonder what movement gave him those ideas?).

While I don’t insist that anyone label themselves, and I understand it’s easier to not use a label that comes with a lot of baggage and misconception, it’s obvious to me that the only reason “feminist” remains a bad word is that women (and anything associated with them) are still discriminated against. And, the fact that stereotypes of man-hating feminists persist (not to mention the visceral anger the word inspires) proves the point. Feminist is the only appropriate word for those that believe in the radical notion that women should be equal to men, and who understand that we live in a world of historically and culturally inscribed female disadvantage.

However, being a feminist doesn’t mean either perfection or rigidity. Like Lesser, I encourage my 4-year-old daughter to wear multiple colors, play with blocks and basketballs and limit her exposure to princess culture. And, like Lesser, I am faced with a daughter who likes princesses, purple dresses and painting her nails. I have also allowed her to watch a number of Disney movies, including Cinderella (gasp!). On the other hand, I don’t let my daughter play with a toy vacuum cleaner. But, that’s because neither my wife nor I use one in real life. We avoid cleaning equally.

The crux of feminism is analysis and awareness. Even feminists have internalized the pervasive sexism in our culture and exhibit contradictions in their lives (I love rap music, much of which contains misogynist lyrics, and I’ve objectified women I’ve passed on the street).

While I recognize that my daughter also “loves all the crap that is shamelessly marketed to girls her age,” I will challenge her when she repeats ideas about gender norms or limits the roles we can each occupy during pretend play. I will never let her limit her vision of who she can become. And I will continue to analyze and dissect the rigid gender roles placed on children’s clothes, toys, and cartoons and in popular culture.

Feminism is also crucial for dads raising boys. If you care about ensuring that boys aren’t denied their full humanity and aren’t stunted in their emotional development, you might want to thank feminism for recognizing that boys and men have feelings too. If we truly care about boys, we can acknowledge, as feminists have, that placing them in a limiting “man box” hurts them deeply and releasing them from it will improve their lives.

Just as being a parent includes a learning curve and requires constant effort, and sometimes trial and error, feminism recognizes that we are works in progress and need to challenge our children and ourselves as we grow together. Mistakes will be made. Sometimes we will succumb to our culture’s sexism. But we can rise to challenge it the next day.

So while I want equality of the sexes and safety for all our daughters and try to resist gender limitations for my daughter, I sometimes buy my daughter clothes and toys that make me cringe because I know that they will make her happy. I buy her those things to respect her choices, even if I might make different ones. And, what could be more feminist than that?

Ariel Chesler is an attorney and writer in New York. He lives with his wife and two daughters, and one cat. He is the son of feminist author and psychologist Phyllis Chesler.

TIME feminism

Dear (Female) Grads: You’ve Learned How to Be Perfect. Now Change

Jamie Grill—Getty Images

The real world, you see, requires an entirely different skill set, one the guys have been busy mastering

Congratulations, ladies. Many of you are or will soon be gliding across the stage to receive your hard-earned bachelor’s degrees — 25% more of you will earn one than your young male counterparts, by the way. The knowledge you’ve acquired is impressive. You’ve aced exams and turned in practically perfect papers. You are justifiably proud of your elegant Spanish subjunctives and facility with algorithms. You’ve learned to play by the rules, to impress, to please and to be well liked. For 15 years you’ve dominated the classroom.

Now take everything you’ve been taught and forget it. The real world, you see, requires an entirely different skill set. It’s a shame that nobody warned you.

The metric that matters now is the one the guys have been busy mastering. You’ve seen it — the one governing all that unruly behavior on the sidelines of your winning game. It’s a style that involves breaking rules, ignoring insults, letting mistakes roll off of backs and moving forward with half-finished reports and imperfect work. It’s the sort of behavior you’ve all but ignored. But pay close attention now, because your new reality will reward risk taking and failure more than perfection. It will celebrate action, even of the messy sort, over inaction. And it will demand confidence at least as much as competence. All of that good-girl behavior that got you to this impressive summit doesn’t breed success in the rough-and-tumble of professional life.

