TIME beauty

The Fascinating Difference Between French and American Beauty

Long-term investment versus quick fix

There’s just something about French women. They have a certain chic, classy, and cool vibe that American women have long been trying to emulate. The two countries have vastly different approaches to beauty, and Mathilde Thomas, co-founder of French beauty brand Caudalie, will explain the subject once and for all in her forthcoming book, The French Beauty Solution. According to Yahoo Beauty, Thomas said the key to French beauty is the belief that “beauty is something to give you pleasure. Because when you feel good, you look good.”

When she moved from France to New York City in 2010 to expand her brand, she traveled all over the country meeting customers to find the American concept of beauty was more about pain than pleasure. She said many of the women confessed to making their beauty choices based on “the erroneous notion of no pain/no gain.” Women would tell her about crash diets and irritating skin products because they thought they had to suffer to be beautiful, Thomas said. On the other hand, she and French women believe the notion of beauty should be pleasing to you.

Thomas’s book discusses how American women are all about the “quick fix,” meaning they’ll try an elusive product or procedure that will instantly solve a nagging beauty problem, even if it hurts, is expensive, or is damaging in the long run (whoops, guilty as charged). That’s quite different from the French view of beauty, which Thomas describes as an essential and pleasurable part of the day, and a lifelong and active investment that makes you look and feel good.

In the book, Thomas says, “For the French, our beauty routine is predicated on prevention and upkeep and is regarded as an essential, ongoing investment. What I saw here, however, was much more of a tendency toward the quick solution… And while millions of American women consider beauty a priority in their daily routine, many of their habits are either too complicated, too expensive, too painful, or simply not effective.”

If you want to be more like the French (and who doesn’t), this book is sure to show you the way. It comes out in July but you can pre-order a copy here.

This article originally appeared on MIMI

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TIME Family

This Is What It’s Really Like to Be a Work-at-Home Mom

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

Your lunches leave a lot to be desired

xojane

When you’re trying to balance working at home and caring for a baby, lots of things piss you off. Anyone who dares to ring the doorbell while your little one is napping. Your husband who gets to shower and put on a fresh set of clothes every morning.

But as for me, nothing pisses me off more than those angelic stock photos of work-at-home moms. Stock photos of work-at-home moms piss. me. off.

You’ve seen them. The baby sits quietly on the mom’s lap, smiling into the camera, while the mom grins at a computer screen like she just found out she won the lottery. Or the mom talks into a cell phone, flashing her pearly whites into the receiver smiling at some invisible business partner while her toddler plays contentedly at her feet.

I even saw one where the baby wore the same oversized glasses as her mother, holding a pen and scribbling on a notepad.

Allow me to burst your bubble. This is a lie. An evil, terrible, self-esteem deflating lie.

I’m not sure what photographer set up the placement for these photos, but here are 10 reality checks about what it’s really like to work at home with a baby:

1. That notebook the baby in that photo was cheerfully scribbling on? In real life, that’s your wall.

And trust me, the fountain pen you gave her to stop her screaming is not washable. Apologies to my landlord.

2. She thinks your body is an amusement park.

Remember when your college boyfriend told you that and you thought it was so sexy? It’s not anymore. It’s really distracting, and usually painful. She’s not just sitting on your lap. She’s sticking her fingers up your nose, pulling your hair, and — crap, why did you decide to wear those dangly earrings today?

3. You will send e-mails that makes you look like an incompetent weirdo.

There’s a reason the baby in that photo has such a wide grin. It’s because she just did something devilishly hilarious. “Dear Prospective New Client, attached please find my proposal fjd;nvskfjnvrjvntrvnwrv 540gvo3fnekvnfv.” Good luck with that new business.

4. You’ll be blind half the time.

Give me my glasses, sweetie. Sweetie, give Mommy her glasses back! Pleeeeease, darling, Mommy needs her glasses to see how pretty you are! Oh, forget it. I’ll just squint and guess.

5. The dog will never forgive you.

Darling, Mommy needs some time. Why don’t you go chase the dog around the house?

6. Your lunches leave a lot to be desired.

While your hubby is getting Chipotle or Chop’t, you’re scarfing down last night’s leftover casserole during the first five minutes of her nap because you’ve got no time to waste! Should you warm it up in the microwave? Nah, that 30 seconds will cost you!

