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

Marina Adshade is the author Dollars and Sex: How Economics Influences Sex and Love.

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.

TIME society

It’s October 3rd: 19 Ways to Celebrate Mean Girls Day

Quality: Original. Film Title: Mean Girls/Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams, Lacey Chabert & Amanda Seyfried. Copyright: TM&Copyright ©2003 by Paramount Pictures. All Rights Reserved. For further information: please contact your local UIP Press Office.
Paramount Pictures

It's not like a regular holiday, it's a cool holiday

Every day is the perfect day to quote Mean Girls, but October 3rd is a particularly noteworthy date for fans of the 2004 hit movie. (A brief refresher: it was the day when things really started to heat up between Aaron Samuels and Cady. He asked her what day it was, and she replied, “It’s October 3rd.”)

Most fans celebrate this occasion — unofficially known as National Mean Girls Day — on social media. But we’re here to help you take your celebration off the screen and into the real world. Here, 19 ways to celebrate all day long.

  1. Start planning your sexy Halloween costume. You can be a mouse, duh!
  2. Eat lunch in the bathroom stall by yourself, just to remind you of the hard times.
  3. Go to Taco Bell, even if you’re on an all-carb diet. (Make sure to stop by Barnes and Noble on your way back to work).
  4. Make your face smell like peppermint.
  5. Polish your fertility vase of the Ndebele tribe.
  6. Eat as many cheese fries as you want. There is no limit to how many cheese fries you can have. THE LIMIT DOES NOT EXIST.
  7. Make sure you’re in the right school auditorium.
  8. Wear a wig made out of your mom’s chest hair.
  9. Push someone’s hair out of their face and tell them their hair looks sexy pushed back.
  10. Wear pink, even though it’s not Wednesday.
  11. Bake a cake filled with rainbows and smiles and everyone will eat and be happy.
  12. Start a toaster strudel Twitter nostalgia campaign.
  13. Treat yourself to another pair of white gold hoops. Live every day like it’s Hanukkah.
  14. Spike your mocktail because you’re not a regular mom, you’re a cool mom.
  15. Purge yourself of your secrets and get a Brazilian blowout.
  16. Wear sweatpants AND a vest.
  17. Ask someone why they’re white.
  18. Use the word “grool” at least three times throughout the day.
  19. Watch a Danny DeVito movie. You love his work.

 

TIME society

The Case Against Eating Ethically-Raised Meat

Cow in shed
Rolfo—Getty Images/Flickr RF

Raising animals well ignores the other problems with raising animals for consumption

PatheosLogo_Blue

This article originally appeared on Patheos.

After writing about why atheists should be vegans, I got a lot of responses from readers who said that it’s okay to eat ethically-raised meat. Shouldn’t we pursue those, the argument goes, instead of completely abstaining from animal products? I find these arguments somewhat compelling—after all, if people with ethical concerns left the meat market, that would leave the meat market driven by people with no ethical concerns for how their meat is treated. But I’ve become convinced for a number of reasons that it’s better on the whole to completely abstain from animal products. I came across an article on The Daily Beast, though, that I thought was interesting. It briefly profiles Dan Honig, a former vegetarian with a Masters degree in bioethics who started a high-quality and purportedly ethical meat supplying company. The Daily Beast reports:

To get a Bioethics Master’s Degree at NYU, students must complete an internship. Even though [Honig's] undergraduate studies had led him to be a vegetarian, he decided to intern with a small pork producer. He was curious to see firsthand what an alternative food system looked like. In the interview for the internship, it was when Honig mentioned that he was a vegetarian that the pork producer became interested in hiring him. [...] Indeed, it was his experience working with smaller farms and meat processors that made Honig believe that there can be ethical way to eat meat. That was when he adopted his current practice of eating meat, albeit only occasionally and only when he knows where the meat came from.

It’s worth noting at the outset that I would be much happier if everyone viewed eating meat this way, and the world would be a much better place. But I think there are a lot of reasons this view is mistaken, and why even views like this shouldn’t be taken as a victory for meat-eaters.

1. Even if there can be ethical meat, it’s extremely rare. Almost all animals we farm and consume come from modern factory farms, and no one with even passing knowledge of factory farming practices could seriously maintain that they resemble ethical treatment for any sentient creature. Honig tells The Daily Beast, “It’s a system of mass torture. It’s bad for the animals and it’s bad for us.” According to the ASPCA, 99% of farm animals in the U.S. are raised on factory farms.

