TIME gender

What We Can Learn From the Women Who Passed as Men to Serve in the U.S. Army

People like 'Lyons' Wakeman have a lesson for today

Now that the Pentagon has lifted the 1994 ban barring women from serving in special-operations and combat units, critics are waging a battle of their own, insisting that women lack the physical and psychological stamina that combat requires. While military officials insist they won’t soften their intense standards in order to allow more women entry, opponents argue that women will never be able to join otherwise, and that the Pentagon’s push for diversity will only result in a weakened United States military that places us at risk. Right now, the Marine Corps is in the middle of an experiment to test whether women can adequately perform the tough work required to defend the nation.

But American history is already full of women who can answer that question: during the Civil War, there were as many as 400 women who disguised themselves as men and fought for both the Union and the Confederacy. They pulled off their charades so well that few people today even know their stories.

“War actually shapes history, and history has always been about men,” says C.J. Longanecker, a historian and former ranger for the National Park Service. “But women were always there; they just didn’t get the press coverage.”

For one female soldier buried in Chalmette National Cemetery in Louisiana, it took more than 100 years to get the press coverage she deserved. Her story ends just east of New Orleans, where 15,000 headstones stretch out in seemingly infinite rows, interrupted only by the occasional oak tree.

Her story begins, though, in 1843 in Afton, N.Y., when a farmer’s wife gave birth to the first of her nine children—Sarah Rosetta, or just Rosetta. Like the lives of so many other women who enlisted as men, Rosetta’s life would revolve around hard labor and her family’s many debts. By the time Rosetta turned 19, she still had no marriage offers—a suffocating verdict for a woman who lacked both education and social status in the 19th century.

So Rosetta cut her hair, found a pair of men’s trousers and became 21-year-old Lyons Wakeman, leaving behind her family’s farm and fighting for independence in the only way that seemed possible.

She enlisted with the 153rd New York Infantry regiment, which encamped at both Alexandria, Va., and Washington D.C. before campaigning in Louisiana. In her book An Uncommon Soldier, Historian Lauren Cook Burgess has assembled Rosetta’s private letters to her family from the battlefield. As Burgess’ book shows us, Rosetta not only survived in a soldier’s life, she excelled at it:

“I don’t know how long before I shall have to go in the field of battle,” Rosetta writes. “For my part I don’t care. I don’t feel afraid to go…I am as independent as a hog on the ice.”

The eager young woman took to chewing tobacco and adopted all the “vices” that a typical soldier embraced. The five-ft.-tall Rosetta even won a brawl once with a much larger and much rowdier soldier than she, landing a few punches on him and no doubt earning some cheers from her comrades.

Rosetta eventually fought in another kind of battle, one more savage than she could have imagined. The Battle of Pleasant Hill took place in northwest Louisiana on Apr. 9, 1864. It was part of the Union Army’s push to capture the area from the Confederates. “There was a heavy cannonading [sic] all day and a sharp firing of infantry,” Rosetta writes. ”I had to face the enemy bullets with my regiment. I was under fire about four hours and laid on the field of battle all night.” Rosetta’s regiment launched a full frontal attack on the Confederates, with their commanding officers later praising the 153rd for their fierce bravery.

Meanwhile, the soldier seemed forever haunted by her oppressed past life as a farmer’s daughter. In letters to New York, Rosetta can’t help repeat that she will never return home, as if she had to convince not only her family, but also herself.

“If I ever get clear from the Army I will come home and make you a visit, but I shall not stay long,” Rosetta writes. “I shall never live in that neighborhood again.”

Had Rosetta lived, she may well have spent the rest of her days as a man, as multiple women actually did when the fighting was over. Rosetta, however, did not live. She fell prey to the menace that killed more than 413,000 soldiers in the Civil War—disease. After the Battle of Pleasant Hill, Rosetta and her comrades were forced to participate in a hellish two-day, 70-mile march through the untamed Louisiana wilderness, with many men collapsing from exhaustion and pain before reaching the end. Rosetta survived, but developed chronic dysentery.

By the time Rosetta’s ambulance reached the Marine U.S.A General Hospital near New Orleans 15 days later, she had deteriorated into the acute stages of her disease.

Rosetta languished for a month and then died. Lyons Wakeman’s cover, however, did not. In a stunning combination of luck and poor 19th-century healthcare, it seems the Army never discovered Lyons’ true identity. The military ironically lists Lyons Wakeman as an “honest” and “faithful” soldier, who died from chronic diarrhea while serving.

