TIME Sexual Assault

1 in 5: Debating the Most Controversial Sexual Assault Statistic 

Independent Womens Forum Rape
Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women's Forum, speaks at an Independent Women's Forum panel discussion at the Fund for American Studies in Washington on June 26, 2014. Amber Schwartz

Does America really have a "rape culture"?

A conservative women’s group is trying to debunk the claim that one in five women is a victim of sexual assault in college.

The startling one-in-five statistic has become a rallying cry for campus judicial reform and entered the public lexicon through widespread dissemination by the media and the Obama Administration. Obama created a White House task force on campus sexual assault earlier this year, and Congress is currently considering proposals to combat sexual violence on campus.

At a Senate hearing Thursday, the one-in-five statistic was invoked in opening statements. Catherine Lhamon, assistant secretary of education for civil rights, said that “sexual violence is pervasive” on many college campuses and James Moore, compliance manager in the Clery Act Compliance Division of the Education Department, said we are experiencing a “crisis of sexual assault” on campus. (The Clery Act, passed in 1990, requires colleges and universities to publish annual reports on security and crime statistics, as well as publish information about sexual assault policies and programs.)

But the Independent Women’s Forum, based in Washington, D.C., hosted a panel Thursday for about 100 people at The Fund for American Studies that questioned the validity of one-in-five figure.

“I do not believe that the one in five statistic is trustworthy,” said Christina Hoff Sommers, self-titled “factual feminist” and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. “Inflated statistics lead to ineffective policies. Worse than that, they can breed panic and overreaction, and that’s what I think we have right now. I believe that the rape culture movement is fueled by exaggerated claims of victimization.”

Is it exaggerated? The oft-touted statistic comes from a 2007 Campus Sexual Assault Study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Justice. The study was a Web-based survey circulated to a random sample of 5,446 undergraduate women at two major public universities. The survey found that 19% of the female respondents had experienced completed or attempted sexual assault since entering college.

Yet the survey response rate was 42.2% and 42.8% at the two universities, and Sommers believes the fact that less than half the women chose to respond to the survey points to a troubling selection bias in the respondents. “The people who feel the most strongly about the survey, for whatever reason, are the most likely to respond,” she said.

Sommers and other members of the IWF panel also question the ways this study defined sexual assault. In the executive summary of the 2007 study, the researchers wrote, “Legal definitions of sexual assault factor in one’s ability to provide consent, and individuals who are incapacitated because of the effects of alcohol or drugs… are incapable of consenting.”

In other words, this survey classified sexual encounters that occurred while the woman was intoxicated as a form of sexual assault, regardless of whether the perpetrator was responsible for her intoxication or she consumed the substances on her own. “I can imagine many cases where someone was incapacitated, unconscious: could not consent,” said Sommers. “But there are other cases where it can be quite debatable.”

“Proponents [of the 1/5 statistic] are exaggerating the threat, too often confusing regretful sexual decisions made while under the influence of alcohol or drugs with actual rape,” Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of IWF, wrote in a statement circulated before the panel.

“If sexual intimacy under the influence of alcohol is by definition assault, then I would say a significant percentage of sexual intercourse throughout the world and down the ages would qualify as a crime,” Sommers said. (Sommers wrote an article for TIME in May 2014 about the “panic” she sees surrounding this issue.)

Cathy Young, columnist for Newsday and contributing editor at Reason magazine, believes that conflating drunken sex with more serious assaults undermines the gravity of the issue: “This is trivializing to the experience of women who unfortunately have had the experience of being violently raped,” she said.

Instead of one in five, Sommers believes the real number is closer to one in forty. In 2005, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a report called “Violent Victimizations of College Students, 1995-2002,” with a section specifically dealing with sexual assault. This study also has an expansive definition of sexual assault (“Sexual assaults may or may not involve force and include such things as grabbing or fondling. Sexual assault also includes verbal threats”), but does not have the same restrictive view of alcohol as the Campus Sexual Assault survey. “They made it clear they were asking about a serious violation,” Sommers said.

The response rate for this survey was 80% to 88%; double that of the 2007 survey, and the results showed an annual rate of sexual assault against female students to be six per one thousand, which translates to about one in forty over four years. This means that 2.5% of women are sexually assaulted in college, not 20%. It is worth pointing out that the figures in the Bureau of Judicial Statistics survey are at least 12 years old.

“Sexual assault on campus is a genuine problem,” said Sommers. “But to get smart solutions, inflated statistics are not the answer.”

But whether the statistic is one in five, one in forty, or somewhere in between, Andrea Bottner, former director of the Office of International Women’s Issues in the George W. Bush administration, believes that those aren’t the numbers we should be worried about.

“One in five does not bother me too much as a statistic,” she said. “Frankly, I think it’s the wrong statistic to be focused upon. The number that comes to my mind is sixty percent. About sixty percent of rapes in this country are never reported… To me, every time a victim comes forward, I imagine two more next to him or her who don’t. Those are the people we need to reach.”

TIME Television

Whitney Cummings: “Crazy” Is the “New C-Word”

Whitney Cummings
Comedy Central

The comedian's new stand-up special premieres June 28 on Comedy Central

The fictional characters created by comedian Whitney Cummings — whether on CBS’s 2 Broke Girls or NBC’s Whitney — tend to struggle when it comes to love. But the real-life Cummings is eager to say “I love you,” at least in the title of her new one-hour stand-up special, which premieres June 28 on Comedy Central. Here, she talks to TIME about the special, her changing attitudes toward marriage, why she thinks feminism has won and how women being called “crazy” inspired her work:

TIME: Let’s talk about the title, “Whitney Cummings: I Love You.” Is it “I love you, says Whitney Cummings,” or “I love you, Whitney Cummings”?

Cummings: At the end of every show I always say ‘Thank you, I love you’ and so my director was like, Why don’t you call it that?

And with any luck people will say “I love you too.”

Exactly. The nice thing about saying “I love you” is usually someone feels obligated to say it back. People think comedians are sociopathic robots yelling at a crowd. In reality we love you and want you to love us back.

Speaking of love, I saw on Instagram that you got ordained as a minister.

The plot twists in life! I think the big theme of this phase of being a stand-up is that I thought I knew everything in my 20s. In your 30s, all of the sudden you realize you know nothing. The ironic twist is that a friend asked me to officiate her wedding, whereas my whole first special and the TV show I did at NBC were all about how I didn’t believe in marriage.

Has the wedding already happened?