Carol Dweck, the Stanford psychologist and best-selling author of Mindset, puts this paradox to us bluntly: “If life were one long grade school, women would rule the world.”

The classroom, she explains, is our ideal habitat, at least for now. Rules and expectations are clear. Orderly, considerate behavior is valued. Mistakes and failure — not so much. And look at the data. We thrive in academia. We get more degrees than men, more postgraduate degrees and, now, even more Ph.D.s. But somewhere between the classroom and the cubicle, the rules change and women don’t fare so well.

Your mothers, like the two of us, learned this lesson the hard way, watching the guys around them rise to the top — seemingly on a wave of bravado that had little to do with diligence or ability. They and we didn’t realize that sometimes just joining the fray — taking chances, imperfectly or not — was as critical to winning the corner office as ability and hard work.

So, in the interest of teaching all of you what it took us far too long to realize, we’re done congratulating you. We’re not going to tell you that you’re terrific, or that you just need to believe in yourself and everything will turn out well because you are so perfect.

Instead, here’s some unvarnished advice on what it really takes to succeed in the professional world you are about to enter.

1. Drive a stake through perfection. This is going to be a hard addiction to break, so start small. In professional life, getting something done is substantially more critical than getting it perfect, and output really matters. The more time you spend focusing on dotting every i or crossing every t, the more likely you are to miss opportunities.

2. Do more, think less. This will flow naturally from doing away with perfection. The more we think and ruminate and consider and analyze, the less likely we are to act. Soon we’ll see our colleagues have already floated three ideas while we’ve been busy stewing. When in doubt, act.

3. Fail fast. This is the natural consequence of Nos. 1 and 2. And yes, ladies, failure is a good thing. When you aren’t worried about being perfect anymore, you can act and take risks, and that will mean failure. Failing fast is new techie buzz phrase — and one that’s extremely useful for us because it’s an easier way to see failure as success. The thinking is that the world is moving too fast to spend years on the perfect prototype. Test-drive ideas, fail, learn and move on. Look for strategic risks. All of this builds confidence.

4. Toughen your hide. Hillary Clinton recently advised young women to take a leaf from the male playbook and grow the skin of a rhinoceros. Not attractive, but spot on. She was referring to the insidious female habit of clinging to criticism. Let it go. Your boss/friend/colleague is not still thinking about that email or comment or performance five days later. Nor should you be. Try this reframing: Isn’t it slightly egotistical to think you and your foibles are top of mind for everyone? Or this one: When you start to feel emotional — teary, angry, whatever it is — use those feelings not as a jumping-off point for rumination but for action.

5. Nudge, don’t soothe. Don’t just give your friends a warm shoulder to lean on. Women are masters at providing sympathy and support. But too much listening can encourage pointless rumination. And often we avoid telling friends the truths that would really help them overcome bouts of self-doubt and find more fulfillment. Encourage them to be bold or take risks or ask for a promotion or just stop dwelling. Be frank. You can help your friend’s confidence more by giving her a tough, well-pointed nudge than by endlessly telling her she’s fabulous just as she is. Insist she do the same for you.

6. You don’t have to be a jerk to be confident. Now that we’ve asked you to learn all these new skills, we want to reassure you — you can do it all without being a jerk. Many women see male confidence as Mad Men–style swagger and just know it won’t fit. The two of us know from experience that when we act like men, it rarely works. And we’re not just talking about all the studies that show women are penalized for being too aggressive. That’s still true, but it’s changing. The fact is, we must be comfortable with our display of confidence. So raise your hand, sit at the table, apply for that job that’s a bit out of reach, but don’t lose those qualities that make you uniquely female and uniquely valuable. Listen, conciliate, negotiate, collaborate, include. Those are powerful qualities in today’s workplace when employed with purpose. As Christine Lagarde told us, be authentic — dare the difference.

