MONEY

Millennials Love This Old-Fashioned Company

The 2014 Ford Escape.
As millennials get older, they're more interested in SUVs and crossovers, like the 2014 Ford Escape. courtesy of Ford

You might think of Ford as the automaker your grandpa stubbornly stuck with for decades. Millennials think of Ford as something else—the auto brand they're most likely to buy right now.

It’s a common belief that millennials are indifferent to car ownership. They aren’t buying cars anywhere near the percentage rates of previous generations, and fewer young adults even bother to get drivers’ licenses. However, none of these factoids has stopped automakers from trying to win over the business of this huge demographic—which might not be flush with cash now but will surely represent a gigantic chunk of car buyers down the road.

A new study from Maritz Research shows that one automaker has been particularly successful over the past few years in appealing to millennials, and the name may come as a bit of a surprise: It’s Ford, the staid, century-old, all-American company from Michigan. According to Maritz surveys—which have been pumped up in a Ford press release—in 2008, Ford ranked fourth among millennials as the brand they’d most likely consider buying. (Honda and Toyota held the top two spots.) By 2012, however, Ford leapfrogged over the competition to grab the No. 1 ranking.

“The jump was really at the expense of the Asian-based manufacturers,” said Maritz Research vice president Chris Travell, who pointed out that General Motors has also improved in the eyes of would-be millennial car buyers. “The North American manufacturers are making better product than they ever have. You can’t say that they’re not reliable and aren’t good quality anymore.”

Millennials have taken notice. They also aren’t likely to have much memory of the auto world of decades ago, when the perception was that American cars were overpriced and would break down quicker and more often than many imports. “Millennials don’t remember the bad stuff,” said Travell. “They’re coming in as mostly clean slates. Ford is not considered the ‘old Ford’ to this generation.”

The automaker has been catching the eye of younger buyers with its focus on techie features (admittedly, not always successfully), and, most important, a lineup of vehicles and price points that appeal to their needs right now. From 2008 to 2013, more millennials became interested in crossovers and SUVs, and fewer wanted compacts and other small vehicles, which is the strength of Asian car manufacturers like Hyundai, Honda, and Toyota. “The trend of millennials starting families comes at the same time Ford is updating or replacing nearly its entire product lineup,” Amy Marentic, Ford global car and crossover marketing manager, said via press release. “These fastest-growing segments—like small utilities—coincide with Ford’s product strengths.”

Ford has also actively targeted millennials and strategically pursued them as customers now and, ideally, in the future. “One thing we recognized is that millennials don’t want to be just fed information and trust it, necessarily,” said Lisa Schoder, Ford’s global small-car marketing manager, according to Forbes. “So how can we be part of their lives and inform them about our brands and products without overtly advertising to them? That has been our critical differentiator. They need to participate in experiences versus just being spoon-fed something.”

Accordingly, Ford introduced Focus Doug, a “spokespuppet” (a sock puppet, actually) in a series of online videos, and used social media in a variety of other unorthodox, irreverent ways to put vehicles like the Focus, Fiesta, and Escape on the radar of millennials. The Wall Street Journal just reported on Ford’s recent efforts to win over female customers via programs like Live.Drive.Love, which invites women to take Ford cars on 24-hour test drives.

What does reaching out to women have to do with millennials? Well, overall among car buyers, less than 4 in 10 of purchases were made by women in 2013. But among millennials, 53% of buyers are female.

Young women who are starting families or just want more space for mountain bikes and other gear are likely to be intrigued with Ford models like the Escape and Explorer. And those with less need for space, or those with simply smaller budgets will be more likely to go with the subcompact route, via the Fiesta. As Ford crowed last summer, the Fiesta has been a big success in the 18- to 34-year-old demographic, and the Ford brand overall increased retail share among millennials by 80% from 2009 to 2013.

MORE:
10 Things Millennials Won’t Spend Money On
Check Out This Revolutionary Car-Buying Advice—Then Disregard It

TIME Opinion

Scooby Doo and the Unfortunate Case of Fat Shaming

The latest Scooby Doo film "curses" Daphne by turning her from a size 2 to an 8

Tuesday marked the release of Frankencreepy, Warner Bros.’s latest straight-to-video Scooby Doo feature. But it turns out the real villain in the kid’s flick isn’t the monster. It’s Warner Bros. Here’s why.

