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 are 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 partially off of her appearance? That seems to be a bad decision. Just ask Jennifer Grey’s nose and Kate Gosselin’s 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 why 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 making a really lame cheap shot on 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 are 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 aren’t real people but instead 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 Cher’s, Madonna’s, Kenny Roger’s, 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 Yorkmagazine, and a few other safe-for-work publications.

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.”

TIME women

I’d Like to Talk to You About Not Talking About Beyoncé’s Bangs

Beyonce is seen leaving Harry's Bar, Mayfair on October 17, 2014 in London, England.
Beyonce is seen leaving Harry's Bar, Mayfair on October 17, 2014 in London, England. Niki Nikolova—GC Images

Female celebrities and women in media are also picked apart with alarming regularity

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is an extremely famous pop singer known for quality vocals and sexy radio singles. She is married to Shaun Corey “Jay-Z” Carter, and they have a lovely daughter named Blue Ivy. Beyoncé has won 17 Grammys and is Time’s Most Influential Person, and oh, she went out a few days ago with a new hairstyle and nearly broke the Internet.

Reporters and commenters alike felt the need to say something about Beyoncé’s hairstyle, which appeared to be a wig with short, choppy bangs. Everyone with an Internet connection was invited to Weigh In: Love It or Leave It! And the general consensus was negative.

I know it’s rough to devote a page of writing to how much I don’t want to talk about something, but I got tired of shrugging it off when people asked and would like to go on record with my reasons why.

I’ve already written a call to not discuss her daughter’s hair, and this one goes out to Queen Bey herself. I feel sort of silly, like I’m shaking a proverbial angry fist at the sky; this type of non-event is the perfect conflagration of celebrity worship and pop culture phenomenon that really irks me, but becomes more common each day in our Join The Conversation culture.

These days, it seems as though no “conversation” is deemed too trifling, and though slow news days have been around as long as reporting the news has, social media can make a frenzy out of a single picture. And since you know I keep it real with you, dear readers, I will now acknowledge that here at xoJane we share about all sorts of things at all levels of relative importance. We cover many bases. But the endless reportage of Beyoncé and The Day She Banged is something else.

At best, it’s continued commodification of this woman as a product that exists either for our consumption or our scrutiny, and at worst it’s just plain mean. So many people were slinging insults and creating rude memes, and even the ones that weren’t directly cruel felt the need to “report” on Beyoncé’s Bangs: The Happening.

Real talk: I don’t think that’s the most flattering hairstyle I’ve seen Mrs. Knowles-Carter rock. And she’s also probably changed it already. And it also doesn’t matter at all what I, or anyone else looking at a picture of her on the internet thinks of Beyoncé’s hair. While this is not strictly a racial issue, the politicization of black women’s hair is a reality, with #TeamNatural in one corner and certain relaxed and visibly Anglicized styles in another and all sorts of questions and assumptions about our identity weighing heavily in the center of the ring.

Overall, female celebrities and women in media are also picked apart with alarming regularity. I won’t name names, but there are more than a handful of male celebrities who are allowed to roam freely looking every level of disheveled or trying out a new ‘do without inspiring Internet memes and hashtags. There are also other women in the industry who don’t get the kind of head-to-toe scrutiny that Beyoncé gets.

The other thing that has me miffed about the Incident On Beyoncé’s Forehead is that she was photographed on vacation with her family. Beyoncé’s job description is not “24-hour hair model.” She is a stellar entertainer and a pop star, and goddamnit she was off the clock. Celebrities do not exist solely for public consumption.

Had Beyoncé gotten on stage at the Superbowl half time show or opened her recent arena tour On The Run with this hairstyle, we might be having a different conversation. She may not be an accountant, but work is work and if your job is to entertain and something gets in the way of that, even just by pulling focus or being a distraction, that bears mentioning and possible critique.

Former Fox Sports lead sideline reporter Pam Oliver was the subject of intense criticism because her hair generally looked quite unkempt and literally got in the way, blowing all over in sometimes inclement weather conditions. She was called all manner of terribly insulting names on social media and compared to animals and such, and at the time, I made a few comments saying I wished she worked with different styles so that her hair wasn’t such a distraction. Some people on social media were upset with me, questioning how I could “attack” a fellow black woman, especially over her hair.

