TIME Newsmaker Interview

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand Won’t Name Colleague Who Called Her ‘Porky’

Senators Discuss Legislation To Counter Sexual Assaults On Campus
Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) participates in a news conference about new legislation aimed at curbing sexual assults on college and university campuses at the U.S. Capitol. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Her book is a call for women to run for office, though she says she has no current designs on the nation’s highest office

She still considers herself the “loud mouth” and “fog horn” her father teasingly called her as a child, but Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said Monday that she is not going to say which colleague called her “porky” after the birth of her second child, or which elderly senator told her not to slim down too much because he likes “my girls chubby.”

Those disclosures in her book, “Off the Sidelines,” which is due out Tuesday, made waves when they were printed in People Magazine last week. While taken aback by the clamor to disclose her critics’ names, Gillibrand says she knew that chapter—the one about her struggles with her weight—would be “the one every women’s magazine would excerpt,” she tells TIME. “I use these illustrations as an example of much larger point. It’s important to have a debate about how women are treated in the workplace. I’m not alone in having someone say something stupid. It’s less important who they are than what they said.”

The New York Democrat is using her book to promote her push to engage more women in politics. She holds her own life up as an example of finding a way to have it all: the big career, two young sons and loving marriage. “We need new and better policies that support women and allow all women to rise,” Gillibrand writes. “We need to end the cycle of women studying hard, starting careers, climbing through the ranks, taking time off to care for children, and never again finding a job as good as the one they left.”

Gillibrand is frank about the hardships: dispiriting credit or criticisms over her appearance, being unable even now to afford full time help and coming home from Congress to clean the bathroom when you have three men in the house (boys, apparently, don’t have great aim). But she also waxes poetic about the good she feels she has been able to accomplish: passing health care for the 9/11 first responders, tackling sexual assault in the military and on college campuses and repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

Gillibrand emphasizes that her flexible schedule in the Senate is what allows her to do it all. “These challenges that I face are common and not surprising, and I have it so much easier than working moms,” says Gillibrand, whose husband works in New York and lives up there for most of the week, leaving Gillibrand to care single-handedly for their two young sons in Washington. “I don’t have to be at work at a certain time.”

She writes about the importance of being unabashedly ambitious without the fear of seeming like, well, a bitch. “I was nicknamed Tracy Flick, the aggressive, comical, and somewhat unhinged blond high school student played by Reese Witherspoon in the movie Election,” Gillibrand writes. “It was a put down to me and other ambitious women, meant to keep us in our place. Yes, I’m competitive. I fight for what I believe in, and I drive hard toward my goals. Does that make me ruthless and crazed? No.”

Too many women, she argues, sit on the sidelines because they fear ambition. She says she timed the book to come out just before the midterm elections because she hopes to inspire more women to go out and vote, and to realize that political ambitions of their own are more achievable than they may think. But, when asked if she has further political ambitions in life, Gillibrand is clear about being happy where she is—and that her legislative plate is full with a reauthorization of the 9/11 First Responders bill and another pass at getting prosecution of cases of sexual assault in the military removed from the chain of command. Her bill fell six votes short of breaking a filibuster earlier this year.

She says she doesn’t want to run for governor and hasn’t the slightest intention of seeking the Democratic nomination for President in 2016 against presumed front-runner Hillary Clinton, her predecessor in the Senate and who wrote the glowing forward to Gillibrand’s book (“For Kirsten,” Clinton writes, “public service isn’t a job. It’s a calling.”).

But the book tour still means she gets asked questions about her future ambitions.

“Will you run for President?” I asked her on Monday.

“No,” she said.

“What if Hillary doesn’t run?”

“No.”

“Are you ruling it out?”

“Ask me in 10 years.”

“How about in 2020?”

“No.”

“2024?”

“No.”

“Which will come first, a third kid or running for President?”

“Oooh,” Gillibrand said, “That is such a hard question. I think they’re both off the table. Probably having a third—probably have a third would come first if I could convince my husband. I’d love having a third.”

