TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: August 4

1. Making the punishment fit the crime: A better way of calculating fines for the bad acts of big banks.

By Cathy O’Neill in Mathbabe

2. Lessons we can share: How three African countries made incredible progress in the fight against AIDS.

By Tina Rosenberg in the New York Times

3. Creative artists are turning to big data for inspiration — and a new window on our world.

By Charlie McCann in Prospect

4. We must give the sharing economy an opportunity to show its real potential.

By R.J. Lehmann in Reason

5. Technology investing has a gender problem, and it’s holding back innovation.

By Issie Lapowsky in Wired

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME gender

Study: Women More Likely to Be Lied to in Negotiations Than Men

Women are deceived more often than men by both men and women alike

Women who think they’re getting a worse deal in negotiations because of their gender have new scientific evidence to back up their suspicions.

Women are perceived as easier to mislead, and are more likely than men to be lied to during negotiations, according to a recent study from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Pennsylvania.

“We found that in the role play, people were significantly more likely to blatantly lie to women,” the study’s lead author, Laura Kray, told Slate about one of the experiments. “To women, for instance, the buyer’s agents would say, ‘They will be luxury condos,’ but to men, they would say, ‘I can’t tell you.’”

Both men and women lied to women more often than men. In one experiment in the study, 24% of men said they lied to a female participant, but only 3% of men admitted to lying to a male participant in the exercise. Women lied to men 11% of them but lied to other women 17% of the time.

One of the study’s experiments showed that part of the reason women are lied to more often is that they’re perceived as being less competent but warmer than men in negotiations. The warmer a woman’s personality was in the study, the more she was expected to be easily fooled. But these aren’t exactly secrets — participants in the study, when speculating about other negotiators’ ethics, reported that they believed women were more likely to be lied to in negotiations.

“People are aware of stereotypes, and use them to their advantage when they’re motivated to do so,” Kray said.

TIME gender

My Gender-Neutral Childhood: Lessons in Raising Girls Who Succeed in Tech

Kira Makagon as a child Courtesy Kira Makagon

The co-founder of several successful startups talks about her unusual upbringing and how to inspire a love of math and science

Raised as the only child of Ukrainian immigrants, I never thought much about my childhood. It was certainly different from the way most of the other American kids I met grew up, and in a lot of ways, it seemed harder. (Imagine the wardrobe dilemmas of an immigrant teenager in 1980s San Francisco coming from a Soviet-bloc country, for instance.)

Lately though, I’ve been getting a lot of pointed questions about my upbringing: Did you play with Legos? Did you always love math? Were you allowed to study art, history and literature? The reason for the curiosity is clear. As a female tech entrepreneur in a predominantly male industry, people are interested in how my environment encouraged my academic and professional path toward technical learning.

More than ever, parents of young children are concerned about how to enable their children to succeed in a world where traditional occupations and industries have been upended by technology. Parents of girls especially worry that the best jobs will go to graduates who master science, math and technology education (the so-called STEM disciplines), which tend to attract more boys. We’ve all seen the media stories about the unemployed philosophy majors.

Recognizing that every child is different, I do believe that there are certain elements of my unconventional upbringing that prepared me to be comfortable and happy building a career in a technical field. All parents pour their hopes and dreams into their children, but I now know my parents invested in me in the right ways. From early on, they provided me with the right tools to continue developing myself as an older child, teenager and into adulthood. Based on my experience, below are my top five takeaways on how to prepare a child (and especially a girl) to be prepared for a technical career.

1. Choose gender-neutral toys.

My parents did not encourage dolls, and I didn’t gravitate to them. I liked Legos and building things. My father was an engineer who designed toys in Russia. He and I would build miniature models of houses. We built whole cities with railroads and cars. The floor of my room was always crowded with our playthings.

2. Encourage sports, and not just girls-only teams.

I liked all kinds of sports. When I was younger, it was bicycles, badminton and ping-pong. I was always fast — faster than most boys early on. I loved ice skating, and because I was very fast, I could play hockey with boys. For this reason, I always had a lot of friends who were boys. I grew up comfortable around boys, confident in my natural ability and with very little fear.

