TIME Television

Proof That Joss Whedon Was Ahead of the Pop-Culture Feminism Curve

Cast of 'Buffy The Vampire Slayer'
Fotos International / Getty Images The Season 1 cast of 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'

The first episode of 'Buffy' aired on Mar. 10, 1997

Buffy the Vampire Slayer wasn’t a new character when the TV show of the same name premiered on this day in 1997 — a poorly reviewed movie version had come out five years earlier, and creator Joss Whedon’s desire to do it again and do it right quickly became part of the Buffy creation mythology.

Nearly two decades later, it’s easy to see that doing Buffy right wasn’t just a matter of improving its casting, creative freedom and sense of humor. In addition to all those aces, Whedon — now a bona fide blockbuster builder — was also an early comer to the socially conscious, feminism-friendly attitude that has redefined the pop-culture landscape in more recent years.

Need proof? Just look at a feature about teen-centric television that TIME ran a few months after Buffy took to the airwaves as a mid-season replacement. The piece called Buffy “the most talked-about show to have debuted in the past months” and included an interview with Whedon, who was forthright about his stake (no pun intended) in the show’s feminist cred:

Producers of these shows understand that preachiness lures no one. Says Joss Whedon, creator of the Buffy movie and series and a former writer on Roseanne: “If I can make teenage boys comfortable with a girl who takes charge of a situation without their knowing that’s what’s happening, it’s better than sitting down and selling them on feminism.”

The original idea for Buffy came to Whedon after years spent watching horror movies in which “bubblehead blonds wandered into dark alleys and got murdered by some creature.” Thought Whedon: “I would love to see a movie in which a blond wanders into a dark alley, takes care of herself and deploys her powers.”

The series gives the idea more dimension. Buffy, like many of her TV peers, must deal with an absurdly clueless parent (her mom doesn’t know she’s a vampire slayer); the insularity of generic suburbia (Buffy lives in familiar but fictional Sunnydale, Daria in Lawndale); and a dumb but popular nemesis, Cordelia, who sets out to test Buffy‘s coolness quotient on Buffy‘s first day at school. “Vamp nail polish?” Cordelia inquires. “So over,” Buffy confidently answers. “John Tesh?” Cordelia persists. “The devil,” Buffy replies.

Beyond the reference barrage that is Buffy churns a wry, ongoing parable of the modern woman’s greatest conflict: the challenge to balance personal and professional life. Buffy, you see, has been designated as the sole vampire slayer of her generation. When the bloodsuckers emerge, she must be there to make mincemeat out of them. But what to do on a night when a 12th century prophecy has proclaimed that the world could come to an end, and a cute boy named Owen, an Emily Dickinson lover even, has finally asked you out? This is, of course, Buffy‘s unending dilemma.

Read the full 1997 article, here in the TIME Vault: Bewitching Teen Heroines

TIME feminism

Emma Watson Tackles Gender Inequality in Facebook Q&A

UN Women's "HeForShe" VIP After Party
Robin Marchant—Getty Images Actress and U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson at the UN Women's "HeForShe" VIP After Party in New York City, Sept. 20, 2014. The actress held a live Q&A session via Facebook on International Women's Day.

Discussion held on International Women's Day

Actress and activist Emma Watson took to Facebook on Sunday, which marked International Women’s Day, to advocate for men and women joining together in the fight for gender equality.

Watson, whose speech at the U.N. in September was widely lauded and coincided with the launch of the “HeForShe” campaign, held a one-hour discussion in London that was live-streamed on Facebook, where she had solicited questions.

Among the topics were roles imposed on men, misunderstandings (like men “saving” women), wage discrimination and more. “We’re never, ever, ever going to be able to fly as high,” she said, “unless we’re both in support of each other.”

Read next: Emma Watson Wants to Know How You’re Advancing Gender Equality

TIME feminism

International Women’s Day Shows Awareness Is Not Enough

Here are four areas where women have made progress since 1995

Correction appended, March 9

Finally, feminism is growing some teeth. This year, International Women’s Day is themed “Make It Happen,” a much-needed call to get cracking on some of the biggest issues for women around the world. It’s a message echoed by Executive Director of UN Women Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, who recently posted a video message urging countries to “step it up” for gender equality, so that the world will be 50/50 by 2030. In 2015, “awareness” is out — action is in.