7. You spend half your playgroup time convincing stay-at-home moms that you feel just as much guilt as they do.

Because let’s face it, moms and guilt are just a zero-sum game. When you’re not working, you feel guilty. When you’re working, you feel even more guilty. You need a drink just thinking about it.

8. In spite of what your friends and neighbors think, you don’t have it all.

But what you do have is a whole lot of grit, a ton of talent, and, hey, a PAYCHECK! You go, work-at-home mom!

Jessica Levy wrote this article for xoJane

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 celebrity

Age Gap is the New Wage Gap: Just Ask Top-Paid Female Celebrities

Celebrity Sightings In New York City - June 24, 2015
Raymond Hall—GC Images Actress Jennifer Lawrence is seen walking in Soho on June 24, 2015 in New York City. (Raymond Hall--GC Images)

On average, the women on the Forbes List of 100 Top-Paid Celebrities are almost 10 years younger than the men

Aging rockers, has-been radio personalities, and ex-action stars get paid more than A-list actresses. That’s one major takeaway from Forbes’ annual list of the 100 top-paid celebrities this year.

Two things were apparent from this year’s list: women make up only 16% of the top-paid celebrities in the world, and the ones who do make the list are significantly younger than the men. The average age for men on the list was 42– for women, it was 36. If you take out Judge Judy, who at 72 is an outlier by about 15 years, that average drops to just over 33.

In other words: the pay gap is alive and well, even among the richest celebrities, and while male stars are adept at turning youthful success into a lifetime of fame, female celebrity is far more delicate. The average age for men on the 2015 Forbes list does not include the collected ages of The Rolling Stones, the Eagles, and Fleetwood Mac, all ’70s era bands who made the list (Fleetwood Mac includes two women)– if the ages of these men had been included, the average age for men on the list would have been significantly higher. Older guys like Jimmy Buffett (68) Jackie Chan (61) and Howard Stern (61) make the list, but Meryl Streep (66) and Madonna (56) don’t.

The 16 women on the list earned a combined $409 million, while the combined male earnings topped $4.3 billion. More importantly, many of the women on the list tend to be young and beautiful, while older stars are simply not making the cut. Of the 16 women on the list, only a quarter are over the age of 35 (Sofia Vergara, Jennifer Lopez, Ellen Degeneres and Judge Judy.) The other twelve are much younger, including Jennifer Lawrence (24), Taylor Swift (25) and Lady Gaga (29). Almost half of the 16 women on the list are under 30.

To be clear–it’s not Forbes’s fault there are so few women on their list, they’re just the messenger here. This year they expanded their annual list of top-paid celebrities to include international icons, and restricted it to on-camera talent (which might be why Shonda Rhimes and Oprah aren’t on it). They assembled the list by measuring earnings from June 1, 2014 to June 1, 2015, then subtracted management fees and taxes. That sounds like a fair methodology for determining which celebrities are making the most money.

And yet, women are notably absent. Lots of women who would ordinarily be on the list seem to be taking a little break this year. As Forbes’s Natalie Robehmed explains, in her post about why there are so few women on the list:

Sandra Bullock clocked an impressive $51 million in 2014′s ranking thanks to her solo payday in Gravity, but a quiet 12 months took her out of the running this year. Other seemingly big stars, such as Emma Stone, have yet to see their earnings catch up with their status. Even Melissa McCarthy, who has proven her ability to carry an action/comedy movie solo with Spy, St. Vincent and Tammy failed to break the Celebrity 100′s $29 million barrier to entry.

Of course, there’s also the fact that there’s a pay gap between men and women in most professions, and Hollywood isn’t immune. As Robehmed points out, it’s no coincidence that Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Adams only saw 7% of the profits for American Hustle, while the male actors got 9%. Women are also less likely to be the main character, which means smaller paychecks, and in other countries the gap is even worse– in Bollywood, actresses make about a sixth of what their male co-stars make.

