TIME Culture

7 Amazing Things You Didn’t Know About Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman
Knopf

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

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

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

Here’s just some of what Lepore uncovered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Wonder Woman was designed as a feminist icon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME harassment

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME feminism

Daniel Radcliffe Shuts Down ‘Sex Symbol’ Stereotype

And calls everyone out for treating Emma Watson differently

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

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

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

Watch the whole interview here.

 

 

TIME feminism

Seriously? This Is What Passes for Feminism in America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME feminism

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

Courtesy of Tom Burns

… put on a Princess Leia costume, of course

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TIME Culture

‘Law & Order: SVU’ Ripped an Episode From My Headline

Belle Knox
Courtesy of Belle Knox

I don’t write or discuss my rape often, because I don’t want to be viewed as a porn star cliché

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I’m obsessed with “Law & Order: SVU.” But that obsession is reaching a whole new level of absurdity.

You know that whole “ripped from the headlines” tagline? They just ripped mine, and it’s incredibly hard — but insanely riveting — to watch.

Warren Leight, the executive producer of the show was nice enough to let me see an advance copy of “Pornstar’s Requiem” and he agreed to answer my questions about how this entire episode came to be.

When I asked Leight (who used to be executive producer on HBO’s “In Treatment”) why he chose to dramatize my story, he explained, “As usual, we tried to distill several stories and headlines into one character’s journey. You, and others, have made the case that sex work is legitimate professional work, a potentially empowering choice individuals should be able to make without repercussions or stigmatization. Other students who’ve done pornography have not survived the harassment that followed. We wanted to tell their stories, too.”

From the very beginning scene of the episode, which shows “Evie Barnes” (played by actress Hannah Marks), a college freshman at “Hudson University” nervously doing her first porn scene on the day of her 18 birthday, my jaw dropped. Not only is Marks a slim brunette who could be my sister, she is also eerily semi-recreating one of my earliest scenes which was for a rough sex website (I will not give the company any more publicity than they’ve already received). The entire sequence soon after of a frat guy uncovering my secret through watching porn himself was all too real. I’ve never made so much noise watching an episode of “SVU” before as I did watching this, and there were certain instances where all I could say was “Oh my God, oh my God.”

Not unlike how I created the alterego of “Belle Knox,” Evie Barnes takes on the stage name of “Roxxxanne Demay” in the world of hard-core pornography.

She is eloquent but naïve, delivering many speeches during the episode with a few lines cutting me to the core. At one point she says something that felt like hearing my heart speak: “I knew I would be opening myself and my family to judgment and humiliation. But I chose to send a message that people who work in adult entertainment are still people, just like everyone else.”

Since March, when I was outed by a fellow student at Duke, I’ve felt like I was sleepwalking through a David Lynch-style dream that has included everything from hugging Whoopi Goldberg on “The View” to facing a crowd of screaming paparazzi and flashing lights to being asked to trademark a replica of my vagina. This episode of “SVU” flips that dream into a nightmare of how things could just as easily have gone very horribly terribly wrong for me.

I don’t write or discuss my rape often, because I don’t want to be viewed as a porn star cliché, nor do I want people telling me that this is why I’ve made the choices I’ve made, but I know well the chilling rape culture entitlement that comes along with men discovering that I’m a porn star. This is the scenario that plays out on the episode. One of the frat boys accused in “Pornstar’s Requiem” even goes so far as to say to the police the following jaw-dropping line: “I didn’t think you could rape a girl like that.”

Have I heard this before?

Not in those exact words, but in actions and in snide remarks, in the assumptions people make with my body and my livelihood because they have watched me in porn or heard that this is my profession. One time a hotel provided a key card to a friend of another man I knew, and at 2 in the morning, this large and loud, older and incredibly drunk stranger wandered into my hotel room — with his own key. I was terrified. Did he think that because I was a porn star he could just come in? Did he think he could do something with me?

Since my outing, when I’ve gone on dates, there have been times when a man has told me quickly, easily and creepily, “You like this [sexual act], right?” without asking for consent or having any discussion to imply that we might make the decision to be intimate together later on. I shut things down, but as occurred in my rape earlier in my life, this has not always been the case.

And this sexual entitlement and double standards (how could a girl who plays out a rape fantasy ever be given the privilege of consent; doesn’t she relinquish that forever if she ever engages in rough play?) is the crux of the episode. Similar to the rough scene I filmed that was my entrée into porn, Evie is smacked — hard — in the course of her filming and the appearance could be interpreted as rape fantasy. While I do not consider what I did to be that, I have heard from others that they do consider it within this purview, and I respect their right to feel that way.