No, it’s in August. I consider myself pretty good at public speaking. Like, I kind of do this for a living. But I’m so nervous.

What about?

The pressure is just so intense to do justice to this moment. If I worked half as hard on my career as I did on this wedding-officiating, I’d probably have accomplished all my goals by now.

A lot of the material in this special is about the differences between men and women.

When you say that I kind of cringe a little bit, because that’s such a fraught territory.

I don’t mean necessarily biological differences…

As a comedian, the edge is my comfort zone. What makes people uncomfortable? What’s the elephant in the room? What are we all struggling with but nobody has the courage to admit? What’s the truth, basically? But when you start saying men and women are different, people get weird. I think feminism has done its job and now you can’t imply that women and men aren’t capable of the same things.

You’re not allowed to say that women are more emotional. That pisses me off when somebody says that. I don’t want someone implying that I’m weak in any way. I didn’t cry until I was 28, you know? It’s made me feel like I have to be so strong and tough all the time. I think that’s caused me a lot of struggle in terms of what I’ve expected to be versus what seriously biologically is going on with me. That was something I wanted to get into. I wanted to play around with the idea of giving women permission to be sensitive again.

It does seem like a lot of differences are from cultural expectations, like what you say in the special about how long it takes women to get ready to go out.

I got to the point where I was like, “No wonder women aren’t achieving as much as men. We have three less hours a day.” When I did the TV show with my male co-star, my call time was 5 a.m. and his was 8! I had to do make-up for three hours. I just started getting so frustrated with the fact that I had to have someone else’s hair snapped into my head every morning. Guys get so mad that I’m taking too long in the bathroom and it’s like, “I’m doing this for you!” I’m not saying I have the power to change it or I’m going to start some revolution. Just be a little nicer to me. Just be a little patient. I can’t feel my feet, I have blisters, I have a string up my butt, I just spent three hours putting pencils in my eyes to try to fit this standard of beauty.

I really think the special was driven by the rage I felt when people call women “crazy.” That really, to me, is like the new c-word. It’s just so dismissive and frustrating and such an ignorant thing to call someone. To me it was like, “Ok, you think we’re crazy, here’s all the things that go into this.”

How so?

We can do all the same stuff with all these insane obstacles and 2 hours less of sleep and the added obstacles of being more sensitive and feeling five different emotions at once. It’s gotten to the point where I feel like we’re allowed to say “uncle.”

The digital album of Cummings’ special is available July 1.

TIME

Women Lose the News: What Diane Sawyer Stepping Down Means

The News Sorority, by Sheila Weller
The News Sorority, by Sheila Weller

Just 4 years ago, women occupied half the top news-anchor slots. When Diane Sawyer gives up her post in August, we're back to zero

Call me a feminist sentimentalist. After spending the first of what would be four years researching the ascent to TV news superstardom of Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric and Christiane Amanpour for my forthcoming book, The News Sorority, and discovering what these women were initially up against, I felt, in March 2010, like a hiker who’d vicariously reached a happy summit. Who’d have thunk it: Two out of the three 6:30 network solo anchors and one out of three Sunday news round-up anchors were female.

Three out of six. Half.

Five years before that, zero women had ever been in those roles. In early 2010, Christiane Amanpour had just been appointed the first female solo anchor of a modern network Sunday talk show (This Week). Katie Couric had been at CBS Evening News since September 2006, the first-ever 6:30 PM female solo anchor. After a rocky start modernizing the classic, if not ossified, format, Katie eventually earned respect – and affected the outcome of a Presidential election with her masterful 2008 interviews of Sarah Palin.

When Diane Sawyer rose to the anchor desk at ABC World News at the tail-end of 2009, it was the smoothest of the three ascendancies. The tone she set — serious and dignified but empathic; unerringly hard-news-minded yet wisely reflecting a sense of heartland America’s bread-and-butter concerns — is the one she has carried on since. Her ascendance didn’t say: NEWS FLASH! FEMALE PERSON IN CHAIR! She was just what the doctor ordered for relatively conservative 6:30 PM.

When ABC first announced that she’d take over from Charlie Gibson, World News’s producer Jon Banner said, “There was nobody more qualified to step into that chair, and in some cases she was [also] probably more qualified years beforehand.” Sawyer, a famously hard-working perfectionist throughout her then-28-year-long national network career had seemed, to many media watchers, an even more obvious choice than Gibson, when he snared the post in 2006.

And when she left behind her ten-year tenure at Good Morning, America, Diane attacked the task with head-spinning vigor and variety: flying to Copenhagen to interview Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; then back to New York to open her broadcast with news of a Christmas “miracle” of community do-gooding at a Vermont church; then off to Afghanistan, a foray she interrupted to take three planes and a tiny helicopter to Haiti when the earthquake struck. (With no hotels available, she and her crew slept in a baggage cart that first night.) All this was in her first three weeks as anchor. The gauntlet she threw down — to always be on top of the news, wherever it was — was something she never let up.

But things changed from that heady moment in early 2010. In a decision that was not hers, Katie left CBS Evening News in May 2011. Christiane’s imminent dismissal from This Week was announced seven months later. (She was warmly welcomed “home” to CNN, but to a less visible position to U.S. viewers than she’d previously occupied.)

Diane was the last woman standing.

And stand she did — strong and tall. She alternated her calm, exacting hard-news reporting with her public-service-mission’d “Made In America.” She was the only anchor to travel to still-endangered Japan when the earthquake and tsunami struck. And—possibly most meaningful to the social-issues reporter she had become in the ’90s at PrimeTime, and to the Methodist Youth Association Diane from Louisville her best friends know — she did a series of award-winning specials on endangered children: in Camden, New Jersey; on a South Dakota Indian reservation; in gang-saturated Chicago; and in the Appalachia of her parents’ hardscrabble childhoods.

But her news program consistently lagged behind NBC’s Nightly News with Brian Williams. When CBS Evening News enjoyed a ratings uptick after Katie was replaced by Scott Pelley, a phrase that had been whispered during Katie’s years at CBS was uttered full-volume: 6:30 viewers would watch “any white man in a chair” before they’d watch a woman.

I started hearing that Diane would be eased out and replaced by the less expensive David Muir two years ago.

Last summer, exciting news appeared in the New York Times.: “…World News with Diane Sawyer bested NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams among 25-to-54-year-old-viewers last week, ending [Williams' and NBC's] winning streak of almost five years.” But the article dropped a second shoe with an ironic thud: “The victory was shared by Ms. Sawyer and one of her regular fill-ins, David Muir… because [emphasis is mine] Mr. Muir substituted for Ms. Sawyer…the same three nights…that ABC beat NBC in the all-important demographic.

