TIME feminism

The Day Women Went on Strike

Women's Strike For Peace-And Equality
Eugene Gordon—The New York Historical Society / Getty Images Women's Strike for Peace and Equality, New York City, Aug. 26, 1970.

The Women's Strike for Equality March took place on Aug. 26, 1970

On Aug. 26, 1970, a full 50 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment granted women the right to vote, 50,000 feminists paraded down New York City’s Fifth Avenue with linked arms, blocking the major thoroughfare during rush hour. Now, 45 years later, the legacy of that day continues to evolve.

Officially sponsored by the National Organization for Women (NOW), the Women’s Strike for Equality March was the brainchild of Betty Friedan, who wanted an “action” that would show the American media the scope and power of second-wave feminism.

As TIME observed just days before the march, the new feminist movement emerged out of a moment in which “virtually all of the nation’s systems — industry, unions, the professions, the military, the universities, even the organizations of the New Left — [were] quintessentially masculine establishments.” The notion of women’s liberation was extremely controversial, and the movement was in its infancy.

Friedan’s original idea for Aug. 26 was a national work stoppage, in which women would cease cooking and cleaning in order to draw attention to the unequal distribution of domestic labor, an issue she discussed in her 1963 bestseller The Feminine Mystique. It isn’t clear how many women truly went on “strike” that day, but the march served as a powerful symbolic gesture. Participants held signs with slogans like “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot” and “Don’t Cook Dinner – Starve a Rat Today.”

The number of marchers exceeded Friedan’s “wildest dreams.” TIME described the event as “easily the largest women’s rights rally since the suffrage protests.” It brought together older, liberal feminists like Friedan and Bella Abzug with a younger, more radical contingent of women. As Joyce Antler, a historian who participated in the demonstration, told me, many of these women “were veterans of civil rights marches and anti-war protests of the 1960s. We marched throughout the ‘60s and we had faith that this mattered.”

The day of activism reached beyond New York City, as thousands of feminists across the country coordinated sister demonstrations. A full range of creative, confrontational tactics was on display, as activists infiltrated “all male” bars and restaurants, held teach-ins and sit-ins, picketed and rallied, in Detroit, Indianapolis, Boston, Berkeley and New Orleans. One thousand women marched on the nation’s capital, holding a banner that read “We Demand Equality.” In Los Angeles, feminists wearing Richard Nixon masks enacted guerrilla street theater. “The solidarity was completely exhilarating,” Antler recalls.

The organizers of the day’s events agreed on a set of three specific goals, which reflected the overall spirit of second-wave feminism: free abortion on demand, equal opportunity in employment and education, and the establishment of 24/7 childcare centers. Over the next several years, activists would use multiple techniques — from public protest to legislative lobbying — in an attempt to turn these goals into realities.

So how did they fare?

The women’s movement was most successful in pushing for gender equality in workplaces and universities. The passage of Title IX in 1972 forbade sex discrimination in any educational program that received federal financial assistance. The amendment had a dramatic affect on leveling the playing field in girl’s athletics. Also, feminists made the workforce a more hospitable space for women with policies banning sexual harassment, something the Equal Opportunity Commission recognized in 1980. Women’s participation in college, graduate school and the professions has steadily increased over the past several decades, although a gender wage gap still exists.

In terms of abortion access, activists have also made great strides since 1970, but have suffered serious setbacks as well. In 1973, after legal strategizing by NOW and other reproductive rights groups, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion in all fifty states. This was a major feminist victory, but it was also limited, as the decision only protected a woman’s right to terminate during her first trimester of pregnancy, allowing for state intervention in the second and third trimesters. Furthermore, Roe v. Wade did not address the cost of an abortion, which was high enough to be out of reach for many women. In the years after the decision, backlash to Roe triggered many varieties of legislation that further eroded women’s access to the procedure.