The movie begins innocently enough. Velma inherits her uncle’s haunted castle, unleashing a curse on the Mystery Gang that makes them lose what they “hold most dear.” Scooby, for example, loses his snacks. And what fate, pray tell, befalls stylish and slender Daphne? She transforms from a size 2 to… a size 8.

That’s right, it is a “curse” to be a size that’s considerably smaller than the national average, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculates at 5’4″ and 166 pounds. Cue the tears, screams and shattered cartoon mirrors! Because according to this supposedly feel-good-flick, weight gain is the ultimate horror.

This screengrab from the film shows how “cursed” Daphne is portrayed in the film. Which is still below the average size of an American woman:

Scooby Doo: Frankencreepy

Here’s a self-reported actual size 8, exhibited by the beautiful Mariska Hargitay:

Haley & Jason Binn Host A Memorial Day Party
Mariska Hargitay attends Haley & Jason Binn’s Memorial Day party Johnny Nunez—Getty Images

And here’s Christina Hendricks, another redheaded icon who displays her reported size-14 curves with pride:

Cast member Christina Hendricks poses at the premiere for the seventh season of the television series "Mad Men" in Los Angeles, California April 2, 2014.
Cast member Christina Hendricks poses at the premiere for the seventh season of the television series “Mad Men” in Los Angeles, California April 2, 2014. Mario Anzuoni—Reuters

But back to Daphne:

Scooby Doo: Frankencreepy

We don’t need to call the Mystery Gang to figure out where kids pick up unrealistic body expectations and weight stigma.

“It’s sad to think that my daughter can’t even watch a cartoon about a dog solving mysteries without negative body stereotypes being thrown in her face,” blogger Tom Burns wrote. And for a mere $3.99 on Amazon Prime, you too can subject your elementary-school-age daughter to an early dose of fat shaming

In a statement to the Huffington Post, however, Warner Bros. said that while Daphne does lose “her good looks (mainly her figure and her hair)”— implying that an actual realistic figure isn’t, in fact, an attractive one — the message is one of empowerment since Daphne realizes she was being superficial and Fred still thinks she’s hot.

While Daphne is at first upset by the sudden change, there is a touching moment where Fred points out that he didn’t even notice a change and that she always looks great to him.

At the end, when Velma explains how they figured out the mystery, she points out that the curse actually DIDN’T take away what means the most to each of them: their friendship.

The loss of Daphne’s regular appearance is proven to be a superficial thing, and not what actually matters the most to her.

There’s a good message for your 10-year-old. Not having an almost unattainably perfect figure doesn’t matter “the most.” It just matters a lot.

Jeepers.

(Warner Bros is owned by Time Warner, which spun off TIME parent company Time Inc earlier this year.)

TIME Advertising

One Fashion Brand Takes the ‘No Photoshop Pledge,’ Who’s Next?

ModCloth is the first retailer to officially promise not to retouch its models, but its not the only company eschewing Photoshop

ModCloth has taken the pledge. The online fashion retailer became the first brand to officially pledge not to retouch its models by signing the Heroes Pledge for Advertisers agreement last week.

The pledge was created by group behind the bipartisan bill called The Truth in Advertising Act, which was introduced in March and asks the Federal Trade Commission to develop regulations regarding retouched advertisements.

By signing the pledge, which is self-regulated, ModCloth has effectively promised three things:

  • To do their best not to change the shape, size, proportion, color or remove or enhance the physical features, of the people in ads in post-production.
  • That if the company does make post-production changes to the people in their ads, they will add a “Truth In Advertising” label.
  • They will not run any ads that include retouched models in media where children under 13 might see them.

It’s not surprising that ModCloth chose to sign the pledge. The San Francisco-based company is known for its vintage-style clothing and accessories marketed to the younger set. “We’ve always believed in celebrating and showing real women in our marketing,” ModCloth chief marketing officer Nancy Ramamurthi told Today, noting that company hasn’t used professional models since its launch in 2002 and has never used Photoshop to retouch them. “It was a no-brainer to sign on and participate.”

Though ModCloth is the first retailer to sign the pledge, thankfully it isn’t alone when it comes to moving away from unrealistic perfection in their catalogues. Earlier this year Aerie, American Eagle’s lingerie brand, released ads that proclaimed, “No more retouching our girls and no more supermodels.” The words went with a series of ads featuring unretouched models complete with tattoos and normal, everyday folds and bulges. (Though they were all slim, young and beautiful…) The brand also redesigned its website to include a bra guide with each product modeled in every size to give the average customer an idea of how the garment would look on them — and not a size zero model.