Back in New York, the U.S. census that took place shortly after the war makes no mention of a Rosetta Wakeman, only listing the now-dead Lyons. Rosetta’s family never mentioned their eldest daughter again, instead hesitantly referring to a long-gone sibling “who went by the name of Lyons,” according to Burgess’ research. It wasn’t until the 1970s, when Rosetta’s descendants examined a stack of faded letters kept in an attic, that the astounding legacy of Rosetta—aka Lyons—was made public.

Could the Army hospital have possibly never noticed Rosetta’s true gender? Experts say it’s more plausible than you’d think. “Even enlisting, they didn’t do a physical examination without any clothes on, and people didn’t look at other people’s naked bodies in those days,” says Longanecker.

Conspiracy theories, however, abound. Longanecker believes the nurses at Marine U.S.A. General sympathized with Rosetta’s desperate masquerade. “Because she had been in the Army for some time, and because she was a well-respected soldier, they didn’t say anything because it would have prevented her parents from receiving any compensation for her death,” Longanecker says. “It was a kind of hush-hush thing.”

While Rosetta’s death may still be clouded with unanswered questions, her military service and contribution to the war couldn’t be clearer. Today, as we raise the question of women’s readiness for combat, we only have to remember Rosetta Wakeman—and the countless other women who’ve secretly served alongside men—for our answer.

TIME Dating

OkCupid Rolling Out New Gender and Sexual Orientation Options

OkCupid manipulierte Nutzer
Maja Hitij—dpa/AP

The new feature isn't yet available to all users

Dating site OkCupid is granting select users additional options for listing gender identity and sexual orientation in their profiles.

“You’re part of a select group with access to this feature,” reads a message some users have reported seeing, according to pop culture site NewNowNext. “Keep in mind as we continue to work on this feature: For now, editing your gender and orientation is only supported on the desktop site.”

Users were previously only able to identify their genders as male or female and their sexual orientations as gay, straight or bisexual. Included in the new sexual orientation options are asexual, queer, questioning, pansexual, and sapiosexual (where intelligence is the most important factor in attraction). For gender, new options include cis men and women, transgender men and women, genderqueer, genderfluid, gender nonconforming, intersex and others.

It is unknown when these options will be available for all users.

[NewNowNext]

TIME China

U.N. Panel Claims China Tried to Silence Women’s Rights Activists

Some claimed to have been censored by "state agents"

A United Nations committee on women’s rights accused China on Friday of aiming to silence activists who were scheduled to testify about the government’s human rights record at a conference in Geneva.

Some activists claimed to have been censored by “state agents,” according to Reuters, and at least one wasn’t able to travel to Switzerland based on “travel restrictions.”

The U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women asked that China “take steps to ensure that in the future no travel restrictions are placed on individuals/human rights defenders,” and also to fight other practices like forced abortions and “infanticide of girls.”

Read more at Reuters

TIME India

Women Can Be Make-Up Artists, Too, Says India’s High Court

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Actress Gauri Singh is reflected in a mirror as she adjusts her makeup during filming on the set of the Punjabi film 'Bolo Tara Rara' in Amritsar on November 16, 2012. Narinder Nanu—AFP/Getty Images

"We are in 2014, not in 1935," the justices wrote

India’s decades-old restriction on female make-up artists in its bustling film industry received fierce criticism from the country’s high court on Monday, with justices ruling that the profession can’t be limited to men.

The ruling against the 59-year-old practice was first reported by the newspaper Indian Express, which cited Justice Dipak Misra as arguing that depriving qualified job candidates of work was a violation of their constitutional rights. “How can this discrimination continue?” he was quoted with Justice U U Lalit. “We will not permit this.”

The justices reserved especially sharp words for the Cine Costume Make-up Artists and Hair Dressers Association, a trade union that explicitly endorsed the ban on the basis that men had a more urgent need for the work.

“You better delete this clause on your own,” the court warned union leaders. “We are in 2014, not in 1935.”

[Indian Express]

TIME video

Here’s What It’s Like to Walk the Streets of NYC as a White Man, According to Funny or Die

Hint: a lot of high-fives are involved

10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Man – watch more funny videos

On Tuesday, the anti-street harassment activist group Hollaback released a video of a young woman walking around New York City for a day, experiencing more than a hundred instances of harassment from men. Now, Funny or Die shows us the other side of the coin: what it’s like to walk the city streets as a white man.

The video serves as a reminder that the flip side of sexism is privilege, and as the video’s ample footballs and high-fives suggest, a very bro-tastic kind of privilege, indeed.