This month, Diane Sawyer and ABC World News again eclipsed NBC and Williams in that prized demographic. Yet yesterday ABC announced that Diane will step down as anchor in August, to be replaced by Muir, with George Stephanopoulos lead-anchoring on election nights. (Small pause to enjoy the fact that two men have to do the job Diane did by herself.)

Diane will continue her specials, like the sit-down she had with Hillary Clinton recently, and her social-issues pieces. With Barbara Walters retired, she’ll have a whole ABC-wide field all to herself.

So, rationally, there’s no reason to mourn this news, nor to disbelieve the long-heard buzz that Jean Sawyer Hayes’s and Mike Nichols’ vulnerable health are reasons she might want to take things easier — anyone who knows Diane knows how crucial both her husband and her mother are to her.

But still. In March 2010, three out of six.

Now, August 2014, back to zero.

From the Medieval days of town criers to Walter Cronkite’s dabbed tear at John F. Kennedy’s death to the horrendous morning of September 11, 2001, the deliverer of our news has filled an irreplaceable role, as one who unites us. Let’s not hope for any more crises, but let’s remember that on September 11 it was largely two women — Diane and Katie — who rigorously, compassionately gave us the shocking news as it unfolded. In these days when our country sorely needs some unity, it would be nice and maybe even necessary to have a female sensibility— a woman— in that role again.

UPDATE: A friend at ABC says of the reason for Diane’s stepping down: “She wants the flexibility to tackle big projects full-time. So it’s not true that this is about anything else. Mike is great and starting a new project. Her mom is fine.”

Sheila Weller is a contributor to Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, and Glamour, and the author of the New York Times bestseller Girls Like Us. Her forthcoming book, The News Sorority: Diane Sawyer, Katie Couric, Christiane Amanpour—and the (Ongoing, Imperfect, Complicated) Triumph of Women in TV News, will be published in September by The Penguin Press.

TIME society

The Surprising Truth About Women and Violence

France v United States
Goalkeeper Hope Solo takes her position in goal during the second half of a women's friendly soccer match against France on June 14, 2014 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Brian Blanco—Getty Images

Traditional stereotypes have led to double standards that often cause women’s violence—especially against men—to be trivialized.

The arrest of an Olympic gold medalist on charges of domestic violence would normally be an occasion for a soul-searching conversation about machismo in sports, toxic masculinity and violence against women. But not when the alleged offender is a woman: 32-year-old Hope Solo, goalkeeper of the U.S. women’s soccer team, who is facing charges of assaulting her sister and 17-year-old nephew in a drunken, violent outburst. While the outcome of the case is far from clear, this is an occasion for conversation about a rarely acknowledged fact: family violence is not necessarily a gender issue, and women—like singer Beyoncé Knowles’ sister Solange, who attacked her brother-in-law, the rapper Jay Z, in a notorious recent incident caught on video—are not always its innocent victims.

Male violence against women and girls has been the focus of heightened attention since Eliot Rodger’s horrific rampage in California last month, driven at least partly by his rage at women. Many people argue that even far less extreme forms of gender-related violence are both a product and a weapon of deeply ingrained cultural misogyny. Meanwhile, the men’s rights activists also brought into the spotlight by Rodger’s killing spree defend another perspective—one that, in this case, is backed by a surprising amount of evidence from both research and current events: that violence is best understood as a human problem whose gender dynamics are much more complex than commonly understood.

There is little dispute that men commit far more violent acts than women. According to FBI data on crime in the U.S., they account for some 90% of known murderers. And a study published in American Society of Criminology finds that men account for nearly 80% of all violent offenders reported in crime surveys, despite a substantial narrowing of the gap since the 1970s. But, whatever explains the higher levels of male violence—biology, culture or both—the indisputable fact is that it’s directed primarily at other males: in 2010, men were the victims in almost four out of five homicides and almost two-thirds of robberies and non-domestic aggravated assaults. Family and intimate relationships—the one area feminists often identify as a key battleground in the war on women—are also an area in which women are most likely to be violent, and not just in response to male aggression but toward children, elders, female relatives or partners, and non-violent men, according to a study published in the Journal of Family Violence.

Last April, when Connecticut high school student Maren Sanchez was stabbed to death by her a classmate allegedly because she refused to go to the prom with him, feminist writer Soraya Chemaly asserted that such tragedies were the result of “pervasive, violently maintained, gender hierarchy,” male entitlement, and societal “contempt for the lives of girls and women.” But what, then, explains another stabbing death in Connecticut two months earlier—that of 25-year-old David Vazquez, whose girlfriend reportedly shouted, “If I can’t have you, no one can!” before plunging a knife into his chest shortly after Vazquez said he was leaving her for a former girlfriend? Or the actions of a 22-year-old former student at New York’s Hofstra University who pleaded guilty last November to killing her boyfriend by deliberately hitting him with her car due to a dispute about another woman? Or the actions of the Florida woman who killed her ex-partner’s 2-year-old daughter and tried to kill the woman’s 10-year-old son last month shortly after their breakup?

Research showing that women are often aggressors in domestic violence has been causing controversy for almost 40 years, ever since the 1975 National Family Violence Survey by sociologists Murray Straus and Richard Gelles of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire found that women were just as likely as men to report hitting a spouse and men were just as likely as women to report getting hit. The researchers initially assumed that, at least in cases of mutual violence, the women were defending themselves or retaliating. But when subsequent surveys asked who struck first, it turned out that women were as likely as men to initiate violence—a finding confirmed by more than 200 studies of intimate violence. In a 2010 review essay in the journal Partner Abuse, Straus concludes that women’s motives for domestic violence are often similar to men’s, ranging from anger to coercive control.

Critics have argued that the survey format used in most family violence studies, the Conflict Tactics Scale, is flawed and likely to miss some of the worst assaults on women—especially post-separation attacks. Yet two major studies using a different methodology—the 2000 National Violence Against Women Survey by the National Institute of Justice and the Centers for Disease Control National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey published last February—have also found that some 40% of those reporting serious partner violence in the past year are men. (Both studies show a much larger gender gap in lifetime reports of partner violence; one possible explanation for this discrepancy is that men may be more likely to let such experiences fade from memory over time since they have less cultural support for seeing themselves as victims, particularly of female violence.)

