TIME feminism

I’m So Glad Movember Is Over

Groucho marx glasses
Getty Images

If facial hair is so amazing as to dedicate a whole month to celebrating it, I want in on some of that action

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Dudes, did you participate in Movember? What did you grow? Had you ever grown facial hair before? Did you shave it off after? C’mon, I’m on the edge of my seat, I want all the details. Except, I don’t. I’m actually kind of sick of hearing all about men’s facial hair.

Look, I love everything about the cultural swing toward more facial hair on men. It looks sexy, it’s usually less time-consuming and less expensive to maintain than a shaved face, it flies right in the face of some modern mainstream beauty ideals, and it’s a little easier on the environment. Plus, hey, I have a bias toward more variety in physical appearance. I like your beards – from the George Michael to the ZZ Top. I like your goatees. I like your moustaches – from plush Burt Reynolds push-brooms to high-maintenance hipster handlebars. Sometimes, I even like your ironic mutton chops. (But not your soul patch; soul patches are the rum raisin of facial hair.)

But start a soothing stroke along your scruffy cheek or chin (if you haven’t shaved it yet), because here’s where I ruin it for you. I don’t mean to metaphorically kick you in your probably-also-Movember-worthy nutsack, but I need you to think about some stuff that probably got lost somewhere between when you were torn between choosing a technologically marvelous beard trimmer or a très retro boar bristle brush ‘n mug combo.

Movember is full of problematic and complex socio-cultural ideas that get little attention in any discussion about it, lost like so many freshly-clipped hairs swirling down the drain of the bathroom sink.

Here are three big reasons I’m officially over Movember:

1) It’s very nostalgia-invoking (which is not as harmless as it sounds)

Ah, the good old days. Lumberjacks, sailors, Ernest Hemingway. You know, when “men were men.” The problem with nostalgia is that it dangerously erases what was bad and harmful about the past. It ctrl-alt-deletes right over everything that was wrong “back in the day.”

For example, when “men were men,” (i.e. when we as a society adhered more rigidly to gender-essentialist norms) it was more acceptable for husbands to beat wives, it was more acceptable for a male boss to expect sexual favors from a female secretary, it was more acceptable to pay a man more for doing the same job as a woman. It was also more acceptable for grade school boys to physically bully each other. Meanwhile, it was less acceptable for men to pursue careers in nursing or teaching.

In glorifying the “good old days,” you are essentially saying the world was better when marginalized people had it worse. As a sometimes-marginalized-person, it feels lousy to hear someone talk lovingly about an era when I would have had to choose between lying/hiding the fact that I’m queer, or face real legal, life-or-death consequences. It’s totally OK to feel love for parts of the past, but you have to accept the complexity and reality of the past. When “men were men” and sailed great distances to make a living, some of those sailors were also part of the triangle trade.

The history and evolution of male facial hair is fascinating and absolutely worth reading, writing and talking about. At the same time, it doesn’t stand apart from history. As Billy Joel has taught us, “the good old days weren’t always good.” Remember all of this when you are moustache-waxing poetic about the golden age of facial hair to someone who might not have had it so great in the 1890s.

2) It re-enforces gender-based appearance norms (that I find annoying and inconvenient)

Beards are natural. Real. Authentic and timeless. If you dig deep back into your high school biology memory bank, you’ll recall that one of the anatomical features that distinguishes us mammals from all other classes is that we grow hair all over our bodies (also some middle ear bones, mammary glands, and a neocortex, but who’s counting?).

In this regard, some of us are class-ier than others, right? I mean, I’m definitely some kind of super-mammal (and I haven’t even been struck by lightning, touched anything radioactive, or had any other super-power-forming experience.)

So, body hair – including facial hair – is part of our mammalian birthright. Except when it isn’t. Please take a moment for a simple addition problem: count how many times you saw hair on the face (no, eyebrows and eyelashes do not count), legs, armpits – essentially anywhere not on the head – on a woman in the month of November. Second addition exercise: same addition problem but count up the men you encountered in November with hair in those locations. Moving on to subtraction: subtract the second number from the first. If you live in the United States and you don’t have a negative number, I will buy you your own yacht, complete with a tastelessly misogynistic moniker plastered on the back.