And it’s about time. The “awareness”-based solutions for problems facing women generate a lot of Twitter activity, but little genuine change. The last year was full of online discussion of feminist issues, from #yesallwomen to #rapecultureiswhen to #whyistayed, which help inform the public and give voice to survivors. But raising awareness is only the first step — in order to create an equal world for women, we need real policy change, and lots of it. Legislative changes won’t be popular with everyone, not even with all women. But the international community is finally starting to see that awareness is simply not enough.

We will learn more about some of the tangible goals for the next few decades of women’s advancement later this week, at the 59th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which is celebrating 20 years since the famous Beijing Platform for Action. If you’re not up on your UN history, that was where Hillary Clinton famously said “women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights” in 1995.

Here’s a brief look at some of the big improvements that have been made for women since Beijing. There are still major obstacles for women: violence against women is still a pandemic, too few women are in leadership roles and most workplaces don’t make enough accommodations for working mothers, especially in the United States. But there have been some brief glimmers of progress, evidence that when we commit to global action for women, we actually can move the needle toward greater gender equality. Here are some stats that will make your day (according to UN Women website):

1) Education: Since 1995, we’ve reached a point where girls and boys worldwide are enrolling in primary school at almost equal rates. That is a huge step forward. The next step is secondary school, where the gender gap widens again.

2) Maternal Mortality: In the last 25 years, maternal mortality has dropped by 45%. But there’s still more work to do — 800 women a day die from basic pregnancy complications, mostly in the developing world.

3) Water access: Water is an important issue for women, since in many developing countries girls are responsible for fetching water, a task so time-consuming and difficult that it can keep them out of school or put them in danger of being attacked. Between 1990 and 2010, 2 billion people gained access to clean drinking water, relieving the burden of water-fetching from girls. Still, in Sub-Saharan Africa, women spend 16 million hours per day getting water.

4) Leadership: Since 1995, the number of women serving in legislatures has nearly doubled — but that still only translates to 22% of politicians worldwide.

There’s still a lot of work to do, especially when it comes to getting women into leadership roles and stopping violence against women. But the advances in health and education since 1995 have been striking. It means we should take heart — even if there’s a lot more work to do, progress is possible. It’s already happened, and we can make it happen again.

Correction: The original version of this story story misstated the implications of a statistic regarding maternal mortality. It has dropped 45% in the last 25 years.

TIME year of the man

More Sex—and 7 Other Benefits for Men Who Share in the Housework

Getty Images

8 reasons why it's good for men to embrace their inner feminist.

As Sheryl Sandberg likes to say, if a woman can’t find a partner, she should consider another woman—for the sake of equality, of course. Study after study shows that same-sex couples are more egalitarian, meaning they split chores, decisions and finances more evenly than the rest of us.

Us hetero gals aren’t so lucky, at least not yet. While the men in our lives may want to be all 50/50 when it comes to work and chores (and indeed, some of them are) it just doesn’t usually happen that way in practice. Gender roles run deep, and women still do the vast majority of the domestic work.

But if 2014 was the year of the female protagonist, then this will be the year of male feminist as icon. I’m not talking about men marching down Fifth Avenue (though I’d welcome it) but subtly adapting to the way things ought to be: New research shows there are more stay-at-home dads now than ever; and men of all walks are demanding more in the way of work-life balance, even if it means ridicule from their peers (or ignorant talk radio hosts).

Men are suiting up for more than just the rec football league—they’re suiting up in the kitchen. And if they’re cooking, it means they’re probably cleaning too, which would explain why proud fathers and sensitive betas are suddenly dominating the ad world, too. (Swiffer? A guy’s gotta mop the floor. Nissan SUV? It’s for shuttling kids to soccer practice, obviously.)

Now they’re entering the feminist Public Service Announcement circuit, which typically gets very active around this time of year. (It’s Women’s History Month, after all.) There is a new film, The Mask You Live In, that tackles our narrow definitions of masculinity. (It’s available for screenings in schools). There is a three-day conference—the first ever to take on “masculinities studies”— in New York City the first weekend in March. There is a campaign from the United Nations, He for She, to engage men on the topic of gender equality. You may remember the rousing opening speech to the campaign, from non-man but one of that gender’s favorite people, Emma Watson.

And now there is Lean In Together, a partnership between Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s nonprofit, LeanIn.org (where, in full disclosure, I am a contributing editor) and the NBA, to encourage men to support women at home and work. As Sandberg and business professor Adam Grant put it in a New York Times op-ed, the final in a four-part series on women and work, “equality is not a zero-sum game.” In other words: It’s good for men, too.

