TIME feminism

How to Turn a Cool Moment Into a #ShirtStorm

British physicist Matt Taylor sporting a garish shirt featuring a collage of pin-up girls during an interview at the satellite control centre of the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany on Nov. 13, 2014.
British physicist Matt Taylor sporting a garish shirt featuring a collage of pin-up girls during an interview at the satellite control centre of the European Space Agency in Darmstadt, Germany on Nov. 13, 2014. AP

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

Sadly, the brouhaha over Dr. Taylor’s shirt overshadowed not only his accomplishments but those of his female teammates

Correction appended, Nov. 18, 2014

When I first heard about the outrage over a scientist from the Rosetta mission, which landed the Philae space probe on a comet, wearing a “sexist” shirt for a press appearance, I racked my brain wondering what the offensive garment could have been. A T-shirt showing a spacecraft with a “My secret fort—no girls allowed” sign? An image of a female scientist with the text, “It’s nice that you got a Ph.D., now make me a sandwich”? No, a colorful Hawaiian shirt on which, if you really looked—one censorious article actually included a description “in case you can’t see the shirt properly”—you could see cartoon images of scantily clad babes with guns. This brought on a tweet from Atlantic journalist Rose Eveleth, “Thanks for ruining the cool comet landing for me a–hole,” and a headline in the online magazine Verge that verged on self-parody: “I don’t care if you landed a spacecraft on a comet, your shirt is sexist and ostracizing.” The ShirtStorm, as it was dubbed on social media, culminated with the transgressor, British physicist Matt Taylor, offering a tearful apology for his “mistake” at a briefing.

Taylor’s shirt may not have been in great taste. But the outcry against it is the latest, most blatant example of feminism turning into its own caricature: a Sisterhood of the Perpetually Aggrieved, far more interested in shaming and bashing men for petty offenses than in celebrating female achievement.

Of course, to the feminists of ShirtStorm, the offense was anything but petty: in their view, a man who treats sexualized images of women as a source of pleasure or fun is thereby reducing women—all women—to live sex toys. Or, as one of Taylor’s critics tweeted, “His shirt says to women in STEM: I have no respect for you as a professional. When I look at you, I see a sex object.”

But that’s dubious logic. If a scientist gives an interview in a custom-made T-shirt with a photo of his wife and kids, is he telling women their sole purpose in life is babymaking? To suggest that a heterosexual man is incapable of seeing women both as sexual beings and as people is insulting to men and rather sad for women—a feminist version, if you will, of the old Madonna/whore complex (call it the bimbo/brain complex). Besides, generally speaking, cultures that censor sexualized expression have not been particularly progressive about women’s rights.

Yet this particular brand of feminist ideology, which inevitably stigmatizes straight male sexuality, is at the center of the recent culture wars. The mildest sexual innuendo and humor, even if it does not refer to women in any way, can be seen as demeaning. Last year the Internet was in an uproar after a female computer specialist tweeted a photo of two men at a tech conference to chastise them for exchanging jokes about suggestive-sounding technical terms such as forking and dongle. A leading feminist blog, Jezebel, quickly branded the jokesters—one of whom lost his job for this offense—“sexist dudes.” The Jezebel author, Lindy West, actually admitted that she had repeatedly made similar jokes herself—but insisted that in the context of a male-dominated industry, such humor excludes women.

But first of all, the exclusion is very much in the eye of the beholder. Some women are perfectly comfortable joining in ribald merriment; some men are not. Second, such arguments can too easily justify double standards that allow or even celebrate female sexual self-expression while censoring if not demonizing the male kind (which separates neofeminist prudery from its Victorian counterpart). Robin Thicke’s song “Blurred Lines,” in which a man seductively croons “I know you want it” to a woman, has been condemned as a “rape anthem” and banned from university campuses. Yet Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love” and Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda,” songs that glamorize alcohol- and drug-fueled sex—routinely equated with sexual assault in today’s feminist rhetoric—were hailed as female-empowerment anthems in the coverage of this year’s Video Music Awards.

