TIME world affairs

Why Are We Upset About a Dog When Thousands Are Dying of Ebola?

Colorized transmission electron micrograph (TEM) of the Ebola virus.
Kallista Images/Getty Images

3,439 people have died of Ebola in West Africa. But what we all care about is the case of Excalibur the dog

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

It’s hard to break into the New York Times obituaries section, but apparently being the first U.S. Ebola patient to die will do the trick. Thomas Eric Duncan, who contracted Ebola by helping an infected pregnant woman into a taxi, is dead. For perspective, though: According to the CDC’s most recent count, 3,439 people have died of Ebola in West Africa, and only a handful of cases are being treated outside the hot zone in Africa.

But what we all care about is the case of Excalibur, a dog belonging to Teresa Ramos, a Spanish nurse who was diagnosed with Ebola and is now in isolation and treatment. Her husband was similarly isolated, while their dog remained at home while officials decided on what to do with him. His close contact with Ramos led the Spanish government to conclude that he should be euthanized, and the world is up in arms. Hundreds of thousands of people signed a petition to halt the dog’s euthanization.

Notably, the Spanish government and health officials already messed up here. Ramos had reported symptoms consistent with Ebola on multiple occasions before she was diagnosed. Before her diagnosis, she was laid up at home with a fever, spending time with her husband and Excalibur. This could have turned into a public health nightmare if she’d been out of the hospital longer or if people in her surrounding community had been exposed to her body fluids (as, for example, if she’d vomited from her illness, as happened to the Texas patient on his way to the hospital).

Meanwhile, Excalibur’s case became another opportunity to ding the Spanish government and appeal to the hearts of dog-lovers the world over.

The problem with Ebola and dogs is that we don’t know much about it. A 2005 study suggested that dogs who had eaten Ebola-infected animals could carry the virus asymptomatically, which would suggest that dogs exposed to the virus could pose a public health risk. Since pet owners handle body fluids from their animals on a pretty frequent basis, they’re especially at risk — how confident are you in the security of your poop baggie?

A precautionary decision to euthanize, under those conditions, doesn’t seem totally unreasonable, give concerns about spreading the virus. Watching the wildfire spread of Ebola across West Africa has illustrated the importance of drawing hard and fast boundaries early in an epidemic to control and eventually eradicate the virus. Yes, the euthanization of an animal that appears to be healthy and happy is a very sad turn of events; but so are thousands of deaths in West Africa, and so is the prospect of spreading Ebola through Madrid.

Yet, people around the world heard only the heartfelt plea for exoneration for Excalibur, a dog caught up in a global public health crisis.

And they responded in kind, because who doesn’t love dogs? Even I, a noted cat enthusiast, have a soft spot for dogs as I do for all animals — and the thought of euthanizing a healthy animal, as occurs in U.S. animal shelters on a daily basis — makes me unspeakably sad. It’s worth noting that 2.7 million cats and dogs are killed in U.S. shelters annually and few people are raising an international ruckus and signing petitions in the hundreds of thousands for them.

The hyperfocus on Excalibur wasn’t just alarming and depressing because it reflected a lack of interest in exploring our own domestic treatment of healthy cats and dogs who’ve only committed the crime of being unwanted.

It also illustrates a horrifying lack of perspective when it comes to the larger Ebola epidemic. 7,492 Ebola cases have been identified by the CDC in West Africa. We may be looking at 1.4 million by the end of January if we can’t control the epidemic, which requires a global public health effort and cooperation from a number of governments and agencies.

We’re looking at trying to treat and control a vicious disease in a region of the world where people are deeply suspicious of Western health care workers, and with good reason — they’ve seen failed public health initiatives, they’re aware of the CIA’s use of vaccinators (notably, those vaccinators didn’t complete the vaccine series they initiated, so not only did they use public health as an excuse to spy, but they didn’t even confer immunity on the people they vaccinated) to penetrate Muslim communities in the search for Osama Bin Laden, and they’ve seen the failure of foreign aid to reach communities that need it.

Already, health workers have been killed for working on the Ebola outbreak. Huge amounts of resources have been expended on shipping people infected with Ebola to industrialized nations for high-quality medical treatment — if they’re Westerners.