Violence by women causes less harm due to obvious differences in size and strength, but it is by no means harmless. Women may use weapons, from knives to household objects—including highly dangerous ones such as boiling water—to neutralize their disadvantage, and men may be held back by cultural prohibitions on using force toward a woman even in self-defense. In his 2010 review, Straus concludes that in various studies, men account for 12% to 40% of those injured in heterosexual couple violence. Men also make up about 30% of intimate homicide victims—not counting cases in which women kill in self-defense. And women are at least as likely as men to kill their children—more so if one counts killings of newborns—and account for more than half of child maltreatment perpetrators.

What about same-sex violence? The February CDC study found that, over their lifetime, 44% of lesbians had been physically assaulted by a partner (more than two-thirds of them only by women), compared to 35% of straight women, 26% of gay men, and 29% of straight men. While these figures suggest that women are somewhat less likely than men to commit partner violence, they also show a fairly small gap. The findings are consistent with other evidence that same-sex relationships are no less violent than heterosexual ones.

For the most part, feminists’ reactions to reports of female violence toward men have ranged from dismissal to outright hostility. Straus chronicles a troubling history of attempts to suppress research on the subject, including intimidation of heretical scholars of both sexes and tendentious interpretation of the data to portray women’s violence as defensive. In the early 1990s, when laws mandating arrest in domestic violence resulted in a spike of dual arrests and arrests of women, battered women’s advocates complained that the laws were “backfiring on victims,” claiming that women were being punished for lashing back at their abusers. Several years ago in Maryland, the director and several staffers of a local domestic violence crisis center walked out of a meeting in protest of the showing of a news segment about male victims of family violence. Women who have written about female violence, such as Patricia Pearson, author of the 1997 book When She Was Bad: Violent Women and the Myth of Innocence, have often been accused of colluding with an anti-female backlash.

But this woman-as-victim bias is at odds with the feminist emphasis on equality of the sexes. If we want our culture to recognize women’s capacity for leadership and competition, it is hypocritical to deny or downplay women’s capacity for aggression and even evil. We cannot argue that biology should not keep women from being soldiers while treating women as fragile and harmless in domestic battles. Traditional stereotypes both of female weakness and female innocence have led to double standards that often cause women’s violence—especially against men—to be trivialized, excused, or even (like Solange’s assault on Jay Z) treated as humorous. Today, simplistic feminist assumptions about male power and female oppression effectively perpetuate those stereotypes. It is time to see women as fully human—which includes the dark side of humanity.

Cathy Young is a contributing editor at Reason magazine.

TIME foreign affairs

Afghanistan’s Success Will Be Measured By Women’s Progress

Afghans Head To The Polls In Preseidential Run-Off
An Afghan woman casts her ballot during the second round for presidential election at a polling station in Kabul, Afghanistan, on June 14, 2014. Majid Saeedi—Getty Images

Inclusion of women in society indicates stability, and a stable Afghanistan will lead to greater international security.

While we were meeting with women journalists in Afghanistan this past May, another group of Afghan women journalists were in Washington, D.C., meeting with congressional staff members. The overlap was coincidental, but both groups of Afghan women recounted similar stories of their growing role in Afghan media and, more importantly, the fight for Afghanistan’s democracy. Reports have illustrated an effort on the part of Afghan journalists to ensure their media is not a platform for promoting Taliban violence.

In both locations, thousands of miles apart, the same theme became clear: Afghan women are fighting for their lives, and they’re using some unconventional tactics. They’re going to school, running for elected office, voting and reporting the news.

We saw many of these women in action during this year’s sixth annual Mother’s Day visit to Afghanistan. We saw young girls being educated. We toured a women’s resource center in Mazar-e Sharif that provides programs for women, such as mental health services. We met with Afghan women Parliamentarians, who passionately asserted their ability to lead. Each of them symbolized the gains made by Afghan women and girls over the past decade

In addition, the first round of Afghan elections in April saw high voter turnout, with a larger than expected portion of that coming from women voters. Reports indicate that the June 14 runoff election had another high voter turnout, even in the face of increased threats of violence.

All of these gains – education, opportunity, voting – may seem commonplace in many countries. In Afghanistan, they are revolutionary. In the very recent past, none of it would have been possible. But these gains are not ironclad and support is needed internally and externally.

Afghanistan is poised for a historic democratic transition of power. While a peaceful transition is the ultimate goal, it cannot be considered fully accomplished without the rights of women at the forefront.

Both presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have pledged support for maintaining women’s progress. When the ultimate victor is announced in late July, we urge whomever it is to make good on that promise. One tangible way to do so is to sign a bilateral security agreement – also something both candidates have voiced support for – that includes significant economic and governmental support for women’s gains.

In the coming months, as Afghanistan seeks to legitimize their election, women’s progress will be a barometer for success.

Responsibility ultimately lies with Afghanistan. The U.S. military withdrawal must be done in a responsible way, transitioning from a combat role to one of training and advisory. There is no doubt, however, that the international community shares a major stake in preventing backsliding in Afghanistan. Preserving Afghan women’s rights is a global issue, with global implications.

Time after time, studies have shown that advancing opportunities for women and girls has a direct positive effect on a nation’s overall economic growth, sustainable development and peace. Inclusion of women in society indicates stability, and a stable Afghanistan will lead to greater international security. Continued non-military support must include the use of resources to maintain and grow the progress made by Afghan women.

We also must remember that gender inequality, violence against women and the need to reverse patriarchal societal mindsets are not unique to Afghanistan. Recent months have seen the kidnapping of more than three hundred girls by an extremist group in Nigeria, mass sexual assault during a rally in Cairo and reports of brutal rape and murder of women in impoverished regions of India. Continued support of Afghan women would be a powerful symbol, an international reaffirmation to human rights the world over. America’s diplomatic efforts in Afghanistan must remain focused on protecting the rights of women and girls.

Afghan women know the fight is far from over. But every time a young girl reads a book in public, a woman walks out of a voting booth or a female journalist pens a story critical of the government, the country continues to move forward – and the rest of the world moves with them.

