TIME Opinion

Who Are the Nuclear Scofflaws?

atomic bomb
US Army / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Photos recorded by U.S. Army automatic motion picture camera six miles distant when an atomic bomb was exploded at Alamo-Gordo in 1945

Surprise: The US is on the list. So is Russia. But Iran? Nope

History News Network

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

Given all the frothing by hawkish U.S. Senators about Iran’s possible development of nuclear weapons, one might think that Iran was violating the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

But it’s not. The NPT, signed by 190 nations and in effect since 1970, is a treaty in which the non-nuclear nations agreed to forgo developing nuclear weapons and the nuclear nations agreed to divest themselves of their nuclear weapons. It also granted nations the right to develop peaceful nuclear power. The current negotiations in which Iran is engaged with other nations are merely designed to guarantee that Iran, which signed the NPT, does not cross the line from developing nuclear power to developing nuclear weapons.

Nine nations, however, have flouted the NPT by either developing nuclear weapons since the treaty went into effect or failing to honor the commitment to disarm. These nine scofflaws and their nuclear arsenals are Russia (7,500 nuclear warheads), the United States (7,100 nuclear warheads), France (300 nuclear warheads), China (250 nuclear warheads), Britain (215 nuclear warheads), Pakistan (100-120 nuclear warheads), India (90-110 nuclear warheads), Israel (80 nuclear warheads), and North Korea (10 nuclear warheads).

Nor are the nuclear powers likely to be in compliance with the NPT any time soon. The Indian and Pakistani governments are engaged in a rapid nuclear weapons buildup, while the British government is contemplating the development of a new, more advanced nuclear weapons system. Although, in recent decades, the U.S. and Russian governments did reduce their nuclear arsenals substantially, that process has come to a halt in recent years, as relations have soured between the two nations. Indeed, both countries are currently engaged in a new, extremely dangerous nuclear arms race. The U.S. government has committed itself to spending $1 trillion to “modernize” its nuclear facilities and build new nuclear weapons. For its part, the Russian government is investing heavily in the upgrading of its nuclear warheads and the development of new delivery systems, such as nuclear missiles and nuclear submarines.

What can be done about this flouting of the NPT, some 45 years after it went into operation?

That will almost certainly be a major issue at an NPT Review Conference that will convene at the UN headquarters, in New York City, from April 27 to May 22. These review conferences, held every five years, attract high-level national officials from around the world to discuss the treaty’s implementation. For a very brief time, the review conferences even draw the attention of television and other news commentators before the mass communications media return to their preoccupation with scandals, arrests, and the lives of movie stars.

This spring’s NPT review conference might be particularly lively, given the heightening frustration of the non-nuclear powers at the failure of the nuclear powers to fulfill their NPT commitments. At recent disarmament conferences in Norway, Mexico and Austria, the representatives of a large number of non-nuclear nations, ignoring the opposition of the nuclear powers, focused on the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war. One rising demand among restless non-nuclear nations and among nuclear disarmament groups is to develop a nuclear weapons ban treaty, whether or not the nuclear powers are willing to participate in negotiations.

To heighten the pressure for the abolition of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament groups are staging a Peace and Planet mobilization, in Manhattan, on the eve of the NPT review conference. Calling for a “Nuclear-Free, Peaceful, Just, and Sustainable World,” the mobilization involves an international conference (comprised of plenaries and workshops) on April 24 and 25, plus a culminating interfaith convocation, rally, march, and festival on April 26. Among the hundreds of endorsing organizations are many devoted to peace (Fellowship of Reconciliation, Pax Christi, Peace Action, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Veterans for Peace, and Women’s International League for Peace & Freedom), environmentalism (Earth Action, Friends of the Earth, and 350NYC), religion (Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns, Unitarian Universalist UN Office, United Church of Christ, and United Methodist General Board of Church & Society), workers’ rights (New Jersey Industrial Union Council, United Electrical Workers, and Working Families Party), and human welfare (American Friends Service Committee and National Association of Social Workers).

Of course, how much effect the proponents of a nuclear weapons-free world will have on the cynical officials of the nuclear powers remains to be seen. After as many as 45 years of stalling on their own nuclear disarmament, it is hard to imagine that they are finally ready to begin negotiating a treaty effectively banning nuclear weapons―or at least their nuclear weapons.

Meanwhile, let us encourage Iran not to follow the bad example set by the nuclear powers. And let us ask the nuclear-armed nations, now telling Iran that it should forgo the possession of nuclear weapons, when they are going to start practicing what they preach.

Dr. Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com) is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. He is the author of “Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement” (Stanford University Press).

TIME Opinion

Before You Pick a College, Decide If You Want to Go Greek

Fraternity house exterior
John Greim—LightRocket via Getty Images Fraternity house exterior

Why deciding whether to join a fraternity or sorority should be a major part of the college selection process

As the college acceptances roll in over the next few weeks, kids and parents will be making some tough decisions about which school to pick: city or country? Big school or small school? Close to home or far away?

But there’s a major consideration that few kids take seriously, one that’s almost as important as financial aid and academic opportunity. Lost in the frenzy about dorm style and class size and sports ranking is one factor that could have an enormous effect on you for the next four years: Greek life.

The truth is, deciding to join a fraternity or sorority is as much about the campus dynamic as it is about a student’s own preferences. At a campus with a prominent Greek scene, so much of the social scene is dominated by fraternities and sororities that deciding not to join may have social consequences. That’s why students should decide how they feel about Greek life before they pick a campus, not after.