Ebola virus disease is a tragedy. In the face of that, the death of a single dog — Excalibur was euthanized in his apartment using established compassionate euthanasia protocol — is a drop in a very sad bucket. The grief his owners are experiencing isn’t to be denied, but it was still the right decision for public health and the good of the commons; it’s a wrenching and awful position to be in, but there it is.

What I want to know is why the world was so wrapped up in the fate of a single dog that it couldn’t even consider the larger issue of the epidemic chewing through West Africa and causing lasting harm to West African communities all over the world who are currently asking themselves which friends and loved ones are infected, dying, or dead. West Africa faces permanent economic damage as a result of the Ebola outbreak, in addition to years of rebuilding and infrastructure development and redevelopment. But sure. Let’s focus on a dog.

The tendency to put a face on serious issues is understandable. People tend to relate to an issue more closely when they find it more accessible, which is why organizations put real human stories foremost when they’re soliciting for funds or attempting to perform public education and outreach.

But the case of Excalibur was different. It turned Ebola into a crisis of the West and specifically into a private domestic drama — the tragic death of a beloved family pet. It was a remarkably self-centered act, one that highlighted the Western indifference to the scope and severity of Ebola.

Maybe Excalibur was euthanized for nothing and he never carried Ebola in the first place, just like dogs euthanized for suspected rabies infection who turn out to test negative. If that’s the case, that’s terribly sad — but that doesn’t mean that health care workers made the wrong choice working with the limited amount of information they had. Sometimes, you have to make tough, terrible choices for the common good, and that’s how it is.

What I want to know is why the West cared more about a damn dog than thousands of people dying of a disease that should be controllable through some pretty basic health care provisions and the development of a more comprehensive health care infrastructure. The spread of Ebola is a direct consequence of the poverty and corruption left behind in colonialism’s wake, not because the virus is some sort of horrible monster that can’t be comprehended and controlled.

And that’s on us.

S.E. Smith is a writer, agitator and commentator based in Northern California.

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 society

College Gives $1200 tip to Domino’s Pizza Delivery Man

Students also gave him gift cards and wrote him inspirational notes

A Domino’s pizza delivery man in Indiana got a bit more than a 20% tip from students at Indiana Wesleyan University this week when they tipped him $1,268 for two pizzas.

The stunt was orchestrated by Keith Newman, the CEO of Residential Education, who wanted to teach his 3,000 students to “Do for one what you wish you could do for everyone,” RTV 6 reports.

In that spirit, when driver James Gilpin arrived to deliver the $12.50 pizza order, Newman and a packed auditorium of students presented him with the $1,268 check, gift cards and inspirational notes from the class.

Gilpin says he’ll use his unexpected windfall to buy Christmas presents for his five and six year olds.

TIME Race

It’s Not Racist to Want Your Child to Look Like You

Jennifer Cramblett
Jennifer Cramblett is interviewed at her attorney's home in Waite Hill, Ohio, on Oct. 1, 2014. Mark Duncan—AP

Barbara Spiegel is a certified elementary school teacher, stay-at-home mother and active member of Little People of America.

I was relieved when my first child had dwarfism, but upset when another was diagnosed with learning disabilities

In 2004, when I was pregnant, I was given the wrong information about my daughter’s genetic makeup. We were told she would be “average” height. It took some time to adjust to that information. My husband and I both have achondroplasia dwarfism. The most common of nearly 300 forms of dwarfism, it results in adult height of about 4 feet to 4 feet, 8 inches and disproportionate limbs. Two individuals with achondroplasia pose genetic challenges for having children: there’s a 50% chance the child could inherit the gene from one parent and have achondroplasia, 25% chance there is no presence of the gene and the child would be average size and a 25% chance the child could inherit the gene from both parents, resulting in double dominance and the likelihood that the child is stillborn or lives for a very short while.

By the time I accepted that we would have an average height child, I was told there had been a mix-up and that my unborn daughter would indeed have achondroplasia. I was relieved knowing that my child would bear a strong physical resemblance to me.

In 2008, my husband and I adopted a girl from Russia with achondroplasia. Why adopt? Along with our past experience with genetic testing, we simply felt it would be easier to raise children who are similar to us.