I would never call her ugly or any of those things, but she was at work when we saw her on television; I wasn’t commenting on candids or random paparazzi photos. Her job was as a television reporter, and her unflattering hair was stealing every shot she was in and undermining her expertise and decades of experience in her position. I wished that she could find the most flattering style for her face that also worked for her job, a basic standard that I could apply to almost anyone.

Being “camera-ready” is a job requirement for a television reporter, not a life requirement for Beyoncé’s trip to France. Still, she knows she’s heavily photographed whenever she’s in public. By all appearances, Beyoncé embraces or at least manages her role as an international celebrity, including awareness of paparazzi and that so many people care how she looks. All the time.

So I believe that if she went out on the town with her family during a vacation, she probably felt fine with the way she looked. That’s good enough for me.

By the way, Beyoncé is routinely attacked by certain news outlets and has been called a “whore” for things she does while on the clock; entertaining huge audiences and doing it well. She’s repeatedly been the subject of author and feminist scholar bell hooks’ scathing criticism of her “faux” feminism. She’s had to endure insults to her daughter’s looks on a national platform. If we must keep her name in our mouths and devote endless bandwidth to mentioning her, I think it’d be cool to recognize her achievements in her field, salute her owning her sexuality and being vocal about feminism, acknowledge her as her own woman who does not belong to us, who is also a wife and mother… pretty much anything but analyze that bang.

Some people told me, in the course of recommending that I locate some chill on this topic, that the issue is that Beyoncé usually looks so good that it’s a big news story that her bangs looked so… you know what? I’m not even going to finish that sentence. We’ve all got other things to talk about.

Pia Glenn is an actress and writer.

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

Corporate Egg Freezing Is a Benefit, Not a Mandate

Apple IPads Sales Down
In this photo illustration an Apple iPad displays it's home screen on August 6, 2014 in London, England. Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

Darlena Cunha is a Florida-based contributor to The Washington Post and TIME among dozens of other publications.

No matter how nefarious you think Apple and Facebook are, the bottom line is that women are getting more choice

Can everyone ease up on Apple and Facebook already?

Last week’s news that the two tech giants now pay for female employees to freeze their eggs prompted many to say that the program could make women feel as if they have to put their child bearing off until it’s convenient for the companies, forcing women to have their lives “in the right order.” These critics say that if women ignore the egg freezing option and choose to have babies in their 20s or early 30s, they may be indirectly penalized.

I could see reason to protest if Apple and Facebook had replaced their extremely generous (by U.S. standards) maternity and paternity leaves, “baby cash” or adoption and other infertility coverage with their new policy. But they haven’t. This benefit will be provided in addition to the family-oriented programs already in place. It’s a boon for the companies, yes, but also for the women working within them.

It can be incredibly hard to juggle the demands of a job in the technical field and the demands of a toddler. More than 50% of women in tech leave their jobs midway through their career. In an unrelated survey of 716 women who left the tech field never to return, two-thirds cited motherhood as a deciding factor. And now companies are responding in kind. Knowing that infertility issues can increase as maternal age increase, the corporations have decided to fund child-planning programs that speak to a population in their buildings. They’re not telling women they can’t have families while working; they’re offering help to women who have come to the decision not to have families at a young age to begin with.

Let’s not forget that women have free will. They do what they want. Many working in the tech field have toiled for decades to perfect their resume in the competitive landscape. Many simply don’t want to have a family at a young age. By acting like offering egg freezing forces the hand of women in tech to delay families before it has been proven to do so, we are forgetting the many women who are playing that hand of their own volition. We are telling them they must want to delay childbearing only because their work is giving them those cues. We are acting like all women not only want a family, but want one in their 20s. Because biology. Or women-folk. Or something.

For parents, daycare costs, health emergencies, simple lack of sleep and feeling spread too thin are par for the hectic course. Yes, businesses don’t want to have to deal with that, but did anyone pause to think that maybe the women (and possibly men) in the field don’t want to deal with that either? I wonder again, how is giving women the choice a bad thing?

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2008 18% of women remained childless into their 40s. By the time a woman reaches her early 40s, likelihood of pregnancy naturally falls to just 5%, and infertility treatments are costly and not always covered by insurance.