Katty Kay and Claire Shipman are the authors of the New York Times best seller The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know. Kay is the anchor of BBC World News America, based in Washington. She is also a frequent contributor to Meet the Press and Morning Joe and a regular guest host on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show. Shipman is a regular contributor to Good Morning America and other national broadcasts for ABC News. She joined the morning broadcast in May 2001 and is based in the network’s Washington bureau.

TIME feminism

Male and Female Athletes From Nations with Empowered Women Win More Medals

Olympics Day 13 - Women's Football Final - Match 26 - USA v Japan
Abby Wambach during the Women's Football gold medal match on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium on Aug. 9, 2012 in London. Jamie Squire—Getty Images

A nation's Summer Olympics success can be predicted by how well it ranks in women's reproductive health, political empowerment and participation in the workforce, a new study finds

Women’s empowerment is a good predictor of a country’s medal count in the Summer Olympics, a new study says.

While past studies on the Olympics have found that wealthier and more populous nations tend to claim more medals, a study published in Journals of Sports Economics found that strength and autonomy of women in a given nation also influences how many bronze, silver and gold medals that country takes home.

Researchers from Grand Valley State University looked at 130 nations in the Summer Olympics, the world’s largest elite sports competition, from 1996 to 2012. They compared each nation’s medal count to their Gender Inequality Index (GII). The GII measures women’s reproductive health, political empowerment and participation in the labor force. The Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark and Switzerland rank at the top of the 2012 GII. The United States ranks 47th. Each country receives a score that ranges from 0 (no inequality between genders) to 100 (extreme inequality).

Researchers found a 10-point decrease in GII corresponded with female athletes winning 1.5 extra medals and—more surprising—male athletes winning one extra medal in the Summer Olympics. This was true even when the researchers controlled for population and wealth.

The benefit to male athletes was a surprise, and we don’t really understand why this occurs,” head researcher Aaron Lowen said in a statement. “One idea is that societies that bring women into the workforce generate wealth in ways that are not captured with traditional wealth measures, such as gross domestic product. These societies may afford both men and women greater opportunities for recreational and personal pursuits, including elite athletic training and competition.”

Notably, researchers also discovered that women athletes in the United States didn’t benefit from what they called the “Title IX effect.” Title IX prohibits sexual discrimination in academics and other activities, including athletics, on campuses across the nation. Many have argued that the federal law has led to growth in the number of female athletics. Yet Title IX didn’t give American women a leg up over their international competition.

Clearly, U.S. women have been remarkably successful in soccer, basketball and many other sports. But once we incorporated other key predictors of Olympic success—population, wealth and women’s empowerment—we found little evidence that U.S. women are exceptional in comparison to women from other countries or even U.S. men,” says Robert Deaner, a co-author of the study. “This doesn’t mean Title IX hasn’t been important for U.S. women—instead it suggests that other countries must have their own means of supporting elite women’s sports,” he said.

TIME Parenting

Why I Don’t Need to Be a Good Feminist to Be a Good Dad

Hello Lovely—Getty Images

I may not be a card-carrying member of the movement, but I do care about my daughter's well-being and happiness.

When I wrote a piece refusing to ban bossy, a friend asked why the article was categorized under “feminism.” I told her it was because I’m a feminist now! Or maybe because the piece was antifeminist. (I was, after all, speaking out against Sheryl Sandberg, one of the leading figures of the modern movement.) In reality, I had no idea. I didn’t know on which side of the coin my article fell or if, in general, I could categorize myself as a feminist. But it got me thinking: if I want my daughter to grow up in a world where she is not discriminated against based on her gender, don’t I need to be a feminist?

