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.

TIME Opinion

Instagram Is Right to Censor Chelsea Handler

2014 Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize For American Humor Honoring Jay Leno
Chelsea Handler at the 2014 Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize For Americacn Humor at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on October 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Kris Connor--Getty Images) Kris Connor—Getty Images

Allowing nudity on Instagram would hurt more women than it would help

It’s Halloween, which means it’s the perfect time to stir up a smoking hot gender-politics brouhaha in the Internet cauldron. This time, it’s over comedian Chelsea Handler’s nipples, and whether she should be able to post pictures of them on Instagram.

The drama started Thursday night, when Handler posted a topless photo of herself riding a horse on Instagram, to mock Vladimir Putin’s topless horseback selfie from 2009. Her photo was accompanied with the caption, “Anything a man can do, a woman has the right to do better. #kremlin.” But Instagram took the photo down, citing its Community Guidelines, which prohibit sharing of “nudity or mature content.” Handler posted the notice that her post had been removed, with the caption “If a man posts a photo of his nipples, it’s ok, but not a woman? Are we in 1825?” She then took to Twitter, calling the removal “sexist.”

Breastfeeding moms have voiced similar outrage at social networks like Facebook and Instagram, complaining that their nursing photos have been taken down for being too revealing. And pro-nudity movements like the Free the Nipple campaign have argued that nudity laws policies like this amount to “female oppression.”

Yes, in an ideal world, women’s nipples would seem just as unsexy and random as men’s. But we don’t live in that world, and Instagram is right to censor Handler and other women who post topless pictures. Not because there’s anything wrong with female nudity, but because that kind of monitoring helps keep revenge porn and child porn off of the network. It’s not that kids on Instagram need to be protected from seeing naked photos of Chelsea Handler–it’s they need to be protected from themselves.

See, kids love taking nude selfies, and they have notoriously bad judgement when it comes to putting stuff on the Internet. A study in June by Drexel University found that 28% of undergrads said they had sent photographic sexts while underage. Another study, published in Pediatrics in September, also found that 28% of surveyed teens admitted to sending naked photos, and 57% said they’d been asked for a sext. At the same time, Instagram is quickly eclipsing Facebook as the social network of choice for young teens. According to a survey by investment banking company Piper Jaffray, 76% of teens say they use Instagram, while only 59% use Twitter and 45% use Facebook. So if Instagram didn’t have its nudity policy, it stands to reason that teens might just start posting their naked selfies there.

The nudity policy also keeps Instagram from being a revenge porn destination. A 2013 study by McAfee security company found that 13% of adults have had their personal content leaked without their permission, and 1 in 10 say they’ve had exes threaten to post personal photos. Of those who threatened to leak photos, 60% followed through. Without their policy, Instagram would be a destination for revenge porn as well.

To be fair, Instagram doesn’t have a share mechanism, so it would be harder for porn to go viral. But on the other hand, Instagram profiles can also contain personal details about users’ immediate surroundings, which could make teens or potential revenge porn victims even more vulnerable.

This is also a question of practicality. Ideally, Instagram would be able to distinguish between a naked 13-year old and a breastfeeding mom. In reality, it would be unrealistic to expect Instagram to comb through their content, keeping track of when every user turns 18, whether the user is posting photos of themselves or of someone else, and whether every naked photo was posted with consent. And even if they could do that, would you really want Instagram calling you up to verify you knew about that whipped-cream photo your ex posted? It would be creepy.

This kind of policy is what makes Instagram different than Tumblr, which has fewer restrictions and much more porn. Granted, Tumblr has recently made that content harder to find on its site, but it’s still a destination for revenge porn. And as Maureen O’Connor wrote for New York Magazine, the process of getting revenge porn taken down can be humiliating: victims have to send Tumblr a picture of themselves holding a piece of paper with their full name, to verify they’re the person in the pictures.

So which is more important: the rights of a few bold comedians or breastfeeding moms to feel validated by their Facebook followers, or the privacy of people who might have their private photos posted without consent? I would side with the latter any day of the week.

TIME Television

Watch Anita Sarkeesian School Stephen Colbert on GamerGate

She even declares Colbert a feminist

The maker of a feminist video game who has faced vitriol from some members of the “GamerGate” online movement stopped by The Colbert Report on Wednesday and handily schooled the host’s fake gamer persona.

“I’m saving the princess, and I’m supposed to let the princess die? Is that what you want?” Colbert asks Anita Sarkeesian incredulously.

“Well maybe the princess shouldn’t be a damsel and she could save herself,” Sarkeesian replies, drawing cheers from women in the crowd. (“I didn’t know you brought a posse,” Colbert jokingly responds.)

The GamerGate movement, named after the Twitter hashtag that has fueled its growth, purports to challenge poor ethics in video-game journalism. But it has also unleashed a wave of sexist comments and threats against women in the overall gaming industry.

Sarkeesian, who has publicly criticized video-game culture for its portrayal of women, canceled a talk at Utah State University earlier this month after the school received an email threat of a shooting massacre. While the school considered it safe for the talk to continue, Sarkeesian decided to pull out of the event because the school was barred by state law from disallowing legal guns on campus during the event.

