TIME harassment

The Woman in That Viral Street Harassment Video Got Death and Rape Threats

Hollaback!

The video has more than 8.1 million views on YouTube and over 42,000 comments

A woman featured in a video that showed her being harassed as walked the streets of New York City has received at least 10 death and rape threats since the video went viral.

Some of the threats have gone directly to Shoshanna Roberts’ personal email accounts, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The video, “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” had over 8.1 million views on YouTube as of late Wednesday afternoon, and many derogatory comments—including one that says “this is exactly why women aren’t supposed to leave the kitchen.”

Despite the backlash, the video, which was created by the anti-street harassment organization “Hollaback!”, has become the latest fodder in an ongoing conversation about street harassment. You can see the video below.

TIME women

Enough With the Stats About Women and Work

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Multi-bits—Getty Images

Susan S. LaMotte is the founder of exaqueo, which helps organizations build cultures, create employer brands and develop talent strategies using a data-driven approach.

The C-suite can't hire and advance women in the workplace if they don't listen to their very unique needs

Women aspire to success: they earn 60% of college degrees and hold 52% of professional-level jobs. Yet, we’ve heard the same concerns over and over. Why are less than 15% of Fortune 500 executive positions held by women? Only 32% of lawyers are women, and they comprise only 36% of MBA-earners. And let’s not even talk about the wage gap–it’s been written about by everyone from Forbes to the New York Times, with little progress and lots of debate. The statistics on women in the workplace aren’t shocking anymore and the arguments and struggles aren’t new.

Yet from our clients’ struggles to the media’s relentless focus, the question remains: How do we hire and advance more women in the workplace?

The hypotheses and assumptions abound. For many women it’s a question of wanting to be at home (or have at least one parent be at home) to focus on raising children. For others it’s a question of cost: paying nannies or child care providers to shuttle kids to ballet and soccer doesn’t make sense.

But what do we really know about the women in our workplaces? Understanding their struggles, frustrations and the late night “how do we manage this?” conversations with partners and spouses may be something peers pay attention to. But management doesn’t. And this is the problem.

One married mom of twins I spoke to who works in finance for a well-known Fortune 100 company was offered a promotion to move from one division of finance to another, directly supporting the CFO. She had no choice but to turn down the role. Her husband has a full-time job too and her supporting the CFO would mean on-call problem solving at all hours of the day and evening–untenable when there are kids to feed and bathe at home.

Another gave up her lucrative job in law for eight years to raise her kids, and now that she’s back working has to answer to her pre-teen son who complained it was hard to get used to his mom being so busy.

These stories are anecdotes and there are thousands more just like them. But when we generalize, assume and build strategies around those assumptions, we fail. And this is why companies continue to struggle with hiring and advancing women.

Leaders just don’t understand the real, frontline issues in their own workplaces.

During a recent workforce analysis project, I presented some specific data to a CEO and a Chief Human Resource Officer showing the challenges their employees–men and women–were facing. One major issue had to do with getting out of work on time. Their employees were struggling with a combination of the office location/commuting issues and picking their children up from day care. Both men were shocked when I shared that each parent had to pay late fees each for minute they were late to pick up their kids. These leaders had no idea.

And how could they? This particular management team averaged over 50 years old, and those who had children had full-time childcare or a spouse at home to take care of them. Most employees won’t tell their C-suite bosses, “If I don’t leave now, I’ll probably have to pay $35 because I’ll be late to daycare.”

When leaders don’t live the issues or attempt to understand them, they can’t solve them.

Memo to the C-suite: It’s time to start understanding what’s behind the problems women are facing in your own organizations.

  • Stop with the assumptions

Instead of making assumptions or paying attention to broad sweeping trends, why aren’t leaders collecting their own data? It shouldn’t be about what the media tells leaders women want. Instead, leaders should look to their own unique workforces to see what their specific issues are. And if you’re sitting in a coveted C-suite role as a working parent, don’t assume your issues and story replicate others’ issues. They won’t–as a C-suite leader you’re no longer a representative sample.

  • Collect real data

Go beyond broad satisfaction and engagement ratings and ask specific pointed questions of your workforce to see what their real struggles are day to day. Late-night work calls and emails? Family leave policies? Equal pay? You won’t know what problems are most prevalent or what solutions work best for your workforce until you go directly to the source. Then segment that data to find patterns among different functions, levels, geographies and teams.

  • Blend qualitative and quantitative data

Let’s say you already know that the majority of your female employees want more flexible schedules. Great. Now go find out why by collecting qualitative data. The combination of survey data plus deep focus group and interview insights will help your leadership team understand the core issues. It may be childcare is at the root cause or it may be a greater desire for schedule control. You won’t know until you dig in and ask.

  • Forget the broad sweeping initiatives

It’s great to see nationwide movements, surveys and polls. But they won’t impact your specific organization alone. Only the C-suite can do that. Leaders are the ones who have to understand their own microcosms and make pointed changes specific to their own workforces.