Because once you get to school, it may feel like that decision has been made for you. On a heavily Greek campus, choosing not to join can affect your housing and dining options as well as your social life. At many schools, the choice is virtually nonexistent: at University of Texas Pan-American, 100% of women on campus are in sororities and 99% of men are in fraternities, at Washington and Lee University, 82% of men and women go Greek. This kind of overwhelming majority is rare, but Greek life can still feel pervasive even at campuses with far lower rates of enrollment: at the University of Oklahoma, which has recently been embroiled in scandal over a racist chant sung by frat brothers, only 26% of male students are in frats.

True, the vast majority of people who participate in Greek life are thoughtful, productive members of society with no interest in racist chants or hazing anybody to death. Most fraternities and sororities were originally founded as philanthropic organizations, and many still make enormous contributions to their communities. But as we’ve seen recently, it can take just a few bad apples to change the way fraternity members behave as a group.

Going Greek can be risky business. In the last two weeks, five national fraternity chapters have been suspended for unethical and possibly illegal behavior. First, Sigma Alpha Epsilon frat brothers at University of Oklahoma were taped singing a racist chant that resulted in the suspension of the chapter and the expulsion of two members. Then, the Penn State chapter of Kappa Delta Rho was suspended after police found a secret Facebook page full of pictures of nude, passed out women– an incident which could lead to criminal charges. The University of South Carolina chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha was suspended Wednesday after the suspicious death of a student, the same day the University of Houston closed its Sigma Chi chapter after allegations of hazing. And last week, Washington & Lee suspended their chapter of Phi Kappa Psi over allegations that frat brothers hazed pledges with tasers. And that’s not even getting started on the sexual assault statistics: multiple studies have shown that men who join fraternities are statistically more likely to commit rape than men who don’t.

You might be thinking: how could anybody behave like that? But when you join a Greek organization, personal responsibility can get diluted into the group mindset. “People lose their sense of individuality when they become a member of a group,” explains Dr. Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State University. “Although a group is comprised of individuals, the individuals don’t necessarily think for themselves.”

Even Will Ferrell, a former brother of Delta Tau Delta who played an overgrown frat boy in the movie Old School, thinks fraternities are problematic. “The incident in Oklahoma, that is a real argument for getting rid of the system altogether, in my opinion, even having been through a fraternity,” he said in a Q&A with the New York Times. “Because when you break it down, it really is about creating cliques and clubs and being exclusionary.”

And if you want to avoid that atmosphere, your best bet might be to avoid campuses where the Greek scene rules–the Princeton Review lists the schools that have the most Greek life, and US News & World Report lists the schools with the highest percentage of students in frats and sororities.

But even on campuses where fewer than half the students rush, Greek life can feel ubiquitous. “Going into school I didn’t really have any exposure to Greek life,” says Dylan Tucker, a senior psychology major at Cornell University who chose not to rush a frat. “But once I got here, I was a little bit surprised at how prominent Greek life was, how many people who were in frats.” At Cornell, only 27% of men are in fraternities, but it can feel like much more than that.

Tucker was able to make friends through the basketball scene, but he says if you’re not in a frat, it can be hard to meet people unless you participate in another activity. “If you don’t plan on being in a frat or sorority, people should be aware that it can affect your ability to make friends,” he says. “If you’re going to a school that has a very prominent Greek life, be aware that you will be excluded from a lot of events and things.”

So when it comes to going Greek, you can be damned if you do, damned if you don’t: joining can lead to risky situations, but resisting can feel isolating. That’s why you should decide on Greek life before you decide on a campus, so the choice is actually up to you.

TIME Opinion

Monica Lewinsky and Why the Word ‘Slut’ Is Still So Potent

Monica Lewinsky
Amanda Edwards—WireImage/Getty Images Monica Lewinsky in Los Angeles, Dec. 7, 2014.

Lewinsky was a 22-year-old intern when her affair with Bill Clinton branded her with a ​Scarlet ​L​etter​ S. Nearly two decades later, she's still suffering the repercussions.​ Why is the word slut still so damning?

Slut.

​Tart.

​Whore.

That Woman.

​Those were the word​s​ used to describe Monica Lewinsky, the once 22-year-old intern who had an affair with the President. She is 41 now and speaking ​publicly about the impact of that relationship for the first time. When those words weren’t used to describe her, they were simply known as what defined her.

​Almost two decades later, those are the same words — though slightly updated — used daily to harass, threaten and humiliate young women and girls who deviate from the sexual (and sometimes not-so-sexual at all) norm, both at school and online.

History met the present recently at a Manhattan performance of a play called SLUT, where Monica Lewinsky watched the story of a teen girl who is assaulted, reports it, and is slut-shamed by her peers. I sat next to Lewinsky as she watched the drama play out. At the end, ​she stood up, surveyed the young faces in the audience, and spoke​: ​“Thank you,​” she ​told the crowd, “for standing up against the sexual scapegoating of women and girls.” Afterwards, girls crowded around Lewinsky to express their own gratitude for her outspokenness.

The Lewinksy scandal broke in in 1998. ​SLUT the play takes place today. In between, the word has been used by Rush Limbaugh to discredit Sandra Fluke a law student who spoke up for birth control; to debate the validity of sexual assault claims; and more often than one could count, to talk viciously about women on the Internet. (Just this week, Ashley Judd proclaimed she would sue her slut-shaming harassers on Twitter.)

What is it about the word slut that is still so potent?

​Slut didn’t begin as a bad word — or a word for women at all — but merely an “untidy” one. Chaucer (yes, that Chaucer) put it in print in the early 1300s, referring to a sloppy male character as “sluttish” in The Canterbury Tales.

But if the word was used for men more broadly it was only for a second: by the 1400s, it had morphed into a term for maids and unkempt, dirty women (like actually dirty, not sexually dirty). It wasn’t long before that notion was infused with sexual connotations. Today, the term is defined by Oxford Dictionary as a woman who “has many casual sexual partners” or one with “low standards of cleanliness” — though it’s clear that in our modern lexicon, those two might as well be one and the same.