While the parody will ring true to any white man who’s fully aware of the privilege his sex and race afford him, it’s important to remember that not everyone’s in on the joke. Following the virality of Hollaback’s video, the woman in the video received rape threats, which serve only as further proof that efforts like Hollaback’s are sorely needed.

TIME

U.S. Is Slowly Closing Gender Gap, But Still Lags Behind Europe

A new report by the World Economic Forum finds Nordic countries are leading the way in global gender equality

The U.S. still lags behind many other Western countries on gender equality but it’s rising in the ranks, a new report finds.

The World Economic Forum’s 9th Global Gender Gap report finds that the U.S. is now at 20th place, up three spots from the previous report. Increases in women’s economic participation and opportunity, including participation in the labor force, earned income and political empowerment helped boost the U.S.’s standing on the annual list. The country is ranked fourth in economic opportunity and participation out of the 142 countries surveyed.

Europe holds 12 of the 20 top positions in the rankings, which are rated by economic participation, educational attainment, health and survival and political empowerment. France leaped from 45th place to 16th, largely due to the number of female politicians appointed to government positions there. A record 49% of French ministers are female.

All five Nordic countries lead the way in closing the gender gap, as they have in previous years. The report finds Denmark, Iceland, Finland, Norway and Sweden have closed the overall gender gap in their country to 80% or more, meaning women now have at least four-fifths the level of opportunity enjoyed by men.

The World Economic Forum surveyed data on 142 participating countries using information gathered by groups including the Central Intelligence Agency, the International Labour Organisation, UNESCO, and the World Health Organization.

In all some 25 countries have fully closed the educational attainment gap between men and women and 35 have done the same in health and survival. Eight countries, including the Bahamas, Belize, Brazil, France, Guyana, Latvia, Nambia, and the Philippines have closed the gap completely in both health and education. No countries have closed gaps in economic participation or political empowerment, but many have come close. Some 14 have closed more than 80% of the economic participation and opportunity gap, including the United States.

There are some important things to note when considering the data, however. The report does not take into account the level of resources available in the surveyed countries—for example, the report reads, “the Index penalizes or rewards countries based on the size of the gap between male and female enrollment rates, but not for the overall levels of education in the country.” The report also does not take into account whether or not women outperform men—the focus, the authors say, is on gender equality rather than women’s empowerment.

 

TIME gender

I’m Beautiful, But Hire Me Anyway

Physical attractive ought not work against you—but in HR offices it might
Physical attractive ought not work against you—but in HR offices it might Johnny Greig; Getty Images

Employers often discriminate against attractive women. Here's why—and what the women themselves can do about it

It has ranked among the top ten irritating TV ads of all time. “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful,” pouted actress and model Kelly LeBrock back in 1980, tossing her hair coquettishly as she shilled for Pantene shampoo. What few people realized at the time was that the tag line came close to describing a real type of discrimination. It wasn’t in the form of jealousy from other women, as the commercial implied; that trope has never really held up to much scrutiny. But beautiful women do face other challenges; a study published just the year before the Pantene ad ran showed that attractive women often encounter discrimination when applying for managerial jobs—with beauty somehow being equated with reduced authority or even competence. The authors called it the “beauty is beastly” effect.

What the study didn’t address, says Stefanie Johnson, assistant professor of management and entrepreneurship at the University of Colorado, Boulder, is what women are supposed to do about it. Neither did a study she herself conducted in 2010 which showed that the effect applied to a wide range of jobs normally thought of as masculine.

But a new study Johnson and two colleagues just published in the journal Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes does tackle the question more directly. The improbable-sounding conclusion: if you’re beautiful and female, acknowledge it. Simple as that.

Well, not quite that simple. The research doesn’t suggest attractive women say straight out, “Yes I know, I’m gorgeous.” It is, says Johnson, “a little more subtle than that.” What she and her colleagues did was to recruit 355 students, male and female, and ask them to evaluate four fictitious candidates for jobs in construction—three male and one female. The applications included photos, and the female applicant was either unusually attractive or unusually unattractive—qualities evaluated by an independent crowdsourcing group.

In some cases, the attractive woman made no reference to either her appearance or her gender in the written application. In others, she referenced her appearance, but subtly, writing something like “I know I don’t look like a typical construction worker, but if you look at my resume, you’ll see that I’ve been successful in this field.” In still others, the attractive woman referred to her gender in a similar way (“I know there aren’t many women in this industry”), but not her beauty.