When we engage, research and really understand our stakeholders–in this case women–we can more effectively address their frustrations and problems. For example, the female finance leader from the Fortune 100 company? She’s not just limited by her two young children. She’s also stuck on why the work has to be done at the last minute or at the CFO’s whim. She wonders what other leaders do about spending time with their kids.

The mom who has to have a conversation with her son about transitioning from staying at home to working again? The change at home is only one piece of the puzzle. She may really need resources at work to help her with making the change.

And it’s not just parental issues. Women without children have their own set of important issues and concerns. But it’s up to leaders to listen and learn what those are–and know that they differ by company, function, geography and even team.

I’ll never forget the lecture I got as a rising leader in a Fortune 500 company. It was 9:15 a.m. and an executive needed something from my team. I was nowhere to be found, and my small team hadn’t made it into the office yet either. My management style wasn’t a strict “must be at your desk by 9:00 a.m.” As long as my team got their work done and respected their peers, I didn’t care whether they started their day at 9:00 a.m. or 9:30 a.m. But that executive did. And as I listened to the lecture about setting a good example I thought to myself, “No one ever asks why.”

Susan S. LaMotte is the founder ofexaqueo (ex-ACK-wee-o), which helps organizations build cultures, create employer brands and develop talent strategies using a data-driven approach. Susan has an MBA (Vanderbilt University), an MA in HR Development (The George Washington University) and a BA in Communications (Virginia Tech). She has also written two books: The Right Job, Right Now (St. Martin’s Press) andVault Guide to Human Resources Careers.

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 Nigeria

Dozens More Women And Girls Abducted By Boko Haram in Nigeria

Nigeria Kidnapped Girls
A man poses with a sign in front of police officers in riot gear during a demonstration calling on the government to rescue the kidnapped girls of the government secondary school in Chibok, in Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 14, 2014. Olamikan Gbemiga—AP

Residents say the kidnappings come a day after a truce between the militants and the Nigerian government

The militant Islamist group Boko Haram has been accused of abducting dozens more women and girls from two villages in Nigeria’s northeastern Adamawa state.

Residents say the alleged kidnappings, which haven’t been confirmed by authorities, took place a day after a reported truce between the militants and Nigerian government, the BBC says.

The government hopes negotiations with Boko Haram will secure the release of more than 200 girls who were taken hostage by the militants in April. But the Islamist group has not confirmed the ceasefire.

The April kidnapping, in Borno state, sparked mass protests in Nigeria and calls for the government to do more to save the girls under the #BringBackOurGirls campaign.

Meanwhile a bomb blasted through a bus station Wednesday in northern Bauchi state, killing five people and injuring 12. No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the attack.

[BBC]

TIME feminism

Seriously? This Is What Passes for Feminism in America

Karin Agness is the Founder and President of the Network of enlightened Women.

Stunts like young girls yelling the F-word get attention. Sadly, that is what much of feminism has been reduced to

On Tuesday, I listened to Malala Yousafzai speak at the Forbes Under 30 Summit on her work fighting for girls’ education. Malala was shot in the head on October 9, 2012, by the Taliban for her outspoken views. She survived. But many girls don’t.

She has become a public figure, fighting for education for girls. Appropriately, she learned that she won the Nobel Peace Prize this year while in class. Her courage and grace are inspiring.

Today, I returned home to the so-called “war on women” in America. The latest antic? Apparel company FCKH8 posted a video of young girls dressed as princesses using the F-word and gesturing with their middle fingers to try to bring attention to sexism. It’s uncomfortable to watch—not in the sense that it causes viewers to rethink long-held beliefs, but because it’s a cheap ploy. Toward the end, two adults appear hawking “This is what a feminist looks like” and “Girls just want to have fun-damental rights” t-shirts. The video ends with a young girl saying, “Swear jar? I don’t give a f**k.” This isn’t courageous or graceful.

This for-profit t-shirt company recognizes that young girls yelling the F-word gets attention. And sadly, that is what much of feminism has been reduced to today—nothing more than offensive, crude attempts to draw attention away from the real issues.

Take equal pay. In the video, the girls recite the tired and debunked statistic that women supposedly make only 77 cents for each dollar that men make. Using the number this way has been discredited by people across the political spectrum, including Hanna Rosin, writer and author of The End of Men.

The problem is that this FCKH8 effort isn’t an outlier in feminism in America today. Comedian Sarah Silverman starred in a video as a woman who decided to get a sex change operation because she would supposedly get paid more as a man. What? This was an effort to raise money for the National Women’s Law Center, which “has worked for 40 years to expand, protect, and promote opportunity and advancement for women and girls at every stage of their lives—from education to employment to retirement security, and everything in between.” Maybe this silly ad helped them raise money, but wouldn’t a serious attempt have been better for women?

The battles that women and girls like Malala are fighting each and every day make the so-called “war on women” in America appear laughable. In some parts of the world, women would give about anything to be able to go to school. And some give it all. These women probably can’t even imagine testifying before Congress to try to get their university to pay for birth control and then turning that fame into a political candidacy.

It’s no wonder that only 20% of Americans self-identify as feminists, according to a Huffington Post/YouGov poll.