“They’re lashing out because we’re challenging the status quo of gaming as a male-dominated space,” Sarkeesian says. By the end of the interview, she even declares Colbert a feminist after he asks if he’s allowed — as a man — to be one.

See the full interview below:

TIME celebrity

Here’s Benedict Cumberbatch in a Feminist T-Shirt

All the Cumberbitches are pretty excited

Well, looks like Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch is the latest male celebrity to proudly embrace the f-word. Behold:

ELLE UK called on the Sherlock actor to pose in a t-shirt featuring the slogan “This is what a feminist looks like,” created by equality campaigning organization the Fawcett Society. As part of its upcoming feminism issue, the magazine recruited Cumberbatch — along with other actors like Tom Hiddleston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt — to show their support.

Naturally, Cumberbatch’s many fans (also known as Cumberbitches) are pretty excited.

Here are Gordon-Levitt and Hiddleston:

 

TIME feminism

Emma Watson: Feminism Is ‘Not Dogmatic,’ It’s About Having Choices

HeForShe Campaign Launch
Emma Watson, Ban Ki-Moon attends the launch of the HeForShe Campaign at the United Nations on September 20, 2014 in New York City. (Steve Sands--WireImage) Steve Sands—WireImage

She'll be on the cover of Elle's feminism issue in December

The Harry Potter star and new UN Women Goodwill ambassador will grace the cover of ELLEs feminism-themed December issue.

In a sneak-peak at the full interview from ELLE’s U.K. website, here’s what she has to say about feminism:

“Feminism is not here to dictate to you. It’s not prescriptive, it’s not dogmatic. All we are here to do is give you a choice. If you want to run for President, you can. If you don’t, that’s wonderful, too.”

Watson also said her upbringing helped influence her ideas about feminism:

“I’m lucky I was raised to believe that my opinion at the dinner table was valuable. My mum and I spoke as loudly as my brothers.”

The British star made waves last month when she spoke at the UN He for She event about the importance of feminism for both women and men.

[ELLE]

TIME Culture

7 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman
Knopf

In her new book, Jill Lepore explores how the suffragist movement, Fascism and the lie detector inspired the creation of the most popular female superhero of all time

Even the most devout Wonder Woman fanatics probably didn’t know that the heroine’s creator, William Moulton Marston, a psychologist, lived with and had children with two women at the same time. They also probably didn’t know that he had slightly strange theories about the benefits of bondage. Nor is it common knowledge that the character, which debuted in 1942, was inspired by the leaders of the suffragist movement.

In her new book, The Secret History of Wonder Woman, which hits shelves Tuesday, New Yorker writer and Harvard professor Jill Lepore delves into the life of the man who created Wonder Woman. The book comes just as Wonder Woman is swooping back into the cultural consciousness with her invisible jet. Israeli actress Gal Gadot will play Wonder Woman in 2016′s Batman vs. Superman and will get her own solo film in 2017.

Here’s just some of what Lepore uncovered:

1. Wonder Woman was inspired by Margaret Sanger (and other suffragists)

Creator William Moulton Marston, a psychologist, was deeply interested in gender dynamics, women’s rights and the suffragist movement.

He also fell in love with one of his students at Tufts, Olive Byrne, who eventually lived in his house with him and his wife in a sort of polyamorous relationship. Byrne happened to be Sanger’s niece, and Byrne’s mother, Ethel, and Sanger together opened what eventually became the first Planned Parenthood in 1916.

When Marston hired a woman named Joy Hummel to help him write Wonder Woman, Olive Byrne handed her one book to use as background: Margaret Sanger’s Woman and the New Race.

2. There’s a reason she’s bound up all the time

A recurring plot point in the early Wonder Woman comics was that if the superhero was bound by a man in chains she would lose all her Amazonian powers. So Wonder Woman was bound—a lot. This choice was partly inspired by the suffragists who chained themselves to buildings during protests and used chain symbolism to represent men’s oppression of women. But Marston was also preoccupied, perhaps even obsessed with, bondage.

He had a theory that women enjoyed submission and bondage and teaching young girls of that virtue was one of the purposes of the comic: “This, my dear friend, is the one truly great contribution of my Wonder Woman strip to moral education of the young,” Marsten wrote to his publisher after he was accused of sadism. “The only hope for peace is to teach people who are full of pep and unbound force to enjoy being found—enjoy submission to kind authority, wise authority.”

Wonder Woman’s subjugation was extremely controversial: Wonder Woman was banned in the 1940s because of the overt sexual nature of both her dress and the sexual nature of her near-constant bondage.

3. Wonder Woman was partly a response to the rise of the Nazis

The first comic book superhero, Superman, hit the stands in 1938. But shortly thereafter, comics came under fire: critics said Superman could be interpreted as a fascist—an all-powerful ubermensch that would have a negative influence on American children. (Remember, the rise of the superhero coincides with the rise of Nazi Germany.) Parents demand that the books be burned.