Rep. Niki Tsongas (D-MA) serves on the House Armed Services Committee and co-chairs the Afghan Women’s Task Force. Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL) has led the Mother’s Day Women’s Congressional Delegation to Afghanistan the last three years. She represents Alabama’s 2nd District, which includes Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base and Fort Rucker. She is a Member of the House Appropriations Committee. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) serves on the House Energy and Commerce Committee and is Chairwoman of the Republican Women’s Policy Committee. She represents the Second District of North Carolina which includes all of Fort Bragg. Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA) is a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee and serves as Ranking Member of the Military Personnel Subcommittee. She represents California’s 53rd Congressional District. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) represents the 17th Congressional District of Illinois and serves on the House Committee on Agriculture and the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

TIME Education

Title lX: How a Good Law Went Terribly Wrong

The landmark legislation was supposed to bring equality, instead it devastated mens' sports on campus

A weary wrestling coach once lamented that his sport had survived the Fall of Rome, only to be vanquished by Title IX. How did an honorable equity law turn into a scorched-earth campaign against men’s sports? This week is the 42nd anniversary of this famous piece of federal legislation so it’s an ideal time to consider what went wrong and how to set it right.

Title IX was signed into law by President Nixon on June 23, 1972. In 37 momentous words, it outlawed gender discrimination in all publicly supported educational programs. Before its passage, many leading universities did not accept women and law schools and medical schools often used quotas to limit female enrollment. As for sports, female student athletes were rare — and received precious little support from college athletic programs. The logic behind Title IX is the same as that behind all great civil rights legislation: In our democracy, the government may not play favorites among races or religions or between the sexes. We are all equal before the law — including students in colleges and universities receiving public funds.

Title IX applies to all areas of education but is best known for its influence on sports. Women’s athletics have flourished in recent decades, and Title IX deserves some of the cheers. But something went wrong in the law’s implementation. The original law was about equality of opportunity and indeed forbade quotas or reverse discrimination schemes. But over the years, government officials, college administrators and jurists — spurred on by groups like the National Women’s Law Center and the Women’s Sports Foundation — transformed a fair-minded equity law into just such a quota-driven regime, with destructive results.

Women’s groups strongly object to the “q” word. “Title IX does not in any way require quotas,” says the National Women’s Law Center. “It simply requires that schools allocate participation opportunities non-discriminatorily.” That can mean many things, but in the hands of bureaucrats and advocates, this diffuse requirement somehow came to mean that women are entitled to “statistical proportionality.” That is to say, if a college’s student body is 60% female, then 60% of the athletes should be female — even if far fewer women than men are interested in playing sports at that college.

Title IX defenders will tell you that there are several ways that schools can satisfy the non-discrimination standard other than proportional representation. That is true on paper but false in practice. The regulations are murky and ever-changing, leaving most schools to scramble to the only safe harbor: Proportionality.

Schools have cut back on male teams and created new women’s teams, not because of demand but because they fear federal investigations. Since football is a money-generating male sport with large rosters, Title IX quotas have all but decimated smaller less lucrative sports such as men’s swimming, diving, gymnastics and wrestling. More than 450 wrestling teams vanished since 1972, with only 328 remaining.

Then why not say that men’s sports were a casualty of football rather than Title IX? Because women’s groups have consistently rejected reasonable solutions to the football challenge. College football is qualitatively different from sports like diving, rowing and tennis. It is a mass spectacle, loved by millions of students, and integral to the identity and history of colleges and universities everywhere. It requires a large number of players and has no female counterpart. So why not just take it out of the Title IX mix? That one concession would have saved hundreds of small male teams. But no such concession was offered. Football is not destroying men’s teams; intransigent women’s groups and their “proportionality gap” bear most of the blame.

Look what happened at Howard University in Washington, D.C.: The school’s student body is 67% female, but women constitute only 43% of its athletic program. In 2007, the Women’s Sports Foundation, a powerful Title IX advocacy group, gave Howard an “F” grade because of its 24% “proportionality gap.” Howard had already cut men’s wrestling and baseball and added women’s bowling, but that did little to narrow the gap. Unless it cuts almost half of its current male athletes, Howard will remain under a Title IX cloud and legally vulnerable. The school’s former wrestling coach, Wade Hughes, summed up the problem this way: “The impact of Title IX’s proportionality standard has been disastrous because … far more males than females are seeking to take part in athletics.”

But the Women’s Sports Foundation disagrees. Girls are every bit as interested in sports as boys. According to its Title IX Myths and Facts, “Given equal athletic opportunities, women will rush to fill them; the remaining discrepancies in sports participation rates are the result of continuing discrimination in access to those opportunities.” And many well-meaning judges and government officials have agreed with them.

But there’s overwhelming evidence that women, taken as a group, are less interested than men in competitive sports. In 2012, a group of psychologists analyzed men’s and women’s propensities by looking at how many of them pursue team sports in their leisure time. Intramural sports are recreational games that college students can play just for the love of the sport. The researchers found that only 26% of intramural participants are women. They also studied recreational activity in 41 public parks in four different states. Lots of women were exercising, but only 10% of those playing competitive team sports were women. A 2013 ESPN report on youth sports found that 34% of girls in grades 3-12 say sports is a big part of who they are; for boys the figure is 61%.

No matter how much the Title IX activists and government officials want to pretend otherwise, the sexes are different. Overall, women care far less about athletics, both as participants and spectators. Sports Illustrated for Women, first published in 2000, was marketed to females between the ages of 18 and 34 with a “passion for sports.” The magazine lasted less than two years. The Women’s United Soccer Association and the American Basketball League were supposed to appeal to this same passionate demographic: Both folded after a few seasons. There is no call for magazines such as Vogue, Allure and Cosmopolitan, or websites like Jezebel, to include stories about draft picks, photographs of awesome plays and up-to-date information about fantasy teams and brackets.

Meanwhile, men by the legion (and a small percentage of women) support a vast network of sports magazines, websites, radio shows and fantasy teams. More than half of young men are sports-obsessives, and many would give their right arm to play competitive sports in high school or college — or even to sit on a bench all season with only a remote chance of playing.

“Build it and they will come,” says the National Women’s Law Center. But they don’t come. At least not many. So colleges are going to absurd lengths to achieve gender balance. It is not an easy task when women now far outnumber men on many campuses—thereby raising the proportionality hurdle—yet far fewer of them aspire to play varsity sports. Many schools solve the problem by axing men’s teams or limiting their rosters. Padding the women’s numbers is another common maneuver. As a 2011 story in The New York Times reported, nearly half of the fencers on Cornell’s women’s fencing team were men. Because of some loophole, male practice players counted as women. And, according to the Times, players don’t actually have to play to be counted as members, so at many schools dozens of girls are technically on teams — but never play. Some —like several women that were on the University of South Florida’s cross-country roster — didn’t even know they were listed.