The FCKH8 “F-Bombs for Feminism: Potty-Mouthed Princesses Use Bad Word for Good Cause” is the latest example of feminism gone wrong in America. Feminists should start using their words, including the F-word, more wisely, because what they say could benefit women around the world.

Karin Agness is the Founder and President of the Network of enlightened Women.

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 advice

A Letter to My 19-Year-Old Self on My 39th Birthday

Handwritten letter
Getty Images

Someday you will be 40. None of this matters

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Dear me,

You know how right now EVERY SINGLE THING seems like IT’S REALLY IMPORTANT? Like, how every small thing and every huge thing needs to be done perfectly all the time right now and there’s no perspective and you can’t waste one single second because right now is your big time and pretty soon you will be old and it’ll all be over?

Yeah, throw all that kind of thinking out the window.

You’re going to turn 20. And you’re going to turn 40. And you’re going to die. People are going to tell you that you need to have a plan, that you have just one chance, that you better not “blow it.” Here’s what they don’t tell you. You only make it when you blow it. Meaning, don’t be afraid to screw up. A lot. But if you can, try to make them screw-ups where you don’t put yourself at risk. Being embarrassed is not a risk. That’s totally recoverable. That will make you stronger. That’s the good kind of risk! You’ll know these situations when you’re in them. Trust your gut. Your gut is golden.

See, you only have one asset in this life that doesn’t ever change, and that’s you.

I know, I know, it sounds dumb and obvious, but it’s actually the best piece of advice you’ll ever get. Let me try to explain: You see, the biggest trap people fall into is continuously chasing stuff rather than realizing that they have everything they need inside them the whole time. It’s so tempting to look outside yourself all the time for salvation but that’s just an illusion. Sure, get a degree. Have a boyfriend. Take that wild call to adventure. But the one constant you’ll have through all these experiences is you.

Value you. Treasure you. Love you. Even when you screws up. You are the best advocate you will ever have.

“That’s not enough. I need all this other stuff,” you may be saying. Yeah that’s just your mind screwing around with you. All of your imperfection and your curiosity and your desire to explore and try these different things — that’s what makes you you! So don’t you see? You’re perfect already. There’s no need to “someday” your life. Someday is right now. You don’t need to wait to enjoy your life. You don’t need to wait to enjoy your journey. You don’t need to wait to go after what others may make fun of you for. What is your dream? How do you imagine your perfect life? What makes you feel good about you? How can you bring more of that into your life?

You can enjoy yourself; you can enjoy this journey. That’s one of the best secrets of all time. Think about all the knowledge and the experiences and the love and the excitement you have in your heart. That’s what matters. Not the “A” grade or the big job or internship or the hot guy or boyfriend who shows the world all your status.

Because that’s all that really is, you know: status.

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in it. Sometimes it seems like the primary engine that drives society. Status is your grades. Status is who you’re taking to the fall formal. Status is what your parents brag about when they talk about you. Status is that nagging feeling that leads you to compare yourself to others around you, even when you were feeling pretty good about yourself.

Status is dumb. Status is empty and dead. Status is a cold bed partner.

The only thing that matters at the end of the day is how much you love — your self, your friends, your family, your life, your passions. There is no status in love. That’s one of the things that makes it so pure and beautiful and real and powerful. It’s wonderful to be ambitious, but it’s also easy to get priorities all screwed up when ambition and status start out to blunt out your true self. Then you stop listening to your gut and love stops being a priority and pretty soon, nothing is good enough. You find fault in everything. Gratitude falls away, and why is this good thing happening to this other person? And pick, pick, pick, pick, nothing is right. Everything could be better. Misery.

You will find no greater power in life than finding the power in peace of mind. It can be hard to find, but here are a few ways I’ve been able to find it myself: meditating, actively wishing other people and myself well, thinking of all the things I’m grateful for, doing kind deeds for someone else, taking one thing at a time, focusing on what I like, not expecting perfection.

Oh, and having fun. God, having fun is important. When I was entering my 30s, at one point I wrote this message on a Post-It note that’s how desperate I was to remember it, every moment, every day. I scrawled those words and put the Post-It on my desk. It had those two words on it: “HAVE FUN.” But you know what? It helped. Because life is filled with stresses left and right and above and below. If you have that nagging, urgent thing in you where you want to do a good job, then it’s easy to hear all these different demanding voices and let all of this culminate into one overpowering, deafening message: “Feel stress. Feel stress.”

But here’s a little secret. You actually do better work and are more efficient and productive and all those other good successful things WHEN you are happy. How does this translate? It means when something goes wrong, you don’t need to pile on yourself and catastrophize. You can be in the moment and laugh at the crappiness of everything that is unfolding around you.

That’s probably the biggest secret that I’ve discovered. You can get through almost anything with three things: friends, authenticity and again, love. It’s this magical concoction that allows you to not be alone in the dark with the harder things in life. Bringing your demons and your nightmares and your fears and your anxieties and your hardships out into the light takes away the scariness. It dissipates the power. And you have friends and potential new friends all around you, every moment, every day. There are so many people looking for love in this world, and the more you give it to yourself, the more will come your way.