It’s important to mention that Apple and other tech companies already offer help for family planning, including adoption and infertility coverage. In that light, this new policy isn’t much different in kind, and really just an extension of care already being provided.

Egg freezing isn’t the one-and-only, all-inclusive solution to tech’s lack-of-women problem, but it is an olive branch for women struggling to keep their footing in a career filled, so far, with men, whose family responsibilities, even in this day and age, are still viewed as less of a problem than women’s. We may not have won the war yet, but we shouldn’t complain about winning a battle.

Darlena Cunha is a Florida-based contributor to The Washington Post and TIME among dozens of other publications. You can find her on Twitter @parentwin or on her blog at http://parentwin.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 health

Why So Many Women Are Crying at the Gym

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Yoga mudra Stefano Oppo—Getty Images

For a generation of stressed-out working women, exercise is as much about emotional release as it is physical training.

“Let it out! Let out the sludge!”

It’s 7am on a Tuesday, at a small dance studio in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood, and Taryn Toomey is stomping her feet into the floor like thunder. “Get rid of the bullsh*t!” she shouts. “Get rid of the drama!”

Two dozen women in yoga pants and sports bras sprint in place behind her, eyes closed, arms flailing. Sweat is flying. The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” is blaring in the background. There are grunts and screams. “Hell yes!” a woman bellows.

When the song ends, Toomey directs the group into child’s pose, torso folded over the knees, forehead on the floor, arms spread forward. Coldplay comes on, and there is a moment of rest. “Inhale. Exhale. Feel your center,” Toomey says. Heads slowly come up, and suddenly, tears are streaming down the faces of half the room. A woman in front of me is physically trembling. “I just let it all out,” a middle-aged woman in leggings and a tank top whispers.

This is “The Class”—one part yoga, two parts bootcamp, three parts emotional release, packaged into an almost spiritual… no, tribal… 75 minutes. It is the creation of fashion exec turned yoga instructor Toomey, and it is where New York’s high-flying women go for emotional release (if, that is, they can get a spot).

“During my first class I didn’t just cry, I sobbed,” says McKenzie Hayes, a 22-year-old New Yorker who has become a regular in the class. “Whether it’s your job or your relationships, I literally picture my emotional problems being slowly unstuck from my body and moved out.”

Toomey calls that “sludge”: it’s the emotional baggage we carry in our muscles that has nowhere else to go. She’s not a doctor. But week after week, she encourages participants to sweat, scream and cry out those emotions, in the company of a group of mostly women who are doing the same. “I’ve had classes where people are literally on all fours sobbing,” Toomey says. “But it’s not just my class, it’s happening everywhere. Emotional release in public can feel very uncomfortable. But I think there’s a growing movement of people who want to find a space for it.”

Indeed, the message to women has long been to hide your tears lest you look weak. (Among the tactics: jutting out your jaw. Breathing exercises. Chewing gum. Drinking water.) Yet while crying in the office may remain a feminine faux pas, tears at the gym seem to have lost their stigma — to the extent that there are a bevy of fitness courses that even encourage it.

For Asie Mohtarez, a Brooklyn makeup artist, it began in hot yoga. The music was on, the floor was warm, the instructor was standing over her encouraging her to let go. “I was in child’s pose and I just lost it,” she says. Then, two weeks later, it happened again – this time at Physique 57. The Dirty Dancing soundtrack came on and it was waterworks again. “There’s something about these classes that feel safe,” says the 33-year-old. “I can’t cry at work. I’m not emotionally distraught enough to cry in the shower. I can’t just burst into tears in front of my husband. So, what does that leave you with?”

You could go to therapy – or you could hit the gym. Women are getting teary in SoulCycle, and misty-eyed at Pure Barre. They are letting out wails in yoga and rubbing the shoulder of the weepy woman next to them at CrossFit. “I think people have started to notice that their clients are just showing up to class and just unloading, and so they’re tailoring their classes to create space for this,” says Hayes, who is a pilates instructor by day. “When I take private clients I end up feeling like a therapist for them.”

These fitness instructors aren’t trained in that, of course. But they’ve probably been there.

“I usually just go over to the student after class and quietly ask how they’re feeling,” says Kristin Esposito, a yoga instructor in Los Angeles who sees criers often. “My classes are focused on release so it feels pretty natural.”