Sure, there have been positive usages or attempts to take slut back: Kathleen Hanna famously scrawled the word across her stomach while on stage with Riot Grrrl in the 90s; there is the SlutWalk movement, an effort to reclaim the word.

But by and large one definition remains: Slut is loaded. Slut is bad. Much in the way that Lewinsky became a kind of public symbol, said the linguist Robin Lakoff, “​of all that is sexually loathsome and scary about women,” ​the word slut — and its linguistic sisters, ho, whore, tramp, and skank — is a stand-in for the same: used to describe women who deviate from the norm.

“Girls are still targeted when they cross some kind of boundary,” said Eliza Price, ​a ​16​-year-old cast member in the SLUT play, which is produced by an all-girl theater group called the Arts Effect. ​​

But that boundary can almost anything: clothing, behavior, attitude or something else. As a group of Mississippi teens described it to the author Rachel Simmons, in her book, Odd Girl Out, a girl can be a slut — or in this particular interview, a “skank” — if she sits with her legs open, wears baggy clothes, wears tight clothes, talks in slang, gets into fights, or shows too much PDA. “In other words: almost anything,” said Simmons. “‘Slut’ and its cousin ‘skank’ are used to denote girls who take up space and break the good girl rules.”

And sometimes that has nothing to do with sex. Leora Tanenbaum, the author of a new book, I Am Not a Slut, has interviewed girls and women who’ve been labeled with the word — coining, in 1999, the term “slut-bashing,” which would later evolve into “slut-shaming.” But being called a slut, she found, actually had little to do with whether or not these girls were sexually active. Rather, anybody could be called a slut, she said. The word was a catch-all to discredit women; for young women, it was a way to define them before they got the chance to define themselves.

And while words like bitch have an action associated with them — i.e., if you change your behavior you might be able to shed the label — the word slut is forever.

“Once you’re labeled a slut, it’s pretty much impossible to rid yourself of it,” explains Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart, 17, the lead actress in the play and a high school student in New York. As another young actress explained it: You can be valedictorian, class president and prom queen, but if more than one person calls you slut, all that gets wiped away.

And the Internet makes that even more the case. “In the 90s, when girls would come to me and say ‘I’m the slut in my school and I can’t bear it, what should I do?’ One of the things I would say is ‘Have you looked into transferring to another school?’” said Tanenbaum. “But you can’t say that anymore, because her reputation is going to follow her. You can’t go off the grid.”

The way slut as epithet plays out is multifold:

It’s the reason young women are so obsessed with their “number”— how many sexual partners they’ve had. It might explain why some women lie to their healthcare providers about those numbers, even when it’s not in their best interest.

It’s the reason why, on more than one occasion, as a young woman I would say “no” when I really wanted to say “yes”: yes, of course, would be considered slutty. (You can imagine how that plays into the complicated conversation we’re now having about consent.)

In one case that Tanenbaum describes, a young college woman believed that being called slut contributed to the reason she was raped. “He must have thought, ‘Well, she sleeps around all the time, so she’ll say yes to me,’” the woman told her.

In Monica Lewinsky’s case, that label is the reason she still can’t find work, and has largely stayed out of the public eye for close to a decade. As she said in her TED talk this past week, “It was easy to forget that ‘that woman’ was dimensional, had a soul and was once unbroken.”

Back in 1998, Lewinsky was condemned by the left and the right, by men and women alike, even self-proclaimed feminists (including the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, whose columns on the scandal of President Clinton’s affair and “slutty” Monica Lewinsky won a Pulitzer Prize). Today Lewinsky would be likely to have defenders: there are simply more avenues to push back against a singular media narrative; and we have a new language with which to talk about it.

But the word still has the power to wound, diminish and discredit — as so many victims of sexual assault can attest. Which begs the question: Instead of discrediting women, can we simply discredit the word?

Jessica Bennett is a contributing columnist at Time.com covering the intersection of gender, sexuality, business and pop culture. She writes regularly for the New York Times and is a contributing editor on special projects for Sheryl Sandberg’s women’s nonprofit, Lean In. You can follow her @jess7bennett.

Read next: Monica Lewinsky TED Talk: ‘I was Patient Zero’ of Internet Shaming

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TIME Opinion

Why We Should Reconsider the War on Crime

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man
Scott Olson—Getty Images Police advance through a cloud of tear gas on Aug. 17, 2014 in Ferguson, Mo.

Fifty years after it began, the initiative has brought America to a crossroads

Fifty years ago this month, President Lyndon B. Johnson called for a “War on Crime,” a declaration that ushered in a new era of American law enforcement. Johnson’s turn toward crime control as a federal priority remains his most enduring legacy—even more than the Great Society programs that scholars often herald as his greatest achievement—and continues to shape what is arguably the most important social crisis the United States now faces.

Until recently, the devastating outcomes of the War on Crime that Johnson began had gone relatively unnoticed. Then, last August, during the series of demonstrations in Ferguson, Mo., images of law-enforcement authorities drawing M-4 carbine rifles and dropping tear gas bombs on protestors and civilians alike shocked much of the American public. Ferguson looked like a war zone. Many commentators attributed this sight to the ongoing technology transfers from the defense sector to local law-enforcement authorities, which began during the War on Drugs and escalated in the climate of the War on Terror.

But the source of those armored cars is much older than that. It was the Law Enforcement Assistance Act that Johnson presented to Congress on March 8, 1965, that first established a direct role for the federal government in local police operations, court systems, and state prisons. Even though the Voting Rights Act is considered the major policy victory of that year, Johnson himself hoped that 1965 would be remembered not as the apex of American liberal reform, but rather as “the year when this country began a thorough, intelligent, and effective war against crime.”