3. Treat your sons and daughters as individuals, not as gender stereotypes.

As an only child, my parents gave me lots of attention and treated me purely as an individual — not like a stereotypical girl. My dad treated me the same as he would any son. We played hockey together, and he took me to sporting events.

4. Emphasize the importance of leadership at an early age.

My mother, a Russian-literature teacher, encouraged me to be a class leader and participate in class (even if I found the lessons boring). She and I had long talks about leadership. She impressed upon me the need to excel in school. Even a B was unacceptable. I became class president in elementary school and learned to enjoy leading others.

5. Pursue music, chess and logic problems.

I practiced piano for two hours a day, loved the math olympiad and enjoyed solving logic problems in my spare time. These weren’t treated as nerdy or antisocial, but as valid and valuable pursuits to develop my mind and capabilities.

READ MORE: Cracking the Girl Code — Tech Giants Are Betting on Coding Camps for Girls to Close Their Gender Gap

Makagon leads product, engineering and operations teams at RingCentral, the cloud-based business phone company, where she is Executive Vice President of Innovation. She is a Silicon Valley–based serial entrepreneur who has co-founded several technology companies, including Octane (acquired by E.piphany) and RedAril (acquired by Hearst). Follow her @kiramakagon

TIME gender

Fashion Model Comes Out as Transgender Woman

Jean Paul Gaultier - Haute Couture Spring Summer 2011 Runway - Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week
Andrej Pejic walks the runway at the Jean Paul Gaultier fashion show during Paris Haute Couture Fashion Week on January 26, 2011 in Paris, France. Nathalie Lagneau—Catwalking/Getty Images

Andreja Pejic was famous for her androgynous runway look.

Andreja Pejic, the famously androgynous Serbian fashion icon who has modeled both men’s and women’s styles, came out as a transgender woman on her Facebook page Thursday.

Pejic, who was known throughout her fashion career as “Andrej” but has changed her name to Andreja, posted a selfie along with an announcement that she said she hoped would inspire other transgender youths:

I think we all evolve as we get older and that’s normal but I like to think that my recent transition hasn’t made me into a different individual. Same person, no difference at all just a different sex I hope you can all understand that.

I would also like to to reach out to all young gender non-conforming youth out there: I know it’s hard, I’ve been there, but remember it’s your right to be accepted as what you identify with—you deserve the same respect as any other human being on this planet. As a transgender woman I hope to show that after transition (a life-saving process) one can be happy and successful in their new chapter without having to alienate their past.

The model told People.com that despite her long and successful career modeling both women’s and mens’s fashions, she opted to have gender reassignment surgery in order to identify as a transgender woman. “I was proud of my gender nonconforming career,” Pejic says. “But my biggest dream was to be comfortable in my own body. I have to be true to myself and the career is just going to have to fit around that.”

Like other major transgender activists like Laverne Cox, who was featured in TIME’s cover story on the transgender movement, Pejic declined to discuss the specifics of her surgery with People.com, saying that “what’s in between anyone’s legs is not who they are.”

 

TIME Toys

Your Barbie Can Now Slay in a Suit of Medieval Armor

Dungeons and Dragons and Barbie?

Barbie has plenty of pantsuits and party dresses, but her closet is still missing the one outfit she never knew she needed: A suit of armor. And even better, it’s not pink. Designer Jim Rodda launched a Kickstarter in April to fund a 3D-printed design of a medieval armor suit that’s specifically made for Barbie.

Rodda, who isn’t affiliated with Mattel, wants to make Barbie powerful by outfitting her with intricate battle suits and weapons in his new “Faire Play” battle set. Rodda designs and sells the 3D blueprints, so customers can print the Barbie armor on their own 3D printers. Fans are given the option to buy three different types of outfits: A robe with swords and a Barbie medusa-faced shield; a highly adorned gold suit; and a silver suit of armor.