Our second daughter was adopted shortly after her fifth birthday and began kindergarten a few months later. All seemed to be going smoothly, until she was diagnosed with multiple learning disabilities in the middle of first grade. My mind raced. This is not what I signed up for! I was angry, hurt and worried. How would we handle this? What would others think? What would they say? How could we take care of her properly? I know achondroplasia; I have lived with it my entire life. I know what it’s like to be teased because you are short, because you appear to “waddle,” because you cannot run very fast. I know what it’s like to sit on the sidelines as your friends start to date. I know what it’s like to always need a step stool to reach things, to need pedals to drive, to need your clothes altered. I know what it’s like to be called names: shorty, half-pint, mini-me and, most offensive of all, midget.

But I don’t know what it’s like to have a learning disability, let alone multiple ones. Would she understand enough to know wrong from right? Would she ever catch up to her peers? Will she have friends? Will she ever be able to live on her own? How would we pay for all that she needs?

Last week a white lesbian couple from Uniontown, Ohio, filed a lawsuit against their sperm bank for mistakenly receiving sperm from the wrong donor. While raising their mixed-race child, who is now two, Jennifer Cramblett and Amanda Zinkon came to realize how “intolerant” some family members and people in their 98% white town were. As Payton got older, they realized they couldn’t change other people’s mindsets. They don’t want Payton to suffer and are now looking to relocate to a more tolerant area where Payton can feel like less of an outsider, and are seeking redress to do so.

This doesn’t mean they’re racist, ungrateful, unloving of their daughter or financial opportunists. They are trying to right a wrong. There is no denying that the sperm bank committed an error. If they do receive a financial reward, it will serve the family well and also lead such businesses to be held accountable for their errors.

Having had and adopted two children with achondroplasia, I was ready and well-prepared for certain life challenges. Discovering two years later that one has significant learning disabilities was not what I envisioned for my daughter, myself or my family, and if there were someone I could hold responsible for this challenge, I would pursue financial compensation to pay for tutors and testing. Doing so wouldn’t mean I love my daughter any less. All it means is that I want to provide the best support for my children, both emotionally and financially.

Barbara Spiegel is a certified elementary school teacher, stay-at-home mother and active member of Little People of America.

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 Opinion

IKEA Made A Talking Mirror That Basically Just Tells You You’re Pretty All Day

Stick to the Swedish meatballs?

Meet IKEA’s “Motivational Mirror” — a wall accessory whose only job is to deliver effusive, 100% genuine compliments like “Magnificent beard!” and “Your eyes are mesmerizing!” and “Darling, your dress looks amazing!” (Even though it kind of looks like a shirt… but it’s the thought that counts.)

IKEA

The Swedish furniture retailer put the promotional mirror in a British store last week, “bestowing personalised compliments to provide the nation with a much needed morale boost,” according to a statement.

IKEA-commissioned research found 44% of people in the UK are critical of their appearance and 26% say they feel uncomfortable looking in a mirror. BUT 26% also said that “a kind word” makes them like themselves more. And thus, a Dove-esque empowerment stunt was born.

Except, instead of having consumers come to the conclusion that they are really more beautiful than they think they are on their own, IKEA has a far more reliable source — a mirror programmed with audio — do it for them.

This is actually a familiar trope. Adweek notes, “the inspirational talking mirror idea has been done before—most notably by the all-female Austin band The Mrs., but also by other marketers.

Sure, compliments can be nice, but it is a tad on the creepy side — particularly when a man in a blue button down, showing just enough chest hair, is stopped by the mirror … whistling at him.

IKEA

(Yes, that is an animation of a cat calling wolf).

It’s an odd choice to make unsolicited whistling — street harassment is a very real issue women face on a daily basis— look cutesy, but at least the customer doesn’t seem to mind.

“It was great for me because I never get compliments,” the man recalls, wistfully. “I could have stood there all day, to be honest.”

Still, maybe IKEA should stick to its specialty: flat-pack furniture, ball pits and Swedish meatballs.

TIME astrology

Astrologer Susan Miller On Why You Should Pay Attention to the Lunar Eclipse

Blood Moon China
Through multiple exposures, the blood moon is shown in Hefei, China on Oct. 8, 2014. Guo Chen—Xinhua/Sipa

The author of AstrologyZone.com's popular horoscopes explains October's 'Blood Moon'

Early Wednesday morning, at about 5:15am ET, the moon will turn an ominous shade of red as the earth passes between it and the sun. This is the second total eclipse in an unusual series of four consecutive total eclipses that began in April of 2014 and will continue through April of next year.