“This is now our brand,” Aerie’s senior director of marketing Dana Seguin told Fast Company in January. “It’s not a seasonal campaign for us. It is now how we’re talking to our customers.”

And then there’s sportswear company Title Nine, which, unsurprisingly given its name, has a pro-woman outlook. The company uses athletes as their models and, according to the website’s model mission statement: “It’s our models that best represent who we are here at Title Nine. All are ordinary women capable of extraordinary things…. We hope as you look through our online store and our catalog, you’ll see a little bit of yourself in each picture.” Similarly, Betabrand used non-professional models in its spring campaign; instead, online retailer selected women who had PhDs or were doctorial candidates to model the clothes.

Considering that study after study has found that depictions of women in the media have an impact on the way women and girls feel about their own bodies, it’s heartening to know that some companies are taking care about their own portrayals of women’s bodies. But while it would be wonderful to see more companies sign the Heroes Pledge for Advertisers, it would be even more wonderful for such a campaign to be unnecessary.

TIME career

Women: What Does Success Mean to You? Take Our Poll

For most women, the definition of "success" is constantly changing. How does yours stack up?

A new national poll conducted for Time and Real Simple asked women how they define success and what it takes to get there. The results revealed that a woman’s view of success changes significantly as she ages and is heavily influenced by whether she wants to have children. Young women tend to be more ambitious, with 73% saying it was “very important” for them to be successful at work, compared to 37% of women in their 60s. And while 48% of 20-somethings said they cared about being promoted within their company (compared to 20% of women in their 60s), 57% of older women said being spiritual was important to success (compared to 42% of younger women). In other words, older women tend to have a much broader and less conventional definition of success. (You can read more about our poll here.)

How does your definition of success compare to other women’s? How different are women from men in the way they think about their careers? Take this quiz and find out:

(These results were based on the interviews conducted by the polling company Penn Shoen Berland with 1000 women and 300 men from May 16, 2014 to May 22, 2014.)

TIME Time/Real Simple Poll

Why Failure Is the Key to Success for Women

Germany, Businesswoman with file on table
Getty Images

Results from a new poll suggest that women need to take more risks

When I bodysurfed with my three brothers as a kid, I didn’t hate wiping out as much as I hated my brothers’ laughing at me when I emerged from the wash of a big wave spluttering and gasping for air, swimsuit askew. I had a choice, I could either stop bodysurfing (and thus get left behind) or get used to getting dumped. Eventually I figured out a solution: wipe yourself out so you get used to it and don’t dread it as much.

What I discovered after a few self-imposed poundings was that if you can find the sand, you can find the air; it’s in the exact opposite direction. And the wave is always happy to introduce you to the sand. Usually it was right where my face was planted. So, if you let the surf fling you about a bit, you can eventually get the sand under your feet and emerge from the water with your swimsuit and composure more or less intact. I still got dumped, but I did it with a little more dignity.

What I now realize I was learning to do, was fail.

Women need to fail. They need to fail hard and they need to fail often. It’s the only way they’re going to succeed. It seems cruel to say that. For many women, lack of success is as familiar as breakfast cereal, except they eat it three meals a day. But a new poll conducted for Time and Real Simple magazines suggests that an unwillingness to fail or a fear of doing anything that could lead to a washout might be one of the pinch-points that is impeding women’s progress to the head office. Failures happen to everyone, but these poll results suggest that women fear them more and perhaps don’t bounce out of the surf from them quite so readily.

As part of an ongoing national conversation about why women occupy leadership roles in much smaller numbers than their education, their ability and just simple math would suggest, the polling company Penn Shoen Berland asked 1000 women about success, what it meant to them and what they felt it took to be successful. They also asked 300 men some of the questions to offer a point of comparison. The women ranged in age from 20 to 69 and about 40% of them were in paid employment.

Some of the poll data confirmed what our gut tells us: for women success is less like a spearfishing trip and more like collecting shells on the beach. It’s not a linear process, with just one goal in mind. Secondly, motherhood has a huge influence on women’s outlook, both in her definition of success (it widens) and in her bandwidth (it bifurcates). Other results were more surprising: being good at their jobs was vastly more important to women than men in our survey. And almost half of them believe they are paid less than men for doing an equivalent job.

