TIME Internet

A New Viral Fundraiser: The ‘Abortion Rights’ Tacos and Beer Challenge

Soft Chicken Tacos Getty Images

What started as a Twitter joke has turned into another social media funding movement

While it’s unclear what dumping a bucket of ice over your head has to do with ALS research, there is no question that the Ice Bucket Challenge — inspiring $53 million in donations and some 2.4 million videos posted on Facebook — has been incredibly effective and might even change the future of charitable fundraising.

And so, political reporter Andrea Grimes decided to apply this nonlinear, activity-based fundraising ideology to another cause. The directive is simple: Eat a taco or drink a beer, and then donate to any abortion rights fund — from Planned Parenthood to another local or national organization.

While the #TacoBeerChallenge started as an ironic Twitter joke, the straightforward message resonated and pictures of carne asada wrapped in a corn tortilla are proliferating on the web–though members of the pro-life movement have tried to hijack the hashtag to harness the attention for their cause.

“What do ice buckets have to do with ALS? I don’t know. What do tacos and beer have to do with abortion? I don’t know that either,” Grimes writes for RH Reality Check. “What I do know is that eating tacos and drinking beer is more pleasurable than getting doused with ice water, and that lawmakers around the country are passing increasingly restrictive anti-abortion access laws.”

Grimes continued that a first donation to an abortion fund can be hard, but, “It’s so not-shameful, in fact, that you can be the kind of regular ol’ human being who eats a taco or drinks a beer and funds abortion.”

The Taco or Beer Challenge’s Tumblr also showcases other Taco-eating related videos as well as a database of abortion-rights funds to donate to.

Here are some of the early participants:

Let’s see if Oprah, Justin Timberlake, and Jimmy Kimmel get on board with this initiative, too.


TIME career

Watch John Oliver’s Hilarious Take on the Gender Pay Gap

The monkey part is priceless

John Oliver’s on a roll these days. After his spot-on critique of the situation in Ferguson in Sunday’s episode, he eviscerated all the excuses given for gender pay gap, and the insanity about nitpicking over whether the gap was 77 cents or 88 cents or 96 cents or whatever. His point is that any pay gap is a problem, even if it’s only four cents.

Watch all the way to the end to see a hilarious fake ad for “Ladybucks,” or money for women that’s worth less than money for men. And click here to see our take on how much each bill would be worth if it had a woman on it instead of a man.

TIME Television

Outlander Recap: Claire and Jamie’s Road to Star-Crossed Love

Outlander 2014 Ed Miller—Copyright 2014 Sony Pictures Tel

On the second episode of Outlander, things heat up between Claire and her suitor

Last week on Outlander, burgeoning feminist Claire Randall flitted off to Scotland for a post-war tryst with her husband, touched an ancient stone that was high on magical Druid fumes, and time-traveled to the 18th century. (Normal.) This week, Claire found herself fully entrenched in the highlands’ undulating moors, and spent much of her time treading the line between spirited free-thinker and whatever word best describes “the urge to bosom-heave at a gaggle of unwashed Scots.” (Maybe there’s a Gaelic word for it!)

Claire’s transformation into a stoic adversary of sexism is more than fully realized, but don’t confuse her for a misandrist. Sure, the former Mrs. Randall now inhabits a world where she’s casually threatened with rape by a bunch of kilted randoms, but she’s all about discovering what lies beneath the skirts of a certain Scottish dreamboat named Jamie. Unfortunately, Jamie’s technically Claire’s captor — and she risks acquiescing the little power she has over her own body by surrendering to their undeniable sexual tension.

Getting around this troubling dynamic is central to this week’s episode of Outlander, which carefully crafts Jamie into a victim of equal standing to Claire. We’re encouraged to forget the fact that he captured Claire against her will, and instead focus on moments that give her power over him — like her ability to seductively tend to his wounds. And speaking of seductive wound-tending, let’s gird our loins, shout “Och aye!” and time-jump into another episode of this torrid show.

Claire Keeps Up Appearances, Jamie Remains Shirtless

In an effort to convince her captors that she can sashay around Scotland like the best of ‘em, Claire fully immerses herself in highland life. She ditches her 20th century smock, dons a choker necklace reminiscent of something Britney Spears might have worn in 2004, and even squeezes herself into a corset. But first things first: she must tend to Jamie’s bullet wound, which is a great opportunity for a bonding session — not to mention a great opportunity for Jamie to recount his flogging by Captain Black Jack Randall, aka the Redcoat ancestor of Claire’s husband, Frank.