If body hair is so natural, so essential to being a mammal, why do some of us feel significantly more comfortable existing in more natural states than others? The reality is that in the U.S., there is enormous pressure on women to remove or reduce visible, non-cranial-covering body hair. Removing body hair takes time, energy, and money – all things that most women could stand to have more of, not less.

Sure, some guys take flak for having a back that’s “too hairy,” or pluck out from under a unibrow, or wax something (or somethings). I get it, you are not immune to the pressures of our appearance-based culture. At the same time, some of these more modern manscaping grooming habits come under scrutiny as emasculating. They peg manscapers as being “too much like women” (which is supposed to be an insult, right?).

The mere fact that we have added words like “manscaping” and “metrosexual” to our lexicon means that they are marked as different, unexpected from the norm. Another way to say this is to ask what you call a woman who removes or reduces any body hair. Well, what do you call her? Stumped. We don’t have a special word for a woman who removes or reduces body hair because it’s “just what women do,” right?

Essentially, you get to have it both ways. If you want to remove some body hair, you can be seen as “taking care of yourself.” If you want to eschew a blade forever, you can cast aspersions on the shavers with complete impunity – or even with some admiration for your gender-essentialist curmudgeonliness (think of Ron Swanson on Parks and Rec). The fact that some assholes in high school made it really unappealing to take off your shirt at the beach does not erase that hairy is the default expectation for men.

It’s worth taking a moment to consider why hairless is the default expected appearance for women. Even in the midst of perpetual peril.

3) It silences and erases the reality of women with facial hair (or, when will I get MY month of facial hair celebration?)

I hate to break the well-plucked wall of secrecy on this but, guys, women have facial hair. It’s not just Agatha Fratelli from The Goonies. It’s called hirsutism and it means “excessive hair growth.” Basically, how your hair follicles respond to testosterone (not necessarily the level of testosterone in your body) determines your overall outward hairiness. It’s people like me. And, it can be treated! Wait, what?

When we talk about hirsutism, we are talking about a benign, cosmetic abnormality. Historically, we have a bias toward “correcting” benign, cosmetic abnormalities for the sake of feeling more comfortable or safer out in the world; it is easier to change our own appearance than to expect acceptance from the rest of the world. Take a minute to let that one sink in.

There are numerous drugs available to “treat” hirsuitism; you can ingest or apply any number of drugs to “correct” something that is a totally harmless genetic attribute. If this doesn’t seem weird to you, consider a world where it was normal to chop off a few centimeters of toe to “correct” Morton’s Toe, another harmless genetic abnormality (abnormal because it only occurs in about 10% of the population).

In a minority of cases, these drugs aren’t used to counter hirsutism; they’re used as part of a treatment plan for transgender women. I am not going to dismiss or downplay the importance of passing in a transphobic society, but suffice to say, in an ideal world, a transgender woman with facial hair would face the same level of discrimination as a non-transgender woman: none.

But this goes back to everything I brought up earlier: body hair, including facial hair is not generally accepted as normal for women. We are reminded of this regularly. From Harnaam Kaur (the 20-something Sikh woman who was “caught” at the airport by a surreptitious photographer) to the RA who encouraged residents to engage in a no-shave November (and in doing so was labeled as a “weird feminist”). While some of these stories push the narrative toward the story that body hair is normal, I still don’t feel comfortable going out into the world like this.

As if being a hairy, lady-identified individual didn’t cause me enough stress, I also have alopecia areata. This means I have random bald patches that spring up. Depending on the body location – too much hair is not-OK and hairlessness is also not-OK. And even though there are drugs, creams, lotions, shampoos, and surgical procedures to “correct” naturally-occurring baldness in men (implying that baldness is not OK), consider difference in response to a bald man vs. a hairy-legged woman. Consider that there is a counter-narrative of virility and sex appeal for bald men to lean on to remind them that they are accepted by society as-is.

In short, there is too much to ‘splain, so let me sum up: it is utterly frustrating and rage-inducing to watch mainstream media spend a month celebrating widely-accepted-and-considered-normal facial hair on men while saying, at best, nothing about women’s facial hair and, at worst, “Eww, gross.” If facial hair is so amazing as to dedicate a whole month to celebrating it, I want in on some of that action.

OK, are your eyebrows furrowed in some righteous sense of injustice? Wanna know what can you do?