It’s easy to understand how women benefit from men doing their share both at home and at the office. When men chip in at home, women thrive at work (and feel less resentful and guilty). When men advocate for female colleagues in the office, women rise up. Yet beyond the obvious—that, uh, it’s the right thing to do—how do men benefit from the extra effort?

From raising healthier daughters to more sex at home, here are eight reasons why men supporting women is actually good for men.

1. Sex. You’ll Have More of It.
Call it the economics of choreplay: women are turned on by the idea of a man with his elbows up to suds. Sure, maybe they have a Mr Clean fetish, or maybe they’re just freaking exhausted, and not having to do the dishes for one night might put her in the mood. These days, women are the primary or co-breadwinners in two-thirds of American households, yet only 9% of dual-income marriages share childcare, housework and breadwinning evenly. Which means that when the first shift (work) is over, the second shift (home, dinner, laundry, dishes) begins. Which puts this next statistic into context: When couples share chores and breadwinning more equally, divorce rates go down. Men who share in dishwashing and diaper changing have happier wives, and more stable marriages.

When marriages are happy, couples, ahem, have more sex. So, the laundry: strip down and toss it in.

2. Your Daughters Will Have Higher Self-Esteem.
Engaged fatherhood is good for all kids: tots of more involved dads are better off cognitively, emotionally, socially and, ultimately, educationally and economically. But fathers have a particularly measurable impact on girls, whose self esteem develops —and then often falls—as early as middle school. Daughters with active fathers have more autonomy. They are more empowered. And if they watch their dad do chores, they’re actually more likely to aim higher. As Sandberg and Grant write, a study by a University of British Columbia psychologist found that when fathers shouldered an equal share of housework, their daughters were less likely to limit their aspirations to stereotypically female occupations (like nurse or teacher). “What mattered most was what fathers did, not what they said; no amount of saying ‘you can do anything’ is as compelling for a daughter as witnessing true partnership between her parents,” they write. For a girl to believe she has the same opportunities as boys, it makes a big difference to see Dad doing the dishes.”

3. You’ll Breed Feminist Sons.
And that will start the cycle over, as studies have found that boys who grow up in more equal homes are more likely to create equal homes as adults. As Sandberg and Grant point out, the flip is true too: sons reap rewards when their mothers have meaningful roles at work.

4. You’ll Be Happier.
This one’s for dads: Employed fathers who spend more time at home with their kids actually feel greater job satisfaction and less work-life conflict, according to a recent study. They’re also less likely to consider quitting their jobs.

5. You’ll Live Longer.
Caring for kids has been shown to make men more patient (ha!), empathetic and flexible, as well as lower their rates of substance abuse. Fatherhood has also been linked to lower blood pressure and lower rates of heart disease. But also: there’s longevity, even if you don’t have kids. Studies have found that there’s a longevity boost for men (and women) who provide care and emotional support to their partners.

6. You’ll Be More Successful At Work.
Know this, male bosses: diverse teams perform better. And when it comes to women specifically, here are a few attributes: they put in more effort, stay longer on the job, take fewer unnecessary risks, and collaborate more. (It’s no surprise, perhaps, that successful venture-backed start-ups have more than double the median proportion of female executives to failed ones.) But this isn’t just about women: companies that have family-friendly work environments are actually more productive, and higher employee retention.

7. Your Company Will be More Profitable.
Companies with more women in leadership perform better — full stop. Twenty-five percent of U.S. GDP growth since 1970 is attributed to women entering the paid workforce, and economists estimate that bringing more women into the workforce could raise GDP by 5%.

8. You’ll Get a Free Pass to the Revolution.
And free passes rock.
Jessica Bennett is a contributing columnist at Time.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. She writes regularly for the New York Times and is a contributing editor on special projects for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s nonprofit, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

TIME Emma Watson

Emma Watson Wants to Know How You’re Advancing Gender Equality

Yes, you

In honor of International Women’s Day, actress and U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson is taking part in a Q&A session Sunday about achieving gender equality around the world.

She’d like you to be there too: on Monday, Watson asked her London-area fans to describe, in 500 words or less, the work they’ve done to promote gender equality or their experience with inequality, for a chance to attend the event in person. The submission deadline has since closed, but the whole thing will be live streamed on Facebook for anyone who didn’t make the cut.

MONEY women at work

Did Warren Buffett Just Mansplain Politics to Elizabeth Warren?