Thanks to a gloomy flashback, we learn that Jamie was tilling the land / merrily enjoying his kilt flapping in the breeze, when Jack and his ponytail of doom descended from on high and tried to sexually assault his sister. Jamie valiantly tried to protect her from Jack’s physical attack, and though he failed (hence the flogging), he’s clearly a hero in the fight against sexual abuse. In this moment, Jamie becomes more than just Claire’s dashing captor — he’s a champion of women’s rights, he’d rather die than see his sister raped, and his body is a wonderland of sexy scars for Claire to massage with a tragic rag.

But we can’t forget that Claire has a nerdy husband waiting for her in the future, and as she basks in the soft glow radiating from Jamie’s pectoral muscles, she’s overcome with emotion. What if Frank thinks that Claire’s suffered death-by-Druid — or, “worst of all,” that she’s left him for another man? Either way, Claire’s fear that Frank would prefer her death to her infidelity makes me feel less sympathetic to his loss, and totally on board with Claire and Jamie’s quivering lips.

Claire Educates Scots In the Feminine Mystique and Enjoys a Breezy Buttress

Claire’s officially in 1743 Scotland under the reign of King George II — a fact that she familiarizes herself with while snooping around the offices of her host, Colum MacKenzie, before sitting down for a chat and unleashing her feminist fury upon him. Not only does Claire spare no detail recounting Black Jack’s attempted sexual assault, she muses, “Is there ever a good reason for rape?” when Colum ventures into the territory of victim-blaming. Basically, Claire pulls the 18th century equivalent of a #yesallwomen campaign, and celebrates her victory by standing on a buttress and smiling vacantly at some wee bonny children.

But wait — I’m concerned about Colum, and not just because his beard is a different color than his free-flowing wig. This inquisitive Scot and his brother, Dougal, are the only people in 1743 who’ve noticed that Claire has a sporran full of secrets, and they suspect that she’s an English spy. Will Colum and Dougal allow Claire to travel back to Inverness so she can hop in the stone circle equivalent of a DeLorean and go back to the future? Probably not, but while Claire waits in limbo she decides to visit Jamie in “the stables,” where he spends his time prancing around with his horse friends and living out the real-life version of a romance novel.

It should be noted that upon seeing Claire, Jamie compliments her personality rather than her staggering beauty, and then muses on his favorite subject: flogging. Turns out there’s a price on Jamie’s head for allegedly murdering a Redcoat soldier, and as such he’s an outlaw. Jamie’s revelation is verification of his outlander-status (yet another thing he has in common with Claire), but also proves his willingness to shift the power dynamic in their relationship. Jamie might have captured Claire by force, but he’s purposefully giving her information that could lead to his death. Or at the very least to some more flogging.

Claire Befriends a Pro-Choice Witch, Jamie Morphs Into 18th Century Feminist Ryan Gosling

Claire’s transition from progressive modern woman to full-throttle feminist wouldn’t be complete without an assertion of her pro-choice beliefs, which are reflected in townie witch Geillis Duncan. Claire meets Geillis while picking poisonous mushrooms in a field (as ya do), and she promptly schools Claire in the local abortifacient botany. We’ll see how this pointed chat plays out during the rest of Outlander‘s first season, but for now the fast friends head to a banquet hall where Jamie once again reminds everyone that he’s super-duper into women’s rights. Basically, our favorite hirsute clansman sacrifices his own body to save a local woman from public beating as punishment for being “loose.”

I repeat, in the course of one episode, Jamie stands up to rapists, compliments Claire on her personality, and scorns 18th century slut-shaming. His reward? Sponge baths from Scotland’s most hardcore feminist prisoner (because nope, Dougal and Colum don’t release Claire), and the promise of me (and you, viewer!) tuning into another stirring episode of Outlander.

TIME feminism

Here’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Incredible Definition of Feminism

Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Joseph Gordon-Levitt arrives at the Oscars on March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Chris Pizzello—Invision/AP

JGL is among the handful of male celebrities to use the "f" word

Joseph Gordon-Levitt thinks this whole trend of celebrities shunning the “feminism” label is bizarre. As the Sin City: A Dame To Kill For actor clarified to The Daily Beast, he considers himself a feminist. And he gave an in-depth definition of what he believes feminism is. See below:

I read that you consider yourself a “male feminist,” and you credit your parents who are educators and really taught you about the history of feminism. But nowadays, you have a lot of young stars coming out against being labeled a feminist.