Great. I’m so glad you are open to thinking about how you can cultivate your facial follicular garden and help everyone else who is not similarly encouraged. Those aren’t mutually exclusive activities! I am excited to have you on board as an ally.

First, don’t judge women by the choices we make about our body hair. If body hair on women isn’t your thing, that’s OK (but also, maybe do some reflecting on how you came to have that preference; it’s an active, not a neutral preference).

In the non-vanilla sex world, there’s a saying: “not my kink.” It’s a short-hand way to say, “I don’t particularly care to do that but I am also simultaneously capable of not judging the fact that you like to do that.” That’s easy, that one’s all in your head. If you see a really attractive-to-you woman take a long stretch, revealing her hairy armpits, can you work through the process of seeing it as a choice she made rather than, “Eww gross?”

Leveling up, can you call out other people for judging women with body hair? When you hear “Eww gross,” can you challenge Judgy McJudgerson to see body hair as a choice as if all choices are valid regardless of whether or not they’re personally appealing to you?

When I was younger, if I saw totally-freaky-to-me-weirdo my reaction was, “Eww, what a weirdo.” Now, my response is, “Thanks pal. Every visible, unapologetic weirdo makes the world safer for weirdos.” As a visible, unapologetic weirdo myself, I am invested in a safer world for weirdos and therefore thankful for other visible, unapologetic weirdos going about their daily business in the midst of non-weirdos.

The point is, I think even Judgy wants to be able to go to class in yoga pants and Uggs sometimes without experiencing ego-eroding derision.

Last, let’s say you prefer body hair on women. Let’s say it’s a total turn-on for you. Own it. Don’t be afraid to express that preference if you’re asked or if it comes up in conversation. Respond to that “eww gross” with “Actually, I think leg hair on women is pretty sexy.” Don’t be that guy in high school with a “secret girlfriend.”

My gram used to say “That goes to show ya, there’s a club for everyone.” It’s OK to be in the club of people who prefer some amount of body hair on women. I assure you plenty of other people are walking around with membership cards tucked into their wallets.

Anyway, I’m dying to get this conversation started. More than anything I want to be talking about gender and body hair instead of carrying on like nothing’s going on under the surface. Do your gender identity and level of body hair collide? Do you feel like they match? Should body hair be a gender marker? If you are female-identified, what’s your body hair level like? Are you comfortable with it? If your sexual preference includes female-identified partners, do you have a body hair preference on partners? How are we going to include people of all genders in Movember next year? LET’S TALK ABOUT IT!

* Yes, I realize that my generalizations about society and culture are specifically rooted in the United States, current day. Yes, I am aware that there are other parts of the world and other times in human history with different stories to tell about women and body hair.

Amy Mendosa wrote this story for xoJane.com.

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

TIME Malala Yousafzai

Meet the Guests of Malala Joining Her as She Receives the Nobel Peace Prize

Joint Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai, stands with five young women she invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, from left, Nigeria's Amina Yusuf, Pakistan's Kainat Soomro, school friend Shazia Ramzan, Syria's Mezon Almellehan and school friend Kainat Riaz, as they pose for a group photograph before speaking to the media at Malala's hotel in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 9, 2014.
Matt Dunham—AP Joint Nobel Peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai, stands with five young women she invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, from left, Nigeria's Amina Yusuf, Pakistan's Kainat Soomro, school friend Shazia Ramzan, Syria's Mezon Almellehan and school friend Kainat Riaz, as they pose for a group photograph before speaking to the media at Malala's hotel in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 9, 2014.

The girls' education activist invited five extraordinary young friends to attend Wednesday's ceremony in Oslo

A group of friends and fellow activists invited to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony on Wednesday have described how they have been inspired by the example of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager whose determination to receive an education provoked the Taliban to try and kill her.

Amina Yusuf, 17, a mentor for young girls at the Center for Girls’ Education in northern Nigeria, says she was impressed with Malala, whom she met in July when the young activist visited Nigeria. “She’s so calm,” Yusuf tells TIME by telephone from Oslo, Norway. “She has the spirit of an adult. When you see you her you think she is much older than her [actual] age.”

Yusuf is one of five young women invited by Malala to join her in Oslo on Wednesday.