Because Evie does not appear to be giving consent in her rough sex porn film, these frat boys decide that is what she likes. They don’t need her to say yes! Even when she is crying and saying no, it doesn’t count! Why, they have the other film of her as proof.

It makes me want to barf.

I won’t get into the spoilers of the episode (you should watch on NBC), but I’ll share with you what the executive producer told me about the writers’ room and the process for putting the script together.

“The writers’ room had been hashing out a number of overlapping issues lately,” Leight told me. “The increasing number of students who’ve turned to pornography to pay their tuition. How for some of those students, it’s been empowering, but for others, it’s led to horrific slut-shaming. And how a few students have been so stigmatized when their sex work becomes public, they felt driven to suicide. We also had long wanted to do an episode about how hard it is for sex workers to get justice when they are victims of sexual assault. The more we talked about these issues, the more we felt they’d combine well into one episode.”

Evie says at one point during the episode what could be the anthem of anyone who has ever done sex work: “I’m not a slut. They think just because I do porn they can do anything they want to me.”

And then she explains something that many people refuse to accept no matter how many times I try to delineate real life versus porn life. Describing her alterego of “Roxxxanne Demay,” Evie says: “I followed a script. I created a character that was different from myself. I followed an act.”

Because that’s what it is. Porn is an act. Porn stars are acting. In our personal lives we are often still sexual and flirtatious and there might be some crossover, but to categorize porn stars and sex workers as being this lesser-status breed of women who are “unrapeable” is so offensive and mind-boggling, it physically makes my head hurt.

As soon as I heard that my story was being “ripped” for an episode, my gut assured me that “SVU” would give a fair and balanced account “inspired by” what happened and have a strong feminist message against slut shaming. But soon after that, my gut turned nauseous. Happily, all of that nervous energy turned to excitement when I realized what was really happening, bottom line, through the show tackling this important topic: “SVU” was accepting the challenge of viewing consent through the lens of pornography and sex workers, a multifaceted and very necessary dialogue.

Because while Evie is brutally gangraped in a bathroom at a college party, the video evidence taken by her rapists is in no way the slam-dunk that it should be for the prosecution. Instead, it forces a question so insane, so absurd, so enraging I can barely type it without screaming.

Assistant District Attorney Rafael Barba (played by Raúl Esparza) actually has to ask, “Do you believe any woman, even a porn star, can deny sex?”

I also found myself cheering whenever Sgt. Olivia Benson (played by the inimitable Mariska Hargitay) said something profound (which was like, all the time), and covering my face when things felt too real. At several points, my cheeks burned hot with rage listening to the evil defense attorney (played by Delaney Williams) who mocks and shames and aims to discredit Evie. It is brutal. It is condescending. And it brought back painful memories of the betting pools started online as to when I would kill myself, the detailed and dedicated websites all devoted to telling the world what a slut and whore I am, and why I deserved to be punched and kicked and hit and destroyed.

Then there was Judge Briggs (played by Richard T. Jones), who says something I have heard so many times from my friends, family and peers it practically feels like my first name: “I hope going forward you find a way to respect your body and yourself.”

Yeah, thanks. I wish the same for you. I also hope you going forward you find a way to be less of a passive-aggressive sanctimonious concern troll — but you know, we can’t all have everything we want, can we?

After viewing the episode, I didn’t get much that sleep that night.

Memories of last semester came rushing back to me.

My public outing and the subsequent media storm that put every private, painful detail of my life on display seemed to play over and over in my mind. The most excruciating line from the episode was from Evie, who said, “They think just because I do porn they can do whatever they want to me.”

There is this sense of ownership of porn stars from strangers, which is, quite frankly, chilling.

I’ve found this to be exceedingly true in these past months, as strangers behind their computer screens have threatened me with rape, murder, and public humiliation. And then there are the students who have done pornography who have not lived to survive the harassment that follows, like the beautiful young woman Alyssa Funke, which is nothing short of a Shakespearean tragedy. This is a narrative that “SVU” confronts compassionately in the episode.

The episode hit close to home to say the least.

“SVU” has showed us time and time again that we should never take a character at face value, and there is so much more to a person than a tabloid headline (which in the case of this episode is: “From Straight As to XXX”) will ever reveal.