Also: this may be kind of superficial, but: Wear a hat. You’ll thank me later.

Mandy Stadtmiller is Editor-at-Large at xoJane.com.

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 Style

The Bizarre History of Women’s Clothing Sizes

"All dresses shall consist only of cloth sufficient for the body basic and the trimming allowance. The trimming allowance for non-transparent materials shall be limited to 700 square inches for all sizes, in excess of that required for the basic," reads WPB (War Production Board) order L-85 as amended Library of Congress

A look back at the start of arbitrary sizing

In the world of women’s clothing, a 4 is a 2 is a 6. Everything is relative — unless, of course, you’re shopping in Brandy Melville’s teen-“friendly” SoHo store, where the only size is small. (“One-size” reads labels that don’t even bother with the usual “fits all” addendum.)

One of the most infuriating American pastimes occurs within the confines of a dressing room. But where do these seemingly arbitrary sizes come from? Sit down, unbutton your pants and enjoy a condensed briefing on women’s clothing measurements:

“True sizing standards didn’t develop until the 1940’s,” says Lynn Boorady, fashion and textile technology chair and associate professor at Buffalo State University. “Before then sizes for young ladies and children were all based on age — so a size 16 would be for a 16-year-old — and for women it was about bust measurement.”

Suffice it to say, assuming all 13-year-old girls and 36-in.-bust women were created equal proved problematic. “Mostly it was assumed that the women in the house would know how to sew,” Boorady says.

But consumers — and the booming catalog industry, which proliferated as Americans moved to more rural areas — were ready for change. In a 1939 article titled “No Boondoggling,” TIME explored the Department of Agriculture’s effort to standardize women’s clothes, an effort that had been inspired by the fact that U.S. manufacturers guessed it was costing them $10 million a year not to have set sizes. “Each subject — matron, maid, scrubwoman, show girl — will be [measured] in 59 different places,” the article read.

The data of 15,000 women was collected by Ruth O’Brien and William Shelton, and while the project was impressive — “especially considering they didn’t have computers to analyze the data,” Boorady says — it didn’t exactly solve the problem.

“It was flawed for many reasons,” agrees Parsons School of Fashion professor Beth Dincuff Charleston. “They didn’t really get a cross-section of American women… It was smaller than what the national average should be.”

Since the survey was done on a volunteer basis, it was largely made up of women of a lower socioeconomic status who needed the participation fee. It was also primarily white women. And the measurements still primarily relied on bust size, assuming women had an hourglass figure.

Then in the late 1940s, the Mail-Order Association of America, representing catalog businesses including Sears Roebuck, enlisted the help of the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology) to reanalyze the sizing — often using the measurements of women who had served in the air force, some of the most fit people in the country — creating a 1958 standard that was largely arbitrary. Sizes ranged from 8 to 38 with height indications of tall (T), regular (R), and short (S), and a plus or minus sign when referring to girth.

There was no size zero, let alone the triple zeroes that sometimes are displayed in stores today.

As American girth increased, so did egos. And thus began the practice of vanity sizing. Over the decades, government size guidelines were heeded less and less, items of clothing began getting marked with lower numbers and eventually, in 1983, the Department of Commerce withdrew its commercial women’s clothing size standard altogether. A private organization called ASTM International began publishing its own sizing tables in 1995.

According to Slate:

In 1958, for example, a size 8 corresponded with a bust of 31 inches, a waist of 23.5 inches and a hip girth of 32.5 inches. In ASTM’s 2008 standards, a size 8 had increased by five to six inches in each of those three measurements, becoming the rough equivalent of a size 14 or 16 in 1958. We can see size inflation happening over shorter time spans as well; a size 2 in the 2011 ASTM standard falls between a 1995 standard size 4 and 6.

That means that ideals are changing too, Boorady adds: “We went from size 16 being a model in the ’40s to 12 in the ’60s. Marilyn Monroe was a 12 in the ’60s, which would now be a size 6.”

Now, stores often size based on their own preferences, which can make for frustrating online shopping experiences — modern-day catalog browsing — unless you already know your exact size.

But are we doomed to a future of sizing confusion? Maybe not. Parsons’ Dincuff Charleston notes that new technologies might be welcoming a new era of customized clothing. “Body measurements are so advanced now — with 3-D scanning, digital changing rooms — I think that people will have options for better fitting clothing,” she says. “And with 3-D printers, maybe you’ll be printing your own clothing.”

Read next: 6 Items You Should Wear To Achieve World Domination

TIME women

Why Self-Defense Needs To Be Part of the Violence Against Women Conversation

Ravens running back Ray Rice is planning to address the media at 3 p.m. Friday for the first time since he was charged with knocking
Ravens running back Ray Rice, right, and his wife Janay made statements to the news media May 5, 2014, at the Under Armour Performance Center in Owings Mills, Md, regarding his assault charge for knocking her unconscious in a New Jersey casino. Baltimore Sun—MCT via Getty Images

Tim Larkin is the founder of Target Focus Training and author of the New York Times bestselling book Survive the Unthinkable: A Total Guide to Women’s Self-Protection.