Coming out against the label? Wow. I guess I’m not aware of that. What that means to me is that you don’t let your gender define who you are—you can be who you want to be, whether you’re a man, a woman, a boy, a girl, whatever. However you want to define yourself, you can do that and should be able to do that, and no category ever really describes a person because every person is unique. That, to me, is what “feminism” means. So yes, I’d absolutely call myself a feminist. And if you look at history, women are an oppressed category of people. There’s a long, long history of women suffering abuse, injustice, and not having the same opportunities as men, and I think that’s been very detrimental to the human race as a whole. I’m a believer that if everyone has a fair chance to be what they want to be and do what they want to do, it’s better for everyone. It benefits society as a whole.

So count JGL among the list of famous people who has spoken out in favor of feminism—or at least a personal version of feminism. (Yes, Pharrell, men can be feminists too.)

[The Daily Beast]

TIME Internet

Kickstarting Equal Pay: Women Out-Raise Men on Crowdfunding Sites

Call it the funding gap instead of the pay gap

It’s an unfortunate but well-known fact that women trail men in most metrics of business success. But a recent study shows there’s one area of enterprise where women are surging ahead: raising money online via crowdfunding.

On Kickstarter, where backers make monetary donations to projects and businesses in exchange for small rewards, about two-thirds of women-led technology projects reach their fundraising goals, compared with a little less than one-third of male tech ventures, according to the July study from the University of Pennsylvania. Overall, the study found that women are 13% more likely to meet their Kickstarter goals, after controlling for factors like project type and amount of money.

Ethan Mollick, an assistant professor at the Wharton business school at Penn who co-wrote the study, told the Wall Street Journal that women’s success on Kickstarter may be precisely because they are so underrepresented in areas like gaming and technology. These female-started ventures get backed by “women who are activists who want to reach out and help other women,” he said.

That was certainly the experience of Joanna Griffiths, who raised $100,000 on Indiegogo, another crowdfunding site, for her women’s underwear line Knix Wear Inc.. The money came largely from women backers. “It’s a female product. It’s a female team,” she told WSJ. “There’s very much a connection there.”

Alicia Robb, a senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, authored another study on crowdfunding that found 40% of Kickstarter ventures funded by women were led by women, compared with only 23% of projects backed by men.

In other words, women are more likely to support other women than men are.

TIME Opinion

Ironic Misandry: Why Feminists Pretending to Hate Men Isn’t Funny

The humor is lost on most people, and it's terrible PR for feminism

If you’ve stumbled into certain feminist corners of the Internet lately, you may have noticed the word misandry cropping up. No, not by men’s rights activists whining that feminists hate men (or at least, not just by them). By feminists. Who think it’s funny to use it ironically.

But let’s back up a little. What exactly IS misandry, you ask? It is literally the hatred of men (in ancient Greek, “mis” means hatred, and “andro“ means male or masculine). It is the inverse of misogyny.

When feminists joke that they are misandrists, they are riffing off the misguided popular notion that they are man-haters. They mean to satirize the women who say they are not feminists because they love men. It’s an inside, inside joke.

Granted, there is something amusing about a girlish decorative sampler with “misandry” embroidered in purple thread, in the way that gross contrast is often amusing. And there’s something droll about a quiz that measures your level of misandry by asking if you’ve “cut a man’s hair off while he’s sleeping thus destroying his power,” or a list of reimagined misandrist lullabies like, “Hush little baby, don’t say a word / Ever; your sister is talking.”

And the urge to fight these misconceptions about feminists with humor is understandable. Obviously, very few feminists actually hate men as a whole, and none actually want to “kill all men” or drink “male tears” as some of these so-called ironists like to joke.

But the irony is all too often lost, despite recent arguments that the right kind of guys are in on the joke and love it. But the anecdotal evidence of that is not convincing, and those friends of women who like to use the word misandry might are likely to be a self-selecting group. Last year, a 2013 HuffPost/YouGov poll found that only 23 percent of women and 16 percent of men consider themselves to be feminists. Of that 16 percent, surely even fewer would find jokes about misandry funny.

Parodying the tropes of feminism’s enemies is not, in itself, unfunny or unhelpful. Consider Leandra Medine’s engaging site Man Repeller, which riffs off of and rejects the notion that women’s fashion is all about attracting men. And it’s empowering to reappropriate labels like “witch” and “bra-burner” that have been flung as criticism at women who dare to question the oppressive status quo. A new Twitter account, @WomanAgainstFeminism, takes on the popular hashtag used by women who disavow the movement with satirical rationales that humorously point out all the ways that women do need feminism.