MORE: Malala says she hopes to become Pakistan’s Prime Minister

Malala, 17, was awarded the prize jointly with 60-year-old children’s rights activist Kailash Satyarthi “for their struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced in October. Malala, who is the youngest Nobel Laureate in history, invited three champions of girls’ rights and two classmates from Pakistan who were on the bus with her when she was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012.

The two girls, Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz, were also shot during the attack on Malala in 2012, with Ramzan being hit in the shoulder and hand and Riaz in the arm. Riaz, who is now 17, describes the day as “the most horrible day of my life.” Speaking by phone from Oslo on Tuesday, Riaz tells TIME, “When I saw Malala covered in blood in the bus, then I forgot everything. It was the hardest time of my life.”

After Riaz and Ramzan, now 16, recovered from their injuries they won scholarships to attend Atlantic College in South Wales, an international residential school. But they’ve stayed in touch with Malala, who now attends school in Birmingham, England. “I am very happy to be here [in Oslo],” says Ramzan. “It’s an honor for Malala. Now she has more support in helping other people, in helping other children and every young student go to school.”

The other young activists that Malala has invited to join her in Oslo have also experienced extreme hardships at a young age and are working to make a difference for other girls. Mezon Almellehan is a 16-year-old Syrian refugee who lives with her family in a camp in Azraq, Jordan where she champions girls’ education within the camps. She met Malala earlier this year when Malala toured the large Syrian refugee camp, Za’atari, where Almellehan was living at the time.

And finally there’s Kainat Soomro, a 21-year-old sexual assault victims’ advocate from Pakistan. Soomro, who doesn’t speak English but spoke with TIME via a translator, said on Tuesday that she had met Malala in person for the first time that day. For Soomro, who was abducted and sexually assaulted by a group of men over a period of three days when she was 13, the meeting has been inspiring. Though she’s no stranger to activism — she has spent the last eight years fighting for justice in her own case in Pakistan — she says she has “learned so many things” from Malala and her fight for girls’ education. “Malala gave me courage,” she says. “[After speaking with her] I feel so much stronger than I did before.”

The young women tell TIME they are excited to be in Oslo — “It’s so cool,” notes Ramzan — but they all seem more thrilled to witness Malala receive one of the most prestigious awards in the world. “I am proud, she’s my friend,” says Riaz, who believes that Malala’s Peace Prize will help promote the rights of girls to have an education. “This is our mission. In the whole world — especially in Pakistan — everyone [should] get an education.”

Read next: Malala Yousafzai Unveils Bloodstained Uniform From Taliban Shooting

TIME viral

Watch Adorable Little Girls Cuss Out a ‘Sexist’ Santa

The Potty-Mouth Princesses are back

Remember those “potty-mouth princesses” who drop F-bombs in the name of feminism? Well, they’re back and have a bone to pick with Santa. Yes, that Santa.

The left-leaning advocacy group FCKH8 has raised eyebrows with its shock tactic advertising (swearing little girls wearing princess gear) to raise awareness on issues — like violence against women, gender inequality, and now the gender wage gap. Grade school girls holding up fractions of soccer balls and skate boards say, “How sh**** would it be if Santa were sexist as society?” … followed by a series of expletives.

There are few things more disarming than little girls in party dresses cussing out Santa Claus. Except maybe the fact that women make 78% of their male counterparts’ salaries should be.

 

TIME Culture

Jessica Chastain Says These Were the Only 2 Roles for Women When She Got Her Start

InStyle

"The slut or the wife"

Jessica Chastain has tackled complex roles ranging from a CIA operative in Zero Dark Thirty to an astrophysicist in Interstellar. But in InStyle’s January cover story, the actress remembers her early days of acting when, “there were two kinds of roles for women.”

“You are either the girlfriend, incredibly beautiful but not much going on, or the victim, like the weird neighbor,” she said. “It’s like the two ideas of women that are talked about: the slut or the wife. And that’s not so interesting.”

Read more at Instyle

TIME Opinion

Girl Gone Wild: The Rise of the Lone She-Wolf

Wild
Fox Searchlight

A woman on a solitary journey used to be seen as pitiful, vulnerable or scary. Not any more.