Rodda says the idea came to him when he was coming up with a birthday gift for his niece. “Back when I started this, my niece was obsessed with My Little Pony,” says Rodda. “So I wanted to make My Little Pony compatible glitter cannons.”

Rodda struggled to 3D print a spring for the cannons, so he turned to the next logical thing in the “little girl toy market:” Barbie. The “Faire Play” battle set is a result of the successful $6,000 Kickstarter campaign that closed with 290 backers. “They are the ones who have actually made this thing possible,” Rodda says.

Barbie may have shown her strength in 1965 when she went through astronaut training, Rodda points out, or her business chops with Entrepreneur Barbie, but he thinks the popular doll is stuck in the past.

“The fashion-obsessed part of Barbie’s personality pervades the collective consciousness,” says the designer. “I think Entrepreneur Barbie’s a step in the right direction, but ‘Babs’ is still carrying a lot of cultural baggage from the last 25 years. People are still bringing up 1992’s ‘Math class is tough!’ debacle, even though Mattel released Computer Engineer Barbie in 2010 and Mars Explorer Barbie in 2013.”

The designer hopes his “Faire Play” set will help young girls learn about 3D printing and foster their interest in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). “Maybe she grows up to be the one that invents the solution to climate change, or helps get humans to Mars,” Rodda says, “or becomes the nest Neil deGrasse Tyson and evangelizes a love of science for another generation.”

Collectors and 3D-printing enthusiasts alike stand among the ranks of customers eager to see the warrior Barbie, says Rodda. Even Rodda’s daughter, who was, “never a Barbie kid,” is helping design the armor suits.

“If there’s a lesson I’d like my daughter to learn from this phase in Barbie’s career,” says Rodda, “It’s that girls can grow up to do anything.”

Blueprints for the “Faire Play” battle set are available for $29.99 along with other 3D-printed fun..

TIME Media

Jill Abramson to Katie Couric: ‘I Put Out a Terrific News Report’

The ousted editor continues her media tour

Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson continued her postmortem analysis of what went wrong at the newspaper during another interview, this time with Katie Couric at Yahoo News.

Abramson, who was abruptly fired from the Times in May amid grumblings about her “management style,” told Couric that during her tenure she was more interested in the quality of the newspaper than in making sure everyone in the newsroom liked her. “As managing editor for eight years and as executive editor for three years, I put out a terrific news report,” she said. “And led the kind of journalism that I believe in. I am hard-charging, I was certainly aware that some people had already described me as tough. I have high standards…I think a lot of people who worked for me found that inspirational, some people didn’t like it. That is how it is at every news organization that makes a difference.'”

“I can scarcely think of an executive editor of the times that wasn’t described in the same way,” she added.

(MORE: Jill Abramson Insists on Calling Herself “Fired”)

But was her firing about gender? “I think that women are scrutinized and criticized in a somewhat different way and that certain qualities that are seen in men as being the qualities of a leader or ambition as seen as a good thing are somehow not seen in as attractive a light when a woman is involved,” she said. “And I’m hardly the first person to observe that.”

But when Couric attempted to drill down into the gendered aspects of her firing, Abramson said her record at the Times was more important than the details of why she lost her job. “I don’t see gender as being the whole explanation by any means… but it’s somewhat irksome to me to see so much focus on the issue of why was I fired. First of all, let’s be honest, how many people in the real world really care about why Jill Abramson lost her job?”

“I think the amount of attention that’s focused on my last days as opposed to the 11 years that I [ran the New York Times] everyday is just out of proportion,” she added.

 

 

TIME energy

Poll: Men and Women Think Differently About Energy

Energy Power Lines
Getty Images

A new global survey for TIME shows how attitudes toward conservation may be guided by gender

More women than men worldwide say energy conservation is a “very important” issue, while men report greater personal concern about global warming, according to the results of a new global energy survey conducted for TIME.

The survey polled online respondents in six countries—the U.S., Germany, India, Turkey, Brazil and South Korea—on their attitudes toward energy. It revealed that conservation habits and perspectives about energy challenges differ along gender lines, and not always in the ways you might expect.