Such double standards exist in many environments. At a skeptic convention last year, feminist science blogger Rebecca Watson, a strong critic of sexism in the atheist/skeptic community—mostly in the form of men “sexualizing” women—gave a presentation consisting of a raunchy humorous tale in which a male ex-Mormon was ridiculed for not drinking before a casual hookup and for being overcautious about birth control. If a male speaker had dared to entertain an audience these days with similar crude humor at a woman’s expense, he would have been tarred and feathered for creating an unwelcoming environment for female attendees.

Would a female scientist have been trashed for wearing a shirt that “objectified” men or even made a male-bashing joke? Very doubtful. And if she had, most of the people outraged by Taylor’s shirt would have likely risen to her defense.

Meanwhile, Taylor was not simply ribbed for a faux pas but also targeted with nasty, sometimes violent name-calling and denounced for misogyny. Never mind that anyone who bothered to check his Twitter feed would have found out that the day before his fateful appearance in the “misogynist” shirt, he was urging his followers to follow NASA’s Rosetta project scientist Claudia Alexander. They would have also learned that the shirt was made and given to Taylor as a birthday present by a female friend, Elly Prizeman. And they would have seen a photo of him wearing that shirt right next to a smiling, waving female colleague, planetary scientist Monica Grady.

In a supremely ironic coincidence, a clip of Grady jumping in noisy joy at the Philae landing was offered by Guardian writer Alice Bell as a “positive” conclusion to a column that lambasted Taylor for his shirt and his colleagues for overlooking such a sexist atrocity.

Grady’s delight at the success of the mission clearly wasn’t ruined by a gaudy shirt with “sexualized” women on it. Sadly, the same cannot be said for Taylor: His Twitter account, so full of excitement a few days ago, went entirely silent after his public humiliation.

Sadly, the brouhaha over Taylor’s shirt overshadowed not only his accomplishments but also those of his female teammates, including one of the project’s lead researchers, Kathrin Allweg of the University of Bern in Switzerland. More spotlight on Allweg, Grady, Alexander and the other remarkable women of the Rosetta project would have been a true inspiration to girls thinking of a career in science. The message of ShirtStorm, meanwhile, is that aspiring female scientists can be undone by some sexy pictures on a shirt—and that women’s presence in science requires men to walk on eggshells, curb any goofy humor that may offend the sensitive and be cowed into repentance for any misstep.

Thanks for ruining a cool feminist moment for us, bullies.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the format of Rebecca Watson’s presentation. It was part of an entertainment program.

Read next: Cracking the Girl Code: How to End the Tech Gender Gap

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 Crime

Revenge Porn: Man Jailed In Britain As US Lawmakers Prepare New Legislation

15 states have outlawed revenge porn but it is legal in most of the US

As modern technology has allowed for the rise of selfies and sexting, it has also allowed for a new form of betrayal: revenge porn. The act of posting or sharing explicit images or videos of a person without his or her consent can wreak havoc on a person’s personal and professional life.

In the UK last week, campaigners scored a win as Luke King, a 21-year-old man from Nottingham, England, became the first man in Britain to be jailed for posting revenge porn.

A 12-week sentence was handed down on Nov. 14, after King pleaded guilty to harassment, after posting a naked image of his ex-girlfriend to the mobile messaging service WhatsApp. The woman, who hasn’t been named, had sent King the photo while they were still together. After the break-up, King threatened to upload the photo, which is when his ex first reported him to police. Although he was warned by police that posting the image online would be a crime, King followed through with his threat in August.

King’s case is the first in Britain since it was announced in October that a new legal amendment will deal with revenge porn directly. King was prosecuted under an existing law, the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, but those found guilty under the new amendment — which is currently going through Parliament — could face up to two years in prison.

The District Crown Prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service East Midlands, Peter Shergill, said at sentencing, “Prosecutors are now following guidance issued in October that clarifies how we can use existing legislation to prosecute perpetrators of these intrusive offences.”