Physiologically, it is: Exercise releases endorphins, which interact with serotonin and dopamine, the chemicals that impact mood. In yoga, deep hip openers – like the “pigeon pose” – are meant to stir emotions (yogis believe our emotional baggage lives in our hips).

But many of the newer courses are specifically choreographed to release emotion, too – making it all that much more intense. The lights are dim, candles flicker in the background. It’s not an accident that just as you’re starting to relax, coming down from the adrenaline, you’re blasted with a throaty ballad. Those playlists are meticulously constructed. “I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years, so I’ve basically seen it all: crying, laughing, throwing up, overheating,” says Stacey Griffith, a Soul Cycle instructor. “There are moments in the class that are directly programmed for that reason – but it’s not like we’re trying to get people to cry. We’re giving them the space to step outside of themselves.”

And indeed, that may be necessary. We’re busier, more stressed and more connected than we’ve ever been. Simply finding the time to have that “space” can be near impossible, making the release that these courses offer – packaged neatly into an hour – a kind of fix. “The night before, I can’t wait,” says Hayes of Toomey’s class. “I already know what will be the flood that I’m working through. And sometimes conversations with friends just don’t cut it.”

Getting those emotions out is a good thing – at least in moderation. Emotional tears contain manganese, potassium, and a hormone called prolactin, which help lower cholesterol, control high blood and boost the immune system. Crying reduces stress, and, according to one study, from the University of Minnesota, actually improves the mood of nearly 90 percent of people who do it. “You really do feel lighter after,” says Hayes.

“To me, it’s a sign of being present, it’s a sign of feeling your feelings, of being in the moment,” says Toomey, just after “the class” has ended. Plus, shoulder to shoulder in a hot room, there is almost a sense of communal release. Of high-charged emotional camaraderie. “I so needed this,” a woman tells her on the way out, with a hug. And, of course, with that much sweat, the tears are almost hidden anyway.

Read next: I Taught Fitness and Failed a Fat Test

TIME world affairs

Syrian Women Know How To Defeat ISIS

Women have been deeply involved in distributing and monitoring humanitarian aid in communities across Syria

To the Islamic State, Syrian women are slaves. To much of the rest of the world, they are victims.

It’s time we expose their real identity: an untapped resource for creating lasting peace. Listening to and implementing the ideas of women still living in Syria is key to weakening ISIS and stabilizing the region at large because, in many ways, they have a better track record laying the foundations for peace and democracy than any other group.

Over the last two years, we’ve worked side-by-side with Syrian women leaders as they propose concrete steps to end the war. Most recently, we brought several women representing large civil society networks to Washington, D.C., where they cautioned against the current approach of the international community – and proposed a very different blueprint for the region’s future.

More arms and more bombs, they said, are not the answer.

They insisted that the only way to fight this extremist threat is to return to the negotiating table and hash out a peaceful political transition to heal the divisions ripping Syria apart.

“Oppression is the incubator of terrorism,” one woman told us as the group prepped for meetings with high-level officials in D.C. and New York. Her participation in peaceful protests during the early days of the revolution led to her two-month imprisonment in a four square meter room shared with 30 other women—yet she was adamant: “We cannot fight ISIS except through a political approach.”

That women who’ve been hunted and tortured for their nonviolent activism still say “no more bombs” is remarkable. That their solutions are forward-looking and inclusive is unsurprising; we’ve seen similar approaches from women in conflicts all over the world. In Colombia, Northern Ireland, Uganda, and dozens of other places, women have been catalysts for sustainable, inclusive peace.

During three-plus years of war, Syrian women have consistently led efforts to end the violence and mitigate suffering. They’ve worked under the direst circumstances: dodging sniper bullets, evading arrest, surviving without adequate food or medicine. They’ve retained hope and determination in ways that most of us would find impossible.

That’s precisely why we must listen to them.

So what do they recommend? To create stability (which is kryptonite to extremists), Syrian women say three things must happen.

First, humanitarian aid must get to the millions in grave need. Almost three million people are registered as refugees in neighboring countries and over six million are displaced inside Syria. That’s in a country with a pre-war population of just under 18 million. Approximately half of the remaining inhabitants live in extreme poverty.