There's something we could be doing while we stumble over laws and misogynistic culture

Gender violence is back in the headlines after Utah state police drew criticism for their lackluster response to the cyber harassment of feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian last week. Scheduled to speak at a Utah State University, Sarkeesian was forced to cancel her address when the police decided they would do nothing to respond to a threat of “the deadliest school shooting in American history.” This drama comes mere weeks after the saga of the Ray Rice video showing him knocking his now wife unconscious in an elevator. Both of these incidents feel sadly familiar to those of us who work in the self-defense industry. The country watches while a seemingly defenseless female is assaulted or threatened, everyone gets enraged, then the spotlight passes and the country forgets to take any preventative action.

Wait, you might say, action was taken. There’s been serious talk of strengthening the laws that punish people like Ray Rice. And the NFL and the Utah state police are being held accountable – at least in the public eye.

Here’s the problem: In the white-hot heat of an assault, few women are considering Congressional resolutions, punitive damages or the legal system at all. They certainly aren’t thinking about the media. They are too focused on one thing and one thing alone: how to prevent themselves from being maimed or killed.

Let’s briefly consider the facts: Violence against women remains one of the most common human rights abuses in the world. Women ages 15 through 44 worldwide are more likely to die or be injured by male violence than from of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined. A study commissioned by the National Justice Institute (NIJ) stated that approximately 1.3 million women are physically assaulted by an intimate partner annually in the U.S.

And yet, in the face of all that, the best response we can muster is, essentially, a collective shrug of the shoulders. These things happen, we say. The government and other organizations will step in, we hope.

This isn’t enough. It’s time for this country to commit to teaching women how to defend themselves against attack. This is an effort that should begin in our homes, spread to our schools and involve entire communities. It should be a nationwide effort, and it should be mounted with urgency and energy.

Arguing that women should learn how to defend themselves isn’t a popular opinion. Self-defense for women is seldom discussed in the aftermath of these incidents, at least in part because the people who suggest it are accused of blaming the victims. Or worse, they are accused of indifference to the systemic issues that lead to violence in the first place.

After Nia Sanchez, the newly crowned Miss America, commented that she believed women should learn self-defense, social media erupted.

Sanchez’s comments came from a deep well of experience in the martial arts, years spent training on the mat and sparring with opponents. Yet to listen to some of her critics, you’d think she’d offered some kind of wholesale defense of rapists and predators.

Some of the commentary is even more galling. These days, you’ll find even law enforcement commentators arguing that women can’t protect themselves from male attackers, that they ought to simply scream at attackers, cooperate with them, or – if worst comes to worst — simply submit to force used against them. A self-defense pamphlet at Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina – yes, a military base — suggested that often it is better for the woman to submit to rape rather than resist. University of Colorado at Colorado Springs offered women this gem: they should vomit or urinate to discourage attackers.

The critics and the cynics couldn’t be more wrong. Women need to be taught how to fight in their own defense should the need arise. And believing that women shouldn’t be harmed and teaching them to defend themselves when they are in danger are not inconsistent. In fact, there are plenty of male and female trainers who want to see violence against women disappear, but who also want to make sure that women are prepared in those regrettable instances where violence occurs.

We need to have a more sober discussion about this issue. If we give women the necessary tools to protect themselves in situations where self-protection becomes unavoidable, we will make them safer. Our daughters, our sisters and our mothers deserve a fighting chance. And until we abandon the idea that women are simply victims at the mercy of their attackers, another generation of women will be forced to live in fear, rather than walk with strength.

Tim Larkin is the founder of Target Focus Training and author of the New York Times bestselling book Survive the Unthinkable: A Total Guide to Women’s Self-Protection.

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 women

Why Facebook’s and Apple’s Offers To Freeze Eggs Are Not as Patriarchal as They Sound

Egg storage for IVF
Egg storage for IVF Science Photo Library—Getty Images/Science Photo Library RF

Exploring egg freezing doesn’t mean the end of civilization as we know it

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I tell people about my reproductive organs in excruciating detail and advocate for egg freezing on an almost daily basis.

It’s my job as a patient care advocate for a fertility center, and I love it. I see no evil Big Brother plot to control women’s lives. I see it as options.

Since I’ve started planning these egg-freezing parties, we quickly started to see some people lose their minds over the issue.

One accused us of using scare tactics, another said we were encouraging women to have “bastards” and another claimed we were trying to do away with men.

Enter Facebook and Apple’s news this week that they would now be paying for their female employees to freeze their eggs, and the freaking out has reached a whole new level of lunacy.

Let me tell you why these benefits are a good thing — and not in fact an Orwellian attempt by Silicon Valley geeks to control your fertility future.