Perhaps the least amount of progress has been made in the area of childcare, which remains prohibitively expensive for many American women. In 1971, Congress passed the Comprehensive Child Development Act, which would have set up local day care centers for children on a sliding scale based on family income, but Nixon vetoed the bill. While President Obama has spoken about making affordable childcare a national priority, there are no current plans to offer government-funded, round-the-clock care in the United States as feminists had initially envisioned. As of 2014, the average annual cost of enrolling in a daycare center for an infant is, in most states, higher than the cost of a public college in that state.

So the long-term results of the Strike for Equality March have been mixed. But in the short-term, the event did accomplish one major goal: it helped make the feminist movement visible. In the immediate aftermath, a CBS poll showed that four out of five adults were aware of women’s liberation, and NOW’s membership grew by 50%. “The huge number of marchers, young and old, made a convincing case that this was a movement for everyone,” Antler explains. In this sense, the event exemplified cross-generational solidarity among women. Today’s intersectional feminist activists hope to build coalitions across race, class, and sexuality as well, as they work to fulfill the unfinished mission of their foremothers.

The Long ViewHistorians explain how the past informs the present

Sascha Cohen is a PhD candidate in the history department at Brandeis University, specializing in the social and cultural history of 1970s America.

TIME Military

Navy Admiral Says Women Should Be Allowed to Join Navy SEALs

Navy SEALs practice Over The Beach evolutions during a training exercise on May 25, 2004 in a Remote Training Facility.
Getty Images Navy SEALs practice Over The Beach evolutions during a training exercise on May 25, 2004 in a Remote Training Facility.

Earlier this week, two women became the first female Rangers.

The first real-life G.I. Jane might be coming soon.

Admiral Jon Greenert, Chief of Naval Operations, told the Navy Times and Defense News that he and Rear Admiral Brian Losey, who heads the Naval Special Warfare Command, believe that if a woman passes the famously rigorous six-month Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training, they should be allowed to be part of the elite team.

“Why shouldn’t anybody who can meet these [standards] be accepted? And the answer is, there is no reason,” Greenert said. “So we’re on a track to say, ‘Hey look, anybody who can meet the gender non-specific standards, then you can become a SEAL.'”

This has been a fantastic week for women aspiring to join the elite ranks of the American military: On Monday, two women passed the grueling Ranger School test and are set to the be the first females to graduate from the Ranger School.

Losey was part of a comprehensive review that recommended women be integrated into the Navy if they meet the same standards as applied to men. The Navy currently has sparse representation of women in elite sections of the branch: among 1,153 divers, only seven are women, and only ten women are part of the 1,094-strong Explosive Ordinance Disposal team.

Each branch of the military is required to allow females into combat positions by 2016 or explain why they cannot do so.

TIME Business

Target Finally Listened to My Viral Tweet About Boys’ and Girls’ Toys

A sign is seen on the exterior of a Target store in Chicago on July, 18, 2006.
Scott Olson—Getty Images Target logo

Abi Bechtel is a freelance writer and MFA candidate at the University of Akron.

The decision to remove gender-based labels is a welcome sign

One afternoon at the playground a few years ago, my then 5-year-old was hot, dusty, and flawless, with red glitter fingernail polish that sparkled in the sunlight. My kids had teamed up with some older boys, and they were all playing happily in the clubhouse when one of the older boys asked: “Don’t you know nail polish is for girls?”

My 5-year-old shrugged and replied, “Nah, anyone can wear nail polish if they like it. It looks really cool!” He held out his fingers for the older boys to see. “Look how sparkly it is!” They crowded around. “Yeah, it does look pretty cool,” one of them agreed. “It kind of looks like lava,” said another. And then they all went back to pretending the clubhouse was a pirate ship in shark-infested waters.

Being a feminist parent of sons often feels like its own journey through shark-infested waters. Our society is constantly telling kids how they’re expected to perform girlhood or boyhood, and so my partner and I spend a lot of time trying to help our boys to unlearn these messages.