2. From any ethical system, raising animals to kill them seems morally off. Though Honig distances himself from Utilitarianism and instead endorses a duty-based ethical system, unnecessarily ending a life you have a duty toward doesn’t seem morally compatible. It’s not obvious what kind of relationship could possibly include “duty not to harm” but not “duty not to kill.” There’s a local goat farm about thirty minutes from where I live, and they pride themselves in how well they treat their goats. I was delighted that this farm existed, because it seemed like the type of place that would make animal products morally worth eating. I discovered, though, that they kill their goats, who otherwise have lived to be well into their teens, once they’re only two years old. It’s better to treat these goats well for two years than to treat them poorly for two years, but it’s still very hard to see how it can be moral to end their lives so soon if you feel like you have a duty to their wellbeing.

3. Raising animals well ignores the other problems with raising animals for consumption. Even if animals raised for food are raised and killed morally (if the latter is even possible), this still ignores the host of other issues involved in eating meat. Beef per pound has an extremely unsustainable carbon footprint and uses an inordinate amount of water. No ethical meat will be good for the environment.

4. Ethical meat is a luxury good. Honig mentions this as a problem, and I’m not sure it’s avoidable—-ethical meat is expensive and rare. It’s a luxury good. If cost is to be an argument against vegetarianism or veganism, it goes doubly for any ethical meat. The Daily Beast writes:

“We’re pretty expensive,” [Honig] says. “Our customers can demand $50 for an entree.” While he donates 1 percent of his company’s revenue in the form of beef, he thinks the solution to the problem that ethical meat is restricted to the rich will have to come in the form of social innovations.

It seems much easier, and much more ethical, though, for this social innovation to include drifting away from animal-based diets. Any solution, such as subsidizing ethical meat, could be more effective and better for the environment through subsidizing vegan goods.

5. We still don’t need to eat meat. Once we’re in the position where we no longer need animal products to survive (which I take it includes the vast majority, if not all, of anyone who is reading this blog—eating disorders, specific dietary needs, and economic restrictions aside), it becomes harder to justify this luxury. No matter how painlessly or ethically it seems you could kill an animal, it’s still the case that you’re ending a life when you don’t need to for no reason better than that you want your meal to taste a bit better.

Vlad Chituc is the editor of NonProphet Status. He is currently a researcher in psychology, philosophy, and economics at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

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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

This Chair Is Supposed to Make You Feel Less Lonely

By hugging you

anti loneliness tranquility chair by unicare japan
Yoshikazu Tsuno / AFP—Getty Images

A chair that boasts a life-size fabric doll with long arms for giving sitters a big hug appears to have stolen the show at the International Home Care and Rehabilitation Exhibition in Tokyo.

This $419 “tranquility chair,” manufactured by the nursing care goods company Unicare, is “designed for older people,” a spokesperson told AFP. According to the World Bank, about a quarter of Japan’s population is over 65, and the number of seniors living alone in Japan is expected to grow 54% by 2030, per The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research in Tokyo, Bloomberg reports.

MORE: Japan: Baby Robots Treat Depressed Seniors

MORE: How Feeling Lonely Can Shorten Your Life

TIME women

The Most Game-Changing Part of the ‘Affirmative Consent’ Law

Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.
Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014. Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

Quinn Cummings is a writer of three books, Notes From the Underwire, The Year of Learning Dangerously and Pet Sounds.

Consent and lack of consent can look the same

If you’re interested in women’s safety in general and, specifically, women’s safety on college campuses, it’s been a noteworthy week. On Monday, the Huffington Post looked at data from 125 schools, from fiscal year 2011 through 2013, and determined that a “conservative estimate of the cases shows 13 percent of students found responsible for sexual assault were expelled; at most, 30 percent were expelled.”

Stated without the arithmetic: over the past two years, people found guilty of sexual assault – which includes rape, harassment and stalking – were, by a wide margin, allowed to continue their education on the same campus with their victims. In one case where the assault was caught on videotape, the assailant’s punishment was “expulsion after graduation.”

The policies that govern how some schools deal with rape are created and modified by the Association of Student Conduct Administration, a group that describes itself as “the premier authority in higher education for student conduct administration and conflict resolution.” The ASCA recommends that “legalistic language,” such as “rape,” “judicial,” “defense” or “guilty” should be yanked from policies and procedures. To my knowledge, the ASCA doesn’t offer suggestions about what words should be used instead.