I am happy that “my” character was not portrayed as a caricature of the porn industry, but as an imperfect young woman who made some controversial choices that did not define her. Watching the episode was an emotional, at times nausea-inducing experience, and one line in particular I will never forget, as Evie tells the detectives why she will not stop doing porn. Because, she says: “At least here when I say ‘no,’ they stop.”

I asked the executive producer about what he thought about this haunting moment in particular. Leight said, “The sadness comes from Evie’s desperation, her absence of alternate options outside of porn, the confiscation of her choice. It wasn’t porn that brought her to a place of isolation and depression, but rather her sexual assault, her support system, and of course the academic system — the very one she was attempting to pay for.”

In other words, the sex industry wasn’t the problem. Society was.

Belle Knox is an adult film star and student at Duke University.

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 marketing

Watch These Little Princesses Drop F-Bombs for Feminism

Because there are worse words than curse words

Think the F-word is a dirty word? These little girls can think of a few that are worse — like “pay inequality” or “rape and violence.”

But there’s a reason for their potty-mouthed exclamations — these young girls, dressed up in princess costumes, are cursing to protest inequalities that are even more shocking than curse words. The video was made by FCKH8.com, a for-profit company that produces clothing that advocates for social change. And while FCKH8 is famous for equality-themed T-shirts like “Some Chicks Marry Chicks” and “Straight Against Hate,” this particular video is meant to promote its feminist line, with T-shirts that say things like “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” and “Girls Just Want to Have Fun – damental rights.”

You can watch the whole video here.

TIME feminism

Annie Lennox: ‘Twerking Is Not Feminism’

2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Show
Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards Kevin Mazur—2013 Kevin Mazur

The artist explained why she doesn't subscribe to Beyoncé's brand of feminism

After making headlines for asserting that Beyoncé represents feminism “light” last month, singer Annie Lennox expanded on that during an interview with NPR published Tuesday to promote her new album Nostalgia.

“Listen,” Lennox told Steve Inskeep, “Twerking is not feminism. Thats what I’m referring to. It’s not, it’s not liberating, it’s not empowering. It’s a sexual thing that you’re doing on a stage; it doesn’t empower you. That’s my feeling about it.”

Lennox clarified that her comment about “feminist light” figures weren’t directed specifically towards Beyoncé, but rather all sexualized female performers.

“The reason why I’ve commented is because I think that this overt sexuality thrust, literally, at particular audiences, when very often performers have a very, very young audience, like seven years [old], I find it disturbing and I think its exploitative, and it’s troubling,” she said. “I’m coming from a perspective of a woman that’s had children.”

You can listen to the whole interview below:

TIME women

I’d Like to Talk to You About Not Talking About Beyoncé’s Bangs

Beyonce is seen leaving Harry's Bar, Mayfair on October 17, 2014 in London, England.
Beyonce is seen leaving Harry's Bar, Mayfair on October 17, 2014 in London, England. Niki Nikolova—GC Images

Female celebrities and women in media are also picked apart with alarming regularity

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is an extremely famous pop singer known for quality vocals and sexy radio singles. She is married to Shaun Corey “Jay-Z” Carter, and they have a lovely daughter named Blue Ivy. Beyoncé has won 17 Grammys and is Time’s Most Influential Person, and oh, she went out a few days ago with a new hairstyle and nearly broke the Internet.

Reporters and commenters alike felt the need to say something about Beyoncé’s hairstyle, which appeared to be a wig with short, choppy bangs. Everyone with an Internet connection was invited to Weigh In: Love It or Leave It! And the general consensus was negative.

I know it’s rough to devote a page of writing to how much I don’t want to talk about something, but I got tired of shrugging it off when people asked and would like to go on record with my reasons why.

I’ve already written a call to not discuss her daughter’s hair, and this one goes out to Queen Bey herself. I feel sort of silly, like I’m shaking a proverbial angry fist at the sky; this type of non-event is the perfect conflagration of celebrity worship and pop culture phenomenon that really irks me, but becomes more common each day in our Join The Conversation culture.

These days, it seems as though no “conversation” is deemed too trifling, and though slow news days have been around as long as reporting the news has, social media can make a frenzy out of a single picture. And since you know I keep it real with you, dear readers, I will now acknowledge that here at xoJane we share about all sorts of things at all levels of relative importance. We cover many bases. But the endless reportage of Beyoncé and The Day She Banged is something else.

