TIME feminism

Is This the Most Hated Man in the World?

Pickup artist Julien Blanc has been forced to leave Australia. Britain and Canada are also considering a ban

Is Julien Blanc the most hated man in the world? A series of online petitions against him suggest he might be.

Blanc, who describes himself as the “international leader in dating advice,” is a self-styled pickup artist (PUA) who travels around the U.S. and around the world, teaching seminars to men on how to meet and seduce women. On Nov. 6, Australia revoked Blanc’s visa before he held a seminar in Melbourne after an online Change.org petition argued he promoted “violence and emotional abuse against women.” The petition received thousands of signatures. After Blanc’s visa was revoked — and Victoria police confirmed that he had left the country — Australia’s Immigration Minister Scott Morrison explained the government’s position, saying, “This guy wasn’t putting forward political ideas, he was putting forward abuse that was derogatory to women and that’s just something, those are values abhorred in this country.”

But it seems like Australia’s not alone, as the backlash against Blanc has spread and petitions have cropped up to bar him from teaching seminars in the Japan, Canada, the U.K. and Brazil, among others.

PUAs have been around for years, selling themselves as dating gurus and charging men to attend seminars and conferences on learning the art of seduction. (For Blanc’s services, a course runs from $197 for 23 instructional videos to $497 for the videos and a ticket to a live event.) But while PUAs have always been controversial for their often sexist attitudes and demeaning views of human nature, Blanc seems to take the whole notion of the Game to an entirely different level. His now locked Twitter account includes statements like, “Dear girls, could you please save me the effort and roofie your own drink?”

Meanwhile, videos of his seminars show him advocating — and even demonstrating — his particular techniques which include grabbing women by the throat or forcing women’s heads into his crotch. “At least in Tokyo, if you’re a white male,” Blanc says in one video to a room full of rapt men, “you can do what you want. I’m just romping through the streets, just grabbing girls’ heads, just like, head, pfft on the d–k. Head, on the d–k, yelling, ‘Pikachu.’” As many of Blanc’s critics have pointed out, this doesn’t qualify as dating advice, it’s assault.

Sarah Green, spokesperson for the U.K.-based End Violence Against Women Coalition, told TIME in an email, “We hope the Home Office will look at all the evidence available about Julien Blanc’s activities and refuse him a visa. His so-called pickup coaching promotes behavior amounting to sexual harassment and sexual assault. His comments and abuse of Asian women are deeply racist.”

Blanc is just one instructor employed by the U.S.-based group Real Social Dynamics (RSD), which bills itself as the “World’s top dating coaching, self-actualization & social dynamics company” and holds seminars and “boot camps” around the world for men who are looking for advice on chatting up women. RSD has been around for years, but the widespread backlash against the group — and Blanc — is a recent phenomenon. (Neither Blanc nor RSD responded to TIME’s request for a comment.)

The backlash to Blanc gained momentum when Jenn Li, a Chinese-American woman living in Washington, D.C., came across the video of his lecture about Japanese women, which she found “horrifying.” Writing in the Independent, she described why she was inspired to start the hashtag #TakeDownJulienBlanc. “By perpetuating the idea that Asian women are a ‘free for all’ for predatory men, he is encouraging other pathetic men to abuse them.”

She also began posting the details about upcoming RSD events on Twitter and encouraging people to pressure the venues to cancel them, as well as sharing tweets and Facebook posts from Blanc, which she found offensive.

This week, her campaign has picked up steam. What’s more, other governments seem open to following the example from Down Under. Canada’s Citizen and Immigration Officer Chris Alexander responded to the Canadian Change.org petition on Twitter, posting:

Meanwhile, the U.K.’s petition has already garnered some 70,000 signatures and significant attention from the press. (Though there is a competing Change.org petition in the U.K., started by a Julian Noir, which advocates for the Home Office to not deny Blanc a visa, which the petition equates with “censorship,” it has received little attention in comparison.) When asked about the petition by TIME, the U.K.’s Home Office noted that they did not comment on individual cases, but added that Theresa May, Britain’s Home Secretary, “has the power to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the U.K. is not conducive to the public good.”