And yet it’s impossible to ignore the age trend at work here. Among the richest celebrities, all the women young, beautiful, and at the top of their game right now– Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Sofia Vergara are all in the prime of their careers. Not so with the richest male celebrities– Jerry Seinfeld hasn’t been on primetime TV in years, and Adam Sandler hit his stride in the early 2000s.

 

In other words: when it comes to top-paid celebrities, the age gap might be just as important as the wage gap.

 

 

 

TIME health

Why I Decided to Have Plastic Surgery at Age 11

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

"Plastic surgery does not make you weak, or mean you’re avoiding your feelings"

xojane

As a kid, I had an unfortunately large, hairy mole on the side of my face.

By hairy, I do not mean a few strands poking through it. It grew its own lock of hair that had to be routinely trimmed. If I had ever let it grow long enough, I could have had a tiny pony tail on the side of my face.

The mass itself was about the size of a dime. As a young child, I found it amusing more than anything else and toddler me giggled at it in the mirror. It was just a thing that was there, not gross or weird or any of the other adjectives I would hear later.

It wasn’t until around fourth or fifth grade that the mole became a source of insecurity. Kids noticed it, and unsurprisingly, kids can be dicks. It was right at the edge of my hairline and I was able to successfully hide it in my chin length haircut as long as my hair stayed in place, but I lived in constant apprehension of who would discover it.

It turned from a quirky birthmark to a source of shame. From ages five through twelve, I never wore my hair up. No ponytails. No buns. Girls in my class got to change their hairstyles while I frantically hid my face behind my hair.

Even when I played soccer and basketball as a kid, my hair stayed down no matter how much it got in my face or how much I sweated into it.

Despite my growing apprehension about it, I still lived with my mole without much ridicule until the summer I went into junior high. There were isolated incidents that were mildly embarrassing, but the worst one happened when I went swimming with two friends.

I wasn’t even thinking about the mole until the water swept my hair back behind my ears. The two girls I was with immediately pointed out my hideous secret with some less-than-sensitive exclamations of “EW what is THAT?” directed at the side of my face. It was mortifying and I wanted to cry.

I had started to become slightly self-conscious about it, but that was definitely the defining moment that made me feel truly isolated by the otherwise harmless growth on my face.

I was about to be a teenager, some of the most superficial and judgmental years of a person’s life. My mother had several small moles on her face that I knew bothered her as well, and even though none were as prominent as mine, she understood what I was going through. It’s painful to know your daughter feels she needs to constantly hide part of her face.

Shortly after the swimming pool incident, she finally suggested the option of consulting with a dermatologist and plastic surgeon and seeing what could be done. We both knew it had to go.

My mole was classified as congenital, which allowed its removal to be covered by our insurance despite being benign.

So at age 11, after being reassured by the plastic surgeon that I would not be left with any major scarring, I went under the knife.

I wanted acceptance. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted to like myself. I didn’t see how any of the above were possible with what in my mind was something as disgusting as a second head growing out of my face. While my mother brought the idea up in the first place, I never felt pressured by her to make the call. It was superficial and yet also completely necessary to me.

It’s easy to look back now and say I should have gotten over it. That I would have grown out of it. That someone should have told me I was beautiful the way I was and I should just be myself. (For the record, my mother has always told me that.) That teasing should never be a reason to be anesthetized and wake up with a part of your body physically missing.

We can talk forever about how unfair beauty standards are and their negative impact on young girls, but none of that would have changed my opinion. At the time, I saw removal as the only solution. I know, even today, that no amount of kind words would have made me feel differently.

When you truly dislike something about yourself, compliments sound hollow and patronizing. I regret none of it. I don’t want to know what I would be like now if I still had my mole. I was (and still am) lanky and weird enough without any added help.

My scar is faded now, but when it was still fresh classmates frequently pointed it out and asked about it and even that was painful for me. It triggered my paranoia over someone discovering my mole all over again. I would lie and say it was a scratch or a birthmark just to avoid the conversation.

Nowadays, at 22, I almost forget the mole ever existed. Outside of doctors’ appointments where I have to supply my medical history, it doesn’t cross my mind. Occasionally I tell new friends about it and joke about how “I’ve had a little work done.”

My scar is virtually undetectable but on the off chance someone notices, I do not feel like I need to lie about where it came from. (Clearly, I’ll even tell strangers on the Internet all about it.)