The unattractive female applicants did the same (although the “I known I don’t look…” part was may have been seen as a mere reference to her gender). In general, the “employers” tended to hire attractive women more often if they alluded either to their gender and to their beauty. With the unattractive woman, referencing gender directly made no difference—but referencing appearance made them less likely than average to be hired.

The study does have holes—rather gaping ones, actually. For one thing, the construction industry is not remotely typical of the field in which gender bias usually plays out. Like it or not, there is a real reason most construction workers are men—and that’s because they are, on average, physically larger than women and have greater upper body strength as a result. It’s the reason we have women’s tennis and men’s tennis, a WNBA and an NBA and on and on. As with the less attractive candidates in the study, the attractive ones’ reference to their appearance might well have been interpreted to mean simply that the typical applicant appears—and is—male. Johnson’s findings would carry a lot more weight if her hypothetical candidates were applying for the kinds of positions in which the gender wars really do play out—vice president of marketing in a large corporation, say.

Still, as a starting point, her research has value, and she does appear to be onto something. “What we think may be going on,” Johnson says, “is that the person doing the [hiring] has an unconscious bias.” But when that bias is brought to the conscious level, triggered by the woman’s addressing it head-on (sort of, anyway), it loses force. “Once you acknowledge it,” says Johnson, “it goes away.”

The takeaway message, she argues, is not that you should feel sorry for good-looking women, since attractive people, both male and female, have all sorts of advantages overall. “It’s more that we’re exposing a more subtle form of sexism,” she says. “People are still stereotyping women.” That, all by itself, is a form of discrimination, even if in this case it’s a form few people think about.

TIME gender

Microsoft’s Leadership Is Less Than 20% Female

Microsoft Corp Chief Executive Officer Satya NadellaSpeaks At Company Event
Satya Nadella, chief executive officer of Microsoft Corp., speaks to students during the Microsoft Talent India conference in New Delhi, India, on Tuesday, Sept. 30, 2014. Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images

The company released diversity numbers just days before CEO Satya Nadella was lambasted for dissuaded women from asking for raises

Microsoft’s leadership is only 17.3% female, according to diversity numbers the company released Oct. 3, while women make up less than 30% of the entire company as a whole.

Those numbers are coming under new scrutiny after Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella was the target of severe backlash Thursday night after he suggested women should rely on “good karma” for promotions instead of directly asking for a raise.

“It’s not really about asking for a raise, but knowing and having faith that the system will give you the right raise,” Nadella said at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing on Thursday. “That might be one of the initial ‘super powers’ that, quite frankly, women [who] don’t ask for a raise have. . . . It’s good karma. It will come back.”

Nadella apologized hours later in a tweet and a longer email to Microsoft staff, saying the comment was “inarticulate.”

According to the diversity numbers, women make up almost 45% of the non-tech jobs at Microsoft, but only 17% of the tech positions.

MORE: Microsoft’s CEO Tells Women It’s Bad Karma to Ask For a Raise

 

TIME Television

Here’s a Sliver of Good News About Women in Television

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"Orange is the New Black" cast members US actresses Laura Prepon, Taylor Schilling, Uzo Aduba and Kate Mulgrew pose during a photocall for the launch of Netflix in France on September 15, 2014 in Paris. Francois Guillot—AFP/Getty Images

A new study shows that prime-time television is still very much a boys club, but women are gaining ground in one key area

By now, we’ve almost become accustomed to the depressing figures about how few women are working in the film industry — and television is no different. In front of the camera and behind, the television industry is notoriously a boys’ club. But according to the 17th annual “Boxed In” study, conducted by San Diego State’s Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, which analyzes how many women are working in primetime television and was released Tuesday, there are some key areas where women are on the rise.

Let’s start with the good news: Women producers are on the up in television as this year women accounted for 43% of all producers on network television shows, an increase of five percent over last year. It’s also a 14% increase since 1997-98 (the first year the “Boxed In” study was conducted). Also promisingly, women made up 13% of all directors this year, an increase of one percent from the previous year and an increase of five percent since 1997-98.

Unfortunately, the report wasn’t all positive or even mostly positive about the current state for women in primetime television. This year, the number of women in writing and executive producing positions had decreased from last year’s figures. What’s more, only 20% of creators were women, a decrease of four percent from last year.

Women working in front of the cameras also took a hit, as women only made up 42% of all speaking characters and 42% of major characters this year, marking a one percent decrease from last year.