But inherent in this word “misandry” is hatred. And inherent in phrases like “ban men” and “male tears” are cruelty and violence. If a man wore a tee shirt that said “misogynist,” even if he were a dyed-in-the-wool feminist, wearing it tongue-in-cheek, it would not be funny. It would be misguided.

What feminists really hate is the patriarchy—the web of institutions that systemically oppress women. And to tear it down, we need as many allies as we can get. Telling half the population that we hate them, even in jest, is not the way to do that. Feminism is still very much engaged in the battle for hearts and minds; appealing to the sense of humor of a very small minority of the population can be a good way to alienate the rest. That’s not to say that feminists should water down their true demands and complaints to appeal to broader swaths of the population. Nevertheless, to get folks on your side, you need an an appealing message. Humor can help. But ironic misandry is just bad PR.

TIME Opinion

Free Tampons Are Actually a Great Idea. Just Don’t Mention It Online

Tampon on pink background
Gustaf Brundin—Getty Images

Subsidized feminine hygiene products would do a world of good for many women and girls. So what's the problem?

The latest Twitter storm erupted this weekend over what at first seemed to be a simple question about tampons.

On Friday, Guardian writer and feminist author Jessica Valenti was researching a column on the accessibility of feminine hygiene products around the world when she turned to Twitter for help. Valenti, who has more than 70,000 followers on the social media site, put out a seemingly innocent request for information, asking:

Though Valenti’s tweet was merely a question — not a demand, not a request, not even an opinion — it seemed to trigger rage in dozens of men and women online, who then unleashed a torrent of abuse at Valenti.

Many ignored the question entirely and instead seemed incensed with Valenti for complaining about having to pay for tampons (she wasn’t), likening access to tampons to violence against women (she didn’t), or being anti-American (huh?). Bizarrely, some seemed to equate a discussion about tampons with an admission of promiscuity. Others still just felt the need to straight up insult her.

Valenti then decided to Storify choice snippets of the abuse and, honestly, it makes for pretty depressing reading.

The thing is, as Valenti’s subsequent Guardian article shows, providing free or subsidized feminine hygiene products to low-income or impoverished women and girls around the world is actually a great idea. Access to feminine hygiene products — whether they’re tampons, pads or menstrual cups — would go a long way in improving the lives of women and girls all over the world, and helping them achieve a more stable existence.

In many developing countries, the costs of tampons, pads or menstrual cups can be prohibitive. But without them, women and girls often leave themselves open to stigma and shame during their periods. In fact, Valenti cites figures that show that as many as 10% of girls in Africa miss school when they’re menstruating — and missing a whole week a month means they’re likely to fall behind.

And without access to proper feminine hygiene products women’s health is put at risk. In Bangladesh, a whopping 73% of female factory workers miss an average of six days of work every month due to infections caused from using unclean rags — instead of pads or tampons — during their periods. Meanwhile, the lost wages put them at an economic disadvantage. In India, some doctors believe that poor menstrual hygiene may be partially to blame for the country’s high number of deaths caused by cervical cancer. The BBC also reported earlier this year that up to 70% of reproductive diseases in India are caused by poor menstrual hygiene.

Yet access to pads and tampons can even be an issue in the developed world. In the U.S. and the U.K., feminine hygiene products are taxed in such a way that they could be prohibitively expensive for low-income women. Valenti writes:

In the United States, access to tampons and pads for low-income women is a real problem, too: food stamps don’t cover feminine hygiene products, so some women resort to selling their food stamps in order to pay for “luxuries” like tampons…. Women in the U.K. are fighting to axe the 5% tax on tampons (it used to be taxed at 17.5%!), which are considered “luxuries” while men’s razors, for some baffling reason, are not. And in the U.S., though breast pumps, vasectomies and artificial teeth are sales tax-exempt and tax-deductible medical care, tampons are not even exempted from sales tax in some states (including California and New York, two of the most populous states).

Of course, Valenti isn’t the first person to make the case for subsidized or, even, free feminine hygiene products, as NGOs have been tackling the inaccessibility of menstrual products in the developing world for a while now. Promoting access to tampons isn’t even new in the U.S.: in 2013, digital marketer Nancy Kramer used her TED talk to promote her non-profit foundation Free the Tampons, which is committed to making tampons and pads freely accessible in public bathrooms, just like toilet paper.

So what was it about Valenti’s question that triggered such an outpouring of anger? Are people that adamant that women and girls shouldn’t have access to feminine hygiene products?