That’s why when I was toy shopping in Target a few months ago and noticed the “building sets/girls’ building sets” aisle sign, I rolled my eyes and tweeted a picture.

It seemed to imply that if “building sets” are for kids, and “girls’ building sets” are for girls, then “girls” is a distinct category from “kids.” Here was one more piece of visual rhetoric telling my sons that boys are normative, and girls are other.

First grade seems to be when the awareness of cooties develops. We’d walk past the all-pink aisles of the toy section, and one of my sons—the same one who, a few years before, would snuggle next to me and nurse his stuffed animals while I breastfed his baby brother—would yell, “Ew, girl stuff!” At his girl cousin’s house, he would eye her train toys suspiciously and ask, “Why do you like Thomas the Tank Engine?” Toys came in two flavors—boy and girl—and everything not pink was for boys only. A girl playing with toys that didn’t come from the girl aisles was suspect; a boy playing with anything pink was putting his maleness at risk.

If you read the comments on any article about Caitlyn Jenner, you’ll see gender anxiety in full display. If my Twitter mentions these days are any indication, a lot of men still feel that their masculinity is at risk of being contaminated just from having toys for boys shelved near toys for girls. Masculinity, it seems, is so fragile that proximity to pink can taint it.

But we don’t have to teach our kids to live inside the narrow confines of gender stereotypes. This is why Target’s announcement that it’s removing gender identifiers from its toy and kids’ bedding department is a big deal. When toys aren’t color-coded pink or blue or labeled “boys’” or “girls,’” kids are freed up to play with what they want and pursue their own interests. No longer boxed into their half of the toy section, children of all genders can be nurturers and builders, scientific and creative, peaceful and rowdy, chaotic and organized, homekeeper and adventurer. Our kids contain multitudes, and we owe it to them to let them explore their full range of interests without anxiety or limitation.

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 Innovation

Being Sarcastic Is Good for You

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

These are today's best ideas

1. Go ahead, be sarcastic. Harvard says it’s good for you.

By Christina Pazzanese in the Harvard Gazette

2. Serving in Congress is a pretty crummy job.

By Ezra Klein in Vox

3. Does America need a truth and reconciliation commission for race relations?

By Ronald C. Slye in Reuters Great Debate

4. Who would win a war between Al Qaeda and ISIS?

By Mark Hay in Vice

5. Where are all the women chess players?

By Hana Schank in Aeon

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

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 politics

This Is How Politically Inferior Women Were After the American Revolution

Abigail Adams
MPI—Getty Images circa 1775: Abigail Smith Adams (1744 - 1818), from a painting by C Schessele

When an American woman married a foreign man, she lost her American citizenship altogether

History News Network

This post is in partnership with the History News Network, the website that puts the news into historical perspective. The article below was originally published at HNN.

Hillary Rodham Clinton might become president just a few years short of the hundredth anniversary of the nineteenth amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. But it will have been more than twice that long since this nation in its founding years missed the opportunity to include women in its governance. Images of early twentieth-century suffragists marching for the vote in their long skirts and beflowered hats can give the impression that women’s political power gradually grew from the distant past through today, but American history has not been a constant march toward broader political rights. Although we might finally have a first female president in 2017, by 1776 three women had actually ruled over the British colonies of North America: Queen Elizabeth I, for whom the Virginia colony of Roanoke was named; Queen Anne, who ruled England from 1702 to 1714; and her sister Mary II, who ruled alongside her husband. Yet the founders of the United States created an independent republic that decreased women’s political participation and delayed their inclusion in the governing of this nation.

Of course European and colonial American women did not have equal political rights with men. The fact that the new country had founding fathers reflects women’s political subordination. Regarding legal rights, Britain’s system of coverture meant that married women had no legal identity of their own. As dependents of their husbands, they could not own property or businesses, serve on juries, write contracts, sue, or be sued. (The British and American custom of a wife taking her husband’s last name represented women’s loss of legal identity within marriage.)