150302_INV_BuffettMansplains
Nati Harnik—AP Berkshire Hathaway Chairman and CEO Warren Buffett

There's plenty of reason to be mad at Wall Street, but dismissing women as angry is too common. And it hurts them at work.

“I think she would do better if she were less angry and demonized less.”

Aargh.

That’s Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, on Senator Elizabeth Warren and her campaign to regulate Wall Street.

During his interview Monday on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,” Buffett went on to comment on today’s political climate, noting that doing something is better than doing nothing, and that being too hard on people who disagree with you might not be the best way to get something done. “I believe in ‘hate the sin and love the sinner,'” he said.

Now, let’s set aside that his comments implicitly dismiss Senator Warren’s substantive criticisms of Wall Street. And that anger is arguably an appropriate response to much of the shenanigans leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.

Let’s even acknowledge that Buffett makes a fair point: Compromise is good.

But the reason Buffett’s statement induced cringes across the internet has less to do with his plea for political compromise and everything to do with the language he used to describe Senator Warren’s political approach. For women in the workplace and in the public sphere, passion and persistence are too often dismissed as anger and pushiness. And this tendency has a real impact on their careers.

A recent analysis of performance reviews in the tech industry found that 58.9% of the reviews received by men contained critical feedback, while a much higher 87.9% of the reviews received by women did. Women are also more likely to receive personality feedback along with comments on their professional performance. And that feedback was often found to include words like bossy and abrasive when commenting on leadership skills, and emotional or irrational when discussing any objections they make.

Gender bias in language is not new or mind-blowing information. But it does represent a deeply entrenched idea of how women should express opinions or dissatisfaction, lead a team, or even teach a class. Ben Schmidt, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern University, created an interactive tool that analyzes 14 million teacher reviews on the professor ranking site RateMyProfessors.com. Users can type in a one or two-word phrase and see how the term is split between gender and academic discipline. Go ahead and type “bossy,” “annoying” or “pushy” into the box, and watch what happens to the female-designated orange dots. (Hint: They aren’t randomly distributed.)

Sure, Buffett’s remarks were off the cuff, but these are slips that women in the workplace hear too often. And we can’t help but wonder: If Senator Warren were a man, would her approach be characterized as assertive rather than angry, and persistent rather than pushy?

It’s worth noting that Buffett is supporting the presidential ambitions of Hillary Clinton, who’s been on the receiving end of many of these same loaded adjectives. His recent $25,000 donation to “Ready for Hillary” is the first time he’s aligned himself with an independent political group. Which is not to suggest that the Oracle of Omaha is a flagrant chauvinist, or opposed to women gaining positions of power.

Still, inadvertent sexism is, at the end of the day, still sexism. Just ask Twitter:

 

MONEY Love and Money

What Fifty Shades Gets Wrong About Money and Sex

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
Chuck Zlotnick—Focus Features/Courtesy Everett Collection

The hit novel turned film suggests wealth makes men sexy to women. That's misleading.

Does money make men more attractive to women? On the surface, both popular culture and social science research seem to say yes.

You can’t take a step into the academic literature without tripping over a study showing that women place higher value than men on a partner’s wealth, that women are more attracted to men with nice cars, or that women orgasm more with rich partners.

The standard social science explanation for this phenomenon gets expressed in evolutionary terms: Because impregnating as many women as possible gives a man’s genes an evolutionary advantage, men are more superficial and promiscuous. Conversely, because of the time and energy required for a single pregnancy, women are choosier and more preoccupied with finding a mate rich with resources to provide for offspring. Or, at least, that’s the theory.

The success of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise certainly does little to dispel all this. The story—for those living under a rock—details the sexual awakening of a young woman seduced by a billionaire, whose physical attractiveness is matched only by his fleet of luxury cars, helicopter, penthouse apartment, and cushy CEO job running his own company. In other words, as author E.L. James has put it, Christian Grey is “every woman’s dream.”

“He’s very good looking, he’s very good at sex, he’s disgustingly rich,” she told TIME.

To be fair, it’s intuitive that a partner with means is more desirable than one without, all else being equal. A recent poll found that 78% of coupled Americans of both sexes say they’d prefer a partner who is good with money over one who’s physically attractive. And if you are a man who feels pressure to impress women with your money, or a woman who felt titillated reading about Christian Grey’s alpha status, you probably buy into the theory without even realizing it.