First, let me tell you my story: I met my husband at age 33. We got married when I was 34 and we starting trying to conceive soon after. What followed was years of doctors, invasive tests, various forms of fertility treatment and a lot of heartache and disappointment. By the time we were doing our third in vitro, we had depleted our savings account and only had one embryo. At the time, it literally felt like everything was riding on that lone embryo; our marriage, our finances, our hopes, everything. Through luck and good odds, I was fortunate enough to get pregnant on that cycle. Even though I was more grateful than I could possibly say for our now two-year-old son, I pressed my doctor as to why she thought we had issues. The only explanation was my age.

I never thought that early to mid-thirties was old or even questionable in terms of fertility. In my mind, the forties are when things really go downhill. As I’ve learned over the years, I’m not the only one who thought this way. Dr. Anate Brauer from Greenwich Fertility told me, “What people don’t understand is that even at age 30 years old, up to 40% of your eggs are genetically abnormal.”

After going through my experience, I became very active in the infertility community and switched jobs. I’ve been working as the director of patient care at Fertility Authority for over two years and you would be shocked at how many women don’t know anything about their own bodies, that age is a real factor when it comes to fertility or even how one actually gets pregnant.

My theory is when were in health class, they told us all about how NOT to get pregnant or get an STI but no one really explained how to conceive and the fact that we live in a time where more and more women are delaying having children.

A very important piece of blood work that women should get is called your “day three blood work.” This is when your blood is taken on day three of your menstrual cycle and informs you and your doctor what your FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and your AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) numbers are. These two aspects will give you an idea of how many eggs you have in storage (so to speak) and the quality. This is an extremely important test and yet, if I left my office right now, stopped a woman on the street and asked her if she knew what her FSH and AMH was, she’d think it was an acronym used on Twitter. Shouldn’t this be general knowledge or part of your yearly checkup? Why aren’t women more aware of this?

Isn’t it a good thing that Apple and Facebook are helping more women BE aware? Not to mention helping them pay for what can be insanely costly?

In effect, I look at myself as the “ghost of infertile future” hoping to educate and empower women who perhaps are going to medical school, law school, trying to climb the corporate ladder or who are actually waiting to meet the right partner for them instead of settling out of some biological fear. It used to drive me insane when I was single and people would say, “Your standards are too high!” If you make the commitment to marry and spend the rest of your life with someone, shouldn’t you have high standards? And what does that say about their own marriages? That their standards were low?

Also, if you take into consideration that in the last four decades, there has been a 900% increase in women over 35 having their first baby, it makes sense that companies at least make this offer of egg freezing to their employees should they want to explore it. You also have to be aware that typically, if you’re over the age of 42, most clinics recommend you use donor eggs as the quality of your eggs drop significantly. Basically, companies aren’t forcing their female staff to go through with egg freezing, they are just making the option available if you know you may want to conceive down the line using your own eggs.

This is why I don’t fully understand why so many are offended by egg freezing. It’s not mandatory and in the long run, it may save both the company and their female employee’s time and money. It cost me roughly $35,000 and three years with time in and out of work for my medical procedures to have my son. One cycle of egg freezing can cost around $10,000 and can possibly not only spare you from having to go through years of fertility treatment but save you additional money on exploring other options such as using donor eggs which can cost a profound amount.

I saw one comment yesterday by a man saying that the fact that companies were offering this was unfair to men. After I was done laughing, I commented back to him that this is not favoritism to women. It’s just biology. Steve Martin became a first-time dad at age 67 years old. I’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge that Helen Mirren wouldn’t be able to do this (even as amazing as she is). Men don’t need this option as they do not have limitations on their fertility while women do. We can argue all day about whether or not you believe in Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” advice but whether you lean in or not, top female talent at companies like Facebook and Apple might appreciate having the assurance of egg freezing.

And assurance is the key word here.

As Dr. Fahimeh Sasan, chief medical officer at my company and a gynecologist at Mt. Sinai, said at our event this past Tuesday, “Just because you freeze your eggs doesn’t mean you have to conceive that way! You can still get married, conceive naturally and end up never using the frozen eggs. They are just insurance should you find that you have difficulty getting pregnant and you prefer not to use donor eggs. It’s like car insurance. No one buys it expecting to get into an accident but it’s there if you need it.”

See? No one is replacing egg freezing with conceiving naturally or even relationships. Even in the best case scenarios, “car insurance” doesn’t always protect you from everything so it’s extremely important to note that there are no guarantees with egg freezing. I can’t say for certain that it will completely spare you from additional fertility treatment beyond the in vitro needed for the eggs you’ve frozen. It’s just a back-up plan should you need it. That being said, pregnancy rates from frozen eggs are currently the same as they are fresh eggs, so it is a viable option to explore.

As for the criticism that companies should put the money and energy instead into offering paternity leave for men or providing in-house childcare for parents; my question is why is it an either-or proposition? Why can’t companies offer all of the above? I know many feel that it’s not an employer’s responsibility to accommodate people’s personal lives but I contend that if you value your workers and want to retain them, it’s a valuable investment.

Another major complaint I’ve heard about egg freezing is it encourages women to have babies in their fifties. Again, this is just ignorance.