Yet colonial women’s inequality to men was part of a complicated hierarchy. Women were dependent on their fathers or husbands, but everyone but the monarch was dependent on someone. Most men did not have voting rights. Common people’s political rights often lay in street protests, and women were part of the crowd. Widows were not subject to coverture and could own property and run businesses.

The founders of the American republic dramatically changed American political life, but they decided not to advance women’s political or legal rights. Women played a vital role in the protests and the war against the British empire. Women were in the crowds protesting the Stamp Act. Because women were in charge of most household consumption, the Revolution depended on their enthusiastic support of boycotts against British goods. Philadelphian Esther de Berdt Reed raised thousands of dollars to support the Continental Army. Countless women contributed and solicited money, sewed shirts for soldiers (each embroidered with the name of the woman who made it), prepared food, and made bullets. Both the Continental Army and the British Army enlisted women as cooks and laundresses. Other women unofficially accompanied the army to stay with their family members, protect themselves from invading armies, and take advantage of the economic opportunities a large army provided. Countless women managed farms and business when their husbands went to war. Not all critical contributions to the founding of a nation take place in a convention hall or on a battlefield.

Some women urged that the United States include women as it expanded political rights. Judith Sargent Murrayargued in the Massachusetts Magazinethat women, too, had the right to self-govern that the Enlightenment declared for men. It made no sense to assume that nature had “yielded to one half of the human species so unquestionable a mental superiority.” The new country should ensure that “independence should be placed within their grasp” as well. In her valedictory address to the Philadelphia Academy in 1793, graduate Priscilla Mason argued that men “denied us the means of knowledge, and then reproached us for the want of it. . . . They doomed the sex to servile or frivolous employments, on purpose to degrade [our] minds, that they themselves might hold unrivalled, the power and preeminence they had usurped.” She hoped that her generation of women would gain access to the professions, including government.

Instead, Congress left coverture in place and let the states decide voting regulations. All of the states eventually explicitly defined voting citizens as male and white. New Jersey’s state constitution initially granted the vote to “all inhabitants” who were adult property-owners, so some white and black propertied widows (as well as some black men) voted in the state’s early years. Female property-owners’ participation was uncontroversial enough that New Jersey’s 1790 election law explicitly referred to the voter as “he or she.” But as elections became more hotly contested in the early nineteenth century, the political parties accused each other of taking advantage of women or even dressing men as women in order to commit voter fraud. In 1807, New Jersey joined the other states with a new state constitution that restricted the vote to free, white, adult male property owners. Some districts in some states allowed women to vote in school board elections, figuring they had particular expertise and concern over children’s education. But generally, as the states dropped the requirement for property ownership to vote or hold office, they increasingly defined political participation as the purview of only white men. Coverture remained the law. When an American woman married a foreign man, she lost her American citizenship altogether.

When regions that had not been British colonies became states in the union, women there lost ground. The colonies of other empires, including France and Spain, had not had coverture, so women had legal rights and usually greater economic opportunities. In most American Indian nations, women owned the farmland, but many of them also fell under coverture as the United States expanded west.

Hillary Clinton’s career is an important milestone in the history of formal female participation in government, but women have been crucial to the founding and the development of the nation since its beginning, despite their lack of recognition.

Kathleen DuVal teaches Early American history and American Indian history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her latest book is Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (2015).

TIME Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton, Republicans Play Different 2016 Gender Cards

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Campaigns in Iowa
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Hillary Clinton, former U.S. secretary of state and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, pauses while speaking during a campaign event in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, U.S., on Friday, July 17, 2015.

The Clinton campaign see opportunity in a Republican critique

Lost in Donald Trump’s wowza of a speech in South Carolina on Monday, where he revealed Lindsey Graham’s cell phone number, was his tiny mockery of Hillary Clinton. About 30 minutes into the speech, Trump asks: “Who would you rather have negotiate against China, for example? … Trump or Hillary?”