If those responsible for student welfare were known to work in tandem with local law enforcement, semantic arguments like these would be just another example of academic nitpicking. In a recent study, however, 73% of schools surveyed had no protocols in place for working with the police and of those that do, the systems are inadequate to the task. Often, a rape victim’s one shot at justice is through a system created by ASCA, an organization whose president-elect, Laura Bennett, is quoted as saying “‘Rape’ is a legal, criminal term,” a harmless enough assertion if she didn’t go on to say, “We’re trying to continue to share we’re not court, we don’t want to be court – we want to provide an administrative, educative process.” Sadly, the “educative” outcome seems to be how to get away with raping a schoolmate.

Having a bad system in place is probably better than having no system, but that’s only from the perspective of the institution, not the victim. It’s easy to suggest that a porous response to rape allegations serves the reputation of any school where these crimes occur – or allegedly occur. Local law enforcement has to make these statistics a matter of public record, while university administrations are under a different set of rules, and, in most cases, no set of rules.

In one survey, 40% of the schools surveyed hadn’t conducted a single sexual-assault investigation in five years, which, not surprisingly, can lead to low numbers of reported sexual assaults. One theory is that an entire generation of women students believe that, as with their sisters in the armed forces, reporting sexual misdeeds is a risky and futile undertaking. A more troubling corollary is that school administrators downplay this criminal behavior as a matter of course, that anything that might smear a school’s reputation needs to be minimized for the good of all involved. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

Anyone looking at the current state of administrative response to rape and sexual assault on campus could make an easy leap from benign negligence to silent conspiracy. Everyone simply understands what needs to be done, and why. A look back at how Jim Crow was allowed to fester for decades in the United States speaks to the effectiveness of this approach. As with Jim Crow, the killing of any deep-rooted collusion requires increased public awareness, individual outrage and political courage.

This week, California’s Governor Jerry Brown signed into law SB967, a bill that could substantially change the nature of sexual conduct on campus and, we can only hope, across the nation. Instead of “No means no,” the new definition of consent will require “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” In short, “No means no” will be replaced with “Yes means yes.” Also, please note the word “conscious.” Anyone drugged, drunk, unconscious or asleep cannot, by definition, consent.

What’s astonishing about this legislation is not that we finally have a law to address the fundamental nature of sexual consent; what’s astonishing is that we needed a law to clarify this in the first place.

Yes, this law isn’t perfect. Unless every dorm room comes equipped with a court reporter, there will continue to be miscommunication. Still, the most important, most game-changing part of this new law may be a single phrase: Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent, nor does silence mean consent.

This is huge. It should be the beginning of every conversation with college freshmen. High-school freshmen, while we’re at it. As Dr. Deborah Davis, J. Guillermo Villalobos and Dr. Richard Leo have written in a recent publication for the Oxford University Press:

“…the most commonly reported signal to indicate consent, used roughly equally by both men and women, was simply not resisting the sexual advances of the other person (i.e., expressing no response). Nevertheless…lack of resistance to sexual advances could have very different meanings for the two interacting individuals. It might be reflect reactions such as shock, confusion, shame, fear of repercussions of refusal, and others.”

Consent and lack of consent can look the same. A gesture or comment might seem like nothing, but it might be the one chance a woman has to stop something she no longer feels comfortable doing. And it’s important to understand that this new standard also protects men ­– men who may have thought their partners were consenting and genuinely shocked to learn otherwise. The law, and the public, must demand a new conversation for our children and for everyone’s children. When asked why so few expulsions were given out for sexually based offenses, ASCA’s Bennett said, “The worst thing we can do is tell someone they can’t go to school at our institution.”

She’s wrong. The worst thing we can tell someone is that if they’ve been sexually assaulted on campus, they’re on their own.

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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Behold, the World’s Largest Collection of Harry Potter Memorabilia

Rebecca Blackwell—AP

No word whether Guinness World Records sent an owl to notify him

Guinness World Records has recognized a lawyer’s Harry Potter memorabilia collection as the largest in the world at 3,097 pieces.

Menahem Asher Silva Vargas of Mexico City has spent 15 years amassing magic wands, toy figurines, and Hogwarts scarves inspired by the J.K. Rowling’s best-selling books.

“My salary, my bonuses … it all ended up here,” he told the AP.

MORE: This Discovery Brings Us One Step Closer to Harry Potter’s Invisibility Cloak

MORE: Harry Potter Stamps Apparently Not American Enough

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