I admit that I don’t know as much about feminism as I should. I’m certainly not well versed in the movement’s history. Other than fighting for equality of the sexes, I don’t have much of a clue as to what makes a person a card-carrying member of the club. The stereotype of the bra-burning, hairy-armpitted man hater persists, but that breed seems outdated (or at least on the fringe). A number of male celebrities call themselves feminists, participating in the Real Men Campaign and fighting for women’s rights. It may be acceptable (and even trendy) for men to be feminists, but I still didn’t know if I am one.

When my daughter was born, my wife and I dressed her in clothes purchased from both girls’ and boys’ departments. This was less a political statement than a preference for science fiction– and superhero-themed T-shirts. We painted her room green and purple and put robots and aliens on the walls. We avoided all things pink and everything Disney. One day, however, we let her watch Snow White. Why not? It’s a classic. Plus, it’s kind of dark and boring. She probably won’t even like it, we figured. Ha! She was enthralled. We lost her forever.

If I were a feminist, would I have taken that chance? Snow White has to rank pretty low on the scale of positive feminist values. There are two women. One is so obsessed with looks that she’s willing to kill her stepdaughter to remain the “fairest in the land.” The other is sweet, beautiful, highly domesticated and needs to be saved, first by seven shorter-than-average men, and then by one dashing creepy prince (who makes a habit of kissing dead chicks). Maybe the fact that I now view the movie through this prism gives me some feminist cred.

My daughter is a girly girl. Saying that is probably a feminist no-no (calling women chicks probably is too). I just mean that she loves all the crap that is shamelessly marketed to girls her age. Despite what my wife and I tried to foist upon her, she prefers pink and princesses and frilly, sparkly things. She also has a keen sense of gender norms. I can tell her only so many times that there’s no such thing as girl colors and boy colors before I just say, “Well, I guess some girls just like blue better.” The same goes for television characters and various activities that are traditionally associated with one gender or the other. I have only so much fight in me when it comes to my daughter. That chick is stubborn!

It’s possible that not only am I not a feminist but that I am even inadvertently reinforcing gender stereotypes. I was once criticized by a relative for letting my daughter play with a toy vacuum cleaner. It didn’t matter that I stay home with the kids and do nearly all the vacuuming while my wife earns 100% of our family income. This relative was just shocked that I allowed my daughter to play with a symbol of female subjugation. It never occurred to me that giving her toys that were similar to the tools of my trade could be construed as sexist. I still don’t think it is.

I support the feminist movement, or at least many aspects of it. There should be more women in movies talking about things other than which guy is the dreamiest. Girl toys should not have to be pink, though they can be. Though I won’t ban the word bossy, girls should be able to be assertive and take leadership positions (without people thinking they are that other B word). When she’s older, damn right my daughter should earn as much as a man doing the same job. And women should always be free from unwanted sexual advances and not shamed for expressing their sexual desires.

In the future I want all these things for my daughter, but right now I mostly just want her to be happy and to have fun. She’s a kid. That’s her job. If that means buying her the clothes and toys that make feminists cringe, I’ll do it without a second thought. I will, however, make sure she knows that her options are not now, and never will be, limited by her gender. I don’t know if I’m a feminist, but I know that I’ll always fight for my girl.

Lesser blogs at Amateur Idiot/Professional Dad. You can follow him on Facebook and on Twitter (@amateuridiot).

TIME feminism

The Shaming of Monica: Why We Owe Her an Apology

Monica Lewinsky in Washington DC just after the scandal broke in 1998.
Monica Lewinsky in Washington DC just after the scandal broke in 1998. Timothy Clary—AFP/Getty Images

America turned its back on a young intern, and the media called her tubby, slutty and predatory. A TV network even asked people to vote on whether she was a "tramp." Long before slut-shaming was a term, Monica Lewinsky was its original target.

Ask any child of the 1990s, and she remembers — vividly — when she first heard about the Monica Lewinsky scandal (as well as the particular sex acts involved).

I was 16, perched with a group of friends in the hallway of my high school, devouring the contents of the Starr report like a trashy romance novel. (He did what with a cigar?!) None of us was old enough to truly comprehend the complexities — or power dynamics — of a 22-year-old intern fellating the President of the United States. And yet we did know one thing: we didn’t like that raunchy Lewinsky girl. What kind of woman flashes her thong at the President, anyway?