The first few seconds of Wild sound like sex. You hear a woman panting and moaning as the camera pans across the forest, and it seems like the movie is starting off with an outdoor quickie. But it’s not the sound of two hikers hooking up: it’s the sound of Cheryl Strayed, played by Reese Witherspoon, climbing a mountain all by herself.

It lasts only a moment, but that first shot contains everything you need to know about why Wild is so important. It’s a story of a woman who hikes the Pacific Crest Trail for 94 days in the wake of her mother’s death, but more than that, it’s a story of a woman who is no longer anything to anybody. We’re so used to seeing women entangled with other people (with parents, with men, with children, in neurotic friendships with other women), that it’s surprising, almost shocking, to see a woman who is gloriously, intentionally, radically alone.

When it comes to women onscreen, the lone frontier is the last frontier. It’s no big deal to see women play presidents, villains, baseball players, psychopaths, superheroes, math geniuses, or emotionally stunted losers. We’ve even had a female Bob Dylan. But a woman, alone, in the wilderness, for an entire movie? Not until now.

Which is unfair, considering all the books and movies dedicated to the often-tedious excursions of solitary men, from Henry David Thoreau to Jack Kerouac to Christopher McCandless. Audiences have sat through hours of solo-dude time in critically acclaimed movies like Castaway, Into the Wild, Life of Pi, 127 Hours, and All is Lost. America loves a Lone Ranger so much, even Superman worked alone.

In fact, the only thing more central to the American canon than a solitary guy hanging out in the woods is a guy on a quest (think Huckleberry Finn or Moby Dick). The road narrative may be the most fundamental American legend, grown from our history of pilgrimage and Western expansion. But adventure stories are almost always no-girls-allowed, partly because the male adventurer is usually fleeing from a smothering domesticity represented by women. In our collective imaginations, women don’t set out on a journey unless they’re fleeing from something, usually violence. As Vanessa Veselka writes in her excellent essay on female road narratives in The American Reader: “A man on the road is caught in the act of a becoming. A woman on the road has something seriously wrong with her. She has not ‘struck out on her own.’ She has been shunned.”

MORE: The Top 10 Best Movies of 2014

The ‘loner in nature’ and the ‘man on the road’ are our American origin stories, our Genesis and Exodus. They’re fables of an American national character which, as A.O. Scott pointed out in his The New York Times essay on the death of adulthood in American culture, has always tended towards the boyish. Wild is the first big movie– or bestselling book, for that matter–to re-tell that central American story with a female protagonist.

But Wild is just the most visible example of what’s been a slow movement towards loner ladies onscreen. Sandra Bullock’s solo spin through space last year in Gravity was the first step (although her aloneness was accidental, and it was more a survival story than road narrative). Mia Wasikowska’s long walk across Australia in Tracks this year was another. But Wild, based on Strayed’s bestselling memoir and propelled by Witherspoon’s star power, is the movie that has the best shot at moving us past the now-tired “power woman” towards a new kind of feminist role model: the lone female.

Because for women, aloneness is the next frontier. Despite our chirpy boosting of “independent women” and “strong female leads,” it’s easy to forget that women can never be independent if we’re not allowed to be alone.

For men, solitude is noble: it implies moral toughness, intellectual rigor, a deep connection with the environment. For women, solitude is dangerous: a lone woman is considered vulnerable to attacks, pitiful for her lack of male companionship, or threatening to another woman’s relationship. We see women in all kinds of states of loneliness–single, socially isolated, abandoned–but almost never in a state of deliberate, total aloneness.

Not to mention the fact that women’s stories are almost always told in the context of their relationships with other people. Even if you set aside romance narratives, the “girl group” has become the mechanism for telling the stories of “independent” women– that is, women’s stories that don’t necessarily revolve around men. Think Sex & The City, Steel Magnolias, A League of Their Own, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Girls: if a woman’s not half of a couple, she must be part of a gaggle.

When Cheryl Strayed describes her experience of “radical aloneness,” she’s talking about being completely cut off from human contact–no cell phone, no credit card, no GPS. But her aloneness is also radical in that it rejects the female identity that is always viewed through the lens of a relationship with someone else. To be alone, radically alone, is to root yourself in your own life, not the role you play in other people’s lives. Or, as Strayed’s mother Bobbi wistfully puts it, “I always did what someone else wanted me to do. I’ve always been someone’s daughter or mother or wife. I’ve never just been me.”