TIME 2014 elections

Losing Among Women, Republican Scott Brown Offers Them Awards

Scott Brown Campaign Rally
Former Sen. Scott Brown, candidate for U.S. Senate in New Hampshire, holds a campaign town hall rally at the Pinkerton Academy in Derry, N.H., on Aug. 18, 2014. Bill Clark—CQ Roll Call/Getty Images

The recipient is puzzled and embarrassed by the honor

Janice Leahy, a small businesswoman in New Hampshire, still doesn’t understand why Republican senate candidate Scott Brown gave her a “hero” award when they met in May. “I’m an ordinary person,” Leahy tells TIME. “I’m no hero. I don’t look at myself as person of stature or significance or anything else.”

Armed with spreadsheets, Leahy had met with Brown at a diner in Windham to talk about the burden of Obamacare on her small software and professional services businesses. That’s when he presented her with a polished black plaque, emblazoned with the words, “Women for Scott Brown.” A press release followed. “I’m pleased to award Janice with a Hero Award to celebrate her determination to maintain a business despite government red tape and burdensome regulations that make for a very tough environment not only for women-oriented businesses, but for everyone,” Brown said in the statement. “That’s why I support full repeal of Obamacare.”

Leahy, a Republican, says she was left confused and embarrassed by the whole episode. She also says she is not sure she will vote for Brown in November, given his 2012 vote against an equal pay bill, an issue close to her heart given that she works in a male-dominated industry. “I’m not happy about his vote against it and I would need to know more about it before I vote for him,” Leahy says. “I haven’t decided yet which way I’ll vote in November.”

The episode is emblematic for Brown, who has been struggling to connect with women in his bid to unseat Democrat Jeanne Shaheen. Although Brown and Shaheen are neck-and-neck in polls overall—with Brown garnering 44% of likely voters to Shaheen’s 46%—Brown is losing women to Shaheen by 39% to 53%, according to an Aug. 21 WMUR Granite State poll.

He has tried to chip away at this deficit on the campaign trail. Brown’s campaign defines “The Women for Brown ‘Hero’ Awards” as commendations “meant to recognize individuals who are contributing to the economic life of New Hampshire, helping our community thrive and building strong families, sometimes despite adverse circumstances.” Emails to the campaign asking about how the honorees are selected went unanswered.

The awards have been timed to underscore policy talking points the campaign has sought to spread. The second plaque was given to Naswa Resorts owner Cynthia Markis and her mother, Hope, for operating their business despite high energy and Obamacare costs. And Brown gave a third award to Commandant Peggy LaBrecque, who runs the state’s only longterm care facility for veterans, on Veterans Day, using the event to highlight a package of veterans policy initiatives he unveiled that day. Repeated calls for comment to Markis and LaBrecque went unanswered.

Shaheen is the first woman in U.S. history to be elected both governor and senator. If Brown loses, he’ll also make history: He’d be the first man to lose two Senate races to two women. In 2012, he lost his Senate seat in neighboring Massachusetts to Elizabeth Warren. Shaheen’s campaign says Brown’s awards are patronizing towards women. “New Hampshire women aren’t looking for plaques, they are looking for a Senator who stands up equal pay for equal work and protecting access to basic health services like mammograms —and Scott Brown has proven he can’t be trusted to do that,” says Harrell Kirstein, a Shaheen campaign spokesman.

Brown’s challenge is shared by Republicans across the country. Unlike 2010, the GOP wave year when Republicans won the female vote for the first time since Ronald Reagan, women have helped Democrats stay competitive so far in several races across the country this year, including New Hampshire, North Carolina and Louisiana. Democrats have made a concerted effort to appeal to female voters, hoping to avoid another wave of losses like in 2010. They’ve introduced a women’s economic agenda and have repeatedly hit Republicans for waging a ‘War on Women,’ over access to abortion and contraceptives.

Leahy says she now sees the award as a thing meant to mean more for Brown than her. “I think it’s his push to show women in the area he understands inherently their issues, what’s near and dear in their hearts,” Leahy says.

But she noted that Brown has a tough task ahead of him, given the pride the state now has in having an entirely female Congressional delegation, which includes Brown’s rival Shaheen. “I do think it’s the coolest historical thing that we have full female congressional delegation,” Leahy said. “Being a woman, I like that that’s brought to the forefront all the time.”