Long before slut-shaming was a term, Monica Lewinsky was its original target. My teenage friends and I were among her critics, though the rest of the country, too, seemed to be acting like horny misogynist teens. The basics of Lewinsky’s story we all remember: Young intern makes idiotic mistake and, like many before her, starts a sexual relationship with the President. Affair leads to legal explosion, investigation, impeachment and, ultimately, one of the first tests of the Internet’s viral capabilities. (The story was blasted out on Drudge.) The young woman is permanently cast as a semen-smeared laughingstock.

Nearly two decades later, Lewinsky is still a punch line and a sly euphemism for oral sex. She reappears in the press this week by way of a 4,000-word Vanity Fair essay about the hellish aftermath of her “mutual relationship” with President Bill Clinton. She says she’s had trouble getting jobs. (Everyone knows her name, after all.) She turned down lucrative offers to tell all — because they “didn’t feel like the right thing to do” — and survived on loans from family and friends. If humiliation is indeed the most intense human emotion, as a new study found, then Lewinsky is my generation’s Hester Prynne. She had suicidal thoughts, and her mother feared that she would be “literally humiliated to death” (a consequence we now know is not so far-fetched in the Internet and social-media era).

The timing of Lewinsky’s essay, as we await a Hillary Clinton presidential run, is no doubt strategic, taking us back to an era that the Clintons would rather not revisit. But perhaps it also shows how far we’ve come. Does the media owe Monica Lewinsky a collective apology?

To look back on the specifics now is mind-blowing. The Wall Street Journal referred to Lewinsky — in print — as a “little tart.” New York magazine reported that as an adolescent, Lewinsky had spent two summers at fat camp, where she “paid particular attention to the boys.” (Code word: slut.) Maureen Dowd won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of Lewinsky, in which she called her a “ditzy, predatory White House intern” and “the girl who was too tubby to be in the high school ‘in’ crowd,” among other ugly caricatures. Fox News actually released a poll investigating whether the public thought Lewinsky was an “average girl” or a “young tramp looking for thrills.” Fifty-four percent rated her a tramp.

“It was a different time back then. There was no consciousness raised about slut-shaming. Bullying wasn’t even in the vernacular,” says Leora Tanenbaum, the author of Slut!, which first established the term slut-bashing (a precursor to slut-shaming) when it came out in 1999. “​People who were decisionmakers and influential writers were making comments about her hair and body. It was a textbook case of the sexual double standard.”

Indeed, it wasn’t just Bill Clinton who didn’t even grant Lewinsky the dignity of using her name when he finally, partially, admitted the affair. (She was “That Woman” — as in, “I didn’t have sexual relations with that woman.”) There were no websites like Jezebel back then, no feminist bloggers, no Women’s Media Center to call out sexism in the press. And so the media vilified her, painting her as that scary feminine trope: the crazy, emotional Single White Female — or, to borrow the phrase from the political sex scandal before her, “a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.” “This is all sort of part of the water at the time, where the woman is the evil seductress — and the poor, weak man had no power to resist her,” says Jennifer Pozner, a media critic and the author of Reality Bites Back, about women and reality TV. “That’s how Monica Lewinsky entered the fray.”

In reality, it’s not actually that hard to imagine being in Lewinsky’s shoes. The thrill of the flirtation. The flattery of being wooed by a President. The naiveté about the consequences. The stupidity … of being 22.

“I doubt most people could survive being defined by the least advisable sexual encounter they’ve engaged in,” says the feminist writer Amanda Marcotte. “She was young and dumb, but it was consensual. He has more responsibility, being both married and older.”