Read next: Watch This Woman Get Harassed 108 Times While Walking in New York City

TIME women

Did We Give the Pill Too Much Power?

birth control pills
Getty Images

Elizabeth Weingarten is the associate editor at New America and the associate director of its Global Gender Parity Initiative.

The answer to why we are still struggling with reproductive rights in this country may have to do with our original—and perhaps unrealistic—expectations of how much the pill could change things in the first place

This pill came with a promise: help extinguish sexism from public life by removing a key roadblock for women. If women could plan when and whether they became pregnant, they should be better able to develop careers and livelihoods, avoid a life of economic dependence on men, and form identities outside of motherhood.

In many ways, the birth control pill kept that promise by enabling women to enter the workforce, improving their health by helping them to space out pregnancies, and allowing them to have sex for pleasure. But more than 50 years after the pill first came to market, its promise of access and equality remains unfulfilled for millions of other women.

Think about the Hobby Lobby decision, which ruled that certain businesses can deny employees coverage for contraception on the basis of religious beliefs. The fact that many insurance plans still don’t cover contraception or infertility treatments. “Time passes and yet we’re still kind of stuck when it comes to reproductive rights,” said New York Times Health reporter Catherine Saint Louis at a recent New America NYC event. Cost and culture still prevent millions of low-income women here and abroad from obtaining the pill.

“The things we’re talking about [today] are the same things [Margaret Sanger, one of the pill’s bankrollers and the founder of Planned Parenthood] was talking about in 1914,” said Jonathan Eig, the author of the book, “The Birth of the Pill.” “I honestly believe she thought once the pill got out there, the genie would be out of the bottle, women would have all the power they needed and everything would be fine after that… I really think she’d be stunned.”

So how did we get here?

At least in part, the answer may lie in the scope of our expectations; we have asked a lot of one medical invention. After all, said Eig, the idea that the role of a woman is to be a vessel for a child is rooted in thousands of years of history. This biological difference is the foundation of gender inequality – the thing that for centuries kept them out of economic and professional competition with men, noted New Republic Senior Editor Rebecca Traister.

That’s a powerful dynamic and hard to reverse. The pill turned into a silver bullet, that single technological innovation that would allow us to avoid confronting the deeper, more impactful social structures that sustain gender discrimination. We can’t ask the pill and its users to fix a problem the rest of us choose to ignore.

Here in the U.S., the pill put “all of the onus and responsibility [of pregnancy] on individual women without a sense of accountability of community and government to support whole and healthy lives,” explained Tiloma Jayasinghe, the executive director of the anti-violence against women organization Sakhi for South Asian Women. But “we’re not in this by ourselves.”

It also sidelined men, taking their responsibility out of the equation and separating them from the reality of reproduction, Traister said. “That’s how you get Rush Limbaugh talking about, ‘how much sex are these women having that they have to pay this amount per pill?’ What it has done is further made reproduction ‘women’s territory’ in certain ways.”

“It was a double-edged sword,” said Eig.

Even when companies clumsily try to give agency to women, it illustrates how much society has put women in an untenable situation. Facebook and Apple announced recently that they would begin offering egg freezing as part of their healthcare benefit plans. Critics accused the tech companies of putting pressure on women to sacrifice life for work, and decried the use of egg freezing as dangerous. But that criticism is misguided, argued Traister. Rather than blame Facebook and Apple, why not fault a “system that repeatedly puts new possibilities on offer and keeps them from people who need them”? Everyone, not just tech companies, should offer these types of benefits because they’re part of women’s health, she said.

Improving women’s health is a major benefit of the pill. Before the pill, birth control was inefficient, inaccessible, and often completely controlled by men. Consequently, women were having more children than they wanted – often faster than their bodies could handle them. In many cases, this led to maternal and infant death, or economic instability and famine.

That’s still the case overseas, where Silver Bullet laziness may also be a factor. Though the pill has led to many health benefits, including a reduction in infant and maternal deaths around the world, its effects have been uneven and limited in certain developing countries. “The WHO and other organizations are promoting the use of the pill to space pregnancies, and yet they are doing so in countries where women don’t always have control of their bodies or access to the pill,” Jayasinghe said. She suggested that the pill’s success may lead to complacency in those regions: “We have it now, our work is done. But it’s not done.”