I know cosmetic surgery sometimes has negative connotations, especially when offered to someone so young, but I hardly think I am any worse off. If anything, my life improved significantly and my personality flipped around entirely.

It also isn’t a slippery slope, like so many entertainment news specials reporting on celebrities addicted to plastic surgery imply. I had another mole removed roughly a year after the first one, but have had no procedures since then.

There are plenty of physical features I don’t like about myself, but I have no desire to change them. I also don’t harbor any hard feelings toward the people who picked on me. Kids can be jerks. I can think of situations where I was too. That’s just a fact. (Although I’ll offer some general life advice: If you’re grossed out by someone’s face, keep it to yourself instead of pointing it out loudly like an asshole.)

I don’t want anyone to take my story the wrong way. I’m not advocating slicing off everything you hate about yourself and then feeling perfect forever. I’m just saying that plastic surgery does not make you weak, or mean you’re avoiding your feelings, or taking an “easy way out,” and anyone who feels that way needs to butt out of your personal choices.

I can wonder what I would be like if I hadn’t gone through with the surgery, but I cannot imagine it would have been happier than I am now. I ended up choosing a college nearly thousand miles away from home where I knew no one, something I doubt I would have pulled off if I was still hiding behind my own hair.

Paige Handley wrote this article for xoJane

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 relationships

Women Keeping Their Maiden Names More Often, Report Finds

It may not be for the reason you think

More women are opting against saying “I do” to changing their last names.

According to a new analysis by New York TimesThe Upshot blog, about 30% of women in recent years have decided to keep their maiden names in some way after getting married. The Upshot finds about 20% keep their last name in full, while 10% have opted to hyphenate their two names.

The number of women who have decided not to take on their husband’s last name has risen since the 1980s and 1990s, when only 14% and 18% of women kept their maiden names, respectively. Women most likely to keep their names are high-income urban women—like those featured in the Times wedding section, among whom some 29.5% have kept their maiden names in recent years, up from 16.2 percent in 1990.

Not every woman opts to keep her surname in the name of gender equality, the newspaper reports. “It’s not necessarily a feminist reason, but it’s just my name for 33 years of my life,” said Donna Suh, who married last year. “Plus, I’m Asian and he’s not, so it’s less confusing for me to not have a white name. And on social media I thought it might be harder to find me.”

[NYT]

TIME motherhood

Millennials More Supportive of Working Moms than Previous Generations

482147905
Jasper Cole—Getty Images/Blend Images RM Mother and daughter walking on city street

Much more likely to say that moms who work have just as good relationships with their kids

Working moms are getting more love than ever. Millennials are much more supportive of working mothers than young people in the 1970s and 1990s, and there’s a broader consensus that working moms can have a great relationship with their kids, according to a new study shared exclusively with TIME.

Sign up here for TIME’s weekly roundup of the best parenting stories from anywhere.

Researchers at University of California, San Diego and San Diego State University attribute the increased acceptance to a shifting social and economic realities over the last 30 years, in which there are more single moms and few can afford not to work. The study, published Monday in the Psychology of Women Quarterly, analyzed the results of two national representative studies of nearly 600,000 respondents. They found that in 2010, only 22% of 12th-graders thought young children suffered if their mother worked, down from 34% in the 1990s and 59% in the 1970s. Adults also showed an increased tolerance for working mothers, with 35% believing that a child was worse off if his or her mother went to work in 2012, compared with 68% in the 1970s.

The researchers also found that more people believe working moms can have just as good relationships with their kids as moms who stay at home. In 1977, less than half of adults agreed that “a working mother can establish just as warm and secure a relationship with her children as a mother who does not work.” In 2012, 72% agreed with that statement.

“When you have more working mothers, you have to have more acceptance of them,” says Jean Twenge, author of Generation Me and a main researcher on the study. “When people look around and see ‘this is what people do now,’ you have to have more acceptance.”

But in some areas, there appeared to be a bit of a backtracking. In the 1990s, 27% agreed that it was best for the man to work and the woman to stay home, while 32% agreed with that idea in 2010-2013. In the 1990s, 14% thought the husband should make important decisions in the family, but 17% thought so in 2010. Twenge says that probably doesn’t indicate a spike in sexism, but instead might signify an increased perception that marriage is only for a certain kind of person. “It’s possible that this generation sees marriage as something that people with traditional gender roles do,” she says. “They think it’s for more traditional people.”