He then pursues his lips, leans to the right and waves his right hand as if he was one of his Miss Universe contestants, batting his eyelashes: “Hi, everybody, hi.” He then straightens and fires directly at Clinton, “She’s the one with the tone.”

It’s not the first time Trump has gone after Clinton by referencing her gender. “You know, she’s playing the woman card really big. I watched her the other day and all she would talk about was, ‘Women! Women! I’m a woman! I’m going to be the youngest woman in the White House! I’m not going to have white hair, I’m going to dye my hair blonde!’” he said in his first campaign speech in Iowa after announcing his candidacy earlier this month.

Given the tsunami of outrage Trump tends to inspire, it’s not surprising that his comments on Clinton have only made moderate waves. But what’s surprising is that he’s not the only Republican who has criticized Clinton for acknowledging that she is a woman. Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell went after Clinton in the same way. “I don’t think arguing ‘vote for me because I’m a woman’ is enough,” the Kentucky Republican said at an event in his home state on Monday, according to The Associated Press. “You may recall my election last year,” McConnell said, referring to his Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes, whom he defeated by double digits in the 2014 midterm election. “The gender card alone is not enough.”

The Clinton campaign saw that comment as an opportunity. Perhaps waiting for the GOP to make the gender play, campaign aides quickly shot back with this sleek video where they literally play gender cards:

Echoing the video, Clinton responded to McConnell during a Facebook question-and-answer session. “Wow,” Clinton said. “Mitch McConnell really doesn’t get it. There is a gender card being played in this campaign. It’s played every time Republicans vote against giving women equal pay, deny families access to affordable child care or family leave, refuse to let women make decisions about their health or have access to free contraception.”

Republicans have always disdained identity politics, and playing to women is no exception. But McConnell risks misplaying his hand by comparing Clinton to his former opponent. Grimes had a relatively thin resume, Clinton has a record of championing women’s issues that goes back decades. “It’s just not true that she doesn’t have a record or that she’s running simply to be the first female president,” said Jennifer Lawless, director of American University’s Women & Politics Institute. “McConnell’s statement seems belittling and sexist.”

McConnell and Trump’s attacks open the door for Clinton to play to her strengths, reminding voters that the GOP record on women’s issues like equal pay, contraception and rape. President Obama won women in 2012 by 12 percentage points, one of the biggest gender gaps in history. As potential first female president, Clinton has the potential to expand that gap. “Hillary may be able to boost turnout among the groups of women that Democrats target and may even be able to pull off enough of the women that generally lean more Republican such as white suburban women to build a winning coalition,” said Michele Swers, a government professor at Georgetown and author of two books on women in politics.

The debate riles up Republican women sick of seeing their party tarnished as anti-women. “There’s a hypocrisy with Hillary’s gender bashing,” said Katie Packer Gage, who was Mitt Romney’s deputy campaign manager in 2012 and now runs an all-female GOP consulting firm. “She’s not the only one for equal pay for equal work. Everyone is for that.”

Republicans oppose Democratic legislation on equal pay because it could lead to more lawsuits and a boon to trial lawyers. They’ve introduced their own legislation that increases incentives for companies to provide equal pay. Those bills died, though, both in the House and the Senate at the end of the last Congress and the GOP has yet to reintroduce them again this session. Indeed, Republican men should probably not be talking about gender and Clinton at all, Gage said. “I don’t think it’s a particularly smart move for the men in our party to be leading the charge on this because it’s the gender card,” Gage said. “It’s better for women to speak out on it.”

But the GOP’s lone female presidential candidate, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, has been noticeably mum on the issue. Her campaign did not respond to a request for comment. And none of the GOP’s high profile elected women have seemed inclined to wade into the debate. Meanwhile, unfortunately for the GOP, the only ones being heard on gender are Trump, McConnell and Clinton.