Title-niners treat women’s underrepresentation in sports as an injustice that must be aggressively targeted. But areas where men fall behind raise little concern. They cannot have it both ways. If Howard University’s 24%sports gap (favoring males) warrants federal intervention, then its far more serious 34% attendance gap (favoring females) should warrant a Congressional investigation.

Instead of more investigations, restrictions, closed opportunities, bean counting, number fudging and gender politics, we should follow the advice of the novelist (and former wrestler) John Irving: “Keep Title IX: eliminate proportionality.” I know of no better way to celebrate this intrinsically good law on its 42nd anniversary.

Christina Hoff Sommers is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. She is the author of several books including The War Against Boys and hosts a weekly video blog The Factual Feminist . Follow her @CHSommers

TIME Religion

Activist Who Pushed Mormon Church to Ordain Women Excommunicated

Kate Kelly
Kate Kelly at a vigil in Salt Lake City, June 22, 2014. Rick Bowmer—AP

Convicted of apostasy by all-male jury

Kate Kelly, an activist who agitated for the Mormon church to ordain women, was excommunicated Monday by an all-male panel of judges.

Kelly organized the group Ordain Women in 2013 to demand that the Mormon Church allow women to be priests, and she quickly became the leader of the church feminist movement. She drew national attention for protesting the church’s refusal to ordain women by lining up Mormon women of all ages outside church conferences in Salt Lake City, according to the New York Times.

On Monday, Kelly received an email from Bishop Mark Harrison telling her that an all-male panel of church elders had convicted her of apostasy and voted for her excommunication on Sunday. “Our determination is that you be excommunicated for conduct contrary to the laws and order of the Church,” Bishop Harrison wrote Kelly, according to a statement on Ordain Women’s website.

“The decision to force me outside my congregation and community is exceptionally painful,” Kelly said in a statement. “Today is a tragic day for my family and me as we process the many ways this will impact us, both in this life and in the eternities. I love the gospel and the courage of its people. Don’t leave. Stay, and make things better.”

Kelly was warned in May that she would face church consequences if she did not disaffiliate from Ordain Women and take down the website, but she refused. She chose not to attend the hearing, but sent a letter to the judges asking them to “allow me to continue to worship in peace.”

 

 

TIME Television

Yang Lan, the ‘Oprah of China,’ Expands Her Reach

Yang Lan
Yang Lan at a benefit on May 15, 2013, in New York City. John Lamparski / WireImage / Getty Images

Yang Lan is partnering with MAKERS to bring the women's-stories platform to China

Correction appended June 23, 2014, 4:45 p.m.

Last year, MAKERS — the AOL-owned hub for women telling the history of feminism via their personal stories — made news with a PBS documentary. Now it’s going global.

MAKERS and AOL announced in April that they partnered with Sun Media Group to bring the initiative to China. This weekend, TIME premiered 10 of those stories, about women as diverse as an LGBT rights activist and an expert in traditional Chinese dance.

Though she’s not a subject of one of those videos, there’s one important Chinese woman whose story is in the subtext of all the others. That’s Yang Lan, a woman often referred to as “China’s Oprah.” She’s a co-owner of Sun Media, and serves as Executive Producer for MAKERS China. Though American audiences may be unfamiliar with her, the Oprah comparison doesn’t necessarily go far enough. Her personal and business reach is Oprah-like but on a Chinese-population scale — her own social-media account reaches 50 million people a day — and her TV personality is more in the Barbara Walters mold, with a serious interview show called One-on-One and a The View-style panel show, Her Village, which is also a supersized web platform. The latter reaches 300 million people a month between TV and online content. Her Village‘s website will be the distribution platform for MAKERS China; as a point of comparison, 2.6 million people watched the PBS documentary when it premiered.

“The Chinese Internet is developing at a breathtaking pace,” Lan tells TIME, noting that the urban/rural gap in broadband access has not held true for mobile Internet, with the result that there are more than 600 million mobile Internet users in China, which is about half of the population. “It’s opening a new area for us because we are a private media company while all the TV networks are highly regulated and government-owned. Suddenly the internet gave us this open space to reach our audience directly with no barrier in-between.”

So it’s not just that Internet usage is growing. Lan says that she the foreign fascination with Chinese censorships is fair — it’s a topic that often comes up when she appears in Western media, and she says that the attention is a good thing because it provides an incentive “to move China forward” — but that the full picture of life as a media mogul in China is a lot more nuanced than it might seem. She explains that, for instance, her company produces Her Village but the TV station is government-owned and can just choose not to show something. However, there are different “levels of censorship” and the Internet is more relaxed. “Nowadays for example when some part of my television show cannot be broadcast on television because of the censorship,” she says, “I can get the full version on the Internet.”

Lan’s insight and influence were crucial to helping MAKERS China happen. Exporting the American version with American producers and slotting in Chinese women and Chinese stories wouldn’t be the same thing, says McGee. “That’s a completely different experience from having [Lan's] team make them from a Chinese perspective,” she says. Though she and Lan both stress that MAKERS and MAKERS China share their goals and values — and an emphasis on stories of courage, breaking through, being true to yourself and giving back to the community — there are differences between what the two audiences expect.

Take, for example, “leaning in.” Though it’s still the catchphrase of the moment for a lot of MAKERS-style feminism in the U.S., it doesn’t quite jibe with the Chinese experience. “In the case of Chinese women some of them were pushed in,” Lan explains. “When Mao Zedong said women should work, “holding up half of the sky,” suddenly every woman worked. For my mother’s generation, that was the case. Nowadays it’s all about free choice. What I always try to emphasize is if it’s based on your true love, your true passion, your true talent and your free choice, being a full-time housewife is just as challenging and respectable as being a woman CEO.”

And the number of people poised to hear that message, and the message of MAKERS, is about to get even bigger: Lan tells TIME that she’s expanding Her Village from a weekly TV show to a daily show, and — perhaps more significantly — launching an app version within the next few months.

Correction: The original version of this story misstated the relationship between AOL and MAKERS. AOL owns MAKERS.

TIME feminism

17 Famous Women on What Feminism Means to Them

Thoughts on the other 'F' word from Lena Dunham, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Shailene Woodley, Halle Berry and more

“Are you a feminist?” might be the toughest question a female celebrity has to answer in 2014. Taylor Swift stays clear of the word. Lena Dunham embraces it and Beyonce grew into it. Let’s just say it’s complicated. Come on too strong and a young actress can risk alienating a fan base that isn’t steeped in day-to-day gender issues. Avoid the question and they incur the wrath of the Internet and feminists everywhere. Here’s a look at what some famous women have said about the other “f” word.