In response to this disaster, the UN made an urgent appeal for $2.28 billion just to meet the critical requirements of the internally displaced. So far, Member States have committed only $864 million—a little over one-third of the total. Last month, the UN was forced to cut the delivery of food aid by 40 percent.

Violent extremism thrives in areas where social services have all but disappeared. A woman who serves on the local council of an opposition-held town told us that she fears more of her neighbors may become radicalized because there’s no work, no education, and no other opportunities.

Women have been deeply involved in distributing and monitoring humanitarian aid in communities across Syria. Typically perceived as less of a threat, they’re able to smuggle supplies through checkpoints without being searched. This affords them first-hand witness of the different needs of zones under government, opposition, Islamic State, or other control. They’ve seen, for instance, that food baskets can’t get into areas blockaded by the regime; in these circumstances, cash transfers are more effective. To reach the greatest number of people, relief agencies should coordinate with civil society and devise humanitarian strategies that reflect these differences.

Second, international actors must encourage local pockets of stability. Beyond funding, a key barrier to humanitarian access is the ongoing violence. Besieged areas are the hardest to reach and most in need.

Here too, women have a solution. Though missing from most news reports, a number of local ceasefire arrangements have proliferated throughout the country, often negotiated by civil society actors. In the Damascus suburbs, a women’s group brokered a ceasefire between regime and opposition forces. For 40 days before fighting resumed, they were able to get essential supplies into the city.

Syrian women are now calling on the UN to not only track these local arrangements, but assign international monitors to ensure parties stick to them. Beyond opening channels for the passage of humanitarian aid, this may also help the parties come closer to an agreement to cease hostilities on the national level. This will require accountability, as these negotiations are all too often used as a tool of political manipulation.

Which brings us to the third, and potentially most important, step: The parties must return to internationally-mediated negotiations and agree on a political solution to the conflict. The last round of talks in Geneva failed, it’s true. But this is still the best solution to the burgeoning civil war and the opportunistic extremism that has followed it. Only a unified Syria can beat back the ISIS threat.

Convincing both parties to come back to the table won’t be easy. But Syrian women have identified concrete ideas that could help unite disparate factions by encouraging them to cooperate on mutually beneficial activities. For instance, the regime and opposition could coordinate the safe passage of university students between government- and nongovernment-controlled areas to allow them to resume their studies. The women also call on parties to prioritize construction of temporary housing for those displaced by the conflict on both sides. These actions could help cultivate trust between the regime and opposition and encourage popular support on all sides for renewed negotiations.

As important is the construction of an inclusive peace process. One that engages women, but also others who have thus far been missing from the conversation: the Kurds, Druze, youth, independent civil society networks, tribal leaders, and, yes, more radical elements like Jabhat al-Nusra, who can otherwise spoil the talks from the outside. Without this, no agreement stands a chance.

These three priorities—humanitarian relief, support for local ceasefires, and resumption of negotiations—are not the result of idealistic or wishful thinking. This is not an abstract call by Syrian women to “give peace a chance.” It’s a plea for policy approaches that are grounded in the lived experiences and long-term goals of the vast majority of the Syrian people.

Regional and global stability depend on the international community getting this right. Luckily for us, Syrian women—and civil society more broadly—know exactly what it will take to rebuild their country and undermine the ambitions of the Islamic State. Will we listen?

Kristin Williams is Senior Writer and Program Officer at The Institute for Inclusive Security, where she calls attention to the most powerful, untapped resource for peace: women.

Michelle Barsa is Senior Manager for Policy at Inclusive Security Action, where she focuses on expanding the role for women in peace and security processes, particularly in Afghanistan and Syria.

This piece was originally published in New America’s digital magazine, The Weekly Wonk. Sign up to get it delivered to your inbox each Thursday here, and follow @New America on Twitter.

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 Aging

5 Reasons Why Women Live Longer Than Men

Pink stethoscope with female symbol
Getty Images

Life expectancy in the U.S. is at an all-time high, according to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And while the news that we’re living, on average, to the ripe old age of 78 years and 9 ½ months isn’t that surprising, there is one stat that is: A girl born in 2012 can expect to live to 81.2 years—almost 5 years longer than a boy baby born the same year, who’s likely live to age 76.4. Weaker sex, indeed.