The biggest bogeyman in the discussions about what’s holding women back is a lack of confidence. Why do women not ask for higher salaries when negotiating? Confidence. Why are women the last to put up their hands for a promotion? Confidence. Why don’t more women run for office? Confidence. Plus all the guff they’d have to take about their hair.

That idea may need refining. One of the clearest finding to emerge from the Time/Real Simple poll is that women aren’t much less confident than men. About 45% of people regardless of gender regard themselves as confident. But many more women—nearly 80%—say it’s an important part of success. Only 63% of men do. That is, women and men are confident in equal measure. But more women think it’s important.

Female workers, the poll numbers show, labor just as hard, believe they are just as qualified, and have as much professional respect as their peers. That sounds a lot like confidence. Yet they just don’t seem to swim for the waves the men do. Roughly three quarters of both men and women said they would not want their boss’s job. But, if offered the position, more than half the men would take it anyway and fewer than a third of the women would. Why do the men believe they could do the job and the women don’t?

The demands of motherhood may be one of the forces at play here, but it’s not the only one. According to the poll, women’s hunger for success dwindles as they age. Almost 75% of women in their 20s regard it as very important to be successful. By their 40s and 50s—the age at which people often become senior executives—only 50% of the women feel the same way. About half the 20 year old women surveyed considered it vital to get promoted. Less than a third of women in their 40s felt the same way.

If this were all just because women wanted time and energy and bandwidth for that resource-intensive home-based start-up called parenting, then it follows that their desire to contribute to the success of their team or to work as hard would ebb too. But it doesn’t wane at all, no matter the age. Women seem to want to put in the time and effort, but not to expect the rewards. Or the status.

Perhaps there’s an answer in women’s attitude to innovation. More than 40% of women believe the ability to innovate is one of the passports to success. But only a few women think they carry that passport. What do confidence and innovation have in common? They can’t be learned without making mistakes. Acquiring them without going through failure is not an option. Failure often hurts, but as Lawrence of Arabia said (in the movie, at least) “the trick is not minding that it hurts” and swimming back through the swell to try again. Women seem less eager to do this. What is innovation, after all, but failing to solve a problem a little less badly each time?

One nugget from the poll encapsulates this quite neatly: to prepare for a big presentation women are more likely than men to do a lot of research and give themselves a pep talk. Men, on the other hand, were more likely than women to give themselves a treat, take meds or practice their power pose in the bathroom. The men are much more likely to revel in the high wire act, to enjoy the risk, than women. (Either that or their meds are amazing.)

It makes sense that women are risk averse. That tendency has protected them and their offspring for centuries. It fortified those pioneering female business leaders who were under a higher level of scrutiny even as recently as this decade. But if women hope to get to the corner office, to that mythical realm that smells like Y chromosomes and golf shoes, they have to be prepared to fall on their faces. And get back on up again.

So here’s a suggestion. Go forth, ladies and louse up. Muff it. Make a blunder. Botch it up royally. Make a complete balls of it. The guys do it all the time. Just before they get promoted.

 

Take Our Poll: What Does Success Mean to You?

TIME Internet

Kickstarting Equal Pay: Women Out-Raise Men on Crowdfunding Sites

Call it the funding gap instead of the pay gap

It’s an unfortunate but well-known fact that women trail men in most metrics of business success. But a recent study shows there’s one area of enterprise where women are surging ahead: raising money online via crowdfunding.

On Kickstarter, where backers make monetary donations to projects and businesses in exchange for small rewards, about two-thirds of women-led technology projects reach their fundraising goals, compared with a little less than one-third of male tech ventures, according to the July study from the University of Pennsylvania. Overall, the study found that women are 13% more likely to meet their Kickstarter goals, after controlling for factors like project type and amount of money.

Ethan Mollick, an assistant professor at the Wharton business school at Penn who co-wrote the study, told the Wall Street Journal that women’s success on Kickstarter may be precisely because they are so underrepresented in areas like gaming and technology. These female-started ventures get backed by “women who are activists who want to reach out and help other women,” he said.

That was certainly the experience of Joanna Griffiths, who raised $100,000 on Indiegogo, another crowdfunding site, for her women’s underwear line Knix Wear Inc.. The money came largely from women backers. “It’s a female product. It’s a female team,” she told WSJ. “There’s very much a connection there.”

Alicia Robb, a senior fellow at the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, authored another study on crowdfunding that found 40% of Kickstarter ventures funded by women were led by women, compared with only 23% of projects backed by men.