But the direct attack on revenge porn that the UK has taken raises the question of whether the US will follow suit.

There is no current US federal law against revenge porn, because, as University of Pennsylvania law professor Paul H. Robinson notes, “under the US Constitution it is the states that have the police power and it’s not within the power of the federal government to create criminal law offenses unless there is some special federal interest.”

And, in fact, many states have been making moves to criminalize revenge porn. According to the End Revenge Porn campagin, 15 US states already have passed laws against revenge porn and those laws actually have been used to prosecute men who’ve posted naked photos of their former partners. Another seven states have also introduced legislature against revenge porn. The problem, however, lies in the many remaining states where revenge porn is legal.

Though some believe that existing laws against harassment or copyright infringement could be used to tackle the problem, many individual cases have proven that revenge porn often slips through the cracks. As Danielle Citron, a law professor at the University of Maryland and the author of Hate Crimes in Cyberspace, noted in Slate last year, “Harassment laws only apply if the defendant is persistent in his or her cruelty.” Posting a single explicit image to a highly-trafficked site could have disastrous consequences for the person pictured, but it wouldn’t count as “persistent.” What’s more, copyright only applies if the image was a selfie as the photographer (or videographer) owns the rights to the image.

So what will it take to ensure that revenge porn is illegal across all of the US?

According to Mary Anne Franks, a University of Miami law professor who is working with Californian Democratic Rep. Jackie Speier to draft a federal bill that would criminalize revenge porn if passed, pushing a nationwide ban has been difficult because “there’s a general prioritization of the First Amendment in the US” and “we [have been] slow to come to the realization that this isn’t an infringement of free speech.”

To pass US-wide laws, it’s essential, according to Franks, to reframe revenge porn from a free speech issue into a privacy issue. “We don’t view an image of someone’s naked body as [deserving of] the same privacy as someone’s medical records,” she says, but suggests views are shifting.

Franks notes that campaigns such as End Revenge Porn, which is part of the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative, and Women Against Revenge Porn have done much to spread awareness about the issue — 12 of the 15 states with laws against revenge porn passed them within the past two years. That awareness, along with the widely publicized hacking of celebrity nude photos, has done much to shift people’s perceptions about the harm that posting a nude image without someone’s consent can cause.

Unfortunately, until all of the US is covered by anti-revenge porn laws, there are millions of people for whom a total loss of privacy is only a vengeful upload away.

TIME Opinion

Feminist Is a 21st Century Word

Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda, and Robin Morgan, Co-Founders of the Women's Media Center
From left: Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and Robin Morgan, co-founders of the Women's Media Center on CBS This Morning in New York City on Sept. 18, 2013 CBS Photo Archive/Getty Images

Robin Morgan is an author, activist and feminist. She is also a co-founder, with Gloria Steinem and Jane Fonda, of the Women's Media Center

I know, I know, TIME’s annual word-banning poll is meant as a joke, and this year’s inclusion of the word feminist wasn’t an attempt to end a movement. But as a writer — and feminist who naturally has no sense of humor — banning words feels, well, uncomfortable. The fault lies in the usage or overusage, not the word — even dumb or faddish words.

Feminist is neither of those. Nevertheless, I once loathed it. In 1968, while organizing the first protest against the Miss America Pageant, I called myself a “women’s liberationist,” because “feminist” seemed so 19th century: ladies scooting around in hoop skirts with ringlet curls cascading over their ears!

What an ignoramus I was. But school hadn’t taught me who they really were, and the media hadn’t either. We Americans forget or rewrite even our recent history, and accomplishments of any group not pale and male have tended to get downplayed or erased — one reason why Gloria Steinem, Jane Fonda and I founded the Women’s Media Center: to make women visible and powerful in media.