TIME isis

How ISIS Is Recruiting Women From Around the World

Mideast Syria Rebel Attrition
Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria marching in Raqqa, Syria, on Jan. 14, 2014 AP

How the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria recruits female converts, and why

Even as the world expressed its horror at the beheadings of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff by the radical militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), there were those who exulted on social media. Self-proclaimed Western jihadists and ISIS supporters in Syria, these people proclaimed victory and promised more killings to come. “I wish I did it,” noted one on a Tumblr blog. Another asked for links to any videos of Foley’s execution and cackled, in a slang-filled Twitter post, that the “UK must b shaking up ha ha.”

They were both women. The Twitter personality, Khadijah Dare, whose handle Muhajirah fi Sham means “female immigrant to Syria,” declared her desire to replicate the execution: “I wna b da 1st UK woman 2 kill a UK or US terorrist!” Her statement may be pure jingoism, but as ISIS attracts more female adherents, the likelihood of seeing a woman brandishing a knife in the terrorist group’s name only increases.

Women have always played a role in war, if not in actual combat then in the vital areas of intelligence gathering, medical care, food preparation and support. ISIS’s vicious campaign to carve out a state ruled by a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic law is no different, though its strict laws prohibiting mixing between genders has limited women’s presence on the front lines. Instead, women are drawn — or recruited — into vital support roles through effective social-media campaigns that promise devout jihadist husbands, a home in a true Islamic state and the opportunity to devote their lives to their religion and their God.

The exact number of women who have joined jihadist groups in Syria is impossible to ascertain, but terrorism analysts at London’s International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation estimate there are some 30 European women in Iraq and Syria who either accompanied their jihadist husbands or have gone with the intention to marry members of ISIS and other militant groups. That may be less than 10% of the number of Western men currently estimated to be fighting in Syria and Iraq, but the fear is that the number of women involved may grow more quickly. A recently established French hotline for reporting signs of jihadist radicalization has seen 45% of its inquiries involve women, according to the Interior Ministry, and there have been several cases of women, one as young as 16, arrested at France’s airports under suspicion of trying to travel Syria to join Islamist rebels.

Two Austrian girls, ages 15 and 16, went to Syria in April, and in May, 16-year-old British twin sisters followed their older brother to Syria so they could marry jihadists, according to Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper. Nineteen-year-old American convert to Islam Shannon Maureen Conley was arrested by the FBI in April as she prepared to fly to Turkey with Syria as her ultimate destination. She has been charged with conspiring to help a foreign terrorist organization. At least one Canadian woman and two teenage Somalis from Norway are known to have joined jihadist groups in Syria as well. Most of the women are drawn to ISIS, which actively seeks out Western recruits as part of its strategy to expand internationally.

At the beginning, ISIS actively discouraged women from joining. Members active on social media urged their female followers to support jihad with fundraising and by asking their menfolk to join the fight. Women had no place in war, they said. But as the group came closer to its goal of establishing an Islamic state, exceptions were made. Women are necessary for a state to function, says Shiraz Maher of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. Calls went out for female doctors, nurses and engineers. When ISIS took over the Syrian city of Raqqa in 2013, it required a female security force to ensure that local women complied with Islamic laws of dress and conduct. It needed female police to check women passing through checkpoints, in case they were carrying arms for the opposition. Most of all, the Islamic State needed families to grow.

ISIS’s social-media campaign to recruit women isn’t nearly as developed as the one that calls for fighters, but it doesn’t have to be. Western women inspired by fighters’ postings can find like-minded women among the followers, and build a community. From there they easily find the Twitter pages and Tumblr accounts of women who have already made it to Syria — women like al-Khanssa, whose Tumblr photo blog is full of guidance for would-be female jihadists. She offers advice on what to bring (warm clothes, a hair dryer) and what not to bring (coffee and tea — easy to find) interspersed with Quranic verses, religious instructions culled from Islamic websites and photos of Osama bin Laden’s mentor, Abdullah Azzam.

Umm Layth, another Westerner in Syria with a large social-media following, tells her followers that the most difficult part about joining the fight is opposition from family back home. “The first phone call you make once you cross the borders is one of the most difficult things you will ever have to do … when you hear them sob and beg like crazy on the phone for you to come back it’s so hard,” she writes on her Tumblr blog. British authorities believe that she is 20-year-old Aqsa Mahmood, who was reported missing from her Glasgow home by her family in November.