“Men are biologically and sociologically at a disadvantage from the time they’re conceived to the time they die,” says Marianne Legato, MD, professor emerita of clinical medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and founder and director of the Foundation for Gender-Specific Medicine. Here’s why:

Females are tougher in utero

Two and a half as many boys are conceived as girls, Dr. Legato says, but they’re so much more likely to succumb to prenatal infection or other issues in the womb that by the time they’re born, the ratio is close to one to one. “They’re also slower to develop physically than girls prenatally, which means they’re more likely to die if they are preemies due to underdeveloped lung or brain development,” Dr. Legato explains.

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Women are less likely to be daredevils

Unintentional injuries are the third leading cause of death in men, according to the CDC; for women it’s only the sixth. Again, you can blame it on biology: The frontal lobes of the brain—which deal with responsibility and risk calculation—develop much more slowly in males than females, Dr. Legato says.

The result: Guys often take many more risks (which you probably already realize if your small son has taken one too many spins off his bike handlebars). “Almost inevitably, a male will take risks that a woman of his same age wouldn’t take,” Dr. Legato says.

Women succumb to heart disease later

Heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women, but men are more likely to develop it—and die from it—as early as their 30s and 40s. Women, on the other hand, typically develop heart disease 10 years later than men. They’re protected from it until menopause, since their bodies churn out estrogen, which helps keep arteries strong and flexible, says Dr. Legato.

HEALTH.COM: 15 Weird Things Linked to Heart Attacks

Women have stronger social networks

Friends make good medicine: People with strong social connections have a 50% lower chance of dying than those with few social ties, according to a 2010 study at Brigham Young University. “Most men tend to hold their stress and worries close to their chest, while women tend to reach out and talk to others,” Dr. Legato explains. The one exception: married men, which also explains why so many studies show that they’re likely to be healthier and live longer.

HEALTH.COM: How Friends Make You Healthier

Women take better care of their health

Men are 24% less likely than women to have visited a doctor within the past year and are 22% more likely to skip out on cholesterol testing, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. In fact more than a quarter (28%) of men don’t have a regular physician and about one in five didn’t have health insurance in 2012, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

You can blame it on the so-called John Wayne syndrome: “Men often deny illness; they minimize symptoms because they don’t want to go to a doctor and find out something is wrong,” Dr. Legato notes.

HEALTH.COM: 10 Worst States for Women’s Health

This article originally appeared on Health.com

TIME women

Darby Stanchfield on “Scandal” and Women’s Limitations in Hollywood

Actress Darby Stanchfield attends the TGIT Premiere event at Palihouse on September 20, 2014 in West Hollywood, California.
Actress Darby Stanchfield attends the TGIT Premiere event at Palihouse on September 20, 2014 in West Hollywood, California. Imeh Akpanudosen—Getty Images

"I don't think of myself as limited in this business as a woman"

Answer by Darby Stanchfield, actress in the ABC drama “Scandal,” on Quora.

I find this question to be deceptively tricky. It is all too easy to cry ‘victim’ in the entertainment industry and fall prey to believing all sorts of limitations (about oneself) that the industry is known for. Examples of these multifarious limited ways of thinking are as follows:

  • An actor has to be physically beautiful in order to be a leading actor…
  • A woman will not work over the age of 40…
  • If you are not born into the business or aren’t related to someone established in the business, you can’t break into it and have the same opportunities as those who are…
  • A person of color has a much smaller chance of getting a lead role than a caucasian person…
  • A blonde woman can only play a ditzy role and not one of intelligence…

…and the list goes on and on. This question—”What are the main struggles women face when building a career?”—alerts me that this is one of those limited ways of thinking. I don’t think of myself as limited in this business as a woman or in any other way. In fact, I often look to men’s career paths in the television and film business as inspiration. I don’t see myself as different than they are.

This is not to say that challenges don’t exist within the television and film industry for women. Or that there isn’t a history of limitations (for most individuals) within the industry. I don’t say this lightly, but I find the most effective way to empower oneself beyond limitations is to spend as little time dwelling on them as possible. This in turn is the best way out of them. Here’s an example: if I walk into an audition room, thinking that as a woman, or a woman over 40, or a woman who grew up in the middle of no-where (Alaska) and not in Hollywood, that I am destined to be at a disadvantage, then that’s exactly what I’ll project. I’ll project a defeated attitude and that’s what the director and producers will read. But, if I go in believing I have just as much of a chance as anyone else — or even a better chance, if I go in embracing my womanhood, my age, my background, and my originality — I will only project a wonderful message of originality and confidence and peace within myself. I believe THAT state of mind, and how it informs the way in which one carries themselves, is irresistible.