Dr. Brauer explains, “We know that carrying a pregnancy at an advanced age increases complications of pregnancy such as hypertensive disorders or pregnancy, gestational diabetes, placental abruption and growth restriction. Because these risks increase as a woman progresses into her late thirties and forties, most clinics have established an age cut off, usually in the late forties.”

This is true even when using donor eggs. It’s not like there are no age restrictions and that the industry is telling women old enough to be grandmothers to have their first child. There are guidelines.

Here’s the bottom line: If you are a woman interested in having children and are not yet ready for any reason whatsoever, just see your OB/GYN or a reproductive endocrinologist, get your AMH and FSH, tell them your history (do you smoke, have diabetes, etc.) and find out if you are fertile or if you have any issues. Through my job, around 20% of women who contacted us for an egg freezing consult found out they had a fertility issue they knew nothing about. One had blocked fallopian tubes, another was going into early menopause and one in particular sadly found out she wouldn’t be able to have any biological children. All of these women were in their thirties and absolutely had no idea there was any problem with them whatsoever.

Educating women on knowing their fertility health is so incredibly important. Whether they freeze their eggs, whether it’s moral or not is no one’s business. It’s between them, their doctor and whatever god they choose to worship.

I for one “like” this.

Jennifer Palumbo is a writer and former stand-up comedian.

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 Media

Leave Renée Zellweger’s Face Alone!

2014 ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards - Arrivals
Renée Zellweger arrives at the 2014 ELLE Women In Hollywood Awards at Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills on October 20, 2014 in Beverly Hills, Ca. Steve Granitz—WireImage/Getty Images

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie.

There is a very real reason why the actress would want a whole new face: we were all incredibly mean to her old one

Last night Renée Zellweger did something totally normal for a celebrity of her magnitude: she went to a red-carpet event. But something different happened when the photos from her trip in front of the Elle Women in Hollywood Awards step and repeat hit the wires. Everyone freaked the hell out. “Is that you, Renée Zellweger?” CNN asked. “What has Renée Zellweger done to her face?” the Daily Mail cried. “Stop what you are doing: Renée Zellweger has a whole new face,” Metro implored, past the stage of mourning where we ask questions and moving toward acceptance.

Yes, it’s clear that Zellweger has had some work done. Welcome to Hollywood. I would like to introduce you to Meg Ryan’s lips, Nicole Kidman’s forehead, and everything that is currently going on with Bruce Jenner. The reaction to Zellweger’s big reveal seems more than a little bit unjust.

Most outlets are taking the tack of asking readers if her new look is good or bad, and there are some people that will fall on either side of the debate. However, the subtext to this question is always, “Holy hell, what did this lady do to her face and how is she going to fix it?!” If it was a text from your best friend, it would have about 100 times more exclamation points and probably the emoji of the girl crossing her arms in front of her body. Everyone is very concerned that Zellweger doesn’t look like herself anymore. Her signature squint is gone, her lips seem a little more full and less pursed, and her cheeks just aren’t quite as puffy as they used to be.

It’s always dicey for an actress to mess with her looks. When her face is unrecognizable, it distracts from her work as an actress. (And any lack of mobility in the face can certainly make it harder for her to ply her craft.) Why would Zellweger want to look like someone else when she makes money partly from her appearance? That seems to be a bad decision. Just ask Jennifer Grey about her nose or Kate Gosselin about her new haircut. (Actually, please don’t ask Kate Gosselin anything; it’s better that we just keep on ignoring her for the time being.)

But there is a very real reason Zellweger would want a whole new face: we were all incredibly mean to her old one. Here is a post likening her to Mr. Magoo and making multiple stabs at her appearance. Here is a mock-up for Renée Zellweger’s Extreme Sour Lemon Candy, making fun of her pout and squint. Here is her Urban Dictionary entry calling her a “cure for a case of the boners.” Here is Dlisted saying she looks “like she’s staring directly into the sun after swallowing a cup of Sour Patch Kids dust” right before retiring her nickname Squinty Zellweger forever. Here is me taking a really lame cheap shot at her back in 2009. Oh, I have been mean to the Zellweger myself, and I should be ashamed.

Now, you wonder why Zellweger would want to do such extreme things to her face? Maybe it’s a reaction to the extreme things that were constantly said about her old one. If people always made fun of a giant mole on my neck, I would have that removed too. If I was bullied for being overweight, I might think about going on an extreme diet just to shut the haters up. Maybe Zellweger did the same thing, and now that she fixed the squint and pout that have created a million “Looks like she’s having an allergic reaction to shrimp” jokes, everyone is being just as mean.

The celebrity media is fascinated with bodies. Headlines are constantly made out of “baby bumps” and “bikini bodies,” as if these don’t belong to real people but instead are lumps of flesh for our inspection, like breeding animals at the state farm. (The women certainly get it worse, but we’re increasingly critical of men without Gosling-esque abdominal muscles too. )

I sincerely hope that the media’s fascination with Zellweger’s appearance didn’t lead to her undergoing such extensive surgery. As we’ve seen, her detractors aren’t going to let up. There is no appeasing the beast. The only solution is to disappear from public view entirely. Harsh scrutiny is the price anyone has to pay to pursue a very public career, and we shrug our shoulders and say they should know that. But is that clause in the unspoken celebrity contract really non-negotiable?