But for any woman who thinks coming to Syria and joining ISIS might bring new opportunities or equal rights, al-Khanssa is clear. “The main role of the muhajirah [female migrant] here is to support her husband and his jihad and [God willing] to increase this ummah [Islamic community].” She follows with a quote culled from a Salafist website: “The best of women are those who do not see the men, and who are not seen by men.” ISIS’s recruitment may take place with 21st century technology, but when it comes to women, its ethos is firmly ground in the seventh.

TIME Family

Why I Don’t Eat With My Kids

Who invited those two? The 'family dinner' ain't all it's cracked up to be
Who invited those two? The 'family dinner' ain't all it's cracked up to be GMVozd; Getty Images

The curative properties of the nightly family dinner have been greatly overexaggerated

I love my daughters, I really do, more than I can coherently describe. I love my dinner hours too — not nearly as much, of course, but I’ve been on familiar terms with dinner for a lot longer than I’ve been on familiar terms with my children. Frankly, I don’t see much reason to introduce them to each other.

It’s not that my wife and I don’t eat with our daughters sometimes. We do. It’s just that it often goes less well than one might like. For one thing, there’s the no-fly zone surrounding my younger daughter’s spot at the table, an invisible boundary my older daughter dare not cross with touch, gesture or even suspicious glance, lest a round of hostile shelling ensue.

There is too the deep world-weariness my older daughter has begun bringing with her to meals, one that, if she’s feeling especially 13-ish, squashes even the most benign conversational gambit with silence, an eye roll, or a look of disdain so piteous it could be sold as a bioterror weapon. Finally, there is the coolness they both show to the artfully prepared meal of, say, lemon sole and capers — an entrée that is really just doing its best and, at $18.99 per lb., is accustomed to better treatment.

All of this and oh so much more has always made me greatly prefer feeding the girls first, sitting with them while they eat and, with my own dinner not on the line, enjoying the time we spend together. Later, my wife and I can eat and actually take pleasure in the experience of our food. But that, apparently, is a very big problem.

We live in the era of the family dinner, or, more appropriately, The Family Dinner™, an institution so grimly, unrelentingly invoked that I’ve come to assume it has its own press rep and brand manager. The Family Dinner™, so parents are told, is now recognized as one of the greatest pillars of child-rearing, a nightly tradition you ignore at your peril, since that way lie eating disorders, obesity, drug use and even, according to a recent study out of McGill University, an increased risk of the meal skipper being cyberbullied.

O.K., there is some truth in all of this. Sit your kids down at the table and talk with them over dinner every day and you have a better chance of controlling what they eat, learning about their friends, and sussing out if they’re troubled about something or up to no good. But as with so much in the way of health trends in a gluten-free, no-carb, low-fat nation, enough, at some point, is enough.

For one thing, the always invoked, dew-kissed days of the entire nuclear family sitting down to a balanced, home-cooked meal were less than they’re cracked up to be. Ever hear of the Loud family? Ever watch an episode of Mad Men — particularly one that plays out in the Draper kitchen? Welcome to family dinner in the boomer era.

Much more important, as a new study from North Carolina State University shows, the dinner-hour ideal is simply not possible for a growing number of families. The researchers, a trio of sociologists and anthropologists, spent 18 months conducting extensive interviews with 150 white, African-American and Latina mothers from across the socioeconomic spectrum, and an additional 250 hours observing 12 lower-income and poor families to get at the truth of what’s possible at mealtime and what’s not.

The first problem, the moms in the study almost universally agree, is that it is always more time-consuming to prepare dinner than you think it will be. Michael Pollan, the ubiquitous author and food activist, has written, “Today, the typical American spends a mere twenty-seven minutes a day on food preparation, and another four minutes cleaning up. That’s less than half the time spent cooking and cleaning in 1965.” To which I say, huh? And so do the moms in the study.

“I just hate the kitchen,” said one. “I know I can cook but it’s the planning of the meal, and seeing if they’re going to like it, and the mess that you make, and then the mess afterwards.” Added another: “I don’t want to spend an hour cooking after I pick [my daughter] up from school every day.” All of that sounds a lot more familiar to me than Pollan’s rosy 27+4 formulation.