“It’s called a blood moon, but I don’t want people to be agitated by that,” popular astrologer Susan Miller tells TIME. And while the April 15 lunar eclipse signaled a time of conflict and even tragedy — Miller notes that was the day day Boko Haram kidnapped 276 schoolgirls in Nigeria and the day before a South Korean ferry capsized leaving 300 dead and missing — “this one is much more gentle.”

In fact, Miller says the change that the Oct. 8 lunar eclipse brings, although shocking at first, will even be good, at least according to the stars. To understand why, we asked her all the questions you’d want to ask a famous astrologer.

What does a lunar eclipse signify?

“This eclipse is a full moon so something is coming from to an ending or culmination,” she explains.

“Eclipses are non-negotiable,” Miller says. “They end something and they brings something else. But it really needed to end… There’s a shock factor first, and then a solution that turns out to be so good that you realize, wait a minute, this is a blessing.

Miller recalls when she had a houseguest who “spent the whole year crying on my couch,” coincidentally over the course of a series of five eclipses. On the first eclipse, her husband asked for a divorce. On the second, he told her that he wanted to sell the house. Come the third the house was sold, fourth the property was split, and on the final eclipse the divorce was finalized.

So what do you do after that initial jolt of the eclipse?

Miller sees an eclipse as a dog pulling at your skirt, leading in a particular direction. Like Lassie. Or an aggressive French bull dog determined to be taken on a walk.

“They demand action,” she says. “If your mindset is, ‘It’s not convenient for me to be thinking about this,’ the universe laughs at you.”

So if you feel sick, go to the doctor. Even if you’re scared. Whatever the diagnosis, it needs to be treated. Furthermore, if you lose a job, don’t ask for it back. If a relationship ends, accept the breakup. “Just keep your dignity,” Miller advises. “We have to realize some people aren’t buying what you’re selling. “

And don’t panic.

“Even though initially all things look lost, take a breath, wait a few days, a gold triangle will kick in,” she says. (A gold triangle is a good thing.)

Who will feel this month’s eclipse the most?

While most people will feel it around Wednesday, Miller estimates 5% of TIME readers have already felt the impact of the eclipse, as dates are relatively flux in the astrological world. The degree of an eclipse’s impact, of course, varies depending on one’s birthdate.

Those who will feel it “right on the nose,” says Miller, include people born near October 8, plus or minus five days. January 8, plus or minus five days; April 8, plus or minus five days; and July 8, plus or minus five days.

“That includes the United States,” Miller says.

Say what about the United States?

According to Miller, countries aren’t exempt from the lunar eclipse. So yes, because America’s birthday is July 4th, the nation will also be affected by the eclipse, according to her predictions.

“When you look at Obama’s list of concerns around the world, it keeps growing,” Miller says. “All the astrologists knew that it would be a tough time for America. But we’ve had tough times before, this isn’t the first time we’ve had eclipses there.”

This eclipse in particular relates to reputation. “Edward Snowden had really damaged our reputation, and it looks like we have another little thing to go,” Miller says. “Maybe it’s the secret service? Something may come up later this week. It could be a top person stepping down?”

But Miller says that it is going to get better.

The takeaway?

Just remember to keep on, keeping on. No matter what, there’s a new moon on October 23.

“That one,” Miller says, “is nice.”


TIME society

Capitals Forward Alexander Ovechkin Goes on Sushi Date with 10-Year-Old Fan

Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post—Getty Images

She has a huge crush on him

A 10-year-old fan got to go on a surprise date with Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals forward and the man of her dreams, after the Oct. 5 game against the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Washington Post reports the youngster from Laurel Md., Ann Schaab, has Down syndrome and met the hockey star at an event where she was playing with the Washington Ice Dogs, an ice hockey team for people with developmental disabilities. She asked him out to eat sushi and play kickball.

Then she was invited to a morning skate and to take a tour of the practice facility. When Schaab and her family went into the locker room, Ovechkin appeared. Dressed in a suit and carrying roses, he handed the girl three tickets to the game, and afterward, they headed to the owner’s lounge for a sushi dinner. Romantic, right?

 

TIME society

5-Year-Old Becomes the NBA’s Most Adorable New Player for a Day

Signed by the Utah Jazz

A young basketball fan has scored a chance to play with the Utah Jazz.