MORE: The Top 10 Best Movie Performances of 2014

And that’s the difference between aloneness and independence. The “independent woman” is nothing new– if anything, it’s become a tired catchphrase of a certain kind of rah-rah feminism. “Independence” implies a relationship with another thing, a thing from which you’re severing your ties. It’s inherently conspicuous, even performative. Female independence has become such a trope that it’s become another role for women to play: independent career woman, independent post-breakup vixen, independent spitfire who doesn’t care what anyone thinks. And usually, that “independence” is just a temporary phase before she meets a guy at the end of the movie who conveniently “likes a woman who speaks her mind.”

Aloneness is more fundamental, and more difficult. It involves cultivating a sense of self that has little to do with the motherhood, daughterhood, wifehood or friendship that society calls “womanhood.” When interviewed by the Hobo Times about being a “female hobo,” Strayed says: “Women can’t walk out of their lives. They have families. They have kids to take care of.” Aloneness then, isn’t just a choice to focus on one’s self– it’s also a rejection of all the other social functions women are expected to perform.

In 1995, when Strayed hiked for 94 days, that would have been hard. In 2014, it’s even harder. Thanks to the internet, our world is more social now than ever before, and it’s even harder to escape other people. But aloneness is at the root of real independence, it’s where self-reliance begins and ends. So these days, if you want to be independent, maybe you can start by trying to be alone.

Read next: Reese Witherspoon Isn’t Nice or Wholesome in Wild, and That’s What Makes It Great

TIME

Women Are Now Dyeing Their Armpit Hair

Keeping it natural and neon all at once

Women have only been shaving their armpits for about a century. Before the advent of the sleeveless dress — and an ad in Harper’s Bazaar for depilatory powder that removed “objectionable hair — American women rarely bared their underarms in public, anyway. One hundred years later, if a celebrity is caught on camera with a little fuzz where it’s not expected, it becomes a news story and the subject of disgust, an unseemly act of laziness or a charged political statement.

It’s nothing new for women to decide not to shave, for either personal or political reasons. But a new trend celebrates the hair under there with a little more glamour by livening it up with some color. Credit for the trend goes to Roxie Hunt, a hairstylist at Seattle salon Vain. Hunt celebrates armpit hair as “direct-action feminism.” “By having hairy pits,” she writes, “I am exercising my right to make my own choices about my own body.”

Her pit proclamation made, Hunt set about dying her co-worker’s armpit hair a vibrant shade of aquamarine and detailed the process in a blog post. The hashtags #dyedpits and #ladypithair, though they appeared before Hunt’s manifesto, have seen an uptick in recent months, with the colorful results on full display.

Hunt was so pleased with the results of her first underarm dye job that she hopes to do it again. “Maybe some day we can try a different shade,” she writes.

 

#ASTROTURF⛳️

A photo posted by Whitney Stephens (@thehoneyedcat) on

Blue haired/pitted freak. Roxie is the coolest! To find out how to DIY, check out howtohairgirl.com!

A photo posted by Rain Sissel (@theladyrainicorn) on

TIME feminism

The Complicated History Behind the Fight for Pregnant Women’s Equality

Lillian Garland [& Family]
Alan Levenson—The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images Lillian Garland (front), who won a Supreme Court case which supports pregnancy leave, with her daughter in 1986

Two Supreme Court cases have helped define the struggle

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear the case of Peggy Young, a former UPS driver who had to go on unpaid leave — rather than paid leave or adjusted duty — when she got pregnant and a doctor told her to stop lifting heavy packages. Though UPS has since adjusted its leave policy for pregnant workers, the company maintains and a lower court agreed that the Pregnancy Discrimination Act doesn’t make it illegal to give pregnant employees different leave policies than non-pregnant ones. If the act did make such treatment illegal, they say, it would constitute special treatment. Young’s side, on the other hand, argues that making accommodations for pregnant workers is to treat them the same as other workers, not specially.

Unsurprisingly, several women’s rights organizations, like the Women’s Law Project and Legal Momentum, which is associated with the National Organization for Women (NOW), have filed an amicus brief in support of Young.