TIME LGBT

Discrimination Against LGBT Workers Is Illegal, Commission Rules

A man waves the LGBT rainbow flag in support of gay marriage
Craig Ferguson—LightRocket via Getty Images A man waves the LGBT rainbow flag in support of gay marriage as a campaign march calling for the legalization of gay marriage passes by. (Craig Ferguson/LightRocket-- Getty Images)

The 1964 Civil Rights Act now protects gay workers from discrimination

Workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission concluded this week, in a groundbreaking ruling that provides new protections for LGBT Americans.

In a decision dated Thursday, the EEOC said that employers who discriminate against LGBT workers are violating Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits employment discrimination “based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.”

In the past, courts have ruled that Title VII does not cover discrimination based on sexual orientation because it’s not explicitly mentioned in the law, but the EEOC’s ruling disputes that reasoning. “Sexual orientation discrimination is sex discrimination because it necessarily entails treating an employee less favorably because of the employee’s sex,” the EEOC concluded. The committee argued that if an employer discriminated against a lesbian for displaying a photo of her wife, but not a straight man for showing a photo of his wife, that amounts to sex discrimination.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts hinted at similar reasoning earlier this year when considering the same-sex marriage case, even though he ultimately dissented on the court’s June 26 ruling in support of gay marriage. “If Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t,” Roberts argued in April. “And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission also argued this week that since courts have consistently ruled that the racial protections of Title VII apply to relationships, the sex protections should apply to relationships as well. Under Title VII, employers can’t discriminate against employees based on the races of their spouses or friends (so, for example, you couldn’t be fired for being in an interracial marriage). The EEOC’s Thursday ruling ensures that the same standard applies to sex as well, which means you can’t be fired based on whom you choose to date or marry.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was created to enforce and implement the 1964 Civil Rights Act. This new interpretation radically expands the scope of those protections.

The ruling could be seen as a victory for LGBT activists, who have been advocating for greater workplace protections for years, and have redoubled their efforts in the wake of the landmark same-sex marriage ruling last month. Presidential candidates like former Florida Governor Jeb Bush have come out in support of laws to protect LGBT workers against discrimination, saying at a recent campaign event, “I don’t think you should be discriminated because of your sexual orientation. Period. Over and out.”

Housing and employment law are seen as the next battleground for LGBT activists, but the EEOC decision suggests that LGBT workers are already covered under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which may complicate the push to pass legislation with specific protections for LGBT workers.

TIME fashion

Why It Took Americans So Long to Care About Men’s Fashion

Models stand on stage for the Cadet presentation during Men's Fashion Week, in New York
Lucas Jackson / REUTERS Models stand on stage for the Cadet presentation during New York Fashion Week: Men's.

New York Fashion Week: Men’s edition premieres this week. As the name suggests, it’s the men’s version of the women’s event that takes over New York biannually with a stream of models, designers, and outfits being feverishly dissected in media for days on end. The men’s fashion week is at a much smaller scale, but a host of designers, new and old have descended on Gotham hoping that American men will finally pay attention to couture the way their European counterparts have.

So why the sudden focus on men’s fashion? After all, it’s not like men emerged as a new demographic. Men have always needed to get dressed, have always been half the population, and have historically worked in office environments longer than women.

Men’s fashion has been perceived as boringhow many viable ways could you really reconstruct the suit? Ties get skinnier then fatter; colors creep towards pastel then return to bland office-appropriate hues; jackets lose boxiness and hug shoulders more. But we are in the throes of a men’s fashion upheaval. The basics of men’s officewear are getting thrown aside as business casual is becoming the norm: jeans are favored by startup types, ties are restricted to certain sectors, shirts are relaxing their starched collars. Suddenly, there’s a very urgent space for men’s fashion.

Social media has emerged as a key player in the turnaround in not only making fashion more accessible but offering a lens to what dudes around the globe were wearing. Think of early fashion blogs: Most were exclusively for women, but The Sartorialist was one of the first to incorporate men (albeit, focusing mostly on Europeans) into its spreads, creating an ideal of what men’s fashion could besomething that had been sorely lacking. Men, after all, relied mainly on pop culture for inspiration before; now, there lay an entire world of opportunity.