President Johnson saw the urban policeman as the “frontline soldier” of this mission, and, as a result, the administration focused on building the weapons arsenal of local law enforcement. The 1965 legislation created a grant-making agency within the Department of Justice, which—with $30 million at its disposal, or $223 million in today’s dollars—purchased bulletproof vests, helicopters, tanks, rifles, gas masks and other military-grade hardware for police departments. Like the Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles driven first in Iraq and then in Ferguson, much of this equipment had been used by the military in Vietnam and Latin America.

Those programs culminated in the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968, the last major piece of domestic legislation Johnson passed, which gave the Department of Justice a new degree of influence over social policy by enlarging the grant-making agency into the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration. In contrast, the Office of Economic Opportunity at the Center of the War on Poverty never grew into a more permanent agency. Over time, national policymakers retreated from and eventually dismantled many of the social welfare programs of the Great Society; the War on Crime, on the other hand, became the foremost policy approach to the social and demographic challenges of the late twentieth century.

Indeed, federal law-enforcement programs have expanded rapidly over the past five decades. Despite the misconception that the Reagan administration spearheaded the rise of urban surveillance and mass incarceration, federal policymakers had already dedicated a total of $7 billion in taxpayer dollars (roughly $20 billion today) to crime-control programs before Reagan took office in 1981. The most recent available figures from the Bureau of Justice Assistance indicate that federal officials have sustained these funding commitments, appropriating well over $1 billion annually to law enforcement programs at the state and local level.

Law enforcement and criminal justice remain at the heart of the nation’s economic and social programs. That fact began to change life for many Americans well before the attention it got in the last year. For example, in Detroit in the early 1970s, officers of a decoy squad known as STRESS (an acronym for “Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets”) killed 17 African American civilians—the vast majority unarmed—during its two years of operation. If the “War on Crime” was meant to be a useful metaphor that would spur policymakers into action, it quickly evolved into what resembled an actual war.

And it’s never been a matter of policing alone. Proximity to the expanding punitive arm of the federal government puts citizens, often low-income urban Americans, in close contact with the criminal justice system. Federal grants were tied to arrest rates, encouraging more apprehensions in those neighborhoods that had been explicitly targeted for special law-enforcement programs. New sentencing guidelines and criminal categories emerged that increased the chance that men and women from these same communities would serve long sentences in prison. In turn, the penal confinement of disproportionate numbers of young African American men during the 1970s often transformed first-time offenders and drug addicts into hardened criminals. Even Richard Nixon referred to prisons as “colleges of crime.”

Although the Johnson administration had created a blueprint for a national crime-control program to improve American society, the long-term impact of the shift toward surveillance and confinement has brought our nation to a fiscal and moral crossroads.

Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Johnson’s call for a “War on Poverty” in his first State of the Union address. Yet, according to Census Bureau estimates, the poverty rate today is equivalent to its rate in the mid-1960s. This year, with the 50th anniversary of the War on Crime upon us, and with #BlackLivesMatter and other movements against justice disparities gaining momentum, we should include the implications of this less understood dimension of the Great Society in our reconsiderations of the past.

In order to move forward as a nation we must come to terms with the reality that the programs unleashed by the War on Crime a half-century ago have overshadowed much of the War on Poverty’s social promise. President Johnson could not have foreseen the unintended consequences of the path he set in motion. But what is perhaps the central irony of the late 20th century is that one of the most idealistic enterprises in the history of the United States has left a legacy of crime, incarceration and inequality.

The Long ViewHistorians explain how the past informs the present

Elizabeth Hinton is an Assistant Professor of History and African and African American Studies at Harvard University. She is the author of a forthcoming history of the War on Crime and its long-term impact on domestic policy.

 

TIME

Why Disney’s New Cinderella Is the Anti-Frozen

CINDERELLA
Disney Lily James as Cinderella in Disney's 2015 live-action feature inspired by the classic fairy tale, Cinderella

Don't be fooled by Ella's new look, this fairy tale is full of disappointing stereotypes

Ever since the cast was announced, I’ve been wishing hard on Disney’s new live-action adaptation of Cinderella. This was, after all, a product of the new Disney, whose last princess-based effort resulted in the girl-power juggernaut we know and love as Frozen. And now Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter and even Agent Carter’sbutt-kicking bombshell” Hayley Atwell were on board. Surely this band of power women would have signed on only to a more modern Cinderella, one that finds a way to luxuriate in the lush beauty of the tale while also giving it a much-needed jolt of female agency.

How I wish I didn’t have to deliver bad news. I was a bullied girl who grew up on Disney’s classic animated version, dreaming that a fairy godmother might also reveal me as the radiant woman I knew I could be. I fervently wanted this reboot to be big enough to marry my childhood dreams with my adult belief that women aren’t ennobled by suffering or diminished by ambition. But I guess I forgot to wish upon a star. The new Cinderella is as retro as they come.

The film certainly is lavish. Everything is more beautiful than you thought it could be, from the hyper-real fairy-tale farmhouse to the ornately gilded pumpkin coach to the massive ball scenes at the palace to (of course!) the dresses. Oh, the dresses! Every frame is lovingly, sumptuously composed, and the performances live up to their setting. Aesthetically, Cinderella is an unqualified triumph.

If only the film’s heart were as good as its heroine’s. This Cinderella shares less DNA with Frozen and more with Snow White’s Evil Queen. On the surface it’s the fairest of the fair. But underneath it’s rotten.

You can tell that someone, somewhere had good intentions. There are multiple people of color in this film, and they’re not just playing servants. Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s stepmother, is given a backstory clearly meant to humanize her — a beloved dead husband and a real fear that she and her girls will be left to starve without a man to provide for them. But what the film suffers from is a profound failure of nerve. Sure, the people of color are there, but the only two who speak at all are tertiary characters at best. It’s 2015. Does the Prince really have to be white for the story to work? Does Cinderella?