Nearly 70% of women said energy conservation was a vital issue, compared with less than 50% of men. At the same, 65% of males reported that global warming was a very important issue to them, far outpacing the 37% of females who said the same.

The survey suggests that women are more leery of nuclear power (by a 48% to 40% margin), slightly more convinced the earth is warming (60% to 56%) and more likely to report high degrees of concern over rising sea levels, pollution and gas prices. By a couple of percentage points, women also took a more favorable stand on the oil-and-gas industry’s role in the issue.

Men, on the other hand, were more likely to say that rich nations should take the lead in the fight to reduce emissions (50% to 46%), and more likely to lay blame for the global warming crisis at the feet of the United States (45% to 38%), which has long held the ignominious title of the world’s largest carbon emitter.

The sexes were also split in their assessment of their home country’s role in the climate crisis. Sixty-three percent of women say their nation is part of the problem, compared with 54% of men. Men were more likely to say their country was part of the solution, by a 46% to 37% margin.

The survey was conducted among 3,505 online respondents equally divided between the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Turkey, India and South Korea. Polling was conducted from May 10 to May 22. The overall margin of error overall in the survey is 1.8%.

TIME Media

Jill Abramson Insists on Calling Herself ‘Fired’

WIRED Business Conference: Think Bigger
Executive Editor of The New York Times Jill Abramson attends the WIRED Business Conference: Think Bigger at Museum of Jewish Heritage on May 7, 2013 in New York City. Brad Barket—Getty Images

"That's what happened to me, and I've devoted my whole career to truth-telling, so why hide that?"

Jill Abramson insisted Greta Van Susteren call her “fired New York Times editor” in her first television interview Wednesday since her contentious departure from the newspaper in May.

“That’s what happened to me, and I’ve devoted my whole career to truth-telling, so why hide that?” Abramson said on Fox News’s On the Record. “And there are an awful lot of people in this country who, like me, have been fired from their jobs.”

Abramson didn’t assign any specific blame for her firing, but did allude to the whispers that her firing was more about her personal demeanor than professional accomplishments. “It was said because my management style. I was a hard-charging editor, and there were some people who worked for me that didn’t like that style,” she said. “Women in leadership roles are scrutinized constantly and sometimes differently than men…there are certain code words: ‘strident,’ ‘too tough.'”

But she doesn’t think it was only about gender. “Plenty of guys get fired,” she said.

Abramson also observed that “it’s mighty strange going from one day being an editor of stories to being the story, but I think actually it’s healthy for journalists to know what it feels like on the opposite end of the probing and questioning.”

 

TIME viral

This Guy Can Make His Voice Sound Exactly Like a Girl’s

Okay, this might not sound all that impressive, but trust us

+ READ ARTICLE

At first, it’s just a regular dude with a regular dude voice. But then, all of a sudden, coming out of this regular dude’s mouth is a completely convincing girl voice.

The dude in question is actor and musician Matt Bittner, who seems to be a bit surprised that a video of him doing his girl voice — until now only famous among his friends — is getting attention on the web:

Hey man, remember: this is the Internet, where weird talents are worshipped.

TIME society

What I Learned as a Woman at a Men’s-Rights Conference

184867516
Don Bayley—Getty Images

I went to the conference in suburban Detroit expecting a group of feminist-hating Internet trolls; I found much more

Detroit once epitomized the possibilities of the American Dream: as the hub of the U.S. auto industry, money, power and a sense of virility seemed available to the men who worked hard enough, in factories and in boardrooms, to attain them. Now the city is a husk, and as the jobs trickled into other places, so too did the feeling that the only obstacle separating men and power was their own effort. Once a stronghold of American influence, the city of Detroit is now shorthand for decline and bankruptcy. It makes some sense, then, that the International Conference on Men’s Issues, a gathering staged to raise alarm against what its organizers describe as rising discrimination against men, chose the city for its inaugural meeting the last weekend of June.