JP Gibson, a five-year-old who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2012, signed a one-day contract with the NBA team. He donned a jersey and played in the opening scrimmage at the Oct. 6 game in Salt Lake City.

The special day was organized by the “Anything Can Be” project, part of the Millie’s Princess Foundation, which provides financial support to families of children with cancer.

WATCH: Taylor Swift Sings, Dances and Plays Air Hockey With a Young Cancer Patient

WATCH: The Trailer for the Batkid Documentary Will Make You Cry

 

TIME society

I Don’t Think My Small-Batch Food Is Elitist

Canned food
Jill Fromer—Getty Images

I wanted to connect, in some small way, to my Nani and to that cultural tradition of preserving food

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

The closest I ever came to canning with my grandmother was nearly twenty years after she died. It was the only time I had ever canned with my mother, and I was clearly the one in charge, despite that my mother had helped my Nani blanch and then skin tomatoes, pack them, steaming, in quart jars, and then transfer them to their own boiling pot, a dozen or more summers in a row.

My mother escaped the yearly canning ritual as soon as she could, and Nani continued to put away a few dozen jars a year — most ended up in her weekly pot of sauce served for Sunday dinner with the extended family — until she grew too weak to stand at the stove.

Years later, I taught myself to can (or preserve food in jars with a heat sealing process) as an adult. That one summer, when I had convinced my mom to join me and she bought a bushel of roma tomatoes, we combined our reusable canning jars, and processed thirty quarts in about four hours of sweaty work, coming in at a cost of around a dollar a jar. We had pots lined up in the basement kitchen — a particularly Italian American set-up that Nani also had — and jars waiting to be filled, with a sprig of basil and a squeeze of lemon in the bottom.

By the time we finished, our t-shirts were soaked in sweat and our matching curly brown hair smelled like marinara. We each had enough jars to last us a winter of dinners, and my mother was pleased with our work. But more so with our time spent together and the knowledge that we could can, if we wanted to. She hasn’t mentioned making this a yearly ritual; she’ll buy her tomatoes from the supermarket, thank you very much.

That summer morning, while my mother recalled how Nani would cut slits in the tomato skins to help them come off easier after their quick dip into the boiling water bath, or when she told me how it had been her job as a child to put her hands in the jars to squish down the whole tomatoes to fit in as many as possible, I realized why I had bothered teaching myself to can in the first place. I wanted to connect, in some small way, to my Nani and the cultural importance of preparing and preserving food through this traditional knowledge, even if cost was no longer a reason with our industrial farms and mass production techniques that make metal cans of tomatoes shipped from Florida cheaper than a bushel of “seconds” grown up the road.

I live in Brooklyn now, hundreds of miles from my Nani’s kitchen, with my musician husband and baby boy. I prefer locally sourced produce and wear skinny jeans. I call myself a writer, a teacher and a scholar, but I also make my own cheese, can my own tomatoes, and ferment my own kraut.

By most people’s assessment, I am part of the gentrifying class of young(ish) people, often called hipsters, who have helped revive the do-it-yourself lifestyle, but from a seeming place of privilege. They — we — can because we can. There has been a recent influx of those (mostly part of the educated social middle class) with financial and social freedom starting new food-based businesses, spending hours a week sourcing and preparing food and drink from scratch to sell to others a handmade a jar, bottle, round, or wedge — often at a price that places these products in the luxury category.

This “artisanal food revolution”, as it has been called, is also seen as being supported by consumers who have the same financial freedom to pay these seemingly inflated prices for products that to varying degrees resemble their mass produced counterpart. While evidence of this change is food culture is apparent anecdotally, according to the National Associate for Specialty Food Trade “specialty food” (that the industry self-defines as “exemplifying quality, innovation and style” derived from such qualities as “originality”, “authenticity”, “ethnic or cultural original”, “limited supply” among other characteristics) grew at a rate of 19.1% in 2011, and within that category 26% of consumers specifically sought out food described as “artisanal” despite there being no definitive definition for the term.

A growing number of people are seeking these foods on some level, I assert, as being a conduit between the traditionally made and preserved foods of their past or their parents’ or grandparents’ past, and the present where this is often no space, time, or knowledge to create these specialty foods themselves.