As for Tremaine’s motivations, for a moment they gave me hope that the story would go in a Jane Austen direction, exploring the limited and sometimes desperate life choices facing women who are forced to depend on marriage for income and class status. Instead it’s just a way to demonstrate how ambitious Tremaine has become, and how that unseemly ambition is the driver of her evil treatment of our heroine, who in contrast has no ambitions and is therefore purely good. More submissive than Anastasia Steele, Cinderella responds to every insult and oppression forced on her by suffering it prettily and with a song in her heart. That’s no exaggeration: even when locked in the attic by her stepmother, literally held prisoner in her own home, she doesn’t try to escape or even yell to the king’s men just below her in the yard. Instead she just floats about dreamily and sings. If it weren’t for some preternaturally clever mice, she’d still probably still be up there.

What’s truly galling is that we know Disney can do better. In recent years it’s reimagined classic fairy tales in groundbreaking (and lucrative) outings like Brave, Maleficent and, of course, Frozen. And it’s not like it didn’t intend to update the story. Kenneth Branagh, who directed this mess, is featured in a video on Disney’s site bragging, “There’s no damsels in distress here. Cinderella’s not a pushover. She sticks up for herself.” I couldn’t possibly say what he means by that, because all the viewer sees is her parroting her mother’s dying words — “have courage and be kind” — while accepting without protest every abuse Tremaine and her daughters conceive of. Agent Carter would be very disappointed.

And Agent Carter is part of the point. Atwell’s other recent project is but one of a whole constellation of television series currently featuring complex, fully formed female leads, including Orange Is the New Black, Jane the Virgin, Empire, The Good Wife, The Mindy Project, everything Shonda Rhimes touches, and the just-released Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, to name just a few. One glance at a TV (or streaming) schedule is all it takes to see how infinite the possibilities can be when it comes to women onscreen.

But somehow the film-studio bosses keep losing the memo. In 2014, only 12% of top-grossing films featured women in lead roles. Only slightly more than half of all films released since 2010 have even passed the Bechdel test, a pathetically low bar requiring only that a film feature two women who talk with each other at some point about something other than a man. This erasure of women isn’t even mercenary: films that do pass the Bechdel test are repeatedly shown to produce more profit for studios than films that don’t.

And many of the films that do manage to feature a woman suffer from a profound lack of imagination about who women can be. If I wanted to go see a film from last weekend’s top 10 earners with anything resembling a female lead, I would be choosing between watching a dim-witted blond protégé, a retired British lady on an adventure, a naive virgin seduced by an abusive billionaire, a literal monster or an “ugly fat friend.” Meanwhile the male leads in those 10 films are a soldier, a scientist, a con man, a middle-aged superspy, an abusive billionaire, a sports coach, a businessman and a sentient sea sponge.

The theater in which I saw Cinderella was filled with dreamers much younger than I am. No doubt some of them, as I did when I was their age, identified powerfully with that abused young woman, just waiting for someone to see that she could be so much more than her circumstances. Too bad they’ve been let down yet again by movie execs who can’t seem to see past the end of their wands.

TIME Opinion

Politics Aside, the Data on Women Collected by the Clinton Foundation Is Worth a Look

Melinda Gates, Clinton Foundation Release Report On Status Of Women And Girls
Spencer Platt—Getty Images Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (right) joins Gates Foundation Co-Chair Melinda Gates and Clinton Foundation Vice Chair Chelsea Clinton for the official release of the No Ceilings Full Participation Report (Spencer Platt--Getty Images)

The vast amount of data collected by the Clinton Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation says women have taken two steps forward, one step back

The hubbub surrounding Hillary Clinton’s presumptive presidential run and the controversy over her use of a private email account while Secretary of State threaten to overshadow No Ceilings: Full Participation Project, a new report on women’s rights released on Monday by the Clinton Foundation in partnership with the Gates Foundation. That’s a shame, because while the information isn’t completely groundbreaking, it’s still one of the most comprehensive looks at the state of gender equality around the world in 2015, with over a million data points on women’s advancement across dozens of areas.

Here’s the takeaway: since the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action (where Hillary Clinton famously said, “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights), women have taken two steps forward, one step back. There have been major gains in education and women’s health, but less so in safety, economic opportunity, and leadership. “Progress is possible, and the data provides us a roadmap for the unfinished business that remains,” said Clinton when she took the stage in New York City on Monday. “We’re not there yet.”

In health, there’s been a lot of good news when it comes to maternal mortality and contraceptive use. The rate of women who die in childbirth has plummeted more than 40% in 76 countries, and by more than 60% in South Asia, and the rate of adolescent birth has dropped by a third since 1995. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the rate of contraceptive use has doubled, from 11% to 23%.

But, as Chelsea Clinton said at the No Ceilings event, “we cannot mistake progress for success.” Worldwide, there are still 220 million women who don’t have access to modern family planning– a number that is virtually unchanged since 1995. And according to the WHO, 800 women a day still die from preventable pregnancy complications.

In education, too, there have been major steps forward. Overall female literacy rates reached 80% in 2012, and the global gender gap for primary education has closed everywhere except Sub Saharan Africa– and even there, the primary education rates have largely improved, to 93 girls for every 100 boys. But even if they’re getting a primary education, too few girls are making the leap to secondary school. In South Asia, fewer than half of girls are in secondary school– in Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s fewer than one in three.

And despite the gains in women’s health and education since 1995, there are major areas where far too little has changed in 20 years. When it comes to women’s safety, we’ve barely moved the needle. 1 in 3 women worldwide have experienced physical or sexual violence, mostly at the hands of a partner. In a survey of four African countries, 25% of first sex for girls was unwanted. And in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 62% of women and 48% of men think a man is entitled to sex even if a woman refuses.