But as it turns out, this popular narrative about men, women, sex, and money isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

A recent study has found that the common depiction of women primarily seeking out rich and powerful men (and men seeking out young and attractive women) is fairly uncommon in practice and—crucially—doesn’t reflect the reality of successful relationships or what actually makes people happy.

The research, by University of Notre Dame sociologist Elizabeth McClintock, has found that gender differences more or less disappear when you discard self-reported attraction scores and instead examine how real couples pursue one another, date, and settle down. In reality, rich women are just as likely as rich men to use their status to snag a more-attractive mate. And across the board, relationships in which people are essentially trading status for sex tend to be uncommon and short-lived.

Instead, McClintock found that the biggest force that predicts a successful match between people is actually how well all of your qualities match up. That means, for example, that people of similar physical appeal tend to pair off, and those with comparable educations and financial means are drawn together.

What’s perhaps counterintuitive, then, is that a woman seeking a rich man is actually better off getting herself a raise than a makeover. Likewise, a man seeking an attractive lady will see higher returns investing in a gym membership than a brokerage account.

So why does the tale of the rich, experienced man seducing the pretty ingenue persist in popular imagination, not to mention the academic literature? McClintock found that many existing studies took for granted the very gender roles they were supposed to be measuring, examining only women’s attractiveness and men’s status or money, while ignoring men’s appearance and the wealth and education of women.

As Northwestern University psychologist Eli Finkel told New York magazine: “Scientists are humans, too, and we can be inadvertently blinded by beliefs about how the world works.”

Indeed, we’re all better off disposing of our blindfolds—even if they’re made of the finest satin.

 

TIME career

IMF Chief Christine Lagarde: Female Equality Laws Are Good For the Economy

BELGIUM-GREECE-EU-EUROGROUP-FINANCE
JOHN THYS—AFP/Getty Images International Monetary Fund Managing Director Christine Lagarde gives a joint press after an Eurogroup Council meeting on February 20, 2015 at EU Headquarters in Brussels. ( JOHN THYS--AFP/Getty Images)

Notes GDPs would increase dramatically if laws changed to make it easier for women to work

International Monetary Fund Chief Christine Lagarde has some good news for economies in the developing world: in one step, they can boost their GDPs up by up to 30 percent. All they have to do is let women into the workforce.

In an article posted Monday on the IMF’s blog, Lagarde discusses a new study that found that over 90% of countries worldwide have some kind of legal restrictions that keep women from working, getting loans, or owning property. Women make up 40% of the global workforce, but in some regions they’re vastly underrepresented– only 21% of women in the Middle East and North Africa work outside the home.

Lagarde says that fixing the laws that keep women from fully participating in the economy could boost GDPs– by a lot. Getting women equally represented int the workforce would amount to a 9% increase in Japan’s GDP, a 12% increase in the United Arab Emirates, and a 34% increase in Egypt. In the US, our GDP would increase by 5% if we made it easier for women to participate in the economy.

Changing the laws is only the first step– Lagarde also notes that childcare and maternity leave benefits also play a major role in whether and how women work outside the home. Currently, the US is one of few developed countries that offers no guaranteed maternity leave, and the IMF study found that in 2009, the U.S. spent only 1.2% of our GDP on family benefits– less than any other developed country. Oh great.

TIME Television

Marisa Tomei to Play Gloria Steinem in HBO Miniseries

US-ENTERTAINMENT-FILM-OSCARS
Adrian Sanchez-Gonzalez—AFP/Getty Images Marisa Tomei arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party in Beverly Hills on Feb. 22, 2015

Steinem will consult on the project, which George Clooney is producing

Oscar-winning actress Marisa Tomei will play the renowned feminist writer and activist Gloria Steinem in an upcoming HBO miniseries.

The series, called Ms., will focus on the creation of Ms. magazine in 1971 and the feminist movement of the 1960s and ’70s, the Wrap reports. Steinem herself will consult on the project, and Kathy Najimy will co-star. Bruce Cohen, George Clooney and Grant Heslov will executive-produce alongside Najimy and Tomei.

Tomei, who won an Oscar for her role in My Cousin Vinny, previously worked with Clooney and his producing partner Heslov on the 2011 drama The Ides of March. She recently inked a development deal with HBO.

[The Wrap]

TIME feminism

The Failure of Corner Office Feminism

Jennifer Moses is a writer and painter.

The Sheryl Sandbergs of the world want us to 'Lean In,' but many women are still struggling just to get in the game.

Let the hate mail begin: I don’t like what feminism has become.