While it may only cost my mother and me around a dollar a jar to can a quart of tomatoes (with almost no additives), we had already paid for and used the jars, which could run more than a dollar each, and the kitchen space and our collective eight hours of work time was free. Translate a home canning operation to a professional one, and it becomes more clear how a jar of “artisanal” tomatoes would cost upwards of ten dollars in today’s retail market.

And I won’t pretend that there aren’t plenty of people — many of them my peers and neighbors — who don’t hesitate to buy that hand packed jar from the farmer’s market or specialty shop. This food of the poor has become, for many, an indulgence.

Yet my predilections for the homemade come from a place that isn’t financially robust. I am also someone who was brought up in rural Western New York in a county with the third highest poverty rates in the state, about as far from the City as you can get. My father’s mother only had an eighth-grade education, and tended a large garden and froze, canned, fermented and otherwise preserved much of her harvest to feed her family of seven.

My maternal grandmother — my Nani — worked outside of the home to support the family flight school business, both as the office manager at the airport and for outside employers in the evenings. However she still made Sicilian specialties — peach brandy, canned tomatoes and sauce, foraged burdock patties — in part to save money, but also as much to preserve her culinary heritage. The foods she made represented the time she spent in Italy as a child, tasted like her mother’s cooking, and reminded her of how far she had come since she was the preschooler who arrived at the United States via Ellis Island.

The preparation of these foods also connected her to her sisters and daughter who would gather together on a hot summer day to process enough tomatoes for the extended family for the rest of the year. Thus “artisanal” — or traditional, handmade, small-batch food as it is generally understood to mean — of my childhood wasn’t made from a place of privilege, but out of necessity, tradition, and community.

My life is very different from both of my grandmothers’. And in fact, neither taught me to preserve food when I was young because, as my paternal grandmother said, “Why would you have to?” I might have convinced my Nani to show me her recipes had she not died when I was in high school. And today, still, my first thought when I see a mason jar of preserved food — even in certain parts of Brooklyn — I think “economy” and not “luxury.”

For both of my grandmothers, canning made financial sense. They either grew their own produce or bought it in bulk from a nearby farmer and processed many jars at a time, reusing the glass and rings from year to year. For my grandmother who didn’t work outside of the home, the garden and the food preservation was her contribution to the family’s long-tentative bottom line.

But even when both had reached a point where they were financially comfortable, my grandmothers continued to spend hours in their steamy kitchens, producing shelves lined with preserved tomatoes and pickles and fruit. Because they always had. Or they enjoyed the time spent with family during this yearly ritual, or maybe because both women, born in the wake of the great depression, were always putting away for a less prosperous day. Just in case.

There have been a number of critiques of the small-batch food industry as being elitist, privileged, and distracting from the larger issues facing our global and domestic food sourcing today. Many of them are valid — it can appear out of touch to encourage buying local or organic produce, say, when there are numerous food deserts in the United States with limited access to any fresh food. And spending eight dollars on a jar of artisanal pickles is a choice that only a certain percentage of the population has the luxury of considering.

But I also take issue with the wholesale critique of the handmade, small-batch, artisanal, or craft — call it what you will — food industry as catering only to a certain financial class. I interviewed many of these small start-up food entrepreneurs and while some came to their business with strong financial backing, for many it was a leap of faith. Others lost their jobs in the recession and starting their own business, working sixty, eighty hours a week to process, promote, and distribute their product was a labor of love.

Perhaps they were honoring their family’s food culture, as some told me, or wanted to be more intimately involved in food sourcing for environmental or social reasons. For many farmers, the decision to make small-batch farmstead cheese was the difference between bankruptcy and economic sustainability as they could sell the cheese for ten times as much as the milk, with mainly manpower as the additional expense. And even as many of these artisans are selling food to the middle and upper-middle class, most wouldn’t be able to afford their own products as they budgeted for their weekly groceries.

I know the issue of class is more complicated than this — that certain groups of people, while they may be financially insolvent now, are more prepared to weather an economic downturn because of education and access. And that the issue of privilege can be looked at through race, gender, ethnic, and even rural and urban lenses, among others. But I also want to argue that small-batch food is not just food for the privileged, by the privileged.