Superman publisher, M.C. Gaines, reads an article written by Olive Byrne for Family Circle saying that comic books might be good for kids. Gaines asks Marsten to help him save comic books, and Marston recommends a female superhero, reasoning that comic books are too violent and need a touch of femininity. Enter Wonder Woman.

4. The Lasso of Truth had a real-life parallel in Marston’s life

In the Wonder Woman comics, the heroine’s Lasso of Truth forces anyone in its snare to be honest. The weapon was likely inspired by Marston’s own creation of the lie-detector test in 1913. The basic test consisted of taking someone’s blood pressure as they answered questions. Any elevation in blood pressure signaled a subject’s guilt. In 1923, Marston fought to have results of his updated lie detector test used in courtrooms. But the courts rejected the machine, citing too high a frequency of error.

Marston was none-too-happy with this conclusion. In an autobiographical moment in the comics, Wonder Woman tries to get confessions made with the help of her Lasso of Truth admissible in court.

5. Wonder Woman was designed as a feminist icon

Anyone who has read Wonder Woman comics will be able to recognize the feminist underpinnings of her story. But readers probably don’t know that Marston broke from the rest of popular culture by asserting not only that kids would be interested in reading a comic about a woman but that she would be essential to their education in teaching them about gender equality.

“Like her male prototype, ‘Superman,’ ‘Wonder Woman’ is gifted with tremendous physical strength,” Marston wrote in the press release announcing her creation. “‘Wonder Woman’ has bracelets welded on her wrists; with these she can repulse bullets. But if she lets any man weld chains on these bracelets, she loses her power. This, says Dr. Marston, is what happens to all women when they submit to a man’s domination.”

He concludes: “‘Wonder Woman’ was conceived by Dr. Marston to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; and to combat the idea that women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men.”

6. Despite that, she started out in the Justice Society as a secretary

Wonder Woman was admitted to the Justice Society with heroes like The Flash and Green Lantern after a survey of comic book readers found that the vast majority of girls and boys wanted her there.

But in a 1942 comic penned by Justice Society writer Gardner Fox, all the superheroes get to go off to fight the Nazis, except for Wonder Woman who must stay home and reply to the mail. Marsten was, of course, infuriated by this turn of events.

7. Wonder Woman has run for president in the comic books twice

Wonder Woman ran for office in a comic book written by Marston in 1943, and then again in a cover story in Ms. magazine in 1972. She didn’t win either time. Maybe she should try for 2016.

TIME harassment

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

She's just walking, wearing jeans and a crew-neck T-shirt

In a PSA for anti-harassment organization Hollaback, a volunteer in jeans and a T-shirt walked for ten hours through New York City and videotaped what people said to her. Here’s what happened:

Rob Bliss, the viral video director who filmed the video of volunteer Shoshana B. Roberts, says that none of it was staged. “What I did was walk in front of her, with earbuds in and sunglasses on, with a hole cut in the back of my shirt, wearing a hidden GoPro camera,” he wrote in an email to TIME. “I didn’t have any contact with any of these guys, the whole idea was to be a stone wall and just let everyone else bounce off us.”

“I’m harassed when I smile and I’m harassed when I don’t. I’m harassed by white men, black men, latino men,” Roberts noted in a press release accompanying the video. “Not a day goes by when I don’t experience this.”

Read next: How to Spot a Sex Trafficking Victim at a Hotel

TIME feminism

Daniel Radcliffe Shuts Down ‘Sex Symbol’ Stereotype

And calls everyone out for treating Emma Watson differently

Cue the melting of Harry Potter fans’ hearts everywhere: when asked about being a sex symbol in a recent AP interview, Daniel Radcliffe came up with the perfect response.

As part of a discussion about his past roles, the reporter asks Radcliffe whether it’s strange to have gone from being the boy wizard Harry Potter to a grown-up sex symbol.

In response, he describes a conversation he had with someone who referred to him as an “unconventional” romantic lead: “She said, ‘Well, I think it’s probably the fact that, you know, we associated you with playing Harry, the young boy wizard.’ My immediate response was, ‘Well, the male population has had no problem sexualizing Emma Watson immediately.’”

Watch the whole interview here.

 

 

TIME feminism

Seriously? This Is What Passes for Feminism in America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME feminism

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

Courtesy of Tom Burns

… put on a Princess Leia costume, of course

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

Ever since my daughter was old enough to make special requests, I’ve let her pick my Halloween costumes. Having kids at Halloween is a lot of fun, and watching the sheer delight that my daughter receives from having me dress up to meet her normally very polite requests is tremendously satisfying. Over the past three years, I’ve been Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz from Phineas and Ferb, Wreck-It Ralph and Grunkle Stan from the fantastic kids’ show Gravity Falls. All year, my daughter had been expressing her interest in going as Hermione Granger for Halloween, so I was preparing myself to throw together a Snape or Professor Lupin costume. But then, after I showed my 7-year-old Star Wars for the first time, she turned to me and asked …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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