In other words, women are more likely to support other women than men are.

TIME Congress

Two Charts That Show How Women Leaders Trail Men At Ballot Box

Tulsi Gabbard
Hawaii House candidate Tulsi Gabbard is applauded by women House members at the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C. Lynne Sladky—AP

Women make up a majority of voters in national elections, but far from a majority of those elected to serve

Many people believe that we live in a new era in which glass ceilings are being broken and in which women are gaining more say and power. But are women getting a large enough say in our country’s political decisions?

Research engine FindTheBest compiled data on all 538 current members of Congress and calculated the percentage of women serving in Congress by state.

The only state with complete female representation is New Hampshire, with all four delegates (two in the House and two in the Senate). Hawaii comes in second with 75% women (out of four) and then Maine, where the congressional representatives are half women and half men. The following 47 states all have less than 50% women representing their citizens in Congress.

Of the 16 states that have no women serving in Congress, Georgia has the most Congressional seats at 16, followed by Virginia and New Jersey, which both have 13.

Among the bigger states with most Congressional seats, Texas has three female delegates (7%) and 35 male (92%)—a much wider gap than California’s 20 women (36%) and 35 men (63%).

FindTheBest also collected data on all current members of state legislatures.

Although both genders are at least represented in all 50 states, not a single state has a legislature that is at least half female. Colorado has the highest percentage of women serving the state, comprising 41 percent. Vermont takes the second highest spot, with a legislative body is that 40% female and 59% male, and Arizona, which is 35% female and 64% male.

Among the states with the lowest percentage of women serving the state legislature is Louisiana (11% female and 88% male) and South Carolina (12% female and 87% male).

TIME Internet

The Surprising Reasons Men Love the Kim Kardashian Game

Everyone wants to be Kim K.

You already know that everyone and her sister and her aunt and her mother is playing Kim Kardashian: Hollywood, the mobile game which has reportedly brought in hundreds of millions in revenue and was released in a desktop version this week. What you may not know is that her brother and uncle and dad are playing, too.

Though Kim K. is built around the pursuit of traditionally feminine activities – clothes, dating, modeling – men can be just as taken with it as women. I got my first inkling of this when I told two different male friends that I was trying to pinpoint what was so fascinating about the game, and gave them a little précis of how it worked. Their reactions were more or less identical: “Huh. Weird. Sounds a little boring. I’m downloading it right now.”

This got me curious: what about this modeling-and-celebrity game appealed so urgently to men? I emailed and chatted with eight guys – most straight, some gay, most in their 20s and 30s (ranging from E-list to A-list in the game’s rankings) about why they played Kim K.

The game doesn’t market itself specifically to women – you can play as either sex, dating either sex. Mark, a 29-year-old poet and teacher, says he played a woman in the game (named Mark) specifically because he’s a man: “I have always been interested in bucking expectations with gender roles — I’m a chubby white guy with a beard, but I’ve also done drag, sung Madonna at karaoke nights, etc.”

's character, , rocks a swimsuit ensemble made popular by Kim Kardashian herself.
Mark Cugini’s character, Mark Cugini, rocks a swimsuit ensemble made popular by Kim Kardashian herself. Courtesy of Mark Cugini

Andrew, one of the friends I introduced to the game, made the same choice for the opposite reason: the male gaze. “I expected to spend a lot of time looking at my avatar on screen,” he said, “and I like looking at women more than at men.”

Greg Seals, a 22-year-old writer, played as a guy and started out designing his character to dress like him, but “somehow it devolved into this douchey-looking L.A. guy who is probably closeted, works out at Equinox way too much, and would be mean to me in real life. In essence, I’ve created a monster.”

But though the casting is gender-blind, the plot, such as it is, is arranged around posing for pictures, changing your clothes, and going on dates (though often just to be seen with someone who has more social capital than you). These are, of course, issues of interest to the population at large; yes, for the most part we aren’t models, but most of us engage in romance and almost all of us wear clothes. But these subjects, the clothing especially, are often pigeonholed as being primarily women’s concerns. This alone should guarantee that Kim K. is seen as a “girl” pastime – the game is very, very into clothes, alerting you when you attain each level that you have new outfits available. One of the big enticements to spend real-people money is “K-stars,” silver coins that can be exchanged for new clothes, shoes, or hair. The new duds can be very, very tempting.