Probably not. I’d wager a guess that most of the people who tweeted abuse at Valenti didn’t really care about subsidized tampons one way or another. Instead, their anger seemed to be directed right at Valenti and the fact that she was raising an issue about women on Twitter. Remember, many of the people replying didn’t actually focus on what Valenti had asked; they twisted her question around in order to attack her.

This isn’t the first time Valenti has been attacked in such a vicious way online. In an excellent 2013 article for Pacific Standard magazine about the regular, everyday abuse women face online, Valenti told writer Amanda Hess that she’s been subjected to abuse, rape and death threats “a number of times over the past seven years.” All because she’s a woman who writes and works on the internet. Valenti said that she’s even spoke with the FBI about her abuse and has learned not to discuss her public appearances on social media out of concern that someone might follow through with their online threats IRL.

Thankfully, Valenti is a ballsy writer who hasn’t let online abuse stop her from writing and promoting feminist ideas and causes. But what of all the writers and activists out there who can’t be as fearless? There’s a lot of smart discussion online that could actually raise awareness and make a difference in women’s lives — if only the trolls don’t derail it first.

TIME selfies

Our Bodies, Our Selfies: The Feminist Photo Revolution

The Taxonomy of a Feminist Selfie
Illustration by Anna Sudit for TIME

How young women are turning a symbol of narcissism into a new kind of empowerment

As far as selfies go, the photo of 17-year-old Grammy winner Lorde was a coup. “In bed in paris with my acne cream on,” the singer wrote on Instagram, captioning herself in a black T-shirt and messy bun, white splotches visible on her face.

Twenty-four hours and 95,000 Likes later, fans couldn’t stop gushing. “Lorde’s No-Makeup, Acne-Cream Selfie Only Further Proves Her Awesomeness,” the Huffington Post declared. “RESPECT” and “Love u,” commenters screamed. “Finally a celeb who doesn’t have seemingly flawless skin.”

The scene was utterly ordinary — the way most teen girls go to bed each night — which was precisely what made it so out of the ordinary. How often do you see a celebrity looking like a regular awkward teen? (Answer: almost never.)

Over the past year, the selfie has pushed its way into our collective consciousness like a pop song you can’t get out of your head. It was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year. It has spawned think pieces about think pieces. It will earn you nine points in Scrabble.

Yet when it comes to selfies and girls, much of the conversation has been judgey: selfies are narcissistic, humble-braggy, slutty, too sexy, a “cry for help,” or yet another way for girls’ to judge each other (or seek validation for their looks).

But the Lorde acne-cream selfie is just a tiny example of the ways young women like her — and even, yes, some socially conscious celebs — are using the self-portrait to turn that narcissism notion on its head. In small pockets all over the Internet, women are celebrating their flaws. They’re making silly faces (ugly selfies!) and experimenting with identities. They’re owning their imperfections (whether it be full hair or wrinkles or — dare we say it — fat) and contradicting old stereotypes (for instance, that “#FeministsAreUgly,” as a new Twitter campaign has it). In a culture that places immeasurable value on a woman’s beauty, women are using selfies to show what women really look like — no makeup, acne cream and all.

I’ve spent a good portion of the last year looking at the ways that imagery can impact our perception of women, and how we can overturn sexist tropes through mass media. But the selfie is doing the same thing through mass culture. Here are nine ways the selfie is empowering women.

Selfies Push Back Against Traditional Beauty Norms
Self-portraits have been an outlet for feminist expression, and subversion, for a long time. But when it comes to modern-day beauty representations, what we see daily is often a familiar spectrum of vanilla: white, gaunt, emotionless and airbrushed beyond recognition. Selfies are pushing back against that beauty ideal, through thousands of images of “real” women that they’ve created and shared themselves. “Selfies open up deep issues about who controls the image of women,” says Peggy Phelan, an art and English professor at Stanford University and the author of a recent essay about feminist selfies. “Selfies make possible a vast array of gazes that simply were not seen before.”

Selfies Take Advantage of a Platform That Girls Rule
It should be no surprise that, according to a recent survey by Dove, 63% of women believe social media — not print, film or music — is having the most pivotal impact on today’s definition of beauty. That’s because it’s a world where girls rule. Teens and young women use social media often and in more ways than men on almost every site, from Facebook to Instagram to Tumblr.