Even if prep time weren’t a problem, dealing with the scheduling vagaries in two-income households can require day-to-day improvisation that makes regular, predictable mealtimes impossible. One couple studied by the NC State researchers worked for the same fast-food company in different parts of the state. Both parents often don’t know the next day’s schedule until the night before, which means inventing dinner plans on the fly and often calling on a grandmother for help. That kind of scrambling is part of what the researchers describe as “invisible labor,” work that is every bit as much a part of dinner as preparing and serving the food, but is rarely acknowledged.

Finally, there is the eternal struggle of trying to prepare a meal that everyone at the table will tolerate — a high-order bit of probability math in which the number of acceptable options shrinks as the number of people who get to weigh in grows. “I don’t need it, I don’t want it, I never had it!” declared one 4-year-old in one observed household. Parents throughout history have dealt with that kind of reaction with all manner of wheedling, bargaining and here-comes-the-airplane-into-the-hangar games, to say nothing of one mother in the study who simply turned a timer on and told her child to keep eating until the buzzer sounded.

Again, none of these problems diminish the psychological and nutritional value of a family sitting down to eat a home-prepared meal together — but perhaps that meal should be an aspirational option, not a nightly requirement. The family-dinner ideal, the authors write, has become “a tasty illusion, one that is moralistic and rather elitist … Intentionally or not, it places the burden of a healthy, home-cooked meal on women.”

With that said, I shall now open some wine and grill my wife and myself some salmon. After all, the girls are in bed.

TIME Supreme Court

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to Receive Hepburn Medal

Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor in Washington on April 2, 2012.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor in Washington on April 2, 2012. Cliff Owen—AP

Justice Sotomayor has been named the 2015 recipient of the Katharine Hepburn Medal awarded by Bryn Mawr College

Bryn Mawr College will present Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor with the 2015 Katharine Hepburn Medal in 2015, the school announced Tuesday. The award is presented annually to women who “change their worlds,” according to a release on Bryn Mawr’s website.

Winners are selected based on their commitment to both civic engagement and the arts, which were passions of the medal’s namesake. The late Hepburn is recognized as an early feminist who acted in dozens of films and received four Oscars for her work.

“As the first Hispanic and third female Supreme Court justice, Justice Sotomayor is truly a trailblazer,” said Bryn Mawr President Kim Cassidy in a release. “Her twenty-year commitment to the federal judiciary reveals her unwavering commitment both to public service and the importance of the legal system in our society and exemplifies the attributes deserving of the Hepburn Medal.”

The award will be presented during a ceremony in April.

TIME 2014 Election

DNC Chair Says Republican ‘Has Given Women the Back of His Hand’

Scott Walker
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks at the Republican National Committee summer meetings in Chicago on August 8, 2014. Kamil Krzaczynski—AP

DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz escalates the War on Women rhetoric in ripping Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Update at 2:46 p.m. on Sept. 4

Democratic National Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz took the War on Women metaphor to its outer limit Wednesday, ripping Republican Governor Scott Walker over women’s issues at the Milwaukee Athletic Club.

“Scott Walker has given women the back of his hand,” said Wasserman Schultz, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I know that is stark. I know that is direct, but that is reality.”

“What Republican tea party extremists like Scott Walker are doing is they are grabbing us by the hair and pulling us back,” she added. “It is not going to happen on our watch.”

A Walker campaign spokesperson declined to comment, but did point to Republican Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch’s Journal Sentinel response urging Walker’s Democratic opponent Mary Burke to denounce Wasserman Schultz’s statements. Stephanie Wilson, a spokesperson for Burke, indicated that Wasserman Schultz should have used different language in describing differences in policy.

“That’s not the type of language that Mary Burke would use, or has used, to point out the clear differences in this contest,” says Wilson. “For the last 11 months of this campaign, and in the final 9 weeks left to go, Mary is committed to pointing out those clear differences—there is plenty that she and Governor Walker disagree on—but those disagreements can and should be pointed out respectfully.”

Wasserman Schultz admitted on Thursday that she had made a mistake.