Twenge says the increased acceptance of working moms isn’t just because millennials have been around more women who work– it’s also part of the millennial tendency towards individualism. “One aspect of individualism is to treat people equally,” she says. “When you treat people as individuals, you’re not going to distinguish between a working mother and a working father.”

 

TIME Television

Emilia Clarke Defends Abuse Toward Women in Game of Thrones

Emilia Clarke at the European Premiere of 'Terminator: Genisys' in Berlin on June 21, 2015.
Luca Teuchmann—Getty Images Emilia Clarke at the European Premiere of 'Terminator: Genisys' in Berlin on June 21, 2015.

The actress suggests "not taking it too seriously"

It’s never easy for any character on Game of Thrones, no matter the gender. (Just ask Jon Snow.) But women seemed to have a particularly rough go of it in season 5, from Ramsay Bolton’s treatment of Sansa Stark to Cersei’s naked walk of shame.

Such sequences sent social media into overdrive, but not all the reaction was positive, with many criticizing the prevalent physical and emotional abuse directed at female characters. We asked Daenerys herself, Emilia Clarke, about this when she stopped by EW Morning Live on Entertainment Weekly Radio (SiriusXM, channel 105), and Clarke shared her reaction to fan and media criticism about the treatment of women on the show.

“Well, obviously, it’s never nice hearing criticism about something that you, and you know everybody else puts their heart, soul, blood, sweat, and tears into,” said Clarke. “But in the same breath, it’s a shocking show so it’s going to invite commentary that everybody is free to have about the show. So I think it’s a couple of things, because I mean, as an actor, it’s bizarre, because you’ll relish those dark moments that allow you to get your teeth into a character and really kind of explore the darker depths to the reality of life and things that happen every day. But I think the thing that’s important to remember is that sadly, first and foremost, it’s a story that we’re telling that is make-believe—that is based in a fantastical world. So, whilst there is a political commentary that people can take from the show because that is everyone’s right to do so, I think not taking it too seriously is kind of the key here. So yeah, that’s kind of what I think, basically.”

There you have it. Khaleesi has spoken! And you can hear her thoughts on the subject for yourself by clicking on the SoundCloud audio clip below.

This article originally appeared on EW.com

TIME society

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s History as a Champion of Gay Rights

Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at an annual Women's History Month reception in Washington on March 18, 2015.
Allison Shelley—Getty Images Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at an annual Women's History Month reception in Washington on March 18, 2015.

"I think that as more and more people came out and said that 'this is who I am,' the rest of us recognized that they are one of us"

It’s official: gay marriage is now a Constitutional right everywhere in America, thanks to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in the Obergefell v. Hodges case on Friday. While there was a majority decision of 5-4, there is one justice who has stood out above the rest as a steadfast and fierce supporter of marriage equality, and you might know her as the Notorious RBG. Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s support of gay marriage has been crucial, from her personal opinion of the American public’s shifting attitude to April’s oral arguments and, ultimately, the historical decision that says anyone in any state can marry the person they love. Justices Anthony Kennedy, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan joined Ginsburg in agreeing that gay couples should be free to marry in all 50 states.

Even before the decisive oral arguments on April 28, Ginsburg was already very vocal about her take on gay marriage: America’s ready. In February, Ginsburg sat down with Bloomberg Business to discuss the high court’s impending gay marriage case. She told Bloomberg’s Greg Stohr and Matthew Winkler that it “would not take a large adjustment” for the American people to accept the Supreme Court’s decision to make gay marriage a Constitutional right.

The change in people’s attitudes on that issue has been enormous. In recent years, people have said, “This is the way I am.” And others looked around, and we discovered it’s our next-door neighbor — we’re very fond of them. Or it’s our child’s best friend, or even our child. I think that as more and more people came out and said that “this is who I am,” the rest of us recognized that they are one of us.