That’s true for the men as well. Far from writing Kim K. off as some kind of ladies’ dress-up game, most of the guys I talked to mentioned the costuming as a draw. In their regular lives, men (especially straight men, like the majority of my correspondents) are rarely rewarded for fashion skills, and they’re socialized early on to devalue most sartorial concerns as “girly.” Some of them, at least, are grateful for a context like Kim K. that brings dress-up back to the fore.

Don’t believe me? You should meet writer and recruiter Kevin Fanning’s character Kloaca (“It was the first word with the ‘K’ sound that came to my mind. I realized later that a cloaca isn’t what I thought it was, and that the name was actually kind of gross, but it was too late to do anything about it”). Kevin changes her outfits at least once a day, “usually pants and tees for the day and dresses for the evening. I’m aware that this is insane.” Clothes aren’t a big concern of Kevin’s in real life, but they’re his primary goal in the game; he puts Kloaca through her modeling paces just so he can “make that paper” to buy better outfits.

Kevin Fanning says he had to save up "forever" to afford his character Kloaca's turquoise pixie haircut.
Kevin Fanning says he had to save up “forever” to afford his character Kloaca’s turquoise pixie haircut. Courtesy of Kevin Fanning

But you don’t have to be that attentive to your fashionable Tamagotchi to appreciate Kim K.’s offerings. When I asked Mark what he thought of the available outfits, he sighed, “Ugh. The best. I need the friggin’ space pants ASAP.” (Mark’s character is an A-lister who has climbed all the way to #1 in the fame rankings, so he sees more clothing choices than punters like me; I don’t even know what “space pants” are.)

Matt, 39, who’s playing as a man, is disappointed that his outfit choices aren’t more diverse: “I think it suffers the same thing that male fashion does generally, in that there is only so far you can go with some sort of trousers and shirt.” Greg had similar issues: “I was hoping that if I played as a guy I could wear some of the crazy outfits, masks, and Givenchy Kanye wears.”

Most of the fellas agree that this game kind of sucks as a game, although game developer Matt called the gameplay “decent enough.” And yet, even when you’re bored, it’s somehow hard to walk away. As Greg put it, “All you’re doing is sitting there and mindlessly tapping the screen. There’s not even any strategy, really. But there’s something so addicting about every time I get one of the ‘feed updates’ and watch my fan count go up and my ranking rise. I don’t want to know what that means about me as a human.”

“The game is pretty much the shallowest thing I’ve ever encountered and yet I can’t really help myself,” agreed Alex, 25, who says he got hooked after his girlfriend downloaded the game onto his phone while he slept.

In other words, men play Kim K. because they like the dress-up, because there’s something appealing about the fantasy of a meteoric rise to fame, and because it’s addictive in spite of the dull gameplay. These are the same reasons I play it. Men are not immune to the appeal of beautiful objects, charmed lives, and pretending to be a rich, beloved semi-princess. They’re just not usually encouraged to value those things. Kim K. provides a space for dudes to engage in pursuits typically sidelined as feminine, whether those pursuits are valuable or vacant.

And that’s part of the point. Fantasy games like Kim K. allow you to try on the trappings of another person – someone whose looks, goals, achievements, even gender may be very different from yours – in a simple and protected way. “It’s a safe sandbox for vanity role play,” said Justin, the other friend I introduced to the game. (It’s amazing, really, that both of them are still talking to me.) In this, he says, it’s not that different from other computer games where you play a customizable character: “Up to your teenage years, you get to play a lot with identity as expressed in your clothing, but later in life you lose that freedom. Video games give you a safe space to tinker with that – you can be a man, you can be a woman, you can be a space alien or an orc, and you can wear the clothes that express that persona.” What appeals to men about Kim K. is, ultimately, the same thing that appeals to women: the ability to play, superficially, symbolically, with identity and self-presentation. Men and women who build a character in a game like Kim K. aren’t looking for real insight, but it’s no coincidence that dress-up is the biggest draw.

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood isn’t intended to let men know what women’s lives are like. It’s not intended to let us mundane people know what celebrities’ lives are like, either. But for a little while, it does let you try on their clothes.