At best, it’s continued commodification of this woman as a product that exists either for our consumption or our scrutiny, and at worst it’s just plain mean. So many people were slinging insults and creating rude memes, and even the ones that weren’t directly cruel felt the need to “report” on Beyoncé’s Bangs: The Happening.

Real talk: I don’t think that’s the most flattering hairstyle I’ve seen Mrs. Knowles-Carter rock. And she’s also probably changed it already. And it also doesn’t matter at all what I, or anyone else looking at a picture of her on the internet thinks of Beyoncé’s hair. While this is not strictly a racial issue, the politicization of black women’s hair is a reality, with #TeamNatural in one corner and certain relaxed and visibly Anglicized styles in another and all sorts of questions and assumptions about our identity weighing heavily in the center of the ring.

Overall, female celebrities and women in media are also picked apart with alarming regularity. I won’t name names, but there are more than a handful of male celebrities who are allowed to roam freely looking every level of disheveled or trying out a new ‘do without inspiring Internet memes and hashtags. There are also other women in the industry who don’t get the kind of head-to-toe scrutiny that Beyoncé gets.

The other thing that has me miffed about the Incident On Beyoncé’s Forehead is that she was photographed on vacation with her family. Beyoncé’s job description is not “24-hour hair model.” She is a stellar entertainer and a pop star, and goddamnit she was off the clock. Celebrities do not exist solely for public consumption.

Had Beyoncé gotten on stage at the Superbowl half time show or opened her recent arena tour On The Run with this hairstyle, we might be having a different conversation. She may not be an accountant, but work is work and if your job is to entertain and something gets in the way of that, even just by pulling focus or being a distraction, that bears mentioning and possible critique.

Former Fox Sports lead sideline reporter Pam Oliver was the subject of intense criticism because her hair generally looked quite unkempt and literally got in the way, blowing all over in sometimes inclement weather conditions. She was called all manner of terribly insulting names on social media and compared to animals and such, and at the time, I made a few comments saying I wished she worked with different styles so that her hair wasn’t such a distraction. Some people on social media were upset with me, questioning how I could “attack” a fellow black woman, especially over her hair.

I would never call her ugly or any of those things, but she was at work when we saw her on television; I wasn’t commenting on candids or random paparazzi photos. Her job was as a television reporter, and her unflattering hair was stealing every shot she was in and undermining her expertise and decades of experience in her position. I wished that she could find the most flattering style for her face that also worked for her job, a basic standard that I could apply to almost anyone.

Being “camera-ready” is a job requirement for a television reporter, not a life requirement for Beyoncé’s trip to France. Still, she knows she’s heavily photographed whenever she’s in public. By all appearances, Beyoncé embraces or at least manages her role as an international celebrity, including awareness of paparazzi and that so many people care how she looks. All the time.

So I believe that if she went out on the town with her family during a vacation, she probably felt fine with the way she looked. That’s good enough for me.

By the way, Beyoncé is routinely attacked by certain news outlets and has been called a “whore” for things she does while on the clock; entertaining huge audiences and doing it well. She’s repeatedly been the subject of author and feminist scholar bell hooks’ scathing criticism of her “faux” feminism. She’s had to endure insults to her daughter’s looks on a national platform. If we must keep her name in our mouths and devote endless bandwidth to mentioning her, I think it’d be cool to recognize her achievements in her field, salute her owning her sexuality and being vocal about feminism, acknowledge her as her own woman who does not belong to us, who is also a wife and mother… pretty much anything but analyze that bang.

Some people told me, in the course of recommending that I locate some chill on this topic, that the issue is that Beyoncé usually looks so good that it’s a big news story that her bangs looked so… you know what? I’m not even going to finish that sentence. We’ve all got other things to talk about.

Pia Glenn is an actress and writer.

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

TIME feminism

Halle Berry’s Child-Support Fight: Female Breadwinners Can’t Have It Both Ways

Celebrity Sightings In Los Angeles - May 24, 2009
Nahla, Gabriel Aubry and Halle Berry at the Topanga Canyon Festival on May 24, 2009 in Topanga Canyon, California. David Aguilera—FilmMagic

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

We need to shed the notion that providing for one’s family is an essential part of masculinity

The latest celebrity tussle over child support has an unusual twist. The parent seeking a reduction in child-support payments is the mother, Oscar-winning actress Halle Berry. The parent collecting the checks is her ex-boyfriend, French-Canadian fashion model Gabriel Aubry, who shares custody of their 6-year-old daughter Nahla. The gossip website TMZ reports that Berry has petitioned the judge overseeing the couple’s custody arrangement to reduce the monthly child-support payment of $16,000 to just $3,000, alleging that Aubry is refusing to get a job. Is this what equality looks like? Sometimes, it is—though the reactions to this skirmish show that a double standard definitely persists when it comes to men “living off” women.