Financially, women also remain at a stubborn disadvantage. Only about 55% of women worldwide work for pay, compared to 82% of men. That’s not just bad for women– it’s bad for economies. The GDP of the USA would rise by 5% of women were equally represented. In Egypt, women’s participation would boost the GDP by an whopping 34%.

The United States is also one of only nine countries in the world that does not have laws providing paid maternity leave–the others are the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Suriname, and Tonga. On the bright side, 75% of other developed countries now provide up to 14 weeks of paid maternal leave. (The U.S. is the only developed country that provides none.)

In leadership roles, women are still vastly underrepresented. Global legislatures remain only 22% female, and the number of countries led by women has risen from 12 in 1995 to only 18 in 2015. Still, there are glimmers of hope: in Rwanda, Bolivia, and Andorra, around 50% of the lower parliamentary seats are held by women.

So even if you’re skeptical of Hillary’s politics, the data from the project is still worth a look. You can check it out more in depth here.

 

TIME Opinion

The Problem With Dolce and Gabbana’s Motherhood-Themed Runway Show

Dolce & Gabbana - Runway RTW - Fall 2015 - Milan Fashion Week
Catwalking/Getty Images Models walk the runway at the Dolce & Gabbana Autumn Winter 2015 fashion show during Milan Fashion Week on March 1, 2015 in Milan, Italy.

The designers' Milan Fashion Week show celebrated mothers — but not in the way our culture needs

Mother’s Day arrived early this year in Italy, where Milan Fashion Week is currently taking place. Sunday’s Dolce and Gabbana show, named “Viva la mamma!,” was entirely dedicated to celebrating motherhood. A handful of models walked the runway with their children and babies, while “Mama” by the Spice Girls played. Model Bianca Balti, heavily pregnant with her second child, even walked in the show. Designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have said the show was an homage to their own mothers.

The collection on display matched the mother-loving theme: ultra-feminine shapes — think full skirts and cinched waists — with loads of lace and florals. Many of the garments were emblazoned with the word “Mamma” or had children’s drawings printed across them, in the same vein as Angelina Jolie’s wedding veil.

It’s hard to deny the actual collection is stunning, but the idea of the show itself left me cold. Celebrating motherhood is all well and good, but this display was an entirely shallow endorsement of women that smacks of a gimmick. The theme might be sweet and largely inoffensive — after all, who doesn’t love moms? — but it also stuck to a particularly narrow definition of mothers. In D&G’s world, motherhood is the most limiting archetype of all, where women are radiant and impossibly beautiful, but not truly sexual.

Of course, it was nice to see a shape on the runway that falls outside the runway norm and isn’t pin-thin. One of the most justified and enduring criticisms of the fashion world is its reliance on ultra thin and, in some cases, unhealthy bodies. So props to Dolce and Gabbana, who asked Balti, clad in a form-fitting pink dress, to walk the runway. Alas, Balti was the only one on the runway who offered anything different, size-wise. (And, as others have pointed out, the models were mostly caucasian.) The rest of the models — even the new mothers — shared the typical model dimensions we’ve come to expect from fashion week.

But there’s a destructive side to flashily incorporating mothers-to-be and new mothers in a fashion show. In many ways our culture fetishizes mothers — and pregnancy — and the fashion and beauty industries are no different. Many women’s magazines and fashion websites have dedicated plenty of space to cataloging pregnant celebrities and their growing “bumps.” The very same publications devote even more attention to those women’s bodies after they give birth, either celebrating the return of a “pre-baby body” or tracking the struggle to bounce back to a so-called ideal.

Unfortunately, much of our culture’s focus on new motherhood and pregnancy ends up revolving around women’s bodies and how they look. That context is hard to separate in a fashion show — which displays women’s clothing on women’s bodies — that also tries to honor motherhood, no matter how well-intentioned.

Read next: World’s Most Famous Baby Photographer on the Power of Motherhood

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TIME Opinion

Obama Takes a Page From FDR’s Playbook

President Obama Speaks At Chicago's Gwendolyn Brooks College Preparatory Academy
Scott Olson—Getty Images President Barack Obama speaks in Chicago on Feb. 19, 2015. Obama used the event to designate Chicago's historic Pullman district a national monument.

In helping to resolve a longshore standoff, the President showed that he’s learned from history

Correction appended, Feb. 24, 2015, 10:45 a.m.

For nine months, trade in the Pacific has been stalled. Ships languished at docks, their cargo stuck, lost profits ticking up into the millions, as negotiations between the International Longshore & Warehouse Union (ILWU) and their employers, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA), dragged on. But the tide may be turning: the dockworkers’ union and the PMA announced that they have reached a tentative agreement on their next contract—and the repercussions reach far beyond the West Coast ports at the heart of the negotiations. This conflict between workers and employers goes to the heart of the crisis of inequality facing the American economy today.

President Obama repeatedly has claimed one of his top priorities is supporting middle class families. And, though he hasn’t articulated the comparison himself, this latest news shows that one of his strategies for doing so takes a page from history—namely from Franklin D. Roosevelt. Almost exactly 80 years ago, Roosevelt helped resolve a dispute not unlike the current ILWU-PMA showdown, and, in doing so, helped tens of thousands of working people and their families.

In 1934, militant longshoremen rose up and declared the “Big Strike,” shutting down every West Coast port. Workers demanded decent wages and workplace improvements, but employers called upon their allies in government to break the strike—most notoriously when San Francisco police killed two strikers and wounded dozens on “Bloody Thursday.” This remains an official holiday for ILWU members even today.

Employers did not listen to the cries of their own workers but President Roosevelt did. In a shocking break from precedent, he sent a trusted aide, Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins—the first woman ever to serve in a presidential cabinet—to mediate negotiations between workers and their bosses.