So how do we change the system here and abroad?

For many countries, harnessing the power of the pill will require a major culture shift. It needs to become okay for mothers to talk to daughters and fathers to talk to sons about contraception, which won’t be an easy fix, Jayasinghe said. (And critically, contraception is much more than just the pill. There are other forms of more reliable contraception – like IUD and hormonal implants – that in some cases are even preferred by women, but may be pricier or harder to access).

Here in the U.S., “we need to broaden our discussions to beyond fighting about abortion to a fuller scope of what do rights mean – the full scope of contraception,” Jayasinghe said. Abortion is just one issue in a women’s life – and making it a nitpicky focal point of reproductive conversations is limiting, she suggested. Ideally, legislators would introduce – and pass – some kind of comprehensive women’s reproductive rights and healthcare bill. That also means recognizing infertility as a real health problem, Saint Louis noted. Right now – in many circles – it’s an “I’m so sorry you waited until you were 35 [to have kids] problem, rather than recognizing that it affects 19-year-olds.”

It’s also critical to include men in conversations – both personal and public – around reproductive issues. Research shows that when men and women are required to take sexual education classes together, for example, birth rates drop dramatically, Eig pointed out. And after all, the scientific mastermind behind the pill was a man – Gregory (Goody) Pincus.

“There’s still a long way to go,” Eig said. “If there were more people like Goody [Pincus] fighting today, we’d see more innovation and more attention still being brought to this cause.”

This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

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 women

Rose McGowan Was Right: Women Can’t Lean on the Gay Rights Movement Anymore

amfAR LA Inspiration Gala Honoring Tom Ford Hosted By Gwyneth Paltrow
Actress Rose McGowan attends amfAR LA Inspiration Gala honoring Tom Ford at Milk Studios on October 29, 2014 in Hollywood, California. Jeffrey Mayer—WireImage

Steve Friess is a freelance writer.

LGBTers were once so desperate for allies that they supported any and every liberal cause

Seventeen years ago, in the dark ages of the gay-rights movement, I was a member of the board of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association when we voted to move our 1998 national convention from San Diego to Las Vegas in protest of California’s passage and subsequent legal defense of Proposition 187. Prop 187 had nothing to do with gay rights; it was a measure, later thrown out by the federal courts, that stopped undocumented immigrants from using health care, public education and other social services in the state.

I was new then to identity politics, so I naively wondered what this issue had to do with ours. It was explained to me that we “owed” our friends in the National Association of Hispanic Journalists because they moved their convention some years earlier from Colorado after that state passed a measure, also later invalidated in court, that barred cities or the state from enacting gay-rights measures.

The episode springs to mind this week because actress Rose McGowan endured a crushing backlash for her declaration that gay men owe it to women to support her definition of feminism. “Gay men are as misogynistic as straight men, if not more so,” she told the American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis on his podcast. “I have an indictment of the gay community right now. I’m actually really upset with them.” After she was attacked for these statements, she backpedaled modestly and apologized for glibly suggesting the gay-rights movement was all about earning the ability to appear in Speedos in pride parades and take drugs. On Twitter, though, she suggested gay men owe women like her because, “I fought for your right to do that as well.”

To those who were offended and appalled by these remarks, I say, get used to it. But the Rose McGowans of the world also better get used to not being able to count on “gay people” as automatic supporters of every liberal or progressive cause. LGBTers were once so desperate for political allies that they had little choice but to show support for any and every other group that might return the favor, from racial minorities to women to the poor.

Now that gays have become stunningly successful at winning their key battles at a speed that is the envy of other minority movements, their political priorities are changing and their monolith is crumbling. There will always be a hearty component of the LGBT population who agree on principle with the goals of progressive groups, but going forward neither other oppressed groups nor the Democratic Party should assume gay support without earning it. We are morphing from an interest group to a constituency.

The fact is, the objectives of gay activists are decidedly different from that of advocates for abortion rights, amnesty for undocumented immigrants, universal health care, gun control, government assistance for the poor or legal protections for racial minorities. What these contingents and gays chiefly had in common – and still do, though perhaps not for long – were common enemies. It was the same gang — the religious right, straight white men and Republicans in general – who opposed all of us.