For this passionate set, the leaders of what has become known as the men’s-rights movement, Detroit’s losses mirror their own sense of what they see as men’s flagging influence. Sure, women may have once been unequal, they say, but not anymore and not by a long shot.

As a journalist who thinks and writes frequently about women’s issues, I’m well acquainted with the darker side of the men’s-rights movement, which rears its ugly head in “the manosphere” and on Reddit forums, shielded by a comforting cloak of anonymity. And though I’ve never tackled its existence specifically in any story, I knew what some men’s-rights activists had done to women who had — launching large-scale rage campaigns full of name-calling, threats and crusades to get them fired. When I went to Detroit, I expected the men who attended this conference to not be thrilled with my presence — and many made clear that they weren’t — and to make provocative statements about “the myth of rape culture” and even to smoke a lot of e-cigarettes.

But what I didn’t expect was how it would make me feel: sad and angry and helpless and determined, all at the same time. Moreover, I didn’t expect to talk to so many men in genuine need of a movement that supports them, a movement that looks completely different from the one that had fomented online and was stoked by many who spoke at this three-day conference.

The event came at a time when attention for its supporters’ ideas are rising beyond the Internet’s fringe. And while nearly every corner of the web is now home to discussion of the state of feminism today, with anyone from Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg to Beyoncé participating, a countermovement is growing. Nearly 150,000 people subscribe to forums dedicated to men’s rights on the social-media site Reddit. A recent Saturday Night Live sketch starring Lena Dunham attacked their beliefs. And in May, these views came under greater scrutiny following the murders committed in Isla Vista, Calif., by Elliot Rodger, whose views of women matched those found in the extreme corners of the men’s-rights movement.

Beneath the vitriol and fear these men (and a small number of women) express are some truths about the state of men today. In a growing number of ways, boys and men are at a disadvantage. Men and women were hit unevenly by the recession. Women recovered job losses this spring. Men did not. Women are outpacing men in college enrollment, with 71% of women enrolling in a university immediately after high school, compared with only 61% of men, a 2012 Pew Research Center survey found. The suicide rate among men is four times the rate of women, with males accounting for 79% of all U.S. suicides, according to a 2010 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control. Frequently boys do not have the same support network as girls their age (the cost of this deficit was detailed by Rosalind Wiseman in TIME last December).

And yet despite these real troubles, the leaders of the movement have been unable to move beyond a reputation for hate. Its most influential online gathering place, the website A Voice for Men, founded in 2009 by Paul Elam, who led the June conference, has been described as “misogynist” by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Alabama nonprofit that tracks hate groups. In addition to purporting to “expose misandry on all levels in our culture,” the site is also frequently a soapbox for Elam to attack individual women he feels are threats to the movement.

Elam and nearly 150 supporters came to Detroit, then, to increase awareness of their cause, but also to try a little rebranding. Perhaps by organizing an official conference, they could make their movement more palatable to outsiders.

“Men’s rights is a tougher-than-necessary fight in a world that believes that men made the rules and have all the rights to begin with,” said Dr. Warren Farrell, an author and Elam’s mentor, who addressed the conference. “It’s like asking for kings’ rights.”

Beginning a Movement
Dr. Warren Farrell did not start the movement himself, but he’s been an icon for believers since the 1970s when two distinct camps of men’s activists began to emerge, one pro-feminist and one anti-feminist. The men’s-rights movement represented at the Detroit conference has its roots in anti-feminist, pro-masculine movements that ripened in the early 1980s. Farrell, once a prominent second-wave feminist who served on the board for New York’s National Organization for Women and was tasked with creating feminist groups for men, became disillusioned in the mid-1970s when NOW opposed “the presumption of joint custody” for parents. Since then, Farrell has focused primarily on men’s gender issues, writing the best seller The Myth of Male Power in 1993, which challenged the notion that men are oppressors.

Many of the men active in the movement seem to have been drawn there through their own harrowing personal experiences, whether with divorce courts that stripped them of custody or ex-wives who cheated. Born into a military family, Elam worked as an addiction counselor for 20 years, before becoming disenchanted with the academic direction of psychological treatment and what he saw as a feminist overhaul of psychotherapy.