Selfies Allow Women to Own Their Flaws
Whether it’s Nicki Minaj sans makeup; the model Cara Delevingne modeling the grotesque; or Tavi Gevinson, the teen creator of Rookie magazine, noting the giant pimple on the “Upper West Side of my face,” there is something powerful in seeing normally flawless celebrities with actual flaws. On Twitter and Tumblr, the #FeministSelfie hashtag reveals an epic stream of women in all shapes and sizes, engaged in all sorts of activities, while #365FeministSelfie project — started by an administrator at the University of Illinois at Chicago — encourages women to take a snapshot of themselves each day for a year, no matter how they look. “We spend so much time trying to hide our flaws because the culture has set it up that you have to be ashamed if you’re not perfect,” Cynthia Wade, a filmmaker and creator of the short film Selfie told me recently, for an article about ugly selfies in the New York Times. “I think girls are tired of it.”

Selfies Give Girls Control
For centuries, we’ve watched as changing standards of beauty have shaped us: it was men, not women, controlling the photos. But selfies put the power in girls’ hands. “It allows you to have complete control over one moment in time,” 15-year-old Harper Glantz, one of the subjects of the film Selfie, told me a few months back. “In school, me and other girls sort of feel smothered just by social pressures that are hard to even detect sometimes. I think what a selfie does is that it really allows you to express yourself in a way that you feel comfortable with.”

Selfies Showcase Faces Not Normally on Display
“A huge swath of women and girls don’t see themselves portrayed in mainstream media,” explains Jennifer Pozner, a media critic and the founder of Women in Media and News, which aims to amplify female voices. And yet, through the sheer number of selfies uploaded daily — selfies that showcase women in all forms — women are upending notions about whose faces are beautiful, or mainstream, enough to be seen. “They’re breaking through the media gatekeepers,” says Pozner. “And they’re saying, ‘I’m great the way I am.’”

Selfies Are a Form of Social Currency
James Franco’s recent ridiculousness aside, the actor made a good point when he wrote, in an op-ed in the New York Times, that “attention is power.” “In a visual culture,” he said, “the selfie quickly and easily shows, not tells, how you’re feeling, where you are, what you’re doing. In our age of social media, the selfie is the new way to look someone right in the eye and say, ‘Hello, this is me.’”

Selfies Challenge the Notion That You Need a Reason to Be Seen
Narcissus may have drowned because he was too enchanted with his own reflection, but selfies challenge the idea that girls can’t revel in their own reflection — or feel good about a photo of themselves. “Selfies are one way for a female to make space for herself in the world: to say ‘I’m here, this is what I actually look like, my story counts, too,'” says Pamela Grossman, the director of visual trends at Getty Images, and my co-curator on a feminist photo-curation project. “They allow girls to shine on their own terms.”

Selfies Aren’t Just About What You Look Like, They’re About What You’re Doing
Whether it’s solving a math equation or crossing a marathon finish line.

Selfies Force Us to See Ourselves
To celebrate what we look like — flaws and all.

Bennett is a contributing columnist at TIME.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. A former Newsweek senior writer and executive editor of Tumblr, she is a contributing editor for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s foundation, Lean In, where she curates the Lean In Collection with Getty Images. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

TIME Television

Outlander Recap: Feminism and Time Travel in a Bodice-Ripping Romance? Sure!

Ed Miller—© 2014 Sony Pictures Television

Outlander's debut episode delivers on multiple counts

If you have a predilection for epic romances and the super-specific sub-genre that is historical time-travel fiction, then you’re likely to find Outlander to be a sensory feast. Superficially, Starz’s new show is a torrid romance primed for an eager fandom desperate to re-direct their Game of Thrones enthusiasm. But Outlander is more than a sweepingly cinematic bodice ripper: it manages to shroud what fans (myself included) guilt-love about the genre in the much broader themes of history, feminism and free-will.

Though the show begins just after World War II, it largely takes place during 18th century Scotland’s Jacobite uprisings. And while Outlander doesn’t necessarily seek to give viewers a history lesson, the fact that combat nurse Claire Randall’s husband, Frank, is a historian certainly helps. Frank’s incessant musings about his Redcoat ancestors might get yawn-inducing, but they serve as a necessary device to contextualize Claire’s time travel. As she re-lives Frank’s history lessons, Claire’s melancholic voiceover firmly roots the viewer in both worlds, building a bridge between the past and present.

It’s clear from the onset that Claire will spend the majority of Outlander diligently playing the part of an English Rose who eye-sexes thistly Scots, but time travel also becomes a means for Claire to unleash her inner feminist all over a bunch of kilted bros. The creators of Outlander want us to see Claire as a freethinker, and while she is on the surface, she’s also powerless against the romance genre’s inherent constraints against true feminism. Yes, she’s smarter than her male captors and she doesn’t want to be “saved,” but she also acquiesces to the genre’s stipulation that she must be — no matter how resilient a modern-day woman she is. With that in mind, let’s dive sporran-first into Outlander‘s premiere.