Maybe we should just leave Renée Zellweger’s face alone altogether. It’s her body, and she can do whatever she wants to it. If she wants to get “I am Bridget Jones” tattooed across her forehead, then she should feel free to go ahead and do it. Sure, her changes might cost her some jobs, but that is a decision that she made and she can deal with it.

Now that her new face has been revealed, we’ll all get used to it, just like we have with Cher’s, Madonna’s, Kenny Rogers’ and the countless iterations of Dolly Parton’s and Joan Rivers’ (RIP). Pointing, gawking and screaming about it says more about our media, our vanity and the type of society that would lead a star to completely rearrange the most personal part of her body than it ever will about Renée Zellweger.

Brian Moylan is a writer and pop culture junkie who lives in New York. His work has appeared in Gawker, VICE, New York magazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

Read next: Renée Zellweger: ‘I’m Glad Folks Think I Look Different’

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 2014 Election

Pelosi and Hillary Join Forces to Rally Democratic Women

Hillary Rodham Clinton, Doris Matsui, Nancy Pelosi
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton gathers with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, left, and other Bay area congresswomen after speaking at a fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidates hosted by Pelosi at the Fairmont Hotel Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, in San Francisco. Eric Risberg—AP

The event brought together Clinton and Obama supporters from 2008

Three generations of Birmingham family women turned out on Monday to see House minority leader Nancy Pelosi and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton rally for female Democratic candidates.

“It was fabulous, a wonderful event,” gushes Alanna Birmingham, 17, clutching one of the lunch’s floral centerpieces, a keepsake for her to take home. “You could just feel the energy in the room, all this beautiful female energy.” Birmingham was there with her mother and grandmother in a show of political unity the family hasn’t always enjoyed, especially when it comes to Hillary Clinton—and they weren’t the only ones.

Billed as “The Ultimate Women’s Power Luncheon,” the event raised $1.4 million for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from the 820 mostly women in attendance bringing the DCCC’s money lead of its GOP counterpart to a whopping $38 million with just two weeks to go before the election. The event also featured a set by singer Carole King (including a rendition of “Sweet Seasons” where she changed the lyrics to “Some times you win; sometimes you win” instead of lose).

But the 2014 midterms, where Dems are expected to lose seats in both chambers and possibly control of the Senate, were not the elections on most women’s lips at the lunch. Cynthia Birmingham, Alanna’s mother, was there to show early support for Clinton’s anticipated 2016 presidential bid, in part to make up for not supporting her primary candidacy in 2008. “I’m so excited to support Hillary in 2016,” she says.

Birmingham wasn’t the only one. California Reps. Anna Eshoo, Zoe Lofgren, George Miller and Barbara Lee—all close allies of Pelosi—were all in enthusiastic attendance on Monday and all endorsed Obama during the primaries in 2008. Indeed, many saw then Speaker Pelosi’s call in 2008 on super delegates to respect the will of the voters in their home states, rather than endorsing the candidate of their choice, as one of the nails in the coffin of Clinton’s candidacy. Though Pelosi very carefully never endorsed either candidate in 2008.

The event was a healing one for the Birminghams as well. Ann Birmingham, Alanna’s grandmother and Cynthia’s mother-in-law, was also in approving attendance, happy to see her women kin supporting the candidate she’s long adored. “I loved and supported Hillary back in 2008 and I will love and support her in 2016,” Ann says. “I was terribly disappointed when she lost.”

But all that was forgotten on Monday with Clinton and Pelosi hugging and kissing onstage and united in their common cause to not only elect more women to Congress, where women make up less than 20%, but to start a women’s empowerment movement in politics. “When women succeed, America succeeds,” both women—and the crowd—chanted over and over throughout the program.

“For too many women, for too many families they don’t just face ceilings for their dreams,” Clinton said, referring to the 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, or the 18 million Americans who voted to make her the first female Democratic presidential nominee in 2008, she famously referenced in her concession speech, “they feel floor has collapsed beneath their feet.”

Clinton lavished praise on Pelosi’s ground-breaking leadership as the first female speaker, a post she held from 2006 until Democrats lost the House in 2010. And Pelosi started her speech saying she hoped she would soon be surpassed. “I’m frequently introduced as the highest ranking woman in U.S. office; I’d like to give up that title. And soon,” she told a roaring crowd. “If Hillary Clinton, mother and grandmother, decides to run for president she will win… and she will be one of the best prepared leaders, one of the top presidents in the Oval Office. That she happens to be a woman is a bonus and a wonderful, wonderful thing. But she happens to also be a leader of visions and values.”

Indeed, Cynthia Birmingham says she’s supporting Clinton this time around because she’s an experienced, proven leader at a time when the country most needs that experience. “No one else in the field even comes close,” she says, “Hillary just blows them all away. It’s not so much that she’s a woman, but that she’s the best person for the job.”

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