But, despite all the women’s-rights oomph behind Young’s case, the history of feminism and pregnancy discrimination isn’t so clear cut.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has pointed out, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 to specify that discriminating against pregnant people is a kind of sex discrimination (after the Supreme Court case had earlier decided the opposite). It was less than three decades ago — in 1986 — that NOW, as well as the Women’s Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union, came out on the side of the employer in a case that sounds very similar to Young v. United Parcel Service. They aren’t exactly parallel, but many of the deep questions raised by the earlier case remain pertinent today. How much should childbearing be connected to a woman’s identity? Does respecting women require making allowances for that undeniable difference? Or would doing so hold women back by linking their legal identities to their function as mothers? How much inequality can be tolerated in the service of big-picture equality?

At issue was a challenge to a 1978 California law that required businesses to offer unpaid maternity leave. Lillian Garland had been a receptionist at a California bank when she took advantage of the state law and went on unpaid leave to have a baby in 1982; when she was ready to return to work, the position had been filled. Without her income, she was soon evicted and lost custody of her daughter, leading her to bring a suit against her former employer.

As TIME reported during the dispute, NOW and the ACLU ended up taking the bank’s side, preferring that employee benefits not be sex or gender-specific. “The question is, Should a woman with a pregnancy disability get her job back when other employees with disabilities get fired? You undermine your argument unless you say everyone is equally entitled to this benefit,” explained the ACLU’s Joan Bertin. In other words, anything that keeps an employee from working should be treated the same, whether or not it’s pregnancy, and no law should apply only to women. Meanwhile, feminist icon Betty Friedan and her allies saw things differently: in her view, the law treated everyone equally because it made clear that anyone, male or female, should be able to make decisions about having a family without the risk of losing his or her job.

“The time has come to acknowledge that women are different from men,’’ Friedan said. ‘’There has to be a concept of equality that takes into account that women are the ones who have the babies.’’

The next year, in 1987, the Supreme Court sided with Friedan, finding that the California law neither discriminated against men nor forced employers to treat women specially, as it did not bar companies from extending unpaid leave benefits to men as well.

TIME Crime

The Problem With Prosecuting Women for False Rape Allegations

The UK is aggressively prosecuting women who make false rape allegations, but victim advocates argue it's unjust

Between headlines about the UVA frats, the Canadian broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi and Bill Cosby, it seems like sexual assault allegations dominate the news. But in Britain there has been a recent spate of headline-grabbing cases where the people ultimately charged aren’t the alleged rapists, but the women who filed the claims in the first place.

Take the case of Eleanor de Freitas, a 23-year-old Londoner with bipolar disorder. De Freitas reported an alleged assault to the police, who were unable to build a sufficient case against her alleged rapist. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) then pursued de Freitas for perverting the course of justice — a crime which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. Shortly before her trial was to begin in April, de Freitas killed herself. The UK’s Director of Public Prosecutions is currently investigating the case.

But de Freitas is not alone. Over the past five years, the CPS has prosecuted 109 women for making false rape allegations to authorities, according to the group Women Against Rape (WAR). The majority of those who were prosecuted — a full 98 — were charged with perverting the course of justice like de Freitas. But WAR, a London non-profit, held a public meeting at the House of Commons on Tuesday night, protesting what they believe is the unfair and aggressive prosecution of women.

For their part, the CPS noted in an email to TIME that such prosecutions are “serious but rare” and are “any decision to charge is extremely carefully considered and not taken lightly.”

Yet WAR disagrees. “I have not found any country that aggressively pursues women for falsely reporting a rape the way the UK does,” Lisa Avalos, an assistant professor of law at the University of Arkansas who has been working with WAR, tells TIME. Meanwhile, Lisa Longstaff, a spokeswoman for WAR, says, police are not putting in the necessary work into catching and convicting rapists. “They’re not dealing with rapists properly.”

Avalos agrees: “We do a bad job prosecuting rape across the Western world. A big part of what fuels that bad job is that police do not believe victims. Time after time after time we have victims saying they went to the police and the police didn’t believe them.”

A lot of what WAR says resonates with the statistics. Earlier this month an official inquiry into police practices in England and Wales found that police had failed to record more than 25 percent of the rapes and sexual offenses reported to them by the public as actual crimes. In some regions the figures were even worse, with police not recording one out of every three reports of rape or sexual assault.