With Perkins’ assistance, the strikers won an astounding series of concessions: a union-controlled hiring hall, which ended discrimination and favoritism in hiring; a coastwide contract with all workers receiving the same wages and conditions; and a better hourly wage.

Shortly thereafter, working with a sympathetic Congress, FDR made unions, strikes and collective bargaining legal. He also helped abolish child labor, establish a minimum wage, the 8-hour day and overtime rates. In 1936, he explained why he sided with working people over corporations: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.”

Due to unions like the ILWU and public officials like Roosevelt and Perkins, the American middle class grew to a previously unimaginable size. Collectively bargained pay-raises in union workplaces lifted wages in non-unionized ones, too, because employers competed for workers. Not coincidentally, the so-called Greatest Generation also was the most heavily unionized generation in U.S. history.

In recent decades, however, that trend has reversed. Unions and the middle class are both weaker than they once were. Enter the ILWU-PMA impasse. During the past month, the PMA had begun rolling lockouts and blamed the union for work slow-downs. Business associations and retailers called for an end to West Coast port congestion and for the destruction of one of America’s last strong unions.

Given the relative weakness of support for unions today, President Obama found himself in the same situation FDR faced. The easy choice would be to side against the union, intervening to break the impasse, if at all. Some corporate executives and anti-union politicians called for Congress to change labor law to permanently weaken the ILWU or for Obama to invoke an anti-union “cooling off” provision of the Taft-Hartley Act (as President George W. Bush did in 2002 during previous ILWU-PMA negotiations).

But when President Obama finally acted, it was to make the choice Roosevelt also made about a century prior. He dispatched his Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, who traveled to San Francisco to meet with ILWU and PMA officials. The result is an agreement that could put both laborers and business back to work, though the details of the deal remain secret and, given the union’s democratic process, subject to a vote by the 20,000 members of its longshore division.

The timing of Obama’s intervention is apt. This past Thursday, Obama announced a new national monument, in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood, to honor workers. Pullman was the birthplace of an important labor union of (mostly African American) sleeping car porters—but was also ground zero for a mammoth railroad strike that rocked American in its First Gilded Age.

As Obama noted in his announcement, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters dramatically benefited its members and their families by helping them enter the middle class. Crucially, unionism also facilitated racial equality by sufficiently empowering black citizens to be able to demand equal treatment.

Perhaps more surprisingly, four Illinois Republicans—one Senator and three Congressmen—endorsed the Pullman designation. In their letter to the president, they also insisted that the porters union “laid the groundwork for the Civil Rights movement.” Furthermore, they recognized that the mammoth Pullman strike in 1894 “provided workers across America with a blueprint for how to achieve a better working environment and secure fair wages and rights in the workplace.”

These statements from Obama and the Illinois Republicans would likely appeal to Roosevelt—but FDR, the best president American working people have ever had, would take even more comfort from what’s happened with the longshoremen. Eight decades after an earlier West Coast longshore dispute, the president has taken an opportunity to demonstrate—rather than merely declare—that the government serves the people rather than the interests of those FDR called “economic royalists.”

Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how many years ago FDR intervened in the longshoremen’s strike. It was 81. That version also incorrectly referred to the ILWU situation as a strike. It was an impasse in negotiations.

The Long ViewHistorians explain how the past informs the present

Peter Cole is a Professor of History at Western Illinois University. He is the author of Wobblies on the Waterfront: Interracial Unionism on the Progressive Era Philadelphia. His current book project is entitled Dockworker Power: Struggles in Durban and the San Francisco Bay Area.

TIME Supreme Court

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Upends the Notion of the Silent Justice

Ruth Bader Ginsburg Supreme Court Justice Young Photos
Steve Petteway—Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States Official portrait of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Supreme Court Justice isn't just writing opinions, she's sharing them in interviews.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears to be on a book tour with no book. The oldest Supreme Court Justice has been on a media tear recently, making headlines with interviews about everything from feminism to her workout routine, even slyly revealing that she was “not 100 percent sober” during the State of the Union.

In the last year, Ginsburg has given interviews to Elle, the Associated Press, the National Journal, The New Republic, Yahoo! News, Bloomberg and MSNBC. She’s done a live event at the 92nd Street Y, performed a monologue in a D.C. play about the Civil War and given her blessing to the Notorious RBG Tumblr page, a fan website in her honor. Only Ginsburg’s opera-buddy Antonin Scalia, who gave a much-discussed 2013 interview to New York magazine, and Sonia Sotomayor, who made the rounds promoting her memoir, come close to rivaling Ginsburg’s recent publicity tour.

Some longtime court watchers think Ginsburg and her colleagues may be reshaping the way the traditionally cloistered justices interact with the public.

“That is a lot, and the frequency of it breaks the pattern,” says Lyle Denniston, a contributor to SCOTUSblog who has been covering the courts for 57 years. “This is a much more open age, with the Internet, and the justices are simply players in the modern drama of greater public exposure. It is pattern-setting, and it is unusual.”

Like many things at the Supreme Court, there may be an unspoken political angle too.

Leading up to the 2012 and 2014 elections, some liberals had argued that Ginsburg should retire, given her age (at 81, she’s the oldest sitting Justice), her history with pancreatic cancer and the possibility that Republicans could retake the White House and/or the Senate.

“If Ginsburg and Breyer abjure retirement and Obama wins, the justices’ subsequent departures will be relatively harmless,” wrote Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy in the New Republic in 2011. “On the other hand, if Obama loses, they will have contributed to a disaster.”

A brief visit to the hospital over Thanksgiving renewed those fears for liberal court-watchers, giving Ginsburg all the more reason to dispel any concerns about her health. In all her interviews, she’s noted that she’s not going anywhere anytime soon.