“The men’s industry has [overtaken] women’s in terms of growth over the last couple of years,” says Steven Kolb, chief executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, or CFDA, the group that organizes New York’s fashion weeks. “I think the ability to shop easily through e-commerce and mobile commerce has made it more within reach of the guy who wants to shop.” For the guy—and girl—who hates going to the mall, sifting through messy hangers with club hits blasting or looking for a more streamlined process, e-commerce has been a blessing in convenience, efficiency, and comfort.

The data supports this: Euromonitor International reported earlier this year that menswear saw an increase of 4.5% in $440 billion in sales in 2014 alone. A 2014 report from Bain showed that men’s luxury accessories have outpaced women’s since 2009, increasing up to 13% per year. Traditionally female designers like Prada, Hermes, and Dolce & Gabbana have launched men’s lines to great success. And men love to shop online for clothes—much more so than for techie gadgets.

A generational difference may also play a role in the changing attitudes toward men’s fashion, Kolb said: Millennials are much more tuned into their smartphones and social media, the prime spots for what’s hot and what’s not. Consider Millennials’ penchant for posting selfies: All of a sudden, what you wear is being broadcast to the world, and what you wear is saying a whole lot more about who you are.

“I think Millennials tend to use the way they dress as a statement,” Kolb said. “You see the public figures that people relate to, like sports figures, musicians—and [the consumer] just has more options.”

Male fashion role models are no longer restricted to the stereotypical trifecta of sports, music, and politicians; there’s an entire smorgasbord of types that are all equally as cool and all play into aspects of a man’s personality and lifestyle. Personalization, in other words, has arrived for the American man’s fashion palate, and, combined with the ease and dominance of technology in daily life, has made fashion more accessible.

Plus there’s more wardrobe flexibility in the modern workplace. Combined with alternative male identities that have made it socially acceptable to be fashion conscious and retain a strong sense of masculinity, whether it be gay or straight or transgendered (think: hipster, metrosexual, lumbersexual, gender fluid, androgynous or just nerd), men’s fashion has become a viable concept.

“I think the world’s attitudes towards masculinity have really progressed,” Jeremy Lewis, editor of Garmento, a fashion magazine, told Business of Fashion. “The classic male archetype has been pretty misogynistic, sexist, and slightly fascist and I think that’s broken down quite a bit over the last 20 years. It makes more sense in a world that is becoming less patriarchal that the male identity would shift to allow for something like fashion or style … to be adopted.”

But before American men can fully celebrate the inclusion of a men’s fashion week and how far we’ve come as a society, it’s worth remembering a key fact: The United States is sorely behind in this realm. New York was the last of the great four fashion capitals (the other three being Paris, London, and Milan) to create an exclusively male-centric fashion week. And the week is getting only a fraction of the attention that its sister organization gets.

Kolb realizes the uphill battle the CFDA faces in hosting the week. “It’s a new event and new effort and we’re able to connect to a broader audience differently,” he said, confirming that the show is slated for a repeat next year. “We have a robust marketing campaign, amazing fashion partners, this city, and magazines and newspapers and pretty cool campaigns.”

In other words, there’s no reason why the guys can’t have in on the fun of dressing up.

 

TIME Opinion

Ellen Pao Was One More ‘Difficult’ Female Executive

Ellen Pao
Eric Risberg—AP Ellen Pao, the interim chief of Reddit, has alleged she faced gender discrimination from former employer Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers

She may have not been the right person to lead Reddit. But that doesn’t mean the deck wasn’t stacked from the start

Take a woman in the middle of an intensely polarizing Silicon Valley gender-discrimination lawsuit and put her in charge of cleaning up a tech company known for its mostly male, highly vocal and often controversial user base. What could go wrong?