No, it took assembling and researching my anthology Sisterhood Is Powerful to teach me about the word feminism. I had no clue that feminists had been a major (or leading) presence in every social-justice movement in the U.S. time line: the revolutionary war, the campaigns to abolish slavery, debtors’ prisons and sweatshops; mobilizations for suffrage, prison reform, equal credit; fights to establish social security, unions, universal childhood education, halfway houses, free libraries; plus the environmentalism, antiwar and peace movements. And more. By 1970, I was a feminist.

Throughout that decade, feminism was targeted for ridicule. Here’s how it plays: first they ignore you, then laugh at you, then prosecute you, then try to co-opt you, then — once you win — they claim they gave you your rights: after a century of women organizing, protesting, being jailed, going on hunger strikes and being brutally force-fed, “they” gave women the vote.

We outlasted being a joke only to find our adversaries had repositioned “feminist” as synonymous with “lesbian” — therefore oooh, “dangerous.” These days — given recent wins toward marriage equality and the end of “don’t ask don’t tell” in the military, not to mention the popularity of Orange Is the New Black — it’s strange to recall how, in the ’70s, that connotation scared many heterosexual women away from claiming the word feminist. But at least it gave birth to a witty button of which I’ve always been especially fond: “How dare you assume I’m straight?!”

Yet in the 1980s the word was still being avoided. You’d hear maddening contradictions like “I’m no feminist, but …” after which feminist statements would pour from the speaker’s mouth. Meanwhile, women’s-rights activists of color preferred culturally organic versions: womanist among African Americans, mujerista among Latinas. I began using feminisms to more accurately depict and affirm such a richness of constituencies. Furthermore, those of us working in the global women’s movement found it fitting to celebrate what I termed a “multiplicity of feminisms.”

No matter the name, the movement kept growing. Along the way, the word absorbed the identity politics of the 1980s and ’90s, ergo cultural feminism, radical feminism, liberal/reform feminism, electoral feminism, academic feminism, ecofeminism, lesbian feminism, Marxist feminism, socialist feminism — and at times hybrids of the above.

Flash-forward to today when, despite predictions to the contrary, young women are furiously active online and off, and are adopting “the F word” with far greater ease and rapidity than previous feminists. Women of color have embraced the words feminism and feminist as their own, along with women all over the world, including Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

As we move into 2015, feminism is suddenly hot; celebrities want to identify with it. While such irony makes me smile wryly, I know we live in a celebrity culture and this brings more attention to issues like equal pay, full reproductive rights, and ending violence against women. I also know that sincere women (and men of conscience), celebs or not, will stay with the word and what it stands for. Others will just peel off when the next flavor of the month comes along.

Either way, the inexorable forward trajectory of this global movement persists, powered by women in Nepal’s rice paddies fighting for literacy rights; women in Kenya’s Green Belt Movement planting trees for microbusiness and the environment; Texas housewives in solidarity with immigrant women to bring and keep families together; and survivors speaking out about prostitution not being “sex work” or “just another job,” but a human-rights violation. From boardroom to Planned Parenthood clinic, this is feminism.

The dictionary definition is simple: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Anyone who can’t support something that commonsensical and fair is part of a vanishing breed: well over half of all American women and more than 30% of American men approve of the word — the percentages running even higher in communities of color and internationally.

But I confess that for me feminism means something more profound. It means freeing a political force: the power, energy and intelligence of half the human species hitherto ignored or silenced. More than any other time in history, that force is needed to save this imperiled blue planet. Feminism, for me, is the politics of the 21st century.

Robin Morgan, the author of 22 books, hosts Women’s Media Center Live With Robin Morgan (syndicated radio, iTunes, and wmcLive.com).