In the United States, it is food made by those on the verge of losing their farm who see a path toward keeping land that has been in the family for generations; it is food made using recipes passed down from elders, whose flavors and techniques were in danger of being lost forever; it is food made by the young professional who started a small business after she was laid off, and whose huge student loans meant that taking a minimum wage job wasn’t a financially viable option.

In San Juan, Puerto Rico, it is food made by twenty-something-year-olds who learned about small-batch foods by visiting family in Brooklyn and were inspired to revive their own cultural heritage using locally sourced foods. In Sicily, it is the embracing of the Arab community, longtime residents who had, until recently, been treated as outsiders, through their cuisine. In Lima, Peru, it is the ceviche masters who are striving to find a sustainable way to source seafood so that their culture’s food can survive into the next generation.

Artisanal food can be elitist. It can exclude people by sheer cost, and the movement to “do-it-yourself” can exclude others who don’t have access to knowledge or who don’t have the time to spend hours in the kitchen. Certainly there are many more pressing issues in our modern world than figuring out how to sustainably source handmade pickles. But small-batch, handmade food is also many more things — as it was for my grandmothers, it can be very inexpensive, it can promote community and it can keep traditions alive. And today, with myriad stresses on our environment, it can promote a more direct connection to the land itself.

Today I may spend hours in a sweltering kitchen boiling jars in the heat of summer to remember my Nani and the sacrifices she made to feed her family and preserve her Sicilian culture, because I have the privilege of time to connect with her in a visceral way. But I also buy small-batch goods when I can afford it to support small businesses who are trying to package this sense of history and tradition for those who don’t have the time or knowledge.

And it is my trust that I am helping to preserve this culture for everyone — rich or poor, educated or not. For if we don’t keep this knowledge and these skills alive with the individuals, we will have no choice about how to source our food.

Suzanne Cope is an author and professor living in Brooklyn.

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 society

Subway Thinks You’re Too Fat for Your Halloween Costume

Woman wearing Halloween mask
Steffen Thalemann—Getty Images

Subway has built up an entire empire around shaming people into losing weight

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

October is upon us. If you can battle your way through the riptide of pink and back to shore, you may have noticed a large social preoccupation with costumes, and considerable discussion thereof. There’s the explosion of cultural appropriation that happens every Halloween, the endless debate over whether women are or aren’t allowed to wear skimpy/slutty/skanky costumes, the subsequent argument about whether fat women are allowed to wear them, and…oh, right.

The on-point marketing crew at Subway know how to sell a soggy, limp, tasteless sandwich on cardboard with a few slices of American cheese between leaves of wilted lettuce: By appealing to our universal cultural fear of being fat. In fact, “The Subway Diet” has become such a ubiquitous part of our culture (thanks, Jared Fogle) that the company has successfully convinced people that eating Subway sandwiches is totally a good way to get (and stay) slim, despite the fact that, actually, for calorie counters, its sandwiches may not necessarily be any better than the much-maligned Big Mac.

Now that summer is over and Subway can no longer market to people terrified at the prospect of not having a bikini body, they’re having to search further afield, and they landed upon a brilliant ploy: Convincing women that “costume season” is upon us and that their bodies are far too disgusting to be sandwiched into a skimpy costume. (Apparently they all put the weight they lost during bikini season back on during the intervening two months.)

The company did so with this charming ad:

It features three coworkers sitting at a table, two women and a man. One of the women exclaims: “You’re eating burgers?!” in shock and horror, and when the man looks skeptical, she explains that it’s COSTUME SEASON, don’t you know? She then proceeds to model a series of classic “attractive nurse,” “sexy devil,” “sexy viking princess warrior,” etc etc costumes, reminding the viewer that it’s critical to lose weight so she’ll fit in them properly.

There are a number of things that bother me about this ad. The first, obviously, is the constant cultural imperative to lose weight; do this, or you will be gross and unwanted. I dislike that Subway has built up an entire empire around shaming people into losing weight and promoting its products as a way to do this, though I have to admire the effectiveness of the marketing strategy nonetheless.

I am, of course, also bothered by this whole “costume season” thing and the idea that women (because the ad is very clearly aimed at women, not people in general) should lose weight in order to look their best at Halloween — that they wouldn’t be sexually appealing without being their thinnest. It’s just another iteration of the bikini season and one wonders how much mission creep we’re going to endure. What’s next, sweaterdress season?