Yet as civil rights movements go, the gays have had a staunchly conservative and traditional agenda. Our chief aims over the past two decades were legal recognition of same-sex marriage, permission to serve openly in the armed services and freedom from legal interferences in private, consensual, adult sexual relationships or discrimination because of it. Translation: we’re pro-family, pro-military and anti-Big Government. Given that, is it really an obvious contradiction or hypocrisy to be both gay and a member of the National Rifle Association? Or to be gay and believe in lower taxes and less regulation? Or, heck, even to be gay and believe that abortion is murder – especially when science could very soon help parents screen for and then dispose of their gay fetuses?

For a long time – and still in certain quarters today – African-American and feminist leaders took great offense to the LGBT community’s insistence on equating the gay struggle with theirs. It has certainly been rhetorically useful for gays to do this, especially when we fought for an integrated military and marriage equality. But perhaps, after all, they were right. But now they resent not having knee-jerk support from gays and they wonder why that is.

Please note: I am not stating my own political beliefs here. I absolutely believe that gay people, having been oppressed and subject to vicious discrimination, would do well to hold on to their sense of social justice and have that empathy influence their views on many other matters.

But the cold reality is that progressive groups will someday soon be unable to presume the overwhelming support of gay people. The nation is rapidly approaching a point at which sexual orientation is seen as a distinction as insignificant and immutable as eye color. Once gays are comfortably mainstreamed, Republican presidential candidates will garner ever-larger chunks of votes from fiscally conservative and religious gays.

McGowan may not realize it, but this is what is bothering her. Gay men are, in fact, men first. We probably aren’t actually more misogynistic, as she contends, but there’s no obvious reason why we would necessarily be any less misogynistic than any other men.

There will be times in this gay new world when the interests of LGBTers will align in direct, obvious ways with that of other minorities, or in which alliances will be mutually beneficial to similar aims of both sides. And there will be times when they won’t. That’s going to be quite a shock to everyone who took us for granted for so long.

Steve Friess is an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based freelance writer and former senior writer covering technology for Politico.

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

This Woman Just Proved That Nobody Knows What ‘Slut’ Means

By asking people on social media to define the term

British YouTube star Hannah Witton made a video post last week about the responses she got when she asked users on various social media platforms to define the word “slut.”

The results actually say a lot about the user base of Tumblr, Twitter, and Facebook. Tumblr users were by far the “most progressive,” Witton says, and Facebook users were the least. But here are the best definitions of “slut” from each platform:

Tumblr: a (patriarchal) social construct used to hold women to a stricter set of standards than the ones men are held to”

Twitter: “a human affected by double standards”

Facebook: “a woman who has sex with countless amounts of men”

Winston also points out that men often hurl the insult at women who refuse to sleep with them, which begs the question: “so, if you do sleep with him, you’re a slut, and if you don’t sleep with him you’re also a slut. Great. You can’t win.”

(h/t Mic)

 

 

TIME Opinion

Lena Dunham and Feminism: Beware the Vitriol of the Sisterhood

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

Correction: Appended, Nov. 5.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But that doesn’t make her a molester.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME viral

A Woman Recreated That Viral Catcalling Video in New Zealand and Got Very Different Results

For starters, nobody catcalled her

Remember that video of a woman getting catcalled more than 100 times? The one that took over the entire Internet and launched approximately 87 million think pieces, tweets and blog posts? Well, the New Zealand Herald decided to test out a similar experiment, but in Auckland instead of New York City. The newspaper sent model Nicola Simpson on a walk around the city, with a hidden camera tracking her movements and her interactions with fellow pedestrians.

Spoiler alert: the results are drastically different. Sure, a few men do double-takes to check her out, but only two people said anything to her — and one was simply asking for directions.

TIME Business

France Investigates Higher Prices for Women’s Products

Petition notes that women's products are priced unfairly compared to men's

The French Finance Ministry has promised to investigate why certain women’s razors, shaving creams, and deodorants are more expensive than men’s, even though the products are practically identical.