 

  • Sinéad O’Connor

    Sinéad O'Connor
    Sinead O'Connor performs on July 27, 2014 in Wiltshire, England. Philip Ryalls—WireImage/Getty Images

    Sinéad doesn’t like any label that ends in -ist, and that includes the f-word, she told The Guardian in July.”I don’t think of myself as being a feminist,” the 47-year-old musician said. “I wouldn’t label myself anything, certainly not something with an ‘ism’ or an ‘ist’ at the end of it. I’m not interested in anything that is in any way excluding of men.”

    The declaration came as a bit of a surprise to some fans, given that O’Connor titled her tenth and most recent album I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss. The hashtag #banbossy campaign was created by Sheryl Sandberg, author of Lean In, and has been supported by fellow self-described feminist Beyoncé.

  • Miley Cyrus

    Miley Cyrus Norway Concert
    Miley Cyrus performs onstage near Oslo, Norway. on May 28, 2014. Bendiksby, Terje/AFP—AFP/Getty Images

    “I feel like I’m one of the biggest feminists in the world because I tell women to not be scared of anything,” the 21-year-old “Wrecking Ball” singer told the BBC last November. “I’m a feminist in the way that I’m really empowering to women,” she said to Cosmopolitan in December 2013. “I’m loud and funny and not typically beautiful.”

  • Beyoncé

    Beyonce Attends Met Gala
    Beyonce attends a Metropolitan Museum of Art Gala in New York on May 5. Dimitrios Kambouris—Getty Images

    Beyoncé was hesitant to describe herself as a feminist to British Vogue in April 2013. “That word can be very extreme,” the 32-year-old said. “But I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality. Why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? Why do you have to label yourself anything? I’m just a woman and I love being a woman.”

    But the singer seems to have come around. Her self-titled December 2013 album features a number of feminist ideas. Her song “Flawless” sandwiches an excerpt from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TEDx talk, “We should all be feminists,” in between lyrics like “I took some time to live my life, but don’t think I’m just his little wife.”

    After the album’s release Beyoncé even wrote a post for the Shriver Report called, “Gender Equality is a Myth!” in January. “We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet,” she wrote.

  • Shailene Woodley

    Shailene Woodley at "The Fault In Our Stars" Premiere
    Shailene Woodley attends "The Fault In Our Stars" premiere in New York City on June 2. Stephen Lovekin—Getty Images

    The 22-year-old Fault in Our Stars actress made waves in May with her response when TIME asked if she considered herself a feminist: “No, because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance…My biggest thing is really sisterhood more than feminism.”

    The Internet was outraged on multiple levels, especially because her response seemed at odds with the strong females characters Woodley has played in movies like Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars.

  • Lana Del Ray

    Lana Del Ray Cinema Against AIDS Event
    Lana Del Rey performs during amfAR's 21st Cinema Against AIDS Gala on May 22 in France. Kevin Tachman/amfAR14—WireImage

    Del Ray went into left field recently when Fader magazine asked her if she was a feminist. “For me, the issue of feminism is just not an interesting concept,” the 27-year-old singer said. “I’m more interested in, you know, SpaceX and Tesla, what’s going to happen with our intergalactic possibilities. Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, god. I’m just not really that interested…My idea of a true feminist is a woman who feels free enough to do whatever she wants.”

  • Lena Dunham

    Lena Dunham 2014 Bookexpo America
    Lena Dunham attends the 2014 Bookexpo America on May 31 in New York City. Steve Sands—WireImage

    “Women saying ‘I’m not a feminist’ is my greatest pet peeve,” said the 28-year-old Girls star and writer in 2013 during an interview with Metro. “Do you believe that women should be paid the same for doing the same jobs? Do you believe that women should be allowed to leave the house? Do you think that women and men both deserve equal rights? Great, then you’re a feminist.”

  • Salma Hayek

    Salma Hayek Cannes Film Festival
    Salma Hayek attends the 67th Annual Cannes Film Festival on May 17 in Cannes, France. Foc Kan—FilmMagic/Getty

    “[Feminism] means being proud of being a woman, and [having] love, respect and admiration and the belief in our strong capacities,” the 47-year-old actress told Stylist in 2012. “I don’t think we are the same, women and men. We’re different. But I don’t think we are less than men. There are more women than men in the world – ask any single woman! So it is shocking that men are in more positions of power.”

  • Taylor Swift

    Taylor Swift RED Tour
    Taylor Swift performs in Singapore on June 12. Nicky Loh/TAS—2014 Nicky Loh/TAS

    “I don’t really think about things as guys versus girls. I never have,” the 24-year-old pop star told the Daily Beast in 2012. “I was raised by parents who brought me up to think if you work as hard as guys, you can go far in life.”

    Swift’s ambivalence didn’t stop one Brown University student from creating a popular parody Twitter account that adds feminist phrases Taylor Swift song lyrics.

  • Amy Poehler

    Amy Poehler 2014 Bookexpo America
    Amy Poehler attends the 2014 Bookexpo America on May 31 in New York City. Steve Sands—WireImage

    Instead of steering clear of the word, Amy Poehler has publicly embraced feminism. “But then they go on to explain what they support and live by — it’s feminism exactly,” the 42-year-old comedian told Elle magazine in January. “I think some big actors and musicians feel like they have to speak to their audience and that word is confusing to their audience. But I don’t get it. That’s like someone being like, ‘I don’t really believe in cars, but I drive one every day and I love that it gets me places and makes life so much easier and faster and I don’t know what I would do without it.’”

  • Halle Berry

    Halle Berry "Extant"
    Halle Berry attends the premiere of "Extant" on June 16 in Los Angeles. Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic/Getty

    “I would say on some levels I am [a feminist]. Angela Davis is one of my heroes,” the 47-year-old Oscar winner told Ebony in April, referring to the political activist known for her feminist views. “And Gloria Steinem—these are people who, as I was growing, I was moved by and impacted by and thought very deeply about.”

  • Kelly Clarkson

    Kelly Clarkson The Voice
    Kelly Clarkson performs on NBC's The Voice on Dec. 3. NBC—NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

    “I wouldn’t say [I'm a] feminist, that’s too strong. I think when people hear feminist it’s just like, ‘Get out of my way I don’t need anyone,’” the 32-year-old American Idol winner told TIME last year. “I love that I’m being taken care of, and I have a man that’s an actual leader. I’m not a feminist in that sense … but I’ve worked really hard since I was 19, when I first auditioned for Idol.”