Elam quit his job and spent time as a truck driver before starting A Voice for Men in 2009. The site launched just as the global recession was peaking, leaving many men out of work and struggling to reconcile their identities outside the role of primary breadwinner. Early on, notes Dr. Julie T. Woods, a professor of communication studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill who has written several texts about gender and culture, the 2008 recession was called the “mancession” because many more men than women became unemployed.

“I think you’re hearing real anxiety about not being able to fulfill this basic commandment of manhood as they define it,” Wood says.

This angst was palpable in Farrell’s remarks during the press conference. “Women don’t marry men in unemployment lines,” he said. The audience nodded in agreement.

Today, Farrell’s concerns are not just financial. He speaks in favor of developing a male birth control pill, establishing better programs to care for veterans and helping boys struggling through adolescence. His allies rally against what they see as rampant paternity fraud (when a woman attempts to pin paternity on the nonbiological father of her child with the hopes of getting child support), a biased court system that favors mothers over fathers, soaring male suicide rates and prominence of domestic violence against men.

Women, they say, have distorted private life and taken over public life (never mind that 4 out of 5 Representatives in Congress or 9 out of 10 governors are male).

“Legislation is routinely drafted to advantage women and disadvantage men,” said British activist Mike Buchanan, later adding, “Boys are being relentlessly disadvantaged by an ever more feminized education system.”

Despite a shared feeling of disenfranchisement, most of the attendees I spoke with struggled to recall a time in their lives when they were discriminated against for being men. When asked, two different attendees mentioned losing out to a woman for a job opportunity, though one conceded that she could have simply been more qualified.

Some of the men at the conference said they were drawn to the movement after alarming personal experiences caused them to realize there were far fewer resources for men’s emotional and physical health than there were for women.

Brendan Rex, a 28-year-old who flew down from Manitoba, Canada, to attend the event, confided that he lost his virginity at the age of 14 when a woman climbed on top of him and had sex with him while he was drunk and unconscious.

“It kind of took me a few years to come to terms with the concept that I had nowhere to go,” Rex said. “Then about six years ago I kind of realized that there were a lot of other people like me; it’s not uncommon for men to be sexually abused, it’s not uncommon for men to be sexually abused by women. But because there’s this lack of knowledge, there’s this lack of community — you’re completely isolated. You have no one to talk to who understands this.”

‘Evil Empire’
Throughout the three-day event, the specter of feminism, or what British domestic-violence activist Erin Pizzey called “the evil empire,” loomed large, threatening to rip children from their fathers, lobby false rape accusations and remind men that in parenting, work and war they are forever disposable. (The movement includes a small fraction of women dedicated to the same mission.)

A palpable distaste for women seeped between the cracks of the conference, in comical asides and throwaway comments. When the conference’s M.C., Robert O’Hara, asked a woman in the audience a question and she responded with a no, he quickly shot back “Doesn’t no mean yes?” The audience burst into laughter.

During another panel, psychologist Tara Palmatier cued up a slide with a photo of Miley Cyrus displaying her naked stomach. Transposed atop it was the caption, “Quit objectifying me. You’re being rapey!” a clear nod to the belief that a woman’s attire and behavior are causal factors of sexual assault.

Stefan Molyneux, a Canadian radio host, blamed mothers for the violent behavior of men.

Molyneux said that because 90% of a child’s brain is formed by the experiences it has before the age of 5, and women have “an almost universal control over childhood,” violence exists in the world because of the way women treat children.

“If we could just get people to be nice to their babies for five years straight, that would be it for war, drug abuse, addiction, promiscuity, sexually transmitted diseases,” he said. “Almost all would be completely eliminated, because they all arise from dysfunctional early childhood experiences, which are all run by women.”

Dr. Jay Giedd, who serves as chief of the National Institute of Mental Health’s Unit on Brain Imaging in the Child Psychiatry Branch, said that he didn’t think this idea “could be more wrong.”