The inquiry comes after a French women’s group launched a petition against what they called an “invisible tax” on products marked as “feminine.” Secretary of State for women’s rights, Pascale Boistard, even tweeted (in french) “Is pink a luxury color?”

A Change.org petition aimed at getting Monoprix, a major French retail brand, to change its pricing has gained almost 40,000 signatures. The petition notes that a packet of 10 males razors costs less than a packet of 5 female razors, even though the products are basically the same. Monoprix denies the price discrimination, saying that the different pricing comes from the fact that men buy more razors than women do.

The “invisible tax” isn’t just in France– American products marketed towards women are also more expensive than regular products. Bustle broke down how nearly identical products at CVS are priced differently depending on whether they’re being sold to men or women. For example, a men’s dandruff shampoo costs $7.99, while a women’s dandruff shampoo costs $10.99, even though they’re made by the same company (Head & Shoulders) and promise the same thing.

In 1995, California passed a law to ban gender-based price discrimination, citing analysis that women were spending an extra $1,350 a year because of the bias. But that only applies to service pricing– car washes, dry cleaning, etc. — not products in stores.

TIME feminism

Street Harassment Isn’t About Sexism—It’s About Privilege

Woman walking in street
Getty Images

Kay S. Hymowitz is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She is the author of four books, including Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age and Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Is Turning Men Into Boys.

There's not much to do about catcalling, unless you’re willing to see a lot more minority men hassled by the police

Americans would rather talk about almost anything other than class. Even today as income inequality and racial and gender disparities dominate the headlines, even among the tell-all Millennials, class is quarantined from the arena of respectable conversation.

The latest example of this stubborn truism emerged after a video showing the catcalling torment young women face on city streets was posted on YouTube. Many viewers noticed that in the two-minute video by the activist group Hollaback!, condensed from a single woman’s 10 hour walk around New York City, all of the offending men were black and Hispanic. They chastised the creators for creating the appearance that white men don’t do this sort of thing, which led ultimately to an apology from Rob Bliss the video producer.

To say that Bliss was being disingenuous is putting it mildly. In a little noticed item on the website of the alternative magazine Mass Appeal Chris Moore did a little sleuthing and found that more than half of the shots used in the film appeared to be shot on 125th Street in Harlem, a predominately poor, black neighborhood. Much of the rest were shot near Times Square and Canal Street, neither area what anyone would call genteel. You have to give Bliss this much credit: He knew what he and very few other people are willing to admit. Street harassment is largely a class thing. In New York, at any rate, that means it’s also a race thing.

Now before anyone tweets about the pasty skinned guys from Morgan Stanley who whisper nasty somethings in her ear when she’s on line at the Financial District Starbucks, let’s get the obvious on the table: Street harassers can come in all colors and sport all kinds of pedigrees. Without a doubt, there are white guys in Brooks Brothers or Zegna who will ruin a girl’s morning with an unwelcome suggestion for where on her body he would like to deposit his bodily fluids.

Still. These bespoke brutes may not be a rare breed, but they’re just not common enough to spoil a good 10 hour walk along the Upper East Side. Young women who tense up as they approach a construction site know full well that walking past the guys who drive the fork lift will almost surely result in some unwanted attention; walking past the architects who are pouring over the blueprints probably won’t.

The catcalling gap will make sense to anyone who has noticed that middle class men and women tend to have a different physical and sexual presentation than their less privileged peers. Psychologists have long known that there are marked class differences in child rearing that can explain this. Preparing their children for office and stable domestic life, middle class parents have always nudged their children to display what was once known as “bourgeois propriety.” The term doesn’t seem to fit an America where, as the “Advice Goddess” Amy Alkon has said, even “nice people say f–k.” But middle class homes continue to encourage their children to use their “inside voices,” to demonstrate bodily self-discipline (one reason obesity has become a class marker), to play nice, and to soften the rough edges of male physicality. They ban toy guns from their homes and petition schools to prohibit dodgeball and other “human target” games.