“I shouldn’t have used the words I used,” said Wasserman Schultz in a statement. “But that shouldn’t detract from the broader point that I was making that Scott Walker’s policies have been bad for Wisconsin women, whether it’s mandating ultrasounds, repealing an equal pay law, or rejecting federal funding for preventative health care, Walker’s record speaks for itself. As for the issue of domestic violence, it’s unacceptable that a majority of congressional Republicans opposed this critical legislation [The Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013], of which I was a proud cosponsor, after blocking its reauthorization for more than a year.”

A compilation of polling conducted by Real Clear Politics shows the Burke-Walker race statistically tied.

TIME feminism

Former Harvard Sex Blogger: My Ex-Boyfriend Leaking Nude Pictures of Me Changed Who I Am—Forever

Person using a laptop in the dark
Getty Images

The nonconsensual posting of my photos was a terrorizing invasion of privacy that altered my reality and irrevocably changed the way I live, think and write

In 2008, there were no words for what happened to me. Today we call what happened to Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities—the public nonconsensual distribution of sexually explicit photos—revenge porn or cyber bullying or online harassment. I wasn’t naive. I’d been slut-shamed before. But I never considered that people would think my willingness to talk about sexuality precluded me from the expectation of privacy.

I was in my third year at Harvard, when an ex-boyfriend posted a gallery of nude photos he had taken of me eight months earlier. IvyGate, “an Ivy League blog covering news, gossip, sex, and sports,” picked up the story first, which would later become one of the site’s most popular posts. At the time, I was already in the press for writing what some described as a “sex blog” and it made me well known enough within a certain community—overachieving teenage girls, other Ivy Leaguers and sexually adventurous young women—that media outlets picked up the “story” of my nude photos. Now celebrities such as Kate Upton, Kirsten Dunst, Mary Elizabeth Winstead and others whose photos were allegedly hacked and leaked to the Internet, are being subjected to the same thing.

The public response was harder to stomach than the publication of the photos themselves. I was 20 and not actually in any position of power to protect myself. Unlike actual celebrities, I didn’t have public defenders or managers or lawyers with an interest in defending my reputation. The Harvard administration was not going to stop my peers from passing around my photos, and my classmates couldn’t be expected to be respectful. Because of the violation’s anonymous nature, I felt intensely socially ostracized, isolated and suspicious. There were entire forum threads discussing my body and appearance, and I could never know who had seen or disseminated the photos, so I lived with a constant feeling of being under surveillance. There was not even yet a vocabulary to describe the situation. I knew absolutely no one else that this had happened to.

I stopped living on campus. I stopped blogging about sex and started a Tumblr dedicated to discussing broader feminist/gender issues. Within six months, I picked up a particularly determined online stalker, who, I believe, wouldn’t have fixated on me had my nude photos not been published. The stalker (I never found out who it was, whether it was man or woman or possibly even multiple people) set up countless mirror blogs to harass my readers, posted my new boyfriend’s name, commented on articles I wrote with links to the photos and sent emails to Harvard faculty and administrators about my personal life. Both the stalker and the ex-boyfriend were fueled by the public reaction they received and motivated by the same urge to humiliate a strong, opinionated and otherwise unattainable woman. Eventually, because I didn’t turn in a final paper and therefore didn’t pass a required class, Harvard required that I go on a year-long academic leave.

When I returned, I wrote a senior thesis about sex education and the abstinence movement. I organized a conference reframing the notion of virginity, which received minor press coverage. I started to speak and write about sexual health and empowerment, gaining visibility in the feminist community. Perhaps because of my persistence, my stalker redoubled his efforts to sabotage my career and relationships by posting the names and personal details of my friends, family members, colleagues and readers on smear blogs and forums. He didn’t just want me to suffer; he wanted to discredit the work and reputation of anyone associated with me. By 2012, I had significantly scaled back my involvement in feminism, despite being offered increasingly lucrative opportunities, because the harassment had escalated to such an extent that I simply couldn’t be effective as an activist anymore.

I found myself unable to write, sleep, eat or socialize outside my home. I was not simply having an emotional breakdown but a physical one. I moved to Berlin in 2013, essentially because I lived in constant terror and couldn’t keep up the pretense of being healthy in front of friends, family, colleagues or the readers who had been following my work since I was 20. It felt inauthentic to be espousing sexual and gender liberation when I felt trapped in my own home.