TIME People

Kim Kardashian’s Nude Photos and Saartjie’s Choice: History’s Problem with Fascinating Bodies

Kim Kardashian (L) on the cover of Paper Magazine and an illustration of Saartjie Baartman (R) Jean-Paul Goude—Paper; Library of Congress

Linking Kardashian's recent Paper Magazine portrait to another famous body raises some serious questions

Saartjie Baartman’s is the body that launched a thousand revolutions. Kim Kardashian’s is the one that tried to break the Internet—and this week, when a nude photo of the latter made the cover of Paper magazine, many commenters made note of the striking similarities between Kardashian West’s nude profile and that of Baartman’s several centuries ago. In the 19th century, Saartjie Baartman’s striking proportions took her from Africa to Europe, where she performed as a curiosity. Her legacy in feminist circles is well known; she’s a worldwide symbol of racism, colonization and the objectification of the black female body. However, while many historians have pieced together what they believe to be the life and times of the “Hottentot Venus” during her stint as a performer in Europe, relatively little is known about the real life circumstances of Baartman herself.

In fact, even many people who are somewhat familiar with Baartman likely only recognize the 1810 illustration of the profile of her semi-nude body that once served as an advertisement for her performances in Europe. But seeing those advertisements as part of a whole life lends another dimension to her story—and to Kardashian West’s.

As researcher Bertha M. Spies detailed this summer in a piece about Baartman’s life that appeared in the journal African Arts, Baartman was born in the 1770s, about 50 miles north of the Gamtoos Valley in the Eastern Cape of what is now South Africa. She became a domestic worker, a slave employed by a Dutch farmer, before being sold to a wealthy German merchant in Cape Town. Baartman worked for the merchant until his death in 1799, at which point she moved to the home of the Cesar family, who were registered in the census as free blacks. She would give birth to three children during this time, all of whom died in infancy.

Baartman was nearly 30 years old by the time she left for Europe in 1810 with a British Army surgeon named Alexander Dunlop. As described by a 2010 biography of Baartman by Clifton Crais and Pamela Scully, Dunlop saw the attention that Baartman’s body attracted, so he worked with the Cesars to bring her to London. There, Baartman’s nude body was exhibited to the public, and she sometimes played instruments and performed dances native to the Khoikhoi tribe of her origin. Baartman would be made available for private showings in the homes of the wealthy where at extra cost, patrons would be allowed to touch her.

Baartman only ever granted one recorded interview, in October of 1810, which is now available only as a paraphrased Dutch translation. The interview was recorded in response to abolitionist’s claims that Baartman was being exploited and enslaved. In the interview, taken to England’s highest court, Baartman stated that she was happy, came to England of her own free will and was being paid for her work.

Due the constraints of language and the lack of other personal accounts, little is known about the reality of that happiness. Was she exercising her own free will in choosing what to say? Was she coerced into lying to the court? In either case, Baartman’s life and interview bring up a greater issue: is it possible to separate a person’s choices from the world in which they live? Baartman said she was showing off her body by choice, but what other choices did she have? Kardashian West is a powerful modern woman who presumably could have said no to the photo shoot, but she still lives in a culture that objectifies female bodies; how much free will can she really have? Are Baartman, Kardashian West and the bodies between doing the acting, or being acted upon?

Eventually, when his English audiences raised objections, Dunlop changed aspects of the show to make it more respectable. Namely, Baartman’s body stocking, which gave the appearance of nudity, was scrapped and she wore a tribal costume instead. But the change backfired for Dunlop: public interest waned and viewers complained. It turned out they hadn’t wanted respectability at all. The interest, unsurprisingly, had been prurient, rather than anthropological, all along.

So Baartman’s show moved to Paris, where she was on display for ten hours a day, and illness and alcohol abuse made it difficult for her to perform. During this time, interest in Baartman’s body shifted from the spectacle to the scientific; scientists used her large buttocks and extended labia to compare Blacks to orangutans. Baartman died in poverty in 1810, and her body became the property of scientist Georges Cuvier. It was displayed in a Paris museum until 1974, when activists successfully petitioned to have Baartman’s remains returned to her birthplace in South Africa.