Then, during the hearing in April, Ginsburg used her famous sharp wit to shut down the opposing side’s arguments against gay marriage. For example, when tradition was brought up as an argument to maintain the marriage status quo, Ginsburg countered with the (extremely) antiquated Head and Master Law, which defined marriage as between a dominant male and a subordinate female. Clearly, that was a marriage tradition that desperately needed to be challenged, just like opponents’ idea of marriage as only between a man and a woman.

And when John Bursch, the lawyer representing the states who want to keep their gay marriage bans, argued that marriage was all about procreating, Ginsburg brought up this very astute point:

Suppose a couple, 70-year-old couple, comes in and they want to get married? You don’t have to ask them any questions. You know they are not going to have any children.

But perhaps the biggest nod she’s made was when she officiated a gay wedding earlier this month, which is already a clear-cut sign of her advocacy, and she dropped a sly hint to the SCOTUS’s decision. According to to New York Times writer Maureen Dowd, who was in attendance at the wedding of Shakespeare Theatre Company artistic director Michael Kahn and New York architect Charles Mitchem, when pronouncing the two men married,Ginsburg seemed to emphasize the word “constitution” when she said “by the powers vested in me by the Constitution of the United States.”

Though it’s nothing but mere speculation, it certainly wouldn’t be totally unlike the Notorious RBG to subtly wink at America in such a way. She didn’t earn her “notorious” title for nothing.

This article originally appeared on Bustle

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Military

Measuring War’s Impact on Women

US Marine Cpl. Michelle Berglin (C) assi
ADEK BERRY / AFP / Getty Images A female U.S. Marine on patrol in Afghanistan.

First-ever book on the topic assesses how female troops fare

American women have been marching off to war in increasing numbers over the last generation. Soon, the Pentagon expects to lift its ban on their service in ground combat, its most demanding, dirtiest and bloodiest form. Is this a good thing?

In Women at War, Army veterans Elspeth Cameron Ritchie and Anne L. Naclerio have produced the first book detailing what war does to the physical and mental health of the growing number of women waging it. Featuring contributions from many military and academic experts, the volume doesn’t advocate putting women in the trenches. “Women are already in combat,” says Ritchie, a psychiatrist who earned three combat patches before retiring from the Army as a colonel in 2010. The book also doesn’t wade into the controversy over whether women have the physical strength to accomplish the mission. Instead, it collects widely-scattered data about what combat does to women and puts it in one place to serve as guidance as the number of female soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines slowly rises.

Bottom line: women can do it, but it may not be easy.

Some 2.5 million women have served in uniform since the Revolutionary War, Lieut. General Patricia Horoho, the Army surgeon general, notes in the book’s forward. “Given recent policy changes, by January 2016 it is expected that all military occupations, positions, and units will be open to women,” she adds, “thus ensuring that they will play even larger roles in future military operations.”

The number of women engaged in major U.S. combat operations is steadily growing. They climbed from 770 in 1989’s Panama invasion, to 41,000 in 1991’s Gulf War, to 300,000 in the post-9/11 Afghanistan and Iraq campaigns. About 15% of U.S. troops today are female. They represented 10% of those deployed to Iraq between 2003 and 2011, and 8% of those sent to Afghanistan between 2001 and 2013 (they were under-represented because they are generally barred from serving in combat units. That also accounts for the fact that they represented only 2.3% of U.S. troops killed in action).

More facts from the book:

  • In the post-9/11 wars, women deployed nearly as frequently as men (1.5 times per male soldier; 1.3 times for females), and for nearly as long (10.9 months per male soldier; 10.5 months per female soldier).
  • Women suffered slightly more psychological problems (15.1%) in the Afghanistan and Iraq war zones than men (14.9%).
  • More men dispatched to the war zones were diagnosed with PTSD (3.9%) than women (3.0%).
  • 15% of the soldiers who had to be medically evacuated out of the war zones for serious mental-health issues were female.

The 40 contributors (including 10 men) write about women’s health on the front lines and the challenges of being a soldier and a mother. “Mothers who deploy may be viewed as uncaring or negligent, rather than serving selflessly and patriotically,” Army psychiatrist Elizabeth C. Henderson writes. “It is more culturally acceptable for men to go to war.”