  • Ellen Page

    Ellen Page X-Men Premiere
    Ellen Page attends the "X-Men: Days Of Future Past" world premiere on May 10 in New York City. Gilbert Carrasquillo—FilmMagic

    “I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?” the 27-year-old Juno and X-Men star said in a 2013 interview with The Guardian.

  • Rashida Jones

    Rashida Jones Upfront
    Rashida Jones attends the 2014 TNT/TBS Upfront on May 14 in New York City. Paul Zimmerman—WireImage

    “I would [call myself a feminist], yes.” the 38-year-old Parks & Rec star told Amanda de Cadenet in 2013. “I believe in the unadulterated advancement of women. And we have so far to go still. I do think because women are so clever and flexible and such good communicators, it been hard for men to evolve and keep up. I think we could do a little better to help them out.”

  • Lady Gaga

    Lady Gaga artRave Tour
    Lady Gaga performs during her "artRave: The Artpop Ball" tour in New York City on May 13. Kevin Mazur—WireImage

    “I’m not a feminist. I hail men, I love men, I celebrate American male culture — beer, bars, and muscle cars,” the 28-year-old pop star told a Norwegian journalist in 2009.

    However, the “Bad Romance” singer seemed to backtrack later that year when talking to the Los Angeles Times. “I’m getting the sense that you’re a little bit of a feminist, like I am, which is good,” she said. “I find that men get away with saying a lot in this business, and that women get away with saying very little . . . In my opinion, women need and want someone to look up to that they feel have the full sense of who they are, and says, ‘I’m great.’ “

  • Katy Perry

    Katy Perry Radio 1
    Katy Perry performs live at Radio 1's Big Weekend on May 25 in Glasgow, Scotland. Dave J Hogan—Getty Images

    “I am not a feminist, but I do believe in the power of women,” the 29-year-old “Roar” singer told Billboard magazine in 2012. However, since then, the young celeb has changed her tune on the topic. “A feminist? Um, yeah, actually,” she told an Australian radio host in March when asked if she considered herself one. “I used to not really understand what that word meant, and now that I do, it just means that I love myself as a female and I also love men.”

  • Leighton Meester

    Leighton Meester Tony Awards
    Leighton Meester attends the 68th Annual Tony Awards on June 8, 2014 in New York City. D Dipasupil—FilmMagic

    The 28-year-old Gossip Girl star surprised some fans in February when she told OOTD magazine who her role model was. “The American writer Betty Friedan — she fought for gender equality and wrote the great book The Feminine Mystique which sparked the beginning of a second-wave feminism,” Meester said. “I believe in equal rights for men and women.”

  • Jenny Slate

    Jenny Slate Late Night
    Jenny Slate is shown during a June 19 interview on Late Night with Seth Meyers in New York. NBC—NBCU Photo Bank / Getty Images

    “Am I a feminist? F–k yeah, I’m a feminist,” the 32-year-old Saturday Night Live told MTV News in June. “I think that unfortunately people who are maybe threatened by feminism think that it’s about setting your bra on fire and being aggressive, and I think that’s really wrong and really dangerous.” Slate also agreed that her latest movie, Obvious Child, which centers around her character considering an abortion, is a feminist film.

TIME Media

Meet 10 of China’s Most Powerful Women

The critically acclaimed MAKERS series goes to China

After its critical acclaim last year with the documentary MAKERS: Women Who Make America, AOL has taken its storytelling brand to China to highlight women whose accomplishments have shattered expectations and serve as an inspiration to their peers. The selection process was overseen in part by Yang Lan, a broadcast journalist often dubbed the “Oprah of China.”

Li Yinhe

First female sexologist in China

After studying at the University of Pittsburgh, Li became fascinated by the widely available research on American sexual mores, completely absent in her native China. Her book, Their World: a Study of Homosexuality in China, proved iconoclastic for the country.

Gong Li

Actor

Known for films like Raise the Red Lantern and Memoirs of a Geisha, Gong has starred in numerous Chinese films that have won her awards from the Berlin International Film Festival to Cannes. She was named a UNESCO Artist for Peace in 2000.

Fu Ying

Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs

After a string of government jobs, Fu became China’s ambassador to the Philippines in 1998, then to Australia in 2003, then to the U.K. in 2007. She’s been praised for her expert handling of the media after western pushback against China’s successful bid to host the Olympics.

Guo Jianmei

First public interest lawyer in China

In 1995, Guo was inspired at the U.N. Fourth World Conference on Women by Hillary Clinton’s now-famous maxim: “Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” Not long after, she founded a women’s legal aid NGO, which subsequently earned her an award from Clinton as a Woman of Courage.

Li Yan

Short-track speed skating coach

Li won a silver medal in the 1992 Winter Olympics and later went on to coach Apolo Ohno to his gold medal win in the 2006 Winter Olympics. She has coached the Chinese national team through the last two Olympic seasons.

Hu Shuli

Investigative journalist

The editor-in-chief of Caixin Media Company has made a name for herself through hard-hitting journalism—a particularly challenging accomplishment in China. She famously reported on corruption in the financial industry, and has been included on the TIME 100.

Dong Mingzhu

Chairman and president, Gree Electric

Dong rose through the ranks at Gree Electric, first selling air conditioners then overseeing the sales team. She was appointed director of the department in 1994 and increases sales by a factor of seven. This accomplishment paved the way for her to eventually take the top job at the company.

Yang Liping

Dance artist

A dancer from rural China, Yang studied the dance cultures of various Chinese minorities as a young woman. Committed to bringing these traditions to the wider public, she raised money to create and perform her first piece, “Spirit of the Peacock” in the 1980s, and went on to direct, choreograph and perform in blockbuster dance shows throughout China, Europe and the U.S.

Laura Cha Shin May-lung

Former vice-chair of the China Securities Regulatory Commission

After a successful career as a lawyer, first in California then in Hong Kong, she joined the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission and eventually held the position of Deputy Chairman. She then moved on to be vice chair of the China Securities Regulatory Commission, becoming the first non-mainlander in the role.

Yan Geling

Novelist and screenwriter

Yan is known in the U.S. for books like The Banquet Bug and The Lost Daughter of Happiness. Many of her novels have been adapted for films like The Flowers of War, and her stories are highly acclaimed in China.

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