There’s something to be said about confronting the respectability politics that deny women the agency to choose how and when they will display their bodies and the social policing that says modesty is best, but the story and legacy of Saartjie Baartman complicate these issues in ways few are able to reconcile. Unlike Baartman, Kardashian West has been able to capitalize on the public’s fascination with her body and likeness both financially and socially—but when we consider that that fascination is rooted in the same (perhaps perverse) curiosity that turned Baartman from a human being into a museum display, it is not unfair to wonder just who is exploiting whom.

Read next: I Can’t Help But Admire Kim Kardashian’s Devotion to Staying Famous

TIME celebrities

Zooey Deschanel Would Totally Play a Superhero — As Long As It’s Funny

Zooey Deschanel
Zooey Deschanel Paul A. Hebert—Invision/AP

The New Girl star talks with TIME about her upcoming covers album and more

TIME spoke to New Girl star Zooey Deschanel for this week’s installment of 10 Questions. In the issue, which features Taylor Swift on the cover, Deschanel talks about why Loretta Lynn is a role model, how New Girl rebounded from the Nick-Jess relationship and how she learned to write songs. Here are three things we learned during our interview:

She thought she had to “earn” the right to record a covers album
On Dec. 2, Deschanel’s band with M. Ward, She & Him, will release Classics, an album of standards covers. The project is something Deschanel always wanted to do, but she waited until the time was right. “Before I ever made a record with She & Him, I had a lot of people interested in making standards records with me,” she says. “But I just didn’t want to start that way. I felt like you earn your place to sing those songs. At this point, we had made four records, three records of originals, so I felt like we had properly earned the ability to make a standards record.”

She would totally play a superhero, as long as the role is funny
Despite her success with New Girl and other projects, Deschanel says she still feels like an outsider in Hollywood. “Feeling like an outsider is part of my nature, and it’s what makes me who I am, so I think I’ll find a way to make myself feel like an outsider no matter what situation I’m in,” she explains. But that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t play a superhero in a summer blockbuster, either. “I’m not against it at all,” Deschanel says. “I like those movies. I think it has to be the right type—it has to have a sense of humor.”

She and Billy Eichner were once classmates.
Deschanel dropped out of Northwestern her freshman year to be in Almost Famous, but she does have some fond memories of her time as a college student — including one about then-classmate Billy Eichner. “I remember he was so talented,” says Deschanel, who was in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum with Eichner, then an upperclassman. “I had a little part in the play because I was a freshman, and every time his song came, I would run to see it because he was so incredibly talented and funny. I’m happy he has a lot of success.” The two will reunite on the small screen next month when Eichner guest-stars on a New Girl holiday episode.

TIME Companies

GM CEO Won’t Receive Women’s Award Amid Protests

GM CEO Mary Barra Addresses Detroit Economic Club
General Motors Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra address the Detroit Economic Club October 28, 2014 in Detroit, Michigan. Barra announced that GM will be investing $540 million in its plants in Michigan. $240 million of that will be invested in the company's Warren Transmission Plant, allowing them to produce the transmissions for the next-generation Chevrolet Volt in Michigan, as opposed to in Mexico. Bill Pugliano—Getty Images

The museum said it was not presenting Mary Barra with the award “at this time”

The National Women’s History Museum has agreed not to bestow an award on General Motors CEO Mary Barra amid objections over the company’s delayed recall of vehicles with a faulty ignition switch.

Barra was slated to receive the museum’s Katharine Graham Living Legacy Award at a ceremony next Monday in Washington, D.C., but GM said late Wednesday that she was no longer going, the Detroit News reports.

The museum said it was not presenting the award “at this time.”

Activists and family members of people hurt or killed in accidents involving the faulty ignitions voiced opposition to the award this week. “We believe that Barra should focus on GM’s remaining safety problems before traveling around the country to accept awards,” Peter Flaherty, the president of the National Legal Policy Center, wrote in a letter to the museum.

The faulty ignition-switch has been linked to 32 deaths and led the automaker to recall 2.59 million vehicles in February.

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)

 

 

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