The leading women of “Scandal” (Kerry Washington, Bellamy Young, Katie Lowes) and I have had many conversations about this notion. We’ve all had defining moments in our careers where we drew a line in the sand and have took a stand to say ‘no’ to a stereotyped role. This directly rejects the notion of limiting ourselves because of our unique circumstances of age, race, gender, etc.

There will be a lot of people who disagree with me. But I don’t know how to be in this business any other way than embracing each person’s unique characteristics, and seeing them as full of unlimited possibilities in how they might utilize those talents. In fact, if I were to think any other way, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t work nearly as much as I do and have worked in the entertainment industry. I also think that by committing to and embracing a larger, more unlimited way of thinking about oneself and others in the industry we will, in turn, create more progress in breaking limited stereotypes, rather than if one were to dwell on and operate from those limited beliefs.

This question originally appeared on Quora: What are the main struggles women face when building a career in film and television?

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

My Hair Will Never Go Gray, and It’s Lame

Gray hair
Getty Images

It’s a “blessing” of genetics, but I’m starting to question how much of a blessing it is

xojane

This story originally appeared on xoJane.com.

I know you’re laughing at the title, because I’ve heard that laugh before. The one that says “You’ll understand when you’re older.”

I heard that laugh a lot the time I grew a single strand of silver, courtesy of an upper management change at my job that made things unbearably stressful.

“This job is literally killing me!” I’d tell my friends. “I have a gray hair! I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE A GRAY HAIR!”

“Oh, it’ll have friends soon enough!” they said, laughing condescendingly. But I wasn’t upset because it was a sign of age. I was upset because it was a sign of overwhelming stress. My best friend plucked it because I wouldn’t shut up about it. Now I wish he had left it.

I’m about to turn 36, and that’s the only gray hair I’ve ever had. After I escaped from that job, it even grew back brown. My mother, at 56, has never even had one. Her mother didn’t go gray until the illness that took her life in her 70s. (My father’s side, for the record, goes salt-and-pepper in their 20s, so I know I don’t take after him.) It’s a “blessing” of genetics, but I’m starting to question how much of a blessing it is.

It doesn’t help that, regardless of my hair color, I looked 17 at 25 and now look 25 at 35. I live in a big college city and people constantly assume I’m a student. I spent most of my 20s trying to reassure people I was actually legal. I keep my driver’s license handy so I can whip it out as proof that I’m not a kid. A bouncer at a club once was intent on finding the flaw that proved my ID was fake or at the very least belonged to my older sister. A friend who I graduated high school with was, on multiple occasions, mistaken for my father. Another friend joked that he assumed anyone who dated me was a closet pedophile.

People always said I’d appreciate my youthful looks when I was older, but honestly, I’m still not seeing it.

Because looking much younger than you are — not just for a night out partying but every single day — really, really sucks. There’s a respect that comes with age that I don’t receive. I have an untraditional life — I’m a lesbian, I’m taking some single time after spending most of my life in serious relationships with men thanks to self-denial, and I just don’t want to have children. Maybe if I had some gray hairs, people who are even younger than me would stop telling me I’ll change my mind and want to settle down to have a family someday.

No, my sleep-all-day, work-all-night solo lifestyle is the result of conscious decisions based on many years of valid life experience and not just juvenile whim.

And what do I get out of looking young? Being more attractive to younger men? I’m an introverted lesbian with an anxiety disorder. I’d much prefer to be occasionally taken seriously.

I could live with my baby face if I just had some gray hair to offset it. Most people who look younger than they are eventually get that much to balance it out. But not me. I’m “blessed” with a lifetime of not being taken seriously, of having my choices dismissed, of even getting passed up for promotions because of vague claims that I wasn’t respected enough. Nature, throw me a bone here!

I know a lot of people, especially women, hate going gray. But I for one could really go for some of that visible aging right about now.

J. J. Ulm is a fiction writer living in Ohio.

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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