Though a child’s brain reaches 90% of its size by age 5, that doesn’t mean it’s done developing. “Almost nothing is set in the first five years or even in the first 10,” he said. “There’s no scientific support for these claims.”

At Elam’s request, the majority of the speakers were noticeably less anti-woman in person than many are in their writings or speeches elsewhere. A recording from Molyneux’s radio show from January posted to YouTube with the title “The Matriarchal Lineage of Corruption” reveals the full extent of his thinking.


(Warning: NSFW material)

“Women who choose a–holes guarantee child abuse,” he says. “All the cold-hearted jerks who run the world came out of the vaginas of women who married a–holes. I don’t know how to make the world a better place without holding women accountable for choosing a–holes.”

“Women worship at the feet of the devil and wonder why the world is evil,” he adds later. “And then know what they say? ‘We’re victims!’”

The movement is quick to disavow the concept of misogyny and instead direct attention to so-called Honey Badgers, a handful of women who support the cause. When I introduced myself as a reporter to two men sitting in the audience during the first day of the conference, one attempted to predict my first question by saying, “Do I hate women? No.”

Still, being surrounded by men who belly-laughed at rape jokes and pinned evil elements of human nature wholesale on women was emotionally taxing at best and self-destructive at worst. Once, during a particularly upsetting segment of the program, I had to excuse myself from the auditorium to seek refuge on the bug-filled bank of Lake St. Clair. I kept wondering why I had volunteered to fly 600 miles to attend the conference alone, to surround myself not just with crass ideological opponents, but with people with violent Internet histories who believed my very existence oppressed them. But to emerge on the other side of this with both my sanity and a worthwhile story, I would have to actually adopt a grain of their advice. I would have to stop feeling like a victim, and in turn cast aside all of the humiliating and unfair and devastating experiences I had collected as a woman.

Online Intimidation
For the most part, the conference tried to display the gentler side of the movement, one that embraces activism for significant men’s issues. Its organizers are aware of the fact that it would tarnish their authority to allow misogyny to overshadow their policy prescriptions to help real problems that affect men.

Days before the event began, Elam published a warning post on A Voice for Men saying that some ideological opponents and members of the media “will be looking for anything they can to hurt us with,” so anyone caught trash-talking women would be ejected from the conference.

For Elam, who once created a website called Register-Her, which encouraged men to name and shame women who supposedly made false rape allegations, shifting to a less polarizing agenda would mean a powerful change of heart. Elam has since shuttered Register-Her, and at the conference spoke of working to “build bridges between men and women instead of walls.”

“I find it hard to believe that this is Saul on the road to Damascus,” says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, “that Elam has really had an entire personality change.”

Though in person the activists worked hard to coat their message in a kinder, press-friendly sheen, the conference had barely been over for a day before Elam published a post to A Voice for Men taking issue with my tweets during the conference, which made clear that I was upset by many of the sentiments expressed.

In the post, Elam called me a “low rent hack” who “practiced journalistic scumtardery,” a “liar and a bigot [who] will be exposed.” He titled the post “An Amazing, Amazing Conference, Even With the Stink of Jessica Roy in the Air.” Those who tweeted at me following the publication of the post minced fewer words.

It seemed the perfect example of the fact that though the movement was attempting to put a polite face on in public, they still continue to harass and intimidate online. (Though they adopted similarly skeptical attitudes, none of the male reporters who tweeted or wrote about the event were subject to similar treatment.)

Elam says that being satirical and controversial is his way of drawing attention to the message.

When you talk to someone like 68-year-old Steve DeLuca, the legitimate need to remedy some of the issues raised by men’s-rights activists becomes more evident. A Vietnam veteran who was injured in combat, DeLuca spoke movingly to me about the two brothers he lost to suicide, and the unfathomable toll the high suicide rate among men can take. There are men out there, like DeLuca and Brendan Rex, who have a real stake in the movement’s success. The paranoia and vitriol of its leaders can’t possibly do anything for them.

Update: This original story has been updated to clarify comments from Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 45,237 other followers