Lower income parents tend to be less “proper” in their childrearing, dispensing more physical punishment and shrugging off rough and tumble play. The difference shows up in school where lower income kids, particularly boys, have more trouble sitting still, paying attention, and keeping quiet; educators consistently report they have more behavior problems. It should come as no surprise that these same boys grow up to become men who are more blatantly, and for middle class women especially, more obnoxiously, interested in every passing young thing. In rare but important instances this goes well beyond obnoxious; lower income men (and women) are also more likely than middle class to be involved in domestic violence disputes.

The catcalling gap creates some cognitive dissonance for promoters of the idea of “white male privilege.” If men of color and working class dudes are the biggest offenders, then middle class (mostly white) are the good — or at least the less bad — guys. Middle class men may no longer open doors for women or help them carry heavy suitcases, but most of them would be mortified to hear a friend shout “Hey baby; shake that thing!” to passing strangers as they rush to take their poli-sci class or make their 10 a.m. project meeting.

That raises the question of how the disproportionately white campus has become the site where so many men behave badly. That’s easy to answer. Put middle class men in a frat house with flowing kegs, and their manners melt into a boozy puddle. That’s exactly the point of the whole exercise. People —men and women — drink because it feels good to shed their inhibitions, to say the sorts of things of which their parents might not approve and do things their daytime, classroom selves may wonder at.

Ironically, then, Hollaback!’s video suggests that privilege belongs to white middle class women as much as their male classmates. For all of the myriad problems they face in a college sex scene drenched in alcohol, women students can walk the ivy paths with minimum of hassle (unless they pass by the guys building the new student center with yoga studio and state of the art fitness center). When they move to a chaotic, multicultural city, however, especially if they venture into Harlem and Times Square, they find themselves bumping up against all types — blue collar and poor men, immigrants and children of immigrants, men whose parents may not have raised them to treat women with the sort of restraint their own brothers and fathers do. And they don’t like it one bit.

Even Rob Bliss — especially Rob Bliss! — has to know there’s not much anyone can do about it. Unless they’re willing to see a lot more minority men hassled by the police.

Kay S. Hymowitz is the William E. Simon Fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor of City Journal. She is the author of four books, including Marriage and Caste in America: Separate and Unequal Families in a Post-Marital Age and Manning Up: How the Rise of Women Is Turning Men Into Boys.

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 We Can Learn From Nellie Tayloe Ross, America’s First Female Governor

Nellie Tayloe Ross
Nellie Tayloe Ross when elected governor of Wyoming in 1925. AP Images

Not much has changed for women in politics since 1924

Before there was Sarah Palin or Ann Richards, there was Nellie Tayloe Ross. Ninety years ago today, on Nov 4, 1924, Ross was elected governor of Wyoming, and became the first woman governor in the United States.

Ross was elected a month after her husband, Governor William B. Ross, died suddenly of appendicitis. Her supporters thought it was fitting that the first state to allow equal voting rights (Wyoming passed women’s suffrage in 1869) would also be the first to have a woman governor, and Ross was committed to continuing her husband’s progressive policies. Plus, she wanted the job. Ross was the first woman governor by only a few days — Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, who had also been a state First Lady, was sworn in as governor of Texas just over two weeks after Ross took office.

Ross was inaugurated on Jan. 5, 1925. Eleven days later, when she appeared before the Legislature to review the progress of her late husband, The New York Times ran the headline, “Mrs. Ross Wears Hat Before Legislature,” and noted that she “defied precedent” by “wearing hat and gloves.” Other contemporary media accounts noted that she had “not lost her womanliness” and remained “ever feminine, never a feminist,” as noted in her Times obituary when she died in 1977. “Really, I dropped accidentally into politics,” she told the Times in 1926, saying she preferred to taking a stroll along the boardwalk to discussing rumors of a 1928 bid for the Vice Presidency (which never materialized).

Ninety years later, women politicians are still struggling with the delicate balance of femininity, ambition and power. Even though we may have a woman president sometime soon, female politicians must still be attractive but not too sexy, ambitious but not too scary. And as much as we may want to think that we’re past caring how female politicians look, the recent kerfuffle over Sen. Tom Harkin comparing Iowa Republican candidate Joni Ernst to Taylor Swift proves not much as changed in the last nine decades. That focus on looks is bad for women who aspire to politics. “When [a woman]’s appearance is commented on publicly during a campaign, it undermines her; it actually hurts her,” Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said at the Real Simple/TIME Women & Success Panel in October. “And it doesn’t matter if the comment is positive or negative. It undermines her credibility.”