Though the television roles off-screen are less glamorous than the ones on-screen, the study also found the two are linked. More specifically, the higher the number of women behind the cameras often corresponded with a higher number of women in front of the camera. According to the numbers, when a program had at least one woman writer on staff, “females accounted for 46% of all characters.” Yet the number of female characters dropped to 38% when there were no women writers on staff.

While the above numbers only take network television into account, “Boxed In” did also factor in the number of women working in cable and Netflix shows. Sadly, those numbers don’t exactly offer improvements. Looking at broadcast, cable and Netflix together, women made up 40% of producers, 26% of writers, 21% of executive producers, 19% of creators and 13% of directors. (Though once again, producers and directors marked a marginal increase over last year’s figures.)

With the commercial and critical success of women-led shows such as Orange is the New Black and Scandal and Girls, it might be hard to believe that now isn’t a pinnacle time for women in the industry. Yet, according to the figures and Dr. Martha Lauzen, the Executive Director of the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, that’s simply not the case.

“For many years, women have experienced slow but incremental growth both as characters on screen and working in key positions behind the scenes,” Lauzen said in a statement. “However, that progress, small though it was, now appears to have stalled.”

TIME europe

Only Gender Quotas Can Stop the E.U. from Being a Boys Club

Newly elected President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker is congratulated on July 15, 2014, in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France.
Newly elected President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker is congratulated on July 15, 2014, in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Frederick Florin—AFP/Getty Images

The European Commission's president has asked that EU member states nominate female candidates. Here's why gender quotas are necessary

Gender anxiety is enveloping the top levels of the European Union. By the end of this month, each of the bloc’s 28 countries is expected to put forward their candidate to sit on the European Commission, the powerful body that drives policy-making and enforces E.U. law.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commission’s new president, has instructed member states to send female candidates, saying he wants more women in the top jobs. A social media campaign – #10orMore – is also under way to boost female representation at the E.U. to a record high.

Unfortunately, governments are not playing ball: so far only five countries have nominated women. Nineteen other nations have nominated a man, with four countries still to announce their candidates.

The goal of getting more women into top decision-making posts is simply common sense given that they represent more than half of the E.U.’s 507 million citizens. Right now this is not reflected by their visibility in politics, business or the media, meaning their interests are often sidelined.

The drive to change the status quo at the top echelons of the E.U. has attracted skepticism. On the Facebook page of Neelie Kroes – one of the nine women in the outgoing Commission and a co-founder of the #10orMore campaign – critics question why gender would qualify a person for one of the 28 commissioner posts.

Such knee-jerk accusations of tokenism greet most attempts to introduce gender quotas in politics or the boardroom. But while so many barriers stand between women and senior positions – and these range from sexism in the workplace, high childcare costs and the unequal distribution of maternity and paternity leave – quotas are one of the few measures that actually have an impact.

In 1997 the British Labour party introduced all-women short lists for parliamentary candidates in some constituencies. Later that year, a record number of women were elected, and Labour still has the highest proportion of female MPs in Britain.

Britain’s Conservative party, which formed a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats in 2010, does not support all-women short lists, and a U.N. survey of women in ministerial positions earlier this year shows Britain languishing at around the halfway point, below Morocco and Cote d’Ivoire, with women making up just 15% of the cabinet.

There are other poor performers in Europe, with Greece, Cyprus and Hungary faring even worse, reflecting the problems Juncker is having in rallying enough women for his Commission.

At the other end of the spectrum, however, are Sweden and Finland, which are in the top three of the U.N. survey with over 50% female representation in their cabinets. France and Norway are close to reaching gender parity.

What the top performers have in common are long-term and often legislated programs to improve gender equality across society. In Sweden, political parties have since the early 1990s imposed voluntary quotas for election candidates. Norway was the first to introduce quotas for women on company boards, while France has legally-binding quotas for both politics and the boardroom. “Quotas are nobody’s first choice but where they are introduced they do improve representation, they do improve visibility of women,” says Clare McNeil, a senior fellow at the London-based Institute for Public Policy Research, adding that they work best when coupled with penalties for non-compliance.

Given the pool of female talent in the E.U., having just a handful of women in the Commission would be a pitiful performance. It is crucial now that efforts to increase female representation go beyond headline-grabbing promises. Juncker and the European Parliament, which approves the Commission, must make good on threats to reject the line-up if it is too male-dominated.

Hopefully quotas will not need to be in place forever. But right now Europe is so far from being a level playing field that radical measures are needed to kick-start lasting change in society.

Charlotte McDonald-Gibson is a writer and journalist based in Brussels.

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