Similarly, an explosive report released earlier this year found that police in Rotherham, England, disregarded numerous reports, over a course of years, of rape, sexual assault and forced prostitution made by young girls who were being abused by a group of men. Longstaff also points out that many of the girls in the Rotherham case who came forward to the police wound up being charged with offenses such as underage drinking, while their rapists went free.

According to a report published by the Home Office in January, looking at a three-year average, as many as 517,000 sexual assaults take place in the UK per year and 95,000 rapes are committed. Yet there are only 5,620 sexual assault convictions a year and only 1,070 rape convictions. And while it’s long been a problem that the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults go unreported to the police — which does factor in to the dismal percentage of convictions — Avalos says that “those [false claim] prosecutions have a chilling effect on other women coming forward.”

No one is arguing that women who make malicious false allegations of rape should be free from consequences. But Avalos says these instances should be looked at on a “case-by-case” basis and that pursuing harsh criminal cases isn’t the answer. (She notes that anyone who finds themselves falsely charged with rape can always pursue civil action against their accusers.) Part of the larger problem with prosecuting women for making false allegations is, according to Longstaff, that past examples prove “we can’t trust the authorities to make a rational decision about which is a false and which is not a false allegation. We’ve gone down the road so many times of seeing women who report rape or domestic violence or even child abuse and then [unjustly] end up on the wrong end of the prosecution.”

She points to the stateside case of Sara Reedy, who received a $1.5 million settlement from a Pennsylvania police department after she was raped at gunpoint at the age of 19 and then charged with inventing the story. Authorities were so convinced she was lying, she was even briefly jailed. It wasn’t until her attacker was arrested for another assault and then confessed to raping Reedy, that charges were fully dropped.

When asked about their decision to prosecute women over suspected false rape allegations, the CPS’s statement also noted that:

Such cases can only be brought where the prosecution can prove that the original rape allegation was false – if there is any question as to whether the original allegation might in fact have been true then a case of perverting the course of justice should not be brought. The relatively few cases that are brought are based on strong evidence and should not dissuade any potential victim from coming forward to report an assault.

But according to Longstaff, that’s exactly what the prosecutions — which might be rare, but can be highly publicized — do. She says many of the women WAR works with feel that “once you report, the police can easily turn on you and pin some other, often minor, crime on you [rather] than deal with the serious rape that you’ve reported.”

Correction: The original version of the story incorrectly described the response to de Freitas’s allegations. The Crown Prosecution Service began a case against de Freitas for perverting the course of justice prior to her death in April.

TIME celebrities

Terry Crews Is ‘Not Going to Be Silent’ About Feminism

2014 NCLR ALMA Awards - Arrivals
Jason LaVeris—FilmMagic Actor Terry Crews attends the 2014 NCLR ALMA Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium in Pasadena, Calif., on Oct. 10, 2014

The actor and author says the way men treat women like trophies is as bad as the Taliban

Terry Crews currently stars on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but earlier this year the former NFL player also published a book, Manhood, about what it means to be a man in 2014. If you haven’t picked up a copy, Crews handily outlines a few bullet points in a new interview: support feminism, don’t treat women like they’re trophies and stop subscribing to “man code.”

“The big thing about feminism is that it scares men,” says Crews, who compares supporting feminism to supporting the civil rights movement. “I want to be clear: feminism is not saying women are better than men. That’s not what’s going. Some people totally see it as that.”

At another point during the interview, he compares the way men sometimes treat women as objects to religious extremists.

“What happens is [athletes] win and they go, ‘You know that girl? She’s my trophy. I deserve that girl. In fact, she don’t even want to be with me, but I don’t care. I’m going to take it,'” Crews says. “What kind of mindset is that? Never, never, never, never, never should that ever be accepted. That’s not ‘code.’ That’s Taliban. That’s ISIS.”

[Jezebel]

TIME India

Watch 2 Women Beat Their Alleged Harassers on a Bus in India

The men have been arrested and charged with assault

Two students in the northern state of Haryana wailed on three men on a bus who they say sexually harassed them.

The women, two sisters named Aarti and Pooja, were on their way home in the Rohtak district when 19-year old Pooja says the men “threatened and abused” them, according to the BBC. When the men wouldn’t stop touching them, and after no other passengers came to their aid, Pooja and her sister started beating them with their belts.

The men have since been arrested and charged with assault.

[BBC]

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