“I’ve said many times: once I sense that I am slipping, I will step down,” she told MSNBC earlier this week. “This is a very intense job. It’s the best and the hardest job I’ve ever had. It takes a lot of energy and staying power to do it right. I will step down when I feel I can no longer do the job full steam.”

Ginsburg’s interviews have touched on some other common themes. She discusses what it was like to be one of few women in law school, to have no job offers after graduating at the top of her class at Columbia Law and how her egalitarian relationship with her husband Martin Ginsburg shaped her career. She recalls her time working for the ACLU, fighting laws that discriminated against women. She notes that while Roe v. Wade is unlikely to be overturned, restrictions on abortion rights affect poor women far more than affluent ones. And, inevitably, she calls on the generation of young American women to avoid complacency.

One thing that concerns me is that today’s young women don’t seem to care that we have a fundamental instrument of government that makes no express statement about the equal citizenship stature of men and women,” she told The New Republic last year. “They know there are no closed doors anymore, and they may take for granted the rights that they have.”

Not everyone agrees that Ginsburg’s increased public exposure is a good thing, especially when Ginsburg discussed the upcoming gay marriage case, sparking calls from some conservatives for her to recuse herself.

“Justices are generally more cautious than Justice Ginsburg has been lately in discussing pending issues,” says Denniston. “If they were discussing a tax case or a labor case, nobody would notice, but if you’re discussing the most controversial issues, people do pay very close attention. And they do take offense when a member of the court seems to be forecasting where the court’s going to go.”

But Ginsburg seems secure in her decision to speak out about her opinions, whether in a written dissent or not. She told MSNBC that she’d like to be remembered as “someone who used whatever talents she had to do her work to the very best of her ability and to help repair tears in her society.”

For this Supreme Court Justice, that means more than just writing opinions in a quiet legal chamber. It also means getting out there before the public. And that decision may end up as much a part of her legacy as any of her legal ones.

Read next: Oregon’s Kate Brown Becomes First Openly Bisexual U.S. Governor

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Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the number of years that Lyle Denniston has covered courts.

TIME Opinion

What Kayla Mueller’s Life Reveals About Her Generation

Kayla Mueller after speaking to a group in Prescott, Ariz. on May 30, 2013.
Matt Hinshaw—AP Kayla Mueller after speaking to a group in Prescott, Ariz. on May 30, 2013.

Charlotte Alter covers lifestyle, crime, and breaking news for TIME in New York City. Her writing has also appeared in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

And why she should be a role model for millennials

These days, it seems like every millennial is trying to be a role model, whether it’s by designing a multi-billion-dollar app or recording a blockbuster album or creating a critically-acclaimed TV show. Everyone wants to be the influencer, the one who inspires people how to act and how to be.

Kayla Mueller didn’t care about any of that–all she wanted to do was end suffering.

Mueller, the 26-year-old aid worker from Arizona who had been held hostage by the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) since 2013, and whose death was confirmed by the White House Feb 10, lived the antithesis to the hyper-performative brand management practiced by other people her age. She did not want to to be seen helping people: she wanted to help people. She’s the role model we really need.

If we’re looking for tips on how to act and how to be, Mueller’s newly released letter home to her family is a better textbook than any quirky essay collection by a 28-year old or professional memoir. It reveals that Mueller represented the best qualities of the millennial generation–our idealism, our optimism, and our love of our families–without the troublesome ones.

Millennials are generally thought to be more socially aware and idealistic than their parents. And they are increasingly demonstrating their idealism through hashtag activism, socially responsible investing, and mobile charity donation (crowdfunding site Fundly said in 2013 that 58% of its users were 34 or younger.)

But that wasn’t enough for Mueller–she wanted to get her hands dirty, first by demonstrating on campus, then by living in the Palestinian territories (sleeping in front of homes threatened by Israeli bulldozers, and escorting children to school) and finally going to Turkey to provide support to Syrian refugees. “I will always seek God,” she wrote in a letter to her family in 2011, before she was kidnapped on her way to a bus station in Syria. “Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.”

We’re also known as an optimistic generation, but much of the research on our sunny attitude has been done in the context of financial sluggishness–53% of millennials think they don’t earn enough money now, but will in the future, and three out of four believe they’ll achieve their professional goals. Mueller took that optimism to the next level. Even when she was being held captive by a brutal terrorist group she still managed to hope for the best.

“I have been shown in darkness, light + have learned that even in prison, one can be free. I am grateful,” she wrote. “I have come to see that there is good in every situation, sometimes we just have to look for it.”

Those of us who are pouty about our dead-end internships should take note.

Millennials are known to be closer with their parents than previous generations were– over half of us consider one of our parents our best friend. But Mueller’s devotion to her family was so profound that the thought of their pain eclipsed her own suffering. “If you could say I have ‘suffered’ at all throughout this whole experience it is only in knowing how much suffering I have put you all through; I will never ask you to forgive me as I do not deserve forgiveness,” she wrote.

It’s not just that Mueller exemplified the best qualities of her generation–she also repudiated the bad ones. The stereotype of the “whiny” millennial could never apply to her. Because perhaps what’s most striking about Mueller’s letter is the lack of complaining, the omission of any information that might have pained her family to hear. “Please know that I am in a safe location, completely unharmed + healthy (put on weight in fact),” she wrote. “I have been treated w/ the utmost respect + kindness.” While it’s possible that this is true in Mueller’s case–another hostage told the New York Times he believed the female captives were treated relatively well– it’s also possible that she concealed elements of her captivity to spare her family pain. Unnamed US officials even suggested to ABC News that Mueller may have been “given” as a bride to an ISIS commander, which is consistent with the terrorist group’s history of rape and forced marriages with female captives.

So if millennials are looking for role models, we can look past Taylor Swift and Mark Zuckerberg. Kayla Mueller–who never courted the limelight–represents the best in all of us. I look up to her.

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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