It pisses me off to see an ad advancing not just the idea that women need to lose weight for Halloween, but that fat women in costumes are not okay. It’s another reminder that fatness is not welcome or acceptable in the public sphere, that fat women have an obligation to cover and hide their bodies lest they offend people. A fat women in a “skimpy” costume might have visible fat rolls or muffintop or bulges or other unsightly, unpleasant things, and as such, she needs to lose weight if she wants to don that kind of costume.

There’s also a deeper whiff of sexism here, a kind of underlying judgement about “slutty” costumes that reminds women they’re effectively screwed either way. You should lose weight so you can wear a sexy costume, but if you do, you’re a slut — and no one wants to be a slut. But, on the other hand, if you wear something that covers more of your body, you’re a prude (or, you know, a fat person sparing the world from Mt. Adipose). This ad is taking place within the context of a larger cultural conversation that shames women for wearing revealing costumes at Halloween, and thus, it leans on that conversation a lot.

If you’re going to be a slut, at least be a thin slut.

Notably, Subway has since taken the ad down, but the Internet never forgets (as evidenced above). Once you run an ad like this, it goes viral, spreading across the Internet to a variety of sometimes surprising locations. I expected to see it turning up on Jezebel, where Kara Brown rightly skewered it, but I was surprised to see it turn up on Consumerist, which is not normally where I go to find discussions about sexism (though chronicling badvertising is a long tradition on the site).

So congratulations, Subway. You managed to piss off a broad swath of the Internet with your gross, fatphobic, sexist, misogynistic ad. Thanks for reminding me that a) You exist and b) You are terrible.

S.E. Smith is a writer, agitator and commentator based in Northern California.

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 Economics

The High Cost of Heartbreak for Modern Singles

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Larry Washburn—Getty Images/fStop

Dr. Adshade has a Ph.D. from Queen’s University and currently teaches economics at the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia.

The turmoil of ending a relationship can have a professional price tag

Almost one half of all Americans between the ages of 25 and 34 have never been married, while the majority of those say that they hope to marry one day (61% with absolute certainty). This suggests that there are millions of men and women in this age group who are working towards the goal of finding that one true love.

The road to marriage, however, is littered with broken hearts, as they say. This heartbreak is particularly severe for those who have been living with their romantic partner (24% of those in this age group), since those are the relationships that promise the most hope for marriage.

Heartbreak among unmarried young adults is common, with 36.5% of one study‘s participants aged 18 to 35 having experienced it at least once in the previous 20 months.

Experiencing disappointment in the search for true love is nothing new, however those in previous generations would have experienced it at a stage of their lives when those around them (parents, teachers, etc.) were likely to be sympathetic and there were few external costs.

This is much less true for modern singles, who often find themselves searching for love at the same time that they are also working hard to establish themselves in their careers. Broken hearts can’t be left at home during the work day, and the evidence suggests that employers, managers and coworkers don’t particularly appreciate them being brought to work.

In fact, it would be completely reasonable for a young ambitious single to fear the impact that a series of broken hearts could have on his or her career prospects.

Which raises an interesting point. The number one reason young singles give for not being married is that they are “not prepared financially” (34%). That justification for delaying marriage is a little difficult to understand within the context of modern marriage. Long gone are the days in which marriage meant that children would immediately follow, everyone would live on a single income and a house with a yard was the only acceptable living arrangement.

The reality is that individuals who are married are likely to achieve financial security much more quickly that those who remain unmarried, so delaying marriage for reasons of financial security doesn’t seem logical.

What does make sense, however, is that singles are unwilling to allow the turmoil that romantic relationships often bring to interfere with their path to financial security; that they worry that the search for love will lead to a broken heart, or series of broken hearts, that comes with a professional price tag.

If we really care that so many young people aren’t marrying, an argument could be made for bereavement leave for the broken hearted. Of course, for that to actually work people would have to be willing to phone in rejected and, frankly, I don’t see that happening.

Marina Adshade uses research, human insight and economic analysis to unlock the mysteries behind our actions, thoughts and preferences regarding sexual relationships, gender, love and power. She shows that every option, every decision and every outcome in the realm of sex and love is better understood through economics. Dr. Adshade has a Ph.D. from Queen’s University and currently teaches economics at the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia.

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.

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