TMZ ran the story under the headline, “Halle Berry: GABRIEL AUBRY IS A BUM; I Want Child Support Slashed.” A piece on Gawker’s Defamer blog sarcastically complimented Aubry on finding a great gravy train and suggested that Berry could not be blamed for wanting to put a stop to it. When a Gawker commenter posted a crude remark questioning Aubry’s manhood and joking about “medical bills to reattach his penis,” blogger Jordan Sargent’s only response was, “Strong comment.”

Would a woman collecting a lot of child support from her wealthy ex be derided as a lazy bum? Certainly not. (She might be attacked as a greedy vixen, but such attacks would likely be seen as misogynist.) For all the feminism-inspired changes in cultural beliefs about what it means to be a woman or a man, the idea that providing for one’s family is an essential part of masculinity has endured. While 40% of mothers in the U.S. are now their family’s primary breadwinner—including nearly a quarter of married moms—nearly a third of Americans still agree it’s best for everyone when the man provides for his family. One person’s Mr. Mom is another’s Mr. Bum.

While men are somewhat more likely than women to hold traditional views on gender issues, there is evidence that in their personal preferences, women may actually be more wedded—as it were—to the male-breadwinner ideal. In a 1994 study based on U.S. survey data of single adults, men were almost as willing to marry “someone who earns much more” than them as “someone who earns much less.” For women, a higher-earning partner rated 6 points out of a maximum of 7, compared with 3.5 for a lower-earning one. Women were also much less willing than men to marry someone who did not have a steady job.

Have things changed in 20 years? Perhaps not, in this regard. In the latest Pew Research Center poll on marriage, one of the biggest gender gaps for singles is in how important people consider employment for a spouse or long-term partner: 78% of women regard having “a steady job” as “very important” in choosing a mate, while only 46% of men do. Sorry, Gabriel Aubry.

These preferences are largely related to family roles. It’s not that women are materialistic gold diggers; rather, most want the option to curtail or interrupt paid work for motherhood. But prejudice against men who aren’t good providers may paradoxically clash with ambitious women’s life plans.

Take one of the women interviewed for feminist journalist Peggy Orenstein’s 2000 book, Flux: Women on Sex, Work, Love, Kids and Life in a Half-Changed World. “Abbey,” a 26-year-old artist and comic-book sales rep planning a career in the industry, admitted to growing ambivalence about her art-director boyfriend Jeremy. While Jeremy was devoted, supportive of Abbey’s goals and willing to follow her when she had to move, she was put off by his lack of ambition and limited earning potential. Ultimately, Abbey confessed that she’d rather have the choice to stay home after having children—despite being virtually certain that she wouldn’t exercise that choice and being strongly attached to her identity as a professional woman. Yet marriage to a Jeremy may be the best choice for a woman who wants to balance career and family.

Generally, it’s conservatives like RedState.org blogger Erik Erikson who defend the male-breadwinner role as biological (not quite the case if you look at the animal kingdom). Yet when a man and woman are in financial conflict, many feminists will line up in apparent solidarity behind a woman who upholds the most stereotypical of attitudes about gender and providing.

During the O.J. Simpson trial in 1995, prosecutor Marcia Clark sought more child support from her estranged husband—who earned half her salary—because of trial-related child-care expenses. (Imagine the derision if a male attorney had done the same.) When Gordon Clark asked for temporary custody, a chorus of feminist voices rose to defend Clark as a strong woman under attack. Today feminist websites like Jezebel mock affluent men who want to pay less child support as cheap crybabies—but offer no comment on Halle Berry’s bid for child-support reduction.

To be sure, $16,000 a month for a 6-year-old who spends half her time with her dad may raise questions about appropriate levels of child support in cases involving wealthy parents—and about when child support becomes a subsidy for a parent who should be pulling his, or her, weight. But such questions should be raised across the board, without double standards. In his own accidental way, Aubry is a pioneer for gender equality.

Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

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

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