Meet Claire Randall: Feminist, Sex Goddess, Hausfrau

Outlander introduces us to Claire and Frank as they celebrate their post-war reunion with a romantic trip to the Scottish Highlands, which — thanks to this show — will now be the go-to setting for fan-fic writers the world over. Claire spends much of the episode trying to mend her war-torn marriage to Frank, but while she seems content enough with her life, there’s clearly something lacking in their relationship.

Claire remained faithful throughout her time apart from Frank during the war, but his willingness to forgive any possible dalliances should be kept in mind throughout Outlander‘s freshman season. Does Claire’s eye wander because she’s asserting the right to explore her sexuality Scot-style, or because her husband gives her permission to do so? Either way, Claire and Frank spend almost all their time having sex in derelict castle cellars and creaky hotel rooms, but Claire — like Heathcliff and Cathy before her — clearly needs to unbridle her passions all over some moors, ASAP. That’s a problem that can only be solved by time travel!

Scottish Highlands Morph Into Supernatural Hot Bed

Since something is wanting in her married life, Claire spends much of her second honeymoon frolicking in the ferns of Scotland and having dusty flashbacks to her past. But then Samhain (aka Halloween) strikes, a holiday that denizens of The Highlands celebrate by pouring blood on their door frames and being macabre. Of course, Samhain also happens to be the day that Scotland’s ghost population emerges from the indistinct twilight, and Frank runs into a particularly perverted phantom on his way home, whom he catches peeping at Claire through the window. This is the first of many supernatural elements in Outlander‘s premiere, and it doesn’t feel forced, despite the first half of the episode being rooted in the business of everyday life. What’s unclear is whether there’s something innate in Claire that’s attracting the paranormal (her palm reading certainly implies as much), or whether she’s simply found herself hanging with the wrong gamboling Druids at the wrong time. (It happens to the best of us.)

In Which Claire Experiences The 1940s Version of Throwback Thursday

After some X-rated intimacy that capitalizes on Starz’s clothing-optional policy, Claire and Frank get up early and visit Craigh na Dun, an ancient stone circle that becomes a literal touchstone for Claire’s thematic journey. Along with Claire and Frank (who somehow manage not to have sex in the ferns), we witness what has to be the best slow-motion Druid dancing scene in the history of television, complete with accompanying chanting and Celtic music. It was basically like watching a vintage Kate Bush music video, with a little Mists of Avalon thrown in for good measure. How can we blame Claire for paying Craigh na Dun another visit? Only this time, she makes the mistake of touching a rock, and promptly gets transported to the 18th century.

Claire Fully Embraces Stockholm Syndrome

Apparently the 18th century Jacobite rebellions were a much more visually vibrant time than the 20th, because Claire leaves the muted tones of 1940s Scotland and wakes up in an Instagram filter. She immediately starts panic-frolicking through the grass until happening upon Frank’s doppleganger ancestor, Redcoat captain Black Jack Randall, who wastes no time trying to rape her. Luckily, Claire’s rescued by a band of kilt-wearing Scotsmen, and sets to relocating the shoulder of the hunkiest clansman, Jamie Fraser, who drops this classic pick-up line: “I’ll get me plaid loose to cover ye.” (Heard that one before.) After proving her worth, Claire puts Frank’s history lessons to use by alerting her captors of a Redcoat ambush, ultimately saving their lives.

Claire’s role as a savior certainly bolsters her unspoken identity as a feminist, but she’s not exactly free of the patriarchy, no matter what year it is. And considering that the 20th century should give her greater opportunity to be a liberated woman, it’s all the more noteworthy that her true feminist leanings surface in a world where she’s threatened with rape and casually called a whore. Claire will likely spend the remainder of Outlander navigating her new role as a clanswoman — and while she does make a failed attempt to flee her captors, by premiere’s end, our plucky heroine is almost as entrenched in her new life as we are. And I’m already cueing up my DVR for next week’s episode and hand-sewing myself a celebratory Druid costume.

TIME Education

The Crisis of Minority Boys

Young men and boys of color are trailing minority girls and white boys in education, and their job prospects are getting worse.