While I think the movement has swept me and most of my peers out of our mothers’ more narrow confines and into the broader world with spectacular, hands-down success, I hate what it has come to. Which is, as far as I can tell, a bunch of women at the top of the heap talking about why things are no fair in the uppermost stratospheres of professional success.

Because this is, comically, what popular feminist discourse, the stuff that comes to the rest of us via magazines and websites and heavily-publicized books, has come to. It’s no fair! I’m thinking in particular of Anne-Marie Slaughter’s “Why Women Still Can’t Have it All” in The Atlantic, Naomi Wolf’s Vagina: A New Biography, and another article in The Atlantic that argues that hooking up is “an engine of female progress.” Most recently, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s best-selling Lean In urged women to take the bull by the horns at work, full-speed ahead, no stopping until you reach the pinnacle, gals!

It’s true that things still aren’t fair—just ask your average working mother, not to mention single mother, not to mention the woman who’s working two jobs to pay the rent and put food on the table. But things tend to be pretty rosy for the women who occupy corner offices at various corporate law firms, medical practices, pharmaceutical giants, petrochemical plants, Hollywood entertainment shops, state governments, state departments, universities, and banks. But all we hear about are how rotten things are for professionally successful women who, on top of being a minority in the board room, still have to deal with overbearing men talking down to them, cutting them off mid-conversation, or, God forbid, complimenting their appearance.

There’s also the little matter of the help. You know, those kindly women, usually with skin darker than your average Scots-Irish, who do the dishes and the laundry and take the little ones off to nursery school. Who’s looking out for them? Not to mention that, even with two working parents sharing the housework and childcare, there’s only so much time, energy, and most of all, extra cash to go around. In other words, how many women other than those at the top can afford help to begin with?

Our current economy rewards the highly educated, the highly placed, the highly connected, the highly ruthless and the highly motivated, while spitting out pretty much everyone else, men as well as women, including people who may have graduated from Ivy League schools but still aren’t quite up to the challenges of working endless hours in order to achieve someone else’s idea of success.

It’s no coincidence that back in the 1960s when the feminist movement focused on equal opportunity in education, the professions, and the world at large, the economy was roaring along—underpinned by a tax code that demanded that the luckiest and richest among us pay taxes in accordance with their incomes—creating in turn a national demand for a shot at all those goodies. These ideas seeped into American society at the exact same time that reliable birth control, in the form of the Pill (introduced in 1960), came along, allowing great swaths of women, for the first time in human history, to go all the way without worrying about getting knocked up. This was the movement that swept me, and most of my female peers, not only into rewarding work but more profoundly into the understanding that the world was as wide-open to us as it was to the young men in our bio and Shakespeare classes.

But today, when girls as young as 12 are fully versed in the various forms of birth control, feminists don’t seem to speak for anyone other than themselves—or at least the loudest voices don’t. For example, where were the loudest voices—Sheryl Sandberg comes to mind—when, in recent years, Planned Parenthood has had its funding slashed again and again, thereby depriving countless thousands of poor women not only access to reliable birth control, but to Pap smears as well? In Texas alone, more than 60 clinics serving mainly poor and minority women have been closed for lack of funding.

It would be nice if today’s feminist banner-wavers would focus more on things like restoring funding to family planning clinics and breast-cancer screening for the poor, classes in childhood and maternal nutrition, jobs skills, and accounting, and less on, for example, why there aren’t enough women law professors being cited in legal publications. And while they’re at it, it wouldn’t hurt if those who fly the feminist banner stopped degrading women who decide that they’d rather stay home with their kids and drive carpools after all.

Turn back the clock on women’s rights? Not in a million years. Equal pay for equal work; equal access to health, education, property and opportunity; the right to choose to bear children or not, and to appear in the world without being harassed, sexually intimidated, or otherwise used as objects of male lust or power? Yes, yes, yes, and a resounding yes. I’m not suggesting for even a nanosecond that it’s okay to pay a woman a penny less than her male counterpart, or that she should have to put up with even the smallest amount of sexual harassment in the workplace. But to return feminism to its days as a generator of social justice? For that, we women—and men—need to refocus on those who really need help: the barely-middle-class, the working poor, the destitute, the impoverished, and the millions upon millions of women in the Middle East and Africa and Central America who are regularly denied education, sold into marriage or prostitution, trapped in violence, mutilated, humiliated, violated, and worse.

In the meantime, sisters of the corner office, get a grip.

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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