And yet at the time, Lewinsky had few defenders, even among feminists — her identity, not just her behavior, systematically torn apart. In a column in TIME, Barbara Ehrenreich lamented that the days after the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke had been “The Week Feminists Got Laryngitis.” And when they did speak up, it wasn’t pretty: “My dental hygienist pointed out she had third-stage gum disease,” quipped Erica Jong. “If anything, it sounds like she put the moves on him,” said Backlash author Susan Faludi. “Even mainstream feminists, who you’d think would come out and say, ‘You know, here’s this poor young woman being exploited, let’s take her side,’ they’re not taking her side,” Katie Roiphe mused as part of a New York Observer roundtable with Jong and others held at the time that is once again making the rounds.

“The national reaction against Monica was reminiscent of the way teen girls will rally around a high-status boy and throw the ‘slutty’ girl under the bus,” says Rachel Simmons, the author of Odd Girl Out and Curse of the Good Girl, who was working for Senator Charles Schumer at the time. “Girls do it to protect their own status and preserve their own relationships with the guys. Bill Clinton was the golden boy.”

And indeed, that was part of the problem. Sure, Clinton was charming and charismatic. (“All of my women friends and I would be happy to have sex with Clinton and not talk about it,” New Yorker writer Patricia Marx joked at the time.) But he was also good for women at large. He supported reproductive rights. He put Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court. And then there was Hillary. So when Lewinsky asks now, “Where … were the feminists back then?” we know the answer. As the president of the Feminist Majority Foundation put it five months after the affair was revealed, “We’re trying to think of the bigger picture, think about what’s best for women.”

There’s very rarely sympathy for “the other woman.” Or, as Erica Jong tells me when asked if the reaction to Lewinsky would be any different today, “Blaming women is always in fashion.”

And yet the Lewinsky scandal would play out differently today. Remember, this was pre-sexting, pre-orchestrated sex tapes, pre-Paris Hilton. There was no social media, no feminist blogs, no Rachel Maddow. “No infrastructure,” as Pozner puts it, “to push back against the echo chamber.” Yes, there’s a long history of political sex scandals, but today we’re somewhat immune from the shock factor: we’d never remember where we were when one or another was first revealed. There have simply been too many to count.

“I think it was a unique moment in time,” says Pozner of the collective shaming of Lewinsky. “She was young, she was single, she wasn’t connected to money or much of a support system, and so she was sort of like an Etch A Sketch for whatever the right wing and/or media wanted to map onto her. And she didn’t have a PR machine behind her, she didn’t have an activist machine behind her, so she didn’t have the support or audience to change the narrative.”

She’s got it now. The problem: it’s too late.

Correction: The original version of this story misspelled Rachel Maddow’s name.

TIME feminism

French Men’s Football Club Picks First Female Coach in Historic Hire

Helena Costa Female Coach
Portugal's Helena Costa in action as coach of Qatar's women football team on May 26, 2012. AFP/Getty Images

Helena Costa, who has managed the women's national teams of Qatar and Iran, will be the first woman to coach a men's professional soccer team in any major European league when she begins her role with Clermont Foot 63

Helena Costa became the first woman to coach a men’s professional soccer team in France on Wednesday, when she was hired to coach the Clermont Foot 63, a second-division club in Germont-Ferrand.

“I think this is about more than Helena Costa as a football coach,” Costa told the New York Times in a telephone interview from her home country, Portugal. “I think it’s very good for all the women in sports, especially in football of course. It could have been someone else. And I hope this is only the first step. I opened a door today and more women will walk through on my back. That’s what I hope.”

Before coming to France, Costa, 36, managed the women’s national teams of Qatar and Iran, was a scout for Scottish men’s club Celtic and a manager for boys’ teams at Benfica in Portugal. This won’t be her first time coaching adult men: she coached a men’s team in Portugal that competed at the regional level.

No woman has ever coached a men’s team in the top two levels of Europe’s five major professional leagues in England, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. And there has never been a female coach in the United States’ MLS.

Costa will take over as manager later this month when the team’s current season ends.


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

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