I have experienced the full spectrum of online misogyny: the vengeful violation by someone I once trusted and the invasion of privacy by an obsessed but unknown stalker. In both cases, the perpetrators solicited the approval and attention of strangers and could not have succeeded if their efforts weren’t legitimized by mainstream media and public opinion. It is only now, with a public discussion about cyber harassment and online misogyny, that everyone else is learning what I realized six years ago: that we live in a sick society and the sick people are not young women like me. I was just collateral damage, and so is any woman whose freedom to exist is threatened because she happened to trust or get targeted by someone who couldn’t stand to let her live her life.

I am not the person I used to be before this ordeal. It left me mentally unstable, physically debilitated and socially isolated. I still get extremely anxious in particular social situations. Despite the outward facade of a busy and active social life, I am actually distrustful of others and fearful of intimacy. I interpret benign gestures and comments as hostile, make excuses to not go out and wonder too often what my neighbors think of me. I haven’t been able to keep up with email, and my social media presence has dwindled down to the sporadic Facebook photo of my dogs.

When I turn on my old cell phone the few months a year I am in the U.S., I get phone calls from publicists and producers, and I wonder fleetingly at the life I am missing. But to be honest, I don’t want to be on TV explaining why young men today can be driven by romantic rejection to kill, why women are afraid to use the Internet, why I no longer feel safe in America. What happened to me was not an occupational hazard of feminism. It’s an occupational hazard of being a woman. Men’s bodies are not used as weapons against them, and shame is a language that women have learned from birth. We are told that sex is something that can hurt us, that we have to constantly be on the defensive lest we attract negative attention. If we are criticized or attacked, we are asked what we did to deserve it.

What does it mean that we live in a world where this kind of thing not only happens to people, but also that there is no shortage of spectators happy to gawk and cheer on the perpetrators? Neither the law nor public opinion has been on our side. Women like me, who try to fight back, only turn themselves into bigger targets. We are blamed for not silencing ourselves and not learning our lesson the first time around.

This was a terrorizing invasion of privacy that altered my reality and irrevocably changed the way I live, think and write. It’s hard not to be resentful, but I have found a certain peace in censoring myself, leaving the country and reassessing my relationships. I have noticed also that times are changing. People are beginning to recognize the ugliness around us and the hatred that we carry inside ourselves.

I don’t feel the problem is me anymore, and despite how much this experience has made me and those I love suffer, I now have a far better sense of who I am than when I first started on this path. I can only hope the same for all those who watched me walk it.

Lena Chen is the activist and writer who authored Sex and the Ivy as an undergraduate at Harvard.

TIME Japan

Japanese Prime Minister Selects 5 Women in New Cabinet

Japan's Prime Minister Abe walks into the Prime Minister's official residence in Tokyo
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe walks into his official residence in Tokyo on Sept. 3, 2014 Yuya Shino—Reuters

PM Shinzo Abe has set a goal of having women in 30% of leadership positions by 2020

(TOKYO) — Japan’s prime minister picked a record-matching five women for his Cabinet Wednesday, sending the strongest message yet about his determination to revive the economy by getting women on board as workers and leaders.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has set a goal of having women in 30 percent of leadership positions by 2020, and proved he is out to practice what he preaches in his selection for the 18-member Cabinet, which includes Yuko Obuchi, daughter of a former prime minister, as the trade and economy minister.

Having five women in the Cabinet is extremely rare for Japan, and is the record number set in 2001. The previous Cabinet, dissolved earlier in the day, had two women ministers.

Abe has stressed that his policies of economic growth, dubbed “Abenomics,” center around utilizing the talent of women and empowering them, or so-called “womenomics.”

Since he took office in late 2012, the world’s third-biggest economy after the U.S. and China has been on a recovery track, with stock prices rising and major companies’ earnings improving.

Several top ministers were retained, such as Fumio Kishida as foreign minister and Taro Aso as finance minister, both men.

Although holding ministerial positions are in some ways ceremonial in Japan — where government affairs are largely run by professional bureaucrats, who stay on regardless of new ministers — expanding the presence of women in a place as high-profile as the Cabinet is a victory for sexual equality in Japan.

The Geneva-based World Economic Forum ranked Japan 105th in last year’s Global Gender Gap Report, which measures economic equality and political participation. Iceland was No. 1, followed by the Scandinavian nations. Germany was 14th and the U.S. 23rd.