You could say it’s no surprise that Ellen Pao is stepping down as interim CEO of the message-board site Reddit. Her short and brutal tenure began last fall and slammed into a wall in May when she announced that the site would begin enforcing antiharassment policies that some of the site’s 164 million, mainly anonymous users believe to be antithetical to the community’s free-speech ideals. (Though a for-profit enterprise, Reddit has grown into a powerhouse because it is largely self-governed.)

The company’s decision in early June to ban of five of the site’s notoriously virulent and abusive forums, many of which have been condemned by civil rights watch organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and various women’s groups for glorifying everything from racism to rape, was not Pao’s alone. The site’s executives, board and high-profile investors realize that the company has to modernize, i.e. become more commercial. Doing that means shining light on the darker corners of the site so the socially enriching part can thrive.

But Pao became the face of change. The controversial, “difficult” female face of unwelcome, unholy change. The resulting clash of an anonymous online army and a perceived lady enforcer is worthy of an HBO epic series.

The announcement about the renewed antiharassment rules, designed to protect individuals from attack, came just few months after Pao lost her high-profile suit against venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In the suit — she is currently appealing the ruling against her — she alleged the company retaliated against her for calling executives out on endemic corporate sexism. The firm, in turn, alleged that she was not promoted because she was “difficult” and not a “team player.”

Sure, Kleiner Perkins didn’t come out looking particularly good either, especially when partner John Doerr was quoted as saying that the most successful tech entrepreneurs are “white, male nerds.” But Pao’s reputation took the biggest hit. So when she told Reddit’s users that they were going to have to shut down five threads accused of fat shaming individuals among other nefarious deeds, she might has well have been wielding a flamethrower. Even if Reddit management was united about the rules, it sure looked like mom was coming in to make everyone behave. That did not go over well.

A Change.org petition sprung up in June accusing Pao of ushering in an age of “censorship” and calling her “manipulative.” The document — and the flood of anti-Pao threads on Reddit — argued she had attempted to “sue her way to the top.” Never mind that she has better on-paper credentials than most executives. (She is Princeton-educated engineer with a Harvard law degree and an MBA.) Nor was she the most controversial, or abrasive or difficult boss in an industry known for CEOs that sometimes lack, to put it gently, interpersonal skills.

But the rules are so often different for women at the top. Personality matters and the margin of misinformation is tiny. Be very good at your job. And also, play nice. When Jill Abramson was fired as editor of the New York Times she was described with many of the same adjectives used to vilify Pao at trial. Abramson made a fuss over gender inequities, she was “difficult,” she “challenged the top brass.”

By July 2 when Pao made the mistake of firing a popular female staffer who served as an intermediary with the volunteer moderators, the site’s users were already primed to grab their virtual pitchforks. The petition to get rid of her racked up thousands more signatures and moderators started shutting down pieces of the site and writing editorials in the New York Times. Pao apologized, not just for the abrupt firing, but also for a general lack of communication with volunteer-forum moderators, a problem that even many of her critics admit predated her tenure.

Then on July 10 she announced she would be stepping down and that co-founder Steve Huffman would return as permanent CEO. She is planning to stay on as an adviser, though in an interview with TIME, the company’s chairman Alexis Ohanian did not clearly define what that actually means. However, in his statement board member Sam Altman did acknowledge some of the toxic abuse aimed at Pao saying: “It was sickening to see some of the things Redditors wrote about Ellen. The reduction in compassion that happens when we’re all behind computer screens is not good for the world. People are still people even if there is Internet between you.”

Finding a way to curb those baser impulses without crushing the vibrancy and goodness that exists on the 10-year old site will now be Huffman’s challenge. It won’t be easy. In reality, the censorship that some users were so furious about barely nicked at the not-so-subtle undercurrents of hate and misogyny. Sure, the repulsive “creepshots” thread is no more, but “CoonTown,” Reddit’s 10,000-subscriber racist community, rife with the N word is still there. And at a moment when Southern Republicans are calling for the removal of Confederate flags, fighting to preserve those kinds of forums looks as outdated as it does insensitive.

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