Ross also had to dispel the idea that she would use her power to rid the Wyoming government of men, and create an all-woman government ( a 1925 man’s worst nightmare). Here’s what TIME reported in 1925 that she told the Associated Press when asked about her view of women in politics:

“It is most amusing and amazing to me, for example, to be asked, as I was soon after my election, whether I expected to appoint any men to office? This question, telegraphed to me from the East by a well-known metropolitan newspaper, had every indication of being quite sincere, and was apparently inspired by the fear that the elevation of women to executive office was likely to be followed by the dismissal of all men and the substitution of women in their places.”

If Nellie Tayloe Ross were alive today, she’d certainly have some thoughts about #notallmen.

TIME 2014 Election

Joni Ernst Missed the Real Problem With the Taylor Swift Comparison

Joni Ernst
Republican Iowa State Sen. Joni Ernst in Des Moines, Iowa on May 29, 2014. Charlie Neibergall—AP

The problem is not that she was called attractive, it's how people react to that

When video surfaced of a Democratic senator calling her “really attractive,” Senate candidate Joni Ernst took full advantage.

In an appearance on Fox News Monday, the Iowa Republican slammed retiring Sen. Tom Harkin, whose seat she’s seeking, for saying in a video that she’s “as good looking as Taylor Swift” but “votes like Michele Bachmann.”

“I think it’s unfortunate that he and many in their party believe that you can’t be a real woman if you’re conservative and female,” she said. “I believe if my name had been John Ernst on my resume, then Senator Harkin would not have said those things.”

Ernst is right that there’s a double standard for female politicians, but she’s not quite right about how it works. For one thing, people say male politicians are sexy all the time. In fact, it’s often an argument in favor of their candidacy.

Obama’s sex appeal won him a fan in “Obama Girl,” who made viral YouTube videos about her crush on the then-Presidential candidate in 2008. Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) rumored washboard abs were the subject of much speculation during his 2012 Vice Presidential campaign. Scott Brown, who once posed nude for Cosmopolitan, was the subject of a 2010 New York Times column called “Bringing Sexy Back.” John Edwards was voted People Magazine’s “Sexiest Politician” of 2000.

It’s not a recent phenomenon either. Some historians argue that JFK won the presidency in 1960 because he looked more handsome than Nixon during the televised Nixon-Kennedy debate.

But while attractiveness is a political asset for male politicians, it’s a liability for women.

A 2010 study from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel found that when female job applicants included a photo with their resumes, more attractive women were less likely to get hired than plainer ones. But references to physical appearance of any kind, flattering or insulting, can hurt a female candidate.

“When [a woman]’s appearance is commented on publicly during a campaign, it undermines her; it actually hurts her,” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) said during the Real Simple/TIME event on Women and Success on Oct 1. “And it doesn’t matter if the comment is positive or negative. It undermines her credibility.”

That’s why comments about female politicians’ looks are seen as gaffes, while comments on men’s looks are considered funny and flattering.

Earlier this year, Gillibrand revealed in her book that she had been called “porky” and “chubby” by fellow Senators. Last year, Obama apologized to California Attorney General Kamala Harris after he commented that she was the “best-looking attorney general in the country.” Before he was defeated by Sen. Elizabeth Warren in 2012, then-Sen. Scott Brown responded to Warren’s comment that she didn’t have to take off her clothes to pay for college (a dig at Brown’s nude photo shoot) with an insulting “thank God.” And in 2010, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called Gillibrand the “hottest member” of the Senate, while she was sitting only a few feet away. Each of these comments created a minor scandal, and sparked debate about whether the female politicians were being “taken seriously.”

Sarah Palin is a perfect example of this. The former beauty queen-turned politician became a living punchline, thanks in part to her “sexy librarian hair” and resemblance to SNL comic Tina Fey.

So the problem with Harkin’s remarks isn’t that he wouldn’t have made them about a hypothetical John Ernst. The problem is that they would be seen as a problem for the real Joni Ernst.

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