“I tried to avoid thinking of [my child] most of the time,” a mother deployed to a war zone said. “I had something to do right after every phone call so that I would not retreat to my tent and start crying.”

Women in uniform also are subject to shunning by their male colleagues. “Women who are working in primarily male career fields—or, as in the military, are breaking into previously closed combat positions currently held by males—may suddenly find themselves part of a social group that has difficulty fully accepting or integrating females,” writes Pentagon psychologist Kate McGraw. “The negative impact of this type of behavior may intensify during periods of high stress, such as in combat or deployed locations.”

But experience can ease such trepidation. “I felt tremendous pressure to live beyond reproach, and over time, I have learned that this is an incredibly intense, stressful, and ultimately unsustainable and inhumane way to live,” then-Lieut. Paulette Cazares wrote of her first tour as a doctor aboard a U.S. Navy submarine. “Come the second year and second deployment, I was able to dance in bars at ports of call and enjoy a cigar with the CO and know I was on stable footing.”

She also writes that her time aboard gave her the confidence she needed to save a young female sailor from dying of appendicitis on what was supposed to have been a quiet Thanksgiving. “At the beginning of that deployment, I would never known or had the courage to … demand that a helo move faster,” she recalls. “But a few months at sea made this girl a little saltier than she was when she left San Diego.”

NIKAYLA SHODEEN / U.S. ArmyU.S. Army soldiers, including women, train to become Rangers at Georgia’s Fort Benning.

Being different can pose challenges when nature calls. “In 2011, with all our sophisticated battle systems and unarmed aircraft, women in combat were still wearing diapers because we hadn’t figured out how they could take care of basic bodily functions in the back of an armored personnel carrier or transport vehicle,” Naclerio says. There remains, after a decade of war, ignorance among both military women and their medical advisers about minimizing such issues, she adds. (Only 4.5% of women in Iraq in 2005-2006, for example, were using commercially available female urination devices, which allow women to relieve themselves like men.) Both Naclerio and Ritchie express surprise at how little research has been done to smooth the integration of women into the military.

Sexual assault is a “major issue” in the U.S. military, the book notes, and has received extensive professional and press coverage. But there has been scant attention paid to consensual sex in the ranks downrange. “A taboo area seems to be the sexual desires of women who deploy,” the authors write. “But young women—and most women who deploy are young—do have sexual desires, perhaps heightened by the daily exposure to death and close bonding in the combat zone.” This taboo has led to a dearth of information. “We have very little knowledge of the actual amount of consensual sexual activity that is occurring during deployments between military members because very little research is done on that topic,” writes Navy psychiatrist Ann Canuso. (Think of it as a new version of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”) “Studies indicate that as many as 12% of deployed women had an unplanned pregnancy during deployment in 2008.

The dearth of women on the front lines makes them a rarity. But that’s slowly expected to change. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus said last month that he wants 25% of Marine recruits eventually to be women, more than triple their current 7% of the corps.

But until that happens (and Marines, both male and female, believe it’s a tall order), women on the front lines will continue to feel like they live in a fishbowl. “My presence there seemed to make everyone stop and stare,” one forward-deployed woman told Canuso of her visits to the gym. Some of their male counterparts acknowledged their role. One told Canuso about the time he was instructing other young men when a female colleague walked by in her workout gear. “We all just stopped and stared at her for almost a full 30 seconds,” he said. “Then I just went back to teaching the men. I never would have done that stateside.”

TIME society

What It Was Like to Have My Tweet Become National News

xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

The more loudly people complained that the tweet was a giant overreaction, the more they proved the need for feminism

xojane

Monday morning I was still in my day pajamas – you know the look: yoga pants, tank top, sports bra – when there was a knock at my front door, and I opened it up to find a man with a necktie and thoroughly gelled hair. “Are you Abi?” he asked me through the screen door. “Did you write the tweet about Target?”

I wrote the tweet about Target a week before, while my 7-year-old son and I were browsing the toy section. Actually, that’s not entirely true: I snapped the picture of the aisle sign while we were browsing the toy section, sometime between Pokèmon cards and Minecraft action figures. I wrote the tweet later, while I was waiting for him outside the restroom so we could check out.