If we’re to believe this Axe body spray ad, young men are incapable of controlling themselves around attractive women. Before that we had the Huggies ad campaign, ‘The Dad Test,’ which featured the all-too familiar “bumbling dad” character. That one said: We don’t even know how to change a diaper. The predecessor to that gem was a Docker’s ad that lamented the fall of old-fashioned manhood, enjoining us to heed the “Call of Manhood” and “wear the pants.” In other words, according to these ads, we need to go back to simpler times when men were men and women were women. Yet today, at a time when young men, and boys of color are falling behind, we urgently need to rethink our outdated definition of masculinity, and create new definitions of success.

This month, President Obama announced the expansion of his new My Brother’s Keeper program – a public-private effort to give minority boys access to more educational and employment opportunities. It’s an overdue national-level response to an urgent problem: young men and boys of color are trailing minority girls and white boys in high school graduation rates and reading scores, and are more likely to be suspended than white students. And their job market prospects are limited and, by nearly all measures, getting worse.

On top of that, the discussion about what low-income boys need to succeed in school, work and family life is outdated. As those ads all too clearly testify, the airwaves are full of simplistic and often unfounded assumptions about men and about gender differences. We seldom talk intelligently about just how it is that we socialize boys and men in the U.S. – and how that can affect them – and the people around them, for the rest of their lives. Though many of the challenges that minority boys and young men face in this country are structural – the result of lack of access to quality education, stable caregiving environments, and exclusion from the workplace – they are also about how we raise boys of all ethnic groups.

For years, we’ve been debating about the “problem with boys,” and why girls are speeding ahead of them. Too often, conversations are focused on the idea that boys are inherently different from girls and need to be taught to be more masculine, or that there is a “masculine” way of learning. That boys need books with stories involving explosions and guns, superheroes, rugged individualism and survival skills while girls need the social skills to juggle work and family.

Then there are those (including apparently those who wrote the Dockers ads) who argue that feminism has disempowered boys – that girls, female teachers, feminine curricula, feminists, mothers, and female politicians are to blame for the faltering men. We are trying to turn our boys into girls, according to claims from a newly emerging “male studies” movement and a recent conference in Detroit.

Campaigns and movements like these are causing big problems. Data from the United States and the rest of the world suggest that the problems of suicide, poor educational achievement, delinquency, crime, violence (both against other men and against women), and poor physical health lie in part at least with boys and men trying to live up to exaggerated, straight-jacket definition of what it means to be a man. Indeed, rather than trying to encourage boys and men to be stereotypically male – physically tough at all costs, emotionally stoic, and autonomous – we need to help them understand and appreciate that close relationships, empathy and the ability to get along with others are key to their survival. We need to raise them to be boys and men who seek help when they need it, who provide help when needed, who connect to each other, and who can feel masculine without using violence or dominating others.

This can be even more challenging for low-income boys of color. We know that low-income young men in many parts of the world sometimes find a sense of identity and respect in gangs and similar groups when they don’t find it in school or the workplace. With multiple variations around the world, we see that being tough, aggressive, belonging to a gang or violent group, having lots of sexual partners and no commitment to their children is a way to project a version of “real manhood” when other ways – work and education – are cut off. This doesn’t excuse the behavior of angry young men. It explains it.

Take a young man I interviewed in favela, or slum, in Rio de Janeiro. “Work isn’t everything but it’s almost everything,” he told me. “If you have work, everybody leaves you alone and you’re cool. No, work, man, and you’ll do anything.”

We know what the “anything” is and the harm it brings. Globally young men ages 15-24 are the group most likely to carry out lethal violence and to be victims of it. Nearly 30 percent of men of color will have some encounter with the justice sector, and many of those will spend time in jail or prison. And we know that education and meaningful work must be the centerpiece of efforts in the U.S. and elsewhere to end the harm.

But let’s not forget about the boyhood behind the boys. Let’s think about the brotherhood in My Brothers Keeper. The media bombard boys of all backgrounds with versions of aggressive, sex, money and power-at-all-costs images on the internet, in music, in our homes, and on our playing fields.

As we think about minority boys, we must also engage the media, parents and schools in teaching new versions of manhood – versions not based in violence and success-at-any-cost but based in respect, non-violence, connection and caring. This can include programs like “Gender Matters” in Austin, Texas, in which boys and girls question harmful ways we’re taught to be women and men as part of a summer youth employment training program. Or “Coaching Boys into Men”, in which coaches teach boys that manhood is not about disrespecting women or bullying their teammates. As we empower girls and women to succeed in education and the workplace, let’s think about the kinds of men we want our boys to become.

Gary Barker, Ph.D., is founder and International Director of Promundo, an international organization with offices in the United States, Brazil and Portugal and representatives in Rwanda and Burundi, that works to engage men and boys in gender equality and ending violence against women.

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