In the U.S., President Barack Obama has three women in Cabinet positions. Women make up about half the ministers in France.

Women make up 3.9 percent of board members of listed Japanese companies, versus 12 percent in the U.S. and 18 percent in France, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Abe risked offending the long line of powerful men in his ruling party, who had been waiting to get their promotions. Some experts say provoking such anger can weaken Abe’s grip on power and can even endanger his own position.

Among the women appointed were Midori Matsushima, a former trade and economy minister, as justice minister; Sanae Takaichi, another former trade and economy minister, as minister of internal affairs and communications; and Eriko Yamatani as minister in charge of Japanese abducted by North Korea, an area she has been active in the past.

A woman was also tapped to be minister in charge of promoting women, Haruko Arimura. All five are legislators.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: September 2

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Teacher Standing in Front of a Class of Raised Hands Digital Vision.—Getty Images

1. As we approach the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps, President Obama should make good on his promise to expand this vital program.

By the Editorial Board of the New York Times

2. Journalists still believe they’re writing for the same old reasons, but the data shows they’re chasing clicks, changing the nature of their work.

By Angèle Christin at the Nieman Journalism Lab

3. A dangerous new trend of policing faculty speech at American universities is threatening academic freedom.

By David M. Perry in the Chronicle of Higher Education

4. “Infoladies” bring digital services – from filling online forms to collecting health data – to the people of Bangladesh, and could be expanded to serve many more.

By Syed Tashfin Chowdhury in Al Jazeera English

5. The new batteries coming from Tesla’s “Gigafactory” should remove the final barrier to mass-produced electric cars.

By Daniel Sparks in The Motley Fool

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Sexual Assault

3 Apps That Will Help Women Stay Safe on Campus

Circle 6

It’s back-to-school time for college students. Yet with all of the stresses of college life piling on — class, extracurricular activities, internships and active social schedules — most students aren’t thinking about how to protect themselves from sexual assault, even though they’re at a greater risk. That’s why the first six weeks of school, when freshmen are getting acclimated with campus life, including partying and being away from home for the first time, is often called the “Red Zone.”

And even as institutions — often with the help of the federal governmentroll out regulations aimed at combatting the issue of sexual assault on campus, a lot of power still rests in the hands of students. But thanks to the following apps, that power can be supported by technology and smartphone applications.

Though they aren’t perfect — because let’s face it, applications alone likely will not prevent terrible things from happening — the following tools were clearly created with modern women in mind.

Circle of 6

Circle of 6 can be a young person’s first line of defense against an assault. The application — one of two winners of 2011 White House challenge — allows users to let a select group of people know they are in trouble so they can get help right away, whether they need advice on health relationships, a ride home or a call to interrupt a risky situation. Through the application, users can even send directions to their exact location to provide for a seamless pick up. The application can also connect users to hotlines and emergency numbers if they’re ever in a bind. This application is likely best used if and when a person feels like he or she is heading into a risky situation— although it’s easy to use, who knows how much time you’ll have to access your phone if and when things go awry. The application is free and available on both iPhone and Android devices.

Bsafe

BSafe isn’t just an application: this all-in-one safety tool essentially creates a community of people working together to keep each other safe. It allows any user to have a group of guardians tagging along with them everywhere they go. It’s all encompassing, too. From the application you can share your location with friends, activate a fake phone call to break up an awkward (or potentially dangerous) moment and send alerts to your safety network if you need immediate assistance. It even has a flashlight. Bsafe is a free application available for both iPhone and Android devices.

Kitestring

Kitestring is probably the most practical tool for young women, though using it will require some advance planning. It’s not an application, but a web-based tool that you set to check-in on you over a certain period of time. Walking home alone from a bar? Meeting a new guy for the first time? Go online, tell Kitestring how long you’re going to be out (or how often you want to be checked up on) and the site will text you to make sure you’re safe. If you don’t respond in a timely manner, an alert is sent to your designated emergency contacts letting them know to reach out. Kitestring is available here; sign up is free, but free users can only designate one emergency contact and are only allowed to activate the service eight times per month. Unlimited usage is $3 per month.

 

 

 

 

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