“Don’t do this, @Target,” I wrote, and attached the photo of the sign that said, “Building Sets / Girls’ Building Sets” just as my son emerged from the bathroom. “Did you wash your hands?” I asked him as I tapped tweet.

And now my tweet had brought this smiling, be-gelled man to my front porch: a reporter from a Cleveland news affiliate, here to interview me.

“I was actually down here to do a story about LeBron,” he said, “but the office called and diverted me to this instead.” Before the Target tweet, the closest I had come to social media stardom was the time Roxane Gay RT’ed a selfie I took with her at a book signing. Now I had bumped a LeBron story.

I threw on a dress and some makeup, thanked God for dry shampoo, and within 15 minutes was miked and on camera. I was brilliant and articulate, I hoped, as I explained why I thought the sign was a problem – because making girls’ building sets a distinct category from building sets made it sound like girls are a separate category from kids; because the notion that girls would only be interested in special “girly” sets for building pink and purple hair salons and dollhouses and malls is the same nonsense that pigeonholes girls and women into certain roles – as my cat watched us from the front window.

That afternoon when the segment aired, I watched it from the waiting room at my dentist’s office with the receptionist and a hygienist on her break. “SIGN OFFENDS LOCAL MOTHER,” the title bar said, as if the aisle sign had stuck its foot out to trip me while I was shopping and then called me four-eyes.

We watched in silence for two and a half minutes as my onscreen self stammered and gestured through my interview, and when it was over, the receptionist changed the channel to Cartoon Network. “Huh,” she remarked conversationally. “If I’d seen that sign I would never have read anything into it.”

By that evening, Local Mom was being offended in every local news broadcast. The next day the story jumped to national news shows and websites, where I became the Ohio Mom who was “angry,” “upset,” “outraged,” even “furious.”

Strangers tweeted at me that I was just looking for attention and should be spending my time worrying about more important things, oblivious to the irony that they were spending their time seeking me out to give me attention. Libertarians lectured me about how consumers drive the free market, as if I weren’t a consumer who was now doing exactly that.

Men’s Rights forums picked up the story, and my twitter mentions became about what you’d expect from MRAs. I had written a four-word tweet, and now I was being called an ISIS supporter who hates homeless, starving children.

As the conversation unfolded, I found myself being made into a gender stereotype, too. I wasn’t a writer, a grad student, a university instructor; I was Ohio Mom. My critique of Target was angry and offended; they stopped just short of calling me shrill.

In my Twitter mentions, I became fat, ugly, and unlovable. The more loudly people complained that this was a giant overreaction, the more they proved the need for feminism.

And yet, I began to agree with some of the trolls. Maybe I was making a big deal out of nothing. Shouldn’t I be worrying about more important feminist issues, like violence against trans women of color? Didn’t this attention rightfully belong to the activists who had earned it, instead of just some mom from Ohio?

I told my therapist that I felt very aware of the white- and class-privilege that had put me at the center of this story; that I wasn’t sure if I had anything important to say, or if I should even try.

“Women have fought for decades to have a voice,” she said, “and yet so often we minimize the voice we have. Your words are powerful, and you can give yourself permission to use that power. You don’t have to feel guilty for speaking up.”

Together we made a plan for how I could own my power. I started asking interviewers not to label me “angry” or “offended,” and some of them obliged – it didn’t change the narrative that was already out there, but it was a step toward reclaiming my identity.

I gave a friend my Twitter password and asked her to filter my mentions for me for a few days, weeding out the worst of the trolls. I stopped letting the increased attention and scrutiny affect the way I was interacting with my social media communities.

And my community stepped up, too. Online friends made fun of the trolls in my mentions and sent me cat GIFs. Local friends stopped by with wine and moral support.

When a producer from a national talk show scheduled a camera crew to come to my house for an interview, friends offered to watch my kids and help clean my living room.

There is something absurd in a single tweet gaining this kind of national attention. This is how the 24-hour news cycle sausage is made – by taking these small, nuanced conversations and turning them into overblown, oversimplified issues.

But the beauty of social media is that we can use our voices and take our power, support each other, call for change on a whole spectrum of issues. And we don’t need a man to show up uninvited on our doorsteps for that to happen.

Abi Bechtel wrote this article for xoJane.

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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