 

TIME gender equality

France Eases Abortion Restrictions in Sweeping Equality Law

France's Women, Youth and Sports Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem arrives to attend a dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris May 5, 2014.
France's Women, Youth and Sports Minister Najat Vallaud-Belkacem arrives to attend a dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris May 5, 2014. Gonzalo Fuentes—Reuters

Called "historic" step in gender equality push

France passed legislation this week allowing women to get abortions during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy with no questions asked, lifting previous restrictions as part of a sweeping and historic law meant to increase gender equality in the country.

Previously, a French woman could only get an abortion if her condition put “her in a situation of distress.” The new law, signed Tuesday by French President François Hollande, also ensures women can access information about obtaining abortions, Reuters reports. The legislation provides protections for domestic abuse victims and supports more equal division of childcare and representation in politics. And it strives to creates a more equal job environment by encouraging men to take paternity leaves.

“At a time when women in many parts of the world, including in the United States and Spain, are seeing their rights restricted, violated, and disrespected, France has set an important example for the rest of the globe with its progressive stance toward reproductive health care,” Lilian Sepúlveda, director of the Global Legal Program at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Ensuring a woman’s right to control her fertility is fundamental to achieving gender equality. But passing today’s law is just the first step—we now look to French policymakers to ensure women see the benefits of this historic law implemented this year.”

When the law was initially introduced, France’s minister for women’s rights Najat Vallaud-Belkacem told the Guardian: “I don’t believe that history is going to spontaneously take us forward, so going towards more equality needs us to be politically proactive.”

[Reuters]

TIME feminism

Advocates Seize on White House Africa Summit to Call for End to Child Marriage

US - Africa Leaders Summit Continues In Washington DC
Swaziland King Mswati III, South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, Djbouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh, Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, South Africa President Jacob Zuma, left to right, and other African leaders listen to U.S. President Barack Obama deliver closing remarks during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel August 5, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Activist groups called on African government officials to ban child marriage amid President Barack Obama’s first U.S.-Africa summit Tuesday.

“Child marriage is a complex human rights issue. It violates myriad women’s rights,” said Amanda Klasing, a women’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch, during a discussion at United Nations Foundation on Tuesday hosted by the International Center for Research on Women.

The summit was one of many sideline events in Washington coinciding with the U.S.-Africa Summit, a three-day gathering that brings together President Barack Obama with nearly 50 heads of state from across the African continent.

Advocates for the rights of women and girls said issues facing women and girls must be addressed at the summit—particularly the marrying off of young girls. According to a recent UNICEF report, marriage at a young age can lead to women who are less educated, more susceptible to challenges during birth (due to lack of education) and less likely to receive medical care during pregnancy.

The greater issue, advocates said, is that marriage prevents young women from making decisions about their own bodies and lives.

An estimated 700 million women across the globe were once child brides, according to a recent UNICEF report, and about 14 million girls are married off before they reach the age of 18 every year. The International Center for Research on Women found Africa is home to 15 of the 20 countries where child marriage is extremely prevalent.

Without empowering women, says Behailu T. Weldeyohannes, a professor of law at Jimma University in Ethiopia, there is little chance the continent’s burgeoning economy will flourish.

“Africa right now is considered as a poor continent, but potentially it is not poor,” said Weldeyohannes. “If we address gender-based violence and if we provide education, if we provide health, if we provide other services to women—that by itself can increase the [Gross Domestic Product].”

Economic data backs this up. A 2011 World Bank study on the economic benefits of investing in girls found that if young Nigerian women and men had equal rates of economic activity—meaning active participation in the job market by both genders—annual GDP growth in the country would increase by 3.5%.

There are certainly precedents in intervention programs aimed at empowering young women that leaders could look to, should the activists’ words take root. A pilot study conducted by the Population Council and United Nations Population Fund in collaboration with stakeholders in Ethiopia was able to prevent girls age 10 to 14 from marrying young by working with communities, providing school supplies, and setting up mentor groups with girls.

But community-based work alone can’t solve the problem — Governments must put in place laws that promote equality and protect girls as they develop. Dorothy Aken’Ova, the executive director of the International Center for Reproductive Health and Sexual Rights in Nigeria, says Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is reportedly attending the Summit, has yet to prove he’s willing to take a real stance on protecting women, even after the kidnapping of over 200 girls from a school by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram drew the world’s attention and ire.

“I am concerned that [Jonathan] is not connecting with the groups that matter adequately on this situation,” Aken’Ova says. “If he could only pause for once and get some feminist analysis into the situation then he will not be far away from a lasting solution. But the question is, is he ready to engage with the feminist movement in the country?”

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